Chapter 2

 

 

THE JEWISH UTOPIA

BY

MICHAEL HIGGER, Ph. D.

THE LORD BALTIMORE PRESS 

BALTIMORE, MD.

1932

 

CHAPTER II. 

RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUSTICE




Words stand for certain symbols, or ideas; but some words have so aften been misused that they have lost the very ordinary meanings, or symbols, which they were meant to convey. One of these unfortunate terms is the word "righteousness". With the rise of the modem liberal school af preaching, the term "righteousness" has become the byword of the preacher of every faith. Just as the homilies of the ancient rabbis were saturated with the terms" God ", "Israel ", and "Torah ", so the modern serrnon is adorned with " righteousness " in its proposition, body and conclusion. But no attempt is made to analyze the meaning and force of that term. By now it is difficult to convince the world that the word righteousness requires an analysis; that it is possible to specify in concrete terms what constitutes righteousness; that the Jewish Utopia is buiIt upon this very term, or idea, of righteousness; or, that the Kingdom of God in this world will come only when suffering mankind passes through the gate of righteousness.
By a carefuI study of the rabbinic sayings that picture an ideal world, one gets a clear idea as to what constitutes a Jewish Utopia. Some of the passages, to be sure, do not refer to this life, but rather to the life of the soul in the world to come. Nevertheless, they reflect and register, at the same time, the rabbinic attitude towards the ideal life of the individual, as well as that of the family af nations.
To understand the rabbinic conception of an ideal world it will help us if we imagine a hand passing from land to land, from country to country, from the Persian Gulf to the

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Atlantic Ocean, and from the Indian Ocean to the North Pole, marking "righteous" or "wicked" on the forehead of each one of the sixteen hundred million inhabitants af our earthly globe. We should then be on the right road toward solving the major problems that burden so heavily the shoulders of suffering humanity. For mankind should be divided into two, and only two, distinct and unmistakable groups, namely, righteous and wicked. To the righteous would belong all that which God's wonderful world is offering ; to the wicked would belong nothing. In the future, the words of Isaiah, in the language of the rabbis, will be fulfilled: Behold, My servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry; behold, My servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty; behold, My servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed.15 This is the force of the prophecy of Malachi, when he said: Then shall ye again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.16
When will this world become a vineyard? When the Holy One, blessed be He, will raise the position of the righteous who are degraded in the world.17 In the present era the righteous are afflicted. But in the ideal world, this verse will be applied to them: Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good.18 According to R. Johanan, a Palestinian Amora of the third century, all the visions of the prophets describing an ideal future, were meant only for repenters and for those encouraging scholars in their studies. For, as far as the righteous and the scholars themselves are concerned, no mortal eye has ever perceived their happy state to which they will attain.19
All the treasures and natural resources af the world will eventually come in possession of the righteous. This would be in keeping with the prophecy of Isaiah: "And her gain and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord; it shall not be

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treasured nor laid up; for her gain shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, to eat their fill and for stately clothing." 20 Similarly, the treasures af gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, and valuable vessels that have been last in the seas and oceans in the course of centuries will be raised up and turned over to the righteous.21 Joseph hid three treasuries in Egypt: One was discovered by Korah, one by Antoninus, and one is reserved for the righteous in the ideal world.22 In the present era, the wicked are ordinarily rich, having many comforts of life, while the righteous are poor, missing the joys of life. But in the ideal era, the Lord will open all the treasures for the upright, and the unrighteous will suffer.23 God, the Creator of the world, is not satisfied with the present era in which the wicked prosper. He will be happy, so to speak, only in the era to come, when the world will be governed by the doings and actions of the upright, and thus all the joys and happiness will be shared by the righteous and just.24 That scholars would come under the category of the righteous we learn from another source. A scholar asked R. Judah ha-Nasi, as to the meaning of the above-mentioned verse, "For her gain shall be for them that dwell before the Lord to eat their fill and for stately clothing". To this, R. Judah replied: "This alludes to people like you and your colleagues, who are wrapped in linen, and who think of themselves of no importance whatever." 25 This is corroborated by a statement of R. Jeremiah to the effect that in the future, the Holy One, blessed be He, will rejuvenate the life af the scholars, both in their physical constitutions, reflected in their facial expressions, and in their attires ; - as it is said, But they that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.26 The main reward of the scholar, however, will be intellectual and spiritual in character. 27 Thus, it is the scholar who is intellectually master both in this era and inthe era to come; 28 and the light of the scholar will be as brillant as torches and lightnings.29

