Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Scroll of Esther- The account of Irene Weinberg and a moral tale of courage to persevere while being hunted

This open the power point presentation, with her account, photos from her life in hiding, and selections from her  video-taped interview. under the auspices of the Jewish Federation  of Los Angeles in 1994.
Original photos and documents are on file at the Holocaust Museum of Los Angeles
and at the United States Museum of the Holocaust

This is the account of my mother, Irene Weinberg, of blessed memory, which I delivered on Jan 23, 2021, on the weekend preceding 99 years since her birthday, Jan.25, one day before her liberation by the Soviets at Gleiwitz.
Irene Weinberg survived in the open, under the noses of the Nazis, all the while, hiding her aunt as well.
This is her account.  

Monday, January 18, 2021

From Moses to Moses, None Like Unto Moses: Moses ( the First) as Seen by Others and Ourselves

 Jan 16, 2021;

Follow this link to the recorded session:

You Tube Link here


Michelangelo’s favorite work: This is how an Italian would depict him: Moses,  serious and firm. The horns come from a mistranslation into Latin of the Hebrew for a ray of light.   


1)   The ancient Greeks, even before the time of Alexander, were fascinated by the ancient Jews. 

The first mention in Greek records,c 4th century,  Hecateus of Abdera:

After the establishment of settled life in Egypt in early times, which took place, according to the mythical account, in the period of the gods and heroes, the first... to persuade the multitudes to use written laws was Mneves [Moses], a man not only great of soul but also in his life the most public-spirited of all lawgivers whose names are recorded.


Strabo, a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher, in his Geography (c. 24 CE) was noted for this explanation of the formation of islands, continents and oceans by movement of the earth. He traveled widely and collected information form local sources. Note that this account is also positive and he also gives a summary account of the history of ancient Israel to the founding of the Temple,

the Temple of Jerusalem continued to be surrounded by an aura of sanctity"

“. An Egyptian priest named Moses, who possessed a portion of the country called the Lower Egypt, being dissatisfied with the established institutions there, left it and came to Judaea with a large body of people who worshipped the Divinity. He declared and taught that the Egyptians and Africans entertained erroneous sentiments, in representing the Divinity under the likeness of wild beasts and cattle of the field; that the Greeks also were in error in making images of their gods after the human form. For God [said he] may be this one thing which encompasses us all, land and sea, which we call heaven, or the universe, or the nature of things..... By such doctrine Moses persuaded a large body of right-minded persons to accompany him to the place where Jerusalem now stands...."

Rembrandt-Moses,as seen by the Dutch artist, furious yet sad as he breaks the tablets upon seeing the Golden Calf.


2) It was quite the opposite when it came to the major Roman historian Tacitus (c. 56–120 CE). He lived at the time of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and detested both Jews and their beliefs.


"Most authorities, however, agree on the following account. The whole of Egypt was once plagued by a wasting disease which caused bodily disfigurement. So pharaoh Bocchoris went to the oracle of Hammon to ask for a cure, and was told to purify his kingdom by expelling the victims to other lands, as they lay under a divine curse. Thus a multitude of sufferers was rounded up, herded together, and abandoned in the wilderness. Here the exiles tearfully resigned themselves to their fate. But one of them, who was called Moses, urged his companions not to wait passively for help from god or man, for both had deserted them: they should trust to their own initiative and to whatever guidance first helped them to extricate themselves from their present plight.  . . .They traveled on for six days without a break, and on the seventh they expelled the previous inhabitants of Canaan, took over their lands and in them built a holy city and temple. . . .[4] In order to secure the allegiance of his people in the future, Moses prescribed for them a novel religion quite different from those of the rest of mankind. Among the Jews all things are profane that we hold sacred; on the other hand they regard as permissible what seems to us immoral."[Idols of their gods are forbidden, but sparing of deformed infants and resting on the Sabbath is immoral, in Roman eyes]

Moses as seen by Chagall, the Jewish artist. A take on Michelangelo's painting of Adam, God's  arms are seen here, extending the tablets to Moses, who is floating upwards.

3 There is an old Egyptian version, by Manetho, which has been preserved by  Josephus quoting Apion, also of Egypt, who is quoting Manetho. Manetho was an Egyptian priest who wrote a history of the Egyptians in the 3rd century. Josephus is recording his account four centuries later, based on Apion, who is a dedicated enemy of the Jews:

 “These people, whom we have before named kings, and called shepherds also, and their descendants . . . kept possession of Egypt five hundred and eleven years.”“. . . the kings of Thebes and the other parts of Egypt made an insurrection against the shepherds, and that there a terrible and long war was made between them.”. . . under a king, whose name was Alisphragmuthosis, the shepherds were subdued by him, and were indeed driven out of other parts of Egypt, but were shut up in a place that contained ten thousand acres; this place was named Avaris.”

“Thummosis the son of Alisphragmuthosis made an attempt to take them by force and by siege, with four hundred and eighty thousand men to lie rotund about them, but that, upon his despair of taking the place by that siege, they came to a composition with them, that they should leave Egypt, and go, without any harm to be done to them, whithersoever they would;and that, after this composition was made, they went away with their whole families and effects, not fewer in number than two hundred and forty thousand, and took their journey from Egypt, through the wilderness, for Syria;but that as they were in fear of the Assyrians, who had then the dominion over Asia, they built a city in that country which is now called Judea, and that large enough to contain this great number of men, and called it Jerusalem. "

Manetho has yet another version:

 " [King] Amenophis … was desirous to see the gods . . . he also communicated his desire to his namesake the sage Amenophis . . . told him that he might see the gods, if he would clear the whole country of the lepers and of the other impure people; . . . the king was pleased with this injunction, and got together all that had any defect in their bodies out of Egypt; and that their number was eighty thousand; whom he sent to those quarries which are on the east side of the Nile, that they might work in them, and might be separated from the rest of the Egyptians.”

. . . they appointed themselves a ruler out of the priests of Heliopolis, whose name was Osarsiph, and they took their oaths that they would be obedient to him in all things.He then, in the first place, made this law for them,That they should neither worship the Egyptian gods, nor should abstain from any one of those sacred animals which they have in the highest esteem, but kill and destroy them all;that they should join themselves to nobody but to those that were of this confederacy.

It was also reported that the priest, who ordained their polity and their laws, was by birth of Heliopolls, and his name Osarsiph, from Osiris,who was the god of Heliopolls; but that when he was gone over to these people, his name was changed, and he was called Moses.“

Moses at the Burning Bush-William Blake, English engraver and poet, has a mystic vision of Moses, a very English fellow with blond beard and locks.

