Tag Archives: antisemitism

The Moshiach and Christianity: My Personal Dilemma

On today’s amud we find the proper seating order in shul.

Rav Raphael of Barshad, zt”l, was a very well known and respected personage, but this did not make him feel any arrogance at all. On the contrary, his every motion was filled with true humility. Every time he would enter a shul or gathering, he would sit in a common seat that was very distant from the coveted eastern wall.

One person felt that this was very strange and decided to ask him what was behind this odd practice. “With all due respect, I cannot fathom what is behind the rebbe’s custom. Either way—if the Rebbe sits in the back because he has true humility, why not sit in the front? Surely, one can retain a feeling of broken-heartedness even while sitting in an honorable seat. And if the rebbe has problems with thoughts of arrogance, chas v’shalom, what does sitting in the back help? Clearly it is possible to be filled with self-inflated feelings while sitting in the back as well as in the front. On the contrary, it is possible to fathom how one would be filled with more thoughts of arrogance because he acts humble…”

Rav Raphael replied, “Listen to me, my brothers. In Kiddushin 59 we find that although action nullifies the intent in one’s thoughts, mere thoughts cannot nullify action. If I, who is unworthy for the honor, were to sit in the mizrach, I would be doing an action of arrogance while trying to overcome this with thoughts of humility. But
we see that this is an exercise in futility. However, sitting in the back is an action of humility which overcomes any thoughts of arrogance. Isn’t it clear that this is the only option that gives me a chance of overcoming thoughts of arrogance?”

Mishna Berura Yomi Digest
Stories to Share
“Action Overrides Thought”
Rema Siman 150 Seif 5

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”Luke 14:7-11 (ESV)

I always worry about “getting into trouble” whenever I post quotes from Talmud and the Gospels in parallel. I realize that the Talmud was written and compiled centuries after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, so he couldn’t have known about “Rabbinic Judaism” as such, though he probably did know about the teachings of Hillel and Shammai. And yet, again and again, it seems as if much of what the Master taught in some manner or fashion, is carried on in how Jews continued to teach and in how they continue to teach today. I know the connection is tenuous at best, but for some reason, I find it comforting on a purely visceral level.

And yet, someone completely unexpected seems to hold an opinion similar to mine. Frankly, I was more than surprised when I read this.

Not only was Jesus a rabbi, he was a deeply learned, well-versed student of Jewish holy texts. Almost all his teachings derive directly from the Torah. The lessons he articulated line up squarely with Jewish morality and statements of rabbis found in the Talmud. Some of Jesus’ most famous and recognizable teachings are taken directly from earlier Jewish sources.

…Jesus was equally familiar with Talmudic sayings. When Jesus instructs his listeners, “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye,” he alludes almost word for word to a Talmudic teaching of Rabbi Tarphon: “If someone urges you to remove the speck from your eye, he must be given the answer, ‘Take the plank out of your own.'”

-Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Chapter 4: Jesus the Rabbi (pg 24)
Kosher Jesus

Although, as an Orthodox Jew, Rabbi Boteach’s perspective on Jesus is quite a bit different than the one held by Christianity (and when I finish reading his book, I’ll post a complete review), he does recognize that many of the teachings of Christ recorded in the Gospels are indeed teachings that resonate very strongly with what Jews understand from Torah and Talmud (though as I said, the Talmud didn’t exist during the time of the Gospels).

This is how I can draw parallels from the following:

Sadly, there is always a need for charity, especially while we are in exile. The Ohr HaChaim, zt”l, explains that a wealthy man has been entrusted with more money so that he will support the poor and worthy institutions.

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Consecrating One’s Wealth”
Arachin 27

For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. –Matthew 25:29 (ESV)

However, there is a 2,000 year old “disconnect” between the teachings of the Jewish Rabbi from Nazareth and his almost completely non-Jewish followers all over the earth. In one sense, Jesus was remarkably successful in delivering his message, but according to Boteach, it was Paul’s fault that it was totally stripped of its Jewish origins and recreated in the image of the Goyim.

I have to strongly disagree with Rabbi Boteach here, since I don’t believe Paul is the “culprit” but rather, subsequent non-Jewish church leaders who, when they saw that Judaism was universally reviled in the Roman empire after the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews from Israel, decided to change horses in mid-stream (and this part, Boteach does agree with), creating a faith that would eventually become the state religion of the Roman empire.

I know. I’m probably being unfair and the history of the early church is a lot more complicated than that, but how many Jews have suffered and died because the non-Jewish disciples of Christ forgot that he was also Jewish? However, I must say here that many good non-Jewish disciples loved God and did their best to live out the true principles taught by the Master, so the core of what it is to be Christian has endured, at least as a remnant. But here we are, 2,000 years later, still trying to pick up the pieces of shattered human lives and relationships like tiny bits and shards of Herod’s Temple after the Romans got through with it.

I admit to being discouraged lately. Ironically, it’s mostly to do with Christianity. As much as I’d like to think that the church is getting past its attitude of blaming the Jews for not converting to Christianity, something or someone comes along and shows me that I’m wrong. Then there are some folks who are more or less associated with the Messianic or Hebrew Roots movement who, in their own way, are trying to do the same thing: minimize the Jews in their own faith, not by replacing Jews with Gentiles the way some churches have attempted, but by saying there is absolutely no difference between Gentiles and Jews, as if God “unchose” the Jewish people and then reapplied the same “Sinai choseness” upon all of believing humanity.

