August 8, 2007


The Fact Of Jewish Particularity (HILLEL HALKIN, August 8, 2007, NY Sun)

"You have to read it," a friend in New York informed me by e-mail. "The whole Jewish world here is talking about it. It's a shande far di goyim."

A shande far di goyim, literally, a "scandal in front of the goyim," refers to dirty Jewish laundry washed or exposed in public, and the scandal my friend was referring to was an article by Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman in the Sunday, July 22 edition of the New York Times Magazine. [...]

His sin, in the eyes of Orthodox Judaism, was not that he married a non-Jew. It was that he did not care enough about his own and his children's Jewishness to bring her into the Jewish fold.

And yet as far as Orthodox Jews are concerned, just crying shande isn't an adequate response. For all his petulancy, Noah Feldman is quite right: Judaism is a religion with a universalist and a particularist side that do not harmonize easily with one another, and it is alone among the world's great monotheistic religions in having such a conflict. Neither in Christianity nor in Islam does one encounter the belief that God is more interested in one small family of the human race than in all the others combined and that his laws are not meant equally for all.

This belief, called by Norman Podhoretz in a recent article in Commentary "The Scandal of Jewish Particularity," is indeed, intellectually, a shande far di goyim, and while a photograph in an alumni newsletter may not be the best context to discuss it in, there is no point in pretending it doesn't exist.

No serious defense of Judaism can ignore it or sidestep it, and every such defense that has ever been written, from Yehuda Halevi's 12th-century "The Book of the Kuzari" to Franz Rosenzweig's 20th-century "Star of Redemption," in which one finds not easily digestible sentences such as, "Only a community based on common blood feels the warrant of eternity warm in its veins," has had to tackle it head on. You can't blame Noah Feldman for that.

If you don't believe that the creator of the universe would choose to base his entire game plan for humanity on one little branch of it, you are wasting your time by being an Orthodox Jew. And if you do believe it, your time would be better spent in working out and cogently articulating your basis for such a belief than in complaining about Mr. Feldman's silliness. His article will be forgotten in a month. The fact of Jewish particularity will remain and will need to be addressed anew in every generation by Orthodox Jewish thinkers.

Because a discussion of the racial element in Judaism implicates matters from Christology to the Inquisition to pogroms to Applied Darwinism to UN Resolution 3379 to the right of return to the future of Israeli Arabs and so on it can not be discussed honestly in public.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 8, 2007 8:31 AM

From the genius who thought advertising his Orthodox status; would work for him at the
CPA in Baghdad

Posted by: narciso at August 8, 2007 10:25 AM