oto ha’ish

tallit-prayerHowever, in the last few generations, changes took place among some Christian groups. There are those among them who no longer believe they must humiliate the Jews, and some even believe that Israel remains the Chosen People, whose purpose is to bring the Redemption.

However, they still embrace a form of idolatry, believing that ‘oto ha’ish’ [Jesus] is son of a deity and the messiah who will be resurrected to redeem the world. At the same time, they point out that he is Jewish.

The question arises: Should this position cause a complete rift between us? Every time we meet Christian supporters of Israel, must we denounce their belief in ‘oto ha’ish’?

-Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
“Judaism: The Relation of Jews to non-Jews”
Arutz Sheva News Agency

The Jerusalem Talmud may provide us with a solution. The Jerusalem Talmud’s version of the Four Sons adjusts the text to read “if that man were here, he would not be redeemed.” “oto haish,” literally “that man” is often used in the Talmud to refer to the founder of Christianity.The Wicked Son believes that redemption is to be found in Oso Ha’ish. The Talmud is completely rejecting this tenet of early Christianity, and pulling the rug out from under the Wicked Son telling him he is relying on the future redemption of someone who himself would not have been redeemed.

-Josh Waxman
“Does Oto Haish in the Haggadah (according to Yerushalmi) refer to Jesus?”

While Josh Waxman asks this question at or around Passover in 2009, Rabbi Melamed answers it in the Fall of 2011 by referring to Jesus as “that man”. Doesn’t sound like much of a compliment, does it? This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a Jewish Rabbi refer to Jesus using the circumlocution to avoid having to say or write out his name.

Both Rabbi Melamed and Mr. Waxman (and I apologize to Mr. Waxman if he is a Rabbi or has some other title, but I can’t determine this from the content on his blog) are going through some effort to avoid denigrating the followers of Jesus but they aren’t entirely successful. Waxman continues in his blog post saying:

We don’t really care about Jesus that much. He is tangential to Jewish history, even as he is central to another religion. There is no reason to bring him in here. While it may be true that “”The yerushalmi was redacted in 425 CE and witnessed the Roman Empire’s adoption of Christianity and the widespread proselytization to Christianity,” which would make them care more, that does not mean we should read it into every source. And anyway, this particular source in Yerushalmi is Rabbi Chiyya, redactor of braytot, who passed away in 230 CE, much earlier than the Roman Empire’s adoption of Christianity.

For his part, Rabbi Melamed states:

Rabbi Kook also wrote a letter of congratulation (Igrot, Part 2, pg.198) to a Torah scholar who compiled a booklet called ‘Israel’s Faith’ in order to explain the Jewish religion in Japanese, however, he pointed out that the author had erred by expressing disrespect for ‘oto ha’ish’ and Mohammed. “It is impossible to offer supreme, religious content to this nation with insulting expressions concerning the founders of [other] religions, whoever they are. We must only speak about the holy and supreme advantage of God’s Torah, and negation will come by itself.”

Of course there is a certain amount of “negation” of the believers in Jesus, even as there is the suggestion that disrespect for the author of Christian faith is unacceptable. It’s important for Christianity to try to put these statements within a certain perspective. For Rabbi Melamed, the perspective is this.

In the past, except for a small minority of righteous Gentiles, the attitude of Christians towards Jews was negative. They based their beliefs on the humiliation of the Jews, which they believed proved that the Christians were intended to replace Israel as the Chosen People.

replacement-theologyPastor Barry Horner wrote his book Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged chronicling how Christian supersessionism has been extremely damaging to the Jewish people over the last 1,900 years of church history and why it continues to be a destructive theology in the world today. Both Mr. Waxman and Rabbi Melamed are living examples of the results of Christian replacement theology and antisemitism, not only historically, but as a matter of “current affairs”. Last Thursday at the G20 summit at Cannes, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had this to say to U.S. President Obama as reported at Haaretz.com:

The French president, unaware last Thursday that a mike in the meeting room at the G20 summit at Cannes was on, was heard calling Netanyahu “a liar” in what he thought was a private exchange with U.S. President Barack Obama. “I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama, who was also unaware that the mike had been turned on and was being monitored by reporters via the headsets used for simultaneous translations.

Obama didn’t exactly defend Netanyahu, either.

“You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” Obama replied, according to wire service reports.

