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SIDIC Periodical XXV - 1992/3
The Stranger in Our Midst (Pages 02 - 10)

Other articles from this issue | Version in English | Version in French

The Other and the Stranger in Biblical and Rabbinic Tradition
Asher Finkel


The Biblical View

When the Bible opened with the story of creation in two parts, it offered a revolutionary truth in the ancient world of nature worship and personalistic mythology. It revealed to humanity the ultimate reality of the Creator-God, whose being is unbegotten and who transcends all knowledge. This God alone creates the cosmos and all therein in goodness and endows humanity with His image. The human being enjoys thereby a freedom to create, shape, discover and choose by his/her own will and thought. The human person remains God's creature, subject to affections, limitations and mortality. Yet, the person possesses an ability to transcend the physical realm through the spirit, the imprint of the divine image. In light of this, all human beings of both genders, with no distinction of color or race, are endowed equally1 with the same quality to enter into a unique relationship with the Creator. They are all God's 'children', who are to become partners to the Creator, since 'all His work was placed under their charge' (Ps. 8:7). They are to carry out God's will in the promotion of good and they assume the responsibility to care for His created world. Through compassion, concern and altruistic love, the person can choose to walk in the way of God, who in 'loving kindness created the world' (Ps. 89:3).

Such a view contrasted with the ancient world of idolatrous religions2 that worshipped powers, promoted self-aggrandizement and displayed lack of empathy. It advanced relativistic morality, determining good and evil by human pleasure and pain, lust and shame. In that world, dictatorship reigned (kings became divine), slavery was practised (people became possessions) and violence was pursued (vengeance became the rule). Conflict was solved by war and desire by confiscation. Thus, the antediluvian period portrays primeval human acts of bloodshed (Cain killing Abel), challenge to transcendental reality (the Tower of Babel), the ravishing of woman (fallen giants) and violence (the pre-Deluge generation), that led to the destruction of humanity and nature (the Deluge).

Four Human Relationships and Biblical Principles

The introductory chapters of the Bible present paradigmatically principles that guide its teachings and laws. Four main ideas are distinguished, at the very beginning, to determine the four basic human relationships3. Those relationships are the transpersonal (between the person and God), the interpersonal (between person and person), the subpersonal (between person and nature) and the intrapersonal (between person and self). In the transpersonal relationship, God is the 'set-apart' (sacred) Reality. He is the Wholly Other, who evokes awe and adoring love from his creatures, especially discerning humans. Blasphemy and the denial of his reality are brazen acts of human rejection of the ultimate principle ('kofer ba'ikkar' in Rabbinic parlance). As such, the person by his/her free will is removed from the relationship with God. In the interpersonal relationship, human life is sacred. It is the gift from God that should be preserved and not destroyed. Through bloodshed the very 'image of God' is eliminated and thereby the homicidal act bespeaks a denial of the ultimate principle. This view also advances the dignity and worth of the person as the vital guide in interpersonal relationships and it posits the 'way of shalom (peace)' as its very aim.

God also intended His human creature to have two genders in order to promote procreation through the union of male and female in marriage (Gen. 2:24). Indeed, the first commandment in the Bible4 is to procreate (1:28). Heterosexual marriage, through mutual content and love, is the sacred institution that gives rise to the natural family in the establishment of social goodness. It is to be guarded by the restrictions of incest and adultery, homosexuality and child abuse, in the Code of Holiness (Lev. 18:20). Rape in the Bible is therefore equated with murder (Deut. 22:26). For it is not only a violent act of egoistic possession of the person but also it ravages human dignity and worth. Not only is violence to the person prohibited, but moreover violence to non-persons as well. In the animal kingdom5, bestiality and inflicting pain are prohibited. In the vegetal world6, cutting fruit bearing trees and the pollution of nature are prohibited. Both the interpersonal and the subpersonal relationships are determined by the imperative of human compassion and love. For violence also desecrates God's created order, which reflects His goodness and love. The aggressive inclination of the human will to do evil comes to challenge God's good intention for people and nature. Only violence finally determined the fate of the world at the time of the Deluge (Gen. 6:11-12). For the 'human machination, the inner thoughts of his heart are but demonic' (Gen. 6:5). Violent behaviour in the interpersonal realm ultimately depends on the intrapersonal realm. Indeed, it becomes the unique focus of the prophetic teachings.

