Franz Rosenzweig is a prophet of the 20th century (there are not so many), whose name means ‘branch of roses’. Zebrased with inchoate intuitions, and seraphic brilliance, a short text of him astonishes me by its searing audacity:
« Redemption delivers God, the world and man from the forms and morphisms that Creation has imposed on them. Before and after, there is only the « beyond ». But the in-between, Revelation, is at the same time entirely beyond, for (thanks to it) I am myself, God is God, and the world is world, and absolutely beyond, for I am with God, God is with me, and where is the world? (« I do not desire the earth »). Revelation overcomes death, creates and institutes in its place the redeeming death. He who loves no longer believes in death and believes only in death.» i
The ambiguity of Revelation in relation to the Redemption, but also its invitations to openness, to invention, are staged here.
On the one hand, Revelation is addressed to the man of the earth, to the children of the clay, immersed in worldly immanence, immersed in the closed orbs of their minds.
On the other hand, it affirms the absolute transcendence of the Creator, opening worlds, flaring very backwards towards unheard-of beginnings, and accelerating very forwards towards an unthinkable afterlife.
Can we connect these two poles, seemingly opposite?
For Rosenzweig, Revelation is situated in time, that time which is the proper time of the world, between Creation and Redemption – the two figures, original and eschatological, the two ‘moments’ of the ‘beyond’ of time.
The unique role of Creation is inexplicable if we consider it only as a divine fiat. Why inexplicable? Because such a fiat displays neither its reason nor its why. It is more consistent with the anthropological structure of human experience (and probably with the very structure of the brain) to consider that even God does nothing for nothing.
An ancient answer to this riddle may be found in the Vedic idea of Creation.
In the Veda, Creation is thought as being a sacrifice of God.
Two thousand years later, this sacrifice will be called kenosis by Christians, and even later (in the Kabbalah of the Middle Age) Jews will call it tsimtsum.
The Vedic idea of God’s sacrifice – is incarnated in the sacrifice of Prajāpati, the supreme God, the Creator of the worlds, at the price of His own substance.
It is certainly difficult to conceive of God’s holocaust by (and for) Himself, willingly sacrificing His own glory, His power and His transcendence, – in order to transcend Himself in this very sacrifice.
How can a human brain understand God transcending Himself!
It is difficult, of course, but less difficult than understanding a Creation without origin and without reason, which refers by construction to the absolute impotence of all reason, and to its own absurdity.
With or without reason, with or without sacrifice, Creation obviously represents a ‘beyond’ of our capacity to understand.
But reason wants to reason and tries to understand.
In the hypothesis of God’s sacrifice, what would be the role of Creation in this divine surpassing?
Would God make a covenant with His Creation, ‘giving’ it, by this means, His breath, His life, His freedom, His spirit?
Would God give the responsibility for the World and Mankind to multiply and make this Breath, this Life, this Freedom, this Spirit bear fruit throughout time?
At least there is in this view a kind of logic, though opaque and dense.
The other pole of the cosmic drama – Redemption – is even more ‘beyond’ human intelligence. But let us have a try to understand it.
Redemption « frees God, the world and man from the forms imposed on them by Creation, » Rosenzweig suggests.
Does Redemption deliver God from God Himself? Does it deliver Him from His infinity, if not from His limit? from His transcendence, if not from His immanence? from His righteousness, if not from His goodness?
It is more intuitive to understand that it also liberates the world (i.e. the total universe, the integral Cosmos) from its own limits – its height, width and depth. But does it free it from its immanence?
It frees man, at last.
Does that mean Redemption frees man from his dust and clay?
And from his breath (nechma), which binds him to himself?
And from his shadow (tsel) and his ‘image’ (tselem), which binds him to the light?
And from his blood (dam) and his ‘likeness’ (demout), which structure and bind him (in his DNA itself)?
What does Rosenzweig mean when he says: « Redemption delivers God (…) from the forms that Creation has imposed »?
It is the role of Revelation to teach us that Creation has necessarily imposed certain structures. For example, it imposes the idea that the ‘heavens’ (chammayim) are in essence made of ‘astonishment’, and perhaps even ‘destruction’ (chamam).
But the truth is that we don’t know what ‘to redeem’ means, – apart from showing the existence of a link between Death, the Exodus from the world, and man.
We must try to hear and understand the voice of this new prophet, Rosenzweig.
