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January 15, 1988 - Image 78

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-01-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

RELIGION

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80

FRIDAY, JANUARY 15, 1988

27260 Haggerty Rd., #A9
Farmington Hills, MI

Continued from preceding page

"New Testament" but with a re-arrange-
ment of the order of the "Old 'Testament"
books. The Jewish Bible (Tanach) ends
with the Writings, e.g., Proverbs, Psalms
and in the concluding book of Chronicles
with an historical resume of Biblical
history. The last verse in Chronicles II
refers to Cyrus King of Persia who is
charged by God to build His house in
Jerusalem, i.e., to re-build the Temple.
Cyrus who in Isaiah 45:1 is referred to as
Messiah "anointed" proclaims to the
Jewish exiles "whoever is among you of
His people may the Lord be with him. Let
him go up." In the Christian re-ordering of
the Jewish Bible, the last books are from
the Prophets, specifically the prophet
Malachi. Here the last verse reads "lest I
come and smite the earth with a curse." In
this manner the Christian canonizer of the
Old 'Testament has removed the hope of
Jewish return to Zion and replaced it with
threat of Israel rejected. On that ordering
of the testaments, Jesus succeeds and sup-
plants the Hebrew prophets. With the re-
ordering of the Hebrew texts, Israel's
tragic destiny is scripturally foreshadowed.
The old covenant is broken and Israel
depends for its redemption upon accept-
ance of the New covenant and the resur-
rected Savior.
And, too, the universal burden of original
sin the particularistic sin of deicide, the
betrayal and killing of the son of God. The
episode of the Roman procurator Pontius
Pilate washing his hands of the blood of
the Jews to be crucified and the obdurate
insistence of the mob of Jews crying
"crucify him, crucify him," is dramatized
in Easter Passion Plays and in such com-
mercial dramas as Godspell, and Jesus
Christ Superstar. To the contagion of the
original sin is added the culpability for the
rejection and mortification of Jesus. The
chilling words in Matthew 27:25 put into
the mouths of the Jewish mob, "His blood
be on us and on our children," augurs the
history of contempt for "the perfidious
Jew" so virulent in the hands of the mobs
as to defy even the restraints of higher
church officials.

BAPTISM AND CIRCUMCISION
Sam and Peggy are oblivious to the
theological, moral and emotional contradic-
tions in circumcision and baptism. For
them, both are items of ritual
choreography devoid of theological roots or
psychological consequences. But baptism
and circumcision are far from complemen-
tary dramas. Baptism is predicated upon
an anthropological pessimism. Man is born
in the womb of sin. Since there is nothing
that a sinner can do in terms of works or
reparation to expiate that innate and
humanly ineradicable blemish, his sole
recourse is to throw himself upon a super-
natural Other who assumed the burden of
suffering atonement for all others. For all
others, the atonement is gained vicarious-

ly. As Luther expressed it, the believer
becomes "velut paralyticum," as one
paralyzed, abandoning the conceit of his
own deeds, utterly dependent on the self-
sacrifices of the innocent lamb of God.
Circumcision is the initiation into
the covenant with God and Abraham. The
eight-day old child carries no baggage of
sin with him into the world. He is no alien
flung into the hands of demonic powers.
The Christian infant prior to his baptism
is a pagan, the Jewish child is Jewish even
before or without the rite of circumcision.
The Jewish child is born innocent, body
and soul, created and sustained in God's
image. He has no need to be saved because
no Satan threatens him, no eternal dam-
nation hovers over him. As a Jew he will
be raised in a tradition that mandates him
to save lives, not souls.
For Christianity, man sins because he is
a sinner. For Judaism, man sins when he
sins. Of course, he will sin — not because
he enters the world condemned as a sinner,
but because he is a fallible human being
and "there is no righteous human being
who has done good and does not trans-
gress." (Ecclesiastes). The sin is his or hers,
the choice is his or hers, and the reparation
to be done is his or hers.
No one can sin for another, cry or die for
another, or absolve another. No confessors,
intercessors, surrogates or substitutes can
stand in for another's turning from sin. No

Judaism and Christianity are
particular languages, with
preciously unique syntaxes,
which when thrown together
produce a babble of tongues.

one can shower, bathe, clean himself that
the other shall be clean. "Wash yourself
clean," Isaiah addresses the penitent, "put
away the evil doings from before Mine eyes;
cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek
judgement, relieve the oppressed, the
fatherless, plead for the widow." Com-
munion with God is without rabbinic or
priestly mediation. "Blessed are you Israel.
Before whom are you purified and who
purifies you? Your Father who art in
heaven." (Yoma Talmud).
The divine-human connection in Juda-
ism is unmediated. Moreover, whereas in
Christianity the relationship between self
and God is a vertical relationship, the
Jewish connection with God is horizontal.
The horizontal human transactions that
call for reparation, forgiveness and apology
for the injuries of others cannot be skipped
over by a vertical leap between the in-
dividual and God in heaven, ignoring the
proper relationships with God's children on
earth. The prophet Ezekiel (33) makes it
clear what the truly penitent is to do. "If

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