Tag Archives: antisemitism

The Long Dark Road

intermarriage“Marrying gentiles is like playing into the hands of the Nazis,” Yad Vashem Council Chairman and former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau has been quoted as saying to students from Ramat Gan’s Ohel Shem High School.

According to the students, the rabbi made the remark during a lecture on the Holocaust and on his personal memories as a survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp which he delivered to teenagers who had returned from a trip to Poland.

-Udi Avni
“Intermarriage plays into Nazis’ hands”
YNETNews.com

Now, on my suggestion, Benjamin is trying some churches (and looking to get re-involved in a mainstream synagogue, perhaps, since he can’t get Jewish prayer in a Messianic congregation there). His experience in Church-Land so far has been dreadful. I didn’t think it could be worse than in the so-called Messianic congregations, but at least in a bad Messianic group people are usually sympathetic to Jewish concerns on some level. Yes, you guessed it: Benjamin has already been told that it is wrong to be Jewish!

-Derek Leman
“Jewish Adventures in Church-Land”
Messianic Jewish Musings

I have to admire some of the high school students listening to Rabbi Lau since, according to the news article, “Lau’s remark and the nature of his lecture caused several 12th graders to walk out of the auditorium.” The person leading a small group study at the church Benjamin attended wasn’t quite so principled:

The person leading this week’s small group time was “uncomfortable with my keeping the law,” says Benjamin. He “asked me to go home, pray for the Holy Spirit to give me discernment as to what Scripture says, and read Romans and Hebrews.”

Part of the “mission” of my blog is to explore the issues and ramifications of being intermarried and how sometimes Christianity and Judaism can have “uncomfortable encounters”. I don’t experience these sorts of issues in my home life, but I have no doubt I would elicit such responses from at least a few folks in both the church and the synagogue. It’s not that either venue is populated by bad people, but we all have biases and opinions based on our experiences, and we can all act out those experiences on people around us.

I don’t really blame Rabbi Lau for making statements against intermarriage and assimilation. As a Holocaust survivor, he has experienced the extraordinary pain and suffering of the Jewish people and is responding in a way that he believes will repair the damage. He sees intermarriage as just another form of Holocaust (and he’s not alone in this) and is reacting to assimilation of Jews as the same sort of danger (and he’s probably not entirely wrong). Still, according to one 12th grader:

“He said the Jewish people must not assimilate and that we must maintain the Jewish identity. In addition, he presented delusional statistics, claiming that had there been no assimilation the United States would now have 30 million Jews, and showing contempt for those who assimilated – as if they are inferior to others.”

My wife has neither assimilated nor is she inferior. With respect to Rabbi Lau, I will not accept his judgment on intermarried Jews and particularly not on my wife.

On the other hand, I can’t exactly give “props” to the church for making a Jew feel inferior because he has faith in Jesus and also continues to live as a Jew. This shows a complete lack of understanding of who Jesus is, what he taught, and everything he brought into the world in order to allow the nations to have a covenant relationship with God. If the church would try to understand Jesus in his actual context (and I tried to explain this yesterday), perhaps the small group leader at Benjamin’s church wouldn’t have (metaphorically) kicked him in the teeth for being Jewish.

The introduction to The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature adds dimension to the historical roots of this dynamic, which has targeted what is often seen as the essence of what it is to be Jewish.

Christian theologians and historians have on occasion viewed the Talmud, much more than the Hebrew Bible itself, as encapsulating the spiritual and intellectual core of Judaism. This interest has not always had benign results; it has, at times turned the Talmud into a target of polemics and even violence. Repeated burnings of the Talmud and its associated writings by Christian authorities in medieval Europe were meant to destroy the intellectual sustenance of Judaism.

We don’t seem to have advanced very far from those times, at least in some churches, have we?

More than once recently, I have despaired God’s creating the universe. More than once I wondered why He did it and, if He could do it all over again, would He? Of course, in a sense, He creates the universe anew every year. He reaffirms His faith in humanity annually by punching the cosmic reset button and recreating the world and our souls as brand new, bright and shining.

