Political and social observations from two aspiring hedgehogs who love the Isaiah Berlin essay.
Friday, March 17, 2017
"Judaism Doesn't Need this 'Genius' "
In a February 23, 2017 post here at The Hedgehog Blog, I challenged remarks by French intellectual and philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy to the effect that "American Jews need to be wary of their new President." Of course, every American needs to be wary of every President. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. What I objected to was the charge pushed by Monsieur Levy and CNN that Donald Trump has anti-Semitic sentiments.
Subsequently, in the March 2017 issue of Commentary, one of my favorite Rabbis and commentators on Jewish affairs, Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik, rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City and the director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University, launched a devastating challenge to the recently published book by Bernard-Henri Levy, The Genius of Judaism. Rabbi Soloveichik's essay is entitled, "Judaism doesn't need this 'Genius'." His most serious problem with the book is Monsieur Levy's rejection of the concept of the Jewish people as a nation chosen by God for a specific mission in history, to be a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus [Shemot] 19:6) Levy admitted in his book that he had never studied or practiced Judaism before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Rabbi Soloveichik recommends that he do both before presenting himself as a pundit for the Jewish people.
Predictably in the current intellectual climate of Jewish America, the more progressive and secular wings of Judaism were thrilled with Levy's book. The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles made Levy and his book the cover story in its January 11, 2017 issue. An inside photo accompanying the article shows Levy sitting in an art museum, posed in front of three paintings depicting the Shroud of Turin. I wonder if anyone at the Jewish Journal knew enough about Judaism or Christianity to recognize the irony.