Sources for Judaism
To the Editor:
Rabbi Jakob Petuchowski concludes his article “Paul and Jewish Theology” (September) that “here Paul’s stress on ‘faith’ becomes relevant to the modern Jew. . . . This faith comes before the carrying out of the commandments.” May I remind bin of the Mishnah in Berakhot (2.2): Why is the chapter “Shema” (which speaks of Israel’s faith in the one God) recited before the chapter “Vehaya in Shamoa” (which speaks of hearkening to the commandments)? In order that one should first accept upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and then accept upon himself the yoke of the commandments.
One wonders how long teachers of Reform Judaism will persist in seeking inspiration and teaching from Christian sources, when it is available in more apposite terms from authentic Jewish sources.
[Rabbi] Mendell Lewittes
Dr. Petuchowski writes :
I am indebted to Rabbi Lewittes for reminding me of the Mishnah in Berakhot. He might also have mentioned the Mekilta’s introduction to the Decalogue, where God is made to say to Israel: “Now that you have accepted My kingdom in love, accept also My decrees.” Yet the Rabbi . . . surely has failed to appreciate the nature of my article: that I was writing a review article, based on a recent book by Hans Joachim Schoeps. Whether Rabbi Lewittes—or I—would look to Paul for religious enlightenment or not, the fact remains that Schoeps makes this point about Paul; and it was this reviewer’s task to make mention of that fact. Still, Rabbi Lewittes’s letter, and its tone, would tend to substantiate Schoeps’s argument that Paul does indeed present a “challenge” to the modern Jew. I get the impression that Rabbi Lewittes would prefer to do without such challenges coming from the “outside”; that is a matter of taste and of orientation. The fact remains that the majority of Jews living in the Western world are not oblivious to non-Jewish influences and challenges; and, if the latter can be the starting point of making the Jew look into his own traditional sources, so much the bettter!