Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This is Rationalist Judaism?

R. Natan Slifkin rhetorically asks:
What do the events of the Purim story, the lottery via which the Land of Israel was divided, the survival of the Jewish People over millenia of persecution, the weather in Israel, and the creation of the State of Israel, all have in common?
and then answers:
The answer is that they are all events which secular scientists/historians would attribute to the random, unplanned, circumstantial luck of history, but which religious Jews perceive as being orchestrated by God.
Rabbi Slifkin (whom I have the utmost of respect for), touts the "overwhelming convergence of evidence" when it comes to the theory of evolution. But there is likewise an overwhelming convergence of evidence against the historicity of the Purim story. Secular scientists and historians do not attribute the Purim story to the "luck of history", as they do not believe that it even occurred.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Slifkin is just one of a group of willfully blind intellifundie lunkheads (i.e. Gil, Maroof, Maryles, Y. Aaron) whose totally arbitrary, self-serving and face-saving 'line-drawing' is far more offensive than the Neanderthal views of even the most whacked-out Chareidim, who at least are honest enough to take them to their "logical" conclusions.

MKR said...

The historicity of the Purim story doesn't seem to me of much importance to Rabbi Slifkin's argument. In fact, I can't tell from that piece whether he even believes in it himself. It is merely an opinion of his opponents which he uses for arguing against them. His main points are (1) that anyone who denies that the certain historical events can be explained in terms of natural causes is denying to God the ability to "orchestrate" such events within the natural order; (2) that such a denial is heresy; and (3) that the same goes for those who reject the theory of evolution as an explanation of the diversity of species.

One might understand the "rationalism" of this position on the following analogy: Superstitious or mystical Tooth-fairyists deny that the appearance of money under children's pillows can be attributed to natural causes, but RATIONALIST Tooth-fairyists recognize that the Tooth Fairy can operate within the natural order, e.g., by influencing parents to put money there.

G*3 said...

> RATIONALIST Tooth-fairyists recognize that the Tooth Fairy can operate within the natural order, e.g., by influencing parents to put money there.

It’s disturbing how reasonable that sounds.

E-Man said...

I am just curious, not arguing on any level, where is the overwhelming evidence that the purim story definitely did not happen?

Shalmo said...

read under the "Critical View" and "Improbabilities of the Story" section: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=483&letter=E&search=Esther#2

Of course similar historical inaccurisms exist with most of the Tanakh. However Esther is particularly far more obviously fabricated because we have plenty of independent corroborating records of Iran during that time which completely nullify any possibility of the story being true

Frum Heretic said...

"far more offensive than the Neanderthal views of even the most whacked-out Chareidim"? Anonymous how do you really feel?? Anyway, unlike you I have a great deal of respect for Rabbi Slifkin who - I believe - does follow in the footsteps of the classical rationalists. And they also had their theologically imposed limits of inquiry.

MKR, yeah, I just harped on the Purim angle because it screamed out to me. The historicity of the story was really irrelevant to his post. Unless he thought about it at length.

E-Man, you can check out my couple of posts on Purim for a start: http://frumheretic.blogspot.com/2008/03/ahistorical-nature-of-megillat-esther.html and http://frumheretic.blogspot.com/2008/03/my-last-words-on-purim-for-this-year-at.html
The Fox book that I referenced is really a great little reference. The only "real" argument to the scholarly view of history is "we have a mesorah". Every other attempt that I have seen from the traditional side seems to me to be utterly feeble.

Frum Heretic said...

Sorry about not formatting the urls. You can just search this blog for PURIM also.

Anonymous said...

R. Slifkin can SAY the same thing and intend it be regarding *the narrative* as a story. If he's willing to concede certain things are not to be taken as historical in Torah, don't you think he's willing to consider such regarding Esther? For a mess of scholars to agree that the text is not pashut history is not to say they agree on every other facet about it that would still render Slifkin's point meaningful. I think you're putting MORE words in their mouths than they would actually say in response to him.

JRS said...

Taken in the typical mainsteam-ortho way of turning everything that happens to Klal Yisroel into a miraculous, global event that was the talk of all mankind---but still somehow eluded the history books---the Purim story may seem unlikely...

...but if we view it on a more realistic scale as a relatively minor episode of royal-court intrigue & backroom maneuvering, couldn't it have happened?

Maybe the capital of the Persian empire wasn't trembling in fear of the Jews, but couldn't there have been some sort of rioting, etc.

Frum Heretic said...

Nah, it's a parody.