a Jewish view on the Sermon on the Mount

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Odola, I'm not sure what you wanted sources on then - I thought you wanted a Jewish perspective on peacemaking/deescalation. I'm not a scholar, so I went to other sources. It seemed a sidebar in the discussion of Tolkien's view of what you called a deescalation culture and its sources in Christianity. Maybe we've just gotten too far off track.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Odola, I'm not sure what you wanted sources on then - I thought you wanted a Jewish perspective on peacemaking/deescalation. I'm not a scholar, so I went to other sources. It seemed a sidebar in the discussion of Tolkien's view of what you called a deescalation culture and its sources in Christianity. Maybe we've just gotten too far off track.
Both the source are fine and very interesting in themselves - thanks you. For me only with too little applied examples and as such difficult for me to apply to TLOTR. Maybe the other way round would be easier. Could you try to remember any occurance or sitiation in TLOTR which struck you as familiar from your Jewish background?
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
What I find is a sense of values that align with my most basic values, and those are based on Jewish thought. I think of Frodo's suffering leading him to what we see in the scouring of the Shire - avoidance of unnecessary killing, humane treatment of enemies. In the earlier drafts, Frodo was a swashbuckling hero defeating his enemies by his fighting skills, but Tolkien realized that someone who has gone through what Frodo has would not act that way, that he has learned something higher, something based on justice rather than revenge. I also see it in Faramir, at once a scholar and warrior, revering the past; taking his role in his family seriously, taking his father's wishes and feelings into account before his own, however unfair or unreasonable those wishes and feelings might be, understanding the grief behind them; his compassion, his code of ethics, and love of beauty.

My point has been that the values in LOTR are not particularly Christian, though the author was.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
What I find is a sense of values that align with my most basic values, and those are based on Jewish thought. I think of Frodo's suffering leading him to what we see in the scouring of the Shire - avoidance of unnecessary killing, humane treatment of enemies.
I would call that mercy. It would be just to judge both Grimma and Sharkey. But Frodo, aware of his own failure, feels unauthorised to judge anyone anymore.

I also see it in Faramir, at once a scholar and warrior, revering the past; taking his role in his family seriously, taking his father's wishes and feelings into account before his own, however unfair or unreasonable those wishes and feelings might be, understanding the grief behind them; his compassion, his code of ethics, and love of beauty.
Independant
Yes, his filiality goes beyond what is usual for Christian context. Actually I get my understanding of filiality from Chinese costume dramas. Not that I do agree with the level and degree of filiality demanded in ancient China, but now I do know nad have a feels for the concept. That is true - filiality is not a Christian virtue in itself. We are bound to respect our parents and to support them in their old age, but as adults we are no longer bound to follow their wishes or leads. This is because our bound with them is primarily altered by baptism when we become "siblings in Christ" first. We are bound to obey them while we are minors but even then, when over the "age of reason" (7 in Catholicism), we should refuse our parents if they order us to do something obviously wrong like stealing or harming somebody or oneself or something similar. Faramir risking harming himself for no other reason but to humour his father's caprice is not a Christian way of doing things. True.

My point has been that the values in LOTR are not particularly Christian, though the author was.
Oh, there are. But I agree now, if one is not familiar with some of those concepts or ideas, one will perhaps not recognise them and dismiss them as not important to the story while they do jump out of the pages for those who are. Similarly like those not familiar with linguistics and language history will miss how far the story is influenced and shaped by it.
 

Ilana Mushin

Active Member
I’ve just finished reading this fascinating thread. I am not up to date with ELOTR (I’m listening to episode 27 at the moment) as I came to this late so I missed the initial prompt for this thread. As a Jewish reader of Tolkien I have often questioned why I am so drawn to his works, which have such a basis in Christian thinking. This thread is giving me new food for thought. I’m not a Biblical scholar so I can’t point easily to particular passages but for me the ‘small hands‘ moving the wheels of the world has always resonated with the humility and understated characters of so many Biblical heros - from Jacob and Rachel to David and Esther.