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The conception of an ideal Universal State in which only the upright and just prosper, is well described in a Utopia, pictured by the Prophet Elijah, according to a rabbinic version: "Elijah said: I behold all the wicked of the earth disappeared, and all the righteous in control of the land. The earth, planted with all kinds of good things, lies before the righteous. The tree which God has planted is standing in the midst of the Garden - as it is said, And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow every tree for food, whose leaf shall not wither, neither shall the fruit thereof fail.30 Ships are coming from En-gedi even unto Eglaim, carrying riches and abundance for the righteous.31 I behold a beautiful, large city, coming down from heaven. It is the city of Jerusalem, rebuilt, and inhabited by her people. The city is situated among three thousands towers. The space between each two of the towers is twenty "ris". At the end of each ' ris' there are twentyfive thousand cubits of emeralds and of precious stones and pearls. I behold houses and gates of the righteous with their proper door-frames. The door-posts are of precious stones, and the treasuries of the Temple are open, even unto their doors. And learning and peace prevail among them". 32 That the righteous should be the only ones entitled to all the bliss and happiness in the ideal world, one ean easily infer from the glorious future which the rabbis picture for the just and upright in the world to come. "The Holy one, blessed be He ", says R. Eleazor in the name of R. Hanina, "wiIl place a crown upon the head of each of the righteous ".33 The Lord has stored up for the upright in the Garden of Eden all plants that are good to look at and that are best to be eaten.34 Each one of the upright will have a canopy of glory for himself, as a sign of his splendour.35 God wiIl make a feast for the righteous, and they would need no balsamum, nor any other spices. A northern and a southern wind would

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bring to them lakes of all kinds of perfumes of the Garden of Eden.36 In the future, the Holy One, blessed be He, wiII arrange a chorus for the righteous in Paradise. He wiII sit in the center and each of the righteous will be able to point to Him with his finger, as it is said: "And it shall be said in that day: Lo, this is our God, for whom we waited, that He might save us, this is the Lord, for whom we waited, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation." 37 The Lord will similarly arrange an academy of the righteous in the world, and he will preside at their sittings.38 A meeting of elders, appointed by God, would announce the advent of the Kingdom of God in the world, and His reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem. 39 At the sittings the Lord will expound the meaning of the Torah. After the meetings God will be sanctified by one of the members of the group, and this sanctification would be universally approved by popular acclamation.40
Consequently, in the new era, the upright and just will occupy a position next to God. They will be called by the name of God; 41 and they will, therefore, be called "holy ".42 Moses, the ideal of a righteous man, will be praised by multitudes of righteous men, as God was praised by Moses in the presence of the multitudes of Israel.43 In the future, the Lord will walk in the Garden of Eden in company with the righteous, considering them His equals,44 Again, in the ideal world, all the glory and victory will be with the righteous.43 Before they call, God will answer, and while they are yet speaking, He wiII hearken.46 In the present era, the Lord suffers the trouble of those who worship Him. But in the millenium, He will ever be mindful of them.47 In the new era, the upright and just will be received by God as children are received by their father and as disciples by their master.48 They will be put in a higher position than the angels.49
God's goodness is stored up for the righteous. This is in accordance with the verse in Psalms: Oh how abundant is


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Thy goodness; which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee! 50 Thus said the Holy One to the righteous: Because of you I have created the world. For had it not been for you, to whom would I have given all the goodness and abundance, which I have prepared for the future." 51 Again, the Lord said: Wait for the coming of the Messiah, when the verse will be fulfilled: Oh how abundant is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee! "52. Each righteous one will have a world for himself.53 According to another tradition, God will give to each righteous: one three hundred and ten worlds as his own possession.54 The Lord, finally, will prepare a feast for the upright.55 He has salted the huge Leviathan and has prepared the best food, fruit, fish, and meat for that purpose.56 The feast will be limitless, as it is said, Neither hath the eye seen a God beside Thee, who worketh for him that waiteth for Him.67
The nineteenth century" maskilim ", or Jewish radicals, used to exercise their wit by ridiculing all these statements, especially the saying that a Leviathan is prepared for the just and upright. Poor radicals! How blind and narrow-minded they were that they would not understand the broad humanitarian principle underlying these sayings! Are not these predictions a crying protest against the injustices and cruelties marking the present era, where the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer? Are they not a warning to suffering humanity that unless the order is reversed, mankind is doomed? R. Johanan, who correctly understood the meaning of the tradition of the Leviathan, states thus: "The Lord will in the future make a hut for the righteous out of a part of the skin of the Leviathan. The rest He will place on the walls of Jerusalem, and its light will shine forth from one end of the world to the other, as it says, And nations shall walk at thy light, and Kings at the brightness of thy rising." 68 The Leviathan is thus a universal symbol of the new era in which

