Chapter 4

 

 

THE JEWISH UTOPIA

BY

MICHAEL HIGGER, Ph. D.

THE LORD BALTIMORE PRESS 

BALTIMORE, MD.

1932

 

 

CHAPTER IV

PEACE AND ABUNDANCE




In the program of the Jewish Prophets for an ideal life in this world, next to righteousness and justice, comes universal peace. The classical utterings of Isaiah and Micah, "And thy shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more ",269 - may be adopted with great advantage for mankind as an ideal motto by a twentieth century League of Nations.
In the case of universal peace, as in the case of the sublime principles of justice and of righteousness, the rabbis follow the footsteps of their predecessors, the prophets. In one of the legal controversies concerning the law of the Sabbath, the Tannaim are of the unanimous opinion that the prophecies of  Isaiah and Micah regarding universal peace will be realized in the ideal era to come.270 Even the much quoted, but little understood statement of the Amora Samuel does not challenge the truth of that prophecy. That statement is to the effect that with the exception of the terminating of the subjection of the exiled, there will be no radicaI changes in the Messianic period.271 According to the Talmud, this view is in direct conflict with the view of R. Hiyya bar Abba that the prophesies of the Prophets, including that of universal peace, will be fulfilled, not in the world to come, but in the Messianic period.272 In other words, according to all, including Samuel, the prophecy of universal peace will come true. Samuel meant only to say, that the Messianic period is too soon a time for the realization of that dream, and that that yearning will be relized only after the Messianic period.


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It is not surprising, therefore, to find in rabbinic literature the idea af the Messiah closely associated with the concept of universal peace and brotherhood.273 When the Messiah arrives - say the rabbis - his message will be that af universal peace.274 The foundation of the Utopia of the righteous will be universal peace.275 Only those who encourage and love peace will share the enjoyments and happiness of the new social order.276 The ideal Jerusalem, the capital of the ideal Zion, headed by the ideal house of David, will have her foundations rooted in universal brotherhood.277 Similarly, the ideal Israel and the returning of the exiled will signify universal peace and genuine brotherhood.278 This will be in accordance with the utterings of the Psalmist: "For not by their own sword did they get the land in possession"; " For I trust not in my bow, neither can my sword save me ".279 The inner life of the people of Israel, especially the family life, will, likewise, be one af perfect accord and harmony. In the words of Malachi, the heart of the fathers will be turned to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.280 The peaceful life of the people will be intensified and enhanced by widespread education and universal knowledge of God. This will be in keeping with the prophecy of Isaiah: "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy ehildren." 281
We find mentioned occasionally in rabbinic writings two main causes that lead to wars and thus obstruct the way to universal peace and brotherhood. One is a natural phenomenon, the other -an artificial one. The first is te socalled biological necessity for war, or the animal instinct in man to fight and to devour the weaker creatures. The rabbis, like the prophets, expressed their opinion, therefore, that, in the age to come, a radical change in the instincts of the animal world would take place - animals being ever on the same path of evolution as man is, though most species of them
 

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are far behind most ofmankind. The natural instinct to fight, in order to conquer and to destroy, is a disease, which is a remnant of the defects in nature of the past era. In the course of ages, the beasts will be cured of that disease or weakness. Consequently, man, too, will learn to live in peace and harmony. This is the force of the prophecy of Isaiah: ”And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. . . and a little child shall lead them . . . . And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."282 In a similar sense, one may understand the following passage in the Pseudepigraphal Book of Enoch: "And all that had been destroyed dispersed, and all the beasts af the field, and all the birds of the heaven, assembled in that house, and the Lord of the sheep rejoiced with great joy because they were all good and had returned to His house. And I saw till they laid down that sword, which had been given to the sheep, and they brought it back into the house, and it was sealed before the presence of thc Lord."283 A still more striking saying is found in another Pseudepigraphal work: "And wild beasts shall come from the forest and minister unto men. And asps and dragons shall come forth from their holes to submit themselves to a little child." 284
In other words, religion is to be the love af mankind. When wisdom, or the knowledge of the Lord, is uppermost, war will cease. People will have to be so mentally trained as to be able to discriminate between transitory and permanent values. Nations, as well as local organizations, will have to establish brotherhoods in the Universal State based upon the principles of universal peace and love. The motto will be: Where there is peace, God is. For, when two quarrel,


