18 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
    CONCERNING THE TORAH

    by

    Aron Katsenelinboigen

                            


Sadly, this is a posthumous publication of Aron Katsenelinboigen’s great work on the indeterministic, developing God in the Old Testament, the concept that became a turning point of our long-term relationship.  At the end of April 1990, my fourth month in the United States, where I emigrated with my family from Odessa(Ukraine), I met one of the most interesting, innovative and provocative thinkers of our time -- University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School Professor Aron Katsenelinboigen.  One can read more about this particular meeting and its relation to Aron’s current book at

http://www.charitonproductions.com/about_angels_and_aron

What is this book about and what kind of reader is it aimed at?

The title of the book may suggest two things: (a) the book is dealing with the Torah and (b) is aimed at a religious/theological/theosophical audience. This conclusion, however, would be only partially right. Although the book discusses God and Man’s interactions as represented in the Old Testament, it is far from being limited to the theological scope. First and foremost, this book is an interdisciplinary work that invites an unorthodox audience interested in decision-making and systems thinking to broaden its view of indeterministic systems and enrich its knowledge about styles and methods applied to managing uncertainty. Aron writes:

 

In particular, an analysis of holy books could foster the development of new ideas in decision-making processes. In turn, achievements in decision-making theory could be helpful in resolving some theological problems. And so, the reciprocal relationship between decision-making theory and theology could be fruitful for both fields. In view of a large number of holy books, each of considerable size, I have chosen to examine only one such book – the Old Testament and its core section the Torah (Pentateuch). I use the term "Torah" in the narrow sense to mean the Five Books by Moses that are the basics of Judaism. (…)

 

I bring new philosophical ideas like a degree of indeterminism and its core – the category of a predisposition - to the interpretation of the old text (…)

 

The cornerstone of the book does not lie in the expanded theological interpretations of the Old Testament's various parts, but rather an original concept of indeterminism that Aron had developed for years and published step by step in his various books on systems thinking (Wiki).  This concept is part of his Predispositioning Theory, which we had co-taught at UPENN for years and I still continue to teach just to make more young people familiar with this fresh, innovative, unusual and above all, highly practical theory. All my lectures are dedicated to Aron’s memory.  By referring to the Old Testament as a literary, not religious, collection of myths, stories, etc., this book offers another way of learning about Predispositiong Theory.  Only from this point of view may one attempt to fully comprehend all the examples and speculations presented in the book.  For those who are able to grasp the essentials, this work will definitely become a fount of wisdom and innovative thinking.

The decision to publish this book online was made after its failure to be published by PublishAmerica, a publishing company that signed a contract with Aron years ago, but never published the book.  After confirming the book's publication in the below email sent to Aron's son Alex, PublishAmerica found some strange excuses to avoid publishing and disappeared  without responding to any of my emails.  This also serves as a warning to other authors who decide to deal with the publishing company in question. (read the email from PublishAmerica here)

The second reason why I decided to put this marvelous book on my website was that despite his age, Aron embraced progress and innovation, as illustrated by the fact that when the Internet was still in toddlerhood, he was already excited by the prospect of online books. Aron was convinced that electronic publishing was the publishing of the future. Now I remember with a smile my rather orthodox objections to his praise of e-libraries. To me, the Book was not only a material object containing text, but a house, a temple that one could enter by opening the cover and smelling the Tree of Life whose branches served as pages of the Book. Aron didn’t argue with me. He listened to my passionate speech in defense of books with his usual kind smile and only commented that horses are still available for those who are nostalgic for that type of transportation. “But we can’t stop the progress,” he said. “You may always have books on your shelf, but you’d have to pay a bigger price in the future because the reading market will move to the cyber space – more efficient, quickly accessible and more convenient for users. With your laptop in hands you may read any book you’d like, being faraway from you home library.”

He was right, as usual. Soon I became a big admirer of e-publishing. Like the vast majority of readers, I read mostly on the Internet.

The third reason for publishing this book on the Internet was that no scholarly work is a source of profiting for the author. Nor is it for the publisher. The same is with poetry. We, the authors, never see any money from our scholarly books and never write for money. We write for the ideas – to give them life, to share them with those who are interested, and to have a vivid exchange of thoughts. Scholarly writing is a non-paid pool of intellectual thought and access to it should be free of charge as well.  I know that Aron would agree with one hundred percent of that statement. 

I am including some artwork in this publication since Aron highly appreciated a combination of artistic and scholarly views, of which our co-teaching of courses on the Art of Decision-Making serves as the best proof.  He especially liked to combine his scholarly statements with my poetry and Irene Frenkel’s paintings and drawings, most of all appreciating the associative, indirect linkages between his philosophy and art. My decision to include some of Irene’s works is dictated by that. Thus, each chapter contains Irene's paintings and drawings which Aron admired greatly. Also, in the beginning of each chapter, I am including my own artistic photographs which Aron, unfortunately, had not the chance to see: I began to photograph skies right after his death when I visited my dear friend, a prominent Austrian poet and writer, Kirstin Breitenfellner, in Vienna.  Like me, Kirstin was fascinated by Aron’s Predispositioning Theory and translated into German my essay, Journey, in which I make an introduction to Aron’s concept. While making these photos, I was thinking about Aron's concept of an indeterministic God therefore their inclusion in the book is my other artistic contribution to his ever-developing theory. 

Last but not least, I would like to express my gratitude to Vadim Zubarev owing to whom this book has appeared in its electronic format. I also thank Boris Layvant and Michael Zubarev – Aron’s youngest students in the past – who offered their generous help in editing some parts of the final version.

                                                                                                            V. Ulea (Vera Zubarev)


 


© 2007  ULITA.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED