Who are the Patriarchs of Judaism

The land, the messiah and the world to come

By Clemens Thoma (biography)


The Grand Rabbin of Geneva, Marc-Raphael Guedj, was asked after the murder of Yizchak Rabin what should be reconsidered in the education of young religious Zionists in Israel. In his answer, he emphasized his assumption that a messianic system of thought was created among disciples of Rav Kook, in which the territories and the extent of the land occupy a high position. From the moment you construct an ideology, you are no longer far removed from the use of force. This requires increased vigilance within Judaism.

Moses ben Maimon (1135-1204) writes the following at the beginning of a tract of his Mishne Torah (Mishne Torah, Sefer ham-mada '1 b): "All the precepts that were given to Moses in Sinai are to him together with their interpretations It says: `` I will give you the tablets of stone, the Torah, and the prescriptions '' (Exodus 24:12). By 'Torah' is meant the written Torah. By 'ordinances' are meant its interpretations. God has Commanded us to keep the Torah in accordance with the precepts. The precepts refer to the oral Torah. Our teacher Moses wrote the entire Torah in his own hand before his death. He then gave each tribe a scroll and deposited another in the Ark of the covenant; for it says: 'Take this book, the Torah, and place it in the covenant cupboard of the Eternal your God, and there be a witness against you' (Deut 31:26) Interpretations of the Torah, Moses did not write down, but gave orders to the elders, to Joshua and to the rest of `` all Israel ''; For it says: 'All these words, which I command you to observe today, you should do, and you should not add anything or take anything away' (Deut 4, 2). This means the oral Torah. '

Traders of the written and oral Torah

In the following, the other traders of the written and oral Torah are enumerated: the prophets and the kings. All of them had each visited a teacher-student institution and thus carried on the entire revelation unchanged and reliably. However, according to Maimonides, the main focus of transmission is not with the prophets and kings, but with the Talmudic rabbis, whose most important representatives are also listed. As a result, all the revelations are in the scriptures, especially in the 5 books of Moses, and in the Babylonian Talmud.

The supporting role of the prophet

The prophets - from Joshua to Malachi - play a strangely subordinate role for Christian understanding. A tendency to reduce the prophets is already present in the Bible. The most frequently used point is Num 12, 6-8. There the Eternal says: "If a prophet is found among you, then I will make myself known to him through visions and talk to him through dreams. Not so with Moses, my servant: he is the most reliable in my whole house. I will talk to him from mouth to mouth, clearly and not in riddles. He will see the figure of the Eternal. " The end of Book of Deuteronomy is usually quoted: "From then on, no prophet like Moses, with whom the Eternal had spoken face to face, arose in Israel" (Deut. 34, 10).

The paramount role of Moses

So Moses is the prophet par excellence. Beside him all the other prophets pale. This is repeated quite often in rabbinical literature. According to bYev 49b "all the prophets looked through a mirror that did not emit light. Our teacher Moses, however, looked through the mirror that emitted light". In the Psalmidrash (MTeh 90, 4) the saying goes back to a long rabbinical tradition: "All prophets who prophesied did not know what they prophesied." Against these and similar anti-prophetic rabbinical statements, a little further down in the Psalmidrash, some more positive statements in favor of the prophets are made: The prophets were the disciples of their (and our) master Moses. You carried his message on. Especially Isaiah, Elijah and Hosea are quoted in an illuminating way.

Criticism of the Prophet Hosea

Of interest to us is the criticism of the prophet Hosea in bPes 87a. As can be read in Hos 1-2, the Israelites are called "not my people" by God in a threat of punishment (Hos 1, 9). Perhaps because the Christians understood themselves as the true people of God by calling on Hosea, the rabbis reprimanded the prophet Hosea! He should have interceded with God just as vigorously as Moses behaved towards God when the Israelites worshiped the golden calf (Ex 32-33). God is waiting for the prophets as intercessors for Israel. According to the rabbis, Hosea should have said to God: "They are your children, the children of your grace, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Roll your mercy on them!" Instead, Hosea said: "Lord of the world, the whole world is yours! Exchange the Israelites with another people!" Then God replied: "What am I going to do with this old man?"

Rabbis more important than prophets

The story in Hos 12 - so the rabbis probably thought was misleading and was therefore abused by Christians for their claims of election. The true task of the prophets is to wrestle and work to ensure that God's election remains with the Israelites at all times. In contrast, "the Torah, which Moses gave us as an inheritance" (bSuk 42a) and without which "neither heaven nor earth endure" (bPes 68b), is the decisive maxim for all coping with the present and all future expectations. This means that the rabbis are more important than the prophets. Their statements are the updated Torah, the words of which are even more important than the original words of the Torah: "The words of the scribes are more important than the words of the Torah," it says, for example. B. in yBer 1.7. In Judaism, the Torah of Moses and the rabbis who bring it into the light of the new age are decisive for everything that is prophetic in the future.