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both are in the wrong. This attitude will be quite the contrary to the philosophy of Bismarck, the exponent of modern militarism, as expressed by himself: "The great questions of the time are solved not by speech-making and the resolution of majorities, but by blood and iron." If we want peace we must be peaceable. Brotherly love knows no compromises.
The second cause, which is the result of man's faulty attitude, leading to wars, and hindering the establishment of universal peace, is want, lack of the necessities of life, and general poverty of a part of the population all the time. The cause of all discords and struggles is the disproportionate distribution of life's necessities among men - where part of the people have too much, and others have little or nothing. Universal peace and brotherhood will be established on earth only when that obstacle be removed, when each man will be given a chance to earn and possess the necessary things that make life happy and wholesome. The prophecy of Zechariah will then be fulfilled: "In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig-tree." 285 For, love, brotherhood, and genuine friendship will exist only when there are abundance and plenty, so that those who are fortunate to possess them will see to it that they are distributed equally among all people.286 This truth is well expressed in one of the Sibylline Books: "For earth the universal mother shall give to mortals her best fruit in countless store of corn, wine and oil. . . . And the cities shall be full of good things and the fields rich; neither shall there be any sword throughout the land nor battle din; nor shall the earth be convulsed any more with deep- drawn groans. No wars shall there be any more nor drought throughout the land, no famine nor hail to work havoc on the crops. But there shall be a great peace throughout all the earth . . . and a common law for men throughout all the earth shall the Eternal perfect in the starry heaven for all

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those things which have been wrought by miserable mortals. For nought but peace shall come upon the land of the good; and the prophets of the Mighty God shall take away the sword. . . . Even wealth shall be righteous among men; for this is the judgment and the rule of the Mighty God."287
This view brings us to the problem of poverty in general from the viewpoint of a rabbinic Utopia. We find, to be sure a few sayings in rabbinic literature that justify poverty in this era on purely theological grounds; namely, that poverty Which undoubtedly causes suffering to the poor, prepares the souls of the victims to enter the other world, and that it also tests the soul of the rich, who, by helping the poor, might save themselves from the Day of Judgment.288
With regard to the ideal era, however, the consensus of opnion of the rabbis is that there will be no poverty whatever. The above-mentioned statement of the leading Babylonian Amora, Samuel, that there would be no radical changes in the Messianic period because of the verse, "For the poor shall never cease out of the land", 289 - is to be interpreted as in the case of the question of universal peace, namely, that the Messianic period is too soon a time for the realization of the dream of universal economic equality. Nevertheless, the dream will become a fact when the Messianic period will have passed.290 This truth is also implied in a remark made by a younger contemporary and namesake of the Babylonian Amora, Samuel, namely, Samuel ben Nahman, the most famous Palestinian haggadist of the third century. He found an apparent contradiction, concerning poverty in the future, in two verses in the fifteenth chapter of Deuteronomy. In one verse it says: Howbeit there shall be no needy among you. 291 Another verse reads : For the poor shall never cease out of the land.292 Samuel ben Nahman thus explains that the second verse refers to the present "disgraceful condition", and that, for this reason, that verse does not refer

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to Israel.298 The expression "disgraceful condition" proves clearly the attitude of the rabbinic authorities of that period towards the problem of poverty in the future. An ideal condition of social life implies an era in which poverty is entirely abolished.
Furthermore, the very rabbinic protests against the injustices done to the Jewish people on the part of the non-Jewish nations, and their hope for Israel's final redemption, were mainly based on the conviction of Israel's spiritual leaders that justice for the oppressed and the poor would finally be obtained in the era to come.294 The rabbis correctly observed the similarity of the problem of the righteous, and yet poor, individual, and of the righteous, and yet helpless, people of Israel. They, therefore, express their hopes that, in the ideal era to come, righteousness will be victorious over unrighteousness, and that the poor and the oppressed, because of their righteousness will be fully relieved of their suffering.295 Thus, the Lord will arise and judge the world for having caused the suffering of the poor. In the words of the Psalmist, "For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy now will I arise, saith the Lord".296 Again, R. Simeon ben Yohai says: "In this era the rich benefit at the expense of the poor. But in the future, the Holy One will summon the rich to judgment for having robbed and oppressed the poor." 297 The expression "future world" in this passage, may not necessarily mean the ideal era on this earth, but rather the world of the souls. Nevertheless, the statement as a whole registers the rabbinic protest against the injustices of the rich towards the poor, which are of daily occurrence in the present social and economic order, wherein one group of the people thrive at the expense of the suffering and oppression of another group. It is problematic as to how much truth there is in the ancient proverb, that life is like a theatre where the worst men get the best places. But it is undoubtedly

