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Judaism


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©  Wim van den Dungen
Antwerp, 2017.

Salvation or redemption as "liberation" is the fulfillment of the unique covenant YHVH (or "Yahweh"), the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob made with the Jewish people, exemplified by Moses, hidden in & revealed by the Torah. The "resurrection" is a corporate reward belonging to the righteous among the nations as well as those of Israel. Humans are created in God's image and after His likeness. Liberation is given to every member of Israel, but realization only to the Messiah.

Rabbinical theology is a commentary (Talmud) on the Torah. It elucidates the different perspectives on the Divine concealed therein. Divine bi-polarity ("Ain Soph" named "YHVH" versus the "Elohîm") is coupled with a theomonism which does not exclude God-in-Nature (cf. "Elohîm") or His Presence in the world (cf. the "Shekinah"). Israel is the chosen one among the nations. Moses differs from other prophets, for he, fully awake, is able to commune with God when the Sun is above the horizon (cf. "I am and will be"). Theology makes Israel understand the 613 precepts and live a just life, expecting the final restoration of everything in God, i.e. His Kingdom, flowing to the final and unique unity of transcendence & immanence (cf. Qabalah).

THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF SPIRITUALITY :
LIVE ACCORDING TO THE 613 PRECEPTS

The Divine has two sides : compassion ("Chesed") and justice ("Geburah"). When justice is not balanced by compassion, evil ensues. There is another (anthropological) pair which is a reflection of this and which is also meant to be balanced : the good inclination ("yetzer hatov") and the evil one ("yetzer hara") residing in the heart of every human. These opposing drives propel humanity in different directions. Good & evil are not clear-cut, but each has its time & place. Through understanding ("Binah") man distinguished good from evil. A person's evil inclination must be bent as a prerequisite for repentance.

Although God created good & evil, in Messianic times humanity realize all manifestations of God's will are genuinely good, and everyone will bless "the Good One Who does good" (Pesachim, 50a). When all positive (248) and negative (365) precepts which pertain to relations with God are kept, the highest ethical level is reached in both this World & that to Come. The Torah is the "good acquisition" (Proverbs 4:2). By following & observing its teaching, God guarantees "that it may be well with thee and that thou mayest prolong thy days" (Deuteronomy 22:7).

What more have we to hope for ? It says it all.

Sub-traditions : Ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed
;

Criticism of Judaism :

§ 1/- Leibowitz understands Judaism as an "institutional religion", implying there can be not such a thing as a Jewish religion without the 613 precepts or practical rules. The cravings of humanity which have no place in these laws ("halakha"), or systematic model of precepts ("mitzvat") are firmly rejected. Obedience to this system of religious laws is the supreme goal. The question "Why ?" can not be asked, for it does not apply to supreme goals. A goal is "supreme" when is is never used as a means to something outside it. How to reconcile a metaphysics of change with the dogmatic notion of a manifestation in the form of unalterable & complete sacred texts ?

§ 2/- As the 9th blessing of the Amidah shows, Israel is of Earth. People seek "a good reward for their labour." (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Traditionally a nation of farmers, material prosperity has always played an important role. Although in the last 2500 years, more than one Jewish ascetic has argued poverty is to be recommended above wealth, Israel's institutions have always stressed the importance of a balance between spiritual & temporal needs. The 9th blessing indicates that although God is called "the eternal", Israel hopes by her prayers God will adjust the natural laws of His Universe "in this year". Moreover, it is God who knows when the fertilizing rains will come and produce a plenty and so Israel's wealth is believed to be the direct result of His will. If God is able to send the rain on time, so why does He not reveal new precepts ? Israel believes their number is absolute and so prefers to short-circuit a short-circuit rather than to allow pious patients to be transported by elevators (cf. the learned treatises on how to use electrical devices on the Sabbath). Why not broaden the steps and carry them ?

§ 3/- The notion of Israel as the "chosen people of God" is alarming. How is it possible the Divine, who reigns over all the worlds, would choose a very small number of people on this already very small planet to become exclusively His ? Although the word "Israel" should be enlarged to mean "the just of all nations", history shows this correction is not followed in the common daily prayers and so can have no major effect on the religious conditioning of a new generation of pious Jews. This is a contradiction "in actu exercito".

"Often mystics have done their utmost to express themselves within the framework of established authority, and were driven to open conflict with it only when they met with too much opposition within their community. (...) In certain cases it can be shown that the mystics began to put an increasingly radical interpretation on their ideas only after such a conflict had been forced upon them." -
Scholem, G. : On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism, Schocken Books - New York, 1965, p.23, my italics.


It is beyond doubt parts of the texts which were organized, edited and rewritten after the Israelites returned from their Babylonian captivity (Jeruzalem was looted in 587 BCE) and came under Persian rule (587 - 331 BCE) were of an earlier date (parts of Exodus and Deuteronomium were probably composed ca. 1260 BCE). How to know which texts go back to the original (oral) composition ? What part of the original was already lost then ? And which contemporary influences were allowed to play a role in the redaction around the time of Ezra ? What about the absence of punctuation ? Clearly Mozes could not have written about his own death & funeral ? Scholars agree we do not know which sources were used and the fact several editors were responsible is very likely. Moreover, traces of the myths recited at Ur can be found in Genesis (cf. the parallel with the Babylonian poem of creation, the Enuma Elisj). In Jeremia, 17:5-8, Psalm 1, 1 Samuel, 2:6ff and in the Book of Job (4:17-20), traces of the Ancient Egyptian Instruction of Amen-em-apt, son of Kanakht (ca. 1292 - 1075 B.C.E.E) can be found.

During the Persian rule, the Old Testament as we know it did not exist. In the Septuagint, the Name of God was badly translated and hence crucial theological subtlety was lost (the plural "ALHYM" became the singular "Theos", and "YHVH" became "Kyrios", eclipsing the ineffable bi-polar nature of the Divine). The presence of the Qumrân scrolls is proof of textual inventivity and its growth (the first Qumrân text is dated ca.150 BCE). Different opposing fractions (and texts) existed. After the destruction of the second Temple (70 BCE, 29th of August) all important elements of Jewish faith were recorded and after Rabbi Akiba (who was ca. twenty when Jeruzalem fell) the "final" redaction (incorporating different spelling and ornamentation of certain letters) became a sacred Temple of its own, treated with a reverence as if the Supreme had been personally at work here. Unfortunately, what was left after the execution of Akiba by the Romans ? Only thousands of little pieces of paper found in a synagogue in Caïro ? A critical study of the various levels reveals the composite and layered nature of the Old Testament. Not at all revealed "all at once", but a body of literature sanctified for the sake of the sacred history of the Jews.

A short exposition of the "God" of Israel according to the Qabalah : YHVH, 1995 - 1998.


                 


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initiated : 6 IV 2000 - last update : 31 XII 2012 - version n°33