Isn’t Dor Deah reminiscent of Islamic fundamentalism?
5. A final criticism is that the Dor Dai version of Judaism is disquietingly reminiscent of militant Islamic trends such as Salafism. Both started out as modernising movements designed to remove some of the cobwebs and allow the religion to compete in the modern world, and both have ended up as fundamentalist groups lending themselves to alliances with political extremism. Both disapprove of mysticism (Kabbalah or Sufism) and praying at tombs; both tend to dismiss more moderate coreligionists as unbelievers (see Takfir); both cut out centuries of sophisticated legal scholarship in favour of an every-man-for-himself “back to the sources” approach.
The Dor Daim answer to this is:
- Political militancy is no more characteristic of Dor Daim than of many Kabbalistically-inspired branches of Religious Zionism (e.g. the followers of Zvi Yehuda Kook). In fact the conditions for political or military action, as laid down in the Mishneh Torah, are extremely strict and limited.
- Neither Dor Daim nor talmide ha-Rambam are against mysticism per se: see Attitude to Kabbalah above. The attitude to Kabbalah is based on much more specific factors: if there is an analogue to their opposition among other religions, it is essentially an opposition to the espousal of concepts such as incarnation, pantheism, and panentheism – apart from the opposition to idolatry in general, as understood in the context of the Mishneh Torah.
- The antagonism shared by Dor Daim and talmide ha-Rambam against praying at tombs etc. is distinct from the Salafi view in a number of ways. First, in contrast to the Salafi view, the Dor Dai / talmide ha-Rambam view is that this prohibition is Rabbinic, meaning that it is not a direct command from the Almighty, but rather it is a “fence” to distance a Jew from the possibility of transgressing a more severe prohibition. They do not consider praying at or visiting a tomb to be idolatry, nor do they believe that this is prohibited to all people (i.e. non-Israelites), whereas the Salafi view is that this is forbidden to everyone as a very severe prohibition in itself.
- It is wrong to accuse Dor Daim and talmide ha-Rambamof being extremists, or of dismissing more moderate coreligionists as unbelievers: see reply to 2 above. On the contrary, they often find more in common theologically with sectors of Modern Orthodoxy than they do with much of the Ḥasidic or Ḥaredi communities.
- The method of learning and religious observance aimed at by them is firmly rooted in Jewish rabbinic authority (see Jewish law above), and is about as far from an “every-man-for-himself” approach as it is possible to get. How far a similar accusation may be true of Salafism (which is itself an umbrella description for a great many trends) is an independent question, on which Dor Daim are not required to express a view.
- Salafis typically reject Islamic philosophy of the kind propounded by Avicenna and Averroes. Dor Daim, by contrast, find strong inspiration in the closely related Jewish philosophies of Bahya ibn Pakuda and Maimonides.
- Many Dor Daim and talmide ha-Rambam desire that the Jewish people as a nation will return to upholding the Almighty’s Torah with the establishment of a central religious authority – a Great Court (Sanhedrin) reestablished according to Jewish law as only fully codified in the Mishneh Torah. That is one form of the Messianic aspiration implicit in any form of Orthodox Judaism. It cannot be compared to the desire of some Islamists to reestablish a Khilafah by violent means if necessary.