4) In the Christian Scriptures

When the early Christian community began to split from the Jewish community, they used Moses against the Jews:


 Stephen before the Sanhedrin-using Moses against us in the early polemics:

35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’[h. . .39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. . . .But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. . . ."


Moslems of Central Asian ( Persia-Afghanistan) depict Moses in Islamic style, at the Red Sea, the Egyptians drowning in the waters. The figures are, understandably, very central Asian in their looks.( Figurative art, prohibited in Islam generally, was permitted in those areas).


5)   In the Quran

XII. Moses Receives the Law

“And We appointed with Musa a time of thirty nights and completed them with ten more. So the appointed time of his Lord was complete forty nights. . . .. And when Musa came at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said: My Lord! Show me Thyself, so that I may look upon Thee. He said: Thou canst not bear to see Me. But look at the mountain, if it remains firm in its place, than will thou see Me. But when his Lord manifested His glory to the mountain, He made it crumble and Musa fell down in swoon. Then, when he recovered he said: Glory be to Thee: I turn to Thee and I am the first of believers. He said: O Musa! Surely I have chosen thee above the people with My messages and with My words; therefore, take hold of what I give to thee and be of the grateful ones. And We ordained for him in the tablets admonition of every kind and clear explanation of all things. Take hold of them with firmness and enjoin the people to take hold of what is best thereof.” (7:142-145)


A modern view by a secular Jew who made Moses fit his theory of psychoanalysis. Freud perhaps saw himself as the new Moses or the Messiah of humanity :

6) Freud in  Moses and Monotheism

In Part I of this book I have tried to strengthen by a new argument the suggestion that the man Moses, the liberator and law-giver of the Jewish people, was not a Jew, but an Egyptian. That his name derived from the Egyptian vocabulary had long been observed, though not duly appreciated. . .

…Let’s agree that the great man influences contemporaries in two ways: through his personality, and through his ideas. He may lay stress on an old group of wishes of the masses, define a new purpose for their wishes, or lure them by other means. Sometimes and this is surely primitive, his personality alone exerts an influence and his ideas play a subordinate role. Why the great man rises to significance gives us no doubt. We all long for the father of our childhood days, for the father whom the hero of legend boasts of having overcome. All the features with which we furnish the great man are traits of the father, and in that similarity lies the essence which so far has eluded us -- of the great man.

His decisiveness, strength of will, forcefulness in deeds, belong to his picture as father; above all, however, stands the self-reliance and independence of the great man: his conviction that he is doing the right thing, even when it turns into ruthlessness.

A tremendous father image in the person of Moses stooped to tell the poor Jewish laborers that they were his dear children. And the concept of a unique, eternal, omnipotent God could not have been less overwhelming for them; He who thought them worthy to bond with Him, promised to take care of them, if only they remained faithful to His worship. Probably they found it hard to separate the image of Moses from that of God, and their instinct was right insofar as Moses might have incorporated his own irascibility and implacability into the character of his God. When they killed this great man, they only repeated an evil deed, which in primeval times was a law directed against the divine king, which derives from a still older prototype.[ Freud is invoking an account of early tribal history in ancient Europe, in which the king is deposed and beheaded after seven years, and reflects his theory of the Oedipal complex.]

 In children, adult neurotics and primitive people, we find the mental phenomenon called belief in the "omnipotence of thoughts." Magic, the forerunner of science, is founded on that premise. Magic incantations are at home here, as is the conviction of the power connected with the knowledge of, and pronouncing, a name. The new realm of spirituality where concepts, memories, and deductions became decisively important, in contrast to the lower psychical activity which concerned itself with the immediate perceptions of the sense organs, was one of the most important stages on the way to becoming human.


Through Mosaic prohibition, God was raised to a higher level of spirituality; the door was opened to further changes in the idea of God of which we shall speak later. All progress in spirituality results in increasing self-confidence, in making people proud, so they feel superior to those who have remained in the bondage of the senses. Moses gave the Jews the proud feeling of being God's chosen people; by de-materializing God a new, valuable gift was made to the secret treasure of the people. The Jews preserved their inclination towards spiritual interests. The political misfortune of the nation taught them to appreciate the only possession they kept, their written records, at its true value. Immediately after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Titus, Rabbi Jochanaan ben Sakkai asked for permission to open at Yabneh the first school for the study of the Torah. From now on it was the Holy Book, and the study of it, that kept the scattered people together.




Give credit to Hollywood, DeMille, and Charlton Heston, for giving us this powerful and confident Moses.


7) What about us?

From Louis Ginzberg Legends of the Jews on the death of Moses

." God replied: "I have heard thy prayer. I Myself shall attend to thee and bury thee….” deliver me not into the hands of the Angel of Death." A heavenly voice sounded and said: "Moses, be not afraid. 'Thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward.'"

Moses activity did not, however, cease with his death, for in heaven he is one of the servants of the Lord. . . .

But Moses not only surpassed all other human beings, he surpassed also the entire creation that God had brought forth in six days…. When, therefore, God laid all the objects of creation on one side of the scales, and Moses upon the other, Moses outweighed them. Moses was justly called, "the man of God," for he was half man and half God.

But not in this world alone was Moses the great leader and teacher of his people, he shall be the same in the future world, in accordance with the promise God made him shortly before his death. God said: "Thou that didst lead My children in this world, shalt also lead them in the future world."



Monday, January 11, 2021

R. Saadia Gaon-The First Major Philosopher of Judaism

Great Jewish Thinkers series: In the tenth century, the Jewish people, now spread across Spain to India, faced new challenges-the vibrant Arab and Islamic civilization, the rediscovered Greek philosophies, a schism from within, and challenges from without. R. Saadia Gaon answered these challenges in his day.

Follow this link for 

Lecture sources on RaSaG from 
Prof. Moses Zucker, Encyclopedia Brittanica and Prof.Sarah Pessin, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy . Their texts in boldface.

Rabbi Saadia Gaon-RaSaG, head of the Academy of Sura and of Rabbinic Judaism.c. 900. 

Gaon- The Pride and Glory, used as the title of the heads of the academies of Babylonia, Sura and Pumbeditha- c. 600-1000. Later used for the outstanding leader, der Vilner Gaon, Elijah, 1700’s, now used to mean “ genius”.

