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Religion

종교 탐방

III. THE JUDAIC TRADITION

유대교의 전승

 

 

2. Basic beliefs and doctrines

기본적 신앙과 교리

Judaism is not and cannot be viewed as an abstract intellectual system, although some of its affirmations may be couched in such terms. It affirms divine sovereignty disclosed in creation (nature) and in history, without necessarily insisting upon--but at the same time not rejecting--metaphysical speculation about the divine (see below Jewish philosophy ). It insists that the community has been confronted by the divine not as abstraction but as person, with whom the community and its members enter into relationship. It is--as the concept Torah indicates--a program of human action, rooted in this personal confrontation. Further, the response of this particular people to its encounter with God is viewed as significant for all mankind. The community is called upon to express its loyalty to God and the Covenant by exhibiting solidarity within its corporate life on every level--including every aspect of human behaviour, from the most public to the most private. Thus, even Jewish worship is communal celebration of the meetings with God in history and in nature. Yet the particular existence of the Covenant people is not thought of as contradicting but rather as enhancing human solidarity. This people, together with all men, is called upon to create political, economic, and social forms that will affirm divine sovereignty--embody it in communal existence. This task is carried out in the belief not that man will succeed solely by his own efforts in these endeavours but that these sought-after human relationships have both their source and their goal in God--who assures their actualization. Within the sphere of his existence in the community, each Jew is called upon to realize the Covenant in his personal intention and behaviour. (see also Index: theology)

In considering the basic affirmations of Judaism from this point of view it is best to allow indigenous formulations rather than systematic statements borrowed from other traditions to govern the presentation.

1) GOD

An early statement of basic beliefs and doctrines emerged in the liturgy of the synagogue some time during the last pre-Christian and first Christian centuries, although there is evidence that such formulations were not absent from the Temple cult that came to an end in the year 70 CE. A section of the Siddur(order of worship, or prayerbook) that has as its focus the recitation of a series of biblical passages (Deut. 6:4-9; Deut. 11:13-21; Num. 15:37-41) takes its name from the first of these, Shema ("Hear"): "Hear, O Israel! the Lord is our God, the Lord alone" (or ". . . the Lord our God, the Lord is one"). In the Shema--often regarded as the Jewish confession of faith, or creed--the biblical material and accompanying benedictions are arranged to provide a unified statement about God and his relationship to the world and Israel, as well as Israel's obligations toward and response to God. In this statement, God, who is the Creator of the universe and who has chosen Israel in love ("Blessed art thou, O Lord, who has chosen thy people Israel in love"), expressed by the giving of Torah, is declared to be "one"; his love is to be reciprocated by men who lovingly obey Torah and whose obedience is rewarded and rebellion punished. The goal of this obedience is God's "redemption" of Israel, a role foreshadowed by his action in bringing Israel out of Egypt.

i) Unity and uniqueness.

At the centre of this liturgical formulation of belief is the concept of the divine unity. In its original setting, it may have served as the theological statement of the reform under Josiah, king of Judah, in the 7th century BCE when worship was centred exclusively in Jerusalem, and all other cultic centres were rejected, so that the existence of one shrine only was understood as affirming one deity. The idea, however, acquired further meaning. It was understood toward the end of the pre-Christian era to proclaim--over against dualistic religious formulations in the Greco-Roman world--the unity of divine love and divine justice, as expressed in the divine names YHWH and Elohim, respectively. A further expansion of this affirmation is found in the first two benedictions of this liturgical section, which together proclaim that the God who is the Creator of the universe and the God who is Israel's ruler and lawgiver are one and the same--as over against religious positions that insisted that the Creator God and the lawgiver God were separate and even inimical. Subsequently, this affirmation was developed in philosophical and mystical terms by both medieval and modern thinkers. (see also Index: monotheism)

ii) Creativity.

As has been noted, this "creed," or "confession of faith," underscores in the first benediction the relation of God to the world as that of Creator to creation. "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who forms light and creates darkness, who makes peace and creates all things." It adds the assertion that his activity is not in the past but is ongoing and continuous, for "he makes new continually, each day, the work of creation"; thus, unlike the deity of the Stoic world view, he remains actively present in nature. This "creed" is concerned as well to come to terms with the ever-present problem of evil. Paraphrasing Isa. 45:7, "I form the light and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil," it changes the last word to "all" (or "all things") rather than "evil." The change was clearly made to avoid the implication that God is the source of moral evil. Judaism, however, did not flinch from confronting the problem of pain and suffering in the world and affirming the paradox of suffering and divine sovereignty, of pain and divine providence, refusing to accept the concept of a partial God--a God that is Lord over only the harmonious and pleasant aspects of reality. (see also Index: Stoicism, theodicy)

iii) Activity in the world.

The second and the third benedictions deal with divine activity within the realm of history and human life. God is teacher of men through the giving of instruction (Torah; see above); he acts in the life of mankind in historical events; he has chosen a particular people--Israel--in love to witness to his presence and his desire for a perfected society; he will, as redeemer, enable man to experience that perfection. These activities, together with creation itself, are understood to express divine compassion and kindness as well as justice (judgment), recognizing the sometimes paradoxical relation between them. Taken together, they disclose Divine Providence--God's continual activity in the world. The constant renewal of creation (nature) is itself an act of compassion overriding strict justice and affording mankind further opportunity to fulfill the divinely appointed obligation. Yet the basically moral nature of God is asserted in the second of the biblical passages that form the core of this liturgical statement (Deut. 11:13-21). Here, in the language of its agricultural setting, the community is promised reward for obedience and punishment for disobedience. The intention of the passage is clear: obedience is rewarded by the preservation of order, so that the community and its members find wholeness in life; while disobedience--rebellion against divine sovereignty--shatters order, so that the community is overwhelmed by adversity. The passage of time has made the original language unsatisfactory (promising rain, crops, and fat cattle), but the basic principle remains, affirming that, however difficult it is to recognize the fact, there is a divine law and judge. Support for this affirmation is drawn from the third biblical passage (Num. 15:37-41), which explains that the fringes the Israelites are commanded to wear on the corners of their garments are reminders to observe the commandments of God, who brought forth Israel from Egyptian bondage. The theme of divine redemption is elaborated in the concluding benediction to point toward a future in which the as yet fragmentary rule of God will be brought to completion: "Blessed is his name whose glorious kingdom is for ever and ever." (see also Index: tallit)

iv) Otherness and nearness.

