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- Judaism - 5/11 -

As was remarked above, Jewish theology never shrank from inconsistency. It accepted at once God's foreknowledge and man's free-will. So it described the knowledge of God as far above man's reach; yet it felt God near, sympathetic, a Father and Friend. The liturgy of the Synagogue has been well termed a 'precipitate' of all the Jewish teaching as to God. He is the Great, the Mighty, the Awful, the Most High, the King. But He is also the Father, Helper, Deliverer, the Peace-Maker, Supporter of the weak, Healer of the sick. All human knowledge is a direct manifestation of His grace. Man's body, with all its animal functions, is His handiwork. He created joy, and made the Bridegroom and the Bride. He formed the fruit of the Vine, and is the Source of all the lawful pleasures of men. He is the Righteous Judge; but He remembers that man is dust, He pardons sins, and His loving-kindness is over all. He is unchangeable, yet repentance can avert the evil decree. He is in heaven, yet he puts the love and fear of Him into man's very heart. He breathed the Soul into man, and is faithful to those that sleep in the grave. He is the Reviver of the dead. He is Holy, and He sanctified Israel with His commandments. And the whole is pervaded with the thought of God's Unity and the consequent unity of mankind. Here again we meet the curious syncretism which we have so often observed. God is in a special sense the God of Israel; but He is unequivocally, too, the God of all flesh.

Moses Mendelssohn said that, when in the company of a Christian friend, he never felt the remotest desire to convert him to Judaism. This is the explanation of the effect on the Jews of the combined belief in God as the God of Israel, and also as the God of all men. At one time Judaism was certainly a missionary religion. But after the loss of nationality this quality was practically dormant. Belief was not necessary to salvation. 'The pious of all nations have a part in the world to come' may have been but a casual utterance of an ancient Rabbi, but it rose into a settled conviction of later Judaism. Moreover, it was dangerous for Jews to attempt any religious propaganda in the Middle Ages, and thus the pressure of fact came to the support of theory. Mendelssohn even held that the same religion was not necessarily good for all, just as the same form of government may not fit equally all the various national idiosyncrasies. Judaism for the Jew may almost be claimed as a principle of orthodox Judaism. It says to the outsider: You may come in if you will, but we warn you what it means. At all events it does not seek to attract. It is not strange that this attitude has led to unpopularity. The reason of this resentment is not that men wish to be invited to join Judaism; it lies rather in the sense that the absence of invitation implies an arrogant reserve. To some extent this is the case. The old-fashioned Jew is inclined to think himself superior to other men. Such a thought has its pathos.

On the other hand, the national as contrasted with the universal aspect of Judaism is on the wane. Many Jewish liturgies have, for instance, eliminated the prayers for the restoration of sacrifices; and several have removed or spiritualised the petitions for the recovery of the Jewish nationality. Modern reformed Judaism is a universalistic Judaism. It lays stress on the function of Israel, the Servant, as a 'Light to the Nations.' It tends to eliminate those ceremonies and beliefs which are less compatible with a universal than with, a racial religion. Modern Zionism is not a real reaction against this tendency. For Zionism is either non-religious or, if religious, brings to the front what has always been a corrective to the nationalism of orthodox Judaism. For the separation of Israel has ever been a means to an end; never an end in itself. Often the end has been forgotten in the means, but never for long. The end of Israel's separateness is the good of the world. And the religious as distinct from the merely political Zionist who thinks that Judaism would gain by a return to Palestine is just the one who also thinks that return is a necessary preliminary to the Messianic Age, when all men shall flow unto Zion and seek God there. Reformed Jews would have to be Zionists also in this sense, were it not that many of them no longer share the belief in the national aspects of the prophecies as to Israel's future. These may believe that the world may become full of the knowledge of God without any antecedent withdrawal of Israel from the world.

If Judaism as a system of doctrine is necessarily syncretistic in its conception of God, then we may expect the same syncretism in its theory of God's relation to man. It must be said at once that the term 'theory' is ill-chosen. It is laid to the charge of Judaism that it has no 'theory' of Sin. This is true. If virtue and righteousness are obedience, then disobedience is both vice and sin. No further theory was required or possible. Atonement is reversion to obedience. Now it was said above that the doctrine of the Unity did not reach Judaism as a philosophical truth exactly defined and apprehended. It came as the result of a long historic groping for the truth, and when it came it brought with it olden anthropomorphic wrappings and tribal adornments which were not easily to be discarded, if they ever were entirely discarded. So with the relation of God to man in general and Israel in particular. The unchangeable God is not susceptible to the change implied in Atonement. But history presented to the Jew examples of what he could not otherwise interpret than as reconciliation between God the Father and Israel the wayward but always at heart loyal Son. And this interpretation was true to the inward experience. Man's repentance was correlated with the sorrow of God. God as well as man repented, the former of punishment, the latter of sin. The process of atonement included contrition, confession, and change of life. Undoubtedly Jewish theology lays the greatest stress on the active stage of the process. Jewish moralists use the word Teshubah (literally 'turning' or 'return,' _i.e._ a turning from evil or a return to God) chiefly to mean a change of life. Sin is evil life, atonement is the better life. The better life was attained by fasting, prayer, and charity, by a purification of the heart and a cleansing of the hands. The ritual side of atonement was seriously weakened by the loss of the Temple. The sacrificial atonement was gone. Nothing replaced it ritually. Hence the Jewish tendency towards a practical religion was strengthened by its almost enforced stress in atonement on moral betterment. But this moral betterment depended on a renewed communion with God. Sin estranged, atonement brought near. Jewish theology regarded sin as a triumph of the _Yetser Ha-ra_ (the 'evil inclination') over the _Yetser Ha-tob_ (the 'good inclination'). Man was always liable to fall a prey to his lower self. But such a fall, though usual and universal, was not inevitable. Man reasserted his higher self when he curbed his passions, undid the wrong he had wrought to others, and turned again to God with a contrite heart. As a taint of the soul, sin was washed away by the suppliant's tears and confession, by his sense of loss, his bitter consciousness of humiliation, but withal man was helpless without God. God was needed for the atonement. Israel never dreamed of putting forward his righteousness as a claim to pardon. 'We are empty of good works' is the constant refrain of the Jewish penitential appeals. The final reliance is on God and on God alone. Yet Judaism took over from its past the anthropomorphic belief that God could be moved by man's prayers, contrition, amendment--especially by man's amendment. Atonement was only real when the amendment began; it only lasted while the amendment endured. Man must not think to throw his own burden entirely on God. God will help him to bear it, and will lighten the weight from willing shoulders. But bear it man can and must. The shoulders must be at all events willing.

