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Judaism ABRAHAM A. NEUMAN JUDAISM is the religion professed by a small people, the Jewish people, who numbered no more than sixteen million souls at the zenith of their numerical growth before World War II and are now reduced to about ten or eleven million through the maniacal fury of a clique which set out to destroy the religion and the people, root and branch. They numbered less than a million in the days of their nationhood, when according to tradition David composed Psalms and Solomon wrote epigrams and parables of wisdom; and probably not more than four to five million when their political fate as a nation was sealed in the year 70 and they set out upon their historic career as a global people with a religion and a Bible to live by and to defend, if need be, even unto death. At the height of the Middle Ages, during the thirteenth century, when Judaism had reached its full rabbinic development and was exerting a great influence upon the emerging European civilization, the Jewish population in Europe did not much exceed one million souls. This people, one of the smallest and oldest historic nations— now scattered over the globe—out of the depth of its own experience , attained to a lofty and unique vision of God, man, and the universe, and translated that vision into a program of living. That vision and that way of life constitute the philosophy and the precepts of Judaism. The relationship between the people and the religion is unique in Judaism: for the religion is inconceivable without a continuous , living Jewish people. By the normal process of religious conversion Judaism can absorb and assimilate individuals and even nations within its fold, and it has indeed done so. But were the Jews of the world to disappear, their religion would inevitably disappear with them. Other peoples who had no historic connection with the Jewish past could under such circumstances become heir to the universal teachings of Judaism; but 224 ABRAHAM A. NEUMAN the precepts, ceremonials, and observances in which these principles are incorporated and which make up the body of Judaism would have no relevancy for those whose ancestors did not "go out of the land of Egypt," and who were not born to the tradition that their fathers stood at the foot of Sinai and that they and their descendants were forever to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The indissoluble bond between the people and religion is a basic part of Judaism. Judaism was not given full grown to the Jewish people as was Christianity to the pagan nations. To its adherents, the Jewish religion in essence is not the distillation of the tears and sorrows of others, freely given them by an act of divine grace or acquired through the mysteries of faith. Slowly and painfully over the course of many centuries it was beaten out of the historic experiences of the nation, illumined by the vision of its prophets and sages. The prophets of Israel, profound mystics, who envisaged God the Infinite, who perceived that His Spirit filled the universe, and who spoke in His Name with the warmth, intimacy, and conviction of personal revelation, were not detached individualists or universalists . They were essentially national heroes of the Jewish religious genius. The problems, sins, failures, and sorrows of their people were the starting-point of their spiritual brooding. However universal and far-reaching the resulting prophetic vision may have been, its light was focused upon Israel and, through Israel, its rays were diffused round the world. Secondary only to the people was the relationship of the land to the religion during the early stages of its development. In the Abraham covenant, the promise of the land follows closely upon the choice of Abraham's descendants as "a blessing to all the families of the earth." The possession of the Promised Land was not merely a national goal; it was not only the vehicle of a divine covenant and an instrument by which God's pleasure or displeasure with the people was manifested; it was the medium for a system of agricultural and land legislation which gave meaning to the ethical character of the religion. Rooted in the land are the Biblical laws for relief from the 225 JUDAISM curse of poverty, precepts to prevent land concentration in the hands of the few, provisions for a program of social justice. Even after the forcible separation of the Jewish...


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