Sunday, June 17, 2012

Particularism and Cosmopolitanism

Prof. Paul Eidelberg,President
Israel-America Renaissance Institute

Unlike Christianity and Islam,
Judaism synthesizes Particularism and Cosmopolitanism. This
unique quality of Judaism is developed in depth by the Italian Rabbi Eliyahu Benamozegh,
a philosopher and theologian whose magnum opus, Israel and Humanity, was
posthumously published in 1914.

To begin with,
Rabbi Benamozegh mentions some of the ethnic and parochial aspects of the
Mosaic Law, such as those that depend on the seasons and geography of Eretz
Israel. For example, the Passover is
linked to the Israel spring, and the Great Sanhedrin can only function on the
Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Moreover, God
promises that He will establish His dwelling place in Eretz Israel, where the
Jews will obtain salvation. But what about the salvation of the Gentiles, who
are also created in the image of God? Benamozegh answers:

If there were
no way to salvation available to Gentiles outside the Mosaic Law, we should
expect to see in Judaism a much more pronounced tendency to proselytism, and
not only a peaceful proselytism which exhorts more by means of the word than by
act, and still more by example than by word, but also an ardent proselytism of
conquest, which would never tire or promising eternal damnation [as in
Christianity and Islam] to all who fail to convert to the only true religion. What we find, however, is something radically
different. The cautious reserve with which Israel addresses the Gentiles is
incompatible with the conviction that it alone possesses the means of
salvation. Its respect for other beliefs
may seem even to verge on indifference …

Of course,
Israel, the bearer of ethical and intellectual monotheism, cannot be
indifferent to other beliefs. Its monotheism is intimately linked to man’s
creation in the image of God, that verse of Holy Writ which allows us to speak
of the idea of the human community—a verse rejected by Islam as blasphemous! In
the light of that verse, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch says that “Jews are obliged
to deal more fairly with non-Jews. A wrong committed against a fellow-Jew is an
ordinary sin, but a wrong committed against a non-Jew is in addition the
capital sin of profaning the name of God, the sanctification of which is
Israel’s mission and destiny.”

The liberality of Mosaism stands in stark
contrast with prejudices about Jewish particularism (or parochialism). On the
one hand, says Benamozegh, the “local, ethnic quality of Mosaism and its nearly
total absence of organized proselytism are ample proof that the religion of
Israel is not destined to become the universal religion.” On the other hand,
“Israel insists on declaring that certain general principles are obligatory for
every human creature, a code of laws that cannot be evaded with impunity, whose
observance is required by divine justice.”

then asks: “Can we doubt that Israel believes itself in possession of a
religion which is universal in a way [complete] Mosaism is not, a religion
whose basic substance appears even in Scriptures? Can there be any doubt that
here is that other aspect of the Law, which addresses all men and all epochs
[namely, the Seven Noahide laws of Universal Morality]?

Now consider
the Temple Mount, whose significance is inseparable from Jerusalem. The site had been sanctified since the time
of Abraham:

HaShem said to Abram, “Go for yourself from your land, from your
relatives, and you’re your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And
I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great,
and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you; and him who
curses you I will curse; and all the families of the earth shall bless
themselves by you” (Gen. 12:1-3).

In the
political theology of Judaism, the Temple Mount is the avis mundi, the
exact point at which the terrestrial and the heavenly conjoin.

Jerusalem and
the Temple Mount are therefore of supreme political-theological importance in
Judaism. Jerusalem is mentioned more than 800 times in the Hebrew Bible. Jews
throughout the world turn in their prayers toward Jerusalem. In contrast,
Muslims, whose Quran never once mentions Jerusalem, turn in their prayers to
Mecca with their backsides turned toward Jerusalem and the Temple Mount!

Perhaps this
fact should be mentioned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if and when he
next addresses the Congress of the United States?

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