He says that to believe in Redemption is to believe only in love, that is, to believe « only in death ».
For it has been said that « strong as death is love » (ki-‘azzah kham-mavêt ahabah), as the Song saysii.
Revelation is unique in that it is ‘one’ between two ‘moments’, two ‘beyond’.
It is unique, being ‘below’ between two ‘beyond’.
Being ‘below’ it is not inexpressible, – and being ‘revealed’ it is not as inexpressible as the ‘beyond’ of Creation and Redemption, which can only be grasped through what Revelation wants to say about it.
The Revelation is told, but not by a single oracular jet.
She is not given just at once. She is continuous. She spreads out in time. She is far from being closed, no doubt. No seal has been placed on her moving lips. No prophet can reasonably claim to have sealed her endless source foreveriii.
Time, time itself, constitutes all the space of Revelation, which we know has once begun. But we don’t know when Revelation will end. For now, Revelation is only ‘below’, and will always remain so, – as a voice preparing the way for a ‘beyond’ yet to come.
And besides, what is really known about what has already been ‘revealed’?
Can we be sure at what rate the Revelation is being revealed?
Can we read her deep lines, hear her hidden melodies?
Does she appear in the world only in one go or sporadically, intermittently? With or without breathing pauses?
Won’t her cannon thunder again?
And even if she were « sealed », aren’t the interpretations, the glosses, part of her open breath?
And what about tomorrow?
What will Revelation have to say in six hundred thousand years from now?
Or in six hundred million years?
Will not then a cosmic Moses, a total Abraham, a universal Elijah, chosen from the stars, come in their turn to bring some needed Good News?
iFranz Rosenzweig. The Man and His Work. Collected writings 1. letters and diaries, 2 vol. 1918-1929. The Hague. M.Nijhoft, 1979, p.778, quoted by S. Mosès. Franz Rosenzweig. Sous l’étoile. Ed. Hermann. 2009, p. 91.
iiiThe Torah itself, who can claim to have really read it?
« Although Thorah was quite widespread, the absence of vowel points made it a sealed book. To understand it, one had to follow certain mystical rules. One had to read a lot of words differently than they were written in the text; to attach a particular meaning to certain letters and words, depending on whether one raised or lowered one’s voice; to pause from time to time or link words together precisely where the outward meaning seemed to demand the opposite (…) What was especially difficult in the solemn reading of the Thorah was the form of recitative to be given to the biblical text, according to the modulation proper to each verse. The recitative, with this series of tones that rise and fall in turn, is the expression of the primitive word, full of emphasis and enthusiasm; it is the music of poetry, of that poetry that the ancients called an attribute of the divinity, and which consists in the intuition of the idea under its hypostatic envelope. Such was the native or paradisiacal state, of which only a few dark and momentary glimmers remain today. « J.-F. Molitor. Philosophy of tradition. Trad Xavier Duris. Ed. Debécourt. Paris, 1837. p.10-11
Blood Libel: The Conspiracy Theory That Jews Are ‘Anti-Human’ https://news.yahoo.com/blood-libel-conspiracy-theory-jews-103052553.html
Anti-Semitism has many exceptional qualities; unlike most forms of racism, it represents a conspiracy theory. Many conspiracy theories, make a search for the Devil, or for the Devil’s agents on this earth. Jewish refugee populations, scattered across Europe, Christians imagined them, not as an exploited and despised underclass, but as a preternaturally powerful elite Christ-Killer, that enslaves and destroys humankind. The anti-Semite “punches up” at these Jewish refugees who had no rights, as guilty of all human suffering, who close at hand with the Devil, and seal of the road to deliverance from oppression.
Despite racism’s lethality, the form known as anti-Semitism most often erased, excused, and even encouraged by people, the priests of the Catholic and Protestant churches, who publicly identify themselves as “antiracist.” One post WWII explanation for this increasingly dangerous phenomenon, its expressions of harassment, vandalism, and violence against Jews across the West, the failure of Holocaust education to emphasize the importance of conspiracism played in Nazi ideology & propaganda. For their part, the not so distant ‘American anti-racists’ render Jews “white” and “privileged” through a limited lens of race and power, taking an approach that represents a political allotrope (According to Michael Fertik, allotrope: “long enough for a reader to inhabit a world or a consciousness.”) of anti-Semitism and disqualifies Jews from concern.
