21 November 2005

A Little About Israel I Learned Today

Today, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller gave a talk at YCT (he is pictured here with me) about the necessity or lack thereof about Jews settling the land of Israel. Seidler-Feller, the director of the UCLA Hillel and is known for his unique views on Israel (for instance, see this article (though he's also known for an incident (here and here)), spoke on the מחלוקת בין רמב"ם ובין רמב"ן על מצות כיבוש הארץ (disagreement between the Rambam and the Ramban whether or not Jews are obligated to go [conquer the land and] live in Israel.
What was interesting to me was prior to the beginning of his talk, he mentioned that something that has held modern orthodoxy back has been their strong attachment to the land of Israel, slightly slighting Jewishness/Judaism/etc. I found that interesting as well as vindicating as I have harbored an indifferent attitude to Israel heretofore. This attitude was mainly cultivated during my time at Ohr Somayach, a non-Zionist yeshiva. Although Israel is a fun, Jewy place, I didn't have any special affinity for it - but don't get it twisted: it exists as a special place within my Jewish philosophy (okay, I know that's kind of intellectual), as well as having an attachment due to my time spent there.

On another note, when I was at Ohr Somayach the second time around, my second חברותא (study partner) had attended UCLA for undergrad and would avoid referring to Seidler-Feller by name, but rather calling him The Apikoros (a Hebraicization of the name of the Greek philosopher, Epicurus, often connoting a scoffer or perhaps a heretic). When I found out a guy in mechina had not only gone to UCLA, but had also greatly appreciated Seidler-Feller's perspectives and teachings, I got excited to meet this thinker. And now I have.

Oh, yeah, after having seen some of the sources (albeit very briefly), I like the Rambam's perspective. Gosh, I've been really sweating Maimonides of late (for instance, the morning hand-washing thing). We'll see how that turns out.


Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Why did they call him an apikores?

Welcome to the world of dati ‘olami modern orthodoxy — like the Israeli dati le’umi, but with a more universalist, less nationalist focus.

Esther Kustanowitz said...

14 years of yeshiva education and it never ocurred to me that Apikores and Epicurus were lingistically related. I'm ashamed.

And you're right...Israel is a very Jewy place.