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Redemption

REDEMPTION

REDEMPTION , salvation from the states or circumstances that destroy the value of human existence or human existence itself. The word "redeemer" and its related terms "redeem" and "redemption" appear in the Bible some 130 times and are derived from two Hebrew roots, pdh (פדה) and gʾl (גאל). Though used to describe divine activity as well, they arose in ordinary human affairs and it is in this context in which they must first be understood. Pdh is the more general of the two, with cognates of related meaning in Akkadian, Arabic, and Ethiopic. It belongs to the domain of commercial law, and refers to the payment of an equivalent for what is to be released or secured. The verb pdh, unlike gʾl, indicates nothing about the relation of the agent to the object of redemption, which in the Bible is always either a person or another living being. Its usage does not differ in cultic activity from that of a normal commercial transaction. In both cases a person or an animal is released in return for money or an acceptable replacement (cf. Ex. 13:13; 34:20; Lev. 27:27; i Sam. 14:45 with Ex. 21:7–8; Lev. 19:20; Job 6:23). Gʾl is more restricted in usage and does not appear to have cognates in other Semitic languages. It is connected with family law and reflects the Israelite conception of the importance of preserving the solidarity of the clan. The goʾel ("redeemer") is the next of kin who acts to maintain the vitality of his extended family group by preventing any breaches from occurring in it. Thus, he acquires the alienated property of his kinsman (Lev. 25:25) or purchases it when it is in danger of being lost to a stranger (cf. Jer. 32:6ff.). Possibly, too, he is required to support the widow of his next of kin in the event of her being dependent on this estate for her livelihood (cf. Ruth 4:4ff.). In any event, he redeems a clansman who has been reduced to slavery by poverty (Lev. 25:47ff.), and avenges his blood when it has been shed (cf., e.g., Num. 35:17–19). Whether he actually was duty bound to perform these acts was contested by early rabbinic authorities (cf. Kid. 21a), but it seems likely that he was expected to do so, unless there was a good reason to the contrary (cf. Ruth 4:6).

When applied to divine activity, a slight shift occurs in the use of both these terms. Thus, pdh takes on the general meaning of "deliver" and does not involve the notion of the payment of an equivalent. God is, after all, the Lord of the universe and everything belongs to Him. Indeed the only place in Scripture when the possibility of such an exchange is even suggested is obviously rhetorical and pdh is not used (cf. Isa. 43:3–4). God's purpose is not to retain the right of possession, but to liberate people, both individuals and groups, from their woes (cf. ii Sam. 4:9; i Kings 1:29), including bondage (e.g., Deut. 7:8; 13:6), oppression (e.g., Isa. 1:27; Ps. 119:134), and death (e.g., Hos. 13:14; Ps. 49:16). In the Torah, the Deuteronomist uses pdh to characterize God's acts at the time of the Exodus as redemptive (e.g., Deut. 9:26; 15:15; 21:8; 24:18). This usage is extended by later writers to describe Israel's eschatological redemption as well (cf., e.g., Isa. 1:27; 35:10; Jer. 31:11) and even, on one occasion, its deliverance from its sins (Ps. 130:8). Though gʾl, like pdh, loses its strictly juridical connotation when describing divine activity, and takes on the meaning of "deliver" pure and simple (cf., e.g., Gen. 48:16), it still does retain some of its original overtones even when referred to God. Thus, Proverbs (23:10–11) speaks of God as the goʾel of ("the next of kin," duty bound to protect) orphans, and Job similarly believes Him to be the goʾel of the persecuted (19:25; cf. 19:21–22). In the same spirit the Psalmist calls Him the "father of orphans, defender of widows" (68:6). What better way, then, for the prophet to reassure his people that God has a special reason to redeem them, for He is their goʾel (Isa. 41:14; 43:14; 44:6, 24; 47:4; 48:17, etc.) and an intimate relationship exists between Him and them (41:89; 43:10, 20; 44:1–2; 45:4; 54:10; 55:3). It must be no accident also that the prophet uses pdh only twice (50:2; 51:11) and in both instances it appears in earlier expressions that concern the Exodus. For, though the two terms were used interchangeably when separated from their life context, the poet was aware of their broader connotations and exploited them to create a more receptive mood for his message. Possibly, too, he wanted to distinguish between the earlier redemption from Egypt and the later one to come, by using a term for the latter that had only infrequently been associated with the Exodus (e.g., Ex. 6:6; 15:13).