And then, I start reading Genesis and the daily news and look at what happens. The place is a mess again. Life is a mess again. Sometimes, I get pretty angry at the injustice and the suffering. Then I realize that I’m also angry at my own imperfection and my own impatience with God.

Anger at your faults is arrogance, and of a very self-destructive form. Every failure becomes pain, every pain becomes a gruesome punishment.

An objective person is able to look at his faults and what needs to change and say, “This is what G-d gave me to work with.” He accepts stormy weather as part of the course and slowly and patiently steers his ship to port.

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

What man does with his religions isn’t always what God intended. Probably what man does with his religions isn’t what God intended the vast majority of the time. I think we’ll all be very surprised when the Messiah finally comes and he straightens out all of our messed up thinking and crazy ideas about what God wants, how we are supposed to worship Him, and how we are supposed to treat each other.

The faults that God gave me, and gave all of us to work with reminds me of what God said to Paul once.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” –2 Corinthians 12:8-9

This is the world God gave us to work with. It’s a broken world populated by broken people. Even the best of us is a mess compared to God’s expectations. We focus our attention on the wrong things a lot of the time (and I’m probably a very good example of this). For instance, in Benjamin’s experience in the small group study:

This week, Benjamin spoke during small group, since the small group leader asked for people to share stories of things that had “brought them closer to Jesus this week.”

That seems an innocent enough question, but statements like this always make me wonder where Christians think God took off to. I don’t think of the things that bring me closer to Jesus when I pray but rather, I think and ponder upon the way Jesus brings me closer to God. If man has one, pure, transparent interface between himself and God, it is the Messiah. It’s the reason He came. It’s the reason He died and was raised. So that the rest of us could enter into covenant and be reconciled to the God of Israel. Nevertheless, Israel and the Gentile disciples continue to collide with each other, perpetuating a conflict that has lasted for millennia.

This isn’t the world God originally created but it’s the world we have to work with. Only faith can convince us that it can be repaired. Only faith can inspire us into action and allow us to work with God in tikkun olam. Only God can show us that we will succeed, with His help and grace.

I see we have a long way to go.

Addendum: I just finished reading a couple of blog posts written by Julie Wiener for the JewishWeek.com series “In the Mix”, a blog series about Jewish/Gentile intermarriage. Today’s entry, Intermarriage And The Holocaust: Part II mentions Rabbi Lau comparing intermarriage to the Holocaust, but you’ll also want to read Part I to get the whole picture.

The road

Breaking the World

GlobeThis above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

-William Shakespeare
Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82

Just as it is a mitzvah to direct someone onto the path where he belongs, so too it is a crime to direct someone onto a path that does not belong to him.

Each person is born with a path particular to his or her soul, generally according to the culture into which he or she was born.

There are universal truths, the inheritance of all of us since Adam and Noah. In them we are all united. But we are not meant to all be the same.

Our differences are as valuable to our Creator as our similarities.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“To Each His Path”
Based on the letters and talks of the Rebbe,
Rabbi M.M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Both the Bard and the Rebbe, as interpreted by Rabbi Freeman, say something very similar. Not only are we not all the same but we must all “be true” to who we are, differences and all. It’s not a crime to be different from others, even in the worship of God, but there are plenty in the church that would have you believe otherwise. If you don’t go along with “the herd”, if you don’t fit in with “the group”, if you see life, scripture, and God from a different angle based on who God created you to be, not only are you likely not to be understood, but it is very possible you will be actively criticized. In the world of believers, you are even likely to be considered un-Christian, heretical, or apostate.

I’m not saying that there are people who aren’t apostate or heretical, but we must be careful how we toss about our accusations. Are we reacting honestly to the statements and practices of those who profess Christ but who practice a lifestyle opposed to his, or are we allowing our visceral responses to lifestyles consistent with Christ’s but inconsistent with the lifestyle we choose for ourselves to affect us and mistakenly labeling another’s lifestyle apostasy?