Yeah, I’m discouraged. It’s why I wrote my lament on the value and validity of church community and why I know more than ever that it would be completely intimidating for me to go to a church. If someone said to my face the things they feel free to say to me on the Internet, I would have to walk away and regain my composure before deciding if I should respond or not. That’s easy on the web, but harder to do in an in-person encounter, especially when you’re supposed to be “safe” within the encouraging arms of the “body of Christ.”

There are other, even more personal reasons why life as a Christian is becoming depressing and although I am mostly transparent here, this part I’ll reserve to myself. No, I’m not talking about a lack of faith in God or any sort of desire to abandon my discipleship under the Master. However, my faith in some of the people of the church is sorely being tested.

Frankly, I don’t know how God manages to put up with some of his followers, sometimes especially me. No wonder Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

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Why Don’t the Jews Convert to Christianity?

In my neighborhood, we did not even mention his name. We said “Yoshke,” a Hebrew play on his name, or some children learned to say “cheese and crust” in place of “Jesus Christ.” In a synagogue sermon, rabbis might refer to Jesus – exceedingly rarely – by saying “the founder of Christianity.”

Fundamentally, we understood Jesus as a foreign deity, a man worshiped by people. The Torah instructs us never to mention the names of other gods, as no other god exists except God. We also understood Jesus to be as anti-Jewish as his followers. Was he not the Jew who had rebelled against his people? Was he not the one who instructed his followers to hate the Jews as he did, instigating countless cruelties against those with whom God had established an everlasting covenant? Was he not also the man who had abrogated the Law and said that the Torah was now mostly abolished?

-Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
from the Preface (pg ix) of his new book
Kosher Jesus

I’m just beginning Rabbi Boteach’s latest and most controversial book and will write a full review when I’m finished. However, in reading the Preface and Introduction sections of the book, I find myself thinking that much of what I’ve consumed so far would be good material for every Christian to read and absorb. Look at what Rabbi Boteach is saying about how he understanding Jesus when Boteach was a young Jewish boy growing up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. A Jew’s understanding of Jesus from earliest childhood is as a person who hated his own Jewish people, who taught his Jewish (and later, Gentile) followers to also hate Jews, and who founded a religion based on the idea that Jews must be eradicated.

And Christians wonder why Jews aren’t standing in line waiting to convert to that form of Christianity. Gee whiz!

But there’s more:

Until the deeply anti-Semitic Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) directly addressed the subject centuries later, early Church leaders held that Judaism would never survive. Even the powerful Roman Empire couldn’t resist the Christian juggernaut – eventually capitulating and adopting Christianity as state religion. It wasn’t a stretch for Christians to surmise that all remaining Jews would eventually convert, wiping out the ancient religion. But against all odds, Judaism survived and flourished.

-Boteach
Introduction, pp xiii-xiv

That last sentence reminds me so much of this:

Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. –Exodus 1:6-7 (ESV)

Even as Pharaoh, King of Egypt enslaved the Israelites and the Egyptians treated the Hebrews with terrible cruelty, under the harshest conditions, the Children of Jacob survived, multiplied, and flourished. Of course, Pharaoh had no intention of exterminating his population of slaves. They were much too valuable to him alive, so their continued survival was no mystery to him. However, for the early church, according to Boteach, the continuation of Jews and Judaism was inexplicable.

This makes me ask a few questions.

I wonder if the continuation of the Jews and Judaism today is what frustrates some Christians? It would explain something my brother-in-law said to me many years ago. He’s my wife’s younger brother and a born-again Christian. He denies that his mother was Jewish (even though we have ample evidence that she, her siblings, and cousins, and parents, and grandparents are all buried in Jewish cemeteries). I can’t remember how we got on the topic, but at one point, in a fit of emotion, he exclaimed, “Why can’t the Jews just accept Jesus?”

Maybe I should send him a copy of Rabbi Boteach’s book.

I think that the survival and flourishing of Judaism in the modern age is frustrating to some Christians. Rabbi Boteach goes on in the Introduction of his book, to illustrate how there has been much restoration of the relationship between Judaism and both Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity, so I can’t paint a terribly grim portrait of the Jewish/Christian interaction today. But there are still plenty of Gentile believers who seem to wish that Judaism would just plain “go away” and who are at a total loss as to why God would allow the Jewish people to continue as a distinct group on the face of the Earth.

My other question has to do with “Rabbinic” or “Talmudic” Judaism. In any real sense, this is the only valid form of Judaism in the post-Second Temple world (and I’m including significant portions of Messianic Judaism in this group), since without a Temple, functioning priesthood, and functioning Sanhedrin, much of the Judaism of the Torah cannot be observed, even in Israel. I’ve said before in a few blog posts that the Talmud and the traditions of the Sages are a major reason why Judaism survived in a hostile post-Temple world and across the long centuries after 70 CE and after the majority (but not all) of the Jews were exiled from Israel by the Roman conquerors.

Throughout the history that followed the last Jewish exile, on many occasions, Christian religious authorities tried to destroy the Jews by burning their synagogues, their Torah scrolls, their siddurim (prayer books), and their Talmud. Sadly, Martin Luther, near the end of his life, reversed any good he did to bring Christ closer to the Christians by advocating the destruction of the Jews:

…set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly ­ and I myself was unaware of it ­ will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.

…I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them….