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the righteous will prosper and the wicked suffer. The Leviathan, furthermore, is the emblem of the ideal age, when this world will become the home of the righteous.69 It is an ideal symbol of a new economic order in the world, when righteousness will be one's only requisite for acceptance unto the realm of happiness and prosperity. Every upright and just individual will be rewarded according to his deeds,60 and in proportion to his faithfulness.61 Those righteous who, because of external circumstances, will not be able to contribute their mite to the upbuilding of the Kingdom, will nevertheless share in the privileges and joys of the new civilization.62
Light will be the emblem of the new era. On the first day of creation God brought forth a light by which, man could see from one end of the world to the other. But when the Holy 0ne saw the wickedness of the people in the generations to come, He stored up that light for the righteous in the ideal era. 63 Thus, light, which is rare in the present era, will be an ordinary thing in the ideal world.64 Just as goodness is stored up for the righteous, as it says, "Oh how abundant is thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee; which Thou hast wrought for them that take their refuge in Thee, in the sight of the sons of men" ! 65 - so is light reserved for the upright, as it says, "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart ".66 "Moreover, the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold." 67 But eventually the Lord Himself will be the Light of the righteous, as it says, The sun shall be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light.68 “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of hosts will reign." 69 The light of the Lord will thus be the source of life and peace for the righteous, as it says, For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy

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light do we see light.70 Messiah, the ideal righteous one, will come from the East, where the sun rises. He will be a descendant of the House of David, who was bright as the sun; 71 and his light will be a symbol of life for the upright and just in the world.72 The very name of Messiah is, therefore, light.73
Consequently, all the beloved of God, the righteous, will shine forth as the light of His glory, "even as the sun when it goes forth in its might".74 Just as the sun and the moon give forth light in this era, so will the upright radiate light in the era to come, as it says, And nations shall walk at thy light, and kings at the brightness of thy rising.76 There will be seven groups of righteous, classified according to seven grades of light, namely, the light of the sun, moon, heaven, stars, lightnings, lilies, and of the candlestick in the Sanctuary.76

This theory of a Utopia of the righteous on earth ean be easily traced in the Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal writings. In the Book of Enoch, for instance, we frequently find the idea that, in the future era, God will make peace with the righteous who will belong to Him, and who will prosper and be blessed; that for the elect there will be light, joy and peace, and they will inherit the earth; that the abundance of the earth, as well as intellectual and spiritual wisdom, will be given to the righteous and holy; and, finally, that all the goodness and glory will belong to the upright and just.77 The teachings of the authors of that branch of literature are permeated with the ideals of righteousness. The future belongs to the upright. Compare the folIowing sayings: "And now, my children, hearken: work judgment and righteousness that ye may be planted in righteousness over the face of the whole earth, and your glory lifted up before my God, who saved me from the waters of the flood"; 78 "Blessed shall they be that shall be in those days. In that day they shall see the goodness of the Lord which He shall perform for the genera-

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tion that is to come, under the rod of chastening of the Lord's anointed in the fear of his God, in the spirit of wisdom and righteousness and strength; that he may direct every man in the works of righteousness by the fear of God; that he may establish them all before the Lord, a good generation living in the fear of God in the days of merey." 70
The wicked, on the other hand, like tall towers, are obstructing the light from coming into the world. The unrighteous are the real enemies of God, and they will disappear before the appearance of the real light, the emblem of the ideal life on earth.80 In the present era, the upright are humiliated. But in the millennium, the unrighteous will disappear as the grass that withers; while the righteous will walk with strength and pride.81
This conception concerning the disappearance of the wicked in the ideal era may be traced likewise in the Apoeryphal literature. One passage in the Book of Enoch reads thus: "In these days downcast in countenance shall the kings of the earth have become; and the strong who possess the land because of the works of their hands. . . As lead in the water shall they sink before the face of the righteous, and no trace of them shall anymore be found." 82

This conception concerning the disappearance of the wicked in the ideal ere may be traced likewise in the Apocryphal literature. One passage in the Book of Enoch reads thus: “In these days downcast in countenance shall the kings of the earth have become; and the strong who posess the land because of the work of their hands. . . As lead in the water shall they sink before the face of the righteous, and no trace of them shall anymore be found.”82

The kingdom of God will not come as long as wickedness functions in the world. Only a world of righteousness will bring about the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom in which  God will be universally acknowledged as King.83 The motto of the people will be: “Righteous unite! Better destruction of the world than a wicked world!” The basic principle will be: Augment justice and righteousness, and unrighteousness will become negligible. There is a European proverb: The higher the ape goes, the more he shows his tail. This may well be said of wickedness and unrighteousness. Wickedness in thr wide, humanitarian sense is the octopus in the world. Mankind is never to rest until evil and unrighteousness are