So when U.S. representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar resolved to visit Israel in August to showcase to the world its peculiar evil, and it emerged that Miftah, the Palestinian non-governmental organization co-sponsoring their trip, had published on its website that Jews bake Christian blood into their matzoh, most major media ignored it. For them this trivial story besmirched the good name of ‘liberal democracy’. The erosion of liberal democracy, attacked by the tag team of Trump and Netanyahu, who barred entry to these congresswomen to Israel. Little indication that the blood libel stirred concern on the left where just a month earlier “Never again” was intoned relentlessly about Trump’s Mexican “concentration camps” at the border.
That omission, really quite striking. The ‘Blood libel’ the most vile expression of Jew-hatred throughout history. To overlook the recent Miftah ‘blood libel’, not only ignored a spectacular instance of bigotry; the liberal left, allies of Hillary Clinton, made itself oblivious to anti-Semitism. The blood libel sits at a apex place in the persecution of Jewish refugee populations. It exemplifies anti-Semitism’s worst exceptional quality of hatred without cause. Most types of racism define their victims as an “other” in relation to the group and regard them as less than human. Anti-Semitism, like all conspiracy theories, marks its target as an “other” in relation to humanity and regards the target as anti-human.
This dynamic has been present since the beginning of Western civilization. In his book Europe’s Inner Demons, the historian Norman Cohn demonstrates that by the second century a popular “fantasy” had emerged that civilization was threatened by a secret society “addicted to practices which were felt to be wholly abominable.” Of course, xenophobia has always assumed the existence of in-groups and out-groups. Generally, out-groups are opposed to in-groups through stereotypes that suggest the inferiority of the former. Ancient Greeks, for example, regarded various foreign peoples as childlike babblers. Romans thought their Jewish subjects smelled bad — a prejudice that survived in Europe long after the Empire fell.
Conspiracist xenophobia uses stereotypes that suggest much more — a set of behaviors, terrible and extranormal, of which only anti-human conspirators, their alliance with the Devil, makes them capable. These include cannibalism, atrocious sexual practices such as incest and pedophilia, and the sexualized worship of monstrous gods. These anti-humans perform their secret Kabbalah Rituals in clandestine ceremonies. At the center this heinous circle, a Christian child, typically a young boy, murdered and consumed for purposes of cursing the Christian Church.
Ritual murder was a “stock charge” in the ancient world. Dio Cassius accused three separate cabals — the Cataline conspirators and Egyptians and Alexandrian Jews in revolt against Rome — of sacrificing a boy and eating his entrails to inaugurate their plots for power. The Greek grammarian Apion applied the canard against all Jews. In 177 the Romans martyred believers near present-day Lyons, torturing their pagan slaves into corroborating familiar rumors — that their Christian masters were an incest cult who sacrificed and devoured children.
After Christianity was established as the state religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, those lurid fantasies simmered underground for the better part of a millennium. Meanwhile, Christians refined their theology of combat between the forces of good and the forces of evil: between God and Satan, between Christ and Antichrist, and between the righteous people and the demonic people who served as their agents on earth. In that morally supercharged xenophobia, Satan was attached to groups set apart as the “other.” The scope of the anti-human conspiracy became cosmic.
While Christian heretics and women thought to be witches would suffer unimaginably from this association, the Jews were destined to reap the worst of it in the form of the Holocaust. (The word alludes, with the grimmest irony, to a “burnt offering.”) Various passages of the New Testament were read as confirmation of the idea of Jewish guilt for killing Christ and of Jewish communion with the Devil.
In the medieval mind, the association between Jews and the Devil grew. Shortly before Easter in 1144, a young boy named William was found dead in the sallow grass of a heath near the lively center of Norwich, England. His body, stripped naked save for a jacket and shoes, showed signs of violence. He had been gagged with a piece of wood. Despairing relatives accused local Jews of the crime, but the charge didn’t take. Five years later, a Benedictine monk hoping to establish a local cult spun the rumors into a tale of ritual murder.
The myth of little William spread, partly because it met a subterranean need we all share: to explain and dramatize terrible events that happen for mysterious or mundane reasons. Over the next hundred years, copycat claims arose throughout Europe. Yet the mature blood accusation — that Jews ritually murder Christians to harvest their blood for Passover — wouldn’t become standard until the 14th century. The thinking about Jews and blood needed to develop before it might make emotional sense.
