Messianism and the Law - Evening lecture
Prof. dr. Aviezer Ravitzky
Judaism is a religion of law (halakhah), centered on commandment and religious statures. Maimonides, the greatest Jewish sage since antiquity, subjected even messianism to law: the Messiah will be revealed in accord with halakhah and will work to establish the law of the Torah. That is even more the case within contemporary Orthodox Judaism, which opposes (at least in its public statements) any antinomian tendencies and identifies itself and its adherents by their clear devotion to halakhah, to law.
Contemporary Orthodox Judaism has produced two messianic awakenings unprecedented within Judaism since the seventeenth century: that of the Habad Hasidim and that of Rabbi Kook's disciples. As would be expected, these movements, too, are halakhically conservative and do not reflect antinomian messianic tendencies.
Interestingly, however, various Orthodox streams have assigned their particular messianic theologies and ideologies the status of religious law - indeed, a meta-legal position, the status of a basic law above and beyond the particular statutes. One stream has transformed messianic passivity into a meta-law ('the three oaths'); another has made messianic activism into a meta-law ('the land of Israel'); a third has neutralized the issue of messianism and made personal rabbinic authority into meta-law ('correct Torah thinking' [da`at torah]); and a fourth has focused religious consciousness on a concrete messianic figure to whom it attributes prophetic meta-halakhic authority (the admor [Hasidic rebbe]). Each of these tries to emphasize a particular ideological point and make it into the foundational principle of contemporary Judaism. They thus transform the traditional hierarchy of values in opposing directions with regard to the messianic question - all without formally impairing religious law.
The relationship between messianism and religious law has taken an additional twist. According to some schools, even though religious norms will not be changed in messianic times, the response to religious norms will become autonomous rather than heteronomous; it will be an inner response to ethics rather than obedience to an external law. The law will be nullified as formal command, but its contents and demands will be preserved. That, too, forms a new relationship between messianism and law; in this instance, however, the messianism at issue is not something historical and concrete but a distant, continuing hope for human progress that will render the law superfluous.
Aviezer Ravitzky was born in Jerusalem in 1945. He received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was a Post Doctorate Fellow at Harvard University. His areas of expertise include Jewish thought, philosophy, religion and state, religious radicalism, and Israeli society and ideology.
Professor Ravitzky is the Sol Rosenblum Professor of Jewish Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a Senior Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. He has served as the Chair of the Department of Jewish Thought and as Chairman of the Institute of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University. He has also served as a member of the Israeli Counsel of Higher Education.
Professor Ravitzky has taught as a visiting professor at leading universities in the United States including Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice University, Yeshiva University, Brown University, and the Jewish Theological Seminary.
In 2001, Professor Ravitzky was honored with Israel¿s most prestigious award, the Israel Prize, for his research in Jewish Thought.
Universiteit Antwerpen - Stadscampus
Rodestraat 14 (auditorium R.013)
(op wandelafstand van centraal station en busstation Rooseveltplaats)
Donderdag 11 mei 2006 om 19.00 uur
De lezing is gratis toegankelijk. Aanmelden is niet noodzakelijk.
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