December 7, 2014


What It Means to Listen: Free Speech from the Perspective of the Abrahamic Religions (Dominic Burbidge, December 3rd, 2014, Public Discourse)

Free speech arguments in Western Europe or North America often demand that persons subject their beliefs to rational discourse and debate. This is supported in the traditions of Abrahamic religions but not through the separation of believer from belief that is characteristic of liberal individualism. For someone of an Abrahamic faith, beliefs are subject to rational evaluation as coherent wholes, which are therefore refuted by an alternative system of thought that is able to display greater unity, coherence, and breadth of application.

Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the writings of the Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner, who enters into deep and open dialogue with Christianity in his book, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus. After spending the day in an imagined discussion with Jesus, Neusner returns to a rabbi of another town, who asks him what Jesus said that differed from what is found in the Babylonian Talmud:

Rabbi: "What did he [Jesus] leave out?"

Neusner: "Nothing."

Rabbi: "Then what did he add?"

Neusner: "Himself."

The best method of rational discourse between traditions comes not through attacking the other as irrational but through demonstrating greater completeness in one's own position. Indeed, even though Neusner ends with a rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, Benedict XVI found Neusner's account touching and stimulating enough to quote it in his own book, Jesus of Nazareth. This is tradition debating with tradition, done in a way that takes the most coherent and complete views of the other as what is of most interest. It is the same with Islam's appeal to Christianity: Muhammad is the last prophet, completing the accounts of his predecessors. An Abrahamic idea of free speech engages with traditions of thought systematically to arrive at a more consistent and harmonious account.

...a right to speak is not a right to be heard, just an opportunity.

Wordless melodies to soothe the soul What would you think if I sang a 'nigun'? : A neo-Hasidic band from New York spreads the joy of Jewish prayer music (REBECCA WOJNO December 7, 2014, Times of Israel)

"Some people hear 'Hasidism' and immediately shy away because they have negative associations with the word," said guitarist Zachariah 'Juke' Goldschmiedt, 23. "We want to connect with everyone; we want to spread light to the entire world."

The threesome brings their experiences, messages and sound to their recently self-released album, "Zusha," produced and recorded by Mason Jar Music. The six tracks of mostly wordless, lifting melodies are infused with spirituality. But there's no need to be religious to enjoy the sound.

Zusha is trying to create universally relatable music by using fewer words and lyrics, and focusing on nigunim -- those traditional, wordless melodies often used in the synagogue and at the Sabbath table, said percussionist Shlomo Ari Gaisin, 23.

"Nigunim beg the listener to invest his or her own narrative into the very fabric of the song," Gaisin said.

It's also an undefined and all-encompassing kind of sound, he added. That's an important element for the band, which doesn't like to be defined by any one label.

Guitarist Goldschmiedt said the nigun represents the "zero point where we all connect," part of Zusha's goal to connect with people on a level where they see the good in one another, and to stop judging others and focusing on negativity.

Even their neo-Hasidic label is an oversimplified characterization, agreed all three.

"At this point we're all a mix," Goldschmiedt. "I think it's wrong to be 100% Hasidic or 100% of anything for that matter, because it's too closed minded. Nowadays, it's important to be able to see the good in the other's thinking."

Posted by at December 7, 2014 7:45 AM

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