Joshua Ben Levi - His Maxims

His Maxims

Joshua ben Levi’s emphasis of study was seen when he spoke of God as saying to David (Psalm 84:11) that "better" in God’s sight is "one day" of study in the Law "than a thousand" sacrifices (Babylonian Talmud Makkot 10a; Midrash Tehillim 122:2.) Though learning was of paramount importance (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 27a), still he also insisted on piety. He said that those who attends the synagogue service morning and evening will have their days prolonged (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 8a), and those who move their lips in prayer will surely be heard. (Leviticus Rabbah 16; Jerusalem Talmud Berakhot 9d). He instituted a number of rules regulating the reading of the Law in the synagogue on weekdays (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 8a) and other matters relating to the service, many of which are to this day observed in synagogues. (Babylonian Talmud Sotah 39b.)

Some of Joshua's philosophical and theological opinions are recorded. Speaking of the attributes of God, he represented God as "great, mighty, and awe-inspiring" (Deut. 10:17). (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 69b; Jerusalem Talmud Berakhot 11c; Jerusalem Talmud Megillah 74c.) He conceived the relation between Israel and God as most intimate, and he expresses it in the words, "Not even a wall of iron could separate Israel from his Father in heaven." (Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 85b; Sotah 38b.) In his doctrine of future reward and punishment, paradise will receive those who have performed the will of God, while the nether world becomes the habitation of the wicked. (Babylonian Talmud Eruvin 19a). In Psalm 84:5 he found Biblical authority for the resurrection of the dead (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 91b), and in Genesis Rabbah 26 he expressed the liberal view that immortality is the portion not only of Israel, but of all other nations as well. In a legend, Joshua inquired of the Messiah when he was coming, and Elijah answered that it will be when Israel heeds God's voice (Psalm 95:7.) (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98a.) In another connection, he spoke of the futility of estimating the time of the coming of the Messiah (Midrash Tanhuma 9:1; Leviticus Rabbah 19.)

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