And from the Silmarillion, Ulmo’s caution to the other Valar to leave the Elves be in Middle Earth to heal the hurts of Melkor always struck me as a directive for the Talmudic notion ‘tikkun olam’, which is the repair of the world that is one of the pillars upon which our purpose is built. Tikkun Olam asks us to make healing the hurts of the world our purpose, but not to expect success. It also teaches us that no one person can accomplish this - it must be done communally.
I see a lot of this thinking in Tolkien’s work. But this is Talmudic, not drawn directly from the Bible.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
if one is not familiar with some of those concepts or ideas, one will perhaps not recognise them and dismiss them as not important to the story while they do jump out of the pages for those who are. Similarly like those not familiar with linguistics and language history will miss how far the story is influenced and shaped by it.
Whether it’s the intention or not this frankly comes across as rather patronising and reductive of the work, boiling it down to a singular narrative. I know it was meant not to be offensive but I just found that it reads rather evidently of confirmation bias. I really don’t see the problem in allowing people to take whatever they take from the text snd for that to be as equally valid, rather than gatekeeping a personal reading as the correct insight. I just think we should all be aware that we are crossing from reading of a fantasy novel into critiquing the influence of people’s personal beliefs upon the text. I see universal overtones in the text, I think the reason that it’s cross cultures over decades is because it’s themes are deep and rich and applicable to many walks of life. Please let’s not beg for discussion of a certain outlook impacting the text then come back saying that outlook is wrong. I’ve long since lost track of the purpose of this thread to be honest. I thought we were discussing how original or later Jewish audiences might perceive the Sermon on the Mount. We seemed to have moved back into looking at Tolkien’s work through a Christian lens while also seemingly now debating wether that is the one true lens. I’m really not sure of the focus here. I’m not sure I am in the right headspace to continue adding to this as it’s hurting my old bonce a little trying to keep up. Sorry, busy couple of days
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Welcome Ilana. Tikkun Olam is personified in Sam, I think, and Galadriel sees and succours him with her gift - whether it's the big save in accompanying Frodo, or the smaller save of cleaning and greening the Shire. It's nice to have you here.

Judaism as modern Jews and others see and/or practice it is Talmudic, so referring to Talmudic principles make sense. I'm not a scholar either, but when I wanted my son to go to Hebrew school more than 20 years ago, I began learning by going to services and adult ed classes.
 

Ilana Mushin

Active Member
Welcome Ilana. Tikkun Olam is personified in Sam, I think, and Galadriel sees and succours him with her gift - whether it's the big save in accompanying Frodo, or the smaller save of cleaning and greening the Shire. It's nice to have you here.

Judaism as modern Jews and others see and/or practice it is Talmudic, so referring to Talmudic principles make sense. I'm not a scholar either, but when I wanted my son to go to Hebrew school more than 20 years ago, I began learning by going to services and adult ed classes.
Yes Sam - the Uber Mensch.

For Odola - I think that Christians often presuppose that Jews take their practices and principles directly from the Torah/Bible, but as Rachel says here, most Jews understanding of text is mediated through centuries of exegesis via the Talmud and going on to this very day. The ‘do unto others’ dictum I understand originated with Rabbi Hillel during the Babylonian exile and is not in the Bible (at least in those words). Jews of Jesus’ time would have known this stuff though, for example.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Actually, Hillel said it differently - That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. He was in the second Temple period, closer to the time of Jesus. He was tortured by the Romans. The story is that a Roman was going around telling rabbis that if they could summarize their religion while standing on one foot, he would convert. Hillel was the only one who took him up on the offer - that is what he said, followed by The rest is commentary, go and learn it.
 

Ilana Mushin

Active Member
Actually, Hillel said it differently - That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. He was in the second Temple period, closer to the time of Jesus. He was tortured by the Romans. The story is that a Roman was going around telling rabbis that if they could summarize their religion while standing on one foot, he would convert. Hillel was the only one who took him up on the offer - that is what he said, followed by The rest is commentary, go and learn it.
LOL like I said, I’m not a scholar in this area - thanks for correcting me. I remember ‘the rest is commentary’ bit.
 

Ilana Mushin

Active Member
LOL like I said, I’m not a scholar in this area - thanks for correcting me. I remember ‘the rest is commentary’ bit.
I might have been getting caught up in thinking about exiles and comparing Jews and Jerusalem during the Babylonian exile with the Noldor in Middle Earth. That’s not so much about theological perspectives, but rather how ‘applicable’ Tolkien is to the human condition
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I’ve just finished reading this fascinating thread. I am not up to date with ELOTR (I’m listening to episode 27 at the moment) as I came to this late so I missed the initial prompt for this thread. As a Jewish reader of Tolkien I have often questioned why I am so drawn to his works, which have such a basis in Christian thinking. This thread is giving me new food for thought. I’m not a Biblical scholar so I can’t point easily to particular passages but for me the ‘small hands‘ moving the wheels of the world has always resonated with the humility and understated characters of so many Biblical heros - from Jacob and Rachel to David and Esther.