The Biblical aim is to direct the person towards loving kindness or goodness and to shun violence and evil (Ps. 34:15). The intrapersonal realm is affected by the inner struggle7 of 'good and evil inclinations', that provide the person with courage to overcome negative drives and to be 'in the image of God'. This is to be manifested in altruistic love of fellow persons (the interpersonal realm) and in compassion for all creatures (the subpersonal realm). To be 'in the image of God' translates into the emulation of God's attribute of mercy. God himself enters human and natural events in the Biblical narrative to demonstrate his way of love. 'God is good towards all and His compassion is upon all his creatures' (Ps. 145:9). Thus, when the person seeks to love by emulating Him, it fortifies his/her show of love towards others. The commandment of love indeed governs both the transpersonal and the interpersonal realms. Hillel8 succinctly explains that Biblical legislation and teachings are nothing but the commentary to the interpersonal love commandment, which in the Rabbinic view incorporates within it the transpersonal commandment of love. Jesus, his younger contemporary, taught likewise (Matt. 22:35-40).

The Noahide Laws

Five cardinal sins in human behaviour are introduced in the story about Adam9. They are 1) blasphemy, 2) the denial of the ultimate reality of God the Creator and Provider, 3) shedding of blood, 4) violating marriage and family through adultery and incest and 5) violence. Such acts lead to chaos, which resulted in the Deluge. Only one righteous individual, who walked in the way of God, was saved with his family. Then it was Noah who propagated the human race. His descendants (the 'Noahides' in Rabbinic parlance) gave rise to historical civilizations. They are to be guided by Noahide laws, the universal Biblical principles, two cardinal laws are addressed to Noah (Gen. 9:1-7): 6) the prohibition of the violent use of animal flesh and blood in the subpersonal relationship and 7) the administration of law and order in the inter- personal realm. Both are added to arrest the violence that led to chaos for humanity and nature. God the Creator in return promises to maintain the renewal of the natural order (Gen. 8:20-22).

These seven Noahide laws10 offer a universal platform for humankind to live in God's presence, to realize His intended goodness for the world and to guide nations in the way of shalom. These laws of Noah's covenant precede the Mosaic laws that are eventually given to the people of Israel in a covenantal context. At Sinai, Israel receives many more commandments, which the Rabbis11 determine from the seven Pentateuchal codes to be 613. Numerically, the sum represents the word 'Torah' (T.W.R.H. = 611) that Moses commanded and the first two commandments of the Decalogue that God spoke at Mount Sinai. These commandments govern the four realms of human relationship, and relate to different persons within the community and outside as well as man, woman and child. These are directed to Israel in particular, as it 'shall become a kingdom of priests and holy nation' (Exod. 19:6). Israel is elected in a professional sense and not chosen in a racist sense. Their life is to be governed theocratically by a system of God's commandments that prepares them as a priestly nation. This commissive distinction is introduced in the Bible between Israel and all other nations under God. The prophet Isaiah describes the role of Israel, as the 'servant of God', to become 'a light unto nations' (49:6). All persons too can join Israel and become so chosen (56:6, 7). However, they can remain bound to God in the Noahide covenant and their way effects righteousness among the nations of the world. All other people in ancient times exist outside of the universalistic and particularistic covenantal ways of the Bible; they denied its teaching, embracing the way of idolatry, adultery, homicide and violence as it was rooted in nature worship and mythology. They are designated as the people who 'worship the stars' (abhodat kokhabhim) or are involved in 'strange worship' (abhodah zarah) in the Rabbinic tradition that was very well acquainted with the astral or helios- worship of the Greco-Roman world.