Within this complex of ideas, other themes are interwoven. In the concept of the divine Creator there is a somewhat impersonal or remote quality--of a power above and apart from the world--which is underscored by such expressions as the trifold declaration of God's holiness, or divine otherness, in Isaiah 6:3: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts . . ." The development of surrogate divine names for biblical usage, as well as the substitution of Adonai ("my Lord") for the tetragrammaton (YHWH) in the reading of the Bible itself, suggests an acute awareness of the otherness of God. Yet this has as its countertheme the affirmation of divine nearness. In the biblical narrative it is God himself who is the directly active participant in events, an idea that is emphasized in the liturgical narrative (Haggada) recited during the Passover meal (seder): "and the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt--not by an angel, and not by a seraph, and not by a messenger . . . ." The surrogate divine name Shekhinathe Present One, is derived from a Hebrew root meaning "to dwell," again calling attention to divine nearness ("presence"). The relationship between these two affirmations, otherness and nearness, is expressed in a Midrashic statement, "in every place that divine awesome majesty is mentioned in Scripture, divine abasement is spoken of, too."

Closely connected with these ideas is that of divine personhood, most particularly disclosed in the use of the pronoun "thou" in direct address to God. The community and the individual, confronted by the Creator, teacher, redeemer, addresses the divine as living person, not as theological abstraction. The basic liturgical form, the berakha ("blessing"), is usually couched in the second person singular: "Blessed art thou . . . ." This relationship, through which remoteness is overcome and presentness is established, illuminates creation, Torah, and redemption, for it reveals the meaning of love. From it flow the various possibilities of expressing the divine-human relationship in personal, intimate language. Sometimes, especially in mystical thought, such language becomes extravagant, foreshadowed by such vivid biblical metaphors as the husband-wife relation in Hosea; the "adoption" motif in Ezek. 16; and the firstborn-son relation (Ex. 4:22). Nonetheless, although terms of personal intimacy are used widely to express Israel's and man's relationship with God, such usage is restrained by the accompanying sense of divine otherness. This is to be seen in the liturgical "blessings," where, following the direct address to God, in which the second person singular pronoun is used, the verbs, with great regularity, are in the third person singular, thus providing the requisite tension between nearness and otherness, between the impersonal and the personal.

v) Modern views of God.

The Judaic affirmations about God have not always been given the same emphasis nor have they been understood in the same way. This was true in the Middle Ages, among both philosophers and mystics, as well as in modern times. In the 19th century, western European Jewish thinkers attempted to express and transform these affirmations in terms of German Idealist philosophy: more recently, philosophical Naturalism was offered as the suitable content of Judaism, while still retaining the traditional God language. The meaningfulness of the whole body of such affirmations, moreover, has been called into question by the philosophical schools of Logical Positivism and Linguistic Analysis. Most recently, the destruction of 6,000,000 Jews during the Nazi period has raised the issue of the validity of such concepts as God's presence in history, divine redemption, the covenant, and the chosen people. In every case, however, it is with the structure of ideas here noted that these challenges must deal. (see also Index: Holocaust)

2) ISRAEL (THE JEWISH PEOPLE)

i) Choice and covenant.

The concluding phrase of the second benediction of the liturgical section referred to above reads: "who has chosen thy people Israel in love." Here the basis of the relationship between God and Israel set forth in the biblical narrative is clearly and succinctly stated: the choice of this people was determined by no other factor than divine love. The patriarchal narratives, beginning with the 12th chapter of Genesis, presuppose the choice, which is set forth explicitly in Deut. 7:6-8 in the New Jewish Version: (see also Index: chosen people)

For you are a people consecrated to the Lord your God: of all the peoples on earth the Lord your God chose you to be His treasured people. It is not because you are the most numerous of peoples that the Lord set His heart on you and chose you--indeed you are the smallest of peoples; but it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He made with your fathers that the Lord freed you with a mighty hand and rescued you from the house of bondage, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Later rabbinic traditions on occasion sought to base the choice upon some special merit of Israel, and the medieval poet and theologian Judah ha-Levi suggested that the openness to divine influence originally present in Adam continued only within the people of Israel.

However understood, the background of this choice is the recurring disobedience of mankind narrated in Genesis 2-11. Abraham and his descendants are singled out not merely as the object of the divine blessing but also as its channel to all mankind. The choice, however, demands a reciprocal response from Abraham and his lineage. That response is obedience, as exemplified in the first instance by Abraham's readiness to leave his "native land" and "father's house" (Gen. 12:1). This twofold relationship was formalized in a mutually binding agreement, a covenant between the two parties. The covenant, thought by some modern biblical scholars to reflect the form of ancient suzerainty treaties, indicates (as in the Ten Utterances) the source of Israel's obligation--the acts of God in history--and the specific requirements those acts impose. The formalization of this relationship was accomplished by certain cultic acts that may, according to some contemporary scholars, have been reenacted on a regular basis at various sacred sites in the land, eventually being centralized in Jerusalem. The content of the covenantal obligations thus formalized was Torah. Israel was bound in obedience, and Israel's failure to obey provided the occasions for the prophetic messages. The prophets, as spokesmen for God, called the community to renewed obedience, threatened and promised disaster if such was not forthcoming, and--recalling the source of the choice in divine love--sought to explain its persistence even when, strictly understood, the covenant should have been repudiated by God.

The choice of Israel has its concrete expression in the requirements of the precepts (mitzwot, singular mitzwa) that are part of Torah. The blessing recited before the public reading of the pentateuchal portions on Sabbath, festivals, holy days, fasts, and certain weekdays refers to God as "He who chose us from among all the peoples and gave us His Torah," thus emphasizing the intimate relationship between the elective and revelatory aspects of God. (see also Index: mitzvah)

Israel's role was not defined solely in terms of its own obedience to the commandments. As noted, Abraham and his descendants were seen as the means by which the estrangement of disobedient mankind from God was to be overcome. Torah was the formative principle underlying the community's fulfillment of this obligation. Israel was to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:6) functioning within mankind and for its sake. This task is enunciated with particular earnestness in the writings of the prophets. In Isa. 43-44, Israel is declared to be God's witness and servant who is to bring the knowledge of God to the nations. In chapter 42 of the same book Israel is declared to be a "covenant of the people, a light to the nations, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prisons, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house" (42:6-7). This double motif of a chosen people and witness to the nations, joined to that of the righteous king, developed in the biblical and postbiblical periods into messianism in its several varieties (see below Eschatology ).

The intimate relation between choice, covenant, and Torah determined the modality of Israel's existence. Religious faith, far from being restricted to or encapsulated in the cult, found its expression in the totality of communal and individual life. The obligation of the people was to be the true community, in which the relationship between its members was open, in which social distance was repudiated, and in which response to the divine will expressed in Torah was called for equally from all. One of the important recurring themes of the prophetic movement was the adamant rejection of any tendency to limit divine sovereignty to the partial area of "religion," understood as the realm of the priesthood and cult. Subsequent developments continued this theme, although it appeared in a number of other forms. Pharisaic Judaism and its continuation, rabbinic Judaism, down to modern times has resolutely held to the idea of the all-pervasive functioning of Torah, so that however the various Jewish communities over the centuries may have failed to fulfill the ideal, the self-image of the people was that of "holy community."

ii) Israel and the nations.

