Wordsworth’s Ode (Note 1) to “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood “ is divided into three parts: the first part describes the poet’s anxiety at losing sight (a sense of appreciation) of the beauty of the world; the second part describes the progressive – from childhood to old age – loss of sight of the divine. The third part affirms the hope that the memory of the divine will never be lost because the divine lies deeper than tears.
The Ode ends with these words:
Thanks to the human heart by which we live, Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears, To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
For Wordsworth, what makes us human is the divinity found in the beauty of “the meanest flower,” the beauty of nature. For the Christian (and the Torah Jew), “[e]ternal truth, says F.W. Robertson, is not perceived through sensation. ‘Eye hath not seen the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.’ There is a life of mere sensation. The degree of its enjoyment depends upon fineness of organization. The pleasures of sense arise from the vibration of a nerve, or the thrilling of a muscle – nothing higher.The highest pleasure of sensation comes through the eye. She ranks above all the rest of the senses in dignity. He whose eye is so refined by discipline that he can repose with pleasure upon the serene outline of beautiful form, has reached the purest of the sensational raptures.” Wordsworth would counter that our immortality, if only an intimation, lies in eternal truth expressed through Nature. This is a central belief in Eastern religion.
Joshua Liebman (1907-1948) the famous rabbi-psychiatrist also speaks of an intimation of immortality. Whereas in Wordsworth “love” was the substantial relationship between God and Nature, where both shared the same substance (essence), in Lieberman, “the chief intimation of our immortality is our unique human power for loving our fellow man.”
There are four “objects” of love: love for God-Nature (the pantheism of Wordsworth and Eastern religions), love for oneself, love for others, and love for God-Creator-Personality (distinct from creation). The last three loves are, of course, encapsulated in the first two Torah commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbour as yourself. The big question is: how should I love God, myself and my neighbour? (Of course, if you’re a Darwinian, there’s no reason why you should do anything).
In this article, I shall focus on human love: love for others and love for God as Creator-Personality, that is, the God of the Bible.
A key term in Jewish thought is relatedness: the relatedness between human beings and between human beings and God. Joshua Liebman (his “Peace of mind,” chapter 4) warns us to “love or perish” and admonishes us (quoting Emerson) to “give all to love.” Judaism, for Liebman, is a religion of relatedness, of which love is the greatest expression.
What was characteristically Jewish about the power of love was its “civic virtue” (Reinhold Niebuhr). In this regard, it would be hard to find a more illustrious example of civic virtue than Jerry Weintraub, who will occupy a large portion of this discussion. Weintraub is an American film producer (“The Karate Kid”) and former chairman and CEO of United Artists. he also “brought Elvis to the masses.” He is one of America’s most prominent Jewish philanthropists; but let Jerry speak for himself. Here he is in an interview on Larry King Live where he talks about his close philanthropic involvement with the Chassidic movement, Chabad, and the influence of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in his life. The Rebbe is the seventh leader in the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty. Many of his followers believe that he is the Messiah and will rise from the dead. Here is my transcript of the Larry King interview (2010).
Larry King: “What has been your involvement with Chabad?
J.W. – I’ve been with Chabad for 29 years…I’ve been the chairman of the telethon since that time, 29 years. I have a very close bond with the “Revve” (he alternates between “revve: and “rebbe”) Schneerson. I see the Revve every day, and I pray to the Revve every day. (The Rebbe was born in 1902, the same year my father, Israel, was born, in Osvei, Belo-Russia. The Rebbe died in 1994)
L.K. – You’re not a religious man, per se, right?
J.W. No, I’m spiritual, I believe in God , but I’m not an Orthodox Jew nor a Lubavitcher, but as (Meneachin) Begin said to me (former Prime Minister of the State of Israel) when I met with Begin, he said to me, “You’re not a Lubavitcher, Jerry, I know you’re not a Lubavitcher.
J.W. I said to him: “You know what I do think and I do believe and I do know that the programs we’ve done at Chabad, the drug programs, the food programs, the schools, everything we’ve done over the last 29 years of community work has done a lot of things, great things for a lot of people, and not just for Jewish people, it’s non-sectarian.” If it was just Jewish people I wouldn’t do it…I don’t go a day without thinking about the Rebbe, and I don’t go a day without talking to him. There are pictures next to my bedside. I believe that he is the reason I have survived, that I didn’t die when I was ill…He spoke to me when I was a kid…When I was on my way to Russia for George Bush. I turned on the television in the middle of the night on some obscure cable channel, and on came Revve Schneerson from Brooklyn. And he was talking to all the rabbis, and he said in that speech…that there was a man leaving for Russia tomorrow, and he’s going to do somethingfor the refuseniks…he’s going to meet with Eli Wiesel, he’s going to do this, he’s going to do that, but he shouldn’t worry about that; we are going to take care of that, we’re going to get the Jews out of Russia…he talked to me, and I hadn’t met him at that time. I was lucky enough to see him many times after that…I took my Dad to Chabad House in Brooklyn (his father was very sick and crippled, after the Rebbe prayed, his father stood up and was healed).