I used to consider myself a “Messianic”, that is, a person (in my case, a Gentile) who attached himself to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and who believed that I was required to conform to a completely Jewish religious practice because I was “grafted in”. This actually describes only one subset of the Messianic movement, called “One Law”, which believes that Jewish and non-Jewish believers in Jesus (Yeshua) are all the same in terms of covenant obligation to God. It’s as if becoming “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15) for One Law (OL) means that Christians turn into Jews without having to undergo circumcision. There are tons and tons of problems with this interpretation but one of my problems with OL is that it tends to actually discourage believing people who were born and raised in ethnic, cultural, and religious Jewish families from acting like ethnic, cultural, and religious Jews.

I mentioned in a previous “meditation” that I’ve been following a couple of blog conversations lately. One is A Response to Rabbi Dauermann’s Messianic Substitution and the other is Karaite leader Nehemiah Gordon responds to anti-missionary charges. Not leaving well enough alone, not only did I read these posts at Judah Gabriel Himango’s blog Kineti L’Tziyon, but I replyed. I should have known better. These conversations almost never end well.

If you visit the two blog posts and review the comments, you’ll see various snide remarks and unkind words (I’m not criticizing Judah’s blog, but some of the people who comment occasionally express “interesting” opinions). Granted, there is room for “spirited debate” on the religious blogosphere, but often, the religious blogs follow the same standard as the secular ones, especially in responding to the cry, “someone is wrong on the Internet.” We can’t seem to get it through our thick skulls that sometimes, someone isn’t “wrong”, they are just following a different path to the same destination.

I’m not going to balance the relative differences between Christianity (including the OL/MJ world which views religion from a largely Christian viewpoint) and Judaism, but I do want to caution folks not to point to Jews, including those who believe that the Jewish Messiah is realized in the person of Jesus Christ, and say that they’re “wrong” for wanting to live a Jewish lifestyle, worship in a traditionally Jewish manner, pray from a Jewish siddur, and to actually continue to be Jewish.

WrongOne of my favorite Jewish (not Messianic) blogs is Lev Echad. Blogger Asher is focused on the different “threads” of Judaism that tend to get uncomfortably tied up with each other, and his desire is to support Jewish unity among dissimilar perspectives and practices, forming “one heart” (hence, “lev echad”) among Jews. Much of what he says can be adapted and applied to Christianity and indeed, to humanity. Relative to those in Messianism/Christianity who criticize and virtually “demonize” those Jews who have faith in Jesus and who also live and worship like Jews, there is something that Asher wrote in one of his blog posts, although not intended to be applied to my context, that I believe should be read by Christians:

Similarly, there are some Orthodox Jews who too easily brand their less observant coreligionists as “heretics” or “non-believers.” Yet, prominent sages such as Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and the Chazon Ish have ruled that we live in a time of God’s concealment and therefore cannot apply the religious laws concerning heresy to modern-day Jews who question their faith. Furthermore, it is wrong to harm those who deny even Judaism’s most basic beliefs. Not only should we not hurt such people, we should help them if the situation ever presents itself.

Now marry Asher’s words with Paul’s:

And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. –Romans 11:26

This isn’t the first time I’ve addressed anti-semitism among Christians. About six weeks ago, I wrote The Irrelevant Drunkard, which I wish all Christians/Messianics would read and try to comprehend. I realize the tone of that blog post (and this one) could put off a Christian/Messianic from reading beyond the first few paragraphs. It’s tough to take a good, hard look at what you’re saying and doing, especially basing it on scripture (and just because scripture can be bent and twisted to say many different things doesn’t mean all those different things are actually correct), and then to humble yourself before God and realize that you’re using the Bible to trash God’s Chosen People (see Genesis 12:3).

Going back to Asher’s blog, why can’t we do this instead?

One of the unique aspects of Judaism is learning about all the different roads people take that lead them to God and a life of goodness. While this is certainly a fascinating phenomenon, it can also be a great impediment to how we treat one another. Therefore, our goal in life should not be to turn all our fellow Jews into ideological and/or religious replicas of ourselves. Rather, it should be to guide – not force – others into a life of serving God and His children in a way that best matches their individual personality.

While the above-quote is addressed to Jews about Jews, certainly Christians can extend the sentiment to other Christians and to Jews who have accepted the Jewish Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

Or, we can lock ourselves in a tiny, unidimensional box with God and the Bible, telling ourselves that we’re right and all other churches, synagogues, and everybody else are wrong. We get to be a big deal and everybody else…not so much.

