It is with great sadness that JBS acknowledges the passing of one of our founders and inspiration, Kenneth Schwartz. Kenny was always a happy, positive and supportive friend who worked alongside us to encourage discussion and raise awareness about issues within the Jewish community. An activist and supporter for many causes, Kenny was intelligent, articulate and passionate, but more than all else he was kind and considerate. He will be missed as a colleague and friend. May his family find comfort among the mourners of Jerusalem.
 
The Jewish Mind by Raphael Patai
Buy Now at Amazon.comReview by Jennifer Clewes
To study Judaism deeply results in a greater understanding of humanity; The Jewish Mind is a chronology with strong purpose - a historic telling of an outstanding tenacity of spirit through the succinct and unwavering view embedded in the Jewish Mind. Patai passionately puts forth important questions, exploring the vast body of external influences upon the Jewish psyche and ultimately, addressing the question what is the essence of Jewishness? The Jewish Mind originates as a chapter in Patai's collaboration with his daughter Jennifer in The "Myth of the Jewish Race" published in 1975. An evaluation of the Jewish faith and culture as affected by Gentiles and the trials of Jewish history, The Jewish Mind though extremely informative, presents its case in painstaking detail, often repeating itself many times over, establishing and re-establishing already proved points.

An all-important preliminary on Ethno History vs. Inner History and The Jews' preoccupation with Inner History sets the stage for a whirlwind sacred story played out through the tender handling of material en masse. Jewish Ethno history, unlike that of the Gentile, turned to the Bible as its source of knowledge and Jewish holy doctrine. Only the knowledge of Biblical history was deemed necessary. The telling in the Bible ends with the God-loving Ezra and Nehemia who are thought of to this day as the dutiful examples of pure sacred observance, not as political leaders or men of external power.

In the distant past everything created by the Jews was religious in nature, in pursuit of observance of God's commands or in pursuit of God's grace. Nothing of secular significance was produced, everything was Jude centric. As new Gentile environments were introduced, their influences brought about distractions, which had little to do with Judaism. The bulk of Patai's work is centered on the six major influences/encounters that environmentally affected the Jewish psyche. The Six Historic Encounters are as follows: (1) The Canaanites and the Israelites, (2) the Jews and Hellenism, (3) the Jews and Muslim Arabs, (4) the Italian Jews and the culture of the renaissance, (4) East European Jews and Russia, (5) Ukrainian Sectarianism and the Jews and (6) the European Enlightenment.

Canaanite polytheism was absorbed, and then fully rejected by the Israelites. This was the first and last time that the Jews as a nation would be associated with polytheism. The Canaanite encounter gave the people of Israel the Hebrew language, and Judaism acquired a belief in angels through the Canaanite religion. The Jews fought continuously against the penetration of the idolatrous polytheistic doctrine that was prevalent in the Hellenes period. However the Jews were greatly influenced by many notions presented in Hellenist philosophy and many Jews at the time were fanatically interested in participating in Greek society. Patai tells of some Jews even going through a painful process to elongate their circumcision in order to participate in the (nude) gymnasia games.

The strictly monotheistic religious culture of Islam was a breath of fresh air for the Jewish people and enabled them to relax into intellectual pursuits while in keeping with Talmudic tradition. Arabic was a language very close to Hebrew and the Jews had a special love for Spain, as seen in several examples of Spanish Hebrew poetry. During this time, Spain was split into the Christian north and the Muslim south; two adversarial forces pitted against each other had Spanish Jewish soldiers facing family across the battle lines. Map making was a Jewish specialty and was occurring primarily on the island of Majorca. Christopher Columbus wouldn't have been able to set sail without the use of these Jewish made maps. His voyage began the day that the last ships departed from Palos carrying Jewish exiles on board (August 2 1492).

An anecdote of note tells of the philosopher, Baruch Spinoza "whose unorthodox views had him ex-communicated at age twenty-three. Oddly enough, Amor Dei Intellectualis: "the intellectual love of God, which constitutes man's true happiness" found in his work the Ethics, can be compared to Biblical passages with a surprising number of similarities. Medieval Jewish philosophy was infused with a fresh vitality in the presence of Arab philosophy; a quote given by Alexander Altman encapsulates this succinctly. "Medieval Jewish philosophy is an offspring of the Arabian culture." As a result of this the Neo-Platonists and the Jewish mystics of Gerona were frontrunners of the Spanish Kabbala. The mystic Aquinas defined mysticism as cognito dei experimentalis, or "The Experimental knowledge of God." The Kabbala was the first real deviation from traditional Jewish law and studies, its genesis traced to the thirteenth century and its earliest figure of importance identified as Nahmanides, a well respected rabbinical authority. Nahmanides' involvement with Kabbala helped secure the new set of ideas as a legitimate branch of Jewish religious study.