While Sarkozy’s and Obama’s comments can’t be directly attributed to Christian supersessionism, they are certainly prime examples of how even national European and American leaders view Israel and speak of the Jewish nation (or at least its Prime Minister) when they think no one can hear.

How are we, as Christians, to receive all this? It’s not easy. There’s a tendency to get a little defensive when someone holds the Savior in such disdain that they must refer to him as “that man”, but on the other hand, how many Jews have been persecuted, tortured, and murdered in the name of Jesus? True, modern Christians aren’t directly responsible for those events, but in continuing to support any form of replacement theology, we support an environment that is latently or overtly hostile to Jews and one that supports the French and American presidents speaking poorly of the Israeli Prime Minister, essentially behind his back and behind the backs of their citizens.

If the leaders of the world and the body of Christ fail to amend their behavior and learn to truly support the Jewish nation and her people, what does democracy, liberty, and Christianity mean at this point? How can we show that, for the sake of “that man”, we love Israel if we continue to marginalize the Jewish people?

It does sting hearing Jesus referred to as “oto ha’ish”. As much as I want to be persevering and “noble” about it, I find it difficult to have others disregard my faith, my King, and me personally in absolute terms, as if I as an individual am responsible for the persecution of the Jewish people. It makes me wonder what Jews who know I’m a Christian may think of me or say about me when I’m not listening. I wonder if I’m judged as lesser or unworthy or unrighteous, not because of anything I’ve done, but simply because of who I am. But then again, Christians have been treating Jews in exactly that way for almost 2,000 years. Maybe it’s time we Christians discovered how it feels.


37 thoughts on “oto ha’ish”

  1. very thought-provoking article. you make many points, i believe that God has the solution to all of these issues, so we do not need to fret. the Bible says that, “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (phl 2:11). in some of these situations we can only watch and pray. in some we can act to help others and ease their sufferings. but through it all, rest assured that God sees all and that His plan will be fulfilled. this earth belongs to Him! so how could it be any other way? he reigns and nothing any person can say or believe will ever change THAT!

  2. Greetings, Cindy. Thanks for your comment.

    I agree that in the end, God wins, so to speak. However, that doesn’t absolve us from our responsibilities to correct injustice and to right wrongs. It is true that we cannot change how Jewish people view our devotion to Christ, but we can attempt to correct centuries upon centuries of error and harm that the church has done to the Jews in the name of Jesus. Part of that is to educate ourselves in the dynamics of the Jewish/Christian history and relationship and to re-examine our scriptures and our faith from a perspective that omits supersessionism.

    At present, Christianity and Judaism have understandings of God and the universe that cannot be reconciled, but as you say, God reigns and at the end of all the things we are familiar with now, those matters will be fixed and we will all know that God is One and His Name is One.


  3. James,

    Sadly “oto HaIsh – That Man” is a common reference in early rabbinic literature toward Yeshua. In modern times it is other derogatory references – Yushke, Yushki, etc.

    However, one day that will all change!

  4. james,
    it is noble to desire that centuries worth of wrongs be put right. but i just am not sure that is humanly possible. i don’t think that we should sit and do nothing, though. we should stand up for what is right.
    on the other hand, think about it circumstantially. the Bible gives us the history of the nation of israel; a record of its running away from God and the punishment received for that. take the book of hosea for example. the story of a man and woman whose stormy relationship symbolized israel’s relationship with God. who did the redeeming of His people? God did. God told hosea to redeem gomer. i don’t believe any heart can be changed without God making the first move. all i am saying is that He has a plan and He will bring it to fruition. God knows who those jews are that will accept His Son and He will
    not leave them out of his kingdom.

  5. Cindy, I’m not saying that we can completely repair the past, but we can certainly examine ourselves in the present. Paul said (Romans 12:18), “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” If we maintain a theology that has alienated Christians and Jews from each other for almost 2,000 years, we are not fulfilling the desire of Paul nor, in my opinion, are we accurately living out a Biblical lives.

    As far as the various examples in the Bible of “faithless Israel”, I don’t believe they were inserted there as an illustration of how Israel has “run away from God” or that current circumstances represent God punishing Israel for not accepting the Christian version of the Messiah. I believe those examples exist to illustrate the fallibility of all human beings, Jew and non-Jew alike, and how we tend to damage our relationship with our Creator.

