Chapter 9

 

 

THE JEWISH UTOPIA

BY

MICHAEL HIGGER, Ph. D.

THE LORD BALTIMORE PRESS 

BALTIMORE, MD.

1932


CHAPTER IX

A NEW WORLD



The spiritual life of the people will be greatly enhanced and augmented. In the language of the rabbis, the evil inclinations in man will be eradicated.530 A new spirit will be infused into man. The prophecy of Ezekiel will then become a fact: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh."531 Suffering, mortality, crime and sensual living will then be greatly reduced, and eventually abolished. 532 As long as the world is ruled by evil inclinations, remarks the Midrash, thick darkness and the shadow of death will prevail in human life. But as soon as those evil inclinations are eradicated, there will be no more darkness in the worId.533

Man, with his new, holy spirit, will become a new creature.534 People, instead of being envious and covetous, will gradually learn to despise the material things which do not belong to them.535 A better understanding between the old generation and the new will then exist.536  For, in the present era, man, in rabbinic terminology, possesses two inclinations, or two hearts, a good one and a bad one. But, in the era to come, there will be no evil inclinations. Man will possess only the good inclination.537
Furthermore, with the evil inclinations in man removed, all the members of the human race will be in a position to have God's Divine Presenee dwell among them. All people will be "taught of the Lord". Knowledge and culture, especially the knowledge of God, will be widespread, universal, and ever-lasting, so that not much teaching will be required. The fol-


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lowing prophecies will then be fulfiIled: "For the earth shall be fuIl of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea"; 538 "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying: 'Know the Lord'; for they shall all know Me, from the least af them unto the greatest of them".539 In the phraseology of the rabbis, the Holy 0ne Himself will teach His law to every individual, so that knowledge and learning will be universal and ever-lasting.540
The society founded upon this perfect education will inaugurate the era af happiness and of perfection of man. Once real happiness is produced on earth, there will be no fear of the non-attainment af happiness hereafter. The aim of education will be to furnish masses of capable and energetic citizens for the new Universal State, able and willing to dis- charge their proper obligations to their fellow-men and thus help bring about the Kingdom of God. In the words of the author of the Book of Jubilees, "in those days the children shall begin to study the laws, and to seek the commandments, and to return to the path af righteousness".541
In the absence of war, intellectual pursuits will save men from boredom. The Universal State will have a unified philosophic purpose and a unified system of social values. Education will thus be adopted to the social purpose of the State. Moreover, in the era to come, when man will not be subject any longer to the whims of temptation and evil inclinations, the nations on earth will be in a position to unite for one supreme purpose, namely, to call, in the words of Zephaniah, upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent.542
This new state of the nature af man, together with the general disappearance of unrighteousness and wickedness from the social life of mankind, will then prepare the way for the ushering in of the ideal Messianic period.543 The Word

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of God will thus be guiding the destiny of mankind.544 Genuine wisdom, imbued with the spirit of God, will be studied systematically and universally. It will characterize the general spitrit of the new age.545 The new spirit of learning and teaching, of acquiring and spreading knowledge, will be in direct contrast to the spirit of demoralization, bigotry, and prejudice, that is so characteristic of the present era.546 The members of the new social order will occupy themselves chiefly with intellectual and cultural activities.
The classical utterance of Amos will then be realized: Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words af the Lord."547 That Prophecy, of course, may be also interpreted in accordance with the opposite meaning, namely, that people will be so degraded and low in their learning and culture, that the lack of those qualities will be universally evident. In fact, the next verse in Amos seems to support this interpretation: "And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord; and shall not find it."548 One rabbinic passage, likewise, seems to have understood the prophecy of Amos in that sense, when it states: “In the present era, the guilty and corrupt governments are thirsty for the divine spirit and for the law, as it is mentioned in the prophecy of Amos. But in the ideal era, the words af Isaiah will be fulfilled: For I will pour water upon the thirsty."549
In any event, the rabbinic view of the spiritual life in the ideal era is clear. It will be a period in which learning, knowledge, and the words of God will be universally applied to the conduct and life of every individual, both in the relation of man to God, and of man to man. It was perhaps for this reason that the Kaddish prayer which includes the formula, “In the world that will in the future be renewed", was per-

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mitted to be said only after studying some phase of the Torah, or, according to another version, only at the death of a scholar.550 The purpose was to signify the spiritual meaning of that hope and yearning for the ideal era, namely, an era, in which man would live according to the true word of God. This is likewise the force of the following Midrash: The Holy One said to the elders: In the present era, you have not seen the glory of the Torah. But in the era to come, you will be glorified through the Torah, - as it says, "Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of hosts will reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His elders shall be Glory".551
Under those ideal conditions, man naturally will, in the words of Ezekiel, walk in God's statutes, and will keep the ordinances of the Lord, and do them.552 The Torah with its fundamental ordinances, to be sure, will function in the ideal era to come. The traditional teachings,of Israel will still be the guiding light of the new spiritual and ethieal life in the world.553 A number of ordinances will, therefore,be offered in the Messianic period to the non-Jewish peoples - especially precepts, the observance of which symbolizes uni-
versal truths concerning God and the ideal Israel. 554 The view expressed in a few rabbinic sources, that a time will come when the Torah will be forgotten in Israel, refers only to certain oral traditions which had to be memorized and transmitted from one generation to the other.555 Thus, with the coming of Elijah, who will proclaim the arrival of the Messianic period, many doubtful points in the traditional law, both oral and written, will be explained and clarified by Elijah.556 Elijah will likewise explain the basic principles of a number of biblicaI statutes, the reason for which have not been revealed to us. The purpose of the whole body of biblicaI laws and regulations will then become clear and evident to al1.557 All the academic discussions and disagree-

