Sunday, 15 April 2007

Hashkafa and Psychology

Originally published 4/15/07, 3:24 PM, Eastern Daylight Time

Rabbi Ben Hecht

It is my hope to use the blog to post thoughts I have on issues that I am presently considering, to hear your comments and initiate some dialogue. Here are my first musings and I do look forward to your feedback.

Hashkafa, the realm of Jewish Philosophy, emerges from the confrontation of the Divine command, the mitzvah, and the individual. Hashkafa, basically, attempts to explain the impact of the mitzvah on the individual, i.e. to find the reason for or the meaning of the Divine imperative. Within this process, invariably, there is the necessity to describe the nature of the human being or the Jew -- albeit that people often do not recognize this element in the process of hashkafic contemplation. What I have generally found is that -- and this is one reason why the psychological issues within this process is not fully considered -- the nature of individuals is often considered to be monlithic. There is often an assumption that all human beings or all Jews -- or that all women or all men -- have a similar psychological make-up, and the development of an explanation of a mitzvah is built on this assumption. I wonder about this assumption and the effect of this assumption on Hashkafa. Perhaps different philosophical outlooks -- although presented often as the reason or the meaning -- actually reflect different views on the psychology of people? How much is the idea that there are 70 faces to the Torah is tied to the differing natures of human beings? A consideration for psychology may create a much more complex understanding of Hashkafa but what will be the other effects of such considerations? Rabbi Meir in the gemora in Niddah implies that a purpose of Niddah is to maintain a certain level of positive sexuality in a marriage. Rambam states that its purpose is to dampen the sexuality within marriage. Both statements are presented as applicable to all but could it be that the difference lies in different psychological natures? The issue is not a simple one.

1 comment:

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe said...

I made a comment on another thread that Torah is a process… Following through with this idea - there is not necessarily any single definitive reason for Niddah. There is merely the “Laws of Niddah.” The individual experiences these laws individually, of course.

Therefore the NA’ASEH is relatively uniform, The Torah and Hazal Describe how Niddah is to be observed. Period. While that process is uniform, the experience of this process is individual, i.e. the NISHMA is the experience of the individual having engaged in a process of NA’ASEH.