Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cynicism vs. scepticism

Rabbi Yitzcok Adlerstein offers an execellent essay in last week's Jewish Press regarding the difference betwen cynicism and scepticism:

As we approach the holiday of Shavuot, it is worth asking the question, "Why bother?" What difference does it make that one follows Torah? And I think Rabbi Adlerstein addresses it:

Life is hard. Life is difficult. Life is unfair. It is easy to become cynical and say that there is no purpose to anything in life. Logically, it is easy to postulate that we are nothing more than molecules acting with complete randomness, that there is no reason for anything. Logical sequelae of this are hedonism or despair. Neither are desirable characteristics for any human.

But there is another extreme: Total surrender of ones intellect and ethics. It is tempting, in the healthy renunciation of that cynicism, to go to far and give up ones intellect, ones independent sense of history and ethics. To do so is to be a member of a cult. This is also undesirable for any human.

Judaism is neither of these. Torah provides a way to be sceptical but not cynical. Rambam, in Hilchot Deot, tells us that we need to follow a middle path. That message is as compelling today as when he wrote it over 800 years ago. Rabbi Adlerstein has identified one very important area for us to apply this principle, and we should meditate on it over Shavuot.

Chag sameach!


Blogger Farmer Jones said...

Hi, I found your blog completely at random today and really enjoyed this post.

I am not Jewish, and had to take a guess at the definitions of the Yiddish words by context, but found the article to be very interesting. I am by nature very skeptical and have wondered many times if, in my skepticism, I am being too blind. If I am demanding too much evidence.

Thank you for providing an interesting read.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Interesting, though not sure if I agree with all of it. You should check out the discussion at Jameel on Holy Hyrax's post.

12:26 PM  

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