Friday, June 24, 2005

Would Rabbeinu Tam have taught at Gush?

Still thinking about my last posting. I just thought of a little story from my more naive years. My havruta, Amichai, was getting seriously disillusioned with the yeshiva. Its emphasis on intellectual probity and lack of emphasis on moral development. The social standards those emphases created. The feeling that a student is valued - by his teachers and peers - on the basis of his brilliance, and not of his personality.

And I showed him Israel Ta-Shema's article on Hassidei Ashkenaz and Talmud Torah. (In his Ritual, Custom and Reality in Franco-Germany, chapter 6; originally published in the Bar Ilan yearbook 14-15, 1977.) He was amazed. Ta-Shema had taken the words straight out of his mouth. The tensions described there between the intellectual Tosafists and the pietists of Ashkenaz seemed not to have changed one iota in 800 years. He photocopied one page and posted it in the "heder cafe".

I grew up, and learned from reading Ivan Marcus that things were not as stark as they seemed, and that the gulf between the groups was probably not so wide. And I began to wonder whether Ta-Shema's account was coloured by his familiarity with the modern yeshiva. And whether this kind of tension is not inherent to an institution dedicated to the pursuit of an intellectual religious tradition.

But I still think that, for better and worse, Har Etzion is reminiscent of a Tosafist academy. The wide range of people (both in terms of expertise and personal background), the competitiveness, the emphasis on theoretical distinctions, the huge numbers (by comparison to other places at the time), the lack of harsh hierarchy. There are, of course, serious differences. The students of the Tosafists had very close relationships with their teachers.

Anyway, I still believe Rabbeinu Tam would have felt at home there, and R Yehuda he-Hassid would have been enraged.


Blogger micha said...

Rabbeinu Tam was staunchly in favor of Torah-and-.... It's the topic of a dispute in Tosafos on the dispute in the gemara between R' Yishmael and Rabbi Shim'on bar Yochai. R' Yishmael supported working, while RSBY asked what time would be left for learning.

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Lia said...

Like the dichotomies the Talmudists at Gush are reputed to impose upon the Sages, it worries me when the intellectual is addressed as inherently separate from the moral or spiritual. To be sure, it sometimes works out that way in reality (like with Amichai, and many others). But it can't be seen as inherent. I think, at least for those wired the way I in part am, intellectualism can be a tool with which to work on, or a lens through which to experience, a lot of the moral and spiritual activity that is too often placed a whole different camp from intellectualism.
Do you have any particular recommendations for Ivan Marcus reading?

2:40 AM  
Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

i remember r' meir lichtenstein discussing the relatinship between R' tam and the r'i as being similar to the relationship b/w rybs and ral. Where one blazed a trail, the other paved a highway for all to travel.

2:00 AM  

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