    Yes, God’s plan will come to fruition. Of that, I have no doubt. I do believe that the exact details of that plan may not be precisely how they have been explained to us from the pulpit. If you’ve spent any time reading some of my blog posts, you know my viewpoint on Jesus, God the Father, faith, the church, and many other things, are not exactly “the norm” as far as fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity are concerned. I’m taking a few “theological risks” in order to break out of the box of traditional Christian thinking and to, in some sense, “rediscover the original Jesus”. I think we’ve put a “Gentile mask” on this very Jewish Rabbi and Prophet over the past twenty centuries and I’m interested in what he really looks like underneath and who he really was and is.

    1. i agree with you 100%. my point is not that israel is being punished, but that God intends to bring her back to Him and that He is fully capable of doing that. sometimes it is hard to communicate over these computers. 🙂

  6. Using circumlocutions for Jesus’ name is awfully disrespectful. That’s one thing that really needs to die out, and soon. I would never call the Talmudic Sages “those guys.”

  7. I agree, Andrew. I noticed in the body of the news article that while Jesus was referred to as “oto ha’ish” (that man), Mohammad, the founder of a religion that actively seeks the destruction of the Jews to this very day, was referred to directly. As Rabbi Josh states, this will all change one day when the Messiah is clearly revealed and, as Cindy has said, when God’s plan reaches fruition.

  8. A few years ago one of the world’s greatest Kabbalists, R. Yitzhak Qaduri, passed away, and before his passing he instructed his followers to open a note on his first Yahrzeit. That note would contain the name of the promised Messiah. On that day, the short note was found to contain a few words that made up an acronym. The acronym? Yehoshua. Few in the Jewish world wanted to talk about this wanted to believe this, for that is none other than the given Hebrew name of “that man” (Yeshua is the Aramaic)! Perhaps the time is near. 🙂

  9. James, I’m surprised you never heard of this one. Here’s a source:


    The simple fact is he left a note and that was the name in the note. Despite the fact that he was one of the Gedolei ha-Dor, this was scantly covered in the media, and for perfectly understandable reasons. If the note had the name as Chayyim, Menachem, or anything other than Yehoshua, you bet your bottom dollar it would be widely covered and celebrated by the Israeli Orthodox.

  10. Oh, BTW, R. Kaduri, in his venerable old age, claimed he had actually met the Messiah in person. And I doubt he meant a man that lived in Crown Heights.

    On Yom Kippur (of all days) he taught about how to recognize the Messiah. R. Kaduri said he would appear to Israel after Ariel Sharon’s passing.

    Here are R. Kaduri’s very words:

    “It is hard for many good people in society to understand the person of the Messiah. The leadership and order of a Messiah of flesh and blood is hard to accept for many in the nation. As leader, the Messiah will not hold any office, but will be among the people and use the media to communicate. His reign will be pure and without personal or political desire. During his dominion, only righteousness and truth will reign.

    “Will all believe in the Messiah right away? No, in the beginning some of us will believe in him and some not. It will be easier for non-religious people to follow the Messiah than for Orthodox people.

    “The revelation of the Messiah will be fulfilled in two stages: First, he will actively confirm his position as Messiah without knowing himself that he is the Messiah. Then he will reveal himself to some Jews, not necessarily to wise Torah scholars. It can be even simple people. Only then he will reveal himself to the whole nation. ‑The people will wonder and say: ‘What, that’s the Messiah?’ Many have known his name but have not believed that he is the Messiah.”

    This, I believe, is incredible.

  11. On Rosh Ha-Shanah 2005, after 45 minutes of intense, unbroken concentration, he simply proclaimed in Hebrew: “The soul of the Messiah has attached itself to a person in Israel.”

    When John baptized Yeshua in the Jordan, I believe the exact same thing happened.

  12. “James, I’m surprised you never heard of this one.”

    I don’t know everything, Andrew. It would be interesting to see how the Orthodox (or any other form of the) Jewish community interprets this information. For that matter, I’d be interested in hearing the opinions of the more learned Jewish participants in the Messianic community. It’s not like this isn’t incredible news, at least on the surface, but it’s always good to have more than one source confirm a piece of information. It would also help if Biblesearchers.com would update their styling to something a little more modern (I found comment in the source code for their home page that said the style sheet was created in April 2002). That doesn’t mean their data can’t be 100% accurate, but it affects credibility.