The double motif of "treasured people" and "witness" was not without its tensions as it functioned in ongoing history. Tensions are especially visible in the period following the return from the Babylonian Exile at the end of the 6th and beginning of the 5th centuries BCE. It is, however, doubtful whether the use of such terms as nationalism, particularism, or exclusivism (as opposed to universalism) are of any great help in understanding the situation. Emphasis has, for example, been laid upon Ezra 9:2 and 10:2, in which the reestablished community is commanded to give up wives taken from "the peoples of the land." This is taken as indication of the narrow, exclusivistic, nationalistic nature of Judaism, without reference to the situation in which a harassed contingent of returned exiles sought to maintain itself in a territory surrounded by politically unfriendly if not hostile neighbours. Nor does this represent racialism, since foreigners were admitted to the Jewish community, and in the following centuries some groups engaged in extensive missionary activities, appealing to the individuals of the nations surrounding them to join themselves to the God of Israel, who was the one true God, the Creator of the heavens and earth.

A more balanced view recognizes that within the Jewish community religious universalism was affirmed at the same time and by the same people who understood the nature of Jewish existence in politically particularistic (i.e., nationalistic) terms. To neglect either side is to distort the picture. In no case was the universalism disengaged from the reality of the existing community, even when it was expressed in terms of the ultimate fulfillment of the divine purpose, the restoration of the true covenantal relationship between God and all mankind. Nor was political particularism, even under circumstances of great provocation and resentment, misanthropic. The most satisfactory figure in describing the situation of the restored community, and one that continues to be useful in dealing with later episodes, is that of the human heartbeat, made up of two functions, the systole, or contraction, and the diastole, or expansion. There have been several periods of contraction and of expansion throughout the history of Judaism. The emphasis within the abiding tension has been determined by the historical situation in which the community has found itself. To generalize in one direction or the other is fatal to an understanding of the history and faith of the "holy community."

iii) The people and the land.

Closely related to the concept of Israel as the chosen, or Covenant, people is the role of the land of Israel. In the patriarchal stories, settlement in Canaan is an integral part of the fulfillment, from the divine side, of the Covenant. The goal of the Israelites escaping from Egypt is the same land, and entry into it is understood in the same fashion. The return from the Babylonian Exile, too, is seen in the same light. As there was the choice of a people, so was there the choice of a land--and for much the same reason. It was to provide the setting in which the community could come into being as it carried out the divine commandments. This choice of the land contrasts significantly with the predominant ideas of other peoples in the ancient world, in which the deity or divinities were usually bound to a particular parcel of ground outside of which they lost their effectiveness or reality. Though some such concepts may very well have crept into Israelite thought during the period of the kings (from Saul to Jehoiachin), the crisis of the Babylonian Exile was met by a renewal of the affirmation that the God of Israel was, as Lord of all the earth, free from territorial restraint, although He had chosen a particular territory for this chosen people. Here again the twofold nature of Jewish thought becomes apparent, and both sides are to be affirmed or the view is distorted. Following the two revolts against Rome (66-73 CE and 132-135 CE), the Jews of the ever-widening dispersion continued, as they had before these disasters, to cherish the land. Once again it became the symbol of fulfillment, so that return to it was looked upon as an integral part of messianic restoration. The liturgical patterns of the community, insofar as they were concerned with natural phenomena (e.g., planting, rainfall, harvest, and the annual cycle) rather than historical events, were based on geography, topography, and agricultural practices of the land, viewed as paradigmatic. Although some Jews continued to live in the land, yet for most in the distant dispersion it was idealized and viewed primarily in eschatological terms--their destination at the end of days, in the world to come. The 11th-century poet Judah ha-Levi not only longed for it in verse but also gave it a significant role in his theological interpretation of Judaism and eventually sought to return to it from his native Spain. It was not, however, until the 19th century that the land began to play a role other than the goal of pilgrimage or of occasional settlement by pietists and mystics. At the end of the 19th century the power of the utopian concept was released in eastern Europe in a cultural renaissance that focussed, in part, on a return to the land and, in western and central Europe, in a political movement coloured by nationalist motifs in European thought. The coming together of these two strains of thought gave rise to Zionism. The political movement reflected a dissatisfaction with the view of the Jews as merely a body or organization of religious believers--like the Christian churches--an interpretation that had become dominant following the political emancipation of the Jews in the period after Napoleon. The political emphasis of Zionism aroused considerable opposition from those Jews who were convinced of the necessity of a churchly definition of Judaism parallel to the Roman Catholic and Protestant communions. While this conflict erupted in bitter debate during the first half of the 20th century, the events of the Nazi period in Europe brought it to a close, except for some sporadic renewals on the part of some numerically insignificant groups. For the most part, although there are few satisfactory formulations--theological or secular--there is a working consensus that acknowledges a significant role to the land and recognizes that a churchly definition of the Jewish community, while strategically acceptable in some situations, does not do justice to history and is not theologically sound if it suggests that Judaism merely consists of abstract doctrines and dogmas. Some Jews, however, continue to argue that whatever the past has been, the future of the Jewish community is with those movements in the modern world that cut across or transcend the particularity Zionism represents.

iv) Modern views of the people Israel.

The nature of the people Israel and of the land of Israel has been variously interpreted in the history of Jewish thought. In modern times, some interpretations have been deeply influenced by contemporary political and social discussions in the general community. Thus, for example, Zionist theoreticians were influenced by concepts of political nationalism on the one hand and by socialist ideas on the other. Further, the challenge to traditional theological concepts in the 19th century raised issues about the meaning of the choice of Israel, and Jewish thinkers borrowed from romantic nationalism such ideas as the "genius" of the people. Most recently, attempts have been made to approach the question sociologically, dismissing the theological mode as unhelpful. The concept of the chosen people is then understood to indicate a specific role deliberately undertaken by the Jewish people and similar to that espoused by other groups (e.g., "Manifest Destiny" by the American people). The establishment of the State of Israel has motivated some thinkers to call for a repudiation of the idea, in keeping with the position that normal existence for the Jews requires the dismissal of such concepts. Although only a small minority of Jewish thinkers espouse this position, the doctrine of the choice is not without its theological difficulties even for those who continue to affirm it.

3) MAN

i) The image of God.