I mentioned before that one of the reasons I do not consider myself a “Messianic” any longer is that I do not believe the Bible supports a Gentile living an ersatz-Jewish lifestyle. Another reason is that calling myself “Messianic” limits what I can say and who I can say it to. As a “Messianic”, even one who supports the message that Jews and Gentiles have overlapping but distinct covenant relationships with God which do not involve identical obligations, if I say I’m “Messianic”, then only “Messianics” will want to hear what I have to say. Christians won’t listen because they consider Messianics to be Judaizers who want to bring believers “under the law”. Jews won’t want to hear what I have to say because many of them consider Messianics as a combination of “Christians in kippot” and “wolves in tallitot”, particularly the Gentiles who dress and behave as if they’re Jews but who don’t do “Jewish” very well. The value of the message becomes diluted or even discounted because of the label associated with the message and because of the audience it is presumed to be attached.

(I should say at this point that there are many people in Messianic Judaism who I consider friends and who do have a very powerful and meaningful message. It is a message that I pray daily will be heard by all Christians and Jews, not because of its “label” but because of the truth it communicates. I try to communicate a similar meaningful message but I do so from my own perspective and personal identity).

For me, it’s much more straightforward to say that I am a Christian, a Gentile who is a disciple of Jesus Christ, and someone who sees a great deal of added dimension to the teachings and life of the Master through the lens of ancient and modern Judaism. I’m not claiming there are one-to-one parallels between the Gospels and the Talmud, Chassidism, and Jewish mysticism, but there are certainly thematic similarities that can be considered. If I proceed from the basic platform that Jesus was a Jewish man, living in the Second Temple period in what was then Roman Judea, who lived as a Jewish man, taught as a Jewish Rabbi, and who did not abandon what it was and is to be a Jew, then the only logical place for me to go in understanding Jesus is to try (in my admittedly limited fashion) to comprehend Jesus as a Jew.

This doesn’t require that I become Jewish or to pretend to behave as if I were a “pseudo-Jew”. It does require that I make a paradigm shift and to study materials, concepts, and ideas that aren’t considered particularly “Christian” (and in fact, there are Messianic Jews who read many more Christian historic and modern texts than I do).

UnderstandingAs a Christian married to a Jewish wife, I can’t simply take the Christian “party line” and judge my wife as condemned because she doesn’t throw her Judaism into the trash heap and turn into a “good Christian woman”. While there’s nothing wrong with being a “good Christian woman”, that’s not who she is or who God made her to be.

God didn’t create Jews and preserve them against all kinds of hideous persecution including the Holocaust, just to have them finally deleted from existence by converting them into Christians. Those Christians who suggest that Jews stop being Jews are considered to be finishing the job that Hitler started (and while that may sound very harsh, I can see why Jews view conversion to traditional, Jewish-rejecting Christianity that way). Those Christians who want to erase Jews from existence by turning them into clones of themselves are saying they want to destroy my Jewish wife (and as you can imagine, that’s not something I’m going to accept with any amount of graciousness or patience).

Like it or not, it takes more than evangelical Christianity or charismatic Christianity or “Messianic Christianity” (OL) to repair the world and make it whole, as Rabbi Freeman suggests:

To create is to reveal the parts from the whole.

To repair takes a greater wisdom. It is to discover the whole from the shattered parts.

He creates a world, knowing it will be broken, so He may empower us with the wisdom to repair it.

While Rabbi Freeman’s intent wasn’t to address the topic of today’s “morning meditation”, I believe his words can be re-shaped to do so. Repairing the world requires that we have all the pieces. If we throw out some of the pieces as irrelevant, apostate, evil, or just “too Jewish”, we are dooming the world to never becoming whole again. It would be as if God tried to make a person but tossed out the heart as unnecessary or the liver as “too different”. By Christianity condemning the Jews as a whole and particularly those Jews who have come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, we are literally frustrating the work of Jesus and what he will complete on his return; the final restoration of everything that was lost because of the fall of man at Eden.