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clear that it is right - it never can be other than right - that he who is upright and virtuous shall have a sufficiency, and that he who is worthy shall not perish from want. To be sure, in a system in which poverty does exist, the rabbis encourage and even earnestly urge almsgiving and charity. But the Jewish spiritual leaders always hoped and looked forward to the ideal time when conditions would radically be changed so that the scourge of poverty would be abolished. We should keep the distinction in mind between the actual present system, and that of the ideal era, especially when we read the following accusation against the Jews by one of the authors of a modem Utopia: "Almsgiving and begging are a development of a Jewish civilization, and date back to Josiah. Their system of almsgiving had ever been their greatest error. The poor were supposed to prevail everywhere." 298
Indeed, the principles of righteousness and justice, upon which the new social order in the ideal era will be rebuilt, will demand an equal footing economically for the poor. The satisfaction of that demand will mark the beginning of the functioning of the Kingdom of God; the Righteous Judge, on earth.299 Peace, which is a necessary requirement for the establishment of the ideal social order on earth, can be attained only by the abolition of poverty. For, poverty, as the Talmud puts it, is worse than fifty plagues; 300 or, as an old English saying has it, poverty breeds strife. As long as we have a system in which one man's profit is another man's loss, we will have no genuine peace, love, and brotherhood in the world. Moreover, the abolition of poverty will hasten to solve the problem of crime, the curse of modem social life, for there will be no temptation to rob or to murder. Every individual will be assured a comfortable home, food, and clothing.
In fact, when the Kingdom of God on earth exists, every Individual will be well provided materially, so that all will be made princes in the land.
Although the population, due to

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large families, will be greatly increased, the standard of living will be very high, with the result that there will be no poor people at all. 301 Such base impulses as desire for luxury and love of money, will disappear. For the material means of happiness and comfort will exist on the earth as abundantly as the air for breathing. This change of the material conditions of the masses of the people will be especially noticeable through the new and attractive apparel and attire of every individual. The new and refreshing clothes worn daily by all will be a constant reminder of the new era of equality and universal justice.302
There will be many changes in nature itself in order to bring about the happiness and joy to all the members of the Utopia of the righteous. The land and the trees will yield, with less effort on the part of man, more frequently larger quantities and better fruit, agricultural produce, and many other necessities of life.303 Wine and milk will be in abundance for all. This will be in accordance with the prophecy of Joel: "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk." 304 Unlike this era - remark the rabbis - when wine is misused and thus causes suffering to mankind, in the ideal era that sweet liquid will bring joy and happiness to the people.305 Indeed, God Almighty has ordained wine, like all other products of nature, for the great comfort of mankind, to be used moderately.
Since, from a rabbinic viewpoint, large families are a blessing to the people, the rabbis do not fail to mention, nay, even greatly exaggerate, the increase of the birth-rate in their scheme of a Utopia of the righteous. One statement says that in the ideal era, each woman will give birth daily!306 Another view is, that, in the future, every Israelite will have as many children as the number of Israelites that have left Egypt during the Exodus! 307 The spiritual leaders in Israel were

