The Beginning of Wisdom p.556

[The Children of Israel are] defined in part by remembrance of things past and in part by anticipation of things to come. They remember especially God’s promise to and covenant with Abraham. They anticipate especially the fulfillment of God’s promise and the obligation to perpetuate the memory of the covenant into future generations. Speaking more generally, we may say that the Children of Israel, by looking forward to perpetuate the merit and ways of the ancestors, choose to live with full awareness of time and with full acceptance of change and unavoidable decay. The children of the new way are enjoined to embrace the temporality of human existence because their attachment to the timelessness of God and the permanence of His promised care, which He works out in human affairs in the course of human time.

Not so in Egypt… Egypt, at least in its public and official teachings, is the place that seeks to abolish change and to make time stand still. To be sure, Egyptians have accurate measures of time and a precise calendar, but they use them to manage or to stay ahead of natural change – in the first instance, to predict and manage the flooding of the Nile. What the Egyptians seek is changelessness, agelessness, permanent presence, or eternal return and renewal. Whether one looks to the hieroglyph in which the mobile world is represented is static ideograms; or to the worship of the eternally circling but never-changing heavenly bodies or of the cyclically rising and ebbing river, with is life-giving overflows; or to the practices of denying aging through bodily adornment and defying death through mummification and preparation for reincarnation – everywhere one looks, one sees in Egypt the rejection of change and the denial of death. Ancient Egypt is poles apart from Ancient Israel.


Leon R. Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom p.556


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