Liturgy is not Theology

We've been teaching liturgical analysis. Self-evident to us that liturgy is not theology, they are two distinct domains. Yikes, you can take a photograph of your blackboard and post it online.

Simple. To analyze a liturgy you must ask about its idiom, its emotional content, and its position in a larger dramatic structure. Liturgy is comprised of emotionally resonant categories. That is what defines it as liturgy.

Theology resides in a distinct domain, not overlapping into liturgy, though surely contributing to it. It is comprised of emotionally empty categories, and so it should be.

Theology is a cognitive enterprise, where religious belief resides. Liturgy is a place with distinctive idiom, emotion and drama, with connection to the Jewish soul and to feeling, as opposed to an enterprise of deductive reasoning. Multiple archetypes actively express themselves in liturgy. Turn the dial and switch the channels. How diverse are your tents O Israel.

Kol Nidre, the Avodah of Yom Kippur and Eleh Ezkerah. Unparalleled powerful prayers. Now understood in a new key. Reminds us of a long past classic, Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art, by Susanne K. Langer.

Too bad you couldn't be there today. It was a breathtaking class. And one student virtually present via laptop, at home with her newborn child. We see her on the screen raise her hand to ask a question. We answer. Minutes later we hear her child crying from the LCD screen. Brave new virtual world. We love it.


Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Next time, tape the lecture and post it, darn it! It does sound like it was excellent, and, coincidentally, I recently had a discussion with someone in Israel, in which he angrily averred that to make such a distinction means that Drush is no more honest or truthful than propaganda.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

i don't quite follow the drush - propaganda argument, but thanks for the thoughts.