Christians in the Middle Ages regarded Jews as sorcerers, allied with demons. Little distinction was made between magic and medicine. When the charges of ritual murder were spreading, Jews were widely thought to suffer from peculiar maladies, many of which caused blood loss: hemorrhages, hemorrhoids, quinsy, scrofula, skin diseases, purulent sores; Jewish men were said to menstruate along with women, and Jewish babies to be born with one hand fixed to their foreheads, requiring surgery to detach. The recipes of medieval magic often focused on sickness and health, and sometimes they called for blood or body parts. Jews were assumed to need non-Jewish blood to be well. Christian life and Jewish life were literally held to be inversely related.
The effect of such fantasies was demonstrated in 1475 when a little boy named Simon went missing in Trent. Local Jews were seized and tortured into confessing that they ritually slaughtered him and drained his blood. Many were burned alive. Blood had become the preferred motif for expressing what medieval Christians conceived of as a parasitical Jewish project to destroy their civilization. While the Nazi movement thought itself superior to Christianity, it imported wholesale the idea of the Jews as the Devil’s agents, coupled to the anti-human stereotype that was embodied by the medieval blood libel. Rumors of blood libel and incidents related to it recurred in Europe until even after the Nazi surrender.
In the blood-libel piece posted on the Miftah site in 2013, President Obama was said to have held an imprudent Passover seder at the White House, where he enjoyed “Jewish cuisine” that was likely prepared with the blood of Christians. Under intense criticism, Miftah eventually retracted and apologized, but the medieval pitch of the piece was so true that I browsed their website for similar material and quickly found an article by Bouthaina Shaaban, who is now Bashar Assad’s media adviser. There Shaaban writes that Israel stole “Ukrainian children in order to harvest their organs.” The blood libel was transferred to the Arab world by Christian missionaries, surfacing in a famous case at Damascus in 1840. Today it is a recurring feature of Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism.
It would be a mistake to think that the phenomenon as it exists today is exclusively a Middle Eastern vice. As in the ancient world, the blood libel and other canards about the anti-human can be applied to any enemy. In the Pizzagate affair, far-right opponents of the Hillary Clinton campaign spread the rumor that a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., was a hub for human trafficking, child sex, and Satanic ritual abuse by high-ranking members of the Democratic party. The premises were shot up by a conspiracy theorist with an AR-15.
Often, of course, the targets in the present day, as in the Middle Ages, are Jewish. Alex Jones raves that CNN correspondent Brian Stelter is a “literal demon spawn” who is “drunk on our children’s blood.” Louis Farrakhan preaches that “pedophilia and sexual perversion institutionalized in Hollywood . . . can be traced to Talmudic principles and . . . Satanic influence under the name of Jew.”
It would also be a mistake to think that anti-Semitism is confined to the political Right. Karl Marx, in 1847, repeated the ancient calumny that “Christians really did slaughter human beings and eat and drink human flesh at Communion.” The Second Intifada and the Arab–Israeli impasse retrained focus on the Jews. In 2001 journalist Chris Hedges wrote in Harper’s that Israeli soldiers “entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.” On Holocaust Memorial Day in 2003, The Independent ran a political cartoon that showed Ariel Sharon eating the head of a Palestinian baby. Recently Rutgers University professor Jasbir Puar was celebrated for bedecking the canard of Jewish organ theft in a sumptuous fabric of critical theory.
A Left that insists on a myopic analysis of race and power, taking the supernatural coordination inherent in conspiracy theories and off-loading it onto “systems” and “structures,” an oblivious to the anti-Semitic slander made by putative victims who “punch up.” In that moral void, the Holocaust becomes a drain catch for the current the ‘crisis’ of the day. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez retrofits it to Trump’s border policies, which she calls “dehumanizing.” Yet she defends Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who partner with present-day peddlers of the blood libel. The Holocaust parallel there is much clearer.
We cannot afford double standards. In Poland in the aftermath of the Holocaust, 42 Jewish residents of Kielce, murdered by their neighbors acting on rumors that Jews had kidnapped a young boy. In Brooklyn today, Jews are attacked on the street with increasing frequency. Many of those hate crimes are committed in Crown Heights, where in 1991 an anti-Semitic riot broke out after rumors that Jews had hoarded emergency medical attention for themselves while a local young boy died.
America has seen two mass murders of Jewish worshipers in the past year. Stereotypes of the anti-human are the armature of extremism. “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god,” Eric Hoffer observed, “but never without a belief in a devil.”