The 'Other' in the Biblical Tradition: The Socio-Economic Classes

In light of the above points, it is important to distinguish between two classifications of people in the Bible. One deals with the socio-economic classes and the other with the religio-ethnic designations. In the first grouping, the Bible refers to eight different types of poor people12 in contrast with the aristocratic class, the rich and the powerful. The Bible also speaks of the slave and the freed person, the noble and the king, the soldier and the minister, the scribe and the priest. This great variety of socio-economic types includes the fringe grouping of orphans, widows and the homeless or outcasts. Apparently the Bible reflects the situation of its own agrarian monarchy and it accepts the socio-economic reality that evolved out of human interpersonal dynamics. The way of the Bible is to show concern and compassion for the needy, afflicted and oppressed. 'For the poor will not disappear from the earth; therefore God commands you to open your hand to your brother, the poor' (Deut. 16:11). God himself is the patron of the orphans and the widows, the poor and the needy (Exod. 22:21-22).

The first redemptive act of God in history was the release of the people of Israel from slavery and bondage in Egypt. It comes to demonstrate his very existence in the opening statement of the Decalogue. 'I am the Lord, your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage' (Exod. 20:2). Note that it does not offer a more persuasive cosmological argument, a proof from design that demonstrates His existence. For the Bible is not a book of philosophical arguments to be based on human reason only. Rather, it is a book revealing His very involvement with human history and demonstrating God's loving concern for His creation. It was most appropriate first to present an apodictic statement of truth, that is rooted in the historical human experience. Biblical morality is determined by pathos and love and not by apathy and disengagement. This is how God is experienced by the prophets in the anthropopathic sense13. Biblical commandments come to support the higher standards of ethical life. Thus, a bias for the poor and the oppressed is displayed in prophetic writings. This bias flows from a God who seeks from human beings loving kindness in their interpersonal relations. 'For mercy I seek and not sacrifices' (Hos. 6:6).

The 'other' in the Biblical tradition is the poor person who also becomes the very model of the self-abnegating, meek and all-giving person. For this person experiences creatureliness, human suffering and pathos, that can open his very being to the spirit, to be touched by the Wholly Other. For 'wherever you find God's greatness there you find his humbleness', teaches Rabbi Yohanan14. God demonstrates His concern for the other, in limiting Himself to a given person in a particular place, time and circumstance to pay attention to his/her needs. Moses first was overwhelmed by God's awesome majesty, as he hid his face at the Burning Bush (Exod. 3:6). Then the new revelation of the anthropopathic love of God became known to him through God's name. For the Creator's greatness was disclosed in the insignificant thorny shrubbery that was consumed by fire. Thus the rabbis15 interpret God's name to mean 'the one who was with you in past distress, will be with you in future subjugation'. God reveals himself in exile, and even on the stake one discovers his protectiveness (the story of the three young men in the Burning Furnace, Dan. 3:11- 23). This becomes a significant teaching of Rabbinic theology16 defining a life in God's presence after the Destruction of the Temple. Once sacrificial service, Temple worship and rituals were terminated, the ultimate guide to religious life for Israel was determined by the practice of lovingkindness17.

Originally 'love for the resident-alien (ger)' is commanded, as the show of care and concern for the 'other' among the community. For Israel during years in Egypt, at the genesis of their history, had experienced life as 'resident-aliens' (Exod. 23:9). Although they were in exilic bondage, they lived and increased in number. Moses, who showed concern for their plight (Exod. 2:11), was sent to redeem them by God who heard their cries. So Israel in all future exiles accommodates to different situations through the practice of lovingkindness. Their life among the non-Jews becomes only possible, as they develop a complex of philanthropic institutions to support each other in exile and to relate to the 'other' outside of the community by the same principle18.