In Gen. 1:26, 27; 5:1; and 9:6 two terms occur, "image" and "likeness," that seem to indicate clearly the biblical understanding of man's essential nature: he is created in the image and likeness of God. Yet the texts in which they are used are not entirely unambiguous; the idea they point to does not appear elsewhere in Scriptures; and the concept is skirted cautiously in the rabbinic interpretations. What the image and likeness of God or the divine image refer to in the biblical text is not made explicit, and, in the light of the psychosomatic unity of man that dominates the biblical concepts, it is not possible to escape entirely from the implication of "bodily" similarity. What the terms meant in their context at the time and whether they reflect mythological usages taken over from other Middle Eastern thought is a question that is by no means answered. Evidence of the problematic nature of the concept is found in rabbinic Judaism. Akiba (2nd century CE) ignored the usages in Gen. 1 and 5 and emphasized 9:6, understanding it to mean, contrary to the usual interpretation, "after an image, God made man," that is, in the Platonic sense of a heavenly archetype. He did not wish to allow any resemblance between God and any created being. Other interpretations sought to avoid the difficulty by rendering elohim (a plural form) not as "God" but as "divine beings" (i.e., angels: "God created man after the image of divine beings [elohim]").

ii) The earthly-spiritual creature.

In those parts of the Jewish community of antiquity that were deeply influenced by Greek philosophical ideas, a dualistic interpretation of man was offered. Here the divine likeness suggested is that of the immortal, intellectual soul as contrasted to the body. Still other thinkers, both ancient and modern, have understood that likeness to be ethical, with particular emphasis placed on freedom of the will. What is evident is that no doctrine of man can be erected on the basis of these several verses alone, but that a broader view must be taken, in which they are assimilated. A careful examination of the biblical material, particularly the words nefesh, neshama, and ruah, which are often too broadly translated as "soul" and "spirit," indicates that these must not be understood as referring to the psychical side of a psychophysical pair. A man did not possess a nefesh but rather was a nefesh, as Gen. 2:7 says: "wayehi ha-adam le-nefesh hayya" (". . . and the man became a living being"). Man was, for most of the biblical writers, what has been called "a unit of vital power," not a dual creature separable into two distinct parts of unequal importance and value. While this understanding of the nature of man dominated biblical thought, in apocalyptic literature (2nd century BCE-2nd century CE) the term nefesh began to be viewed as a separable psychical entity with existence apart from body. Although this was not entirely divorced from the unitary biblical view, nonetheless a functional body-soul dualism was present in such literature. In the Alexandrian version of Hellenistic Judaism the orientation toward Greek philosophy, particularly the Platonic view of the soul imprisoned in the flesh, led to a clear-cut dualism with a negative attitude toward the body. Rabbinic thought remained closer to the biblical position, at least in its understanding of man as a psychosomatic unit, although the temporary separation of the components after death was an accepted position.

The biblical view of man as an inseparable psychosomatic unit meant that death was understood to be his dissolution. Yet, although man ceased to be, this dissolution was not utter extinction. Some of the power that functioned in the unit may have continued to exist, but it was not to be understood any longer as life. The existence of the dead in sheol, the netherworld, was not living but the shadow or echo of living. For most of the biblical writers this existence was without experience, either of God or of anything else; it was unrelated to events. To call it immortality is to empty that term of any vital significance. However, this concept of sheol, along with belief in the possibility of occasional miraculous restorations of dead individuals to life, and perhaps even the idea of the revival of the people of Israel from the "death" of exile, provided a foothold for the development of belief in the resurrection of the dead body at some time in the future. The stimulus for this may have come from ancient Iranian religion, in which the dualistic cosmic struggle is eventually won by life through the resurrection of the dead. This idea began to appear in sketchy form in postexilic writings (Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2). In this view there is life only in the psychosomatic unit now restored. This restoration was bound up with the eschatological hope of Israel (see Eschatology, below) and was limited to the righteous. In subsequent apocalyptic literature a sharper distinction between body and soul was entertained, and the latter was conceived of as existing separately in a disembodied state after death. Although at this point the doctrine of the resurrection of the body was not put aside, nonetheless, the direction of thinking changed. The shades of sheol were now thought of as souls, and real personal survival--with continuity between life on earth and in sheol--was posited. Now Greek ideas, with their individualistic bent, began to have influence, so that the idea of resurrection that was in some way related to a final historical consummation, began to recede. True life after death was now seen as release from the bondage of the body, so that in place of, or alongside of, the afterlife of physical resurrection was set the afterlife of the immortal soul.

It was not the status of the soul, however, that concerned either the biblical or the rabbinic thinkers. What emerged from the latter's discussions of the biblical themes was an emphasis on the ethical import of man's composite makeup. Man is in a state of tension or equilibrium between the two foci of creation, the "heavenly" and the "earthly." He necessarily participates in both, and, as such, is the one responsible creature who can truly serve his Creator, for he alone, having both sides of creation in him, may choose between them. It is the ability to make an ethical choice that is the distinguishing mark of man. This ability is not derived from the "heavenly" side but resides in the double basis of man's existence. It is important to recognize this as something other than a body-soul dualism in which the soul is the source of good and the body the basis of evil. Such an attitude, however, did appear in some rabbinic material and was often affirmed in medieval philosophical and mystical speculations and by some of the later moralists. These are genuine variations and developments of the biblical-rabbinic ideas and may not be dismissed as aberrations. They represent authentic attempts to come to terms with other currents of thought and with the problems and uncertainties inherent within the earlier materials themselves.

iii) The ethically bound creature.

Mankind is then viewed, however this position is arrived at, as ethically involved. The first 11 chapters of Genesis are posited upon this responsibility, for the implicit assumption of the prepatriarchal stories is man's ability to choose between obedience and disobedience. Rabbinic Judaism, taking up the covenant-making episode between God and Noah (Gen. 9:8-17), developed it as the basis of mankind's ethical obligation. All men, not merely Israel, were engaged in a covenant relationship with God, which was spelled out in explicit precepts--variously enumerated as six, seven, or even 10 and occasionally as many as 30--that reflect general humanitarian behaviour and are intended to assure the maintenance of the natural order by the establishment of a proper human society. The Covenant with Israel was meant to bring into being a community that would advance the development of this society through its own obedience and witness.