The Zohar comprises the most influential collection of early Kabbalistic thinking and was an immense influence on the Kabbala's development. Many changes came with the introduction of Kabbala including the mystical elements that led to many Jews being kept beyond the scope of knowledge. . Scholem said, "Kabbala has been one of the most powerful forces ever to affect the inner development of Judaism", which somewhat paved the way for the bittersweet embrace of Enlightenment.

During the Renaissance Jew and Gentile were alike in their individualist goals, striving to be admired for astonishing acts or accomplishments. Ultimate bliss - attaining the unattainable - was revered during the Renaissance. At this time it was extremely fashionable for the French to speak on behalf of the Jewish people. The Renaissance Jew wanted to "harmonize the religious and cultural values of Judaism with Renaissance values and its lifestyle."

When Israel Ba'al Shem Tov founded Hasidism in the eighteenth century, many Gentile influences were apparent, though they didn't touch the essence of Jewish faith. The primary deviation was the manner in which they expressed the old Jewish belief in "God of our fathers". Hassidic doctrine states that God must be served with joy, which at times led to reckless abandon in the name of God. Many Jews had difficulty with this new approach to prayer and observance and were unable to accept Hasidism as sacred.

Generally the intellectual pursuits of the Jewish people took two to three generations of habitation before flourishing. The Enlightenment, while having some negative consequences, helped the Jews achieve Emancipation, providing Jews with their first exposure to broader knowledge and giving them the opportunity to enter professionals previously restricted.

Patai explores the Jewish IQ in depth in the third section of his extensive work. Most interesting among the many themes are those that relate to the Jewish home environment. While the economic benefits to be gained through study may have been the initial incentive for Jews to place such a high premium on learning, time has made learning an inextricable Jewish virtue.

Among the factors in creating a superior Jewish mind was the religious observance of feeding all Jews stricken with poverty, ensuring nutrition to poorer children who might otherwise not have had the nourishment needed to learn. Additionally, the wisest in the community were encouraged to enter into the Rabbinate and produce large families, essentially passing on their intelligence to large numbers of children. The very process of learning was focused on challenges to the intellect and an effort to train the student in the varying ways to interpret the scriptures. These factors combined to create a Jewish Mind that was especially inquisitive, trained to solve riddles and view issues from numerous perspectives, and engage in rigorous intellectual debate.

Freud wrote this evaluation of the Jews under Gentile anonymity; his words highlight the Jewish spirit with eloquence:

"In some respects, indeed the Jews are our superiors. They do not need so much alcohol as we do in order to make life tolerable; crimes of brutality, murder, robbery and sexual violence are great rarities among them; they have always set a high value on intellectual achievement and interests; their family life is more intimate; they take better care of the poor; charity is a sacred duty to them. Since we have allowed them to cooperate in our cultural tasks, they have acquired merit by valuable contributions in all spheres of science, art and technology, and they have richly repaid our tolerance. So let us cease at last to hand them out favors when they have a claim to justice."

So many elements culminate to create what we call intelligence and nothing is left unexplored in Patai's research. Drunkenness, for example, is explored through myth. According to the book of Genesis, Noah was the first vintner and the first man to get drunk. Of note was Noah's partnership with Satan in tending the vineyard, Satan (with Noah's permission) killed a lamb, a lion, an ape and a pig one after another, then proceeded to water the vines with their blood. It's said that one glass of wine makes someone as meek as a lamb, two glasses fills someone with the courage of a lion, three glasses might cause someone to start jumping around like an ape, and a fourth glass would cause someone to vomit and soil their clothes like a pig.

The rabbinical views on sex vary most substantially. With this in mind I've chosen to include the most beautiful, which was taught by the Spanish medieval Kabbalist, Moses de Leon: sex is elevated to cosmic significance - "When learned men have union with their wives, they do so in imitation of the union between the Supernal Couple." Hence, "When a pious couple performs the act, by doing so it sets in motion all the generative forces of the mystical universe and causes God the King and His consort the Matronit to unite and to give birth to human souls and angels."

Perhaps a contributing factor in the interest of this analysis stems from a focus on the influence of social environment relating to one's personality. Since personality is merely a side effect of mental patterns, Patai's immense spotlight on the six historic encounters is entirely understandable. It's tough to argue against Patai's solid theory on the factors contributing to the state of Jewish understanding. His endeavor is noble and in reading the Jewish Mind I'm imbued with a new sense of wondrous verve.

Buy Now at Amazon.comReview by Jennifer Clewes