The Stranger in the Bible: The Religio-Ethnic Designation

The other classification speaks of the 'stranger' (zar or nokhri), where the distinction is made between him and Israel as a religio-ethnic category. This is obvious when the 'stranger' were associated with idolatry, or in Rabbinic parlance 'strange worship'. It is the contrast between a life in God's presence and a life in society embedded in nature that personifies gods and goddesses. The Biblical orientation promoted freedom, equality and compassion in contrast to the ancient world of nature worship and mythology, where violence, slavery and apathy prevailed. This contrast appears in the Bible between the patriarchs and their neighbors. Abraham, for example, practiced hospitality and lovingkindness that was antithetical to the way of Sodom and Gomorrah. According to the rabbis, all followers of Abraham display compassion, unselfishness, humility and sufficiency (Mishnah Abhot 5:22); for 'they follow the way of God to practice justice and righteousness' (Gen. 18:19). However, the ways of Sodom and Gomorrah are condemned, but their practitioners are still God's creatures. This sense in Abraham, who walked with God, moves him to pray in their behalf. 'If only ten righteous persons are found there will you destroy the city?'. This is the first prayer of intercession recorded in the Bible (Gen. 18:23-32), displaying theopathic concern in worship. One prays on behalf of the other, out of compassion for the elimination of evil and not for the destruction of life. Beruriah, the pious wife of Rabbi Meir in the second century CE, moved her husband to recognize that all malevolent prayers of the Psalmist are directed towards the removal of sinfulness and not to the removal of the sinners as human beings19.

The 'stranger' is included in the prayer of Solomon, who offered the classical appeal to God to receive the petitions of Israel in the Temple. "Likewise when a 'stranger', who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name's sake... and prays towards this House, hear You in heaven... and do according to all the 'stranger' appeals to You" (I Kings 8:41-43). For God's mercy endures forever and it extends to all creatures. This is true from the Creator's perspective but from the human perspective, the difference between the two worlds of thought, ethics and religion threatens the very existence of the few who departed from polytheism in the ancient world. The very matriarchs of Israel were in jeopardy and the life of the patriarchs in danger, for the lack of awe before God among their neighbors (Gen. 12:11- 13; 20:10-11; 26:9). The Jewish people experienced the evils of xenophobia among the nations, not due to socio-economic differences only, but mainly because they were threatened by the demonic in person that surfaces through anti-Jewish attitudes. This is the manifestation of antisemitism throughout Jewish history20. Due to this threatening behaviour of the 'strangers', the Jews assumed a defensive position in their relationship with the non-Jews. On the one hand, they enacted cautionary measures to limit social contact between the two and advanced sumptuary laws to regulate behaviour towards the other. On the other hand, they accepted the "law of the land", as long as it did not conflict with their religious conviction, and they pursued the "way of shalom" in dealing with the other. One should show concern for the poor and the needy, bury their dead and heal their sick, in the promotion of goodness towards the non-Jew.

The "ger-toshav" and God-fearers

The Biblical tradition provides a Mosaic covenant for the Jews and a Noahide covenant for all people. They share a common platform of cardinal laws in the four realms of human relationships. Thus, a "stranger" who becomes a Godfearer (Greek: phoboumenos) and accepts the Noahide laws is viewed rabbinically as a "ger toshav", i.e. "a resident alien who shares your way of life" in the minimal form. He is perceived on a par with Israel21, although he did not enter the Mosaic covenant through the act of circumcision. He does not observe the Sabbath or Festivals nor keep the dietary laws, the earmarks of Jewish practice. The ger-toshav became a significant class of semiproselytes during the Second Temple period, especially after the Hasmonean ruler John Hyrcanus forcibly converted the residents of Idumea and Samaria, and many, in particular women, were influenced by the Greek translation of the Bible after it gained a wider circulation in the Hellenistic world.

