Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo and Heresy
On November 7th the yeshiva was graced with the presence of Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo of the David Cardozo Academy. He spoke about the role of religious doubt and heresy during an afternoon shiur. He discussed several fascinating points, one of which raised a profond question for me. In his talk he mentioned that without people like Baruch Spinoza, who questioned the legitimacy of traditional Jewish theology, our intellectual appreciation for our tradition would not be as developed. He elaborated on the many rabbinic works and indeed entire rabbinic careers that were dedicated to the strengthening, defense and exploration of Jewish doctrine due, either directly or indirectly, to the serious questions and doubts raised by people like Spinoza.
If it was not for the bit of heretical thinking, in Rabbi Dr. Cardozo's opinion, our tradition would not of continued to develop intellectually. I, personally, tend to agree with Rabbi Dr. Cardozo's conclusion, however, I am still left to wonder if an increased refinement of Judaism philosophically and intellectually is worth the expense of losing those Jews from the fold of traditional Judaism due to the heretics in the first place. Is heresy truly ever justified? Could there of been ways the Jewish communities in the past could of prevented heresy to develop so as not to need defense after defense, inquiry after inquiry in order to continually make Judaism relevant and respond to these doubts? Or perhaps heresy and doubt are inexplicably linked to the process of religion and it is precisely within those challenges that Judaism finds its greatest moment.
I am left to wonder these questions and I am grateful for Rabbi Dr. Cardozo's visit to the yeshiva for providing such stimulating thoughtful discourse. For those interested Rabbi Dr. Cardozo will be the scholar-in-residence at The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale this Shabbat. He will also be presenting at a Motzei Shabbat Melava Malka in Riverdale. For more information about the weekend contact H.I.R.