Sunday, August 17, 2008

Introducing myself: Iyov

I want to thank David A. M. Wilensky for kicking off the round of introductions with his excellent remarks!   I’ve been a big admirer of his blogs for a while now.

I blog pseudonymously as Iyov.  I’m fascinated by the role of daily study, and have long participated in Daf Yomi and the Chabad Chitas and Rambam daily study programs.  I enjoy reading about mysticism  and am currently am trying to work my way through Sefer ha-Zohar (although, my understanding of it is limited).  I am also a big fan of Ramban’s commentary to the Chumash, the Likutei Moharan of R. Nachman of Breslov, and the mystical works of both the first three generations of Lubavitcher rebbes and the current rebbe, R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

I also enjoy interacting with a wide variety of people, both Jews and non-Jews.  Especially through my interactions with non-Jews I have become interested in some of the problems associated with translation of religious works.  In the case of Sefer ha-Aggada, these exist at two levels:  first, the way in which Bialik and Rawnitzky translated the Aramaic sources and synthesized and organized the aggada into Hebrew, and second in the way in which the Hebrew was subsequently translated into English.

Aside from my interest in religion, I have a great interest in literature, languages, and mathematics – and I am lucky enough to be able to work with these topics in my professional work as well.

I think this project is terribly exciting.  My official posting date is Thursday, but I hope you will forgive me if my enthusiasm sometimes leads me to make posts on other days as well.  What a fantastic and diverse group we have here – I hope the discussion is lively not only in the posts, but also in the comments to the posts.


David A.M. Wilensky said...

If my blog had a back cover, I'd put a quote from you on it.

Iyov said...

Well, you could always put it in a side-column, like our friend Esteban . . . "

David A.M. Wilensky said...

Haha! I like his style. Sadly, my sidebar is already crowded as all hell.

Anonymous said...

current rebbe????

Iyov said...

R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson has attracted wide support from the Jewish community, but statements by some of his more zealous followers have attracted heated discussion. Certainly a low point in Jewish unity was David Berger's book on the topic.

However, among the many ways we could become distracted in the blog is to debate hasidism vs. misnagidism or chassidus vs. mussar or modern Orthodoxy vs. haredim or Orthodox vs Conservative vs Reform vs Reconstructionist vs Humanistic vs Independent or the Israeli rabbinate vs the diaspora rabbinate. And then, there are the huge disputes within individual movements, or between different Hassidic dynasties, etc.

And, please don't even mention Messianic Judaism.

We have a reputation for being a quarrelsome people (Ex 17:1-7). The midrash teaches that we are a disputatious people

"The people were very disputatious, being willing to spend seventy silverlings in litigation costs for the sake of gaining one silverling, and did their utmost to lengthen their disputes at law. When one saw that Moses was about to cast a decision against him, he demanded that his lawsuit be adjourned, declaring that he had witnesses and other proofs, which he would bring forward on the next occasion. But they were not merely litigious and disputations, they were also spiteful, and vented their temper on Moses. If Moses went out early, they would say 'Behold the son of Amram, who betakes himself early to the gathering of manna, that he may get the largest grains.' If he went out late, they would say 'Behold the son of Amram, he ate and drank, and hence slept so long, that he had to get up late.' If he went through the thick of the multitudes, they said 'Behold the son of Amram, he goes through the multitude to gather in marks of honor.' But if he chose a path aside from the crowd, they said 'Behold the son of Amram who makes it impossible for us to follow the simple sage.' " [Legends of the Jews, Ginzberg].

Now to come directly to your remark: It is simply a custom in Hasidic communities to refer to an "unreplaced" Rebbe as the current Rebbe. Both the Breslovers and Lubavitchers follow this practice. If you want to bring in the entire.

I hope we can spend some time talking about the Aggados. There are times when it makes sense to talk about how different groups interpret a particular aggada in different ways; but a discussion of the merits and demerits of different Jewish religious beliefs (even though we know everyone who follows a different one than our own is either crazy or a heretic) would seem to be outside the scope of this blog.

From The Palm Tree of Devora:

He should further accustom himself, when he debates words of Torah, to have the intention of adorning the Shekinah, to adorn and decorate Her for Beauty, and this is the meaning of Halakhah for Truth. And this is the meaning of a debate for the sake of Heaven, namely, between Lovingkindness and Power to result in Beauty (Heaven), to agree that the Halakhah is in accordance with His ruling. And man should be apart from every debate which goes beyond this measure for Beauty does not desire to seize on that which is outside (even if it is in words of Torah) if it is to be disputatious and the end is Hell, God forfend. The only quarrel which does not make a flaw in Beauty is the debate of Torah for the sake of Heaven, for all her paths are peace and there is love in the end.

And he who derives benefit from words of Torah makes a flaw in this quality. For it is hold and he uses it for secular things. But happy is his portion if he studies the Torah for the benefit of the Most High.

The most important thing of all is to purify the mind in the test of thought and to examine oneself in the course of the debate so that if the slightest trace of a shameful thing is found one should reject it. And one should always admit to the truth in order that Beauty, the quality of truth, be found there.