[Milton-L] Re-send of question re Judaism

Jeffrey Shoulson jshoulson at miami.edu
Tue Jul 25 16:22:13 EDT 2006


I know the Telushkin book and Professor Rudrum's characterization of it 
as "low-level but not entirely useless" seems to me to be right on the 
mark.  I do think that Telushkin's three points seem to reflect a 
rather casual understanding of the development of Christian theology, 
one that elides statements attributable to Jesus and principles of 
belief (especially an elaborated soteriology) that took many years to 
become fully developed.

As for the specific question, whether there is anything in Jewish 
tradition that requires one to love one's enemies, I don't know that I 
feel confident enough to give a definitive answer.  My own sense of the 
tradition, however, is largely consistent with that characterization.  
"Love," especially insofar as we define it as parallel to the Christian 
idea of caritas, is not an particularly prominent feature of Jewish 
ethics.  The Hebrew Bible, as has already been noted, speaks of loving 
one's neighbor as oneself.  It speaks of loving God with all of one's 
soul, heart, and might.  But the detailed civil and criminal laws that 
occupy so many pages of the Talmud and subsequent rabbinic commentary 
take for granted, in my view, that while it is reasonable to expect an 
environment of respect, the love of one's antagonist (granted, a 
different idea than an "enemy") is not an essential component.

Indeed, the more I consider the question, the more I am puzzled by the 
term "enemy."  The rabbis, as far as I know, didn't think in terms of 
enemies as much as they thought of haters of Israel.  That is, my sense 
is Jesus's call to love one's enemies is directed at a more 
individualized notion of personal antagonisms and hostilities.  Most of 
the rabbinic corpus developed within an historical context in which 
Jews didn't really have the luxury to think about personal hatreds and 
hostilities--they were too concerned with the "enemy" from without.  As 
Woody Allen's Albee Singer tells Annie Hall in that great movie, "My 
grammy never gave me ties.  She was too busy being raped by Cossacks."

I'm not sure if that one-footed answer suffices.  It's a question I had 
never considered before and for that, I am grateful to Professor 
Rudrum.

I'd be pleased, however, to be corrected or amended.

Jeffrey Shoulson

Jeffrey S. Shoulson, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of English and Judaic Studies
University of Miami
PO Box 248145
Coral Gables, FL 33156

(o) 305-284-5596
(f) 305-284-2182

jshoulson at miami.edu
www.as.miami.edu/english/faculty.htm#shoulson


On Jul 25, 2006, at 1:49 PM, Peter C. Herman wrote:

> It is unclear to me if Prof. Rudrum is contemplating converting to 
> Judaism, or to Christianity. But be that as it may, I suggest that he 
> direct his inquiry to Jason Rosenblatt and/or Jeffrey Shoulson, who 
> are much more qualified than I am to comment. But I will say this: I 
> think that the range of inquiry needs to be expanded beyond the Hebrew 
> Bible (usually referred to by non-Jews as "The Old Testament") to the 
> Talmud and the near infinity of commentators on the Talmud (which, to 
> add to the complexity, is in fact two texts (Jerusalem and 
> Bablyonian). So far as I know, there was no "ad fontes" movement in 
> Judaism, no sense that one must adhere strictly to the Bible in order 
> to determine what is licit and what is not.
>
> As for the specific question, if Prof. Rudrum would consider what was 
> delivered while standing on one leg, I think he will discover the 
> answer.
>
> elliptically yours,
>
> Peter C. Herman
>
> At 09:37 AM 7/25/2006, you wrote:
>
>> I am re-sending this question, which has had few responses and very 
>> few from Jewish scholars.  The question has a Miltonic bearing which 
>> will become apparent if my brain-cells live long enough.  If you 
>> don't get the joke in the last line of the message, you may not be 
>> qualified to respond.
>>
>>
>> ***********************************************************
>>
>> At my age I need to know which kind of cleric to ask for when I hit 
>> the Emergency Ward, so I am trying to figure out the differences 
>> between Christianity and Judaism.  There are some large academic 
>> tomes on my desk, but we are in the midst of a heat wave.
>>
>> I have what strikes me as a low-level but not entirely useless work 
>> called Jewish Literacy by Joseph Telushkin, and he says there are 
>> three innovative teachings of Jesus diametrically opposed to Jewish 
>> teachings:
>>
>> 1. Jesus forgives all sins
>>
>> 2. Judaism does not demand that one love one's enemies.
>>
>> 3. Jesus' claim that people can come to God only through him.
>>
>> All three on pages 128-129
>>
>> I suspect that the first and third are claims of the 
>> gospel-writer/editors rather than claims of Jesus - I have yet to be 
>> convinced of the historical accuracy of the gospels, which are 
>> "fanciful" according to one Jewish scholar and theological rather 
>> than historical according to a good many Christian commentators, but 
>> I should like to know if the second statement by Telushkin is 
>> correct.
>>
>> Is there anything in the Hebrew scriptures which suggests that we 
>> should forgive our enemies?
>>
>> Naturally, I expect you to write your response while standing on one 
>> leg.
>>
>> Alan Rudrum
>> Professor Emeritus
>> Department of English
>> Simon Fraser University
>> BURNABY BC V5A 1S6
>> Canada
>>
>> www.sfu.ca/~rudrum
>> _______________________________________________
>>
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