Wednesday, January 12, 2011

We're Alike

My friend Walker recently posted an excellent essay on how the Jewish sages conceived of the trishagion (holy, holy, holy) being said to the righteous in the world to come.
It is not the only example of such sentiments in a monotheistic environment.
Judah Goldin has the following to say in an article entitled “Of Midrash and the Messianic Theme.”[1]
One particularly daring passage in the Sifra deserves more than paraphrase; it is the comment on “I will be ever present (we-hithalakti) in your midst” of Lev. 26:12 (and see also Deut. R. 1:12 and 5:8, 110c) –

It is to be expressed by means of parable; to what may this be likened? To a king who went out to stroll in his orchard (pardes[!]) with his tenant farmer, and [out of respect] that tenant kept hiding himself from the presence of the king. So the king said to that tenant, “Why do you hide from me? Behold, I, you- we’re alike!”
Similarly in the Age to Come the Holy One, blessed be He, will stroll with the righteous in the Garden of Eden, but when the righteous see Him they will tremble before Him; and the Holy One, blessed be He, will say to them, “Why is it that you tremble before me? Behold, I, you- we’re alike!”

Here is a dizzying prospect, God describing Himself as hareini kayotzeh bachem, I, you- we’re alike! (This may mean: You and I have the same interests, or, the same terms of praise are applied to God and to the righteous,) No wonder the Sifra adds immediately, “Is this to say that you will no longer have fear/reverence of Me? The verse [ibid.] reads, ‘I will [still] be your God, and you shall be my people.”

That God and the righteous were alike and could be praised almost alike was not a repugnant sentiment to ancient Jewish monotheists.

[1]Judah Goldin, Studies in Midrash and Related Literature, pg. 369-370.

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