The early Church was highly acquainted with the category of "phoboumenos" and understood the significance of the Noahide laws, as recorded in Acts. From the beginning, they directed their mission to these people, as well as to Jews. When Paul addressed the Jerusalem Council in 48 CE on the matter of the mission to the gentiles, James, the brother of Jesus and the bishop of the Church, issued letters to Paul containing the decision to receive the gentiles upon their acceptance of the minimal requirements of Noahide covenant (Acts l5:19-30). This is a significant episode of decision making in the early Church, indicating Christianity first sought to bring people under the Biblically oriented faith and to enjoy continuity with Old Testament. Paul gave rise to a distinctive theological meaning of the Christian experience for the gentiles. However the Biblical orientation remained the same. Thus, a contemporary Rabbinic view designates the Christians as "gere-toshav", for not only do they accept the Old Testament as divine revelation but also live by the minimal requirements of the Noahide covenant22. Their trinitarian view of the Godhead does not detract from their faith in God. This is the understanding of rabbinic authorities in Christian Europe, where they were more familiar with Christian practice. However, rabbis of Islamic countries adopted the view of Islamic jurists on the issue of partnership in the Godhead (Arabic: shirk; Hebrew: shittuf). These rabbis viewed the Muslims as "gere toshav", as they witnessed the Islamic practice23. Apparently the Rabbinic category of "gere toshav" can serve as a bridge in the dialogue among the three faiths.

According to Moses Maimonides24 the two religions of Christianity and Islam do serve divine purpose in preparing the world for the final universal redemption, as they enjoy the Biblical orientation with Judaism. The prophetic prospect will be realised when the world will accept the Noahide principles and live by the way of shalom and compassion. Antisemitism will be eliminated and Israel will enjoy its own fulfilment. Then "the world will embrace the affective knowledge of God's presence, as the waters cover the sea" (Is. 11:9). Humanistic principles of rights and freedom, equality and brotherhood will not realize the prophetic prospect. For the transpersonal relationship must affect the other relationships in leading humanity to the realization of the Creator's intent of goodness in the world. Humanism serves only the intent of human creatures and human reason alone cannot rise to this knowledge of God.

The Four Classes of Jews

The Jewish people emerged originally as a tribal configuration in the promised land, as recorded in the Bible. Thus, they represent four main groupings: The kohen (priest), the Levite, the Israelite and the proselyte. The kohen and the Levite were of the tribe of Levi, and they were dedicated to the service of God in the Temple. They had no share in the holy land; "for God is their inheritance" (Deut. 10:9). They were "set apart" and lived by the Levitical rules of purity and holiness. All other tribes received a share in the land of Israel and enjoyed equal status as free people of God. Thus, those people who lived among them and have accepted their way of life under the Mosaic covenant were also regarded as equal citizens under God. Eventually, the Biblical 'ger' was equated in Rabbinic thought with the proselyte. This category included both types, the true proselyte ("ger sedeq") and the semiproselyte ("ger toshav"). The first accepted fully the Mosaic Covenant and the second only the Noahide covenant. Their relationship to Torah and Israel became a key factor in determining their integrity. However, no restrictions were placed on their inclusion into the community of Israel. Even the Ammonite, the Idumean, the Moabite and Amalekite converts who were the enemies of Israel, to be excluded Biblically from marriage, were now permitted. For during the Second Temple period, the historical situation has changed; on the one hand this encouraged proselytization but on the other, limited intermarriage with idolatrous people.

The above classification determined the personal status of the Jewish people, a part of a religio-ethnic body25. These four classes were listed with other categories of familial and personal status, in order to preserve the sanctity of the family by those who adhered to the Levitical code in marriage. Children of forbidden marriages (incestuous or adulterous) are classified "mamzerim" (bastards, but not in the sense of being out of wedlock). Children of restricted marriages of the kohen are called "halalim" (not fit for the priesthood). Thus, the determination of an individual status, outside of offspring of forbidden or restricted marriages, distinguish between children of parents married to each other and those out of wedlock. The latter status is not tainted nor are they unfit for the priesthood.