Artist's rendition of what R. Saadia may have looked like

R. Saadiah's legacy: 

1) The first Systematic Philosopher of Judaism : This was a period of reawakened interest in Greek and Roman classics. These philosophers did not provoke a systematic response of formal philosophy when Jews first interacted with the Greek-Roman world, (exception of Philo). As the Islamic world felt the challenge of systematic philosophy and use of reason as tool to find truth, under influence of Plato and neo-Platonic thought, so too the Jewish world. Islamic philosophy ( Kalam) is now becoming Jewish philosophy. He must provide answers that satisfy the minds of his generation. 

2) Confront a dynamic Islamic civilization and Arabic as the new language of the Middle East -North Africa-Spain. Replaces Aramaic. Jewish texts will now be in Arabic, written in Hebrew letters.

3) Makes the Torah now comprehensible to an Arabic-speaking Jewry

4) First attempt to reinterpret newly emerging Jewish mysticism later to be known as Kabbalah) in light of a rational interpretation.

5) Response to challenge of Karaism against Rabbanism ( mainstream Judaism) 

6) Unify Jews through the Jewish Calendar

My own connection:

Prof. Moses Zucker

One of my favorite teachers in Rabbinical school was Professor Moshe Zucker. He was the scholar in residence when I was a student overseas and did my preliminary year of Rabbinical school at Neve Schechter, at the Jerusalem branch of the Jewish Theological Seminary. I recall that he had looked forward to meeting with the leading Moslem scholars in Jerusalem, but none of them would talk to a Jewish scholar at that time (just 3 years after the Six Day War). Later , I took a course in Jewish Islamic philosophy under him and he took a liking to me especially because, it turns out, his father was in business with my father in Vienna. He was a master Arabist and scholar of Islam, as well as Talmud and Jewish philosophy and his favorite figure was Saadiah Gaon. For example, he would note that, in discussing ibn Ezra commentary ( printed opposite Rashi in classic Chumash ( Mikraot Gedolot), how often he would refer to ‘Hagaon”, meaning R. Saadiah. He was at work on a critical edition of the classic of Saadiah Gaon, On Beliefs and Opinions, from the original Arabic. 

In the center, Rabbi Kapach officiating at our wedding

At the exact same time, in Israel, Rabbi Yoseph Kapach ( also spelled as Qafih) was engaged in the same project, He was the doyen of the Yemenite Jewish community, winner of the Israel Prize for Judaic Research, a respected scholar and expert on Arabic- Jewish literature, who had himself edited a critical work of a 10th century Rabbi at the early age of 11.(He was also married to my wife's aunt.) He published the first critical edition and translation in Hebrew in 800 years of the book ahead of my professor . This was very disheartening to Prof Zucker. Then, I went off to get married and brought my bride to the Seminary for the first time (Ofra). He was having his meal together with his wife, Manya, when I walked up to him to introduce her, and said,” Her uncle is Rabbi Kapach!”  IT was a shocker- but he still liked me ( he wanted me to do research on the anti-Jewish polemics of Justin Martyr). 

On the works of the Gaon
These are excerpts from his essay on the Gaon from the Encyclopedia Brittanica:
My notes in boldface

Moses Zucker Professor of Biblical Exegesis, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York City. Author of Rav Saadya Gaon's Translation of the Torah. Saʿadia ben Joseph, Arabic Saʿīd Ibn Yūsuf Al-fayyūmī, (born 882, Dilaz, in al-Fayyūm, Egypt—died September 942, Sura, Babylonia).

He produced his greatest philosophical work, Kitāb al-amānāt wa al-iʿtiqādāt (“The Book of Beliefs and Opinions”) at Sura in 935. His Arabic translation of the Old Testament is exceptionally valuable for its commentaries. . . . departed from Egypt, at the age of about 23, he left behind, besides his wife and two sons. …By that time he had already composed a Hebrew-Arabic dictionary… he migrated to Palestine. There he found a growing community of Karaites… he left for Babylonia. 

There …not only the Karaitic schism but also a gnostic trend. . . which rejected the foundations of all monotheistic religions.i.e Ḥiwi al-Balkhī, denied the omnipotence, omniscience, and justice of the biblical God and pointed to biblical inconsistencies, [ Note: I used to have a copy]. In the face of such challenges, Saʿadia marshaled his great talents in the defense of religion in general and Jewish tradition in particular. Saʿadia composed his refutation of Hiwi. 

.. Then, too, he wrote his Kitāb ar-radd ʿalāʿAnān (“Refutation of Anan,” the founder of Karaism) [Karaism- from Kara- the Reading of the Text, in other words, only the actual text of the Bible, not the masorah, traditon, or “ Torah sh b’al peh”. Similar , in its day, to the Protestant Reformation- sola scriptura- only the scriptures. Founded by Anan ben David, c. 9th century, possibly out of political split within the office of the Exilarch. Roots may go back much earlier. At one time, a large segment of the Jewish people, now approx. 50,000.] In 921 

…conflict with the Palestinian scholar Aaron ben Meir, who had promulgated a far-reaching change in the Jewish calendrical computation. …it demonstrated his indomitable courage and his importance for the Jewish community in Babylonia. In 928 Kitāb attamyīz (“Book of Discernment”), a defense of the traditional Rabbanite calendar.
[Note: This would have created a schism among Jews who would find themselves marking the Holy days on different dates. This is the period in which the power of the Babylonian academies proved their ascendancy over the academies of Israel and the Babylonian Talmud became the source of authority over and against the Palestinian ( Yerushalmi) Talmud] 

. . . the same year he was appointed by the exilarch (head of Babylonian Jewry[resh Galuta]) David ben Zakkai as the gaon (“head”) of the academy of Sura, which had been transferred to Baghdad. 


There were always two competing academies in Mesopotamia- Sura, and Pumbeditha( previously Nahardea) ., Pumbedita (modern Fallujah; west of Baghdad) in the north, and Sura in the south. Both academies, as well as Nehardea and Mahuza, are situated between, or in the immediate vicinity of, the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.]

Upon assuming this office, he recognized the need to systematize Talmudic law and canonize it by subject. Toward this end he produced Kitāb al-mawārīth (“Book on the Laws of Inheritance”); Aḥkam al-wadīʿah (“The Laws on Deposits”); Kitāb ash-shahādah wa al-wathāʾiq (“Book Concerning Testimony and Documents”); Kitāb aṭ-ṭerefot (“Book Concerning Forbidden Meats”); Siddur, a complete arrangement of the prayers and the laws pertaining to them; and some other minor works. In the Siddur he included his original religious poems. These works clearly show the Greco-Arabic methods of classification and composition. 