And from the Silmarillion, Ulmo’s caution to the other Valar to leave the Elves be in Middle Earth to heal the hurts of Melkor always struck me as a directive for the Talmudic notion ‘tikkun olam’, which is the repair of the world that is one of the pillars upon which our purpose is built. Tikkun Olam asks us to make healing the hurts of the world our purpose, but not to expect success. It also teaches us that no one person can accomplish this - it must be done communally.
I see a lot of this thinking in Tolkien’s work. But this is Talmudic, not drawn directly from the Bible.
Thanks you! This is very illuminating.Very interesting concept.
 
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Odola

Well-Known Member
Whether it’s the intention or not this frankly comes across as rather patronising and reductive of the work, boiling it down to a singular narrative. I know it was meant not to be offensive but I just found that it reads rather evidently of confirmation bias. I really don’t see the problem in allowing people to take whatever they take from the text snd for that to be as equally valid, rather than gatekeeping a personal reading as the correct insight. I just think we should all be aware that we are crossing from reading of a fantasy novel into critiquing the influence of people’s personal beliefs upon the text. I see universal overtones in the text, I think the reason that it’s cross cultures over decades is because it’s themes are deep and rich and applicable to many walks of life. Please let’s not beg for discussion of a certain outlook impacting the text then come back saying that outlook is wrong. I’ve long since lost track of the purpose of this thread to be honest. I thought we were discussing how original or later Jewish audiences might perceive the Sermon on the Mount. We seemed to have moved back into looking at Tolkien’s work through a Christian lens while also seemingly now debating wether that is the one true lens. I’m really not sure of the focus here.
The focus is on Jewish elements in T.LOTR . We found two very specific ones. One is a clearly pre-Christian stress on filiality in Gondor. The second one is the duty to repair the world (which I will dive into learning of in a moment).

Actually I find the term "universalistic values' not very usefull. Because on a closer look they are not universal. Not all humans at all times and places used to share them or even understood them. I am a person which needs to be showed something is in the text. Show me where do you see a "universal" value in the text and I can probably find 2-3 among the worldl's cultures which do/did not share it if I search for it. Beyond having food or water, that is. I find values are highly culture-specific, distinguishable and attributable.

Yes, we were loocking at the SotM originally in the thread but this regretably did not lead very far. Such things do happen to threads.
If Ilana Mushin is willing to give her comments on SotM, I would be very happy indeed.
Still, the goal of the SotM exercise is its connection to LOTR and other Tolkien texts. And Rob Harding if you want to prove to me that TLOTR in based on universal values, do it. Take out an important value from the text and do prove its universality. This is a quite a broad claim, difficult but not unable to be proven.

Take filiality for example. It would be an almost universal value but for us. We are not a filial culture. Shockingly and scandalisingly so for others. This has reasons - our filiality is bound the God the Father and not to our parents - as such those who are non-believers from a Christian background are often not fililal to anyone anymore, but it is so. So how universal is filiality if a big chunk of todays's world population barely grasps the concept?

There is another value that we do not share with the hobbits of TLOTR anymore. The is the walue put on rank, birth and social hierarchy. A serwant is a serwant in TLOTR and a gentle-hobbit is a gentle-hobbit. So how universal is this value then?
 
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Odola

Well-Known Member
Yes Sam - the Uber Mensch.

For Odola - I think that Christians often presuppose that Jews take their practices and principles directly from the Torah/Bible, but as Rachel says here, most Jews understanding of text is mediated through centuries of exegesis via the Talmud and going on to this very day. The ‘do unto others’ dictum I understand originated with Rabbi Hillel during the Babylonian exile and is not in the Bible (at least in those words). Jews of Jesus’ time would have known this stuff though, for example.
I think more and more do notice this nowadays, those who do care to know, but true, it is not common knowledge yet. But still for the sake of argument here when analysing the TLOTR I will count a biblical idea or principle as "Jewish" if it is found in OT even if it is not something stressed very much nowadays, as long it is not part of - what I call "generał cultural package" of the broader area at a given time. I do not know the Talmud well at all, while I have read some short passages, and as such I am completely blind to most of talmudic elements.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I’ve just finished reading this fascinating thread. I am not up to date with ELOTR (I’m listening to episode 27 at the moment) as I came to this late so I missed the initial prompt for this thread. As a Jewish reader of Tolkien I have often questioned why I am so drawn to his works, which have such a basis in Christian thinking. This thread is giving me new food for thought. I’m not a Biblical scholar so I can’t point easily to particular passages but for me the ‘small hands‘ moving the wheels of the world has always resonated with the humility and understated characters of so many Biblical heros - from Jacob and Rachel to David and Esther.

