Considering that love is part of God’s essence, and Torah is all about filling the world with love, it may seem odd that the Torah guarantees Torah people bad enemies.
They are God’s enemies, too. Even when He uses them to fulfill His Divine will, the Bible teaches clearly that the Lord shall call them to account - His “rage” will overcome them – for their evil.
He instructed His prophet what to say: “Moses said, Rise up, O HaShem, and let Your enemies be scattered; and let them that hate You flee before You” (Numbers 10:35).
Torah doesn’t dwell on it but it lets you know, again and again: expect enemies.
Torah always plays out in history. Torah religion – what the world calls Judaism, as if it’s just for a people called Jews – is Historical Monotheism. In history, through history, in the real world, God reveals His Teachings. HaShem is the God of history, acting in history, bringing up mankind.
This God is unique and we stand awed by the spectacle of ancient prophecies being realized right before us. This is an amazing new thing in the world - utterly unique in human history, not to mention religion. Ancient prophecies realized - Israel's victory's, the Jews' return, the land's flowering, the enemies falling by the wayside, or eating "their own flesh" in civil war, etc., etc. - are the world's current affairs.
One part of this dynamic desperately needs telling. Everyone’s heard about Jews suffering. The Torah predicted it and there’s nothing in the terrifying, ghastly warnings in Scripture – the “Proofs,” “Rebuke,” or “tochachah,” of Leviticus 26:14-44 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68 - that hasn’t actually already happened. But only a few know anything about the non-Jews who picked up Hebrew Scripture, translated it, learned from it, and tried to apply it, to put it into operation.
You can see by just a glance at the Christian Scripture, the “New Testament,” that it’s not a revolutionary document. It's plain right away that it can co-exist fairly smoothly with the pre-existing social order – with things as they are and have been.
“Slaves! Submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel” (I Peter 2:18).
“Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
“I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:12).
Frederick Nietzsche’s remarkable observations - in Beyond Good and Evil, Sec. 52 (1886) - seem pertinent:
“To have bound this New Testament, so completely rococo in taste, with the Old Testament into one book, as the Bible, is perhaps the greatest piece of audacity and “sin against the Holy Spirit” which literary Europe has on its conscience.”
“In the Old Testament of the Jews, the book of Divine righteousness, there are men, events and words so great that there is nothing in Greek or Indian literature to compare with it.”
As for this “Old Testament,” it’s amazing to consider its impact "out among the nations," particularly its role in tidal movements like the American and French revolutions, and America’s Civil War. Liberté, égalité, fraternité – liberty, equality, brotherhood – were just a fraction of the borrowing.
Tom Paine’s repudiation of the divine rights of kings in Common Sense – the great pamphlet behind America’s Revolution – is Scriptural. The great idea-man behind the French Revolution, Jean-Jacques Rouseau, specifically sourced his teachings - on justice and compassion, particularly - from the OT. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe – “the little lady who started this great war,” as Lincoln joshed upon meeting her – helped turn the whole world against slavery. It was a primary cause America's Civil War.
It’s so interesting… Coming from a famous Protestant pastor’s daughter as it does, one might expect it to feature the NT. Yet she doesn’t quote from it even once. She relies on the OT again and again. Her argument against slavery rests squarely on the OT.
In England, the fathers of the Puritans who later shaped New England started taking the OT seriously fairly early on, relatively speaking, by about 1620. From our perspective today, it’s startling to see how mild their “revolutionary” demands were. They wanted to reform the old ways of punishing crime, e.g. The unbelievably cruel, unjust, and often simply stupid old ways that they eventually overturned would make us gasp. They involved awful procedures - burning alive, trial by ordeal, pouring molten lead into people’s orifices - that we can barely bring ourselves to think of, all the time; regularly; as a matter of course.
They were sharp people, the revolutionary reformers. They brought Hebrew Scriptural values into the law. The methods and penalties they proposed, which they specifically based on Scripture, citing books like Deuteronomy, would be considered liberal and enlightened even by the modern free world’s jurists.
They made their enemies crazy. How the opposition reacted to them, what the minions of the aristocrat-oppressors did to them, their incredible ferocity and violence, and the lunatic unhinged qualities of their vengeance, powerfully recalls other reactionaries’ persecutions of the Jews.
The tortures, the public spectacles... when they couldn't catch them alive, "Goodtime Charlie" (England's Charles II), had them dug up. Oliver Cromwell’s decaying head graced the walls of Parliament for years, to disgrace him and his beliefs. They maimed his scholarly colleagues and hacked at them and hung them and burnt them....
It’s interesting that, to inflict ultimate disgrace and punishment upon the “revolutionaries,” the reactionaries - the King's men - would flush away their ashes in moving water.
If these things aren't part of human nature - cruelty, superstition, belief in weird gods, xenophobia, caste, racism, tribalism, privilege, hierarchy, illiteracy, ignorance, hoggishness, animalism, lewdness, fear – they have, at least, massively affected the human condition. And each of them, as noxious as they are, have always had extremely strong constituencies. Even when conscience, or simple humanity, should tell people things like - for instance, speaking of slavery - don't expect to get your bread from the sweat of other people's faces. Sin can rationalize anything. People don't give away their power and privileges without a struggle.
On the other side, opposed to all that, there’s Torah. Irresistible force meets immovable object. This has produced shelves - libraries - of books of history. Yet, for sure, the champions of Torah are the champions of God, who will ultimately be the winners.
It's funny, in a way. God tells the Jewish people, and anyone else who will heed Him, hold fast to this Torah, study it, teach it, spread it, make it operational. While He also tells us through His prophets to expect enemies ahead.
That’s called putting things mildly.
By Michael Dallen
You shall love Adonoy your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
A god of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
He has told you, O man, what is good and what the LORD demands of you - to do only that which is just, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk humbly with the LORD, HaShem.