While the king is described as a deliverer of the poor in a royal Psalm (72:4, 14), and Ezekiel prophesies that David will be established as the shepherd of God's flock (34:23), the national hope for redemption was centered on God. Only He – not the messianic king or other divine being – was the Redeemer. And though some biblical passages stipulated that His deliverance is conditional upon repentance, many simply state that He Himself would take the initiative because of His boundless love (e.g., Isa. 54:8) and passionate concern for justice (cf., e.g., Isa. 59:15–20). An end would come to all pain and suffering, and Israel would be restored to its land to live in safety, protected by an everlasting covenant and the Divine Presence (Jer. 32:37–44; cf. Ezek. 11:17–21). Israel's Redeemer would then be manifest through His great acts of redemption and "the redeemed of the Lord" give thanks to him (Ps. 107:1–2).

[Donald Daniel Leslie]

Dead Sea Sect

The idea of redemption had a special character among sects in the Judean desert. Although the word gẹʾullah itself has not yet been found in their works, nor does the root ga'al appear there, yet a redemptive function was at the very heart of the beliefs of the sect, which in their view was the remnant of Israel of whom the prophets had spoken. They are "the basis for that which God chose. He appointed them as a permanent estate and will possess them the portion of the holy ones" (Manual of Discipline, 11:6–7; cf. Col. 1:12). Entry into the sect is an act of divine grace that atones for all iniquities and purifies the associate "from human impurity and the sin of men" (ibid., 11:14). Despite this the sect believed also in the perfect redemption of the end of time. "And then God with His truth will clarify all the deeds of a man… to purify him with a holy spirit of truth free of any abomination of falsehood" (ibid., 2:20–22, cf. Mark 1:8). In keeping with the sect's regard of itself as the subject of redemption, the Messiah served merely a minor role in their religious system.

In the Talmud

While the Bible uses both padah and ga'al for redemption, the Talmud applies padah to ransom (see *Ransom) and ga'al to redemption. The sages know nothing of a miraculous redemption of the soul by external means. There is no failing in man, whether collectively or as an individual, which requires special divine intervention and which cannot be remedied, with the guidance of the Torah, by man himself. As a result, the term ge'ullah is applied almost exclusively to national redemption, and became a synonym for national freedom. This idea of national freedom from subjection to other states is the main element in the yearnings of the people for the redemption of Israel, and it became even more pronounced during the period of Roman domination. Redemption is dependent upon repentance and good deeds (Shab. 118b; Yoma 86b; bb 10b; Sanh. 97b), and all attempts to calculate the exact date of the redemption by means of transcendental or cosmic factors were opposed, at times even sharply, even though in all eras such calculators – for understandable psychological reasons – were never wanting (Sanh. 97b). Despite the prominence of the image of the Messiah as a redeemer, his role in the process of redemption is no different from those of Moses and the other redeemers in the past; he is merely an instrument in the hands of God. The view is also found that in contrast to past redemptions that were effected by human agency and were therefore only temporary redemptions, the final redemption will be accomplished by God Himself and will be eternal (Mid. Ps. to 31:2).

A quasi-transcendental and mystical element was introduced into the concept of redemption with the notion that it served the "needs of the Most High," since "wherever [Israel] was exiled the Divine Presence was exiled with them" (Sif. Num. 161; Meg. 29a). God therefore, so to speak, redeems Himself with the redemption (Mekh. Bo 14). There are contradictory statements and inconsistent popular aggadic descriptions about the redemption. At one extreme is found the view that even proselytes will not be accepted in the time of the Messiah (Yev. 24b) – a saying that is probably to be explained by the unfortunate personal experience of its author. At the other are the many descriptions of the redemption of Israel bringing with it the redemption of the world (Song R. 2:2, no. 3); the gentiles will become proselytes and all will call on the name of the Lord (cf. Tosef., Ber. 7:2); God himself will bring all of them "beneath the wings of the Divine Presence" (Tanḥ. B., Gen. 108).

