10.05 Cohesiveness (pps.8-9)

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One may choose a secular or perhaps agnostic approach to life, or one may choose a religious approach to life. But if one chooses a religious approach and wishes to distinguish oneself from the unsophisticated, a unified religious philosophy is in order. The philosophy chosen may turn out to be flawed or totally wrong, but at least its formulators and adherents perceive it to be unified.

Formulations of a unified theodicyltheology were wanting even before the Holocaust; the Holocaust merely dealt these formulations a further blow.28

Judaism requires both leaps of faith and a leap of the will. A major leap of faith is required to accept the complete Masorah as bona fide and correct; the leap of will is the acceptance of the yoke of Jewish law and canon. The problem posed by theodicy is the wrench it throws in the works for religious man of reason, who has previously taken these leaps of faith and will.29

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28 See Schulweis, Evil and the Morality of God, p. 5. “Having extricated the problematic [philosophical theodicy] from the body of faith, many theologians undertake their defense oblivious to the consequences of their ad hoc solutions for the remaining corpus of monotheism. . . .Stephen Toumlin has observed that over matters of faith, one does not believe or disbelieve individual presuppositions: one accepts or rejects complete notions.”

29 The most famous case in Jewish lore of an adherent who quit Judaism owing to the problem of theodicy is that of Elisha ben Avuyah, known as “Aher,” originally a second-century Tanna and the teacher of Rav Meir. There are various traditions concern.ing Aher. According to Jewish lore, upon seeing the tongue of Rav Judah ha-Nahthom in a dog’s mouth (during the persecutions following the Bar Kokhba revolt), Elisha ben Avuyah bitterly commented: “Is this the Torah and this its reward?” One version has Aher leaving Judaism upon seeing a child fatally fall out of a tree after following his father’s directive to climb the tree to remove the chicks from the nest prior to taking the mother. According to a straightforward reading of the Torah, the reward both for honoring one’s parents and for removing the chicks is long life. (On this particular theological point, see our discussion in section 100.07) See amplification in Encyclopaedia Judaica, s. v. “Elisha hen Avuyah,” vol. 6, col. 668.

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