Sunday, 29 April 2012

Yom Ha'atzmaut

The big question used to be whether or not to pray Hallel on Yom Ha'atzmaut - Israeli Independence day, thanking God for creating the State of Israel. Charedim generally do not do this either because they don't see the State of Israel as a blessing or because of more technical objections to liturgical innovation.

I always said Hallel because I liked the State of Israel and considered it very important.

However, following my skepticism, I stopped doing this because I decided it was against the true spirit of Yom Ha'atzmaut. Yom Ha'atzmaut is a human day. The Zionist pioneers decided to leave God behind in Europe and start new lives and become new Jews. They decided that the Messiah would not come by sitting in shuls fervently praying for a heavenly savior. Rather the redemption could only be brought about by human means. It was these people who led the re-creation of the Jewish State, and started the third commonwealth.

Yes, Religious Jews did take part in the Zionist enterprise and until this day believe that human endeavor and divine intervention can mesh together, however they were neither the leaders nor the majority of the Zionist movement, (though today things are changing).

Although obviously religious Zionists will disagree with me, to me Yom Ha'atzmaut is testament to human struggle and victory, the power of a dream, and the secular "redemption" of the Jewish Nation. It is not about divine intervention, the Jewish God or heavenly victory.

The Secular Zionists sang "who can praise the victories of Israel, who can count them?"

This replaced a Biblical verse which read "who can praise the victories of God, who can count them?"

Monday, 16 April 2012

Back to Russel and "The Emotions of the Heart"

Been having an email correspondence and a discussion of this statement of Bertrand Russel's came up (it's my favorite one):

There are two objections to the practice of basing beliefs as to objective fact upon the emotions of the heart. One is that there is no reason whatever to suppose that such beliefs will be true; the other is, that the resulting beliefs will be private, since the heart says different things to different people.

Let me explain:

Russel's point about the heart speaking different things to different people is that it cannot serve as a source of objectivity. A Christian thinks that Jesus was an incarnation of God because this is what his heart tells him and a Jew believes he was not ALSO because his heart tells him. Therefore one cannot establish an objective answer to the question was Jesus an incarnation of God, or any other religious question for that matter based on one's heart. 

As to Russel's second point. The difference between Maths and logic on the one hand and "the heart" on the other hand is we DO have reason to to suppose that such beliefs will be true. What is this reason - you may ask. The answer, i believe is twofold:

1. Maths and logic have accomplished concrete things. Ultimately all fields of science derive from certain assumptions about logic and math, and these assumptions have led to the creation of rocketships, medicines, cars and all sorts of things - thus demonstrating that these fields have some basis in reality. The ability of Maths and logic to manipulate what we perceive as reality is evidence to its own reality. The dictates of the heart, on the other hand, have never been used to manipulate reality effectively.

2. Maths and logic are universally accepted. No one argues that 1 and 1 make two and that half of a circle is less than a square. It is this universal acceptance that gives these fields validity beyond the human heart. The dictates of the heart, however, are not universally accepted as attested to by the stunning proliferation of countless variegated faiths. 

That is my פירוש of Russel.