Why study and teach real Jewish history?

The most satisfying part of the Humanistic rabbinate is never having to say what you do not believe, and never being afraid to know.

The recent flap in the Orthodox Jewish world over honestly engaging with modern Biblical criticism simply reinforces how fortunate I am to be in a movement that wants to learn what really happened in Jewish history, and then to live by it. If we do not believe that Moses wrote the Torah, then we do not say “this is the Torah that Moses placed before the children of Israel, from the mouth of God and by the hand of Moses” (as do Reform and Conservative Judaism even though their seminaries teach the same Biblical criticism). If we do not believe in the historicity of the Exodus, we do not teach it as fact to children or adults, and so there is no crisis if we say this belief out loud (or write it on a blog!). Literature, of course, but not history.

Why is it important to teach real Jewish history?

I’ll write more about Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine‘s last book, A Provocative People: A Secular History of the Jews (available in paperback and various ebook formats), in a future post, though if you want to see more from this book event you can visit the IISHJ’s YouTube channel. Sherwin’s example of constantly learning and teaching real Jewish history is a fantastic example of Kant’s definition of Enlightenment: “Dare to know!” In the case of Humanistic Jewish Haskala [enlightenment], we could say “da v’dabber – know, and then  speak!”

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5 Responses to Why study and teach real Jewish history?

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