(Against Submission) Alan Brill reviews/interviews Aaron Koller- Unbinding Isaac

With his flair for conceptualization and contextualization, Alan Brill reviews here Aaron Koller, Unbinding Isaac: The Significance of the Akedah for Modern Jewish Thought. Alongside a compelling interpretation of the actual text of the Binding of Isaac and including the long history of Jewish textual interpretation, the book is a full blast critique of the pernicious influence of Kierkegaard on modern Orthodox Jewish thought and Judaism (and bad philosophical takes in contemporary Jewish thought on ethics and autonomy law, authority, submission).

The Book of Doctrines and Opinions:

I repeatedly hear from a generation of Modern (or Centrist) Orthodox youth, who grew up at the end of the twentieth century, that they were told that Torah Judaism is about adopting a posture of submission in which one’s individuality and moral intuitions are suppressed. Representative students of Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik publicly taught in the 1990’s and beyond that to accept divine authority one needed to sacrifice individuality for the sake of the tradition.  This sacrificial religiosity was in origin based on Rabbi Soloveitchik’s use of Soren Kierkegaard’s ideas from Fear and Trembling on the need for a teleological suspension of the ethical as exemplified in Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac as a divine command despite the violation of the command not to murder. But after Rabbi Solovietchik’s death, it became globalized to the prosaic.  To affirm the divine and follow the true nature of the halakhah meant that…

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About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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