Two other categories remain where an offspring is of unknown parents or of intermarriage. The first category consists of adopted children, who may know only one parent or were abandoned from birth. The other category includes children from a non-Jewish mother, who in biblical times remained idolatrous. However, if the offspring is of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father, the child remains Jewish since from the womb the child's status is legally determined. The mother, after all, carried the child and gave life to him or her. Of course, if the child is of a non-Jewish mother, he or she can enter the covenant of Israel as a proselyte.

The category of proselytes was regarded cautiously by the rabbis due to historical vicissitudes. On one hand, they were regarded higher than the High Priest because of personal transformation. On the other hand, they were suspect of having ulterior motives. Their loyalty to God must be wedded to their loyalty to Israel. Therefore, those gentiles who were 'God- fearers' received high praise for their righteous life. They remained the few among the idolatrous people, whose commitment was sincere and they always were willing to support Israel in time of distress although they were not Jews. Even today the "righteous among the gentiles" are regarded highly by Jews for they came to their aid in time of the Holocaust and were even willing to face death and to offer protest. The God-fearers in the early Church also give testimony to their willingness to support and maintain those who are committed to God, in the prophetic sense.

The Good Samaritan and the Classes of Jewry

"Love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18) determines the relationship between classes of Jews, for it relates to people who enjoy a common faith in God who endows them with His image. Love of God generates the love of one's fellow human being. This basic understanding prevailed in Jewish thought at the time of Jesus. Thus, the enemies of Israel were excluded from the commandment in early Rabbinic thought. For the enemy who pursues to destroy is the only one the Bible permits the Israelite to kill for he has forfeited his own image of God in the display of homicidal intent26.

For this reason, the idolatrous Amalek who was the first nation to attack Israel by "whittling down the weaklings, the tired and the weary, on their march in the desert" (Deut. 25:18) was condemned to be utterly destroyed. In the days of Jesus, the Samaritans were seen as the enemies of Israel. Over two centuries earlier, Jesus ben Sira declared, "Two nations I despise but a third is not a nation, those who dwell in Idumea and Philistia and the godless nation that dwells in Shechem" (Ecclus. 50:25-26). For the Samaritans shared a common faith with Israel in their embrace of the Pentateuchal revelation. Yet, they became the antagonists of Israel, rejecting their Temple in Jerusalem, attacking their independent state of Judea and denying their prophetic and scribal tradition. Their Temple was built in Shechem. The Rabbis differ on the classification of the Samaritans as semiproselytes in relation to Israel. Are they the "gere toshav" or are they "coerced converts", who are not free from idolatrous practice? They are placed on the fringe of the fourth class of Jewry and the rabbinic behaviour towards them remained cautious but tolerant27.

Jesus himself kept a distance from the Samaritans (Lk. 9:51-56). He was asked by a Jewish scribe, "Who is my neighbor to whom one shows love?" He replied with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:29-37). It is erroneous and offensive to suggest that this teaching illustrates Jesus' rejection of the Jewish clerics and their hypocritical attitudes. Also, it is biased to interpret semiotically that the aim of this parable was to shock the Jewish scribe in hearing that the Samaritan is good. So Dominic Crossan28 presents this parable as the key to the teaching of reversal. For the binary reading of the parable reduces the story to the categories of good and bad, subsuming Samaritans and Jewish clerics respectively. There is no need to offer details in the parable with reference to geography and movement on the road. Furthermore, it becomes necessary to explain why Jesus omitted the Israelite. Apparently, Jesus comes to describe the neighbor with reference to the four classes of Jews known in his days29. He speaks of the Kohen and the Levite. He addresses the Israelite scribe, and he concludes with the fringe classification of the fourth type, the Samaritan as a semi-proselyte. Yet the one who is attacked is unidentified and he is after all the neighbor to whom love was to be shown.