From “Martin Luther: The Jews and Their Lies” (1543)
as quoted by Jewish Virtual Library

If some Christians, both historically and currently, experience frustration at the continued existence of Judaism, they might also experience frustration at and hostility toward the mechanisms by which the Jews have survived: Jewish prayer, synagogue worship, Torah readings, and particularly Talmudic study. If you destroy a people’s lifestyle and culture, you destroy the people, perhaps not in body, but in spirit and identity. As an example, allow me to present the Native American peoples who were all but wiped out by European expansion across this continent over the past several centuries. There are tribes who no longer know their own written and spoken languages, who have lost many of their traditional ceremonies and history, and who are hanging on to any remaining shred of their identity as a people by their fingernails.

This is what could have happened to the Jewish people and to Judaism if the Talmud had successfully been destroyed. But is this why some Christian and Hebrew Roots groups oppose the study and authority of Talmud among Jews today? Does it somehow diminish those who say they follow the cause of Christ if the Jews continue to adhere to that which has allowed them to survive and to flourish as Jews?

I suppose you could say I’m being a little hard on Christianity and some parts of Hebrew Roots for their opposition to the Talmud of Judaism, but frankly, even if their intentions are “benign” from their own point of view, if they had gotten their way, there would be no Jews walking around today or at best, the “Jews” we’d recognize would be a shell rather than a thriving Jewish culture. Their identity would be shattered, and all that would be left of the people established by God Himself at Sinai through the Torah, would be the tiny sparks and shattered fragments that somehow survived in the whitewashed and “Gentilized” teachings of the modern, refactored “Jesus Christ,” who started out well as Jewish Rabbi and Messiah, but who was turned into a non-Jewish icon symbolizing the extinction of his own people.

Having read my wee missive now, if you’re a Christian, if you’re a Pastor, if you’re a Bible teacher, if you’re a Church Choir Leader, if you’re involved in the church in any capacity whatsoever, take a moment and look at yourself in the mirror. Now ask yourself, why don’t the Jews convert to Christianity. You may not understand it yet, but I think you have the answer.

Friends

On today’s daf we find a discussion of the halachos of taking interest. Some people have a misguided conviction that all non-Jews are bad. This belief is not only very damaging for our relations with non-Jews wherever Jews live, it is also false. The Sefer Chasidim discusses davening for a non-Jew who is a good person.

One non-Jew was a very kind person, always helping his friends both Jewish and non-Jewish. He helped out one particular Jew in many ways, proving his friendship and earning his undying gratitude. When the non-Jew ran into financial troubles and asked his Jewish friend for a very large loan, the prospective lender was in a bit of a quandary. Although his friend had no way of knowing this, the lender’s finances were excellent; he could easily get along without charging interest. His greatest desire was to give his friend an interest-free loan. But he wondered if this was halachically permitted. In general it is forbidden to give an idolater a gift, including an interest-free loan — especially the astronomical sum the non-Jew required. But the Jew reasoned that this may be permitted in this case. After all, hadn’t his non-Jewish friend done so much to help him in the past? How could he be forbidden from responding in kind?

When this question reached Rav Shlomo Eiger, zt”l, he ruled that the lender was permitted to give his non-Jewish friend an interest-free loan. “Not only are you permitted to loan this non- Jew money interest free; if he did many kindnesses for you, you are obligated to give him a loan without charging interest. This is clear in the Radak in Tehillim 15:4, and is halachah l’maaseh!”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Two Friends”
Bechoros 16

I can only imagine that everytime I post a fairly large quote from Daf Yomi Digest or a similar source, that most Christians reading my blog tend to tune out (and probably a few Jewish people as well). It’s not easy to comprehend what the Rabbis are saying in these lessons and even when understood, the relevance may seem mysterious. Would it be that big a deal for a Jewish person to offer an interest-free loan to his non-Jewish friend without consulting his Rav? What tends to escape most of us is the need to be absolutely sure (if you are an observant Jew) that you are following the commandments in the proper manner. Certainly, this Jewish fellow wanted to do a kindness for his non-Jewish friend, but the path of Torah isn’t always easy to negotiate without correct halachic guidance and the desire is always to perform every action, including actions of charity and righteousness, in the manner that God has laid out for the Jewish people.

This is a detail that often escapes even those Gentiles who are Christians and believe they are to follow the commandments in the same way as the Jews.

After seeing some recent references of how some Jewish people view non-Jews as somehow “lesser” or lacking the ability to truly perceive God, reading this “story off the daf” was very refreshing. It also presented me with a minor mystery.

The PDFs I receive daily from the Chicago Center for Torah and Chesed (the source of my Daf Yomi lessons) provide footnote numbers but not the footnotes themselves. Their website isn’t particularly illuminating and I can only assume that the source from which they generate their PDFs has more information than survives the PDF creation process. For instance, when Rav Shlomo Eiger, zt”l cites “the Radak in Tehillim (Psalm) 15:4, and is halachah l’maaseh,” there is obviously more information available that interprets the Rav’s intent. How does Psalm 15:4 make it clear that the Jewish person in this story must give his Gentile friend the loan interest free?

A base person is despised in his eyes, and he honors the God-fearing; he swears to [his own] hurt and does not retract. –Psalm 15:4 (source: Chabad.org)

In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honors those who fear the LORD;
He swears to his own hurt and does not change –Psalm 15:4 (NASB)

It would help to read Psalm 15:1:

A song of David; O Lord, who will sojourn in Your tent, who will dwell upon Your holy mount?

