Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Steinsalts lecture

A lecture by Rabbi Adin Steinsalts in the Journal News:

..."Divinity is more than the ability to think abstractly," he said. "Being connected to the divine is acknowledging that the center of existence is not me."
Steinsaltz noted the French philosopher René Descartes' famous maxim: "I think, therefore I am." Then he offered his own divine alternative: "He thinks, therefore I exist."
In an interview before his talk, Steinsaltz gently laughed off American's increasingly polarized culture war, which is generally framed as an all-or-nothing battle between left and right.
"Day and night are dissimilar, but night is never completely dark and day is not everywhere light," he said. "Even black is rarely completely black or white completely white. This is reality.
"American, as distinct from English, is a language of superlatives, of overstatement," he continued. "Because of that, in America, when you have a dispute, it is between angels and devils. But even angels, most of the time, are not completely angelic. And devils should be full of self-doubt — even though American devils might be different."
Steinsaltz, in the tradition of the rabbinic sages who are quoted far and wide today, can hardly stop one thought from weaving into another and then another. He offers no easy answers or pat, feel-good phrases, but speaks in questions, stories and mini-debates. So, after dismissing the simplicity of American rhetoric, he did an about-face and warned of the mistakes made by "gray people" who see nothing in black and white.
"The gray people see the whole world in shades of gray — dark gray, very bright gray," he said. "These people are so sophisticated, so clever. They see the nuances, but could lose the quality of knowing there is a difference between right and wrong. It is the other side of the equation. Sometimes you have to take sides, even though you don't have all the answers."...
posted by Yeshiva Orthodoxy
at 2:03 AM


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