Thursday, July 06, 2006

Geek in Jewish Palestine*

Evanston Jew on Geek JewsTM:
I think of Geek Judaism as the Judaism of people whose primary form of worship is the scholarly study of the books and ideas of historical Judaism, and the attempt to understand the philosophical and theological underpinnings associated with these books and ideas. I once heard Yehuda Liebes, the great Kabalah scholar say that in our time the way to find God is only inside the book, on the page. He said “God resides between the lines”.

On this definition an Orthodox student of Torah is a geek if his primary connection to religious life is the study of Torah. An observant Jew, whose primary connection to his religion is daily prayer 3 x a day, is not a geek. A Jew whose primary form of service (avodath hashem) is charity or organizational work is also not a geek.

A person can be a Geek Jew and not be Orthodox. A person can be a Geek Jew and not be observant. He can have a deep and abiding interest in the classic Jewish books and not keep Shabus. Gershom Scholem, Martin Buber, Leoplod Zunz and Moritz Steinschnider are famous examples of Jews who certainly were geeky, Steinschneider was unbelievably geeky, but were neither Orthodox nor observant. Yehuda Liebes, Joseph Dan , Rachel Elior and Moshe Idel, may they be separated in life, are some of the stars (gedolim) of the Hebrew University branch of Geek Judaism, who are neither Orthodox nor observant.

Can you be an apikoiris (a heretic) and be a Geek Jew in good standing? For sure.

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