L.K. – Do you think he (the Rebbe) was sent here for some special reason.
J.W. – Yes.
L.K. But you’re not a religious man.
J.W. No…I’m spiritual, and I believe in God, and I believe that there is a higher power. I believe that Rebbe Schneerson was close as I will ever get to God….
L.K. Why do you think the world doesn’t know more about Chabad?
J.W. …its an interesting question. The problem with Chabad is that there are a lot of Jews who are Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews, Reform Jews who are ashamed of Chabad?
J.W. Because they (Chabad) are still European, and they still wear the long black coats, their yamulkes.
L.K. Do you get as much satisfaction out of this than as you would out of Karate Kid.
J.W. More. I get more satisfaction out of it. I’m very invovled in philanthropy, and have been all my life. Not just Chabad, and not just Jewish charities but everything, hospitals, Jewish hospitals, not just Jewish hospitals, schools. I give away a lot of money. I believe in giving away money. It’s much better to give than get…it all just makes me feel good.
L.K. …Jerry Weintraub, one of the good guys.
(End of interview).
Weintraub’s “God” is a transcendent force, or power, which has much in common with Emerson’s “transcendentalism.” Emerson, who,like Weintraub, didn’t believe in formal religion, was greatly influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism. Emerson’s “transcendentalism” is defined as a movement where – in Emerson’s words – “each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men.” I hear echoes of Wordsworth and the Jewish psychiatrist, Gerald Jampolsky, whose philosophy I described here. I consider Victor Frankl (founder of Logotherapy) and Mordecai Kaplan (founder of Reconstructionist Judaism) to be in the same transcendental mould.
The Torah Jew and the biblical Christian, in contrast, would consider a “transcendentalist” transcendentalost. Whether one is transcendentally lost or found, most people believe in a “greater power,” and also that this greater power is closely associated with love. Love in essence is captured in the the Apostle Paul’s injunction, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts, 20”33b – 35); (Note 2). Recall Jerry Weintraub’s “I believe in giving away money. It’s much better to give than get…it all just makes me feel good.” Gerald Jampolsky expresses the same sentiment in his “Love is letting go of fear,” which is about “self-fulfillment through giving” (p. 13). Elsewhere in his book, he says: “To give is to receive is the law of love.” (In other words, when you obey the law of love, the greatest kind of receiving is giving). From a Christian view, the greatest act of giving, of loving, the greatest good work was God, the Father sending His beloved Son into the world to suffer and die for sinners (John, 3:16).
Let us compare Jerry Weintraub’s belief about good works with Rabbi Tuvia Bolton’s view (in his comment on God in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy). Rabbi Bolton is a Chassidic rabbi, who, like Jerry Weintraub, and all Chabadniks, venerates Rebbe Schneerson. (The upper case letters are the Rabbi’s; the underlining is mine):
“It seems to me that Frankl was not talking in terms of absolutes but rather what ‘works’. His god is very similar to the one realized by addicts in the seconds of the 12 steps of AA; god as we understand him. A Meaningful god works to fill man’s need for meaning. But Frankl seems to have discovered a need much greater and more basic than that of the addicts…. and correspondingly a much ‘greater’ more ‘infinite’ god to satisfy it; man NEEDS ABSOLUTE meaning that only an absolute, totally meaningful god (or G_d) can produce, as evidenced by the several times he mentions the Ten Commandments as the absolute value. But again; Frankl only seemed to be interested in what works to supply man’s needs; not the Jewish (Chassidic) idea of supplying G-d’s needs (Nachat Ruach l’mala).”
The last sentence “But again….supplying G-d’s needs (Nachat Ruach l’mala)” applies to Weintraub, as well, a typical Jew, for whom WORKS is the name of the “spiritual” game.
As I said in my response to Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal on this typical Jewish view of works:
The first followers of Yeshua were all Jewish and undoubtedly Torah observant, as much as you are today. They also had problems with the relationship between the Law and Faith. And the problem has never gone away for Jewish believers in Yeshua. Yeshua said that faith in Him rather than works was central.”