The patriarchs

The two most important groups of meaning besides Moses and the rabbis are the patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons - and the apocalyptic or apocalyptic ideas that run through the entire Jewish tradition.

The patriarchs are considered to be the prototypes, the archetypes, the omens, the identifiers of Judaism. You have embodied Judaism in yourself and exemplified it. "Our father Abraham kept the whole Torah," says byom 28b. In BerR 48.7, Gen 18.1 is interpreted ("Abraham was sitting at the tent entrance at the midday heat when the Eternal visited him as a guest"): Abraham wanted to get up out of awe of the guest. But God said to him: "Stay seated, because you are a omen (siman) for your children! As you sit here while Divinity (Shekhina) is with you, so will your sons sit, and Divinity will be with them When the Israelites go into their houses of prayer and teaching and say, `` Hear Israel, '' then they will sit in my honor and I will stand by them, for it says, `` God rises in the midst of the church of God. '' (Ps 82, 1) ".

The parable of the Hereditary Prince

In ShemR 15.8 it says in the parable of the Hereditary Prince - perhaps as an attempt to outdo Christology - that God fulfilled all of Abraham's wishes for exaltation. He let him sit on his (God's) throne and left the temple area entirely to him as his domain. Jacob also reports something similar. Jacob is the perfect image of God, the firstborn Son of God. Because of his equality with God, even the angels on the ladder to heaven got confused.

The end times theme

The patriarchal dignity is not only intended as an exemplary advance notice. It also has to do with our end-time eschatology topic. As an example, I'll take the big one

Medieval Kabbalist Mose ben Nachman (1194-1270), who was deeply involved in Christianity. For him, the fact that Abraham was in Shechem before the land was promised is evidence that the Israelites received the land from God before they even existed (Gen 12: 6). Abraham's confrontation with the four kings (Gen 14) is for him an indication that although Israel will suffer from the four world empires, it will ultimately win over all the kingdoms of this world. He sees medieval Rome at that time as the last empire that will soon be doomed. Regarding Gen 32,4, Nachmanides remarks regarding Jacob and Esau: "Everything that happened to our father with his brother Esau will happen to us with the sons of Esau." (Cf. Amon Funkenstein, Nachmanides' Symbolical Reading of History, in: Joseph Dan / Frank Talamage, Studies in Jewish Mysticism, Cambridge Mass 1982, 129-150)

The apocalyptic

The apocalyptic is first of all that erupting movement that began in the 2nd century BC. Experienced its first heyday and "which can be described as a view of God, of people and of the world, in which everything visible and everything traditionally believed radically and excites the soon to be expected turnaround of times to judgment, rejection and consummation With regard to the rest of Jewish history, however, it is true that apocalyptic ideas always resonated strongly and that, up to the time of the Enlightenment, Judaism fell into many whirlpools of enthusiasm and bitter disappointment. It was not the prophets with their future utopias that played the main role, but texts from the Torah, i. H. Texts related to the patriarchs and to Moses! The theories about wars of nations, religious wars, anti-messiah, messiah and the dawn of the end times were always at least as strongly present in Judaism as the legal parts of the Torah. In terms of end-time theories, medieval Jews even outbid Christianity of the time of the Crusades. Midrash upon Midrash was written to follow the course of the end times to the fall of the enemies and to the glorification of Israel and to keep throwing new aspects into the discussion.

There are divergent ideas about the Messiah

In non-Jewish - also in scientific - circles, too little attention is sometimes paid to the fact that messianic ideas already differed greatly in content in biblical-pre-Christian times. There was seldom an exclusive concentration of the imagination on the Messiah as an individual. And if it was occasionally present, then the package of introductions about him was extremely rich, multicolored, and mostly also controversial.

Concepts of the future as expectations of a divided national community

Since the end of the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BC. In the 4th century BC, the return, reunification and completion of the Israelite people of God, scattered in all directions, and partly undetectable, was at the center of all hopes and future constructions. The most important stimuli for this can be found in Ez 36-37 and Isa 60-66. The "gathering of the exiles" (qubbuz galuyot) became the central keyword. The Jewish identity that developed after the exile was that of a residual community, which until the expected full replenishment knew itself to be solely responsible for the transmission and implementation of the traditions and regulations of "all of Israel". The constant oppression evoked ideas and preparations for a repression-free and communicative end time. With the key words kingdom of God, final rule of God or confirmation of the election of Israel, the Israelite horizon of expectation is better described than with eschatological prophecy, messianism or eschatology. After the severe turning point in Jewish history in AD 70 - the destruction of the temple, the collapse of the priestly hierarchy, the beginning of dispersion, the loss of the land - the particular strength of two other religious factors in Judaism became apparent: the halakha as interpreted by the rabbis and the centering of theology on the new Zion to be achieved.

