Thursday, December 29, 2011

Suffering, Preparation

I'm still reading Christianity in Jewish Terms. I have two items:

1. I read about suffering in this book. Something that Leora Batnitzky said on page 208 stood out to me: "R. Akiba, R. Eleazar b. Jacob, and R. Meir suggest...that the Jewish people suffer not only because God loves them most but also because they are, and have the capacity to be, better than others are." That intrigued me because I'm interested in the topic of Jews and Gentiles, according to Judaism.

But I also read about the issue of suffering being redemptive. Suffering makes us compassionate towards others. But does that mean suffering is good rather than evil, since it has a positive end? Should we go about hurting others, since we're technically helping them in doing so by making them better people? According to the thinkers whom I read in this book, the answer is no. Suffering has no inherent value, for it is evil, but God can use suffering to make us better. Perhaps one could add to this that God does not cause suffering in an attempt to build our characters. If we lose our legs in an accident, for instance, that's not God trying to teach us a lesson. But God can still teach us through that experience.

2. For this item, I'll draw from Menachem Kellner's essay, "How Ought a Jew View Christian Beliefs About Redemption?" Over the past few days, I have blogged about Maimonides' view on Christians, and that will be the topic of this item, as well.

On page 273, Kellner quotes Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, specifically "Law of Kings" XI.4. According to Maimonides, Christianity and Islam prepare the way for the Messiah, in that they make certain topics familiar to the Gentiles, such as the Messianic hope, the Torah, and the commandments. Although Christianity holds that the laws have lost their validity or are no longer binding, Maimonides says, it is still making Gentiles aware of the commandments, and they will acknowledge that they are mistaken about the law being invalid when the true Messiah comes.

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