Inner lightSo the person who is worthy to dwell in the Lord’s tent is the sort of person who “despises the base person” but “honors those who fear God”. Putting this back in the context of our commentary on the Daf, it seems as if the Rav is saying that the Jew (who is worthy of sojourning in God’s tent) must honor his non-Jewish friend, who obviously is God-fearing, in this case, by providing an interest-free loan.

I still needed the Radak’s commentary on Tehillim 15:4 but these sorts of references aren’t always easy to come by on the web. I did manage to find the following at DailyTehillim.com (print version only, though):

David here outlines the virtues that render a person worthy of dwelling in Hashem’s “tent” and residing in His “sacred mountain.” According to the Radak, David refers here to the resting place of the soul in the afterlife; it is thus here where we are told how a person earns his eternal share in the world to come. The Radak draws proof to this reading from the chapter’s final clause, where David exclaims, “he who does these shall not falter, forever.” The term “forever” implies that David refers here to eternal peace, which would suggest that he speaks of the soul’s reward in the afterlife.

In listing these virtues, David focuses first on proper interpersonal conduct: honesty and integrity (verse 2), and refraining from crimes such as gossip, causing others harm, and nepotistic protection of unworthy relatives (verse 3). In verse 4, he imposes an important qualification on the virtues of loving kindness and concern for others: “Nivzeh Be’einav Nim’as,” which Rashi translates to mean, “The shameful one is despicable in his eyes.” Although this prototype acts with love and sensitivity, he is at the same time prepared to confront evil and its advocates, rather than extend to them the same kindness and compassion he shows generally. He respects those who deserve respect, while condemning behavior that warrants condemnation.

The Ibn Ezra and Radak explain this verse differently, as meaning that the person sees himself as “shameful” and “despicable.” Despite his many fine qualities, he recognizes how much more he has to grow and accomplish in order to achieve perfection. Rather than falling into the trap of stifling complacency, he constantly strives to improve and to accomplish more.

The message conveyed by this Psalm is thus a dual one. On the one hand, David promises eternal life to everyone who lives in accordance with the basic values of honesty and Godliness; the world to come is not reserved for only the great Tzadikim who have reached the highest levels of spiritual devotion. At the same time, however, to earn eternal life one must spend his life in the pursuit of perfection, working each day to grow and become better than he is. This Psalm does not demand that everybody be perfect, but it does not demand that everybody work towards and strive for spiritual perfection.

This interpretation probably isn’t the one referenced in the Daf commentary, but it does give us more insight into the Psalm and it speaks to the character of both the Jew and his non-Jewish friend. My take on this is that a person who truly seeks to be worthy of God and to obey His desires, must honor others, regardless of who they are, who do the same. If you want to be a holy and honorable person, you must honor those who are holy and honorable. This crosses the Jewish/Gentile and hopefully the Jewish/Christian barrier (remember there are additional reasons why a Jew may object to a Christian Gentile as opposed to a more “generic” non-Jew) in “mixed” relationships but I think it could be justified based on our source story and especially on the line, “One non-Jew was a very kind person, always helping his friends both Jewish and non-Jewish.” Showing compassion and favor is not performing righteousness unless these acts are applied to everyone. Only helping those like you isn’t helping for the sake of God, at all.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? –Matthew 5:46-47 (NASB)

According to the Daf commentary, not all Gentiles “do the same”. Some Gentiles do better and live up to what Jesus was teaching. Marrying the “daf story” with the teachings of the Master, we understand what he meant when he said “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Where do we non-Jews get the idea to do kindness, charity, and righteousness? From our own souls? Perhaps, if we are listening to the voice of God as He whispers to us, but where is that voice expressed in its clearest form? The Bible. Where do we get the Bible? The Jews. Even the New Testament (or the vast, vast majority of it) was written by the Jewish disciples.

We see that despite some rather negative viewpoints about Gentiles that exist in modern Jewish commentary, a Jew is not limited to showing goodness just to his fellow Jew, and that Rabbinic judgment supports and even demands a good and kind Gentile be treated with the same compassion that he has treated others. Jesus takes it a step further and tells us to love our enemies (in this, he isn’t talking enemies in war but those who are in our own community but who are unlike us) and he re-enforces the message that it is not just those people who are like us who we must feed and clothe and visit when ill. It’s anyone.

If you are a Christian, you cannot ignore this. If you are a Christian who has been taught by your Pastor and your church to disdain and revile Jews because we (Christians) have replaced them and that they (Jews) are following a “dead” religion (how can something be dead that teaches so many lessons of life?), then you may want to revisit the Bible and revisit God in prayer. Something obviously has gone wrong with your faith and as a disciples, you are not following the lessons of your Master.

We Have Met the Others and They Are Us

broken-crossIn rabbinic literature, reference is made to non-Israelites (gentiles of various descriptions). These “external others” often appear in rabbinic literature as mirror opposites of Israelites, and so sharpen the rabbis’ definition of Israel. However, insofar as this literature explores and develops a definition of the rabbi as the ideal Jew, reference is made to non-rabbinic Jews (of various descriptions). These “internal others” often appear in rabbinic literature as mirror opposites of the rabbis and so sharpen the rabbis’ definition of their own class.