Halakhi foundations

Two examples must suffice here: The following halakha comes from the time immediately after the BarKochba uprising (132-135): "One may not rent houses to non-Jews in the land of Israel. It is not necessary to explicitly mention that this also applies to In Syria you can rent houses to them, but not fields. Outside the country you can sell them houses and rent fields. So Rabbi Meir (around 140 AD). Rabbi Josse bar Chalafta (around 150 AD) but said: In the country you can rent them houses, but not fields. In Syria you can sell them houses and rent fields (mAZ 1,8). "

This provision was intended to counter the tendency of many Jews to emigrate from Judea in view of the pressing need. On the other hand, this provision also formed the basis for constant turning towards and turning back to the Land of Israel. It has bundled and strengthened the age-old longing for the promised and promised land.

Renunciation of all heretical elements

The segregation, exclusivity and preservation of property in rabbinical times did not only refer to the land and its possessions, but also to religion! It should be kept free from all idolatrous and alien elements. In addition to the misconduct that was used, the rabbis arranged in the 3rd / 4th Century on: "One must not be in any intercourse with the heretics, and one must not allow themselves to be cured by them" (bAZ 27b). Elsewhere it is demanded that "one must not accept gifts of money from heretics (bAZ 6b). Nor should one employ cattle in a non-Jewish inn because the non-Jews are suspected of bestiality" (bAZ 14b). From this last passage it is clear that the distrust of Gentiles arose from the fear of pollution of the country and the people. For this reason too, Jews were forbidden from visiting non-Jewish institutions, especially shrines (cf. bAZ 17a-19a). On the whole, rabbinical Judaism saw its main task as cleansing the land of Israel and all the places of residence of the Jews from the traces of idolatry and ritual uncleanliness, in order to establish a divine province on earth in the midst of the chosen people and around them!

Longing for Zion

The Jewish longing for Zion is abundantly documented in biblical and post-biblical times. The two main Jewish prayers, the eighteen prayer and the "Hear Israel" form, undoubtedly form the most important grip and reinforcement of the traditional longing for Zion. The eighteen prayer has been called the "citizen's prayer for Jerusalem" (Elias Bickermann) or the prayer of the process of messianic redemption culminating in Jerusalem (Kimmelman). Similarly, the "Hear Israel" (Deut. 4: 6 ff) expresses the longing for Zion. In no liturgical order is this creed as to the one and only God of Israel without the inclusion of Zec 14.9. The faith of Israel in its God is therefore always liturgically connected with the hope that the peoples will eventually turn to the monotheistic faith of the Jews.

Call for a questioning of history and the Bible

Today there is a shock of reality regarding all quoted Jewish ideas and expectations. It does not go very far for our problems today if we glorify the prophets and only ask what they meant in everything. It will get even less far if we simply accept the religious, social and political history of Judaism and the convictions and ideologies that accompany it. In any case, history cannot be accepted as a confirmation of all biblical interpretations and applications of biblical passages. Rather, it must be critically questioned so that the reins can be turned around today. The Bible itself must not be read in a fundamentalist way. It too needs to be questioned. Basically, it can only be used for today in a non-creative way.

Call to serve peace

All that remains to be done is: to serve peace, peace between peoples, religions, social classes and between families and small groups. This can be supported very cheaply and impressively by the relationship between many traditions. Only one example is given here. It concerns the great Jewish teacher Rabban Jochanan ben Zakkai, who died around 80 AD after having used all his strength to demonstrate the futility of the first Jewish uprising against Rome.His saying, found in ARN B 31 (page 66f), reads: "If you plant a sapling with your hand and they say to you: Go, the Messiah is there, then plant the sapling and only then go away to the Messiah And when children say to you: Let's go, we want to build the temple, then don't listen to them. And when old people say to you: Come on, we want to tear down the temple, then listen to them Children are tearing down, and tearing down old people is building up. "The prophets, rabbis, patriarchs, apocalyptics and also the Torah itself have to wait in the face of today's upheavals in order to avoid unnecessary explosives in today's explosive Location device.


Edited and shortened by Ernst Pohn