The Euphemist

Reflections on Jewish Studies and many other subjects big and little, by a perpetual student who sometimes searches a little too long for just the right word ...

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Christian, truth seeker, husband, son, brother & uncle, Lutheran pastor, musician (cello, etc.), Jewish Studies grad student, intellectual historian, aquarium enthusiast & pet owner, philologist, astronomer, Norwegian-American, Ford pickup driver, buffoon.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Interesting discussion in the opening video lecture in "Medieval Judaism". The subject: The Agenda of Medieval Judaism. According to Dr. Sherwin, Rabbinic (Talmudic era) Judaism was mainly concerned with the question of "what does God want us to do?", whereas Medieval Judaism concerned itself more with "why does God want us to do it?" He said that earlier Jewish thought had actually resisted giving an answer to "why", partly because of a fear that if you give a rationale, you then give later generations an excuse to change a law, for example, if they think the original reason for the law no longer exists. & Dr. Sherwin states that to some extent that very thing actually happened.

Interesting thought. Does an attempt to answer the question "why" result in a sort of situation ethics? If we try to understand the spirit of the law, might it lessen our attention to the letter of the law? Any thoughts or observations?

In other news, I already have a theory about who the North Dakotan is in the video lectures (see this previous post). The backs of the heads of two ladies are prominent in the foreground of the opening lecture video, and the one on the left has a certain plain clean-cutness that I've seen in many of my fellow citizens of the three "ota states" (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota). The other lady has more of an urbane appearance, probably from Chicago or New York or some such place, but of course I could be wrong - I've known people like her all my life, though they tend to stand out just a little around here. In the "ota states" we have our exceptions who prove the rule. Awhile ago I did a bit of web snooping to find out what I could about the handful (I found five of them) of synagogues in North and South Dakota. I found out that one in ND, in defiance of more than one stereotype, had a young African-American female rabbi. Anyway, I'll probably just have to keep listening until I hear the tell-tale accent of Lutefisk Land ...

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