[Systematization: The Mishnah was somewhat organized around six major groupings, but while the Talmud starts under that organization, by virtue of being a record of discussions on the Mishnah, it travels far and wide from one topic to another. After close of Mishnah, communities around the Jewish world wrote questions to the leading Rabbis of Babylonia, Shealot u Teshuvoth( Responsa) , but this too would prove to be difficult to follow, as there was no one single repository or library with an orderly catalog! As the Jewish world was now spread from Spain to India and even into China, south to Yemen, north to central Europe and the Byzantine realms, one can imagine the confusion that arose]

 In 932, when Saʿadia refused to endorse a decision issued by the Exilarch in a litigation, an open breach ensued between the two leaders. The Exilarch excommunicated Saʿadia, and the latter retaliated by excommunicating the Exilarch. Ben Zakkai succeeded in having the Muslim ruler al-Qāhir remove Saʿadia from his office In 937 a reconciliation between the Gaon and the Exilarch occurred, and Saʿadia was reinstated as gaon. In 940 Ben Zakkai died and seven months later his son died, leaving behind a young child. Saʿadia took the orphan into his home and treated him like his own. Saʿadia himself died in September 942. Saʿadia’s Works.

 His major philosophical work, Kitāb al-amānāt wa al-iʿtiqādāt. The objective of this work was the harmonization of revelation and reason. In structure and content it displays a definite influence of Greek philosophy and of the theology of the Muʿtazilī, the rationalist sect of Islām. The introduction refutes skepticism and establishes the foundations of human knowledge. Chapter one seeks to establish creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) in order to ascertain the existence of a Creator-God. Saʿadia then discusses God’s uniqueness, justice, revelation, free will, and other doctrines accepted both by Judaism and by the Muʿtazilī (a great Islāmic sect of speculative theology, which emphasized the doctrines of God’s uniqueness and absolute justice). The second part of the book deals with the essence of the soul and eschatological problems and presents guidelines for ethical living. Below is the opening of the Hebrew translation and the Arabic original with emendations and notes by Rabbi Kapach. 

[On the left column is the Arabic text in the Hebrew lettering as reconstructed with footnotes indicating what source text was used for this edition. On the right side is the Hebrew translation with footnotes explaining the reason behind words or phrases used. In this case, Rabbi Kapach explains that he has titled the book " The Selected Among the Beliefs and Opinions" as opposed to the title given by the famous translator, ibn Tibbon , and explains his wording based on a manuscript variant and the content of the work]

Saʿadia’s opus magnum was on exegesis. He prepared an Arabic translation (Tafsir) of the whole Pentateuch (published by Joseph Derenbourg) and a translation with an extensive commentary on Genesis 1–28, Exodus, and Leviticus. …formulated new principles of interpretation modeled on the rules of Greco-Arabic rhetoric. 

An old manuscript page from the Tafsir

Opening of the Arabic text

Hebrew translation of opening of the text

 [“My rough translation into English: "The duplication of the definite article “ heh”
( the) hints at what is the plan and wisdom of the creator… its purpose is to show that both[heaven and earth] were created together in the smallest possible moment in time. This is against those who mistakenly believe that the creator of the heavens was not the creator of the earth. " This serves as a refutation of the gnostic claim against Judaism that a lesser god created the physical world, with all its defects, as opposed to the absolute God, who creates the Heavens, spiritual and perfect)] 

 His anti-Karaite works include Kitāb ar-radd ʿalā Ibn Sākawayhī (“Refutation of Ibn Sākawayhī”) and Kitāb taḥṣīl ash-sharāʾiʿ as-samāʿīyah (“Book Concerning the Sources of the Irrational Laws”). In the latter work the Gaon contends that matters pertaining to the irrational commandments of the Mosaic Law may never be decided by means of analogy but only by the regulations transmitted through oral tradition. Talmudic tradition is therefore, he argues, indispensable.

. . . he wrote a philosophical commentary on the mystical book Sefer yetzira. In contrast to his “Book on Beliefs and Opinions,” this volume does not show any influence of kalām (Islāmic scholastic theology).

 A sample from Beliefs and Opinions: 

Excerpts from Prof. Sarah Pessin ( She uses the Altmann translation for the sample texts, which are indented.

The Importance of Reason: The Book of Doctrines and Beliefs

 It is this commitment to upholding the importance of reason — and its fruits, knowledge and certainty — that lies at the core of Saadya's main philosophical text, the Kitâb al-Amânât wal-'I‘tiqâdât, or The Book of Doctrines and Beliefs (known in Samuel Ibn Tibbon's Hebrew translation as Sefer ha-'Emûnôt ve-ha-Deôt 

        : …I will begin this book, which it is my intention to write, with an exposition of     the reason why men, in their search for Truth, become involved in errors, and     how these errors can be removed so that the objects of their investigations may be fully attained; moreover, why some of these errors have such a powerful hold on some people that they affirm them as the truth, deluding themselves that they know something… (Altmann, 27)[1] 

. . . I have been led to make these introductory remarks by my observation of the state of many people in regard to their doctrines and beliefs .Some there are who have arrived at the truth and rejoice in the knowledge that they possess it…Others have arrived at the truth, but doubt it; they fail to know it for a certainty and to hold on to it…Still others confidently affirm that which is false in the belief that it is true; they hold on to falsehood, and abandon that which is right…Others again base their conduct on a certain belief for a time, and then reject it on account of some defect they find in it; then they change over to another belief and renounce it in turn because of something in it which seems questionable to them…These people are changing continually all their life… (Altmann, 28-9) 

…analysis of four modes of proper knowing, viz. knowledge from sense perception, knowledge from reason, knowledge from inference and knowledge from tradition. Tradition for Saadya demarcates a unique category of knowing. . .As such, Saadya's Arabic notion of tradition-as-report carries with it already a suggestion of reliable knowledge. Here, explicitly identifying Scripture as tradition (though elsewhere, he speaks of rabbinic writings as tradition too), he explains: 

[God] knew that His laws and the stories of His wondrous signs would, through the passage of time, require people to hand them down to posterity, so that they might become as evident to later generations as they were to the earlier ones. Therefore, He prepared in our minds a place for the acceptance of reliable tradition (al-kabar as-sâdiq) and in our souls a quiet corner for trusting it so that His Scriptures and stories should remain safely with us (Altmann, 109) 

Reliable tradition, hence, is the report that one can trust. It is an immediate source for certain knowledge. “Laws of Reason” vs. “Laws of Revelation” [ Hukkim u MIshpatim]…Saadya, though, is seen as the first Jewish writer to really engage this discussion philosophically. The “laws of reason” (again, the ones described as “ ‘aqliyyât ” from the root “intellect”) are essentially characterized there as commandments and prohibitions in the Bible whose reasons could be arrived at independently by any rational human being. . .prohibitions against murder, adultery, theft, and lying.:

 The Second Class of law consists of matters regarding which reason passes no judgment in the way either of approval or disapproval so far as their essence is concerned… (Altmann, 97)

 examples of such laws: the laws demarcating Sabbath and other festival days as separate from ‘ordinary’ days, rules about who gets chosen as a prophet and/or leader, the Jewish dietary laws, certain sexual prohibitions, and laws of purity and impurity. Reason and Revelation in Dialogue why the “laws of reason” were included by God in the revealed Bible at all 

— after all, if they are the sorts of things that reasonably sensible human beings ought to arrive at on their own, why did God bother revealing them? . God, in His benevolence, did not see fit to leave us to figure morality out on our own; even though we could arrive at certain key moral ideas on the basis of our own human reasoning, God, by revealing these moral ideas to us, essentially gives us a shortcut, as it were. …the Lord (be He exalted and glorified) has informed us through the words of His prophets that he wishes us to lead a religious life by following the religion which He instituted for us. This religion contains laws (sharî‘a), which he has prescribed for us, and which it is our duty to keep and to fulfill in sincerity…His messengers established these laws for us by wondrous signs and miracles, and we commenced to keep and fulfill them forthwith. Later we found that speculation confirms the necessity of the law for us. It would, however, not have been appropriate to leave us to our own devices… (Altmann, 95 ) 

Why make divine laws in the first place? When faced with this statement [viz. that the commandments and prohibitions are a divine gift], the first impulse of reason will be to object that God should have been able to bestow upon men perfect bliss and to grant them everlasting happiness without imposing upon them commandments and prohibitions. Moreover, it would seem that in this way His goodness would have been more beneficial to them, seeing that they would have been free from the necessity of making any laborious effort. My answer to this objection is that, on the contrary, the order instituted by God, whereby everlasting happiness is achieved by man's labours in fulfillment of the law, is preferable. For reason judges that one who obtains some good in return for work which he has accomplished enjoys a double portion of happiness in comparison with one who has not done any work and received what he receives as a gift of grace. reason does not deem it right to place both on the same level. This being so, our Creator has chosen for us the more abundant portion, namely, to bestow welfare on us in the shape of reward, thus making it double the benefit which we could expect without an effort on our part… (Altmann, 94)

Jewish dietary laws:
 The prohibition not to eat certain animals has this advantage: it makes it impossible to liken any of the animals to the Creator since it is unthinkable that one should permit oneself either to eat or to declare as impure what one likens to God; also it prevents people from worshiping any of the animals, since it is unthinkable that one should worship either what serves for food or what one declares as impure (Altmann, 101) 

…employs reason in support of revelation

. …mankind is fundamentally in need of the prophets, not solely on account of the revelational laws, which had to be announced, but also on account of the rational laws, because their practice cannot be complete unless the prophets show us how to perform them. Thus, for instance, reason commands gratitude toward God for the blessings received from Him, but does not specify the form, time, and posture appropriate to the expression of such gratitude. So we are in need of prophets. They gave it a form which is called ‘prayer’; they fixed its times, its special formulae, its special modes and the special direction which one is to face when praying… (Altmann, 103-104) 

The importance of revelation as a ground in Saadya …seen in his understanding of the commandments and prohibitions as themselves gracious gifts from God:
 The first of His acts of kindness towards His creatures was the gift of existence…Thereafter He offered them a gift by means of which they are able to obtain complete happiness and perfect bliss… (Altmann, 93) 

 God, Unity, Creation, Soul

 Saadya upholds the absolute unity of God, and argues firmly for creation ex nihilo… Saadya defends the creation ex nihilo position against 18 other theories, each of which he critiques in turn.. Saadya reveals a familiarity with a number of philosophical and theological doctrines, including those of the pre-Socratics, Plato and the Pythagoreans. Saadya actually links each of Plato's three discrete soul-functions to three discrete Hebrew terms for “soul” found in Scriptures (nefesh as corresponding to the appetitive function, ruah as corresponding to the faculty of passion and courage, and neshamah in correspondence to the faculty of knowledge).

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Man Who Changed the Course of Western Civilization-SAUL OF TARSUS (known as Paul) with a Digression on Karl Marx, the father of intellectual anti-Semitism

Rembrandt Self Portrait as Paul

  The Man Who Changed the Course of Western Civilization-SAUL OF TARSUS (known as Paul) with a Digression on Karl Marx, the father of intellectual anti-Semitism

Dec 26 and Jan 2 2020

Here are the links to my lecture on You Tube

Lecture 1

Lecture 2

We are usually caught up, as Jews, in polemics with Christian missionaries, on proving that Jesus is not the Messiah .

That , however, is based on the misunderstanding, from our side, of what Christianity is. That Christianity is the product of a very different Jew.

For my outline, I have taken excerpts from the Jewish Encyclopedia,c 1906 (still the finest survey of Jewish knowledge for everything up to 1900. Available on line at

These notes are from the perspective of Kaufmann Kohler, a leading Reform Rabbi, who was positing the strength of Judaism in the face of the dominant Christian civilization.  Hence, he is very critical towards Paul and , like the 18th-19th century Maskil (Enlightened) hostile to mysticism. He displays an extensive knowledge of Christian sources as well as of academic scholarship of his day. However, material on early Judaism from the Cairo Genizah was just then being uncovered. there was as yet no Dead Sea Scroll discovery, nor , for early Christianity, the documents at Nag Chamadi ( Egypt).


I start with some quotes from Paul:

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.” – Romans 12:9-13

“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. …. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Corinthians 13

“13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith. 15 In that case, we are also exposed as false witnesses about God. For we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead, but He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised.…” Corinthians 15


From Kaufman Kohler, with my interpolations boldfaced and in [].

On Saul of Tarsus(the Apostle Paul)

The actual founder of the Christian Church as opposed to Judaism; born before 10 C.E.; died after 63. The records containing the views and opinions of the opponents of Paul and Paulinism are no longer in existence; and the history of the early Church has been colored by the writers of the second century, who were anxious to suppress or smooth over the controversies of the preceding period, as is shown in the Acts of the Apostles and also by the fact that the Epistles ascribed to Paul, as has been proved by modern critics, are partly spurious (Galatians, Ephesians, I and II Timothy, Titus, and others) and partly interpolated.

