Emmanuel Levinas, “A Religion for Adults” in Difficult Freedom (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), p. 21.
But nothing in this help resembles the communication of the saints, the transitivity of the redemptive act is completely educative. We are familiar with the admirable passages from Ezekiel in which one's responsibility extends to the actions of one's neighbour. Among people, each responds to the faults of the Other. We even respond to the just person who risks being corrupted. We cannot push the idea of solidarity any further. Therefore, the aspiration to a just society which we find in Judaism, beyond any individual piety, is an eminently religious action. A text from Tractate Tannith (7a) magnifies this salvation of the unjust by the just. The constitution of a just society – one which ‘receives the rain’ – is compared to the moments that mark, in all theology, the summit of religious life. Rabbi Abbahu said: ‘The day of rain is greater than the resurrection of the dead, for the resurrection of the dead concerns only the just, while the rain concerns both the just and the unjust.’ Rabbi Jehouda said: ‘The day of rain is as great as the day when the heavens and the earth were created.’ There is a subordination of every possible relationship between God and people – redemption, revelation, creation – to the instruction of a society in which justice, instead of remaining an aspiration of individual piety, is strong enough to extend to all and be realized. It is perhaps this state of mind that we normally call messianism.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. How does Levinas equate justice with a religious act?

2. How does Levinas define messianism? Do you agree?

3. Is this a realistic or utopian vision of a society?

Time Period: Contemporary (The Yom Kippur War until the present-day)