[David Flusser]

Medieval Philosophy

As in the biblical and talmudic systems that preceded them, the medieval philosophers generally regarded man's finite condition as the primary state from which he required redemption. The state of finiteness was not the result of human action or sin, but a cosmic circumstance ultimately due to the nature of creation. The creation of the universe is attributed ultimately by almost all medieval Jewish philosophers to the goodness and grace of God, yet despite the divine goodness, man was so formed that he is finite, a state in which he is subject to despair and death, spiritual and physical annihilation. Open thus to annihilation, man stands in need of redemption. Owing to the divine goodness, redemption is available to him, but he must participate in the redemptive process. If he adheres to true beliefs and performs right actions, he is accounted righteous and worthy of redemption, otherwise he is a sinner and condemned either to eternal torment or physical annihilation. Hence sin does not produce the unsaved state, as does original sin, for example, in the Christian view; sin rather serves to prevent the redemption of man from the spiritual or physical consequences of his finite condition.

Despite broad agreement among the medieval Jewish philosophers on the general understanding of redemption, significant differences appear among them in their various individual soteriologies. Two major approaches, which may be termed traditional supernaturalism and philosophic naturalism, can be distinguished. The former retains the basic features of talmudic soteriology, while the latter is strongly influenced by Aristotelian and Neoplatonic concepts. Saadiah *Gaon (Book of Beliefs and Opinions), whose view is representative of traditional supernaturalism, states the position this way. God created the world out of his goodness. Man, though created finite, is the ultimate purpose of creation. God intended from the beginning that man should attain redemption from his finite condition. To enable man to merit such redemption, God revealed to him His will through Moses at Sinai. Thus man could come to know the divine commandments and by obedience to them earn salvation. Although the Jews are the chosen of God, salvation is attained by the righteous of all peoples. There are two major stages of redemption, both of which will arise miraculously: the Messianic Age and the world to come. In the Messianic Age the Jewish people will be restored to the Land of Israel and the first of two resurrections will occur, that of the righteous Jews. When the Messianic Age ends, the world to come will emerge, then all the dead will be resurrected and final judgment rendered. All who ever lived will now be infinite in time, the righteous enjoying eternal reward and the wicked eternal punishment. Included among those who subscribe to the view of traditional supernaturalism are Judah *Halevi (Kuzari), Ḥasdai *Crescas (Or Adonai), and Joseph *Albo (Sefer ha-Ikkarim).

*Maimonides (Guide of the Perplexed) is the foremost exponent of a philosophic, naturalistic soteriology among the medieval Jews. In Maimonides' view, the creation of the world is also the result of God's goodness, but the universe was not created for the sake of man nor is he the direct creation of the Godhead. The universe comes from God through a successive series of emanations in the course of which the world of man (sublunar world) and man himself are created out of matter. All that is formed of matter is necessarily finite. Hence matter is the principle of human finity, and redemption is attained, therefore, by man overcoming his material nature. This is accomplished naturally, by the actualization of the hylic intellect to an acquired intellect through metaphysical and scientific studies. The acquired intellect enables man to gain ascendancy over his material desires during the life of his body, and at the time of death gives him immortality, since the acquired intellect exists separate from the body and is unaffected by its states or finity. Among those who subscribe to such a view of redemption are Solomon ibn *Gabirol (Mekor Ḥayyim), Abraham ibn *Ezra, and Levi b. *Gershom (Milḥamot Adonai). The Christian notion that mankind requires redemption owing to the guilt of original sin, which is incurred by every person as a consequence of Adam's disobedience in Eden, is completely foreign to the medieval Jewish thinkers. Judah Halevi manifests the spirit of the Jewish position when he presents Adam as a paradigm of religious excellence whose spiritual genius was ultimately inherited by the Jews, the chosen people.

