Guides for the perplexed? The narcissism of small differences? Christopher Hitchens did write a book called Be Prepared for the Worst. So, even in an atheist like Hitchens there is a little ping somewhere. There is a famous quote by Chaim Weizmann that said Jews were like everyone else – only more so. It’s stronger than me; the death of Hitchens and that of a famous rabbi Scheinberg last week makes me think of art critic Clement Greenberg’s assertion that spirituality does not exist. Spirituality is simply “misplaced” materialism. To Greenberg, this marriage with materialism was consummated with cubism and then climaxed in post painterly abstraction through the likes of Jackson Pollock. The modernist atheist view of the avant-garde that incarnates secular thought.
Obviously the 100 year old scholar Scheinberg would represent humanist traditionalism. Artists like Chagall and Soutine were pulled between humanist Traditionalism and what they regarded as a de-humanizing Modernism; specifically, objectifying representation and subjective abstraction and ultimately their view of modernism lacked conviction and they remained relatively held to traditionalism despite a desire to break with it and be part of the cool crowd at Gertrude Stein’s. Ultimately, they never denied who they were, which was outsiders, never falsified themselves and never tried to assimilate no matter how assimilative the pressures of modernism were.
( see link at end) : But Hitchens’s newly discovered Jewish status did nothing to change his views on Israel or on Zionism. In the mid-1970s, a Jewish settler in Hebron told Hitchens his authority to squat there came from God. “This was where I began to feel seriously uncomfortable,” he wrote in his memoir. “Some such divine claim underlay not just ‘the occupation’ but the whole idea of a separate state for the Jews in Palestine.” He added: “Take away the divine warrant for the Holy Land and where were you, and what were you? Just another land-thief like the Turks or the British, except that in this case you wanted the land without the people.” In this respect, Hitchens, despite all the other ideological changes he would undergo, including his late-life flight to the right, remained a “non-Jewish Jew,” as one of his great models, Isaac Deutscher, first articulated the concept.Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/148355/a-non-jewish-jew-hitchens-welcomed-finding-h/#ixzz1q9huOSmw
To Hitchens, as in Greenberg’s assessment, belief in the spiritual is totally uprooted and discardable in the face of contemporary science and technology. Basic Fabian hard line rationalism. The idea of the spiritual therefore becomes meaningless in the art world and in the sphere of any human activity, albeit that Hitchens mentions Spinoza who saw god everywhere; maybe everywhere and nowhere as complement to Hitchen’s atheism. The process of despiritualization and demystification is complete.Or is it?
( see link at end): At that time, said Rabbi Gold, “Nobody even dreamed of the idea that somebody could be raised in the United States of America and turn out to be a Torah giant of the sort that Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg was.”
“He became a member of the top echelons of Torah greats in our generation,” said Rabbi Gold. “He’s right there at the top with very few people who live in that rarified atmosphere of real greatness.”
Rabbi Scheinberg is considered one of the premier leaders of the Lithuanian hareidi religious movement and author of various scholarly works, including… a four volume treatise on the seminal halakhic work, … where the analysis of dilemmas illustrates the Talmudic method of study.
He was especially well-known
his exacting piety, symbolized by his wearing more than 36 layers of tzitzit (fringed four-cornered garment symbolizing the commandments) and keeping on his tefillin (phylacteries) from dawn to dark.Read More:http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/154024#.T29o_2GF_oE
Would Hitchens call Scheinberg a “pious old hypocrite” as he did Martin Buber, or place in the missionary position with Mother Teresa? More probable, is that if Rabbi Scheinberg was an art critic he would counter Greenberg by claiming the Old Masters could not do what they did artistically without some comprehensive spirituality and insights into human nature which lent their work more depth and maturity than modern art and more sanity both emotionally and aesthetically.
In “Hitch-22,” he singles out the great Rosa Luxemburg in just this spirit, hailing the Marxist leader’s rejection of Jewish tribalism and embrace of internationalism as the epitome of Deutscher’s ideal. “The sage Jews,” Hitchens wrote, “are those who have put religion behind them and become in so many societies the leaven of the secular and the atheist.”
He also disputed the claim that Zionism was a cure for anti-Semitism, which he regarded as “ineradicable and as one element of the toxin with which religion has infected us.” Moreover, he said, “One of my first reservations about Zionism was and is that, semiconsciously at least, it grants the anti-Semite’s first premise about the abnormality of the Jew.”
Like Deutscher, Hitchens believed “the Jews will not be ‘saved’ or ‘redeemed,’” and certainly not by the nation-state: “The important but delayed realization will have to come: Israeli Jews are a part of the Diaspora, not a group that has escaped from it. Why else does Israel daily beseech the often-flourishing Jews of other lands, urging them to help the most endangered Jews of all: the ones who rule Palestine by force of arms?” On this issue, Hitchens remained steadfast and principled. Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/148355/a-non-jewish-jew-hitchens-welcomed-finding-h/#ixzz1q9iMWJyC