Sunday, March 12, 2006 03/16/06-The Yeshiva

In today's excerpt, a lesson in fundamentalism:

"The yeshiva (a word that derives from the Hebrew for 'to sit') would become the defining institution of the ultra-Orthodox fundamentalism that would develop in the twentieth century. It was one of the first manifestations of this emergent and embattled type of religiosity, and we can learn important lessons from it. Fundamentalism--whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim--rarely arises as a battle with an external enemy; it usually begins, instead, as an internal struggle in which traditionalists fight their own coreligionists who, they believe, are making too many concessions to the secular world.

The fundamentalists will often instinctively respond to encroaching modernity by creating an enclave of pure faith, such as a yeshiva. This marks a withdrawal from the Godless world into a self-contained community where the faithful attempt to reshape existence in defiance of the changes without...The students of such a yeshiva are likely to become a cadre, with a shared training and ideology, in their local communities. Such an enclave helps to create a counterculture, an alternative to modern society...directly opposed to the modern spirit and its emphasis on autonomy and innovation."

Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God, Ballantine, 2000, pp. 110-1


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