Chapter 5

 

 

THE JEWISH UTOPIA

BY

MICHAEL HIGGER, Ph. D.

THE LORD BALTIMORE PRESS 

BALTIMORE, MD.

1932

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CHAPTER V

LIBERTY AND SALVATION



We shall now discuss the problem of the redemption and salvation of Israel, the people that will be instrumental in bringing about the Universal State founded upon genuine justice, righteousness, and universal peace. At the outset, it should be pointed out that the terms, redemption and salvation, have a radically different connotation from that which they have in Christian theology. As Abravanel has convincingly proved,347 Jewish redemption stands for the physical liberation and freedom of Israel. For, the people of Israel will attain the height af their spiritual functions and potentialities only through their attainment of material freedom and liberty. The problem of their spiritual development goes hand in hand with the problem of their physical safety and protection. The rabbis, for this reason, frequently picture the future salvation of Israel in terms of the experiences of that people preceding and during the Exodus from Egypt.348 The following statement of R. Abin will illustrate well the rabbinic view concerning the relation between the physical freedom and the spiritual redemption of Israel: "Just as in the case of the lily: when heat comes upon it, the lily withers, but blooms again when the dew falls; so is the case of Israel.
As long as the shadow of the oppressors exists, Israel appears lifeless. But in the ideal era, when that shadow will have passed, Israel will thrive more and more. . . . Just as the lily is fit for adornment of the Sabbath and the holidays, so is Israel fit for the coming redemption."349 R. Abin, the author of this beautiful parable, may have been the same one who had a sad personal experience with the government of his day.350 In

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any event, the underlying thought of the parable is evident. Israel will function spiritually and live up to their universal, moral and ethical responsibilities, only when they have obtained absolute physical freedom and liberty.
It is for this very reason that the spiritual leaders in Israel frequently express their hope and yearning for the ideal era in which Israel will not be oppressed any longer. The Midrash thus remarks: "The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: In this era you are oppressed by various governments; but in the era to come, I shall remove all governments from you." 351 Samuel, the prominent Babylonian Amora of the first generation, who was pessimistic concerning the immediate abolition of poverty during the Messianic period, held, nevertheless, that in that era servitude and oppression would disappear from earth and that Israel would become liberated and free.352
Looking at the redemption and salvation of Israel from this point of view, one is in a position to understand why the rabbis stress the fact that that event will come only by way of Israel's return to Zion.353 When the Lord will be reconciled with Zion, says the Midrash, He will have compassion first on Israel, the oppressed people. This will be in accordance with the following prophecy: "That the Lord hath founded Zion, and in her shall the afflicted of His people take refuge." 354 Again, the Shofar, announcing the freedom and liberty of the people, will be blown at the Temple in Jerusalem.355 For, Israel will be able to function spiritually and thus serve as an example for the rest of the world, only when they build up a Utopia, or a spiritual paradise on this earth, where they will be eternally safe and protected.356 The ideal people of God will thus live and develop, both physically and spiritually, when these prophecies of Isaiah are realized: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good

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tidings "357 "O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain ".358
The main purpose of the physical redemption of Israel will be to glorify the name of the Lord and thereby to bring about the Kingdom of God. The name of God will be universally sanctified and glorified, and His Kingdom become known, when a reunion of the exiled takes place at Jerusalem.359 When Israel is redeemed, the heavenly kingdom will be complete.360 The glory and the light of the Lord will then be upon the people of Israel. 361 The redemption will be a testimony to God, that He is just and right and without iniquity.362 Again, through Israel's physical salvation, God will be crowned King of His Kingdom, and the world will have learned to acknowledge Him as the one universal Lord.363 In other words, the universal recognition of God as the righteous Lord, depends upon Israel's physieal redemption; eventually God Himself will hasten the redemption and the salvation of Israel.364 The Holy One thus says to Israel, My children, since My light is your light, and your light is My light, both of us will go and bring light unto Zion.365 For, the name of the Lord will be sanctified, and His Kingdom established on earth, when Israel, the ideal righteous people, will be redeemed.366 Hence, when Israel returns to Zion, God's Divine Presence will return with them.367 The Holy One thus said to Israel, In the ideal era My Divine Presence will never depart from you.368