[Alvin J. Reines]

In the Kabbalah

The kabbalists make no additions to the historic aspects of the doctrine of redemption as developed in rabbinic tradition. Their original contribution to this concept is bound up with its inner "hidden" aspect. As in all things, there is an inner aspect or "mystery" in the course of redemption, which is intimated and expressed in a symbolic manner. The basic tenet of their outlook is derived from the verse "On that day the Lord shall be One and his Name One" (Zech. 14:9), which was often interpreted in the *Zohar as indicating the lack of perfection in the unity of God during the time of exile. As long as iniquity has caused a fissure in the mystery of the Godhead, i.e., between His Sefirot which constitute the totality of His manifestation to created beings, His Name is not one; for the "Name" is, in the opinion of the kabbalists, the symbol of the Divine Sefirot when they are joined in complete unity. The exile is indicative of a state of creation in which this unity has, "so to speak," become impaired. (Many kabbalists took care always to add the qualifying phrase "so to speak" in order to intimate the symbolic character of their daring expressions.) Consequently, redemption is bound up with a certain change in the regulating mechanism at the heart of creation: If exile is expressed, in the language of symbols, as a temporary separation between the king and the queen, between God and His Shekhinah, so that their union is not perfect and continuous, then redemption will be expressed in restoration of this uninterrupted union. The return of the people of Israel to its land at the time of redemption symbolizes the inner process of the return of the "Congregation of Israel" or the Shekhinah ("the Matron") to a continuous attachment to her husband. The secret meaning of the messianic redemption was already defined in this way by the Gerona school of Kabbalah (*Naḥmanides and his colleagues), and this definition was accepted by the author of the Zohar. Views more far-reaching than this were expressed in the Ra'aya Meheimna and the Tikkunei Zohar, where a new set of symbols appears. During exile, the world is conducted in accordance with the mystery of the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil" from which Adam and Eve ate and brought sin and separation upon the world; redemption will reveal a conduct of the world in accordance with the mystery of the "Tree of Life." These two trees were once of one root, but were separated by the original sin of Adam, as were "the king and the matron" in the earlier symbolism. Consequently, during the exile there are separate spheres of good and evil, holiness and impurity, etc., but at the time of redemption the pure spiritual essence of all the worlds will become manifest. The Divine Life will spread to every sphere and this will cause a deep change in the state of the entire creation. In this view the kabbalists are aligned with those who regard redemption as a metaphysical concept. It is not only the oppression of Israel by the nations of the world which distinguishes exile and redemption, but also a deep and even utopian change in the structure of creation.

In Lurianic Kabbalah a new element is added to these ideas which relates redemption and exile not only to original sin, but also to the inner structure of every act of creation and to situations and events in the world of emanation. The "breaking of the vessels" (see *Kabbalah) caused, in all the worlds, a state which has in it something of a general exile of all creation, a disturbance in the harmony destined for the worlds. The disturbance, however, was inevitable, and the entire substance of the process of creation in all its manifestations, including the history and mission of the people of Israel within it, are nothing but stages through which this harmony will be restored and achieve the perfection for which it was destined from the beginning. Redemption is here defined as the manifestation of that state in which the breaking of the vessels is completely "mended." Every other manifestation of redemption serves only as symbol of this fundamental meaning.

An important problem in the doctrine of redemption arose regarding the role of the Jew in bringing it about. There were two contradictory opinions on this point.

(1) Essentially, redemption will come miraculously, and flesh and blood creatures shall have no part in bringing it about: this is the opinion of the majority of the Spanish kabbalists.

(2) Redemption is no more than the external manifestation of the inner state of tikkun ("restitution") which depends on the deeds of Israel and a realization of the way of life which the Kabbalah preaches. The fact of tikkun is not something which depends on a miracle, but rather on human action.

According to the first view, the Messiah's coming will not bear any essential relationship to men's deeds; according to the second view, his coming is conditional upon the accomplishment of the task of Israel in the "tikkun of the world." According to this latter view, there is a human and historical preparation for redemption and the Messiah will come automatically if this preparation is completed. This belief is widespread among the disciples of Isaac *Luria, and it follows logically from the basic assumptions of Lurianic Kabbalah. Only after the triumph of these ideas had brought about the deep historical crisis of Shabbateanism did the Ḥasidic doctrine appear, which distinguished between "general redemption" (of the people of Israel; redemption in its literal meaning) and "individual redemption" (the mystical redemption of the soul, which has no messianic connotation). This distinction is intended to limit human initiative to the realm of individual redemption and make general redemption once again dependent solely on the power of God. This distinction removed the dangerous and utopian sting contained in the Lurianic view of redemption.

