Thursday, October 15, 2009

2) A challenge

The monotheism proclaimed by Zarathustra and its practices observed by many Persians challenged the Jewish community also in other ways. How are we to apprehend Prophet Maleachi's words in which he puts the devotion of contemporary Gentiles in sharp contrast to the ill-practices of some Jews? Rebuking the latter, he says19:

"...I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of Hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising sun even unto the going down of the same my name is great among (liter. with) the Gentiles; and in every place incense is offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord of hosts".

One might argue that the Prophet, speaking pointedly in present tense (i.e. not in future tense, as many translations have it), exemplified the attitude of sincerity in the devotion of some Babylonian, Greek, Egyptian, etc Gentile subjects of the Persian Empire who could even in their ritual worship of idols be seen as praising by their deeds, however unknowingly, the One Creator beyond them. But much more likely, the Prophet could well have had in mind those influenced by Zarathustra and the Achaemenians who like Cyrus showed their devotion to God the Almighty and All-wise Judge (Ahura Mazda) also in their incense burning, fire rituals, and pure offerings stressed in that rebuke. This shows that in the eyes of the Prophet the thoughts, words, and deeds of men, including their incense offerings, if born by the yearning for truth and righteousness, are acceptable to the Lord of Hosts as honoring his Name. (Note: the Hebrew word for “name” means also essence of the being referred to).

Prophet Zechariah, apparently expounding those words of Prophet Haggai, enjoins:

"These are the things that you shall do: Speak every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates; and let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord"20.

Quite in line therewith our sages gave priority to the ordinances ( (משפטים which regulate the social structure of society over those commandments which pertain to the ritual (i.e. Man - God) aspects of religion21.

In our present world, it seems to be secondary whether we in our limitations speak of the Divine Being as God, Lord, Dieux, Allah, Ahura Mazda, Brahm, or what else, provided we stay in awe and love of him and his creation in accordance with the instructions given to us by his prophets. It is only in the '... ,עולם הבא olam ha'ba, the coming world, that the Name of the Lord will become known and be praised by all22.

No comments:

Post a Comment