The rabbis developed a system where Jews could live anywhere, under any government and live meaningful lives connected to neighbors and to God.
“That was the Judaism that enabled Jews to live through persecution, plagues, medieval centuries and on through early modernity, which was in some ways the most difficult periods,” Dr. Kraemer said.
Every year the celebration of Passover, which begins next week and recounts 10 plagues from the Book of Exodus, is a reminder of God’s redemption. The Passover Seder “says we have been in difficult circumstances before and we will get beyond them,” Dr. Kraemer said.
In the Islamic tradition, the Quran tells stories of plagues and of a final earthquake that will tear the earth apart, as well as stories of finding God in the created world.
In mainstream Islamic thought there is a distinction between the end of the world and the concept of apocalypse, Amir Hussain, professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University, said. Apocalypse also includes what happens when one’s eyes are opened.
“Look at the creation, look at the oceans,” Dr. Hussain said, reflecting on a favorite passage in the Quran about God’s mercy. “How much better is it to have that realization in this lifetime?”
In Buddhism, time is cyclical, not linear, making apocalypse both an end and a beginning. “Apocalypse happens and then a new order starts, a new social order, new moral order,” said Vesna Wallace, professor of Buddhism at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The story repeats itself.”