[Gershom Scholem]

Modern Jewish Thought

In modern Jewish thought redemption has been viewed as referring to the eventual triumph of good over evil, to the striving of individuals to self-fulfillment, to the achievement of social reforms, and also in terms of the reestablishment of a sovereign Jewish state. Hermann *Cohen, for example, regarded redemption as man's conquering his impulse to sin. The idea of God is that which ensures the eternal existence of mankind as a whole in order that His program for the future ethical world can become real. The individual who commits sin feels that he has strayed from the rest of mankind and detracted from the common goal, and that he must be redeemed back to humanity. God then becomes the indicator of individual man's triumph over sin (cf. Der Begriff der Religion im System der Philosophie (1915), 64). This conception of God the Redeemer is an aid to the individual in helping him to repent. The individual who contemplates this relationship with God may be led to improve his character.

Other thinkers who deal with redemption as the triumph over evil are Martin *Buber and A.J. *Heschel. Buber speaks of redemption as the eradication of man-caused evil in human history. The means of achieving this is to sanctify daily life in order to redeem evil. This sanctification comes about in the greater context of the encounter of man and God, "Who enters into a direct relation with us men in creative, revealing, and redeeming acts, and thus makes it possible for us to enter into a direct relation with him" (I and Thou (19582), 135). This encounter is characterized by a turning away from evil and toward God. In addition God comes toward us "The Thou meets me through grace – it is not found by seeking" (ibid., 11) – and when this grace of His becomes manifest – redemption begins. Repentance is the spur to the attitude of redemption, but is not to be confused with it. Buber saw in Ḥasidic teaching the kernel of this doctrine of redeeming evil. "If you direct the undiminished power of your fervor to God's world-destiny… you will bring about the union between God and Shekhinah, eternity and time… All that is necessary is to have a soul united within itself and indivisibly directed to its divine goal. The world in which you live affords you that association with God, which will redeem you and whatever divine aspect of the world you have been entrusted with" (Tales of the Ḥasidim; the Early Masters (1947), 4). Heschel also speaks in these terms: "The world is in need of redemption, but the redemption must not be expected to happen as an act of sheer grace. Man's task is to make the world worthy of redemption. His faith and his works are preparation for ultimate redemption" (God in Search of Man (1959), 380). In the manner of Ḥasidic thought Heschel sees man's task in preparing the world for redemption as separating evil from good. "All of history is a sphere where good is mixed with evil. The supreme task of man, his share in redeeming the work of creation, consists in an effort to separate good from evil and evil from good. Since evil can only exist parasitically on good, it will cease to be when that separation will be accomplished. Redemption, therefore, is contingent upon the separation of good and evil" (The Insecurity of Freedom (1966), 135). Heschel does not emphasize the state of actual redemption but the task of separating good and evil – which leads to redemption.

For Franz *Rosenzweig, redemption is the process by which the world and man are united in one perfect harmony with God – and thereby partake of God's eternity. Rosenzweig dealt with the relationship between God, man, and the world pointing to certain key words as standing for those relationships. The words are creation (God – world), revelation (God – man), and redemption (man – world). Traditionally, philosophy held that these three items had basically one being – that all existence was a unity. For Rosenzweig that conception, a basic premise of much of Western philosophy, was the conclusion of his philosophy. Man, God, and the world have three separate beings which unite into one only under the force of redemption. The revelation of God to man implies God's love. Man's feeling of God's love "redeems" man from his state of isolation and indeed from the supreme form of isolation – death, and its concomitant fear. This love also awakens the response of love in man, and the binding together of man and God in love is the first step toward redemption of the world for the love spreads and is applied to other men. This first redemption applies to man. Rosenzweig also held that the world had a special spiritual relationship to God and that it, too, could be redeemed. In the second stage God acts to unite man and the world. When this is achieved God, too, is redeemed. "For God is not only the redeemer but also the redeemed. In this redemption God redeems the world by the means of man and redeems man by the means of the world. He also redeems Himself" (Kokhav ha-Ge'ulllah (1970), 267). "For then true unity is created – God-man-world. Eternity enters into being and death is pushed off and the living become immortals in eternal praise of redemption" (ibid., 280).