Second, the restoration of the ideal people on the ideal land will signify universal peace and brotherhood. Jerusalem will become the center of the free and liberated, universal Israel, because that city of God would be a living example of universal peace and brotherhood. This will be in keeping witn the prophecy af Isaiah: "Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river." 369 The very act of the redemption will be accomplished through the united efforts of all the people of Israel. For, Israel will be redeemed only when they shall have united.370

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Third, the redemption will mark the end of the rule of the wicked, and the beginning of the rule of the righteous in the world. It will usher in the new, ideal era in which the upright and just will prosper and the wicked and unrighteous will suffer.371 Consequently, the redemption of Israel will signify the beginning of the destruction of sin and wickedness on earth.372
Another purpose of Israel's redemption will be to give God's people the opportunity to lead a life in accordance with the Torah, the Word of God. Then will the prophecy of Isaiah be fulfilled: "Arise, shine, for the light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." 373 A free Israel will be in a position to worship God in Jerusalem, the center of the ideal world. This will be in keeping with the following prophecy: "And they shall come that were lost in the land of Assyria, and they that were dispersed in the land of Egypt; and they shall worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem." 374
Consequently, as in the past, the Lord Himself will bring about the salvation of Israel.375 Whether it will be Elijah, Messiah, or a special messenger, who will announce the good tidings of Israel's physical salvation and redemption, God will be the direct cause of that momentous event.376 The people of Israel will then proclaim: "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." 377
The redemption of Israel which will be so significant and momentous in the history of that people and of mankind in general, will be marked by a number of important characteristics. First, Israel's salvation will be permanent and eternal in nature, so that Israel may be secure against the kind of experiences which they suffered in the past: exile, suffering, humiliation, servitude, and disintegration.378 The emblem of the new position of the ideal people will be light.

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The Exodus from Egypt, took place at night, and was, therefore, temporary; but the redemption ushering in the ideal era will take place in the light, which is stored up for the righteous. The restoration will thus be permanent and everlasting.379 For, Israel, the ideal people, are permanent and will never cease to exist.380 In the words of Amos, they will be planted upon their land and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land.381 When the ideal people shall have been redeemed, the redemption of the rest of the world will follow. In this way, the Kingdom of God will be established.382
Second, Israel's redemption will be universal. The exiled in the north and in the south, even those in the far corners of the earth will be gathered and reunited.383 This redemption will, therefore, overshadow all previous redemptions of Israel; and the prophecy of Jeremiah will be fulfilled: "Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said: 'As the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, but: 'As the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the countries whither He had driven them'."384
Third, nature itself will help to bring about the restoration of Israel, and will join the nations of the world in song, joy, and praise of the Lord for the redemption of His people.385 The islands and the inhabitants thereof will sing a new song to the Lord; they will praise Him from the end of the earth.386 The exiled themselves in their victorious and glorious march of salvation, will burst out in song and praise of God, on reaching the mountainous boundaries of the ideal land.387 The prophecy of Isaiah will thus be realized: "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."388

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How will that redemption be brought about? Will that momentous event take place suddenly, or will it be the result of the culmination of a series of spiritual and moral developments of Israel and thus of mankind in general?
In rabbinic literature we find three different attitudes with regard to this question. The more conservative view seems to be that there is a designated time for the advent of the redemption. The redemption will take place at the appointed time, suddenly and unexpectedly, regardless, apparently, of the spiritual and moral conditions of the people.389 The second view is that the advent of the redemption depends upon the intensity of the suffering which the world will undergo by virtue of their conduet. When living conditions become unbearable, when the oppression and suffering of Israel become intolerable, so that the people of Israel repent, pray, and are fearful of the Lord, the redemption of the ideal righteous people will, by compassion of God, take place.390 The third and more progressive view is that the redemption will not be a sudden phenomenon, but rather a gradual development as a result of a number of moral and spiritual changes in Israel, and, consequently, in mankind in general. 391 Here are the more important changes mentioned in rabbinic sources, which will hasten that development.
The first essential condition preparing the way for the salvation of the ideal people, is unity in universal Israel. There must be no dissension or lack of unity among the people of God. In fact, Ezekiel already, in picturing the ideal people in the coming ideal era, described the unity and brotherhood of the people, when he said that the people would be cleansed of their uncleanliness and saved from their sins only when they should have attained a state of perfect peace and unity.392 The rabbis, in their usual way, put this significant prophecy into the mouth of Jacob, who, they say, uttered it when he was about to utter the testaments to his sons.393

