Monday, May 30, 2011

Why We Relinquish Our Freedom of Thought To the Rabbis

Harav Benny Lau recently called on the religious public to lessen their dependence on Rabbanim:

"There are some who are so fearful of laicization that they strive to a world of obedience and search for a person who will guide their ways," Rabbi Lau argued. "We willingly give up on freedom to reach a safe haven." 
In his opinion the growing strength of the Rabbanim is due to the rise of secularism. The public is so worried of the secular world and lifestyle, that to avoid the confrontation they would prefer a closed world of blind obedience. Harav Lau calls on the public to make the opposite choice:
The crisis of those who make themselves a rabbi and hope to avoid doubt is seven times bigger than that of a person who made choices and didn’t find his way. "Whoever educates his son to ask questions should be ready to receive alternative answers. Educating a person to ask questions is raising a person with internal strength, which creates him as a free man. "The children want to fly to South America and get a bit confused there. Most of them say wholeheartedly, 'We want to search, let us! We may become disoriented, and you may have to send a helicopter to rescue us, but we need this search.'" 'Open gates, ears and hearts'

I somewhat agree with Harav Lau's assement, but I suspect it isn't radical enough. I do not think that the modern world has posed any new philosophical challenges.  On a philosophical level – there is no argument for and against religion that has not been adequately stated in ancient times.  Therefore it is not the secular questions that are new, rather it the world they inhabit. Never has information been so readily available, never has choice been so cheap.  All knowledge is available at the click of a button Modernity has freed us from the yoke of the field. We have more free time than ever before. The modern world offers far fewer excuses why you have not achieved the greatness to which you claim to aspire. In my opinion that is the terrifying aspect of modernity – When we reach heaven we have a hard time explaining to past generations how with all our prospects, with all our time, we did not become giants. The shadow of our possibilities is quite staggering. And that is why the people are rushing to rabbinic authority – it is the fear that we will have to make our own decisions within the whirlpool of modern freedom.

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