our experiential past

Avakesh starts expounding on Pirkei Avot, here. He brings down R' Aryeh Kaplan on the major paradigm shift from the Prophets to the General Assembly here.
"What R. Arye Kaplan suggested is that it can be properly understood by realizing that the goal of religious life between Joshua and the Second Temple period was prophecy. Every single Jewish man and woman aspired, and often succeeded in obtaining a prophetic experience of some kind. All ritual, behavior and experience was focused on fostering meditative awareness, moral perfection and a rich prayer and sacrificial life - so as to attract and to be worthy of Divine revelations. Man sought God in direct experience, not in a text. In this setting, Torah study would have been an important but contingent condition for prophecy, not the sine qua non of religious life that it would subsequently become. When Prophecy ceased, the Men of the Great Assembly were faced with the task of reformulating Judaism, so it may survive, from an experiential to text based religion."
It's kind of cool to look at modern day Judaism in the same light and see the Baal Shem Tov as a recorrection towards some experiential-plus-text religion, or as one of the steps preceding the reinstatement of prophecy.


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