Judaism: Not Religion or Theology
The circumstances of the giving of the Torah convey a great deal about the character of Torah, and of our relationship to it. In
One purpose of this separation was to establish for future generations that
“Religion” stems from the hearts of people, their codes of law originate in the human mind and merely express their conceptions of deity, of human destiny, and of man’s relationship to deity and his fellow man that exist in a particular period of history. Like all other disciplines — language, science, art and philosophy — “religion” is subject to change with the passage of time, as its laws and practices are merely an expression of levels reached by civilization at a given time. Because it is only a marker, religion cannot undertake to raise and educate the nation from which it sprang, up to its own higher standard.
But Torah is not religion. It was given by
Far from having its genesis from within the people, this set of Laws was imposed on a stubborn, stiff-necked people, a people who struggled for centuries to impart and implement its truths. It is this imperfection of the Jewish People, and its repeated rebellions against Torah that attests to the Divine origin and uniqueness of Torah. It still remains an absolute, an ideal, towards which the people strive, and the Torah still awaits the age which will be fully ripe for its realization. The Torah has no development and no history; it is the Jewish People which has a history, and a development towards Torah. Torah does not have to catch up with the times. It is the times that have to catch up with the Torah.
As much as Torah is not religion, it is also not theology. Despite the Divine, unchanging and supernatural nature of Torah, it has never been withheld from the layman and reserved for the gowned theologian. “Theology” contains the thoughts of man on
- Sources: Commentary, Shemot 19:10-13; Collected Writings I, pp. 183-186, 189-190