And from the Silmarillion, Ulmo’s caution to the other Valar to leave the Elves be in Middle Earth to heal the hurts of Melkor always struck me as a directive for the Talmudic notion ‘tikkun olam’, which is the repair of the world that is one of the pillars upon which our purpose is built. Tikkun Olam asks us to make healing the hurts of the world our purpose, but not to expect success. It also teaches us that no one person can accomplish this - it must be done communally.
I see a lot of this thinking in Tolkien’s work. But this is Talmudic, not drawn directly from the Bible.
Ilona, I have found two other interesting ideas from the article you have linked to:
God contracted the divine self to make room for creation.

This seem to be the case to an extent in Arda. And it is not a Christian experience - for us He is more like the "ocean for the fish" - "in His light we see light" Psalm 36:9.

Divine light became contained in special vessels, or kelim, some of which shattered and scattered.

This concept reminds me stongly of the Silmarills. Could you elaborate how far the simalarites go according to you and what would be the differences?
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
There is another value that we do not share with the hobbits of TLOTR anymore. The is the walue put on rank, birth and social hierarchy. A serwant is a serwant in TLOTR and a gentle-hobbit is a gentle-hobbit. So how universal is this value then?
Are you saying we do not discriminate by class? We don't have nobility, but we have people who pride themselves on how long their families have lived here - as well of course of money. We also have a rather invisible service-worker class.

And while the hobbits do have such distinctions, and there is no doubt that Sam is a servant, yet even in the Shire he shares meals and social time with the others, without invitation and without comment. He takes part in the conversations and entertainments. I think it's the first time they have spent any length of time with him. I've said before, Sam is so secure in his class that he is pretty much classless.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Are you saying we do not discriminate by class? We don't have nobility, but we have people who pride themselves on how long their families have lived here - as well of course of money. We also have a rather invisible service-worker class.

And while the hobbits do have such distinctions, and there is no doubt that Sam is a servant, yet even in the Shire he shares meals and social time with the others, without invitation and without comment. He takes part in the conversations and entertainments. I think it's the first time they have spent any length of time with him. I've said before, Sam is so secure in his class that he is pretty much classless.
We do not value "knowing once place" anymore as we once did. Our modern society demands a much higher social mobility for that to be a virtue anymore.
 

Ilana Mushin

Active Member
Ilona, I have found two other interesting ideas from the article you have linked to:
God contracted the divine self to make room for creation.

This seem to be the case to an extent in Arda. And it is not a Christian experience - for us He is more like the "ocean for the fish" - "in His light we see light" Psalm 36:9.

Divine light became contained in special vessels, or kelim, some of which shattered and scattered.

This concept reminds me stongly of the Silmarills. Could you elaborate how far the simalarites go according to you and what would be the differences?
Absolutely I see the parallel between the ‘contraction of the divine self to make room for creation‘ and Iluvatar standing back (so to speak) and letting the Valar and then the Children enact the story. It places the onus on people to live good lives and to influence others to do the same within the bounds of mortal life.

I’m someone who sees tikkun olam in the more contemporary way - so less about shards of light etc, but the parallel with the silmarils here is interesting, I agree.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I’m someone who sees tikkun olam in the more contemporary way - so less about shards of light etc, but the parallel with the silmarils here is interesting, I agree.
I find it interesting how the Silmarils are "hallowed" but bring havoc to those around them. Similarly the shards with divine light are seen negatively - as a problen needing resolution. I am interested if Tolkien knew this Jewish tradition. From his scholarly background he might have.
 

Ilana Mushin

Active Member
I find it interesting how the Silmarils are "hallowed" but bring havoc to those around them. Similarly the shards with divine light are seen negatively - as a problen needing resolution. I am interested if Tolkien knew this Jewish tradition. From his scholarly background he might have.
In a couple of his letters he does mention his admiration for Jews but my impression is that he didn’t know many. The Jewish linguists of his time would not have been Germanic philologists (let along Anglo Saxon) - more Slavic or Semitic languages. So I don’t know what he knew about Jewish thinking.
 
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