Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rabbi Neusner on the Prayer for the Jews

Rabbi Jacob Neusner
This short article was published in response to the publication of the revised Prayer for the Jews, to be used in the Extraordinary Form Good Friday Liturgy, by Pope Benedict XVI, in 2008. The prolific American writer and translator, Rabbi Jacob Neusner, points out that Jews pray every day for the conversion and enlightenment of the gentiles, and have no reason to be offended if their charity is reciprocated.

I have taken the text from Chiesa, here.

Israel also asks God to enlighten the hearts of the Gentiles 

by Jacob Neusner 

Israel prays for the Gentiles. So the other monotheistic religions, including the Catholic Church, have the right to do the same thing, and no one should feel offended. Any other attitude toward the Gentiles would block them from encountering the one God revealed to Israel in the Torah.

The Catholic prayer manifests the same altruistic spirit that characterizes the faith of Judaism. The kingdom of God opens its gates to all of humanity: when they pray and ask for the swift coming of the kingdom of God, the Israelites express the same degree of freedom of spirit that impregnates the papal text of the prayer for the Jews (better: "Holy Israel ") to be recited on Good Friday.

I will explain myself. For the theology of Judaism in regard to the Gentiles, I base myself on the standard liturgy of the synagogue, repeated three times each day.

The text to which I refer is the Authorised Daily Prayer Book of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire (London, 1953), which contains the English translation of a prayer for the conversion of the Gentiles, the recitation of which concludes the public rite performed three times a day, every day of the year.

In this text, Israel, as a sacred people (not to be confused with the state of Israel), thanks God for having made it different from the other nations, and asks that the world be brought to perfection, when all of humanity will invoke the name of God, kneeling before Him.

The text of the prayer begins with the words "It is our duty to praise the Lord of all things," and thanks God for having made Israel different from the other nations of the world. Israel has its own "destiny," which consists precisely in being different from all the other nations. God is asked to "eliminate the abominations of the earth," when the world will reach perfection under the reign of the Almighty.

This prayer for the conversion of "all of the impious of the earth" – who are "all the inhabitants of the world" – is recited not once a year, but every day. It has a parallel in a passage from the Eighteen Blessings, in which God is asked to sweep away "the dominion of arrogance."

We can therefore affirm that in Judaism, God is asked to enlighten the nations and to gather them into his kingdom. Precisely in order to emphasize further this aspiration, the prayer "It is our duty" is followed by this Kaddish: "May He establish his kingdom during our lives and in the days and in the lives of the whole house of Israel."

These passages, taken from the daily liturgy of Judaism, leave no doubt about the fact that, when Israel gathers in prayer, it asks God to enlighten the hearts of the Gentiles. The eschatological vision finds its proper nourishment in the prophets and in their vision of a single, reunited humanity, in addition to a freedom of spirit that is extended to all humanity. The condemnation of idolatry does not grant much relief to Christianity or Islam, which are not mentioned. The prayers ask God to hasten the coming of his kingdom.

These Jewish prayers are the counterparts of the one desired by Benedict XVI, which asks for the salvation of all Israel when time reaches its fullness and all humanity enters into the Church. The prayers of Jewish and Christian proselytism share the same eschatological spirit, and keep the gate of salvation open to all men.

Both the prayer "It is our duty" and the Catholic "Let us pray also for the Jews" are the concrete expression of the logic of monotheism and of its eschatological hope.

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1 comment:

  1. Amen! I love this post and I pray every day for the conversion of the Jewish people.