    As I just said, I admit, this is the first I’ve heard of R. Yitzhak Qaduri and his announcement of the personal name of “Maschiach ben Yosef”. It would be good to see other sources and researchers approach this information as well.

  13. You will find few sources in Jewish media to confirm this, because it’s about the most controversial thing you can imagine. Biblesearches.com put that page together from several different sources of Jewish media, and some of those pages have since been unsurprisingly taken down. I agree it’s not a pretty website, and that affects palatability. However, I am convinced of the truth of this. It looks kosher to me. The Vilna Gaon even calculated that a major revelation about the Messiah’s identity would occur in this timeframe. It is only natural that at first, few will believe.

    Qaduri was maybe the greatest Kabbalist of the 20th century. I was lucky enough to read about this story when it had only just come it in 2006, so I’ve had a lot of time to process this. Even his son won’t admit the authenticity of the note, certainly for fear of identification with “that man.” If the name was any other, this would be far less controversial in Orthodoxy. I doubt many non-Orthodox have heard of this, and authentic mysticism, prophecy, and eschatology (all Kaduri’s fortes) means little to those branches, anyway.

  14. Thanks for the links and sorry if I seem difficult on this point. People make all sorts of claims and I don’t like to accept anything, even if it sounds really good, on face value. I did notice part of what the Rav said was:

    “The revelation of the Messiah will be fulfilled in two stages: First, he will actively confirm his position as Messiah without knowing himself that he is the Messiah. “

    The concept of a man being the Messiah without being aware of his identity is very Jewish but it is not at all Christian. If the Messiah returns to the world in the manner R. Kaduri suggests, it will be inconsistent with how believers expect to rise up and meet him in the air as he descends from Heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Assuming we believe R. Kaduri to be completely accurate in his understanding of Yeshua as the Messiah, there are obvious inconsistencies between his version of how things work out and how the NT depicts them (or at least how the church interprets the NT).

  15. James,

    Yeshua certainly did not know he was the Messiah until well into his life. Even then, he only revealed it to his inner circle of followers. The “soul of the Messiah” did not descend on him until Yochanan (who I believe was the reborn Elijah) immersed him.

    Being of a rational mind, it should find it ludicrous that 1 Thessalonians 4:17 will literally happen. Sorry, not possible. It’s difficult enough for me to believe the Master walked on water or disappeared into Heaven without a trace, though I persist. I think it is better to take the mainline position that Paul was giving an opinion, that he never dreamed his letters to particular churches would one day be upheld as the most sacred of scripture, and that his opinion is on no more than a level playing field with the Twelve, who actually knew the Master in person. There simply will be no Rapture. That’s a fact.

    I expect that when Messiah comes, neither the Christian nor the Jewish world will know what to do with him. Messianics, now that’s a different story.

  16. So what I am basically trying to say is that the Bible is not inerrant (gasp). Even first-generation accounts of Yeshua’s life (the 3 synoptic gospels) frequently diverge on basic details. What Paul wrote about Messiah’s return can not possibly happen in the real world (though a metaphorical interpretation seems like it would be a stilted, awkward cop-out). But, at the same time, I believe the Bible is divinely inspired and reliable for correction, reproof, and doctrine. This position would understandably confuse some. It seems weird. But it’s the only one my sensibilities and knowledge will let me take. I believe, but I believe with a grain of salt.

    Similarly to you, I have all these nuanced (some would say idiosyncratic) religious positions that make me feel most alone in a crowd. 🙂

  17. “Being of a rational mind, it should find it ludicrous that 1 Thessalonians 4:17 will literally happen. Sorry, not possible.”

    Given an all-powerful, all-creative, supernatural God, I don’t think I could say anything is absolutely impossible, but I agree perhaps not every event described in the Bible is literally true. That said, how do we tell what is factural vs. what is not (which may not be a completely answerable question)?

    Andrew, you’ve pretty much said that Jesus didn’t know he was the Messiah until he was immersed by John the Immerser in the Jordan and that “something like a dove” (Matthew 3:16) descended upon him. On the other hand, I could argue that he knew who he was at age 12 when he was “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46) just after the Passover festival ended. That’s not conclusive, but it’s highly indicative, that Jesus was aware of who he was and perhaps even his ultimate destiny in that earthly lifetime. That’s what many Christians believe, anyway.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, but then again, I don’t think either one of us (or anyone else) has a perfect understanding of what the Bible is trying to tell us, especially in the fine details.

