Rosenzweig, Religion and Politics


franz.jpgAll of this talk about politics and Israel yesterday got me thinking of some passages from Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption. These passages are found in the final part of the text. In the Star, Roseznweig argues that reality has three levels, the middle level is experience, which is described in Part 2, the ground of experience, if you will, are the primordial elements that are accessible only to reflective thought (Part I). Finally, the third part paints a picture seemingly beyond experience (only be inescapably involving it) of an ontology, which is derived from casting it through the topos of the sociology of religious life. Put differently, the progressive nature of the text moves from a mathematical system to a grammatical system to the organization of social signifiers (e.g. the form and content of the religious life of the congregation). The mathematical system in part I is inverted in the third part, this is to say that the sign of the collectivity of religious life is given to experience while the referent (the world of redemption) is outside of reality and is lived in anticipation, it is only signified through an intercession by the form of the collective religious life. Anyhow, here are the passages

There is only one community in which such a linked sequence of everlasting life goes from grandfather to grandson, only one which cannot utter the “we” of its unity without hearing deep within a voice that adds “are eternal”. It must be a blood-community, because only blood gives present warrant to the hope for a future (299, Hallo edition).

And later on:

For we have long ago been robbed of all the things in which the peoples of the world are rooted. For us, land and language, custom and law, have long left the circle of the living and have been raised to the rung of holiness. But we are still living, and live in eternity. Our life is no longer meshed with anything outside our selves. We have struck root in ourselves. We do not root in earth and so we are eternal wanderers, but deeply rooted in our own body and blood. And it is this rooting in ourselves and in nothing but ourselves, that vouchsafes eternity (305, Hallo edition).

The blood community does not connote an ethnic community and it always seemed to me that it is certainly meant symbolically and most likely, ontologically (given its intimate ties to temporality and time). For Rosenzweig, Judaism is the singular We that always already lives with God. The “people of Israel” are the temporal dwelling place for eternity. Outside of this “We” past and future are experienced as being divorced from each other. In Judaism, they “grow into one.” Rosenzweig outlines the philosophical ground for his claim that Jews alone are equipped to live within the experience of redemption, viz., “earthly eternity: and the collectivity of experience. Community, for Rosenzweig, must hold onto neither land or politics, but somehow has to create a sense of eternity within itself. This yearning for ultimacy is folded into/within the horizon. So, the temporal community generates its own time and it indeed, self-grounding.

For Rosenzweig, the Jews disassociation from actual power politics makes them a “community of fate” (322ff). Because of the blood community the Jews have a special temporality. All of this is to say this: through blood a community may will itself into a mode of redemption which is a mode of life, Rosenzweig calls this the “will to People.” The doubling of blood connotes temporality without territorial roots, it is a rooted unrootedness. On the other hand, blood generates permanence; much like law and scripture are eternally present. Jewish identity displays “rootededness in one’s own self” (305).

It would be good to recall that earlier Rosenzweig spent a good deal of time showing how the We banishes the You, so given Rosenzweig’s insistence on the address of the Psalms, it seems to me that we could follow Rosenzweig back into a theologically based theory of Jewish difference, which is manifested materially as exile. Rosenzweig’s non-liberalism, non (not anti) Zionism expresses the very same disillusionment with liberal assimilationist ideals that had driven many of his contemporaries into national political discources.

Finally, for Rosenzweig, to be fully who we are qua Jews, exile is a pre-requisite. It comprises the continual and necessary condition of Jewish being. The Jewish people are a remnant among the nations (404). Jews constitute the fire, the point, at the center of the star. Jewish exile is the temporal eternity of the persecuted remnant. Redemption is only possible in exile.

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