How, in a global pandemic, can we look forward to the future with hope? Faith in a better future lies at the heart of the Bible, starting with God’s covenant with the children of Israel. In these intensely uncertain times, the history of Jewish hope that has been built on those foundations offers a rich and sustaining resource for all of us. Jewish hope is not only a core aspect of Judaism but also underlies Christian and many secular traditions of thinking about the future.
Talmudic sages and medieval rabbis interpreted God’s covenant with the Jews as a divine promise of a future messianic age, when the Jewish people would lead the world into a transformed state of harmony and peace. In Christianity, belief in the ultimate arrival of the messianic era has been an equally important wellspring of hope. Christians have traditionally anticipated the conversion of all Jews to Christianity as the event that will herald the advent of utopian unity on earth. This double-edged doctrine is undoubtedly implicated in the history of anti-Jewish hostility and hatred. It has also, though, played a very important role in extending the idea that Jews are central to the unfolding of the deepest hopes of humanity outside the Jewish world.