Herman Cohen, a Jewish philosopher, believed that despite centuries of persecution in Europe, the Jews should forget about establishing a homeland of their own. Instead, he argued, they should take the great legacy bequeathed to them from the Hebrew Scriptures—the legacy of ethical monotheism—and, using those lofty ideals, work to better their respective communities, wherever they were. For Cohen (who died in 1918), one country in particular, in the heart of Europe, offered the perfect environment for his utopian vision. This was a country where the Jews, having already had a long history there, would not only be fully accepted but would be free to play a pivotal role in creating a just and prosperous society, a country that, surely, could stand as a model for what the Jews could become in Europe.
Which country was that?
Though having lived in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area for almost 35 years, I never tire of downtown D.C.: the museums, the mammoth government buildings of hammered stone and pillars, the memorials. I love them all. One of my favorite spots is the tidal basin, and its cherry trees, gifts from Japan in 1912, a symbol of the “eternal friendship” between the two nations. In 2004, a new memorial went up, only 200 yards away—to (among other things) Pearl Harbor.
The point? We are all fallen human beings. All of us. As Paul wrote, “As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10), which includes all of us. And yet, the amazing thing is that despite this state of humanity, Christ came and died for all of us. “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6). The Hebrew phrase for “all we” (culanu) at the very beginning of the verse is the exact phrase in Hebrews at the end, “us all” (culanu).
The good news? No matter how large the problem, human sinfulness, the solution, the cross, solved it.