I praise no superstition, I praise the living fountains of enlarging belief. What is growth, completion, development? You began with that question, I apply it to the history of our people. I say that the effect of our separateness will not be completed and have its highest transformation unless our race takes on again the character of a nationality. That is the fulfillment of the religious trust that moulded them into a people, whose life has made half the inspiration of the world. What is it to me that the ten tribes are lost untraceably, or that multitudes of the children of Judah have mixed themselves with the Gentile populations as a river with rivers? Behold our people still! Their skirts spread afar; they are torn and soiled and trodden on; but there is a jeweled breastplate. Let the wealthy men, the monarchs of commerce, the learned in all knowledge, the skilful in all arts, the speakers, the political counselors, who carry in their veins the Hebrew blood which has maintained its vigor in all climates, and the pliancy of the Hebrew genius for which difficulty means new device — let them say, ‘we will lift up a standard, we will unite in a labor hard but glorious like that of Moses and Ezra, a labor which shall be a worthy fruit of the long anguish whereby our fathers maintained their separateness, refusing the ease of falsehood.’ They have wealth enough to redeem the soil from debauched and paupered conquerors; they have the skill of the statesman to devise, the tongue of the orator to persuade. And is there no prophet or poet among us to make the ears of Christian Europe tingle with shame at the hideous obloquy of Christian strife which the Turk gazes at as at the fighting of beasts to which he has lent an arena? There is store of wisdom among us to found a new Jewish polity, grand, simple, just, like the old — a republic where there is equality of protection, an equality which shone like a star on the forehead of our ancient community, and gave it more than the brightness of Western freedom amid the despotisms of the East. Then our race shall have an organic centre, a heart and brain to watch and guide and execute; the outraged Jew shall have a defense in the court of nations, as the outraged Englishman of America. And the world will gain as Israel gains. For there will be a community in the van of the East which carries the culture and the sympathies of every great nation in its bosom: there will be a land set for a halting-place of enmities, a neutral ground for the East as Belgium is for the West. Difficulties? I know there are difficulties. But let the spirit of sublime achievement move in the great among our people, and the work will begin.”
– Mordecai in George Eliot’s novel Daniel Deronda
G-d told Cain “If you improve, you will be forgiven” Genesis 4:7. Cain’s true failure was that he didn’t learn from G-d’s positive response to Abel, who had offered up the choicest of his animals. Had Cain presented a second offering, this time from the choicest of his crop, G-d would have forgiven him and accepted it. G-d here tried to teach him that if an individual learns from his errors, his slate can be wiped clean.
However, Cain refused to admit his error. Convinced of the rightness of his action, he felt that if Abel were eliminated, Cain’s own view would necessarily prevail. Our challenge, as well, is to learn from our failures, rather than to stubbornly refuse to admit them and even rationalize them. By learning from our failures, we can transform every one of them into an impetus for further spiritual growth.
~ Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l
The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression. (Proverbs 19:11)
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Rabbi Menachem Meiri relates the following story:
There was once a righteous king who had but one major fault; he was angered very easily. To overcome this tendency he wrote three lines on a sheet of paper and appointed one of his servants to show it to him whenever he started to grow angry.
The lines read:
1. Always remember that you are merely a creature, and you yourself are not the Creator.
2. Always remember that you are flesh and blood and will eventually perish.
3. Always remember that there will be mercy for you in the future only if you have mercy on others.
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– Tom Irvine
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. (Proverbs 1:7)
The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant. (Psalms 25:14)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever. (Psalm 111:10)
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The Hebrew word for fear (yirah) is the same as revere, or to show devotion to. So the secret of the Lord is with those who devote themselves to Him.
Rabbi Alan Lew describes yirah as:
“The fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerably more energy than we are used to, inhabiting a larger space than we are used to inhabiting. It is also the feeling we feel when we are on sacred ground.”
Rabbi Fern Feldman wrote:
“When we experience yirah, it can mean we are terrified, or it can mean we are in awe, or it can mean we are experiencing some feeling that is both awe and fear.”
Rabbi Yoel Glick explained:
“To feel awe at the beauty of God’s creation is also yirat shamayim. To rejoice in the miracle of birth and the splendor of a sunset; to be dazzled by the incredible diversity of life in its manifold forms, to marvel at the amazing array of personalities, cultures and religions that have emerged from the human race – all these experiences are expressions of yirat shamayim, the awe of God.”
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– Tom Irvine
“The Jew of today holds in Jesus an inspired ideal of matchless beauty. While he lacks the element of stern justice expressed so forcibly in the law and in the Old Testament characters, the firmness of self-assertion so necessary to the full development of manhood, all those social qualities which build up home and society, industry and worldly progress, he is the unique exponent of the principle of redeeming love. His name as helper of the poor, as sympathizing friend of the fallen, as brother of every fellow sufferer, as lover of man and redeemer of woman, has become the inspiration, the symbol, and the watchword for the world’s greatest achievements in the field of benevolence.”
Rabbi Kaufman Kohler (1843-1926)
Rev. Hugh Robert Orr: Judaism vs. Christianity– A Unitarian View
“And so there came to be what was know to be a ‘Christianity as a system’ — Christianity as a system is not and never was the religion of Jesus. Christianity as a system is an agglomeration of absurd theological dogma infiltrated with all kinds of Pagan superstition, all gathered about the person of Jesus, so surely obscuring the great teacher with its falsehoods, that it is only with difficulty that the probable Jesus can be discovered at all.
“What Christian theology has done to Jesus is worse for the world than what his crucifiers did. It stole Jesus the Jew from Judaism, dressed him up in a strange and bewildering costume more disgraceful than any crown of thorns, fabled a false pedigree for him and then audaciously insisted that the Jewish race must accept this impossible caricature in place of their kinsman of Nazareth. And if the Jews would not fall down and worship this strange Pagan Christ that the Christians had substituted for the real Jesus, then they and their children should be sought out and tortured unto death.
“Many orthodox Jews, knowing little of the real Jesus, but knowing well how for centuries their race has been excluded and hounded and murdered in the name of Jesus Christ, have a horror of that name as of some spectral devil who is responsible for all their centuries of suffering. Can you blame them? And who fault is it?
“To be sure, Christianity does profess to embody the teachings of Jesus, and in a way practices them; that way may be judged, in part at least, from some of the things I have already pointed to. And true it is today, Christian theology is beginning to divert itself very cautiously of some of its Pagan superstition. Some of its younger and better educated ministers do come dangerously near repudiating some of the falsehoods of the Christian theology at times. But when you remove from Christianity all the ignorant superstitions, what do you have left? Why you have left simply the teachings of Jesus, which are no more Christian that they are Jewish, for they are Judaism at its best. Is it not about time that Christendom should lay aside its superstitions and be converted to the religion of Jesus? When it does it will then realize how far it was from the way of the great teacher when it was murdering his kinsmen.”
Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. (Job 38:3)
Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. (Jeremiah 1:17)
– Tom Irvine