When I say that “faith” is central, I mean that without faith no one can please God, no one can be righteous. Indeed, faith is counted as righteousness, as we learn from Abraham. What did Abraham have to DO for God to forgive his sins and count him as righteous? Simply this: “He believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6). Everything that Abraham subsequently did was based on the foundation of faith. It is important to note that it was not his works, but his faith, that made him righteous. And works? What’s the point of works if it is faith that makes you righteous? The point is that we live in bodies and bodies do more than just doo doo doo doo; they’re – when they’re not asleep – constantly on the move, doing this and doing that. And the most important thing in all this doing is – in Christian terminology – making your body a temple of the Holy Spirit.
The ramifications of this doctrine is that believers need to spread their branches to make shade for one another, and to raise those branches up to heaven in praise and worship. Unless the branches are grafted into the Tree of life, they whither and die. That Tree of Life is the same for Abraham as for the Christian, indeed, for Moses as well and all the great men of biblical history: faith in the Living God; the same Living God as the Torah’s Living God. The great men of faith (Hebrews 11) were all nourished by the sap of faith, and proved through deeds that they were righteous (right with) God. They grew in HOLINESS, which – wonderful as it is – is nothing more than the seed of faith blossoming forth. The Christian is reminded that he can boast of nothing, not even his works, for though we are commanded to “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” we must not ignore what follows: “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12b-13). No one will admit to boasting about himself.
Jerry Weintraub, the paragon of philanthropy (philos “love” anthropos “mankind”), the ideal Jew, sets the benchmark for works. And what if he boasts a little, or even a lot, or even all the time about it. He’s doing far more than singing “I believe in Jesus.” How noble – most Jews, indeed almost the whole world would say – to supply man’s needs. But what does Yeshua/Jesus say:
38 Now as they (Jesus and His disciples) were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
I’d now like to return to the inspiration behind Jerry Weintraub’s prodigious generosity: Rebbe Schneerson. After reading Rabbi Bolton’s comment, I went to his web site and found his latest “Weekly Torah Portion” where he tells the story of a religious Jew in prison who had a dream about Rebbe Schneerson. Not only did he have a dream about the Rebbe, but so did the non-Jewish prison warder (who had confiscated his Pesach matzos and wine).
As a sola scriptura (scripture alone) person, I don’t believe that Chassidic, Roman Catholic or any other kind of praying to the dead, or apparitions from saints, ancestors or any other deceased human being is from God. As we saw above, Jerry Weintraub prays and talks to the Rebbe every day,
I am also a sola fide (faith alone) person. This following comment from a Jew is what the typical Jew (and Roman Catholic) understands “faith alone to mean”:
(The comment appears after my Amish goes Heimish: We’re here in Israel to say we’re sorry).
“According to G-d, an unreprentant sinner will be brought to account, and justice, by G-d. But you say that since Jesus died for your sins, G-d is going to look the other way if you decide to cheat on your wife or commit a murder. That program of belief invites a standard of immoral conduct that is anathema to the direction G-d provided us in His Torah.”
And here is the typical Roman Catholic view (from one of my relatives, a university professor):
“Works are absolutely necessary. Without them fiery judgement and wrath awaits.” My relative quoted the following verses in support of this view:
“Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).”
So, (I continue in the same chapter) “26 If, after we have been given knowledge of the truth, we should deliberately commit any sins, then there is no longer any sacrifice for them. 27 There is left only the dreadful prospect of judgement and of the fiery wrath that is to devour your enemies.”
My well-educated relative is merely following his catechism:
“In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they have attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body” (Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), par 1477). (My italics).
This Jewish and Roman Catholic appraisal is, of course, a caricature of the doctrine of “faith alone.” It shows as much understanding of the Bible as those who believe that the New Testament is a fabulous fraud concocted by Constantine, among others.
The Bible teaches that you cannot, for one, attain your salvation (through works); for two, cooperate (wih Christ) in saving others. For if this were true, the following scripture must be wrong: “for by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). These verses from Ephesians fit perfectly with “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). If you have been born again (saved by grace and given the gift of faith), the evidence of being born again is love and good works. Salvation is an ongoing process. This does not mean that you are saved by your works, but that while you’re living on the earth and growing in the knowledge of God, you do good works, because that is what – as I said earlier – bodies do: they work. Believers work out their salvation like a shoot of a fruit tree growing up through the soil and into the sunlight to grow into a tree that produces good fruit. If you produce bad fruit, this shows that the seed was bad.
