Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Now I Get It

I just got a joke today, which was told to me over three years ago...

Three years ago I mustered up the courage to ask R. Aaron (Lichtenstein) a question that had been bugging me all through my first year of college. It appeared to me that the ethic within the university of open discourse, and the notion that dialogue will somehow lead to the betterment of Man and Humanity, is at odds with a Rabbinic sentiment that "all is contained within it [Torah]" and such prohibitions as bechukoteichem lo teleichu.

Well, I phrased the question somewhat along those lines (R. Aaron did not understand at first, so he needed to reformulate it) and as he walked to the Bank Mizrachi he explained that in the 19th century there existed this grand idea, expressed by the Romantics in particular, that Man's perfection will come through the perfection of the mind; if we pursue knowledge a bit further we would be able to perfect our universe. However, many 20th century philosophers have refuted this idea, and it seems clear that an intellectual ethic, on its own, is not particularly moral or helpful. He suggested that I go read John Henry Newman's Apologia, which articulates the point well and explains Chazal's perspective—that of essential mistrust of secular wisdom—succinctly.

I was never able to find the volume, until this weekend, when reading the New Yorker I found a reference to John Newman and remembered this conversation. John Henry Cardinal Newman was an Anglican who parted ways with the Church of England to become a Roman Catholic priest. The Apologia (appropriately titled) is a defense against the Anglicans. R. Aaron sent me to read a book of Catholic theology in order to answer the question of how Jewish thought regards secular knowledge...

...that's hysterical. What a bright, bright man.


Yehuda said...

A Polish peasant laughs three times when he hears a joke. The first time when you tell him the joke, the second time when you explain the joke to him, and the third time when he understands the joke.

A Polish nobleman laughs twice when he hears a joke. The first time when you tell him the joke and the second time when you explain the joke to him. He never understands the joke.

A German nobleman laughs once when you tell the joke. He doesn't give you the opportunity to explain the joke and it goes without saying that he doesn't understand it.

A jew does not laugh when you tell a joke. He doesn't even let you finish the joke. Rather, he interupts you in the middle with two objections: 1. He's heard the joke before and 2. you're telling it wrong. He then proceeds to tell you the joke, laughing heartily upon its conclusion.

*Jo* said...

Zev!! It was nice to see you at the Pub on Monday. Come visit more often :)

Jose said...

I'm basing my comment on this post and this post alone. I imainge I would get along well with Rav L.