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READING HALACHICALLY AND AGGADICALLY: A RESPONSE TO REUVEN KIMELMAN Sandor Goodhart Purdue University Professor Kimelman's talk is a hard act to follow. I also find myself in a difficult situation because this is the first moment in our gathering in which someone who is genuinely from outside the COV&R group has come in to speak to us. So there is always the potential for the activation ofthe processes ofthe sacred that we know all too well. We'll try to resist that activation, however, and I will attempt to offer my response to Professor Kimelman's paper with humor, although I may not always be entirely successful in my efforts. Part I. Mandatory, discretionary, and holy warfare Professor Reuven Kimelman's paper, "Warfare and its Restrictions in the Jewish Tradition," is a testament to the author's erudition and deep knowledge ofthe Jewish tradition and in particular the Talmudic tradition on the matter of mandatory and discretionary warfare and its relation to ethical conduct. No one who reads Professor Kimelman or who hears him speak can come away without having learned something new, something that will in turn confer new knowledge in other areas and thus contribute to the overall understanding ofTorah and thereby to the goal ofthe ancient Rabbis who compiled these halachic and aggadic materials which is to see Torah as a blueprint of the world. The paper is brimming with the understanding and references appropriate to the subject matter he has chosen to examine, and from the perspective from which he has chosen to read that subject matter. But therein also lies its difficulty. The problem from my point of view is that it is difficult to see how, in the form in which I read his text two weeks ago, it has anything to say to Girardian theory, either in general, or Sandor Goodhart65 with specific relevance to this conference. Moreover, and this is perhaps more troublesome to me, steeped as his paper is within one major tradition of reading within Jewish history, namely, the legalistic tradition of Talmudic reading, it is difficult to see how his paper has anything to say to the other major tradition ofreading within the history ofJudaism, namely, the prophetic tradition. Let me elaborate. It is difficult to see how Professor Kimelman's paper has anything to say to Girardian theory in at least three different ways. (1 ) The paper seems to be largely unaware of Girardian theory and one wonders why this paper is being read here. (2) The paper seems to be largely unaware of the purpose of this particular conference, which is to think about and discuss the institution of violence read from a Girardian perspective. (3) The paper seems to be largely unaware ofthe dynamics of mimetic phenomena whether from a Girardian perspective or from any other. Rather the paper seems to be largely focused on a realpolitik of ethical life in context of mandatory and discretionary warfare as discussed in the Talmud to the virtual exclusion of the mimetic aspect of things, the political to the exclusion ofthe ethical (at least in the sense that I am going to speak about it), the public conception of the ethical to the exclusion of the personal conception of the ethical. Perhaps more troubling, however, is that the paper seems to be largely without commentary upon an alternative understanding of scriptural phenomena, which is, namely, that they are scriptural phenomena, textual phenomena, and not matters of historical reality, of what really happened, or even matters of moral reality, except as that reality passes through Scripture. As an exclusion of this scriptural dimension, and an abstraction of the issues of mandatory and discretionary warfare from their scriptural context, the paper appears to be the product of what I would call a literalist imagination and therefore potentially of theodicy. Why, then, is Reuven Kimelman here? Presumably Bob Daly has told him what this conference is to be about, that it is focused upon Girardian theory, either in general or in specific guise ofthe topic: namely, violence and institution in Judaism. Presumably, Reuven Kimelman also knows about the other tradition of Judaism beside the legalistic tradition from which he reads since he...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 64-76
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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