Man's nature, viewed ethically, was explained in rabbinic Judaism not only as a tension between the "heavenly" and "earthly" components but also as a tension between two "impulses." Here again, fragmentary and allusive biblical materials were developed into more comprehensive statements. The biblical word yetzer means "plan," that which is formed in man's mind. In the two occurrences of the word in Genesis (6:5; 8:21), the plan or formation of man's mind is described as ra', perhaps "evil" in the moral sense or maybe no more than "disorderly," "confused," "undisciplined." The other biblical occurrences do not have this modifier. Nonetheless, the Aramaic translations (Targumim) invariably denominated it as bisha ("wicked") wherever it occurred. Rabbinic literature created a technical term yetzer ha-ra' ("the evil impulse") to denote the source within man of his disobedience, and, subsequently, the counterterm yetzer ha-tov ("the good impulse") to indicate man's obedience. These more clearly suggest the ethical quality of man's duality, while their opposition and conflict point to man's freedom and the ethical choices he makes. Indeed, it is primarily within the realm of the ethical that Judaism posits freedom, recognizing the bound, or determined, quality of much of his existence (e.g., his natural environment or physiological makeup).

It is this ethically free creature who stands within the covenant relationship and who may choose to be obedient or disobedient. Sin, then, is ultimately deliberate disobedience or rebellion against the divine sovereign. This is more easily observed in relation to Israel, for it is here that the central concern of Judaism is most evident and the subject discussed in greatest detail. It should be noted, however, that since, according to Judaic tradition, all mankind stands within a covenant relation to God and is commanded to be moral and just, essentially the same choice is made universally. In technical language, the acceptance of divine sovereignty by the people of Israel and by the individual within that community is called "receiving the yoke of the kingship." This involves intellectual commitment to a basic belief, as expressed by the Deuteronomic proclamation: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one!" At the same time it imposes obligations in terms of communal and individual behaviour. These two responses are understood to be inextricably bound together, so that rejection of the divine sovereign is manifest as denial of God both intellectually and practically. It amounts to "breaking the yoke of the kingship." In more specific terms, sin is sometimes summed up under three major, interrelated headings: idolatry, murder, and illicit sexual behaviour, each and all of which explicitly and implicitly involve rebellion, for they involve activities that deny--if not God's existence--his commanding relationship and the requirement of man's response. Such behaviour destroys the community and sets individual against individual, thus thwarting the ultimate purpose of God, the perfected human society.

If, however, man is free to choose rebellion and to suffer its consequences, he is also able to turn back to God and to become reconciled with him. The Bible--most particularly the prophetic writings--is filled with this idea, although the term teshuva ("turning") came into use only in rabbinic sources. Basically it grows out of the covenant and God's unwillingness--despite man's failures--to break off his relationship. In rabbinic thought it is apparently assumed that even the direst warnings of utter disaster and rejection imply the possibility of turning back to God, motivated by remorse and the desire for restoration. Divine readiness and human openness are the two sides of the process of reconciliation. What was expressed in prophetic literature in the immediate historicopolitical situation was stated in the synagogal liturgy in connection with pentateuchal and prophetic lessons and the homilies developed from them. Thus, the divine invitation was constantly being offered. Man was called upon to atone for his rebellion by positive action that repudiated his failure. He was summoned to reconstitute wholeness in his individual life and community in society.

Historically viewed, Jewish existence, as it developed under rabbinic leadership, following after the two disastrous rebellions against Rome, was an attempt to reconstitute a community of faith expressed in worship and in an ordered society that would enable the individual to live a hallowed life of response to the divine will. Although this plan was not spelled out in detail, it was probably understood to be the paradigm for the eventual reconstruction of humanity.

iv) Medieval and modern views of man.

The Jewish view of man is certainly less clearly articulated than its affirmations concerning God. Nonetheless, it is evident that its central concern was ethical. The question of how man as individual and community was to behave was the focus of interest. Yet it is also clear that metaphysical concerns, however rudimentary in the beginning, were included in the developing discussion. Medieval philosophers sought an accommodation between the doctrine of the resurrection of the body and the concept of the immortality of the soul. The greatest of them, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), propounded an extremely subtle position that equated immortality with the cleaving of the human intellect to the active intellect of the universe, thus limiting it to philosophic adepts. In the modern period, the impact of various philosophical and psychological schools has further fragmented the situation so that little or no consensus is evident, although resurrection or immortality language is still used even when its content is uncertain. But alongside this lack of agreement, the view that man is to be understood, however else, as a creature who makes free ethical choices for which he is responsible remains--although variously articulated--the basic affirmation of Judaism about man. (see also Index: afterlife)

4) ETHICS AND SOCIETY

i) The ethical emphasis of Judaism.

Jewish affirmations about God and man intersect in the concept of Torah as the ordering of human existence in the direction of the divine. Man, however else understood, is an ethically responsible creature responsive to the presence of God in nature and in history. Although that responsiveness is expressed on many levels, it is within the horizontal relationship of man to man that it is most explicitly called for. The pentateuchal legislation sets down, albeit within the limitations of the structures of the ancient Middle East, the patterns of interpersonal relations. The prophetic messages are deeply concerned with these demands and see the disregard of them as the source of social and individual disorder. No segment of society, even the most exalted, is free of ethical obligation. Indeed, the transformation of prophetism from its earlier form as ecstaticism and soothsaying is seen in the ethical confrontation of David by Nathan ("Thou art the man") for seducing Bathsheba and arranging to have her husband killed (II Sam. 12). What is particularly striking is the affirmation that God is not only the source of ethical obligation but is himself the paradigm of it. In the so-called Code of Holiness (Lev. 19), it is imitation of divine holiness that is offered as the basis of human behaviour in the ethical sphere as well as the cultic-ceremonial. Concern for the economically vulnerable members of the community; obligations toward neighbours, hired labourers, and the physically handicapped; interfamilial relationships; and attitudes toward strangers (i.e., non-Israelites) were all motivated by the basic injunction, "You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am Holy." Acceptable human behaviour is, therefore, "walking in all His ways" (Deut. 11:22). The dialectic relation between God and man in the literary prophets also exhibits divine righteousness and divine compassion as patterns to be emulated in the life of the community.

This theme, imitatio Dei ("imitation of God"), as developed in rabbinic Judaism, is expressed succinctly in a comment on the verse from Deuteronomy quoted above. In response to the question of how it is possible to walk "in all His ways," the reply is made (Sifre Deut. 85a): "As He is merciful and gracious, so be you merciful and gracious. As He is righteous so be you righteous. As He is holy, strive to be holy." Indeed even more daringly, God is described as clothing the naked, nursing the sick, comforting the mourners, burying the dead, so that man may recognize his own obligations.

ii) Interpenetration of communal and individual ethics.

