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EXISTENTIALISM IN A JEWISH CONTEXT

A central tenet of existentialism is founded on the assumption that there is a problematical relationship between faith or moral engagement on the one hand and logical or scientific reason on the other. It was not only the Christian founder of modern existentialism Søren Kierkegaard, and the atheist Nietzsche who dared to proclaim that “we” have made God “absurd” or “killed” the conventional God of organised religion. Martin Buber, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Lev Shestov, Franz Kafka, Franz Rosenzweig, Hans Jonas, Emmanuel Levinas, Hannah Arendt, Abraham Heschel, Emil Fackenheim and Richard Rubinstein have attempted to rescue us from the conundrum of the simply “absurd” God who does not in fact necessarily rescue the good, the brave, the worthy, the honest. Nothingness and Space-Time and the absurd, unpredictable incoherence of our lives erode our attempt at reaching a provable divine being despite our religious piety and moral behaviour. The most we can do as would-be authentic human beings, is to act in the spirit of Sartre and Heidegger’s authentic committed Human Being (Pour-soi/En-soi, or Dasein) who creates God and good objects rather than being created by God. We can nationalize our idea of a God who allowed Hitler and the Nazis to have the free-will to create the Holocaust which in turn gave Zionists the will to create the State of Israel. But what God could allow this to be at the expense of the Palestinians? Do they have the free will to come to terms with a one-state solution? Can the State of Israel grant equal rights to the Palestinians living under military rule in the West Bank and will the Palestinians ever accept the loss of the old Palestine?

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