The origin of Judeo-Christian spirituality can be described in the following spiritually Jewish way.
- The great majority of Jews support the Rambam’s 13 principles of faith with the statement that the Torah is immutable and of divine origin.
- The Torah states that God created the humans in His image and likeness – all of them, Jews and non-Jews.
- The Torah defines the image of God as the Creator. If it is so, all the humans have to be creators in their individual (and collective) spheres of human endeavor.
- The Torah defines the way of God’s, and therefore humans, creative work – evaluating the results of a creation: if it is GOOD, it remains alive and continue developing; if it is BAD, it is demolished and replaced by something else.
- The Torah provides the Rules (spirituality, morality, rituals …) for defining GOOD and BAD to be tailored and applied to individual life circumstances.
- The Torah defines one group of the humans, the Jews, as the Chosen to be a sort of testing ground for the Rules and a helper to the others in learning and applying the Rules to their God-guided creative efforts.
- After receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, the Jews – for over a millennium – had accumulated enough experience in applying the Rules in their own realm, and had begun – about two millenniums ago – helping the non-Jews in changing their heathen rules to the Rules of One God.
- At that time, there were no religions of Judaism or Christianity – just the Rules of One God for all the humans created by God in His own image and likeness.
- After the God’s Torah-based Rules began to be followed by all Jews and many non-Jews, some of them began to play the role of interpreters and enforcers of the Rules in their own interpretation with the goal of becoming a sort of human gods for their own peoples – that is the beginning of religions Judaism and Christianity.
- Judeo-Christian spirituality that we are discussing these days is the all-human spirituality based on the Rules of One God specified in the Torah without distortions introduced by some power-grabbing human leaders (in both Christianity and Judaism) without neglecting the unique role of the Jews as the Chosen.
Now, why some people may hate the concept of Judeo-Christian spirituality if, as is seen from the above description, this concept
- has nothing to do with the unique role of the Jews as the Chosen,
- has nothing to do with the unique distinguishing characteristics of Judaism and Christianity as different religions made for two different peoples – Jews and non-Jews,
- makes everybody spiritually equal in their individual pursue of happiness through creative work under one set of guiding rules for all, and
- what most important, spiritually arms us for defending our Judeo-Christian world from its chief spiritual enemy, the militarist Islam, bent on eliminating the Judeo-Christian world?
It looks like the answer is obvious. The haters of the concept of Judeo-Christian spirituality do not appreciate our great civilization, with two spiritual hubs in USA and Israel, and want to change it for something else. They do not understand the mission of the Jews as the Chosen and want do denigrate this mission. The Jewish haters do not believe in the Jewish spiritual strength and therefore think the concept of Judeo-Christian spirituality may encourage the Jews to leaving their faith. All of them are wrong!
At his presentation at the US Congress, Pope Francis did not speak about Jesus Christ and the basics of Catholicism and Christianity in general. He spoke about One God for everybody – Jews and Christians, Catholics and Protestants, Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists, Religious and Non-Religious. He spoke about what unites all of us as unique human individuals created in the image and likeness of God.
And what unites us is the universal moral principles of the Torah, which are valid and true for all humans as One God’s guidance for building a better world for everybody. Those Torah principles are treasured by all spiritual streams of Judaism and Christianity. However, in addition to those Torah principles, each spiritual stream created something else that distinguishes it from the others and defines its own way in searching for God’s truth.
At the beginning of his presentation, the Pope Francis reminded the two fundamentals of the Torah. They are the story of Moses who brought the God’s guidance from God to all humans in the Torah, and the most important concept of the Torah that all human individuals have to treat other human individuals in the way they would like to be treated – because God created all humans in His image and likeness as equals.
In the rest of his presentation, the Pope described the challenge of addressing the contemporary world problems through the prism of treating everybody in the image and likeness of God. The underlying thought in the Pope’s presentation was clear – all contemporary world challenges have to be resolved, based on the Judeo-Christian moral principles. The Pope’s presentation reminded us the Church-State separation should be understood correctly: it is the separation of official religious institutions from official government institutions – it is not the separation of Judeo-Christian morality from legislative work of government institutions.
The Pope listed the most urgent contemporary challenges, which should be addressed through the prism of Judeo-Christian morality such as
-Mass immigration in search for hope and happiness,
-Seeing in the world not just Good and Evil but all shades of God-guided behavior,
-Not replacing tyrants by other tyrants,
-Fighting poverty and hunger,
-Preserving and strengthening traditional families,
-Preserving Nature created by God, etc.
There are two basic ways to address all those challenges:
–the Judeo-Christian Bible-based way through individual and collective charity/mitzvah and
–the way through government-forced redistribution of wealth.
The Judeo-Christian way creates opportunities and hope for everybody – rich and poor, whites and blacks, religious and non-religious, and a sort of community unity. The government-forced redistribution of wealth creates disunity and feeling of envy and entitlement. And that is a contemporary political battle field in the USA, Israel and many other countries.
The very important underlying message of the Pope: religious people and their leaders have to get involved in the politics to preserve and strengthen there the Judeo-Christian moral principles. And our rabbis should not be scared to follow this message.
I have received from MiKu the following comment: “So you discard a Talmudic idea because it doesn’t fit your agenda, then you aren’t qualified to invent “Intellectual Judaism””, and I have responded in the following way:
“Michael, I am not discarding anything. I am, in my human duty as a spiritual scientist, trying to find out why the purely Talmudic-based Orthodox Judaism is not attracting anymore the Jewish majority, and the Jews are testing something else such as conservatism, reformism, secularism, etc. You may believe the purely Talmudic-based orthodox rabbis are the guardians of Judaism but what guardianship is this if the Jewish majority do not follow them. So I have decided, after many unsuccessful attempts to discuss it with the purely Talmudic-based orthodox rabbis, to go back to the Torah and figure out what may be done to attract the Jews again to the Torah’s guidance. What spiritual objections do you have against my search?”