-Christine Hayes
“The ‘Other’ in Rabbinic Literature” (p. 243)
The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature
Edited by Charlotte E. Fonrobert and Martin S. Jaffee

For the past few mornings, I’ve been “assaulting” the concept of religion as opposed to faith, first with my blog post Longing for the Dawn and then with yesterday’s Red Stew in Context (the latter being a wee commentary on Torah Portion Toldot). Today, I’m returning to the challenge of a Christian attempting to gain insights into a faith in Jesus by studying the Jewish texts. More specifically, I’m drilling once again down into the well of Jewish/Gentile relations from (as accurately as I can depict) the Jewish point of view.

The view isn’t always encouraging.

I was fascinated as I read the Hayes article on the use of the “other” in rabbinic literature. This isn’t an unknown technique and individuals and groups have frequently defined themselves in comparison to some outside “other”. Sometimes these comparisons are benign and meant to illustrate how different cultures and ethnicities approach the same concepts but often the comparison game is used to elevate one group at the expense of the other. Jews, more than most other people groups, are acutely aware of how they have been negatively compared to the world around them, being blamed for virtually every evil that has encountered mankind. It’s small wonder that the Rabbis might use the same method to point the finger in the opposite direction.

But what is it that the Rabbis are saying?

In rabbinic halakhah, the gentile can be imagined as an ethnic other or as a religious other. As an ethnic other, the gentile is merely a non-Israelite or goy (member of a non-Israelite nation) to whom the laws of the Mosaic covenant do not apply. In tannatic law, the gentile is seen in contrast to the Israelite, as one who does not observe the dietary laws, is not obligated by the ritual purity system, does not contribute to the upkeep of the sanctuary, does not pay the half-shekel tax, and so on.

-Hayes, p. 245

Here, we see the Jew and Gentile compared to each other from a Jewish point of view and that comparison is devoid of any value judgments regarding either group. Jews carry certain duties and responsibilities that the Gentiles don’t. It’s quite simple, really. Hayes breaks the comparison down even further:

This depiction of the ethnic other – as outside and ignorant of the covenant – is not as straightforward as it might appear. According to the Pentateuch, some of the terms of Israels’ covenant apply even to non-Israelites who choose to take up residence among the nation of Israel as resident aliens (ger, pl. gerim). The pentateuchal model of peaceful coexistence, cooperation, and even limited integration of an ethnic other is realized in halakhot that exempt but do not forbid gentiles from observing certain laws.

It’s interesting that the comparison here relative to Gentiles being “outside and ignorant of the covenant” is based on ethnicity and not religion. That means the covenant of Moses was given to the Children of Israel which, in the context of the rabbinic texts, is an effect of ethnicity. Christians see their access to God through the covenant of Christ as an effect of religious identity and the Messianic covenant being “ethnicity-blind”. What happens if the rabbis look at Gentiles as religious “others”?

The gentile is also imagined as a religious other (‘oved’ ‘avodah zarah’) who worships a deity or deities other than Israel’s deity. The gentle as religious other falls under greater suspicion and is subject to more severe and at times hostile legislation than the gentile as ethnic other.

-Hayes, p. 246

Hayes is addressing the Gentile as a “generic idol worshiper” here and not specifically talking about Christians, so we could say that Jews believe the Gentile Christian do worship the same God as the Israelites, with only a disagreement as to the identity and status of Jesus Christ. But it’s not that easy.

Early Christianity was a dissident Jewish movement among other Jewish movements. Only in the late first century do Christian writings begin to affirm Christianity over and against Judaism, a trend that increased rapidly in the second century. As rabbinic Judaism took firmer shape and gentile Christianity set itself off from Jews, the group referred to by scholars as Jewish Christians emerged in the middle. The latter were followers of Jesus who, like Jesus and the apostles, kept the law of Moses. In early rabbinic literature, Jews partaking of a Christian heresy fell under the classification of min (plural minim), an umbrella term that included not only Jewish Christians but also a variety of Jewish sectarian groups, such as Sadducees, Boethusians, Zealots, and Samaritans (but not in an early period in Palestine, gentiles).

-Hayes, p. 258

Reading this, I wonder how those “Jewish Christians” of the early 21st century who call themselves “Messianic Jews” are viewed by the larger Jewish rabbinic community. We know historically that Sadducees, while not fitting into the first century Jewish mainstream, were nevertheless considered Jews, however Samaritans, though related, were not. This was even acknowledged in an encounter between a Samaritan and Jesus.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) –John 4:7-9

In the closing decades of the first century, “Jewish Christians” were not yet considered to have completely left Judaism, but they were not exactly welcome either. Hayes attributes this to the Gentile Christians and their efforts to separate themselves and their faith from Jewish origins and indeed, to elevate Christianity as the branch, above its Jewish root, giving birth to the ugly spectre of supersessionism.

But, as Hayes goes on to state, “Minim are almost universally depicted as possessing a knowledge of Scripture, but differing from the rabbis in their interpretation of Scripture (some even mocking or criticizing it).” The rabbis chose to include the Minim in with other “Christians and heretics,” all but rejecting them as Jews. As the schism increased, so did the “otherness” of both Jewish and Gentile Christians in relation to mainstream rabbinic Judaism.

Early Palestinian sources, in particular, urge rabbis and their families to avoid all contact with minim and Christians. The most vehement set of proscriptions against minim is found in T.Hullin 2:20-21. Many of these prohibitions stand in explicit contrast to similar laws concerning gentiles and are remarkable for their severity.

