Monday, April 30, 2007


In the General Intercessions at Mass yesterday, we prayed for "the Jews who are walking a parallel path". "We" is somewhat misleading. "I" did not respond to that intercession. How can there be a "parallel path"? Is Jesus Christ not the salvation of the world? "Parallel Path" suggests there is another avenue to salvation...a dual covenant.

I have just finished reading Adin Steinsaltz's book THE THIRTEEN PETALLED ROSE: A DISCOURSE ON THE ESSENSE OF JEWISH EXISTENCE AND BELIEF. This author has the respect of the Jewish community. A translator of the Talmud, he also heads the newly formed Sanhedrin.

The book was certainly engaging! On the positive side, there are many points of contact between the Kabbalah as he describes it and the Roman Catholic faith. For example, we both believe in a soul. The fact that Steinsaltz writes "The process of the soul's conection with the body--called the 'descent of the soul into matter'--is, from a certain perspective, the soul's profound tragedy" (p. 39) would be a point of divergence, however.

There are similarities between the Holy of Holies of the Jewish Temple and the altar area behind the iconostasis of Orthodoxy, as described on p. 52.

Steinsaltz speaks of "The tombs of saints and sages" (p. 54) bringing to mind our altar which represents the tomb of a saint.

He speaks of the need to surrender to God's will (p. 61). Roman Catholics, too, believe there is a need for such a surrender.

He speaks of Torah being a way of life:

Torah has another, perhaps disconcerting characteristic: that it does not restrict itself to one area of life, such as religion or ethics, but spreads out and covers almost all areas of existence. By definition, the way of the Torah is not religious in the strict sense of addressing only that part of a person's life concerned only with relations between the human and the Divine. The Torah is not a narrow domain of holiness a man may enter or leave as he chooses while the domain of ordinary existence remains neutral territory, where God does not interfere much, and where in any case there is not much point in trying to relate to Him. Since the Torah is the blueprint of the world, it regulates the whole and cannot be confined to any particular part. (p. 70-71)

Surely any practicing Roman Catholic can relate to that.

It is easy for a Roman Catholic to relate to his chapter on Repentance to a large extent, though not entirely. When he writes that "For every wrong deed in his past, the penitent is required to perform certain acts that surpass what is demanded of an 'ordinary' individual, to complement and balance the picture of his life" (p. 101), he causes me to wonder if every right deed must also be balanced by a wrong deed?

His chapter on "the Search for Oneself" (pp. 103-111) discusses the need to answer the questions "Who am I", "Where do I come from?", "Where am I going?", "What for?", "Why?"...the same concerns expressed in our catechisms. Those are central questions to human existence. Answering them by seeking God is a common bond between Judaism and Roman Catholicism.

The Jewish practice of morning, noon, and evening prayer (p. 115) corresponds to the Roman Catholic custom. There is the Jewish practice of "giving a tenth of one's wealth to charity" (p. 127) that also corresponds to Roman Catholic custom, as does the need for prayer discussed in the 11th Chapter. Rituals are part of both Jewish and Roman Catholic prayer practice.

There are, however, major divergences...areas where it would not be possible to find a meeting of minds. I'll offer some quotes as evidence of this in a future post.

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