Judaism as a theology stood or fell by its belief that man can affect God. If, for instance, prayer had no validity, then Judaism had no basis. Judaism did not distinguish between the objective and subjective efficacy of prayer. The two went together. The acceptance of the will of God and the inclining of God's purpose to the desire of man were two sides of one fact. The Rabbinic Judaism did not mechanically posit, however, the objective validity of prayer. On the contrary, the man who prayed expecting an answer was regarded as arrogant and sinful. A famous Talmudic prayer sums up the submissive aspect of the Jew in this brief petition (Berachoth, 29 a): 'Do Thy will in heaven above, and grant contentment of spirit to those that fear Thee below; and that which is good in Thine eyes do. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who hearest prayer.' This, be it remembered, was the prayer of a Pharisee. So, too, a very large portion of all Jewish prayer is not petition but praise. Still, Judaism believed, not that prayer would be answered, but that it could be answered. In modern times the chief cause of the weakening of religion all round, in and out of the Jewish communion, is the growing disbelief in the objective validity of prayer. And a similar remark applies to the belief in miracles. But to a much less extent. All ancient religions were based on miracle, and even to the later religious consciousness a denial of miracle seems to deny the divine Omnipotence. Jewish theology from the Rabbinic age sought to evade the difficulty by the mystic notion that all miracles were latent in ordered nature at the creation. And so the miraculous becomes interconnected with Providence as revealed in history. But the belief in special miracles recurs again and again in Judaism, and though discarded by most reformed theologies, must be admitted as a prevailing concept of the older religion.

But the belief was rather in general than in special Providence. There was a communal solidarity which made most of the Jewish prayers communal more than personal. It is held by many that in the Psalter 'I' in the majority of cases means the whole people. The sense of brotherhood, in other relations besides public worship, is a perennial characteristic of Judaism.

Even more marked is this in the conception of the family. The hallowing of home-life was one of the best features of Judaism. Chastity was the mark of men and women alike. The position of the Jewish woman was in many ways high. At law she enjoyed certain privileges and suffered certain disabilities. But in the house she was queen. Monogamy had been the rule of Jewish life from the period of the return from the Babylonian Exile. In the Middle Ages the custom of monogamy was legalised in Western Jewish communities. Connected with the fraternity of the Jewish communal organisation and the incomparable affection and mutual devotion of the home-life was the habit of charity. Charity, in the sense both of almsgiving and of loving-kindness, was the virtue of virtues. The very word which in the Hebrew Bible means righteousness means in Rabbinic Hebrew charity. 'On three things the world stands,' says a Rabbi, 'on law, on public worship, and on the bestowal of loving-kindness.'

Some other concepts of Judaism and their influence on character will be treated in a later chapter. Here a final word must be said on the Hallowing of Knowledge.

In one of the oldest prayers of the Synagogue, repeated thrice daily, occurs this paragraph: 'Thou dost graciously bestow on man knowledge, and teachest mortals understanding; O let us be graciously endowed by Thee with knowledge, understanding, and discernment. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, gracious Giver of Knowledge.' The intellect was to be turned to the service of the God from whom intelligence emanated. The Jewish estimate of intellect and learning led to some unamiable contempt of the fool and the ignoramus. But the evil tendency of identifying learning with religion was more than mitigated by the encouragement which this concept gave to education. The ideal was that every Jew must be a scholar, or at all events a student. Obscurantism could not for any lengthy period lodge itself in the Jewish camp. There was no learned caste. The fact that the Bible and much of the most admired literature was in Hebrew made most Jews bilingual at least. But it was not merely that knowledge was useful, that it added dignity to man, and realised part of his possibilities. The service of the Lord called for the dedication of the reason as well as for the purification of the heart. The Jew had to think as well as feel He had to serve with the mind as well as with the body. Therefore it was that he was always anxious to justify his religion to his reason. Maimonides devoted a large section of his _Guide_ to the explanation of the motives of the commandments. And his example was imitated. The Law was the expression of the Will of God, and obeyed and loved as such. But the Law was also the expression of the Divine Reason. Hence man had the right and the duty to examine and realise how his own human reason was satisfied by the Law. In a sense the Jew was a quite

Judaism - 5/11

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