In other words, rabbinic proscriptions against contact with Jewish and Gentile Christians were even more stringent than those against contact with more “generic” idolators. And it wasn’t going to get any better as history progressed beyond the initial Rabbinic era of the 2nd to 4th centuries CE.

Compare all this to my previous blog post about how people self-identify with a specific religious context. In Judaism, there is largely a sense of being “born to it”. Though Jews can reject their religious heritage, it can be argued that the Torah will always be a part of the Jew, even when the Jew rejects religion for a purely ethnic lifestyle. For the religious Jew, the connection to God through Moses is an absolute and thus, so is the “rightness” of their faith and status. In comparison to that, the worshipers of oto ha’ish are at best misguided and at worse, the most repulsive of idolators, who claim to honor a first century Jewish itinerant teacher as both the Son of God and as God. Apparently, worshiping Apollo of Zeus would be an infinitely preferable choice for a Gentile as a religious orientation. The Christian wouldn’t be appropriating significant sections of the Jewish religious structure and scriptures for their (our) own purposes and contradicting and facing down the Jews at every turn.

My brief analysis of the Hayes essay is that, assuming we can project its conclusions into the present, both Gentile Christians and Messianic Jews of today have a very long road to walk in terms of establishing and maintaining a positive and normative relationship with traditional Judaism. Previously, I appeared to separate Messianic Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism, and largely the separation exists, but there are Messianics who were born and raised in Jewish homes and educated in Torah and Talmud in the traditional Jewish fashion who nonetheless, have come to faith in “oto ha’ish” and who do not see the dissonance between the Messianic and the Rabbinic. For these Jews, it will be the hardest to see and think and feel and be Jewish while at the same time experiencing the centuries-old separation between themselves and their Jewish brothers who continue to consider the Messianic Jews are minim.

For Gentiles like me, it affirms that my course of religious study, from a Jewish point of view, is problematic at best. There’s no prohibition against it per se (and certainly any book available for sale at Amazon.com is at my Gentile fingertips), but it is still rabbinically “uncomfortable” for more conservative Jews when they consider a Christian goy attempting to comprehend the mysteries of Talmud. Of course, there would be the comfort that I probably won’t really “get it” since, as I’ve stated before, I lack the required context and education to truly understand the rabbinic intent, but on the other hand, I could be accused (and perhaps rightly so) of misappropriating what is Jewish to feed what most Jews consider, my faith in a religion that historically has been very anti-Jewish.

back to backEven (Messianic Jew) Mark Kinzer in his book Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism strongly urged Christians who “dabble” (my word, not Kinzer’s) in the Messianic world to return to their (our) churches and to leave Messianic Judaism to Jews, so any Gentile Christian who may consider the Messianic movement to be a “meeting place” for integrating a faith in Jesus with the Torah of Moses (for the Gentile) is likely engaging in wishful thinking. That wishful thinking could even evolve into an odd form of supersessionism by the Gentile who, while not replacing Judaism with Christianity, quite innocently replaces Jewish covenant distinctiveness with the Jewish/Gentile Messianic “blend”. Hence Kinzer’s message of the church and the (Messianic) synagogue operating side-by-side in their individual silos rather than overlapping or being combined in a giant, religious mixing bowl.

One way to keep all of our traditions “safe” is to, as Kinzer suggests (echoing larger Judaism), all keep to our individual silos, being self-contained communities, and not allowing a mixing of identities. The traditional Jews and Christians already have gotten quite good at this, so they don’t contribute to the “problem”. Messianics, both Jews and Gentiles, by their very existence, tend to blur the lines, both within their silos and between silos. We each identify ourselves in relation to the “other” but Messianic Jews are attempting to cease being the “other” in relation to larger Judaism. I, for my part, understand that I will always be “other” in terms of the Jewish identity and rabbinic learning, and only want to read, learn, and understand what small parts I may take upon myself for the sake of my Master. Though in my heart and my experience, I also am “other” in relation to the church, it would be false for me to not claim Christianity as my identity since, it is only the church built by Christ that allows a Gentile access to God at all as a member of a covenant relationship.

If this “meditation” seems slightly disjointed and incomplete, that’s because it is. The “minim” are rising again after centuries of dormancy and attempting to show their more traditionally Jewish brothers that the life of a Messianic Jew follows an authentic Jewish tradition. Some Gentiles are coming along for the ride with precious few, like me, not claiming Messianic lineage in the Jewish tradition but trying to rediscover if there are crumbs from the Master’s table that we may eat. The man sitting at the far end of the banquet table, furthest from the bridegroom continues to wait. I am not worthy to have the Master come to my house. I am waiting for him to speak to me as his humble disciple, and because if he says a thing, it is so.

Christians are very comfortable with the Christian Jesus, but our master is the Jewish Messiah. Most Christians haven’t met him yet, but as in days of old, the “minim”, the Jewish disciples of the Master, are going to introduce us to him to us. We have been invited to the wedding feast and must hurry to put on our wedding clothes, buy oil for our lamps, and then wait for the doors of the banquet hall to open. There are many barriers between us and our Master. Those barriers are human beings. Those barriers are us.

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?”
parasha.blogspot.com

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.

God, Bad, and Imperfect

joseph-and-pharaohOn today’s daf we find that when Rabbi Akiva heard a compelling argument, he changed his opinion and began to teach in accordance with Rabbi Yehudah’s view.

