Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Rabbi Judah the Patriarch

While Pope Gregory[1] was codifying the ecclesiological practice, the change in the ecclesiological practice made by Rabbi Judah the Patriarch (135-220 C.E.) was loosening the binds. The close commonality of the two faiths was about to end as the new faith sought to distinguish itself from its sibling. What did Rabbi Judah the Patriarch do or say that was so unusual?

Rabbi [Judah the Patriarch] said: “The Day of Atonement atones for all of the transgressions in the Torah, whether or not one has done penance, except for [the following cases]: one who throws off the yoke [of the Law entirely], one who [willfully and wrongly] interprets Torah and one who removes circumcision. In these cases, if he has repented then the Day of Atonement atones, if not, the Day of Atonement does not atone.[2]

Rabbi Judah the Patriarch rejected the view that Yom Kippur gives atonement only to repentant sinners. “Rabbi Judah is of the opinion that the power of atonement is greater than the power of repentance. ‘Repentance needs Yom Kippur; Yom Kippur does not need repentance.’”[3]

In discussing the Enigma of the Prodigal Son, I said that the younger son has repented simply by returning home. In the parable nothing more is required. Jesus has redefined the prevailing view of repentance. There is no longer a requirement that penitence be visibly demonstrated to be effective. Those who created the canonical and the penitential systems did not understand the true meaning of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Rabbi Judah the Patriarch did.

Copyrighted 2008

[1] Bishop of Rome from September 3, 590 until his death, March 12, 604 CE.

[2] b Yoma 85b.

[3] Abraham Joshua Heschel, Heavenly Torah as Refracted through the Generations, quoting b Yoma 85b, 87a.


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