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destroyed, so that all may enjoy and share in the greatest possible happiness.
Who are the wicked? What constitutes wickedness, which is an obstruction to the establishment of the Kingdom of God? No exact definition of these terms can be formulated. A few rabbinic passages dealing with the subject, however, give a general idea of the meaning of wicked and wickedness, so far as a Jewish Utopia is concerned.
First, no line will be drawn between bad Jews and bad non-Jews. There will be no room for the unrighteous,whether Jewish or non- Jewish, in the Kingdom of God. All of them will have disappeared before the advent of the ideal era on this earth.84 Unrighteous Israelites will be punished equally with the wicked of other nations.85 All the righteous, on the other hand, whether Hebrew or Gentile, will share equally in the happiness and abundance of the ideal era.86 R. Joshua ben Levi, the well known Palestinian Amora of the first half of the third century, seems to me to be in the right, in the argument with his friend, R. Hanina, when the former expresses the liberal view that, in the ideal era, suffering and mortality will cease in Israel as well as among all other nations.87 The ordinary meaning of Isaiah's prophecy, the cen- tral point of their argument, supports the view of R. Joshua ben Levi: He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces.88
Second, one's external religious observances will not necessarily put one in the category of the righteous. All those who will be observant merely because of personal, materialistic interests, will belong to the class of the unrighteous. Only those who will be observant as a result of their conviction and faithfulness will be welcome into the Kingdom of God.89
Third, people who maliciously cause mischief and suffering to the upright and just, will be termed wicked, and the Kingdom of God will not have them.90

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Fourth, speculators, dishonest industrialists, and all those who accumulate wealth at the expense of the suffering of their fellow-men, will be unknown entities in the rabbinic Utopia. Although, like the cedars of the forest, they are rooted in the life of the present era, their end will come before the Kingdbm of God is ushered in. 91
Fifth, those who are thwarting the purposes of God in this era, and do not help to build up and bring about the new era, will consequently not enter the Kingdom of God.92
Sixth, oppression of any kind will not exist in a Jewish Utopia: whether it be a case of righteous oppressing righteous, wicked oppressing wicked, wicked oppressing righteous, or of righteous oppressing wicked, God will always be on the side of  the oppressed.93
Seventh, in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah, "on the day when the Lord alone shall be exalted, all the lofty and proud will be brought low”.94 "The loftiness of man and his haughtiness shall be brought down." 95 People who are of importance in this era, will be of no importance in the ideal era to come.96 On the day when the Kingdom of God is ushered in, the countenance of the haughty will change to various shades and colors.97
Eighth, in the new ideal era, idolatry af any kind, as well as idol worship, will be entirely abolished from the earth.98 The backward, uncivilized peoples will reach that stage where they will be ashamed to continue the practices af idolatry and idol worship, and will acknowledge God as the Lord of the universe. 99
Ninth, people yearning for sensual practices, shameful vices, and conditions exciting disgust and hatred, all of which characterize so conspicuously modern civilization, will not exist in the ideal era ; -as it says: And the Lord said unto him: “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men

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that sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof." 100
In a Jewish Utopia, therefore, there will be no wicked people. Nature itself will be against the wicked. All the goodness will be bestowed only upon the upright and just; and darkness, the opposite of light, will be the fate of the unrighteous.101 This is what the Psalmist meant in saying, " Morning by morning will I destroy all the wicked of the land; to cut off all the workers of inquity from the city of the Lord." 102 The very light of the sun that will heal the righteous, will be destructive to the wicked.108 This is likewise the meaning of the prophecy of Malachi: "For, behold, the day cometh, it burneth as a furnace; and all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall set them ablaze." 104 The wicked must disappear from earth before the ideal society of righteous ean be established.105
The praise of the Lord will be universal when there will be no more wicked on the earth ; - as it says: And when the wicked perish, there is joy.106 This is the yearning of the Psalmist, in saying: Let sinners cease out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more; bless the Lord, O my soul.107 Adam foresaw the Messianic period, the age of the final struggle between the upright and the unrighteous, preparing the way for the millennium. But he would not say" Hallelujah ", or praise the Lord, until he saw that the wicked would finally be destroyed.108 A Utopia of righteous men could be realized only when there would be no more wicked in the world.109 Righteousness will be the order of the Universal State; and that State will be the embodiment of righteousness under the conditions of the new social order. While the upright and just will emerge with renewed spirit, progressing from strength to strength, the wicked will dwindle and be consumed.110 In the words of Isaiah, "new heavens and a new earth would be