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apparently not concerned with the problem of an overcrowded earth, and with the apprehension of some modern scientists that in a thousand years there will not be one square yard of space for each person on earth. The underlying motive of the rabbinic predictions probably was the realization of the fact, that if a Utopia of Righteous should ever be established on earth, unusually large numbers of children of the small minority of the upright and just, would have to outnumber the numerous wicked, unjust, and inferior types.308 This answers the anti-Semitic attack on the part of a modern author of a Utopian scheme, when he states that "to increase and multiply beyond their resources has always been the fundamental desire of the Jews." 309 For, that yearning for a large progeny was part of the rabbinic plan to establish a kingdom of the righteous. Compare the following passage in the Book of Eoch: "Destroy all wrong from the face of the earth and let every evil work come to an end; and let the plant of righteousness and truth appear. . . . And then shall all the righteous escape, and shall live till they beget thousands of children, and all the days of their youth and their old age shall they complete in peace. And then shall the whole earth be tilled in righteousness, and shall all be planted with trees and be full of blessing." 310
The great majority of the people will be farmers engaged in agriculture, and will obtain, without difficulty, their livelihood from the products of the land, which products because of God's blessings, will be in abundance.311 Everyone will acquire different kinds of land so that the product of the fields will satisfy the various needs of the individuaI.312 The Universal State of the upright and just will thus enjoy abundance of food, especially fruit and other agricultural produce.313 Agriculture will be a science in which all will be instructed. Consequently, in the new social order, every member of the ideal community of the righteous, will receive with-

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out great effort whatever necessary sustenance he may desire.314 Because of the general abundance of food and sustenance, there will always prevail in the community a spirit of joy, optimism, helpfulness, and brotherly love.315 The relation between material abundance for all and the functioning of righteousness in the Universal State is well described in the Book of Enoch: "And then shall the whole earth be tilled in righteousness and shall all be planted with trees and be full af blessing . . . and the vine which they plant thereon shall yield wine in abundance . . . and each measure af olives shall yield ten presses af oil. And cleanse thou the earth from all oppression, and from all unrighteousness, and from all sin, and from all godlessness. . . . And in those days I will open the store chambers of blessing which are in the heaven, so as to send them down upon the earth over the work and labour af the children of men. And truth and peace shall be associated together throughout all the days of the world and throughout all the generations af men." 316
Hence, in the ideal era, no one will lead a luxurious and spendthrift life because af inherited fortunes. One will enjoy and use only those things which he himself has earned through his own labor and efforts. In the words of the Psalmist, " when thou eatest the labour of thy hands, happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee ".317 No time will be spent by a part af the population in supplying useless luxuries. The laws and regulations of the new Universal State will, therefore, be few in number and seldom violated. Once an individual is working and doing constructive labor, he will enjoy fully tht results of his toil and industry. In nowise will one reap the benefit or reward of the work of one's fellow man. The guiding rule will be that everyone is entitled to the fruit of his labor.318 In the course of time when the new social order starts functioning, every member af the new State will work a minimum number of hours a day, in accordance with the par

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ticular demands of the social life of the Universal State. There will be but few idlers. Most of the workers will not feel the bondage of their caste. There will always be steady employment, since production and distribution will be scientifically and universally regulated to meet the needs of a population which never indulges in war or greedy economic striving. Production will be organized internationally and not nationally. Raw materials likewise will be controlled by a central authority so that the present waste will disappear.
Gold will be of secondary importance in the new social and economic order. Eventually, all the friction, jealousy, quarrels, ad misunderstandings that exist under the present system, will not be known in the ideal Messianic era.319 The city of Jerusalem will possess most of the gold and precious stones of the world.That ideal city will be practicalty full of those metals and stones, so that the people of the world will realize the vanity and absurdity af wasting their lives in accumulating those imaginary valuables.320 The deprecation of the importance of gold and its like, does not necessarily imply the introduction of the system af common ownership of property. The secondary importance given to gold in the new social order will be due to two main reasons. First, the equal distribution of private property and other necessities of life will automatically depreciate the importance of gold and other luxuries. Under present conditions, money is harmful. Because of bad economic distribution and organization, money is more easily obtained by wicked people than by righteous ones. The second reason is that the people will be trained and educated to differentiate between real, spiritual values and material values.
Consequently, in the past, in rabbinic phraseology, only a few selected righteous, like the Patriarchs and Job, enjoyed material abundance and plenty, typical af the ideal era.321 But in the future, all the righteous will be well provided with