Saul (whose Roman cognomen was Paul; see Acts xiii. 9) was born of Jewish parents in the first decade of the common era at Tarsus in Cilicia.

    [On the claim that he was the student of Rabban Gamliel]

Nor is there any indication in Paul's writings or arguments that he had received the rabbinical training ascribed to him by Christian writers, ancient and modern; least of all could he have acted or written as he did, had he been, as is alleged (Acts xxii. 3), the disciple of Gamaliel I, the mild Hillelite. His quotations from Scripture, which are all taken, directly or from memory, from the Greek version, betray no familiarity with the original Hebrew text.

Entirely a Hellenist in thought and sentiment. As such he was imbued with the notion that "the whole creation groaneth" for liberation from "the prison-house the body," from this earthly existence, which, because of its pollution by sin and death, is intrinsically evil .

His whole state of mind shows the influence of the theosophic or Gnostic lore of Alexandria

[ Gnosticism-a category of religious thought of the period. It had many variations, including Jewish ones. In its Jewish manifestation- antagonistic to the Torah and the God of the Torah. Cain and the serpant are the heroes, the God of creation is but 2nd class, at best,(demiurge) below the true God, whose realm is perfection. Again, much of what we know is what was written by their Christian opponents, or indirect references in Rabbinic sources. We do understand that one of the greatest Rabbis of the time of Rabbi Akiba, Elisha ben Abuya, Acher, about 50 years after Paul, had abandoned Judaism and seemed to have adopted that position].

The conception of a new faith, half pagan and half Jewish, such as Paul preached, and susceptibility to its influences, was altogether foreign to the nature of Jewish life and thought. For Judaism, religion is the hallowing of this life by the fulfilment of its manifold duties. . . Paul shrank from life as the domain of Satan and all his hosts of evil; he longed for redemption by the deadening of all desires for life, and strove for another world which he saw in his ecstatic visions.

Anti-Jewish Attitude

Whatever the physiological or psychological analysis of Paul's temperament may be, his conception of life was not Jewish. Nor can his unparalleled animosity and hostility to Judaism as voiced in the Epistles be accounted for except upon the assumption that, while born a Jew, he was never in sympathy or in touch with the doctrines of the rabbinical schools.

[It is a subject of current debate whether he actually turned his back on Jewish peoplehood, or thought of two strands, equivalent, of Jew and Gentile, one under Halakha, and one under faith]

His Personality.

Paul was of a fiery temper, impulsive and impassioned . . .. Effusive and excessive alike in his love and in his hatred, in his blessing and in his cursing, he possessed a marvelous power over men; and he had unbounded confidence in himself….. The philosopher and the Jew will greatly differ from him with regard to every argument and view of his; but both will admit that he is a mighty battler for truth, and that his view of life, of man, and of God is a profoundly serious one. The entire conception of religion has certainly been deepened by him, because his mental grasp was wide and comprehensive, and his thinking bold, aggressive, searching, and at the same time systematic. Indeed, he molded the thought and the belief of all Christendom.

Jewish Proselytism and Paul.

Why did Paul find it necessary to create a new system of faith for the admission of the Gentiles, in view of the fact that the Synagogue had well-nigh two centuries before opened its door to them and, with the help of the Hellenistic literature, had made a successful propaganda, as even the Gospels testify?

[ One of the known complaints in the New Testament, in Jesus own words: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.( Matthew 23:15.) The fact that Paul could find an audience is simply because there were so many gentiles who had adopted Jewish practices, if not Jewish religion, and in particular, gentile women drawn to the protection given women in Jewish society]

The answer is supplied by the fact that Jewish proselytism had the Jewish nation as its basis, as the names "ger" and "ger toshab" for "proselyte" indicate. The proselyte on whom the Abrahamic rite was not performed remained an outsider. It was, therefore, highly important for Paul that those who became converted to the Church should rank equally with its other members and that every mark of distinction between Jew and Gentile should be wiped out in the new state of existence in which the Christians lived in anticipation. The …view of the Synagogue was the political and social one; that of the Church, the eschatological one.[ End of days] …Paul fashioned a Christ of his own, a church of his own, and a system of belief of his own; and because there were many mythological and Gnostic elements in his theology which appealed more to the non-Jew than to the Jew, he won the heathen world to his belief.

Paul's Christ.. . . peculiar vision of Christ, to which he constantly refers as his only claim and title to apostleship (I Cor. ix. 1, xv. 8; II Cor. xii. 1-7; Phil. iii. 9; Gal. i. 1, 12, 16, on which see below). The other apostles saw Jesus in the flesh; Paul saw him when, in a state of entrancement, he was carried into paradise to the third heaven, where he heard "unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (II Cor. xii. 2-4). …To him the Messiah was the son of God in a metaphysical sense, "the image of God" (II Cor. iv. 4; Col. i. 15), "the heavenly Adam" (I Cor. xv. 49; similar to the Philonic or cabalistic Adam Ḳadmon), . .. The object of the Church is to obtain for its members the spirit, the glory, and the life of Christ, its "head," and to liberate them from the servitude of and allegiance to the flesh and the powers of earth

[ Paul’s vision: Corinthians: 12 I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know that this man (whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows) 4 was caught up into paradise[b] and heard things too sacred to be put into words,[c] things that a person[d] is not permitted to speak. 5 On behalf of such an individual I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except about my weaknesses .

Compare the Talmudic version of trip to heaven: Chagigah 14b 

§ The Sages taught: Four entered the orchard [pardes], and they are as follows: Ben Azzai; and ben Zoma; Aḥer, and Rabbi Akiva. . . . Ben Azzai glimpsed and died. . . .Ben Zoma glimpsed and was harmed. . . . Aher chopped down the shoots . Rabbi Akiva came out safely. "

"What was it ( about Acher)? He saw Mitatron, who was granted permission to sit and write the merits of Israel. ….( Seeing that someone other than God was seated above) he said: Perhaps, Heaven forbid, there are two authorities ( another source of power in addition to God). They removed Mitatron and smote him with sixty rods [pulsei] of fire ( to demonstrate that he was merely another angel." ( 15a) 

Metatron is the name accorded to Enoch, who never dies, and becomes, in some Jewish groups, a mediator between the world and God. For example, the Book of Enoch- some two to three centuries before- describes Enoch as an intermediary figure between God and humanity. The text had been preserved by Ethiopian Copts in Gheez language, but now fragments of the older Aramaic text have been discovered among the Dead Sea scrolls.

Rabbinic sources later play down role of Enoch by portraying him as an unstable personality who dies before his time It is another example of the intentional renunciation of this concept held by Paul and others of the period that there must be an intermediary entity between God and the world].

