Judaism Seeks Salvation for a Race, Not for Individuals
July 30, 2009
by Roy Tov
Christianity poses a singular threat to Jewish leadership. Universally, religion deals with salvation or redemption of the human soul. Judaism speaks about an ethnic salvation, provided the group fulfills the 613 Mosaic Laws written in the Pentateuch, the Bible's first five books. The laws' fulfillment is enforced and monitored by a dedicated group of priests.
In essence, the individuals' good-standing depends on the priests' judgment. As a result this is a powerful control tool over the general population. Since most of the population is not instructed on law, and moral values are not taught to them, they can be easily manipulated as per the priests' political goals at any given moment.
This became a model for the leaders of the young State of Israel. They created a country without constitution - nor set borders - in which laws could be changed quickly and unpredictably. Every citizen is in danger of becoming guilty of yesterday's crime which is today's law. A good relationship with the ever watchful authorities is the only assurance of receiving a redemptive wink.
It went even deeper. The tone of a typical Israeli conversation is highly ironic and displays a harsh and almost automatic criticism of the other person. Unlike British humor, the Israeli never points this weapon at himself. Under such circumstances, no deed or word are good enough for achieving redemption - i.e. social acceptance by a fellow citizen.
The result is that people seldom relax and create nurturing, positive relations with their peers. Every conversation is a battlefield, every friend hides a foe. Every dispute or criticism may deteriorate and lead to excommunication and the loss of the promised redemption.
Even those who grew up far away from a religious education were heavily indoctrinated on the importance of collective identity. "We don't do that," and "We do this" are the ubiquitous and unquestioned mantras of Jewish-Israeli society.
People proclaimed the opinions of their ethnic and religious groups, using "we" more often than "I." By repeating the views expected of them Israelis spared themselves the need to think or express their true opinions.
Jesus broke up this line of reasoning. He taught about personal redemption based on faith and love, of having direct access to God through our prayers and thus of being independent from priests. He preached the Kingdom of God, a society based on justice and love. Such a society can exist within the framework of a modern state, but it would lead to the loss of power by the few men thriving under Pharisaic modeled societies.
The result was that Jesus was considered an enemy from the beginning. His teachings and the New Testament were banned. So were many of the prophets who had made clear allusions to a Messiah resembling Jesus and of a New Covenant based on love and forgiveness. Therefore, the Pharisaic and rabbinical communities restricted their studies and commentaries to the Pentateuch. The other Old Testament books became nothing more than historic literature.
Even in my quasi-Communist high school - which claimed to be secular - we skipped Chapter 53 of the Book of Isaiah, which contains the clearest and exact allusion to Jesus, His deeds and the New Covenant in the Old Testament. The original text in Hebrew is even clearer than most translations into Indo-European languages. Isaiah's complex language always contains a subtext that is lost in the translations. In verse five, he doesn't only claim that His wounds would heal us, but he also hinted that we are healed by His companionship, delivering much of the Christian doctrine in just a few words.
Since it's difficult to attack a preaching of love and peace, the approach chosen by the Pharisees was complex. Jesus and His period were scarcely mentioned in Israeli history classes. Instead, greater emphasis was placed on deviant Christians who moved away from His teachings and committed atrocities.
The Spanish Inquisition was a central topic; the tortures were studied in excruciating detail. In that way, few of us would feel inclined to learn more about Christianity and the priests would keep their positions and the huge material and political benefits accompanying them. We were encouraged to fear Christianity.
The model was adopted by the State of Israel. For such a method to work in a modern state, two things were imperative. The first was a Jewish majority and thus the "Law of Return" granting immediate citizenship to any Jew immigrating to Israel was the first law legislated by the Israeli parliament.This created a new problem, namely defining "Who is a Jew?" which is still unresolved.
The second was giving the priests control over key points of citizens' lives: birth, marriage and burial. Even nowadays, these events are controlled exclusively by religious authorities while basic human rights are grossly ignored.