Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Yesterday I wrote about the points of contact between Judaism and Roman Catholicism as outlined in Steinsaltz's book. Today I want to look at the points of diversion contained in this same book.

Steinsaltz writes as the opening passage of the book:

What is the rose--it is Knesset Yisrael, the Community of Israel. For there is a rose (above) and a rose (below). Just as the rose, which is among the thorns has red and white, so does Knesset Yisrael have justice and mercy. Just as a rose has thirteen petals, so does Knesset Yisrael have thirteen measures of compassion encompassing it on all its sides.

...Five strong petals surround the rose, and these five, called salvations, are five gates. Concerning which secret it is written: "I will lift up the cup of salvation." (Psalms 116:13) OPENING LINES OF THE ZOHAR.
(emphasis in original)

A Roman Catholic, too, could say that the rose has thirteen petals--twelve disciples and their Shepherd. We would not be talking about the same thing at all. For a Roman Catholic the Shepherd is our means of hope, our source of salvation. For the Jew salvation comes through personal efforts. Steinsaltz writes:

For everything man does has significance. An evil act will generally cause some disruption or negative reaction in the vast system of the Sefirot; and a good act, correct or raise things to a higher level. Each of the reactions extends out into all of the worlds and comes back into our own, back upon ourselves, in one form or another. (p. 30)

Man can change the manifestations of the Sefirot:

In contrast to all the automatic patterns of forces functioning in the cosmos, man alone moves independently within the system. He alone is important to the manifestations because he can change them, cause them to move from one level to another. ...man...is given the chance to rise far beyond the level of our existence and the place in which he spiritually finds himself, and to act on higher worlds without end. (p. 34)

The soul of man can create:

...the soul of man is a part of the Divine and, in this respect, is a manifestation of God in the world. To be sure, the world as a whole may be viewed as a divine manifestation, but the world remains as something else than God, while the soul of man, in its depths, may be considered to be a part of God....It is, in other words, the power to will and to create.

Man's free will thus derives its unique potential from the fact that it is a part of the divine will, without limit and without restriction.
(p. 37)

Man's soul is a divine spark, one of many in the world that have resulted from the shattering of the vessel of Adam Kadmon, the first man, a creation of God that shattered into multiple fragments. Man's task is to reunite the fragments. This is what is known as Tikkun.

First, [the soul] has to perform a certain task in the process of perfecting the outer world, or at least that part of the world to which it is destined. And second, its task is to raise itself. ...For the physical world contains in itself a higher essence, higher forces, in which, even though hidden and distorted, there exist elements of the original divine formlessness. It is with these higher forces that the soul, in its work of Tikkun, or correction, is united; and in thus raising a portion of the world, it is also raised and uplifted. The relation between body and soul, and altogether between the spirit of things and their corporeality, may be expressed by the example of a rider on horseback. A rider who is in control and guides his steed can go much farther than he can go on foot. How aptly then does the image of the Messiah as a poor man riding on a donkey describe the human predicament; the divine spark borne and guiding, the physical donkey bearing up and waiting for guidance and power.

The path of Tikkun, the course plotted for the soul's sojourn in the world, is generally found in the Torah, which is supposed to be a guiding instrument.
(p. 46)

Jewish cosmology/cosmogony incorporates reincarnation into the scheme:

The soul that has fulfilled its task, that has done what it has to do in terms of creating or repairing its own part of the world and realizing its own essence, can wait after death for the perfection of the world as a whole. But not all the souls are so privileged: many stray for one reason or another. ...[The soul] that has not managed to complete that portion of reality which only this particular soul can complete; and therefore, after the death of the body, the soul returns and is reincarnated in the body of another person and again must try and complete what it failed to correct or what it injured in the past. The sins of man are not eliminated so long as this soul does not complete that which it has to complete. For which it may be seen that most souls are not new, they are not in the world for the first time. Almost every person bears the legacy of previous existences. (p. 47)

It is possible within Jewish cosmogony to reincarnate in more than one body at a time:

A great soul is most usually reincarnated not in one single body but branches out, participating in a number of people, each of whom have to satisfy different aspects of existence. In spite of this incalculable complexity, the soul...will have to complete those uncompleted tasks left over from the previous cycle. Therefore the destiny of a person is connected not only with those things he himself creates and does, but also with what happens to the soul in its previous incarnations. ...

And this struggle of the souls is also the struggle and way of the world toward its redemption. As the souls return and strive to correct the world and vindicate themselves, at a certain level of this overall Tikkun or correction they reach their highest peak. Then the greatest obstacles are behind the human race, and it can go forward toward its perfection with sure steps and without the legacy of suffering inherited from previous existences and previous sins--this is the beginning of Salvation, which is the time of the Messiah.
(p. 48)

This repairing of the shattered vessel of Admon Kadmon, called Tikkun, is central to Jewish cosmology and cosmogony:

One of the central pillars of Jewish thought has always been the Tikkun of society, the task of setting it right, of keeping it firmly based on cooperative effort and the harmonious functioning of its individual members. (p. 125)

Tikkun, with its self-salvation and reincarnation, is much closer to New Age philosophy than it is to Roman Catholicism.

Tikkun, self-salvation wrought throughout multiple lifetimes, essentially amounts to a parallel universe, or a parallel path of salvation that sees no necessity for a personal Savior. This, it would appear, is what was prayed for at Mass last Sunday as the "parallel paths" of Jews and Christians were included in the general intercessions in the church where I attended.

How has our faith come to such a pass that the Salvation gained by Christ on the cross is equated to self-salvation on a parallel path? In a Church where such theology is permitted by the pastor, can I be sure that the pastor is doing what the Church intends when he consecrates? Can I be sure that any of the sacraments are valid? Does this explain why there was such an emptiness in me after receiving last rights at this church a week previously?

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

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