The Crucified Messiah.

How then can this world of perdition and evil, of sin and death, be overcome, and the true life be attained instead? …. There can be no sin or sensual passion in a world in which the spirit rules. Nor is there need of any law in a realm where men live as angels … To bring back the state of paradise and to undo the sin of Adam, the work of the serpent, which brought death into the world—this seems to have been the dream of Paul.)…. These are the elements of Paul's theology—a system of belief which endeavored to unite all men, but at the expense of sound reason and common sense.

Paul's Conversion.

There is possibly a historical kernel to the story related in the Acts (vii. 58-ix. 1-31, xxii. 3-21, xxvi. 10-19), while on the road to Damascus, commissioned with the task of exterminating the Christian movement antagonistic to the Temple and the Law (ib. vi. 13), Paul had a vision in which Jesus appeared to him, saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?". . . Evidently Paul entertained long before his vision those notions of the Son of God which he afterward expressed; but the identification of his Gnostic Christ with the crucified Jesus of the church he had formerly antagonized was possibly the result of a mental paroxysm experienced in the form of visions.

His Missionary Travels.

His field of work was chiefly, if not exclusively, among the Gentiles; he looked for a virgin soil wherein to sow the seeds of the gospel; and he succeeded in establishing throughout Greece, Macedonia, and Asia Minor churches in which there were "neither Jews nor Gentiles," but Christians who addressed each other as "brethren" or "saints." …It was to Rome that his efforts gravitated but Rome's imperial city, whose administrative system he had learned to admire, attracted and fascinated his mind by its world-wide horizon and power. Consciously or unconsciously, he worked for a church with its world-center in Rome instead of in Jerusalem. …he laid the foundation of the world-dominion of pagan Christianity.

Influence of the Greek Mysteries.

Paul, the Hellenist, however, knowingly or unknowingly, seems to have taken the heathen cult associations as his pattern... . . To him baptism is no longer a symbolic rite suggestive of purification or regeneration, as in Jewish and Judæo-Christian circles but a mystic rite by which the person that enters the water and emerges again undergoes an actual transformation, dying with Christ to the world of flesh and sin, and rising with him to the world of the spirit, the new life of the resurrection (Rom. vi. 1-10).

. . . the bread and the wine of the communion meal, the so-called "Lord's Supper," rendered the means of a mystic union with Christ, "a participation in his blood and body," exactly as was the Mithraic meal, a real participation in the blood and body of Mithra (see Cumont, l.c.).

[ Cult of Mithra, Mithrasim, a Roman adaptation of the Zoroastrian god, Mitra, very popular among the Roman legionnaires and a front-runner for state religion under Constantine!]

…his Church has by no means the moral perfection of the human race for its aim and end, as has Judaism. Salvation alone, that is, redemption from a world of perdition and sin, the attainment of a life of incorruption, is the object; yet this is the privilege only of those chosen and predestined "to be conformed to the image of His [God's] son" (Rom. viii. 28-30…. It is not righteousness, nor even faith—in the Jewish sense of perfect trust in the all-loving and all-forgiving God and Father—which leads to salvation, but faith in the atoning power of Christ's death, which in some mystic or judicial manner justifies the undeserving (Rom. iii. 22, iv., v.)

The Mystery of the Cross.

The crucifixion of Jesus as the son of God assumes for him at the very beginning the character of a mystery revealed to him, "a stumbling-block to the Jews and folly to the Greeks" (I Cor. i. 23-ii. 2, ii. 7-10). It is to him a cosmic act by which God becomes reconciled to Himself. God sent "his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh" in order to have His wrath appeased by his death. "He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up," so that by his blood all men might be saved (Rom. v. 8; viii. 3, 32 )

[For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”John 3:16 (The last Gospel-written after destruction of Temple. This was posted all over New York Subway walls when I was a student]

Some early Christians denied that Jesus ever died, a position that the Quran adopted. Islam accepts Jesus as a major prophet]

Paul's Opposition to the Law.

According to his arguments (Rom. iii. 20, iv. 15, vii-viii.), it is the Law that begets sin and works wrath, because without the Law there is no transgression. …He has no faith in the moral power of man: "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing" (ib. vii. 18). ,…For Paul, to be a member of the Church meant to be above the Law, and to serve in the newness of the spirit under a higher law (ib. vii. 4-6, 25

As he stated in I Cor. ix. 20-22: "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."

The original attitude of Paul to the Law was accordingly not that of opposition as represented in Romans and especially in Galatians, but that of a claimed transcendency.

To be with Christ, "in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead," is to become so "complete" as to be above the rule of heavenly bodies, above the "tradition of men," above statutes regarding circumcision, meat and drink, holy days, new moon, and Sabbath, all of which are but "a shadow of the things to come"; it is to be dead to the world and all things of the earth, to mortify the members of the flesh, to "put off the old man" with his deeds and passions, and put on the new man who is ever renewed for the highest knowledge of God (gnosis), so that there is "neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all" (Col. ii. 9-iii. 11; comp. I Cor. v. 7: "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump").

[ Contrast similar Jewish source- Tana d bei Eliyahu, 10th cent, Ch 9

On Deborah, being a woman and a judge

מעיד אני עלי את השמים ואת הארץ בין ישראל בין עכו"ם בין איש בין אשה בין עבד ובין שפחה הכל לפי המעשה שהוא עושה כך רוח הקודש שורה עליו

Whether Jew or idolator, male or female, or slave or bond woman, all is in accordance with the deed he does, thus the holy spirit rests on him( or her).]

Antinomianism and Jew-Hatred.

… In order to accomplish his purpose, he argues that just as little as the heathen escapes the wrath of God, owing to the horrible sins he is urged to commit by his clinging to his idols, so little can the Jew escape by his Law, because "the law worketh sin and wrath" (Rom. iv. 15). Instead, indeed, of removing the germ of death brought into the world by Adam, the Law was given only to increase sin and to make all the greater the need of divine mercy which was to come through Christ, the new Adam (ib. v. 15-20)…., he argues that the saving grace of God lies in faith (that is, blind belief) and not in the works of the Law. And so he declares faith in Jesus' atoning death to be the means of justification and salvation, and not the Law, which demands servitude, whereas the spirit of Christ makes men children of God (Rom. iv.-viii.).

[ Justin Martyr, early Church father, took the argument against Jewish law one step further: For we too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you — namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your hearts. Ch 18 ( Contra Trypho)]

Paul and Paulinism.

