Redemption in the Jewish Religion
29 SEP 2017
For thousands of years, the Jews, known in the Old Testament as God’s chosen people, have been exiled, oppressed, enslaved and had their very existence threatened. Time and again, it is their belief that God redeemed them and sent prophets to lead them from exile. In addition to past redemption, the Jews also believe in a future redemption that will be brought about during a messianic era.
1 A Brief History
Judaism is one of the world’s oldest religions, having originated more than 3,500 years ago. Along with Christianity and Islam, it is considered an Abrahamic religion. In the Torah (known in Christian religions as the Old Testament), Abraham is called by God to be the father of the “chosen people.” Throughout history, the Jews would find themselves exiled, but they believe it was God who redeemed them from oppression and slavery, sending them prophets and leaders like Moses to guide them through their hardships. Through Moses, it is believed God handed down the Ten Commandments, rules by which the Jews were to live.
For Christian religions, redemption is forgiveness or deliverance from sin. In Buddhism, it is freedom from worldly desires. But for the Jews, redemption is primarily about God redeeming them from exile and slavery. The Encyclopedia Judaica defines redemption as "salvation from the states or circumstances that destroy the value of human existence or human existence itself."
In the Torah, Exodus 6:1-8 illustrates the story of the Jews' exile from Egypt. God speaks to Moses, “Say therefore to the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’”
3 Future Redemption
The Jews also believe in a messianic redemption. The “moshiach” (messiah) will be a learned leader who is prophetic like Moses and wiser than Solomon. Maimonides, who was a Jewish Torah scholar and sage in the Middle Ages, wrote, "If we see a Jewish leader who (a) toils in the study of Torah and is meticulous about the observance of the mitzvot, (b) influences the Jews to follow the ways of the Torah and (c) wages the "battles of G-d"--such a person is the presumptive Moshiach."
The Jews believe this messianic era will be brought about when they have proven themselves worthy through their good deeds. Much of Jewish ritual and tradition centers around service and giving back to community, as is demonstrated in the Jewish saying “tikkun olam,” which translates to “repairing the world.”
Ge’ullah is the Hebrew word for redemption and is a blessing that is said along with the daily prayer, thanking God for the Jews' redemption from Egypt.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion, the ge’ullah, “expresses the central Jewish dogma of God’s involvement in history” and can be said “as a prayer for redemption, not only in the messianic sense, but for deliverance of hardship.”
The Talmud (Ber. 14b) offers this form of the ge'ullah: "We thank thee, O Lord, our G-d, for that thou hast brought forth from the land of Egypt and ransomed us from the house of bondage, and hast done for us wonders and mighty deeds upon the sea; and there we sang to thee."