Audio Roundup 2022:20

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by Joel Rich

Blog -It is true that Torah students are allowed to rely on public funds for their livelihood. However, this permit is not so simple

Me-I think what you’re seeing here is a example of how the human mind resolves cognitive dissonance. One would prefer not to live with the knowledge that one is doing something less than optimal, so one convinces oneself that their less than optimal choice really is optimal. We might be seeing something similar in those who live outside of aretz not pining for the day that they can come home but rather convincing themselves that home is in their own little Jerusalem.

Simi Peters in “Strauss, Spinoza and Sinai”

From a Jewish perspective though indeterminacy is a fact of life, the inevitable consequence of human subjectivity and more significantly a necessary condition for free will. Choices are only possible when there is uncertainty. Freely chosen belief in God and fidelity to the laws of the Torah would not be possible if the existence of God and the truth of Torah could be proven mathematically. Our inability to reduce moral and ethical dilemmas to binary truth values gives us the power to choose, giving us both dignity and opportunity.

At the same time, with power comes responsibility. Those who are capable of choosing are obligated to make choices. And if decision-making is a moral imperative, neutrality is moral cowardice. An unwillingness to take a stand – to truly commit to a value judgment or a course of action-reduces us to helpless victims of circumstances. It regards the spiritual development that comes from striving, sometimes failing, re-evaluating and trying again. The centrality of tshuva (repentance) to Jewish life is a tacit acknowledgement that our fallibility is an inextricable part of our humanity – not a design flaw but an opportunity to evolve to our greatest potential.

The impartiality advocated by postmodernism is possible perhaps within the framework of theoretical discussion but to the Jewish mind it is not a viable option in the real world. Life requires us to make all kinds of decisions and whatever we choose we must deal with the consequences of our choices.

Me-How does this relate, if at all, to the concept of being chosheish for all the shitot?

Please direct any informal comments to [email protected].

About Joel Rich

Joel Rich is a frequent wannabee cyberspace lecturer on various Torah topics. A Yerushalmi formerly temporarily living in West Orange, NJ, his former employer and the Social Security administration support his Torah listening habits. He is a recovering consulting actuary.

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