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Nevertheless, this interpretation indicates the rabbinic attitude towards the question of Israel's redemption. Perfect unity and brotherhood will have to precede the liberation of that people.394
Second, the people will have to train themselves in leading a life of justice and righteousness. This will be in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah: "Keep ye justice, and do righteousness; for My salvation is near to come, and My favour to be revealed." 395 The cardinal principles of righteousness and justice will have to be applied not only in the every-day life of the individual in his relations to his fellow-man, but in the courts and in the administration of human affairs as well.396 The following prophecy will then be realized: "Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and they that return of her with righteousness."397 For, the righteous will be instrumental in the cause of the salvation of Israel. Indeed, the righteous in all ages are a living testimony to the eventual redemption of Israel, the ideal, righteous people.398 The upright and just, preparing the way for the redemption, are imbued with loving kindness towards all peoples on earth.399
Third, the outstanding characteristic of the people of Israel of cultivating the habit of studying and learning for the sake of study - a characteristic not found among other peoples - will have to be encouraged and strengthened. Any one who studies the Torah for its own sake, says R. Levi, hastens the redemption of Israel. 400 The exiled will be gathered unto their destination, remarks R. Huna, only because of the study of the Torah.40l Another essential feature of the program of Israel's salvation, apparently contradicting the requirement just mentioned, but in reality supplementing it, is the observance of the Torah and its cardinal commandments.402 The emphasis laid both on study for its own sake and on the observance of the will of God, are deeply rooted in the Jewish philosophy of life, which stresses right con-

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duct of living, rather than dogma and faith. In the terminology of the rabbis, the Lord said to Israel, Just as I would not forget your redemption, so you should not forget the Torah.403
This brings us to the fourth point of the plan of Israel's redemption, and that is faith, or, to be more correct - faithfulness. For, the Hebrew term "emunah", does not connote "faith" in the Christian sense, but rather faithfulness, or trust in God. Furthermore, unlike Christianity, Judaism emphasizes upright living rather than faith as a dogma. The Prophet Hosea, for instance, in speaking of Israel's bethrothal to God, mentions righteousness and justice first, and faithfulness last.404 The rabbis, for this reason, stress always the importance of studying the Torah, the word of God, leading man to right conduct and a divine life, rather than blind faith and belief.405 With regard to the question of Israel's redemption, the rabbinic view is that, in addition to the above requirements, an attitude of faithfulness is essential. The exiled will be redeemed as a reward of their faithfulness.406 In preparing the way for their redemption, Israel will have to display much faithfulness and trust in God. The prophecy of Hosea will then be realized: "And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in justice, and in loving kindness, and in compassion. And I will betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord." 407
Fifth, Israel will have to lead a life of honesty, in the realm of the intellectual life, and thereby remind the world, especially the intelligent and intelleetual leaders of the nations, that the lack of that virtue is one of the main causes of the woes and sufferings of mankind. The rabbis express this idea in their own, innocent, but honest, way: "Whosoever reports a thing in the name of him that said it brings deliverance into the world." 408 In one rabbinic source, this state-

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ment is preceded by a supplementary saying: "Whosoever reports a thing in the name of a scholar who never said it, causes the Divine Presence of God to disappear from Israel." 409 In other words, this kind of dishonesty will not be known in the ideal era, when the Lord will cause His Divine Presence to dwell among all the members of the ideal, righteous people.
Finally, the leaders in Israel will have to change their attitude toward the great masses of the people. They will have to be more sympathetic and less severe in discharging their duties, disregarding personal honor and self interest. Instead of looking for faults in the people, the scholars guiding the nation will have to stress the good qualities of the members of their communities. 410

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