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- Judaism - 4/11 -


singleness; and (v) God exercises a continual providence for the benefit of the world, caring for His creatures like a parent for his children.

Philo's lead found no imitators. It was not for many centuries that two causes led the Synagogue to formulate a creed. And even then it was not the Synagogue as a body that acted, nor was it a creed that resulted. The first cause was the rise of sects within the Synagogue. Of these sects the most important was that of the Karaites or Scripturalists. Rejecting tradition, the Karaites expounded their beliefs both as a justification of themselves against the Traditionalists and possibly as a remedy against their own tendency to divide within their own order into smaller sects. In the middle of the twelfth century the Karaite Judah Hadassi of Constantinople arranged the whole Pentateuch under the headings of the Decalogue, much as Philo had done long before. And so he formulates ten dogmas of Judaism. These are--(i) Creation (as opposed to the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity of the world); (ii) the existence of God; (iii) God is one and incorporeal; (iv) Moses and the other canonical prophets were called by God; (v) the Law is the Word of God, it is complete, and the Oral Tradition was unnecessary; (vi) the Law must be read by the Jew in the original Hebrew; (vii) the Temple of Jerusalem was the place chosen by God for His manifestation; (viii) the Resurrection of the dead; (ix) the Coming of Messiah, son of David; (x) Final Judgment and Retribution.

Within the main body of the Synagogue we have to wait for the same moment for a formulation of Articles of Faith. Maimonides (1135-1204) was a younger contemporary of Hadassi; he it was that drew up the one and only set of principles which have ever enjoyed wide authority in Judaism. Before Maimonides there had been some inclination towards a creed, but he is the first to put one into set terms. Maimonides was much influenced by Aristotelianism, and this gave him an impulse towards a logical statement of the tenets of Judaism. On the other side, he was deeply concerned by the criticism of Judaism from the side of Mohammedan theologians. The latter contended, in particular, that the biblical anthropomorphisms were destructive of a belief in the pure spirituality of God. Hence Maimonides devoted much of his great treatise, _Guide for the Perplexed_, to a philosophical allegorisation of the human terms applied to God in the Hebrew Bible. In his Commentary on the _Mishnah_ (Sanhedrin, Introduction to Chelek), Maimonides declares 'The roots of our law and its fundamental principles are thirteen.' These are--(i) Belief in the existence of God, the Creator; (ii) belief in the unity of God; (iii) belief in the incorporeality of God; (iv) belief in the priority and eternity of God; (v) belief that to God and to God alone worship must be offered; (vi) belief in prophecy; (vii) belief that Moses was the greatest of all prophets; (viii) belief that the Law was revealed from heaven; (ix) belief that the Law will never be abrogated, and that no other Law will ever come from God; (x) belief that God knows the works of men; (xi) belief in reward and punishment; (xii) belief in the coming of the Messiah; (xiii) belief in the resurrection of the dead.'

Now here we have for the first time a set of beliefs which were a test of Judaism. Maimonides leaves no doubt as to his meaning. For he concluded by saying: 'When all these principles of faith are in the safe keeping of a man, and his conviction of them is well established, he then enters into the general body of Israel'; and, on the other hand: 'When, however, a man breaks away from any one of these fundamental principles of belief, then of him it is said that he has gone out of the general body of Israel and he denies the root-truths of Judaism.' This formulation of a dogmatic test was never confirmed by any body of Rabbis. No Jew was ever excommunicated for declaring his dissent from these articles. No Jew was ever called upon formally to express his assent to them. But, as Professor Schechter justly writes: 'Among the Maimonists we may probably include the great majority of Jews, who accepted the Thirteen Articles without further question. Maimonides must have filled up a great gap in Jewish theology, a gap, moreover, the existence of which was very generally perceived. A century had hardly lapsed before the Thirteen Articles had become a theme for the poets of the Synagogue. And almost every country can show a poem or a prayer founded on these Articles' (_Studies in Judaism_, p. 301).

Yet the opposition to the Articles was both impressive and persistent. Some denied altogether the admissibility of Articles, claiming that the whole Law and nothing but the Law was the Charter of Judaism. Others criticised the Maimonist Articles in detail. Certainly they are far from logically drawn up, some paragraphs being dictated by opposition to Islam rather than by positive needs of the Jewish position. A favourite condensation was a smaller list of three Articles: (i) Existence of God; (ii) Revelation; and (iii) Retribution. These three Articles are usually associated with the name of Joseph Albo (1380-1444), though they are somewhat older. There is no doubt but that these Articles found, in recent centuries, more acceptance than the Maimonist Thirteen, though the latter still hold their place in the orthodox Jewish Prayer Books. They may be found in the _Authorised Daily Prayer Book_, ed. Singer, p. 89.

Moses Mendelssohn (1728-1786), who strongly maintained that Judaism is a life, not a creed, made the practice of formulating Articles of Judaism unfashionable. But not for long. More and more, Judaic ritual has fallen into disregard since the French Revolution. Judaism has therefore tended to express itself as a system of doctrines rather than as a body of practices. And there was a special reason why the Maimonist Articles could not remain. Reference is not meant to the fact that many Jews came to doubt the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch. But there were lacking in the Maimonist Creed all emotional elements. On the one hand, Maimonides, rationalist and anti-Mystic as he was, makes no allowance for the doctrine of the Immanence of God. Then, owing to his unemotional nature, he laid no stress on all the affecting and moving associations of the belief in the Mission of Israel as the Chosen People. Before Maimonides, if there had been one dogma of Judaism at all, it was the Election of Israel. Jehuda Halevi, the greatest of the Hebrew poets of the Middle Ages, had at the beginning of the twelfth century, some half century before Maimonides, given expression to this in the famous epigram: 'Israel is to the nations like the heart to the limbs.'