What stands out in the entire development of Jewish ethical formulations is the constant interpenetration of communal and individual obligations and concerns. Although in the Book of Ezekiel (see especially chapter 18) emphasis is laid on individual responsibility, "the person who sins shall die," in contrast to the more widespread statement of communal involvement, "visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children" (e.g., Ex. 20:5), these two aspects of ethical conduct are never entirely distinguished in Judaism. The just society requires the just man, and the just man functions within the just society. The concrete expression of ethical requirements in legal precepts took place with both ends in view, so that the process of beginning the holy community and the formation of the hasid ("pious"), the man of steadfast devotion to God, were concomitant processes. The relationship between the two is, of course, often mediated by the historical situation, so that in some periods one or the other moves to the centre of practical interest. In particular, the end of the Judaean state (70-135 CE) truncated the communal aspect of ethical obligations, often limiting discussion to apolitical responsibilities rather than to the full range of social involvements. The reestablishment of the State of Israel in the 20th century has, therefore, reopened for discussion areas that have for millennia been either ignored or relegated to the realm of abstraction. What this implies is that the full ethical responsibility of the Jew cannot be carried out solely within the realm of individual relationships but must include involvement in the life of a fully articulated community.

This double involvement is most vividly apparent in the biblical period, when both were equally present as divine command and demand. In the rabbinic period, because of the new political context, the communal aspect receded, so that discussion was mainly oriented toward the relationships between the members of the Jewish community or between individuals as such, and away from political responsibilities in the larger society. Nonetheless, the virtues that were understood to govern these relationships were, in their biblical setting, communal as well. Righteousness and compassion had been obligations of the state, governing the relationship between political units, as the first two chapters of Amos make evident. At the same time, as Micah 6:8 shows, doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God made up the pattern of the individual's obligations as well. Given the situation of the dispersion of the Jews following the revolts against Rome in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, the individual pattern became the object of primary considerations. It is important to recognize that while theoretical ethical systems were not developed until the Middle Ages under the influence of philosophical concerns, nonetheless, even in the early period it was understood that behind the practical system of Halakha, the enumeration of legal precepts, there stood the dynamic of ethical theory. An attempt was made to reduce the hundreds of precepts to a small number expressing the ethical essence of Torah.

iii) The key moral virtues.

In keeping with the rabbinic understanding of Torah, study also was viewed as an ethical virtue. A passage in the traditional Prayer Book enumerates a series of virtuous acts--honouring parents, deeds of steadfast love, attendance twice daily at worship, hospitality to wayfarers, visiting the sick, dowering brides, accompanying the dead to the grave, devotion in prayer, peacemaking in the community and in family-life--and concludes by setting study of Torah as the premier virtue. Here is exhibited the complex variety of ethical behaviour called for within the Jewish tradition. To parental respect and family tranquillity are added, in other contexts, the responsibility of parents for children, the duties of husband and wife in the establishment and maintenance of a family, and ethical obligations that extend from the conjugal rights of each to the protection of the wife if the marriage is dissolved. The biblical description of God as upholding the cause of the fatherless and the widow and befriending the stranger, providing him with food and clothing (Deut. 10:18), remained a motivating factor in the structure of the community. Ethical requirements in economic life are expressed concretely in such a passage as Lev. 19:35-36: "You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin"; and in Amos' bitter condemnation of those who "sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes" (Amos 2:6). Such injunctions, together with many other specific precepts and expressions of moral requirements, established the basis for a wide-ranging program that sought to govern, both in detail and in general, the economic life of the individual and the community. Not only are relations within the human sphere the object of ethical concern but nature also is so regarded. The animal world, in the biblical view, requires merciful consideration, so that not only man is commanded to rest on the Sabbath but his domestic animals are to share the rest with him (Ex. 20:10; 23:12). Mistreatment of beasts of burden is prohibited (Deut. 22:4); and wanton destruction of animal life falls under the ban (ibidem: 6-7). In the rabbinic attitude toward brute creation, even inanimate nature is the object of human solicitude. Thus, for example, the food-yielding trees of a city under siege may not be destroyed, according to Deuteronomic legislation (Deut. 20:14-20). The enlargement of this and other biblical precepts resulted in the generalized rabbinic prohibition "You shall not destroy" that governs man's use of his environment.

iv) The relation to non-Jewish communities and cultures.

As noted above, the end of the Jewish state reduced the scope of ethical judgments in the political sphere; nonetheless, relations between the Jewish community and other societies--particularly political units: the Roman and Christian empires, the Islamic states, and other regimes--provided opportunities for the exploration of the ethical implications of such encounters. Since most of these were victor-victim, superior-inferior, power-powerless situations, with the Jews the weaker party, prudential considerations were dominant. Despite this, Jewish authorities sought to bring to bear upon these external arrangements the ethical standards that governed the internal structures.

The whole problem of the relationship between the Jewish community, in whatever form it has existed and does exist, and other social units has been vastly complicated. Ideally, the relation is that of witness to the divine intent in the world. Practically, it has swung between the extremes of isolation and assimilation, in which the ideal has, on occasion, been lost sight of. Culturally, from its earliest beginnings, the people Israel has met and engaged the ideas, forms, behaviour and attitudes of its neighbours in constructive development. It borrowed as it contributed and reformulated what it received in terms of its own commitments and affirmations. On more than a few occasions, as in the period of settlement in Canaan, it rejected the religiocultural ideas and forms of the native population. On others, it actively sought out--as in the Islamic period in Spain (8th to 15th centuries)--ideas and cultural patterns of its neighbours, viewing them from its own perspective and embracing them when they were found to be of value. Indeed, the whole history of Israel's relationship with the world may be comprehended in the metaphor, used previously, of the heartbeat with its systole and diastole. No period of its existence discloses either total rejection of or abject surrender to other cultural and political structures but rather a tension, with the focal point always in motion at varying rates. Being more than a "confession" in the Christian sense, Judaism's adjustment to and relation with other sociopolitical units involved larger aspects of communal and individual life than merely the religious. Whether or not, under such circumstances, it is helpful to describe Judaism as a civilization, it is important to recognize that, viewed functionally, much more must be included than is usually subsumed under the common usage of "religion."

v) The formulation of Jewish ethical doctrines.

The ethical concerns of Judaism have found frequent literary expression. Not only were rabbinic writings constantly directed toward the establishment of legal patterns that embody such concerns but in the medieval period the issues were dealt with in treatises on morals; in ethical wills, in which a father instructed his children about their obligations and behaviour; in sermons; and in other forms. In the 19th century the traditionalist Musar ("moral instructor") movement in eastern Europe and the philosophical discussions of the nascent Reform movement in the West focussed upon ethics. Indeed, since the political and social emancipation of the Jews, ethical and social rather than theological questions have tended to be given priority. Often the positions espoused have turned out to be, nonetheless, "judaized" versions of philosophic ethics or of political programs. In some instances, as in the case of the distinguished German-Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen, the result has been a Jewishly compelling restatement of a secular philosophic ethics. In others, it has resulted in no more than a pastiche. More crucial, however, is the question of a unique Jewish ethics and of its authority. The reestablishment of a Jewish state renews the possibility that the full range of ethical decisions, including communal as well as individual responsibility, may be confronted. In such a situation, the ideal task of the people moves out of the realm of speculation to become actual again.

