This was a response to another member on TSFG who had been critiquing my new idea of Judaism.
Ok, so as I see it, your basic issues with my proposed theory on Judaism are these: 1) What is the point of doing it? What benefit is there to those who contemplate higher reality? And in what sense can it be called progressive understanding if the object remains ultimately incomprehensible? Secondly, 2) In what way does performing traditional Jewish practices help one in this goal of further comprehension? And in what way can they be considered traditional if we are changing their focus and/or meaning?
To respond to the first slew of problems, I can first point to the arguments offered by Aristotle that using our active intelligence is the highest good for man, what he calls eudaimonia. Our rational mind is what distinguishes us from animals and using it is what excels us to our most perfect way of being. This is contemplation. And the best form of contemplation is when the subject of contemplation is the highest truths that exist - that would be God. Hence to be in a most perfect state would be during the act of contemplation of God.
Doing this contemplation is not subject to further utilitarian critiques. It is the highest good and the highest perfection. It is an end in itself. It is what transcends human life and human experience from the baser concerns to the infinite, to the divine. Scoff at that, if you wish, but I direct you to the Nicomachean Ethics.
That the full understanding of the Ultimate may be infinitely distant from us should not dissuade us from starting the journey. There are always going to be interesting points to ponder that one can only access on that road. Understanding more and more aspects of reality that we can comprehend takes us further towards higher and fuller comprehension of all. Contemplation though, we must remember, is the goal. It is the act of striving to understand, not necessarily the understanding itself.
Now, how does Jewish practice follow from all of this? The answer is that it doesn't! At least not directly. There is no way that Jewish tradition is somehow logically independent so that it makes sense to do it for the above goals without previous familiarization. But we don't need it to be either.
The point is that we are Jews and are already familiar with Jewish tradition. Historically it was considered that Halacha was commanded by God and divinely adjudicated by the Rabbis and so it is already invested with divine meaning. All I am doing is turning it from commanded from God to inspired by the idea of God but sanctified by our history. Would you deny that the laws were composed with God in mind? For those who are inclined to think of it, doing the mitzvot puts one into the mindset of God. That’s what often happens to me when I do certain acts. Investing everyday acts with sanctity raises the mind towards higher thoughts.
Finally, it is the acts themselves that are important, less so for the specific traditional reasons given for them. In the whole history of Rabbinic Judaism it has been adherence to Halacha which has defined normative Judaism and what has stood outside of normative Judaism. This goes beyond any of the different interpretations of the Law, be they mystical or rational or kabbalistic. That Lubavitch theology is often seen as heretical in other Orthodox circles doesn’t matter inasmuch as they still follow Halacha. The reasons behind the Laws have changed many times in history and the reasons have piled up on each other, sometimes even being contradictory, but the point is adherence. If we want this movement to be considered a valid form of Judaism, which I do at least, then it must adhere to the given rules. Judaism without the mitzvot is an impoverished Judaism. In fact, I would offer that it is the meanings we give to the traditional practices which most enrich it.