How far, after a careful analysis discriminating between what is genuine in Paul's writings and what is spurious and interpolated, he may yet be regarded as "the great religious genius" or the "great organizer" of the Christian Church, can not be a matter for discussion here. Still the credit belongs to him of having brought the teachings of the monotheistic truth and the ethics of Judaism, however mixed up with heathen Gnosticism and asceticism, home to the pagan world in a form which appealed most forcibly to an age eager for a God in human shape and for some means of atonement in the midst of a general consciousness of sin and moral corruption. …Paul with his austerity made Jewish holiness his watch word; and he aimed after all, like any other Jew, at the establishment of the kingdom of God, to whom also his Christ subordinated himself, delivering up the kingdom to the Father when his task of redemption was complete, in order that God might be all in all (I Cor. xv. 28). He was an instrument in the hand of Divine Providence to win the heathen nations for Israel's God of righteousness.

*************************************************( end of entry)

In the aftermath of Paul’s efforts, the Jewish-Christian movement (such as Ebionites, Evionim, the Poor) disappeared in the following years, as did the Dead Sea groups, the Essenes, and the gentile Christian movement dominated. Later , the Church leaders returned to some form of a religion of “deeds” in the following centuries, under the leadership of the Catholic Church. Martin Luther established his Protestant movement on Paul, with the emphasis on faith, not works. “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” 

This, in turn, triggered the breakdown of the power of the Church”, leading the way to the wave of religious, then secular ,revolutions that followed. Unfortunately for us. He also penned Von den Juden und ihren Lügen (On the Jews and Their Lies) which he wrote when Jews failed to follow him.

In retrospect, we know that there were many variations on Judaism in the time before and after the fall of the second Temple, yet all had one common theme. Saduccees, the group of the High Priests, who rejected the Oral Torah, the Essenes, who rejected the authority of the High Priest; the Pharisees, who laid claim to the Oral tradition, the mystical Rabbis, like Rabbi Akiva, the philosophers, like Philo, for whom all was metaphor and even the early Jesus movement shared one common theme. What kept them all in the Jewish fold was the insistence on the observance of mitzvot, as central to the essence of being a Jew; a Jew followed God’s commands.

It is Paul who breaks this one essence of Judaism, at first for the gentiles only. For a Jew, the question is “ What does God ask of me.” For the Christian, the question is” How do I find salvation.” I borrow from Kennedy: Ask not what your God can do for you; ask what you can do for your God.”.

While Paul never disavowed the Jewish people, or their significance, he set in motion the ideological opposition to Judaism, intellectual anti-Judaism ( as opposed to anti-Semitism). This remained a dominant view in Christian intellectual circles, Protestant and Catholic, till the 20th century.

The digression to Marx:

It would take another Jew to take the split between the two religions to its modern, secular form. Karl Marx, a descendant of great Rabbis, had been baptized as a child, as his father, Herschel had discovered that is career would be better served if he were a member of the Protestant Church.

Just as Marx stood Hegel on his head, by focusing the dialectic on the material, not the ideal, so to, he turned Christian anti-Judaic theology into a secular anti-Jewish ideology. It would be the fodder for both Communist and Nazi attacks on Judaism and Jews.

This is excerpted from Marx “ Zur Judenfrage” ( On the Jewish Problem, 1843) , regarding the political emancipation of the Jews. Marx is developing his concepts of communism, which are reflected in the essay and would appear a few years later in the “ Communist Manifesto.”


What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.

Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time.

An organization of society which would abolish the preconditions for huckstering, and therefore the possibility of huckstering, would make the Jew impossible. His religious consciousness would be dissipated like a thin haze in the real, vital air of society. On the other hand, if the Jew recognizes that this practical nature of his is futile and works to abolish it, he extricates himself from his previous development and works for human emancipation as such and turns against the supreme practical expression of human self-estrangement.

We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, an element which through historical development – to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed – has been brought to its present high level, at which it must necessarily begin to disintegrate.

In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.. . . The Jew has already emancipated himself in a Jewish way.

“The Jew, who in Vienna, for example, is only tolerated, determines the fate of the whole Empire by his financial power. The Jew, who may have no rights in the smallest German state, decides the fate of Europe. While corporations and guilds refuse to admit Jews, or have not yet adopted a favorable attitude towards them, the audacity of industry mocks at the obstinacy of the material institutions.” (Bruno Bauer, The Jewish Question, p. 114)

This is no isolated fact. The Jew has emancipated himself in a Jewish manner, not only because he has acquired financial power, but also because, through him and also apart from him, money has become a world power and the practical Jewish spirit has become the practical spirit of the Christian nations. The Jews have emancipated themselves insofar as the Christians have become Jews.

Judaism continues to exist not in spite of history, but owing to history.

The Jew is perpetually created by civil society from its own entrails.

What, in itself, was the basis of the Jewish religion? Practical need, egoism.

The monotheism of the Jew, therefore, is in reality the polytheism of the many needs, a polytheism which makes even the lavatory an object of divine law. Practical need, egoism, is the principle of civil society, and as such appears in pure form as soon as civil society has fully given birth to the political state. The god of practical need and self-interest is money.

. . . Contempt for theory, art, history, and for man as an end in himself, which is contained in an abstract form in the Jewish religion, is the real, conscious standpoint, the virtue of the man of money. The species-relation itself, the relation between man and woman, etc., becomes an object of trade! The woman is bought and sold.

The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general.

The groundless law of the Jew is only a religious caricature of groundless morality and right in general, of the purely formal rites with which the world of self-interest surrounds itself.

Here, too, man’s supreme relation is the legal one, his relation to laws that are valid for him not because they are laws of his own will and nature, but because they are the dominant laws and because departure from them is avenged.

Jewish Jesuitism, the same practical Jesuitism which Bauer discovers in the Talmud, is the relation of the world of self-interest to the laws governing that world, the chief art of which consists in the cunning circumvention of these laws.

Indeed, the movement of this world within its framework of laws is bound to be a continual suspension of law.

Judaism could not develop further as a religion, could not develop further theoretically, because the world outlook of practical need is essentially limited and is completed in a few strokes.

By its very nature, the religion of practical need could find its consummation not in theory, but only in practice, precisely because its truth is practice.

Once society has succeeded in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism – huckstering and its preconditions – the Jew will have become impossible, because his consciousness no longer has an object, because the subjective basis of Judaism, practical need, has been humanized, and because the conflict between man’s individual-sensuous existence and his species-existence has been abolished.

The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.

The bloodiest century in human history followed.