The Return of Israel and the Hope of the World
A masterpiece of historical insight which encompasses the entire history of mankind, from the time of creation until today.
reviewed by Dr. Moshe Goldberg, Jewish Press
The Return of Israel and the Hope of the World
by Abraham Livni
Gefen Publishing House
Abraham Livni’s book is a masterpiece of historical insight which encompasses the entire history of mankind, from the time of creation until today. It is based on the philosophy of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook as taught by his son Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda. The thesis of this book is that the redemption of the Jews as it is manifested in the creation of the modern State of Israel is the culmination of meta-historical processes, which will lead to the healing of the moral state of the world. The completion of this process is the ultimate goal of creation.
The world looks to Judaism to fulfill its unique mission of spreading the message far and wide, thus fulfilling the visions of the prophets. Other religions have tried to usurp this mission and the very identity of the Jewish people, but they will not prevail.
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Livni was born in Marseille in 1925 in a Protestant family. During WWII, his parents helped save 3,000 Jewish children in the town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon by hiding them in the forest during Nazi raids. In 1945, Livni began to study math and physics at the Sorbonne, but he soon moved to theology and philosophy. Later, in Casablanca, he converted to Judaism. He married Nelly, and they moved to Jerusalem in 1963. Livni taught philosophy at Bar Ilan University and studied with Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook.
In 1985 Livni published the French version of The Return of Israel and the Hope of the World. Soon afterwards, in 1986, he passed away. The book is used as source material in many study groups in Israel and abroad, and it is in its fourth printing. In 1995, it was translated into Hebrew by Rabbi Oury Cherki. An English translation of the book has now been published.
I will try through a few brief excerpts to show the great power of this important literary work. Livni describes his personal move from Christianity to Judaism as an anguished journey that he undertook after seeing the results of the Holocaust. “I was twenty years old at the end of WWII, when the horrors of the extermination camps were revealed to us. Just after the war, I wrote: ‘It sometimes seems as though man has lost all control over himself. He seems possessed by demoniacal forces that dominate him… No one knows any more what man is.’
“It was only after years of a passionate struggle that I succeeded in bringing to light the enormity of the myth on which Christianity was built. I now know for certain that only Jews rooted in the spiritual heritage can scrutinize in all lucidity the malady that afflicts modern civilization. What is the malady? It is the theological lie on which Christianity is built … of an Israel that has run its course, denying to the people of Israel the role of educator and redeemer that, according to the Bible, it assumes throughout history.”
Abraham Livni had a very clear picture of the Holocaust and its position within the annals of history. He writes, “The Holocaust is not the simple product of the barbarity of man. The Holocaust is of a nature totally distinct from all the great crimes of history. Hiroshima is the logical consequence of man’s continuous progress in developing ever-more powerful weapons. However, the Holocaust puts into question the very foundations of Western civilization… To speak of the silence of God in the Shoah is a false contention. The real problem, and the only problem, is the silence of man, or rather the deafness of man. God cried out, and prophetic spirits shouted themselves hoarse to warn of the imminence of the catastrophe. But man was deaf.”
An important part of Livni’s thesis is the reality of prophecy and the fulfillment of the prophetic visions that we see with our own eyes. “Prophecy is in effect such an integral part of the Hebraic consciousness that its absence is felt as painfully as the absence of inspiration in the poet… It is necessary to emphasize one obvious truth. Jewish prophecy has nothing in common with divination or fortune telling, as it is found among other peoples. The ‘navi’ is God’s interpreter, charged with transmitting a message to the people. This message is not limited to a prediction of the future, for it possesses all the dimensions – moral, spiritual, religious, metaphysical, and metahistorical – of authentic knowledge.”
From Livni’s broad perspective, recent historical events are a necessary fulfillment of the prophecy of old, with all of its paradoxes. “History is not the product of chance, and it is not chance that brought together, in a single instant, the extreme opposite dimensions of human existence, death and birth, despair and hope, abject Satanism and pure idealism. The creation of the State of Israel and the Holocaust, that both began well before 1943, correspond to historical dynamics diametrically opposed… One would have to be blind not to see that a mysterious Providence brought these two events together, as if to make of them the opposite sides of the same giant milestone. Providence was present in the Holocaust just as it watched over the creation of the State of Israel. Jewish faith cannot claim the contrary.”
Israel’s mission can only be accomplished by demonstrating to the world how to become a nation that is based on Divine moral principles. “Israel is called upon to establish itself in the Holy Land, in order to put into practice this teaching and spread its message throughout the world. Between the prophetic event of the revelation of Sinai and the dissemination of this teaching from Jerusalem are situated, therefore, not only the entire mission of Israel but all of the history of mankind as well… Sinai would lose its meaning completely if it were not linked to Zion. It would be as if the seed refused to sprout and grow, this would be a refusal of history, of its development and maturation, a shirking of responsibility.”
Abraham Livni’s The Return of Israel and the Hope of the World is a thought-provoking work which has the power to bring into sharp focus all of the events of past history and mold them into a uniform framework that can serve as a guide for future action. It is an exciting book, recommended reading for all serious participants in the historical process, Jew and non-Jew alike. As Abraham Livni writes in his summary, “Zionism has a specific role to play in the metahistorical framework of the great Return, whose universal dimension was clearly shown, long ago, by all the prophets… Now, time is running out. The juxtaposition of the Nazi genocide and the establishment of the State of Israel is no simple accident of history. Now that the dream of Return has become a reality, it is no longer possible for the Jewish people to remain on the sidelines, ignoring their predestined mission.
“It is the Jewish people’s destiny to break loose from all the restraints imposed upon them by their exilic condition, woven from all the alienations of a world incapable of finding the key to its salvation. The Return does not concern the Jewish people alone. It concerns all peoples. The Return of Israel is, in truth, the hope of the world, the only path to its salvation.”