  18. “Yochanan (who I believe was the reborn Elijah) ”

    Andrew… if that’s indeed so, then Christians should think twice when looking down on Jewish kabbahlistic ideas regarding transmigration of souls as something supposedly borrowed from Eastern paganism.

  19. And I agree with you, Gene. Besides the very obvious fact that Yeshua identified John as Elijah, that vast body of near-death studies collectively affirm transmigration of the soul.

  20. James, I don’t think that Luke 2 suggests Yeshua knew his destiny as Messiah at the age of 12. That brief episode only makes it clear that A.) He was a Torah prodigy by the Sages’ standards and B.) He loved his Father’s House (the Temple) immensely, enough to run off from his parents like that. An interpretation that he knew his ultimate destiny at the age of 12 is going beyond the simple meaning.

    On 1 Thesselonians 4:17: I’m far from a strict naturalist, and try to give the supernatural the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, but the Rapture is something I put in the category of chimera and fairy tale. The basic laws of physics just don’t get broken like that.

  21. I personally don’t support the Rapture but I don’t believe that God is limited by the laws of physics, either. A miracle, by definition, is a violation of the laws that govern the universe. God isn’t part of Creation and thus is not subject to its laws, so he could choose to do all kinds of outlandish things, such as return a body to life that had been dead for three days or change the molecular structure of water into an alcoholic beverage.

    I can see how your interpretation of things creates a nice, neat package of Yeshua believing he’s (more or less) an ordinary guy until he receives the Spirit in his early 30s to inform him that he is the Moshiach. For all I know, that’s how it really works, but I don’t really know that for sure.

  22. “I’m far from a strict naturalist, and try to give the supernatural the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, but the Rapture is something I put in the category of chimera and fairy tale. The basic laws of physics just don’t get broken like that.”

    We do have a story of Yeshua AND Peter walking on water. So, unless it’s only a legend, the water was very shallow, or they were waterskiing, that act certainly qualifies as breaking the basic laws of physics.

  23. Some of my fellow Jews have hesitated to refer directly to Buddha or Jesus, and instead will use some form of “that guy.” For example, one fellow made reference to “dead Jew on a cross.” I asked him why he couldn’t say the word(s) “Jesus / Yoshke (of Nazareth)?” [I wouldn’t expect him to use the word “Christ.”] His wife answered for him that we are forbidden to utter the names of foreign gods. [In the Torah, G-d commands (the Children of) Israel not to say the names of Canaanite deities when conquering the Promised Land.] Not that I want to be a bad Jew, but I don’t know how to have a conversation about history / anthropology / comparative religion without saying names of various deities — even ones which I might find idolatrous. I was reading Torah commentary by the late Rabbi J. H. Hertz, and found it to be quite good, but he had this irritating habit of referring to Jesus as “The Founder of Christianity” rather than by name. I find this sort of thing to be going too far and counterproductive. For one thing, it could be argued that if anyone should be called the Founder of Christianity, that that title should go to Saul Paul of Tarsus. I guess Jews are not so averse to saying Mohamed’s name because everyone agrees that he was a man — not a deity, even if not everyone can agree on how good a prophet he was. If anyone worships Sidartha Buddha as a deity, then they are going against Buddha’s teaching. If (like Mohamed) Jesus and Buddha were historical men, I see no reason to avoid calling them by human names. If someone worships men, that’s their problem, not mine. A Christian friend of mine once asked me why a couple who labeled themselves “Agnostic” had a Buddhist statue in their yard. I replied, “Buddha isn’t G-d.” He replied, “Yeah.” Then I added, “And neither is Jesus!” He didn’t dig that.

  24. My personal opinion is that many Jews refer to Jesus as “that guy” because of the rather dismal history of the church persecuting the Jewish people over the past 2,000 years. Also, since Christians insist that Jesus was both Jewish and the Messiah, in addition to being “God”, the combination results in him being seen in an especially odious way by Jews.

    I’m a little unusual in that I don’t believe that Jesus must be God in order to be the Messiah, but puts me at odds with most Christians. I’ll probably write a blog post someway making my opinion on the “deity” issue more overt. Even under those circumstances, the “reputation” of Jesus for the vast majority of Jews is so “tainted” that there is no way to get past his history in the Jewish cultural consciousness.

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