Page 94 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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8 2
itself via halakhah. I f culture is not normative, it cannot exist as
culture . . . I think here was the crucial mistake of Zionist thought
as represented by Ahad Ha’Am in thinking that there could be a
culture without a normative e lem en t. . . Men of halakhah in the
classical period were not dealing with it as with something which
was put upon them from the outside . . . they lived in it and con­
tinued it. Now we have to do the same, but we are in an age of
revolutionizing transition. I must find out by myself to what point
I am living the Jewish tradition — still living!”1
What emerges from these comments is a relativistic approach
which stands in contradistinction to the absolute commitment on
the part of the Orthodox sector. In Israel’s climate o f opinion,
this creates a “kulturkampf,” which makes tensions and recrimi­
nations among the contending parties inevitable. Schweid pleads
for dialog before the conflict reaches a point of no return , the
kind of dialog which might in time lead to a national consensus on
a pattern of religiously motivated do’s and don’t’s. This regimen
would be legally binding, similar to the consensus in areas of leg­
islation and administration on matters of personal status. He con­
cedes, however, that when such a consensus becomes the subject
of serious discussion, the Orthodox norm representing historical
Judaism should be the logical point from which to start.2
No serious observer can overlook the fact that Jews in Israel
constitute a pluralistic society ethnically, culturally, religiously
and socially. Liberal spokesmen demand that this fact be honestly
recognized not only de facto but also de jure . They seek due con­
sideration for all forms of religio-organizational identification,
irrespective o f whether a given group has received an “imprima­
tu r” from the “religious establishment.” Schweid fully supports
this position.
Schweid’s essay, “What Is Faith?,” included in his collection
Faith of the Jews and Their Culture
(Hebrew, Jerusalem, 1976), is
unique in its originality. He identifies the phenomenon of faith as
the primary reaction of a rational person to his day-by-day spon­
taneous experiences. Realizing that he is surrounded by “good­
ness,” such a person responds with “goodness.” Moreover, he
believes with inner certainty that the unknown and unpredictable
1 Quoted from “The Thought o f Eliezer Schweid: a Symposium,”
Jerusalem (Winter 1979), pp. 98-99.
2 Ibid., p. 102.