Nov 15, 2018



Last Name
First Name
W. D.
The Territorial Dimension of Judaism
Fortress Press
Amazon Review/s
Extracts from p. 118-126: The implication of the acceptance of exile in the Tanak and by the rabbis is .... that the relation between Israel and the land is not simply to be understood in terms of occupation or possession of it, and that the destruction of The Land should not, and does not, spell the destruction of the people. Israel has no perpetual, inalienable right to The Land; it can lose possession of it. The Land, in turn, is not an end in itself, but the means whereby the people of Israel are the better to fulfill their destiny--that is, to fulfill the demands of Torah. ... In Jewish tradition, return could be conceived of in two ways, ...[1] as a political event ... in secular political-economic terms ... The Land belonged to Israel because Yahweh had promised it to her. ... To the rabbis, the return would involve the control of The Land. [2]. But again, to the frequent astonishment of non-Jews, much more was involved than this to the sages and their followers, who perceived the dimensions of the question as primarily spiritual. To them, just as exile was conceived as the outcome of the wrath of God, so too the return was to be the manifestation of His gracious purpose for them despite their past disobedience. From this point of view, the return was to be a redemption. What to non-Jews was primarily, if not exclusively, of political significance, for religious Jews was of theological significance. Although the secular thought in terms of return, and the religious in terms of redemption, ultimately because of the nature of the Tanak, upon which, whether consciously or unconsciously, they both drew, the two points of view often dissolved into each other. In the Zionist movement, secular, socialistic Jews constantly found themselves "at home" with the religious elements in the movement, who did not share their political views but provided a common ambit of thought on, or sentiment for, The Land. Nevertheless, just as with seeing the return in terms of the restoration of political rights, seeing it in terms of redemption has certain consequences. If the return were an act of divine intervention, it could not be engineered or forced by political or any other human means: to do so would be impious. That coming was best served by waiting in obedience for it: men of violence would not avail to bring it in. The rabbinic aloofness to messianic claimants sprang not only from the history of disillusionment with such, but from this underlying, deeply ingrained attitude. It can be claimed that under the main rabbinic tradition, Judaism condemned itself to powerlessness. But recognition of powerlessness (rather than a frustrating, futile and tragic resistance) was effective in preserving Judaism in a very hostile Christendom. True to the paradoxical realism of Judaism, moreover, "orthodoxy" did not allow the belief that the return depended upon Divine initiative to prevent it from always holding in principle that a fully dedicated obedience to the Torah could bring about that initiative. ... the significance of the attitude towards their existence in foreign lands and towards the hope of return which we have ascribed to religious Jews is that despite their apparent quietism in the acceptance of the Torah as a portable land--and this, it must be emphasized, is only in an interim ethic--the hope for a return to Eretz Israel was never far from their consciousness. They remained true "in spirit" to the territorial theology of the Tanak ... If not always pilgrims to it in a literal sense, they always set their faces towards The Land. This fidelity has, in turn, strengthened the continuing belief in the "umbilical", eternal connection between the people and it Land and helped to preserve for that Land its "sacredness." In the experience of Jews, theology has informed the interpretation of history, and history in turn has confirmed the theology. ... The intensely "personal" nature between the people and The Land becomes clearest in the use of feminine marital terms to describe it. Martin Buber did not hesitate to speak of the sacred marriage between The Land and the people of Israel, and that The Land is the spouse of Yahweh appears in many passages of the Tanak (Hosea 2:5-23; Jer 3:19-20; Isa 62:4, and the Song of Songs) has been so understood. ... Just as the Christians recognize "the scandal of particularity" in the Incarnation, in Christ, so for many religious Jews ... there is a scandal of territorial particularity in Judaism. However, ... Judaism is not a territorial religion.

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