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ments on questions of interpreting the various laws, which divided the schools af Hillel and Shammai, will, therefore, not be repeated in the future. For, with the advent of the Messiah, all such problems and questions will become clear.558

It is evident, then, that in the ideal Messianic era, the traditional ordinances and precepts, as found in the Pentateuch will be acknowledged and observed, perhaps with greater force and zeal than in the present era. In studying the rabbinic statements concerning that problem, however, one has to keep in mind two important points. First, that the rabbis drew a clear line of distinetion between the ideal Messianie period on this earth, and the period that will follow it. The ordinances will apparently not function in the remote age that will follow the Messianic period on earth.559 Secondly, the few striking passages that speak of doing away with the basic cardinal laws in the Messianic era, come undoubtedly from Mediæval non-Jewish sources. Their forgery and non-Jewish coloring is evident both externally and internally. This is especially true of the passages in the last chapters of the Midrash Tehillim, and of those in Otiyyot d'R. Akiba.560
A typical Jewish attitude towards the problem of the fundamental religious laws, like the Sabbath and others, in the ideal era; is found in the authoritative part of the Midrash Tehillim. A statement there reads: "In the present era, when one commits a cardinal sin, there is no protest on the part of the object instrumental in the commission of the act. But in the era to come, when one is about to commit a sin, the instruments to be employed in the act, and even the objects that are not directly affected by the sinful act, will voice their protest
against that act.”561 The idea underlying the passage is clear. In the era to come, when conditions of the life of the people will be radically changed for the better so that temptations and evil inclinations in man will practically not exist, the committing of cardinal sins and crimes will be af rare and unusuaI

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occurrence among men. Hence, in the rabbinic terminology, the very objects, or the environment, will express their indignation at the one who is to commit the treasonable act. Similarly, when certain rabbis voiced their opinion that some biblical books, included in the canon, would, in the future, lose their importance, they meant to suggest that in the ideal era, when conditions of the human race would be radically changed for the better, so that ideal peace and brotherhood would reign among all the nations and communities on the earth, there would be no need of stressing some of the incidents in Israel's history as recorded in some biblical books.562 The festivals and holidays that signify divine and universal truths will likewise be enthusiastically observed by the members of the new social order of the Utopia of the righteous.563 The views that some traditional festivals will not exist in the ideal era, only register the opinion of some rabbis that, in that era, some of these festivals may lose their historical significance, and a new interpretation of those festivals may be essential, since the ideal Israel will lead the whole world in the new life of genuine justice, righteousness, and of universal peace.564
The spiritual life of that ideal period, will similarly be marked by the appearance of a new form of prophetism. In the past, only a few individuals were spiritually gifted with prophetic visions. But in the era to come, every one will possess that power. The prophecy of Joel will thus become true: "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh.”565 Moreover, in the past, not all prophets or prophecies were made public. But in the future, all visions and prophecies of every prophet will be made known to all people.566 Similarly, every one will learn to know the name of God, and all will be in a position to see God and His glory.567

The rabbis were so optimistic about the future era, that they
very often expressed the view that a general radicaI change would finally take place in the character of man, of the beasts and other creatures, as well as of their natural surroundings. Thus, man, woman, all the animal world, the earth and its produce, the deserts, the oceans, the heavenly luminaries,- all of them will be cured of their present defects and shortcomings; and their lives will be renewed in keeping with the spirit of the new era of the righteous.568 This will be in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah: “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." 569 Furthermore, just as the Lord will make new heavens and a new earth, so will He make a new Israel, the ideal righteous people.570
The radical change in the world, which will result in practically a new world, will be accomplished through the mercy and goodness of God.571 With the advent of the Messianic period, therefore, the world will become perfect in all its aspects and phases.572 This optimism is also voiced in one of the Pseudepigraphal books: "Then shall the heart of the inhabitants of the world be changed, and be converted to a different spirit. For evil shall be blotted out, and deceit extinguished. Faithfulness shall flourish, and corruption be vanquished. And, truth, which for so long a time has been without fruit, shall be made manifest";
573 "But the Day of Judgment shall be the end of this age and the beginning of the eternal age that is to come; wherein corruption is passed away, weakness is abolished, infidelity is cut off; while righteousness is grown and faithfulness is sprung up ".574

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