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crcated"111; while the earth will be emptied of thc unrighteous, and the righteous will cleave unto God.112 In rabbinic terminology, the Lord will sit in judgment, and consequently lead the upright to the Garden of Eden, and the wieked to Gehenna.113 The righteous will ascend seven steps, while the unrighteous will descend seven steps.114
As a result of the new conditions and radical changes, the wicked who will be left, will change their attitude toward life. The glory and happiness of the upright will plunge the unrighteous into sorrow and shame.115 Rivers of tears will flow from the eyes of the wicked.116 They will then wonder how they could have led a wicked life; 117 and they will finally acknowledge God, by saying, "This is the Lord, for whom we waited. We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation".118 The unrighteous will thus praise the Lord, and recognize the teachings and purpose of God in the world.119 The Lord's compassion will then be moved, and, by putting the blame on the evil inclinations inherent in man, He will allow the newly converted to enter the new order and to share in His glory. They will comprise both Jews and non-Jews.120 Only a small group, the vilest and most worthless element of mankind, as typefied in the snake of the animal kingdom, will be doomed and cut off forever from the new Kingdom of God.121 The newly converted proselytes of righteousness will thus be received and put on the same footing with the other members of the new civilization and order. "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." 122
The ideal society of mankind on earth, based on the principles of genuine justice and righteousness will then become a fact. The Messiah idea will be realized. This is the meaning of the burden of the prophets: "But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the land;”123 I will raise unto David a righteous shoot, and he

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shall reign as king and prosper, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land".124 In other words, in the universal, perfect State, righteousness and happiness will eventually coincide. In the present era, the righteous are never safe.125 They are hardly tolerated, and are, therefore, always on the defensive. But in the era to come, the upright will constitute the society of mankind.126 The words of the Psalmist will then be realized: "Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness." 127 Not only will the upright be safe and protected, but they will feel at home in the world, and will occupy all the seats of comfort and rest.128 The possessions and homes taken away unjustly from the upright, will be returned to their owners.129 Various recreations and sports will be provided for the righteous in their leisure time. They will fly like eagles and swim like fish, and witness the races of the Leviathan and others of the animal kingdom.130
As soon as wickedness has disappeared, radical industrial and economic changes will take place. In the present era, says R. Simeon ben Jose ben Lekonya-a Tanna of the fourth generation, and a contemporary of R. Judah ha-Nasi the First-one man builds and another inhabits the buildings, one man plants and another eats the fruit. But in the era to come, the prophecy of Isaiah wiIl become true: "They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat."131 If we trust the readings of some texts of that statement, the saying of R. Simeon ends with the second part of the verse of Isaiah: For as the days of a tree shall be the days of My people, and Mine elect shall enjoy the work of their hands.132 Yet, there is no doubt that R. Simeon foresees the time when, not only Israel as a nation, will be no more a prey to other nations, but when human individuals in general, will each enjoy the work of his hands. All texts agree on the reading "Adam"-man, instead of "Israel", in the main statement of R. Simeon. The same

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view, in a somewhat modified form, was expressed later by a Palestinian Amora: The satisfaction that man gets in this era is nothing as compared with that of the next era. For, at present, when man dies he leaves all for others. But, in the future, "they shall not build, and another inhabit ".133 Still later sources have narrowed the application of the prophecy of Isaiah, and have interpreted that verse only in the field of Jewish scholarship - that, in the ideal era, the learning of a genuine scholar, wouId not onIy not fail him in his old age, but that it would supersede the scholarship of his youth.134

Once a society of the righteous is established on earth, mankind will be safe. There will be no more danger that the world will go through again the sad experiences of the past, and that it will repeat the grave errors committed during those periods when the unrighteous ruled - periods of hypocrisy, corruption, dishonest politics, accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few, poverty, want, suffering, robbery, murder, wars, and kindred evils. The very atmosphere of the world will be one of a universal paradise on earth, so that the chiIdren born in the new age, will grow up just and upright. There wilI be no bad or wicked children. Hence, in the words of Isaiah, the smallest shall become a thousand, and the least a mighty nation.135 The rabbinic views thus become clear, when the rabbis, in their Oriental exaggeration, say: “In the future, every Israelite will daily bring forth children in the world" ; 136 "The righteous will bring forth successors four or five times yearly." 137 For, when God's presence will actually be in the world, and a righteous mankind will live in a state of eternal happiness, with naturally healthy and developed bodies, they will not but flourish like young grass, reproducing naturally generation after generation an age of upright and just.138

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