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material abundance.322 Their dwelling places will be beauti- ful.323 For, to the righteous and upright will belong all the wealth, treasures, industrial gains, and all the other resources of the world; to the unrighteous will belong nothing. This will be in keeping with the prophecy of Isaiah: "And her gain and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord; it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her gain shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, to eat their fill, and for stately clothing.3824 Under such conditions a sturdy race of strong, healthy, tall, youthful, and handsome people will be raised.325 The Holy One thus said: "In this era, some people are healthy and handsome, and others are not. But in the ideal era to come, all people will be handsome and praiseworthy." This will be in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah: "All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed." 326 Diseases and ill health which are such a heavy burden on the shoulders of mankind in the present era, will not be known in the future.327 Physical defects, like dumbness, blindness, deafness, lameness, stammering, barrenness in women, and similar bodily imperfections, will, likewise, not exist. The few unusual occurrences of such conditions will easily be cured.328 Similarly, in the present era, women give birth in pain. But in the future, the prophecy of Isaiah will be realized: "Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a manchild." 329
Concerning death in the future era, we find, in a few sources, a rabbinic statement to the effect that, in the future, the following prophecy of Isaiah will he fulfilled: "He will swallow up death for ever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces." 330 From additional remarks found in at least two of these sources, we learn that that statement refers, not, as one might assume, to the future world, but rather to the ideal era on this earth.
One passage reads some-

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what like this: "Originally when God created the world, there was no angel of death. When Adam and Eve committed the sin, however, death was decreed upon mankind. But when the Messiah comes, the Lord, in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah, will swallow up death for ever." 331 The other passage reads: "In this world, because of death, no one can be happy. But in the future, the Lord will swallow up death for ever. Then will the folIowing prophecy be realized: 'And I wiIl rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.' 332 It is thus evident that some rabbis thought that, in the remote future, a time would come when death would be an unknown phenomenon among men on this earth.333
In other sources, however, we find a modified view, namely, that death will occur in the Messianic period; but the span of life will be greatly prolonged. This will be in accordance with the other utterings of Isaiah concering this matter: There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man, that hath not filled his days; for the youngest shall die a hundred years old." 334 People will thus, on the average, live much longer.335 In addition, with the evil inclinations in man eradicated, the number of deaths that occur at present as a result of man's sins and misdoings, will be greatly decreased.336 This will be true especially of deaths caused by murder, which will be unknown in the ideal era, when conditions that cause crime and sin will not exist. 337
This modified view that, in the ideal era, the span of life will be prolonged, and that unusual and sudden deaths wiII not occur, is found also in a number of places in the Pseudepigraphal writings: "And the days shall begin to grow many and increase amongst those children af men, till their days draw nigh to one thousand year. . . . And there shall be no old man. . . For all shall be as children and youths. And all their days they shall complete and live in peace and in joy;

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and there shall be no Satan nor any evil destroyer. For all their days shall be days of blessing and healing"; 338 "And they shall live a long life on earth, such as thy fathers lived.
And in their days shall no sorrow or plague or torment or calamity touch them. Then blessed I the God of glory, the Eternal King, who hath prepared such things for the righteous, and hath created them and promised to give to them" ; 339 "And no one shall again die untimely, nor shall any adversity suddenly befall".340 In other words, almost all that is tragic in human life will be eliminated, and death will seldom come before old age. In one passage, the author of the Book of the Secrets of Enoch speaks, to be sure, about the eternal life of the righteous. But a careful study of that passage shows that that author has in mind, not the ideal era on earth, but rather the future world, or the realm of the soul.341
In any event, in the future ideal era on the earth, the happiness of man will be complete and perfect.342 A number of reasons will account for that new state of man's happiness. The material needs and necessities of the individual will be readily obtained in abundance.343 Children and young people will be immune from death.344 Bodily imperfections and physical defects will be unknown.345 Lastly, there will be an important cause for everlasting happiness of the people, since the Lord will dwell in Zion the ideal land of Israel, the ideal, righteous people, who, in the words of Zephaniah, shall not fear evil any more.346

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