Page 18 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
throned in some ultramundane sphere. They were pure dialogue,
a mutual exchange which actually
The character of this dialogue is Call and Answer. I t is not
merely a matter of speech; it is vibrant, direct, mutual com-
munication. Psalm 118:6 furnishes an apt illustration: “Out of
my straits I called upon the Lord, He answered me with great
enlargement.” I
Here man seeks God. But
the dialogue is completed when God seeks man. The formula for
such a dialogue is outlined in Ex. 19:20—“And the Lord came
down upon Mt. Sinai . . . and called Moses to the top of the
mount, and Moses went up.” If the human-divine dialogue is
capable of inspiring such an absorbing spiritual experience, one
may hope to understand the mystical reference in Deuteronomy
that God knew Moses “face to face.”
Biblical Dialectic
As has been pointed out above, dialogue involves communica-
tion between God and man and also between man and God.
Dialectic in religion takes on a form of debate initiated by man.
Thus Abraham challenges God (Gen. 18:23,25), “Wilt Thou
indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Shall not the
Judge of all the earth do justly?” Moses is even more insistent.
He not only questions God’s word but actually puts Him on
the defensive. We read (Num. 11:21-23) after the Lord had
promised to send enough meat to last a whole month:
And Moses said: ‘The people among whom I am are six
hundred thousand men on foot; and yet Thou hast said: I will
give them flesh that they may eat a whole month. If flocks
and herds are slain for them, will they suffice them? or if all
the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, will they
suffice them?’ And the Lord said unto Moses: ‘Is the Lord’s
hand waxed short? Now shalt thou see whether My word shall
come to pass unto thee or not.’
To envision God actually defending Himself taxes credulity, but
such is the power of biblical dialectic.
Jeremiah makes no pretense at diplomacy when he delivers the
challenge (Jer. 12:1), “Righteous art Thou, therefore I will
argue with Thee and will speak in the name of justice with
Thee. Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” In a similar
vein the pious Job, overwhelmed by a series of misfortunes,
laments in his agony (Job 21:7), “Wherefore do the wicked live,
become old, yea, wax mighty in power? How long wilt Thou
look away from me?”