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

Benjamin Myers b.myers at uq.edu.au
Wed Jul 26 10:49:12 EDT 2006

The brilliant modern Jewish theologian Martin Buber offers an 
interesting perspective on loving one's enemies. In his influential 
book "I and Thou" (1923), he emphasises our responsibility towards 
the other, and he argues that "moral judgment" on others is 
"abolished forever" through our relatedness to God. Thus I am also 
responsible for my enemies: "the 'evil' man is simply one who is 
commended to [me] for greater responsibility, one even more needy of 
love" (p. 109).

But although this is an interesting and illuminating parallel to the 
Christian idea of love for enemies, I doubt that Buber is talking 
about "love" in quite the same way as Christian tradition. In fact, 
in his book "Between Man and Man" (1947), Buber critiques what he 
calls an "altruistic" interpretation of the love of Jesus: "I know no 
one in any time who has succeeded in loving every man he met. Even 
Jesus obviously loved of 'sinners' only the loose, lovable sinners, 
sinners against the Law; not those who ... sinned against him and his 
message. Yet to the latter as to the former he stood in a direct 
relation" (p. 24).

So for Buber, what seems to matter is a formal "dialogic" relatedness 
to one's enemies: one must never allow these "enemies" to become 
unrelated to oneself, but must always stand "in a direct relation" to 
them. Even if this is not quite the same as what Jesus calls "love", 
it is perhaps its basic precondition.

Best wishes,
Benjamin Myers

>>>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 
>>>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 
>>>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

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