Culture, a Foundation for Torah?

EnglishpdfFollowing a discussion on the Avodah mailing list (scroll down to: “How to Teach History”) regarding the popularity of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s teachings in general and his outlook on Western culture in particular, I am making my 2006 paper Culture, a Foundation for Torah? available for download. It was published that year in a festschrift celebrating the 111st anniversary of the founding of the Schomre Thora in Basel. A German translation was included in my 2008 book Ein lärmendes, reissendes Wildwasser.

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One Response to Culture, a Foundation for Torah?

  1. micha says:

    You give an elaborate and well-supported argument that a part of covers something I’ve lamented informally.
    NY went from 4 classical radio stations to 2 to 1, and now has only 90% of one, when WQXR was bought by WNYC, an NPR affiliatem and the news and liberal filler increased. For someone whose interest in non-Jewish music ends ad velo ad bichlal with Beethoven (that’s a slight exaggeration), this was lamentable. Nothing to listen to when the one station is playing Debussy or Leonard Bernstein. When a cultural hub like NY couldn’t support multiple classical stations, I realized how marginalized high culture has become.
    Meanwhile, the minefield of low culture seems to have more and more mines the spiritual person needs to avoid. In the 1970s, the show “Three’s Company” raised ire with its constant innuendo and double entendre. Now it runs on the local cable company’s nostalgia network for people looking for wholesome TV. (Other offerings include Gilligan’s Island, Brady Bunch…)
    It has grown difficult for someone outside of academia and who lacks a specific interest and motivation to hunt down high culture — the clasical music lovers, the art aficionados, the literature readers — to actually draw Yefetic beauty from dropping the barriers to general society. It is so rare in that society itself, and so many pitfalls so easy to get trapped by, perhaps someone with a basically chareidi stance has near-equal access, and being more open a net minus.
    Modern Orthodoxy is currently in a population decline (not that I feel safe projecting current trends too far forward). Maybe it has run its course simply because it is out to solve a problem that no longer exists. And any internal dynamic issues people point to do blame that decline upon are actually symptoms, not causes.

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