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Gillian Rose's essay


'Would That They Forsake Me but Observe My Torah': Midrash and Political Authority Author(s): Gillian Rose Reviewed work(s): Source: The Modern Law Review, Vol. 58, No. 4 (Jul., 1995), pp. 471-485 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Modern Law Review Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1096457 . Accessed: 09/03/2012 09:59Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

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'Would they that forsakeMe butobserve Torah'* my-Midrash and PoliticalAuthorityGillianRose?PrefaceWhile this paperfocuseson issues of Midrashim Judaism politicsrather and as than ethics, it offers fundamental bearingson the conceptualisation law. It of proposes modelof doingpoliticsas politics:'theriskof actionarising of the a out negotiation law,' a revisionof Hannah of Arendt's discursive antinomian and idea of constitution-making. the helpof Pocock'scivic republicanism,launch With I a study of the Judaicbody politic, a topic massivelyneglectedin mainstream scholarship, whichhasbeenpromoting Hebraic the paradigm. studydraws This on the political experienceand wisdom of the Jews as embodiedin their civic consciousness.It is constitutional ratherthan religious literacy that is here explored.

IntroductionThe argument this paperfalls into threeparts.In the first part,I arguethat of Hartman's introduction the idea of Midrashinto literaryculturedoes not of constitute form of prevalent a anti-Hellenic Hebraism, is a call for whathe but names 'religiousliteracy,'which would introduce discriminations necessaryto address crisisof authorit acrosstherangefrommethod literary the in criticism to ethical and politicaltheory. This distinguishes Hartman's Judaica from postmetaphysical emblematisings Judaism methodandas ethics all of which of as concurin presenting Judaism undertaking as politicsby othermeans.Inthesecond partof thepaper arguethatMidrash Judaism notpoliticsby othermeans,but I in is politicsper se. Drawing Pocock'sMachiavellian on Moment reunify source to the of the double dilemma of republicanpolitical authority coercion and participation vinu and virtue or I show that rabbinicJudaism'sselfunderstanding thepoliticsof thethreeCrowns as (Ketarim) displays doubling a of the doubledilemma.For the doubleof Judaicpolity has alwaysbeen inserted withinthe doubleof the imperial 'host' polity. Midrash, exegesis of the or the threeCrowns,becomesthe way in whichthis insertion negotiated figured. is and Biblical,Mishnaic Talmudic and Midrash be compared this way andtheir may in plasticitr maybe contrasted modern, with post-Napoleonic Judaic responses the to radicallychangedconfiguration politicalauthority. begin to explore this of I contrastin the thirdpartof the paper.I concludethatany revivalof Midrashic addressto politicalauthority demandswhat Hartman originallycalled, in The*Jerusalem Talmud,Haggigah 1:7. A brief glossaryof termsappearsas an appendix p 485 below. at tProfessorof Social and PoliticalThought,Department Sociology, Universityof Warwick. of This paper was first presentedat the Conference,Cultureand CriticalForm:Readingafter Geoffrey Hartman, 8-9 May 1993, University Warwick.I wouldlike to thank of PeterLarkin theopportunity for of presenting paperand for providingmuchrelevantmaterial; RowlandCotterillfor deliveringthe this and paper, for correctingit and for much support.With thanksto Vassilis Lambropoulos helping me for formulate Preface. the(D)The Modern Law Review Limited 1995 (MLR 58:4, July). Published by Blackwell Publishers 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF and 238 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.



[Vol. 58

Unmediated Vision, 'a methodof completeinterpretation,' is, 'a unified that multiplicity interpretation.' of Only in this way is it possibleto producethe restitutive criticism,whichHartman morerecentlyexpounded, has withoutalso producing reduction the belligerents counter-identified a to of multiplicity, socalled 'cultural pluralism,' thatis wherethe dangerof aestheticising for politics currently lies.

