Thank you and kudos to Willi Goetschel and Susan Shapiro for organizing this long awaited special edition of Bamidbar on gender and Rosenzweig. Here is the web address. Shapiro introduces the edition followed by critical readings by Mara Benjamin, Gesine Palmer, and myself. Claire Katz and Martin Kavka respond to the primary contributors who respond in turn.
Reading Rosenzweig and reading Jewish philosophy for gender entail at this particular moment in the early 21st century the operation of new theoretical frames and the recognition of the critical distance between us and him lent by the passage of historical time; and new conversation partners, represented here by Marjorie Garber, Susan Sontag, Sara Ruddick, Audre Lorde, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Diana Fuss, Judith Butler, Adrienne Rich, and Rachel Adler, and Susan Shapiro.
Where a feminist reading splits off from Rosenzweig is away from the sensationalistic sexual eros and the patriarchal structure of The Star of Redemption towards a different form of framing, towards the experience of maternality and friendship, from high seriousness to camp. The philosophical takeaway shifts Jewish philosophy and the philosophy of religion deep into the coils of the imagination to pick up things like nature and artificiality, identity and identification, and all those inversions determined in relational webs that are dyadic, affective, performative, and asymmetrical.
For Rosenzweig, the contributing authors are caught between aversion and affection. As Claire Katz concludes, The Star of Redemption and Jewish philosophy were, indeed, never a country fit for old women. But what then, following Martin Kavka, do we, today, owe the past? Not a new question about the past and the present, the answer is nothing and everything. These things, The Star of Redemption and the history of thought, either they have or the do not have the the power of a fascinating object, the power to flare up now. Read in religious terms, this fascination may have less to do with God and more to do with the abiding power of “holiness” looked upon as a liminal site.