The intended meaning of the parable is disclosed in the details: "going on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho" and "passing over to the other side". For this is a depiction of the return of pilgrims who just enjoyed their peak experience30 in facing God's presence in the Temple. They are imbued with covenantal feeling of doing God's will, through the performance of commandments. Now on the road back from Jerusalem, the Kohen and the Levite, who are bound by the Levitical laws of purity and holiness in their association with the other, face a religious conflict. Should they transgress the transpersonal law of coming in contact with a seemingly dead body? For this is the main source of pollution that results in a week of separation from society to be followed by the rite of purification (Num. 19:11-13). However, the dignity and worth of the person must be respected in fulfilment of the love commandment in the interpersonal realm. They opt for "passing over to the other side", precisely to keep a distance away from what appears to be a dead body31.

The Israelite, however, on the way back home is bound by the interpersonal law of love to help the victim. He does not face the dilemma of contamination, since at home he is not bound by the priestly laws of purification. This is why he is deliberately not mentioned. The Samaritan, a semiproselyte, is introduced dramatically to demonstrate an affective link between the transpersonal and interpersonal realms of the dual commandment of love. Although the Samaritan on the road towards Jericho may be heading north to his Temple at Shechem as a pilgrim to show his love for God, he is willing instead to perform love acts towards the unidentified person on the road, despite the fact of his being the enemy. This is the heart of Jesus' lesson, which captures the intent of the prophetic tradition that the emulation of God's way of love in the show of compassion to the other, although he is an enemy, reflects the true worship of God. So did Jesus teach (Luke 6:27,28) that in the act of prayer, a transpersonal experience, one is to display authentic intention when he includes the antagonist in his intercession, a show of love for an interpersonal relationship. Abraham originally prayed on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah, his antagonists. Dramatically, the love acts of the Samaritan determine how "one inherits eternal life"; even the semiproselytes in seeking God in truth translate the love of God into the show of love for His human creature. This show of altruistic love is described in details, from concern to healing and caring for rehabilitation. In this way, the Good Samaritan parable is juxtaposed to the preceding lesson of the dual commandment of love in Luke (10:25-28).

This was a cherished approach for Christians in the early mission to the other, including the gentiles, who can embrace the basic commitment to God the Creator as God-fearers and thereby can receive the message of redemption and be moved by Jesus' teaching and example. The rabbis, too, developed this view of the "gere toshav" that eventually included Christians or Muslims although they have been their antagonists, as long as there is an authentic expression of the dual commandment of love in their behaviour. Their relationship towards the 'other' and the 'stranger' is anchored in the "way of shalom" and in the elimination of frictional enmity ('avvah). Only then can the prophetic prospect of universal peace be achieved, when the world will recognize the way of the Creator God through acceptance of the Noahide covenant. This will be the realization of God's reign on earth and as such it determined Jewish hope for the future. This hope is expressed in an old prayer32 "Alenu" that anticipates universal redemption.

Therefore we hope in you, the Lord our God, to witness soon the glory of your might when you will eliminate idolatry from the earth in order to transform the world through the Kingdom of the Almighty, when all humans will acknowledge you and the wicked of the earth will turn to you. Then all inhabitants will recognize and know you.

Only through such a universal human acknowledgement can the prophetic dream of ultimate shalom (wholesome peacefulness) be realized for all: Then there will be no more "strangers" but only the love for the "other" will prevail. This is not only the Jewish hope but also the Christian hope, towards, towards which humanity evolves in view of the prophetic promise.

* Rabbi Asher Finkel is Chairperson of the Department of Jewish-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, New Jersey. He has published many articles in scholarly journals and The Pharisees and the Teacher of Nazareth, Brill, 1974.

(1) Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:4, "Therefore Adam was created alone, to teach that anyone who destroys one life is as if he destroys an entire world and to advance peaceful relations so no one can say my human origin is better than yours". Mishnah Abhot 3: 14., "Precious is the person who was created in God's image".