Letmebeginwiththemostmighty gravamen I haveencountered thecritical that in literature.In a monumental study publishedrecently, entitled The Rise of Eurocentrism: Anatomyof Interpretation, Vassilis Lambropoulos argues that instead responding theaestheticising politicsby politicising (according of to of art to Walter Benjamin's famous injunction), latter-day literary critics and philosophers have,on theonehand,politicised aesthetics, producing aesthetic 'the theocracy interpretation,' of while,on theotherhand,theyseekto protect bothart andaesthetics frompan-appropriating politics. 1 FromAuerbach AdornoandHorkheimer, Derrida, to to Bloom2 Hartman, and to Martin Bernal,3 thesethinkers saidto operate all are according whatmight to be termed neo-Hebraism. neo-Hebraism This consistsin theradical uncoupling of the age-old Europeanhierarchyprivileging Hebraismover Hellenism:the reverential couplingwhich has prevailedin traditional Christian cultureand in modernHumanistand Protestant cultures, and which indicatesthe Hellenic investment the Hebraicas its prophetic ethicalother. Neo-Hebraism in and has obtained divorcefromits formerly a complementary other,the Hellenic,on the grounds it is totalitarian, that metaphysical reason.Responding the collapseof to the publiccovenant interpretation, of neo-Hebraism saidto afford'theYeshiva is kindof sittingaround,' contract 'theconsensus commentary,' the of of attributed to Hartman; as the remnant prophetic art of redemption, attributed Adorno; to deconstruction heterodoxmidrashicexegesis of exilic Writingand Law, as attributed Derrida, to who is saidalso to collapseOralLawintoWritten Lawand Halacha Scripture.4 into The argumentthat neo-Hebraism has become the icon of the renewed politicisation aesthetics(not of art) results in what would otherwisebe of nonsensical propositions regarding Hebraism, suchas 'theHebraic triumph the of aesthetic,'S the ancient for Hebrews rabbinic and Judaism no artor aesthetics had no representation God.However,'theaesthetic' of refershereto the idealising of theinterpretive discursive or community, atoning of criticism, exilicWriting; of in eachcase, a method whichrestsits claimto authority evading difficulty by the of authority such the legitimation domination its coercivemeans. as of and To my mind,Lambropoulos's enterprise self-defeating its architectonic is in and in its applications. Architectonically, drawingon Foucault,the authorfails to locatehis own authorship withintheopposition Hellenism Hebraism of and which he hasglobalised. Mostnotably, meaning Hellenism theratiocination the of and of1 (Princeton: Princeton UniversityPress, 1993) pp 86-96, 260. 2 Bloom, TheAmerican Religion:TheEmergence the Post-Christian of Nation(New York:Simonand Schuster,1992). 3 Bernal,BlackAthena: TheAfroasiaticRootsof ClassicalCivilisation [1987](London: Vintage,1991). 4 Lambropoulos, cit n 1, pp 88, 206-207, 319-320. op S ibid p 207.


(C)The Modern Law Review Limited 1995

July 1995]

Midrashand Political Authority

of to which seems consistently deplorethe Hebraicisation his own argument, culture,are nowheredeveloped.As a result,although philosophical and literary the the threeessaysof whichit consistsare saidto be non-cumulative, bookends ethic' to witha lameapostrophe 'someotherkindof publicvirtueandpolitical the it pro-Hellenism, has disqualified meansof for which,in spiteof its apparent conception. of of dependson the deconstruction the contraries enterprise Lambropoulos's so whichhavebeenextended and and Hellenism Hebraicism, of artandpolitics, within of Instead suffering examination. under all thattheyassimilate themethods the the crisis of authority, crisis of his own Hellenism,he his own authorship which he has imposed. investment else an oppositional everywhere documents of Nowhere is this more evident than in his misapprehension Adorno and proposition The Dialectic of Enlightenment. guidingspeculative Horkheimer's and which the book unravels, 'Myth is alreadyenlightenment; enlightenment as revertsto mythology,'is taken by Lambropoulos fatalisticand rhetorical whenit is a finelybalanced of evidencefor 'thevile character' reasonandmyth,6 mythin unlimited in mythand the incipient of proposition the work of reason in and of the necessityof placingone's own authorship bothof these reason reasonand politics, of any positions.The lack of any accountof transformed the expositionof Hellenism,can be tracedto this weaknessthroughout central documentation, and of chapter the book. Withextensivehistorical contemporary has Lambropoulos finally ruined the oppositionof Athens and Jerusalem, Whilehe can take no pathhimself,let us say thathe Hellenismand Hebraism. opensup the pathto the thirdcity the city whichdoes notbearan emblematic name.7 against repeatedly his it Hartman, seemsto me, has staked authorship Geoffrey that while acknowledging he writesfromwithinthe of politicising aesthetics, the concerning of whichmakesthatembellishing the predicament crisis in authority literacy'8 This that authority, evasionof politics,so attractive. is whyhis 'religious and why his referenceto Midrashas cannot be taken as a neo-Hebraism Other as of frompresentations Judaism the sublime maybe distinguished method of modernity. Politics,'Hartman