Mordecai *Kaplan uses the term salvation instead of redemption. He links redemption with the concept of the other world and asserts that until modern times the Jewish concept of salvation was other-worldly. Kaplan maintains that it is impossible in modern times to continue this belief and that we must see salvation in terms of this world. Furthermore Kaplan speaks of God as "the power that makes for salvation," i.e., an inherent force in the universe which enables man to achieve salvation. He points out that salvation must have both a personal and social significance. "In its personal aspect it represents the faith in the possibility of achieving an integrated personality" (The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion (1937), 53). Social salvation is the natural concomitant of personal salvation for "we cannot think of ourselves except in relation to something not ourselves" (ibid.)… Social salvation is "the pursuit of common ends in a manner which shall afford to each the maximum opportunity for creative self-expression" (ibid. 54). "Salvation must be conceived mainly as an objective of human action, not as a psychic compensation for human suffering" (ibid.) "Salvation means deliverance from those evils, external and internal, which prevent man from realizing his maximum potentialities. It is deliverance from frustration…" (Questions Jews Ask (1956), 126).

Joseph B. *Soloveichik, the modern Orthodox thinker, describes redemption in terms of faith and performance of mitzvot, but also includes the idea that the human capability of renewal and self-transformation manifests itself especially in times of human distress. Being redeemed is a mode of existence, not an attribute. "Even a hermit can live a redeemed life" (i.e., as a mode of existence, redemption is an individual thing and not dependent upon society. "The Lonely Man of Faith" in: Tradition, vol. 7, no. 2, Summer 1965). Furthermore redemption is a function of man's control over himself. "A redeemed life is ipso facto a disciplined life" (ibid.). As opposed to dignity which is man's triumph over nature and the feeling of success, redemption is when man is "overpowered by the creator of nature," and it is discovered in the "depth of crisis and failure" (ibid., 23–24).

Zionist thought represents another aspect of modern Jewish thought about redemption. To the extent that Zionism was considered a messianic movement dealing with the redemption of the Jewish people, its theorists talked in terms of redemption. A. *Hertzberg characterizes Zionist thought by saying that classical Judaism saw redemption as a confrontation between the Jew and God, but Zionism "in its most revolutionary expression… is between the Jew and the nations of the earth" (The Zionist Idea (1959), 18). Religious Zionist thinkers saw redemption as at least beginning in temporal terms with the return of the Jews to Ereẓ Israel and the building of the land. Rabbi Y. *Alkalai writes "Redemption must come slowly. The land must, by degrees, be built up and prepared" (ibid., 105). Some religious Zionists such as A.I. *Kook added another dimension to this idea: "The hope for the return to the Holy Land is the continuing source of the distinctive nature of Judaism. The hope for the redemption is the force that sustains Judaism in the Diaspora; the Judaism of Ereẓ Israel is the very redemption" (ibid., 420). Redemption in Kook's thought thus becomes not only a physical reality by the return to Ereẓ Israel, but a metaphysical underpinning for Jewry everywhere. Even nonreligious Zionist thinkers, while not necessarily using the term redemption, spoke in messianic terms or expressed themselves by concepts traditionally connected with redemption. J. *Klatzkin for example states "Zionism pins its hopes, in one sense, on the general advance of civilization and its national faith is also a faith in man in general – faith in the power of the good and the beautiful" (ibid., 327). Here the element of the triumph over evil and the advance of social good, topics connected with redemption, are assumed as an integral part of the Zionist hope.

[Michael J. Graetz]

bibliography:

G.B. Gray, Numbers (icc, 1903), 470–1; S.R. Driver, Exodus (1911), 43–44, 109; J. Pederson, in: zaw, 49 (1931), 175; J.J. Stamm, Erloesen und Vergeben im Alten Testament (1940), 7–46; M. Burrows, in: jbl, 59 (1940), 445–54; N.H. Tur-Sinai, Ha-Lashon ve-ha-Sefer, 2 (1950), 290; L. Koehler, Theologie des Alten Testaments (19533), 225ff.; A.R. Johnson, in: vtSupplement, 1 (1953), 66–77; T. and D. Thomson, in: vt, 18 (1968), 98–99. in kabbalah: I. Tishby, Torat ha-Ra ve-ha-Kelippah be-Kabbalat ha-ari (1942), 113–43; G. Scholem, Ra'yon ha-Ge'ullah ba-Kabbalah (1946); Scholem, Mysticism, index.

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