5) THE UNIVERSE

i) Creation and Providence: God's world.

Although the first chapter of Genesis affirms divine creation, it does not offer an entirely unambiguous view of the origin of the universe, as the debate over the correct understanding of Gen. 1:1 in former as in modern times discloses. (Was there or was there not a preexisting matter, void, or chaos?) Yet, basically, the interest of the author was not in the mode of creation, a later concern perhaps reflected in the various translations of the verse: "In the beginning God created," which could signify what medieval philosophers designated creatio ex nihilo ("creation out of nothing"); and "when God began to create," which could indicate some concept of prime matter. He was concerned rather to affirm that the totality of existence, inanimate (Gen. 1:3-19), living (20-25), and human (26-31), derived immediately from the same divine source; and, thus, that it is a universe. As divine creation, it is transparent to the presence of God, so that the Psalmist said: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims [that it is] the work of his hands" (19:1). Indeed, the repeated phrase: "And God saw how good it was" (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 25, 31) may be understood as the ground of this affirmation, for the workmanship discloses the workman. The observed order of the universe is further understood by the biblical author to be the direct result of a covenantal relationship established between the world and God: "So long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest. Cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." (Gen. 8:22). This doctrine of the providential ordering of the universe, reaffirmed in rabbinic Judaism, is not without its difficulties, as in the liturgical change made in Isa. 45:7 to avoid ascribing evil to God. Nonetheless, despite the problem of theodicy (the problem of evil in a world made and ordered by God), Judaism has not acquiesced to the mood reported in the Palestinian Targum to Gen. 4:8: "He did not create the world in mercy nor does he rule in mercy." Rather, it has affirmed a benevolent and compassionate God. (see also Index: creation myth)

It is the physical world--divine creation--that provides the stage for history, which is the place of the divine human encounter. An early Midrash, in response to the question as to why Scripture begins with the story of creation, points out that it was necessary in order to establish the identity of the Creator with the Giver of Torah, an argument basic to the liturgical structure of the Shema. This relationship is further emphasized in the Qiddush, the prayer of sanctification recited at the beginning of the Sabbath. That day is designated "a remembrance of creation" and "a recollection of the going-forth from Egypt." Thus, creation (nature) and history are understood to be inextricably bound up, for both derive from the same divine source. This being so, redemption--the reconciliation of God and man through and in history--does not ignore or exclude the natural world. Using the imagery of an extravagantly fecund world of nature, rabbinic thought expressed its view of the all-inclusive effects of the restored relationship. (see also Index: nature, philosophy of)

ii) Man's place in the universe.

Man as creature is, of course, subject to the natural order. It is, indeed, in the world and through the world that man carries out his relationship to God. The commandments of Torah are obeyed not solely as observances between man and God but as actions between man and man, between man and the world. Although the creation story designates man as ruler over the earth and its inhabitants (Gen. 1:26-28; see also Ps. 8:5-9), nonetheless, far from being an arbitrary master, man's dominion is limited by Torah, for its regulations are concerned not only with transactions between man and man but also lay out his responsibilities to the land he cultivates, the produce of the soil, the animals he domesticates. Bound in the network of existence he, as the moral creature, is responsible for it in all of its parts.

Even the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE did not alienate the Jew from these responsibilities, as the elaborate system of Mishna and Gemara gives evidence. The gradual but consistent exclusion of the Jewish community from immediate connection with large segments of the natural world, through legislation in Christendom and Islam, tended to dull the Jew's awareness of it; the recurring references to it in the religious calendar, however, and the observation of harvest festivals even by citydwellers continued to remind the community of its ties. Thus, at the end of the 19th century, the nascent Zionist movement recognized that the regeneration of the Jewish people involved, among other requirements, a responsible relation to the natural order expressed in its attitude toward and treatment of the land.

As indicated in other contexts, the particular emphasis placed on one or the other side of the frequent twofoldness of the Jewish view has depended upon the situation in which the community has found itself. If nature as the place of divine disclosure has, during long periods of Jewish existence, assumed a somewhat subordinate role, it has never been rejected or been seen to be irrelevant to the divine purpose. Indeed, in Jewish eschatology, its restoration is part of the goal of history.

iii) Intermediary beings: angels and demons.

The exact nature of the nonhuman beings mentioned in Scripture-- angels or messengers--is not altogether clear and their roles seem ephemeral. In the postexilic period, perhaps under Iranian influence, and in the late biblical and postbiblical literature, these beings emerge as more complete and often as clearly identifiable individuals with their own personal names. The unfocussed biblical view gave way to an elaborate hierarchy of functionaries who acted, in some apocalyptic visions, as a veritable heavenly bureaucracy. Nevertheless, despite a consensus concerning their existence, there was little agreement as to their role or importance. In some Midrashim God takes counsel with them; in other sources the rabbis urge men not to involve them but to approach God directly. Actually, they belong to that marginal area between religion and folklore. Like their counterfigures, the demons, they have a residual existence rooted in various layers of the Jewish experience and interpretation of the universe. At some times they are highly individualized and sharply realized; at others, they flit in and out of the imagination like bats in the evening. The medieval philosophers Aristotelized or Platonized them; the early mystics Neoplatonized them; the Kabbalists continually invented new ones and fitted them into their complicated network of cosmic existence. Nonetheless, their role, even in periods of considerable emphasis, was peripheral. They were outside the great movements and meanings of Jewish thought.

Contemporary philosophical speculation about the nature of the universe has, of course, required a response from Jewish thinkers. But, given the particular temper of a period in which metaphysics has not been central to much of theological discussion, no major statement has yet developed that has taken hold of the dominant positions and attempted to view them from the Jewish creationist perspective. The attempt within Reconstructionism to provide a naturalistic framework for Judaism, while courageous, lacks the breadth and depth of the great philosophical approaches.

6) ESCHATOLOGY

 

i) The future age of mankind and the world.