(2) See H. Frankfort ed. The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man, (University of Chicago Press), 1977 and Y. Kaufman, Religion of Israel (translated M. Greenberg) (Chicago University Press, 1960).

(3) Refer to Thomas C. Oden, The Structure of Awareness, (New York: Abingdon Press 1969) on the phenomenological meaning and application.

(4) See the enumeration in the classical study of Maimonides, Sefer Hamiswot, (Book of Commandments), his introduction to the Jewish Code of Mishneh Torah.

(5) Exod. 23:5, Lev. 20:15-16, Deut. 22:4,7,10.

(6) Gen. 2:15, 9:11, Lev. 25:4,5, Deut. 20:19.

(7) Mishnah Abhot 4:1, "Who is a person of courage? The one who conquers his (evil) inclination", The religious hero is the one who is victorious over the inner struggle.

(8) Babylonian Talmud Sabbath 31a (see Rashi, ad. loc).

(9) Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 56 a,b.

(10) See Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Melakhim, Ch. 9, and refer to Rabbi E. Benamozegh, In Ethical Paths (Hebrew from French), ed. S. Miron (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1966).

(11) Babylonian Talmud Makkot 23b,24a, and refer to G. Appel, Philosophy of Mizvot (New York: Ktav, 1975).

(12) "Ani, ebhyon, dal, dakh, rash, misken, makh, helakh" (Leviticus Rabba 25:35).

(13) See Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, 2 volumes (New York: Harpers and Row, 1962)

(14) Babylonian Talmud Megillah 31b.

(15) See Rashi, adloc.

(16) See Rabbinic Anthology, ed. Montefiore and Loewe (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1960), p.95 and 19. Compare S. Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology (New York: Schocken, 1961) Ch. 3.

(17) Abhot de Rabbi Nathan 6.

(18) Refer to Jewish self-government in Jacob R. Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World (New York, Atheneum, 1969), pp. 205-208 and see the exhibit on Jewish life in Medieval Europe at The Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv University.

(19) Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 10a "Let sins, and not sinners, be eliminated" is the wording of Ps. 104:35.

(20) See D. Prager and J. Telushkin, Why the Jews? New York: (Simon and Schuster, 1983).

(21) See the collection of rabbinic studies on "Bne Yisrael ubne Noah", ed. Rabbis Krieger and Dessler (Jerusalem: Tel-Or Publishing, 1988) on "ger toshav".

(22) See above, Bibliographical Essay, p. 83 ff. (the views of Rabbis Hayyot, Emden, Hameiri, Gershoni, Kuk and Herzog).

(23) See above, Bibliographical Essay and article by Rabbi Krieger (the views of Obadiah Yosef, Maimonides and Yosef Karo).

(24) The uncensored text of Mishnah Torah, Melakhim, last chapter (quoted in Twersky's Prologomenon, Yale University Press, 1980).

(25) See Who was a Jew? by Lawrence H. Schiffman (New York: Ktav, 1985). It is to be consulted with a degree of reservation on the matter of classification and the heretics. See my article on "Yavneh Liturgy and Early Christianity", Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 18 (1981) p. 231-250.

(26) Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 72a-73a.

(27) See the minor tractate of Kuttim (the Samaritans).

(28) In Parables (New York: Harper and Row, 1973) p. 57 ff.

(29) Refer to Mishnah Kiddushin 4:1 and Cairo Damascus Document 14:4.

(30) On the phenomenological meaning of pilgrimage, see V. Turner and E. Turner, Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978).

(31) The rabbis do teach (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot l9b, 20a) that even a high priest must stop on the road to bury a dead body (met miswah). This is true if there is no one else to bury him. The dignity of the person, whose creation in God's image is to be acknowledged even in death, takes the priority over all other commandments.

(32) J. Hertz, ed. Daily Prayer Book (New York: Bloch 1959) pp. 210-211.


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