So, whether one believes that God’s needs come first (Rabbi Tuva Bolton) or man’s needs come first (Weintraub), both views, I believe, are wrong. Having said that, I always feel it deep in my solar plexus that when I “attack” my fellow Jews, it’s like plucking from my body one more of my precious Jewish roots. Which makes me feel a bit of what Paul felt when he said:
“I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:1-5).
Abraham Twerski, a Chassidic rabbi (like Rabbi Tuva Bolton) adapted the originally Christian 12-step AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) method and made it Jewish. Judaism preaches that man is essentially good, where people are regarded as “much better than we think we are” (Twerski), and “knowing that they are able to enjoy a more productive life” (Twerski). So, the solution to inner turmoil for Twerski, for Frankl, for Joshua Liebman, and indeed most Jewish psychologists was to learn how to get rid of one’s negative self-image.
In modern Christian evangelism, the popular gimmick is “if this world doesn’t work for you,try God”. I regard this as a “humanistic” approach, which is foreign to both the Tenach and the NT, whose main themes are God’s glory and holiness (which you agree with). The NT also emphasises His wrath against sin (which most Jews would probably not agree with) and His love in providing salvation. The Jewish idead of “salvation” is radically different from the Christian view. In both the Tenach and the NT, man’s needs are second to God’s requirements.
The Jew and the Christian should not regard God as a servant, who’s job is seen as help in time of need, but rather as the Holy One. The Christian view is that we have offended God’s justice, but, in his infinite grace, He redeemed us by paying for our sins; much more, He destroys the believer’s Sin nature (which does not mean that he no longer struggles with sins). As you know, for a Jew, man sins but does not have a Sin nature. In the NT, first the bad news (the first three chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans), then the good news of God’s grace – that we might be “justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Without an understanding of grace, there can be no understanding of the incarnation, the suffering, the death, the resurrection and the glory of the Son of God, Jesus/Yeshua, the Christ/Mashiach, who is the gift of the Father, first to the Jew, and then to the Gentile. This understanding can only come with the gifts of grace and faith in Christ. Christians must, however, not become too occupied with grace that they ignore love for their fellow man, which is not the same as love for the “world” (system). I’d like to end on this related note:
“The fact that Jews have been rather more creative than Christians in establishing brotherhood with the Negro may prove that ‘saving grace’ may be rather too individualistically conceived in Christianity to deal with collective evil” (Reinhold Niebhur).
But I can’t end yet, for Niehbur then goes and spoils it all by saying – this is where the frum (pious) Jew and I agree – that:
“Christian attempts to proselyte Jews are not only futile, argues Niebuhr, but wrong, because the two faiths are “sufficiently alike for the Jew to find God more easily in terms of his own religious heritage than by subjecting himself to the hazards of guilt feeling involved in a conversion to a faith, which, whatever its excellencies, must appear to him as a symbol of an oppressive majority culture.”
Niebhur is wrong on two counts:
First; he says: “Christian attempts to proselyte Jews are…futile.” No, they’re not futile, far from it. “Some time ago, Jacob Prasch writes, the American college of Rabbis issued statement saying more Jews have come to believe in Jesus as their Messiah in the last eighteen years than in the last eighteen centuries (“Israel, the Church and the Jews, 2007, 21st Century Press, p. 15).”
2. Second; the two faiths – whatever the famous Christian theologian and some Messianic Jews may say – are far from “sufficiently alike.” The great divide, for the Jew, is the Trinity and the Incarnation. The New Testament says: “Moses said (in Deuteronomy 18:18), ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. The vast majority of pious (frum) Jews don’t believe anything in the New Testament that refers to Jesus, because they believe he never existed. That is one reason why they grind their teeth every time Paul opens his mouth, especially here:
12 Since we have such a hope, j we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But l their minds were m hardened. For to this day, when they read o the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
As Prasch says (above), some pious Jews do come to faith in the Messiah, and are not squeamish about calling Him by His Greek name, Jesus. God has opened their eyes to the deep meaning of relatedness.
1 An Ode is: “a poem characterized by sustained noble sentiment and appropriate dignity of style.” (1913 Webster) .
2 Acts 20:35 the words of the Lord Jesus. This saying from Jesus is not recorded in the Gospels and was no doubt passed on to Paul by those who heard Jesus teach. On Christian generosity, see 2 Cor. 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (Note of English Standard Version).