The choice of Israel, according to the biblical writings, had occurred because of mankind's continual failure, by rebellion against its Creator, to fulfill its divine potential. The subsequent failure of Israel to become the holy community and thereby a witness to the nations gave rise to the prophetic movement that summoned the people to obedience. An integral part of prophetic summoning, side by side with threats of punishment and warnings of disaster, was the envisioning of a truly holy community, a society fully responding to the divine imperative. This kingdom of the future was conceived of as entirely natural, functioning as any normal sociopolitical unit and under the leadership of a human ruler, who would, however, carry out his tasks within the sphere of divine sovereignty, serving primarily to exhibit his own obedience and thus to stimulate the obedience of the entire people. This human monarch of the future was often, although not always, portrayed in terms of an idealized David, using such features of his life and reign as would underscore submission to God and emphasized social stability, economic satisfaction, and peace. During the period of the monarchy, the prophetic demand was directed toward each succeeding king, with the hope or even the expectation that he would be or become the new David, or the ideal ruler. (see also Index: eschatology)

The Babylonian Exile added a new measure of urgency to this expectation, although it was not expressed in any uniform fashion. The later chapters of the Book of Ezekiel provide in largely impersonal fashion the constitution for the new commonwealth but do not describe the peculiar characteristics of the ruler, while the later chapters of the Book of Isaiah focus on several figures--including Cyrus the Mede--who are seen as the divine instruments ushering in a new era. It is important to recognize that while such figures have extraordinary virtues ascribed to them, these virtues are neither superhuman nor suprahuman but such as are ultimately required of all Israel and of all men. The frustrations of the postexilic period, when the several attempts to bring into being the holy community had no more than partial success and were thwarted by the imperial designs of the great powers--as they had been in the preexilic period as well--led to an emphasis upon the futuristic quality of the messianic hope. This was abetted undoubtedly by external influences, such as Iranian thought, in which the cosmic rather than the historic aspect of a future era dominated. Since ancient cosmic myths--in good measure demythologized--had been part of the Israelite intellectual inheritance, evidenced at least in literary usages throughout Scriptures, the impact of such neighbouring ideas was to reinvigorate the mythic elements. Thus, hopes for the future at the end of the Persian period and on through the Hellenistic developments after c. 330 BCE comprised both historical expectations focussed upon a sociopolitical community and cosmic-mythic visions that moved on a broader stage. The latter were, of course, never entirely absent from the historical expectations and situations, for a renewal of nature was viewed as integral to the functioning of true society. The obedient community required, and was to be granted, a natural world in which true human relations could exist. In its most vivid forms, apocalypses (i.e., visionary disclosures of the future), the literature of the period affords a remarkable insight into the agonies and urgencies of the people. After the failures, saving events, and disappointments of the past are recounted, the present, in transparent disguise, is portrayed and the immediately hoped-for intervention of God is described in awesome detail as a means of affirming and confirming the faith of those who saw themselves as the remnant, or perhaps the promise, of the holy community. (see also Index: Iranian religion)

ii) The king-messiah and his reign.

Put schematically, Israel's hope was for the restoration of divine sovereignty over all of creation. Concretely, that hope found a considerable variety of expressions. Of all such expressions, that which centred around the idealized king began to assume an ever more important (but never exclusive) role. Many of the writings that report the ideas and attitudes of the Jewish community in the period immediately preceding and following the rise of Christianity are either ignorant of or more probably indifferent to the personal element. God is envisioned as the protagonist of the end, actively intervening or sending his messengers (i.e., angels), to perform specific acts in ending the old and inaugurating the new era. On the other hand, in some writings of the period the anointed king-messiah (Hebrew, mashiah, "anointed")--the title reflects the episode in I Sam. 16 in which David is thus singled out as the divinely chosen ruler--becomes more sharply defined as the central figure in the culminating events and, given the cosmic-mythic components, assumes suprahuman and in some instances, even quasi-divine, aspects. It is clear, then, that the doctrine of last things in Judaism is not necessarily messianic, if that term is properly limited to an inauguration of a future era through the action of a human, suprahuman, or quasi-divine person. Nonetheless, it must be recognized that the messianic version of eschatology played a more compelling role in rabbinic Judaism than other modes. The same is true with regard to the locus of the "world (or age) to come." Given the ingredients noted above, it was possible to construct various eschatological landscapes ranging from the mundane to the celestial, from Jerusalem in the hills of Judah to a heavenly city. Indeed, confronted with an embarrassment of riches, the medieval theologians sought to combine them into an inclusive system that intricately involved as large a variety of the possibilities as could be brought together. In such patterns the messianic this-worldly emphasis was understood as a preliminary movement toward an ultimate resolution. The ideal ruler, the new David, would reestablish the kingdom in its own land (in "Zion," or Palestine) and would reign in righteousness, equity, justice, and truth, thus bringing into being the holy nation and summoning all mankind to dwell under divine sovereignty. As a component of this reestablished kingdom, the righteous dead of Israel would be resurrected to enjoy life in the true community that did not exist in their days. This kingdom, however long it was destined to endure, was not permanent. It would come to an end either at a predetermined time or as victim of the unrepentant nations and cosmic foes, at which point the ultimate intervention by God would take place. All the wicked throughout history would be recalled to life, judged, and doomed; all the righteous would be transformed and transported into a new world; i.e., creation would be totally restored. Particular emphases that one or the other of these ideas received, the ways in which they were interpreted--philosophically, mystically, or ethically--were determined most frequently by the situations and conditions in which the Jewish community found itself. With such a considerable body of ideas at its disposal and with the details of none of them ever receiving the kind of affirmation that statements about God, Torah, and Israel had, freedom of speculation in the realm of eschatology was little restricted. Thus, Joseph Albo (15th century) in his work on Jewish "dogmas," the Sefer ha-'iqqarim, was not inhibited from denying that belief in the messiah was fundamental. The mystical movements of the Middle Ages found in eschatological hopes a crucial centre. The early Kabbala was little interested in messianism, for it interiorized the expectations in the direction of personal redemption. Following the disasters of the late 15th to 17th centuries (e.g., the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and the Cossack massacre of the Jews in Poland) however, messianic speculation in all of its varieties underwent a luxuriant growth, finally running wild in the movements surrounding Shabbetai Tzevi of Smyrna and later Jacob Frank of Offenbach. These tragedies for the Jewish communities once again resulted in a futurizing of the hopes or at least a limiting of their application (see also below, Jewish mysticism ).

iii) Secularization of messianism.

In the 19th century, with the political emancipation of the Jews in western Europe and the development of an optimistic evolutionism, messianism was transformed by many liberal thinkers into a version of the idea of progress whose goal was often thought of as immediately attainable through enlightened social and political action. When disillusionment with the emancipation set in, messianism was even more completely secularized in some segments of the community who saw its meaning and fulfillment in some form of socialism--again, rather close at hand. In others, it was absorbed into the emerging political nationalism-- Zionism. Similar developments took place in eastern Europe, with parallel transformations. In more recent times, particularly since the events symbolized by the name Auschwitz (a Nazi death camp in Poland, where millions of Jews were exterminated), the earlier modern interpretations, particularly of messianism, but also of eschatology as a whole, have been considered inadequate. Although no compelling statement has been forthcoming, Jewish thinkers in the second half of the 20th century have been attempting once again to come to grips with eschatological concepts in all of their varieties and forms.

   


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