Title: The Return of Israel and the Hope of the World
Author: Abraham Livni
Publisher: 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.”