Though, however, the Creed of Maimonides has no position of authority in the Synagogue, modern times have witnessed no successful intrusion of a rival. Most writers of treatises on Judaism prefer to describe rather than to define the religious tenets of the faith. In America there have been several suggestions of a Creed. Articles of faith have been there chiefly formulated for the reception of proselytes. This purpose is a natural cause of precision in belief; for while one who already stands within by birth or race is rarely called upon to justify his faith, the newcomer is under the necessity to do so. In the pre-Christian Judaism it is probable that there was a Catechism or short manual of instruction called in Greek the _Didache_, in which the Golden Rule in Hillel's negative form and the Decalogue occupied a front place. Thus we find, too, modern American Jews formulating Articles of Faith as a Proselyte Confession. In 1896 the Central Conference of American Rabbis adopted the following five principles for such a Confession: (i) God the Only One; (ii) Man His Image; (iii) Immortality of the Soul; (iv) Retribution; (v) Israel's Mission. During the past few months a tract, entitled 'Essentials of Judaism,' has been issued in London by the Jewish Religious Union. The author, N. S. Joseph, is careful to explain that he is not putting forth these principles as 'dogmatic Articles of Faith,' and that they are solely 'suggestive outlines of belief which may be gradually imparted to children, the outlines being afterwards filled up by the teacher. But the eight paragraphs of these Essentials are at once so ably compiled and so informing as to the modern trend of Jewish belief that they will be here cited without comment.

According then to this presentation, the Essentials of Judaism are: '(i) There is One Eternal God, who is the sole Origin of all things and forces, and the Source of all living souls. He rules the universe with justice, righteousness, mercy, and love. (ii) Our souls, emanating from God, are immortal, and will return to Him when our life on earth ceases. While we are here, our souls can hold direct communion with God in prayer and praise, and in silent contemplation and admiration of His works. (iii) Our souls are directly responsible to God for the work of our life on earth. God, being All-merciful, will judge us with loving-kindness, and being All-just, will allow for our imperfections; and we, therefore, need no mediator and no vicarious atonement to ensure the future welfare of our souls. (iv) God is the One and only God. He is Eternal and Omnipresent. He not only pervades the entire world, but is also within us; and His Spirit helps and leads us towards goodness and truth. (v) Duty should be the moving force of our life; and the thought that God is always in us and about us should incite us to lead good and beneficent lives, showing our love of God by loving our fellow-creatures, and working for their happiness and betterment with all our might. (vi) In various bygone times God has revealed, and even in our own days continues to reveal to us, something of His nature and will, by inspiring the best and wisest minds with noble thoughts and new ideas, to be conveyed to us in words, so that this world may constantly improve and grow happier and better. (vii) Long ago some of our forefathers were thus inspired, and they handed down to us--and through us to the world at large--some of God's choicest gifts, the principles of Religion and Morality, now recorded in our Bible; and these spiritual gifts of God have gradually spread among our fellow-men, so that much of our religion and of its morality has been adopted by them. (viii) Till the main religious and moral principles of Judaism have been accepted by the world at large, the maintenance by the Jews of a separate corporate existence is a religious duty incumbent upon them. They are the "witnesses" of God, and they must adhere to their religion, showing forth its truth and excellence to all mankind. This has been and is and will continue to be their mission. Their public worship and private virtues must be the outward manifestation of the fulfilment of that mission.'

CHAPTER IV

SOME CONCEPTS OF JUDAISM

Though there are no accepted Articles of Faith in Judaism, there is a complete consensus of opinion that Monotheism is the basis of the religion. The Unity of God was more than a doctrine. It was associated with the noblest hope of Israel, with Israel's Mission to the world.

The Unity of God was even more than a hope. It was an inspiration, a passion. For it the Jews 'passed through fire and water,' enduring tribulation and death for the sake of the Unity. All the Jewish martyrologies are written round this text.

In one passage the Talmud actually defines the Jew as the Monotheist. 'Whoever repudiates the service of other gods is called a Jew' (Megillah, 13 a).

But this all-pervading doctrine of the Unity did not reach Judaism as an abstract philosophical truth. Hence, though the belief in the Unity of God, associated as it was with the belief in the Spirituality of God, might have been expected to lead to the conception of an Absolute, Transcendent Being such as we meet in Islam, it did not so lead in Judaism. Judaism never attempted to define God at all. Maimonides put the seal on the reluctance of Jewish theology to go beyond, or to fall short of, what historic Judaism delivered. Judaism wavers between the two opposite conceptions: absolute transcendentalism and absolute pantheism. Sometimes Judaism speaks with the voice of Isaiah; sometimes with the voice of Spinoza. It found the bridge in the Psalter. 'The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon Him.' The Law brought heaven to earth; Prayer raised earth to heaven.


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