This post is a part of my search.
We the Jews are united as Jews, all of us from the Orthodox to the Secular, by our collective faith rooted in the Torah, transferred from generation to generation most probably genetically, and enhanced through Jewish education.
We the Jews, all of us from the Orthodox to the Secular, are disunited almost on everything by our diverse and sometimes conflicting interpretations of the Torah guidance.
Why the same Torah is the source of our unity and disunity?
The Torah comprises of two different universes.
One of them is the so-called God’s universe, where God with His multiple images such as Supreme Power, Adonai, Nature, Big Bang, etc. is the Higher Authority above us the humans. The other one is the Religion’s universe. They are different.
Naturally, God Himself created the God’s universe – in all His multiple images. Our human authoritative leaders called in the Jewish nation the Rabbis created the Religion’s universe.
The God’s universe is presented in the Torah with God’s guidance on how to build a human society where every human individual is acting in all his/her life endeavors in the individually understood “image and likeness” of God. We accepted the guidance of the Higher Authority above us the humans after the failure of numerous humans to play the role of such authority. The most fundamental part of this guidance is the so-called “Free Will” that encourages all human individuals to compete with each other for better designs of various parts of the God’s better world.
Based on the Torah’s guidance, the rabbis created the Religion’s universe with their guidance on how to understood the “image and likeness” of God in terms of human moral behavior. The rabbis’ role as teachers in this Religion’s universe was extremely valuable. However, in the course of religious history, the rabbis began to exercise another role – the role of authoritative rulers, and in this role, the rabbis created disunity. In order to secure his power as an authoritative ruler, a rabbi was declaring that only his guidance was the true God’s guidance, and all others were mistaken. This authoritative-ruler approach obviously breaded disunity.
When the Jews lived in the isolated Jewish communities (shtetls, ghettos), this disunity was hidden – the Jews were not interacting with the real God’s world outside the Jewish communities, knew only their rabbi’s guidance and obeyed him.
However about two centuries ago, things had begun to change – the Jews had begun to be accepted by the gentiles and begun real competitive coexistence in the gentile world. The life conditions for Jewish individuals had become completely different, and the rabbis were not able to adjust their spiritual guidance to specific life conditions of everybody. That was the end of the traditional Orthodox spiritual supremacy in the Jewish nation – not because of somebody’s revolt but rather because of inability of the Orthodox rabbis to adjust the Torah’s teachings to the changing times. The Orthodox rabbis were not prepared to tailor their teachings to the enormous changes in the world created along the lines of God’s laws of nature. The result: the birth of new spiritual Jewish movements – conservatism, reformism and secularism. Those feuding movements are trying to find the God’s guidance in new life circumstances, created in the God’s world by the God’s laws, – the guidance the orthodox rabbis were not able to provide.
The Ten Commandments and the Social Justice are the two systems for redistribution of individually created wealth aimed at making a better world for everybody, or Tikkun Olam in Jewish spiritual terms.
If we have two wealth-redistribution systems suggested for creating a better world for everybody, we have to figure out which system is better. The great majority would agree that a better world for everybody should be a just world. If it is so, the most important is to define what is just and unjust in both systems.
In the Judeo-Christian universe (observant and non-observant), the Ten Commandments and the entire Bible (Old and New Testaments), which is tailoring the Ten Commandments to various life circumstances, define justice and injustice. Those definitions are coming from the Higher Authority above us called God. We may disagree on the image of this Authority (God, Adonai, Supreme Power, Nature, Big Band, etc.) but not with the need for and the importance of such authority. This Authority unites all of us since, as the Bible declares, this Authority creates all of us as equals – in His image and likeness. If we are created as equals, the definition of justice and injustice, which is coming from this Authority, have to be considered just for everybody.
The guidance of this Authority for creating a better world, which is just for everybody, is clear and simple:
- A better world, which is just for everybody, is the world where every individual has the opportunity to be an individual spiritual and material wealth creator in all areas of his/her life – family, community, religious institutions, employment, politics, social development, charity/mitzvah, etc. Moreover, to be personally responsible for the results of individual creative work.
- The purpose of government is to secure the individual opportunities, not to impose on the individuals the government’s own ideas on social justice. The government has to legislate along the lines of the Bible – to strengthen individual families, to provide safety for families and communities, to keep forceful confiscation of wealth to a minimal level just needed to support a minimal government.
- About 10% of the individually created wealth should be used for helping the less fortunate to enhance their individual opportunities through individual charity/mitzvah wealth transfer – not to enslave them in the welfare system forever.
In the secular universe, which might be even artificially observant, an elected or non-elected government defines what is just and what is unjust. Any human government, although necessary at some minimal level, disunites people. Why? Because any human government operates with one important goal in mind – to preserve its power at a next election cycle.
There is an established practice of how to preserve the power in this secular universe:
- A government convinces the society that not all people are created equal, and therefore the role of a government is to be a sort of equalizer. To perform this role, a government finds a small group of wealthy individuals with a lot of individually made wealth but with a negligible voting power, and forcefully confiscates a significant part of their wealth.
- Then, a government redistributes the confiscated wealth to a large group of less wealthy (most of them are not poor in a classical definition of this word) but with a decisive voting power. If the redistribution is correct, the government preserves its power.
- However, such redistribution is unjust for the entire society. The wealthy individuals are unhappy – they think the injustice was committed against them. They believe so not because the money was taken from them – but rather because the money was taken forcefully without their consent on how much to take and how to redistribute. The injustice is committed as well against those who are receiving the redistributed money. It is so since the government decides what is good and what is bad for them – they are deprived the opportunity to make their own choices.