Yet another guest post by The Bray of Fundie
For at least two centuries conventional wisdom of progressive left-liberal Judaism maintains that we, as a People, fulfill our historical mission of serving as “A Light Unto the Nations” by epitomizing the prophetic tradition of social justice. Why these Jews don’t recognize that positing any unique historical mission for our “People” (re: tribe members) is, itself, a decidedly reactionary notion, is something I’ve never quite understood. (see my post from yesterday) [Actually, it originates with the ARI, (not progressive left-liberal Judaism.) The ARI taught that it was the responsibility of the Jewish people to (in the language of his metaphor) bring about the gradual restoration of cosmic unity via the ingathering of the bits of Divine Being splintered throughout creation during the primordial catastrophe called shevirat ha-kelim, or breaking of the vessels. [Source]This was to be carried out by the acts of individual men-DB] And it begs a more basic question. Is there, in fact, any Biblical/ prophetic basis for this near ubiquitous ani ma’amin?
Apparently it is predicated on the soaring poetry in these verses in Yeshaya 42:6
ו אֲנִי יְהוָה קְרָאתִיךָ בְצֶדֶק, וְאַחְזֵק בְּיָדֶךָ; וְאֶצָּרְךָ, וְאֶתֶּנְךָ לִבְרִית עָם--לְאוֹר גּוֹיִם.
I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and taken hold of thy hand, and formed thee, and set thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations
and/or Yeshaya 49:6
ו וַיֹּאמֶר, נָקֵל מִהְיוֹתְךָ לִי עֶבֶד, לְהָקִים אֶת-שִׁבְטֵי יַעֲקֹב, ונצירי (וּנְצוּרֵי) יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהָשִׁיב; וּנְתַתִּיךָ לְאוֹר גּוֹיִם, לִהְיוֹת יְשׁוּעָתִי עַד-קְצֵה הָאָרֶץ.
Yea, He saith: 'It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the offspring of Israel; I will also give thee for a light of the nations, that My salvation may be unto the end of the earth.'
But who is the servant? and who has the LORD “called to righteousness”?
The Ibn Ezra identifies the servant as the prophet himself. Even the “majority of commentators ” that he quotes say that “My servant” refers to the righteous (Tzadikim) of Israel and NOT to the nation as a whole (EUREKA a meritocracy!). The Malbim, Radak and the Metzudos identify him as Mashiakh and Rav Yosef Karo identifies him as Koresh/Cyrus! Even those (Rashi) who opine that the “servant” refers to the nation as a whole define the “light” as an eschatological promise, as yet unfulfilled, having nothing to do with the role of Jews in exile.
Furthermore as per Rashi the “nations” of 42:6 being provided with illumination are not what WE call Goyim but the various tribes of Israel. i.e. the PROPHET serves as a light UNTO THE TRIBES.
Rashi on 49:6 interprets the for a light of the nations not as some call to be standard bearers of high ethical standards but as the bearer of good tidings of the downfall of the Babylonian Empire or, as per Ibn Ezra, the good news of the ultimate salvation of Israel (as in LaYehudim haysah Orah V’Simkha).
In short, the notion of Jews in any pre-Messianic era serving as some kind of high-ethical-standard role models for the balance of humanity (as if they didn’t have enough to do already!) apparently has no basis in Torah-true Biblical interpretation. It is just another petty and patronizing conceit of the progressives. Talk about irrational bigotry!