The Alter of Kelm, zt”l, explains the great importance of admitting one’s errors. “We find in Maseches Avos that there are seven attributes of the wise, one which is to admit the truth. Who was more evil than Pharaoh? Yet when he heard Yosef’s interpretation of his dreams, he was amazed…The Ramban explains that Pharaoh was very wise and could discern broad inferences from minor hints. From this one episode, he understood the great wisdom of Yosef and nullified his own understanding to that of Yosef. He saw that Yosef was the fittest person to rule the land, not him.

“We see that the nature of a true chacham is to admit to the truth. Nothing held him back from treating Yosef as was fitting…despite the Egyptian law that one who had been a prisoner was forbidden to rule. He didn’t even check why Yosef had been placed in prison. Instead, he understood what so few with his vested interests would have grasped: that Yosef is exceedingly wise. And that it would be fitting to learn from him as a young child learns from his father. It was clear to Pharaoh that Yosef deserved to rule.”

The Alter concluded: “I have written just a little of what is in my heart on this matter, but it is enough for a wise man to understand that failure to admit the truth reveals a lack of understanding.”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“There is None as Wise as You”
Chullin 128

They were not perfect men. Abraham twice called Sarah his sister rather than rely on God for protection. He married Hagar rather than wait for God’s promise through Sarah. Isaac proved his fallibility by turning a blind eye to the wickedness of Esau. Jacob is remembered for his cunning and trickery. The consistent story of Scripture is not one of exceptional men, but an exceptional God. The Torah tells us their stories so honestly that we are convinced. We feel we know these men personally. We learn that even the greatest men of faith were human. We may take comfort in that, but we must not forget the unique, spiritual greatness of the Fathers.

-from “The Greatness of Our Fathers”
Torah Portion Lech Lecha commentary
FFOZ.org

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. If we are truly wise, when we discover that we’re wrong, we’ll admit it and turn to what is right.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that a recurring theme here is the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. Sometimes I lament of our inability to get along with each other, and sometimes I marvel at how amazingly similar the message of the Rabbinic sages is to that very special “Sage from Netzeret”. You really can’t understand Jesus unless you have some idea about Judaism, even post-Biblical Judaism.

However, there are a few pitfalls involved in “combining” Christianity and Judaism and they lead in opposite directions. Some non-Jews become so enamored with the beauty of Jewish prayer and worship, that they in effect, start worshiping Jews and Judaism rather than the God of Israel. The extreme opposite happens, too. Sometimes even intelligent and otherwise well-meaning people feel threatened by the “choseness” of the Jews and develop and deep and abiding “dislike”…OK, hatred for anything Jewish. I’m going to focus on this latter group today.

I was on Amazon a little earlier looking at a book written by Pastor Barry Horner called Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged. Here’s a bit of what the book is about:

Author Barry E. Horner writes to persuade readers concerning the divine validity of the Jew today (based on Romans 11:28), as well as the nation of Israel and the land of Palestine, in the midst of this much debated issue within Christendom at various levels. He examines the Bible’s consistent pro-Judaic direction, namely a Judeo-centric eschatology that is a unifying feature throughout Scripture.

I noticed that the book received some excellent reviews, but I also saw a significant number of rather “bad” reviews. I’m always curious when what otherwise seems like an excellent book is panned by some folks, so I took a look at the various “1-star” comments. Here’s a sample (I’ve represented the names of each reviewer with initials):

I want to be saved and how better to do that than by swearing my allegiance to the state of Israel, say shalom! While I’m at it I also promise to say nasty things about God’s natural enemies, those A-Rabs (obviously). Kudos to the author and also shout outs to Sharon, Dershowitz et al! At last I can be secure in my Christianity. –SR

Just another attempt to put together a piece of work that defends Christian Zionism. God has never been finished with Israel (His Church), no where in scripture does it speak of two different plans for the Jew and Gentiles, Christ died once for all, Jew and Gentile alike and the Church consist of both. Jesus Christ also has one bride, not two! He is married to His church, not to the physical land of Israel. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church which is the Body of believers all throughout history which are Jew and Gentile alike. –SMP

The following reviewer seems the most “intense”:

This is another wicked deception which the Judeo-Churchian system puts out in favor of the saved-by-race thesis of the Talmud of the Pharisees as reflected in Churchianity.

It is most unfortunate that John MacArthur endorsed this propaganda, but in dealing with this please keep in mind the words of Scripture and be at peace: “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2: 9-12.

If you refuse to love the truth, and if you take pleasure in unrighteousness, “Future Israel” is the book for you.

Jew-worship is poisonous to Judaics as well as everyone else. They are saved only through faith in Jesus Christ. Their supposed racial patrimony availeth them not, especially in light of recent scholarship which shows that the vast majority of contemporary so-called “Jews” are not descended of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but of the Khazars (cf. Prof. Shlomo Sand of Tel Aviv University, “The Invention of the Jewish People,” and Paul Wexler’s “The Ashkenazic Jews”). Hence, the concept of salvation through supposed sacred status as carnal Israel is a double dead-end and a form of Jew-hate since it gives false hope to those who fantasize that they are Jews, but are not (Rev. 2:9; 3:9). –MH

Oh my!

