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Cultural DisjunctionsPost-Traditional Jewish Identities$
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Paul Mendes-Flohr

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780226784861

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226785059.001.0001

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In Praise of Discontent

In Praise of Discontent

6 In Praise of Discontent
Cultural Disjunctions

Paul Mendes-Flohr

University of Chicago Press

Mordecai Kaplan’s conception of Judaism as a civilization is emblematic of the anthropocentric turn in Jewish self-understanding. The theocentric values and horizons of the imagination of traditional Judaism would recede before the emphatically this-worldly interests of the Jews seeking a place in the modern order, what in Zionist parlance is called normalization. Judaism was now to be conceived as an ethnically based cultural civilization constituted by popular, as well as literary, cultural codes, of which religious beliefs and practices are but one, and for many Jews, not necessarily the most commanding value. But as Sigmund Freud noted, civilization and culture are in the end but illusory palliatives, discontent is humanity’s psychic fate. For traditional Judaism, however, discontent in civilization is a divine commandment. It is a sacred duty most powerfully expressed by the prophets who are ever alert to the foibles of human hubris and folly.

Keywords:   atheistic theology, Jacques Derrida, Mordecai Kaplan, Herbert Scheindau, Franz Rosenzweig, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism as a civilization, Sacred Discontent, Sigmund Freud, Yeshayahu Leibowitz

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