WalkingIt’s one thing to disagree with the position Horner takes but it’s another thing entirely to make it “personal” and to engage in sarcasm and blatant hostility. However, there has always been a lot of passion involved in the classic Christian vs. Jewish interplay across history. Although we like to think that, post-Holocaust, the church has been mending the damage and hurt in the relationship, we see that at least some individuals are continuing to nurse a heart-felt anger against Jews and Judaism, and continuing to use the New Testament as a blunt instrument in beating down the Jewish people.

Small wonder many Jews feel threatened by Christianity and, worst case scenario, see Christian outreach to the Jews as merely a disguised extension of “the final solution”. I can only hope and pray these “reviewers” don’t represent the majority of believers. They’re another reason why attending a church isn’t exactly appealing to me. I’m afraid I might actually run into one of them.

I commented on one of my recent blog posts that “Christians and Jews may be different relative to their covenant relationship with God but there are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom”, but that doesn’t mean some people can’t feel alienated or even oppressed by Jewish “choseness”. Yesterday, Derek Leman blogged on Gentile response to Jewish people based on such a sense of alienation, and while this feeling doesn’t always manifest as active hostility, it can breed an attitude of “theoretical” love for Israel while harboring suspicion and distrust of actual Jewish individuals.

It probably doesn’t help that Christians and Jews conceive of God and their duty to Him in fundamentally different ways. I’ve been reading The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, which is a collection of scholarly essays on the “historical-interpretive and culture-critical issues” relative to the rabbinic texts. I can assure you that the spiritual and intellectual foundation for a Jew’s understanding of God and the mitzvot is dramatically different from anything a Christian will learn about in Sunday school.

We tend to be suspicious of, or even fear, what we don’t understand. Christians sometimes imagine that Jews are just like Christians, except they don’t believe in Jesus (yet). They become confused and disappointed when they discover that Jews actually think about things from a different direction than Christians, at least when it comes to God, the Bible, and particularly, the Messiah. When Christians enter into what we think of as “Messianic Judaism”, they can encounter a wide variety of experiences, ranging from a group of “Christians with Kippahs”, hardly distinguishable from any church, to (in some instances) a congregation that differs little from an Orthodox shul (and admittedly, this end of the spectrum is extremely rare).

If we could distill a “perfect” environment for believing Jews who were born, raised, and educated in a traditionally ethnic Jewish world and construct a religious and worship context where they could give honor to Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah; the “Maggid” who presented as a fully Jewish, Second Temple period, Rabbinic teacher, that environment would look very, very different from anything the church has ever offered Christian worshipers. It might, in some small sense, be reminiscent of a synagogue experience Paul or Peter may have had in worshiping with fellow disciples of the Master. Most Christians, if they could go back in time, walk into such a synagogue, and pray alongside Paul, Peter, and even James, would be rather put off. It would be “too Jewish”. It would “feel” wrong”. The modern Gentile Christians in a truly “Messianic” synagogue might even say that they don’t experience the “presence of the Spirit” among the Jewish worshipers.

So what do we do? Does the church continue to hammer away at the synagogue because they’re “too Jewish” and refuse to accept Jesus? Do Christians continue to reject even those Jews who are disciples of the “Netzeret Maggid” because they won’t toss “the Law” in the nearest trash can and live like “good Christians?”

Or do we take a good, hard look at what we’re doing and compare it to who Jesus really was and is, who Paul really was and is (God is a God of the living, not the dead), and realize that by disdaining and reviling the Jew, we are doing the same to Jesus Christ.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” –Matthew 25:41-46

You may say that my quote does not fit the context but I think it does. If an Orthodox Jew, fully versed in the intricacies of the Talmud, and who had not the slightest desire to love Jesus as Messiah or God were sick or hungry or naked, would you visit him, feed him, or clothe him? If you are indeed a Christian, then you probably would. On the other hand, if you had a choice to feed a “good Christian” or a “good Jew”, then what would you do? Would you choose the starving atheist over the starving Jew because the non-Jewish atheist would be more likely to hear your witness about Christ?

Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic but I am trying to get a point across. We cannot judge modern Judaism on the basis of modern Christianity. Sure, Christianity was born out of First Century Judaism, but a lot has changed since then. Both religions have undergone a significant evolution over the past 2,000 years and trying to trace all of the various theological “morphings” would cross just about anybody’s eyes. I can’t keep up with it all.

judgingAs I was trying to say at the start of this morning’s blog, the people of God aren’t perfect. There are no perfect Jews and there are no perfect Christians. We all have our blind spots, our flaws, our personality quirks. We need to first acknowledge this in ourselves (Matthew 7:3) so we can stop being arrogant (Romans 11:22-24). Both Judaism and Islam have a proverb that says “before criticizing a man, you should walk a mile in his shoes.” This is something we don’t do nearly enough, mostly because the shoes don’t always fit and walking in them is uncomfortable.

I read a quote today that is attributed to Albert Einstein. Given the amount of misinformation available on the web, I don’t know if this is true or not, but I like the quote:

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.

We cannot judge a person, Jew or Christian, on who they are not, but only on who they are. The problem is, we need to understand who they are before we can render an intelligent opinion and especially before we can offer a compassionate response.

For every power for good in your soul, a counter-force crouches within to oppose it.

There is only one place that stands beyond assault, as it also stands beyond reason or need. It is the simple power to choose good and not bad, and it is the place where the soul meets G-d and there they are one.

In that place, where that resolute decision is made, the counterforce dissolves and dissipates. Indeed, it was created from that place, with the purpose of returning you to there.

And you have returned.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Force and Counter-Force”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org