It would be ironic and indeed tragic, if Christianity in dismissing Judaism, desiring the eradication of all Jews everywhere through conversion, and in failing to embrace the picture of Jesus as a Jew, were putting the entire Christian church in opposition to everything that Jesus did and does stand for, both as a man on earth and as our high priest in the Court of Heaven. The church then would be opposed to the will of God. Like I said, “ironic”.

Are some Christians helping to repair the world or to break it?

Divergent Branches

Cutting BranchesThe Jewish people have no monopoly on G-d and spirituality. In fact, Judaism’s core desire is that the world perceive G-d’s presence in their lives, and grow spiritually. What’s curious then is the wording of what is arguably Judaism’s most famous expression: “Shema Yisrael… Listen Israel, G-d is our Master, G-d is One (Deut 6:4).” If this eternal message relates to all mankind, why is it addressed only to Israel? Would not the One who created and sustains all mankind, by definition, be the Master of all?

-Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
“Note from the Director”
Torah Portion Vaeschanan
Director, Project Genesis
Torah.org

This is part of a brief commentary that Rabbi Dixler wrote for a newsletter to which I subscribe. Previously, I wrote a blog post called The Sons of Noah which asked how non-Jews can develop a relationship with God from a Jewish point of view. A day later, I answered that question from a Christian perspective with the blog article Children of God. Still, there’s more to the issue than I’ve chronicled so far. Although Judaism and Christianity have a common root, we have developed into religions that are light years apart.

For instance, when the Rebbe, Rabbi M.M. Schneerson characterizes the Noahide laws for the Gentiles, (as recorded in Rabbi Tzvi Freeman’s book, Bringing Heaven Down to Earth), he expresses the first Noahide commandment this way:

Acknowledge that there is only One G-d who is Infinite and Supreme above all things. Do not replace that Supreme Being with finite idols, be it yourself, or other beings. In this command is included such acts as prayer, study and meditation.

Look at the Rebbe’s wording. He warns not to replace the One Supreme God with “other beings” and applies it to acts of “prayer”. But in traditional Christianity, Jesus is God as much as God the Father is, and God the Holy Spirit. Also, how many Christians pray directly to Jesus as opposed to God the Father? It’s actually confusing who we should pray to:

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. –John 14:13-14

The Rebbe (and Judaism in general) characterizes God as One, the Unique and completely self-contained One that cannot be subdivided into any smaller parts or units. God isn’t a molecule that is one thing made up of many smaller components, He is an indivisible, irreducible, complete wholeness. There’s no way to turn that into the concept of the Trinity from a Jew’s point of view.

I’m bringing all this up because there may be an assumption running around out there that Jews can accept Christians as “righteous Gentiles”; as Noahides…but the Christian imperative to view God as both one and as three makes that impossible. Rabbi Dixler ended his letter last week emphasizing this very point:

Rashi’s classic commentary solves the puzzle: G-d might appear to be the Master of only the Jewish people, those who received and accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The nation of Israel got direct instructions on how to live from the Master Himself — “Israel, G-d is our Master.” However, “G-d is One” — we wish and hope for the day when every soul universally recognizes the Al-mighty’s intimate involvement with all, when the spirituality hidden beneath every surface becomes abundantly clear.

I didn’t feel like Rabbi Dixler or Rashi, as his commentary was presented here, really answered the question, so, since there was the option to ask the Rabbi questions on the Project Genesis site, I posed this one:

Thank you for your insightful message, but I must admit to not quite seeing how Rashi’s commentary, as presented in your letter, solves the puzzle. G-d did indeed give direct instructions to the nation of Israel on how to live, but I don’t see where the rest of humanity receives the information that G-d is One.

I’m aware of the Noahide Laws as recorded in Genesis 9, but they don’t resonate from Noah to the rest of the nations in the same sense as the unbroken chain of Torah does from Moses and Sinai to the Jews of today. There’s a unified link between G-d, Moses, and the Israelites who stood at Sinai that can be traced from 3500 years in the past all the way to the present-day Jewish people. When you say that “we wish and hope for the day when every soul universally recognizes the Al-mighty’s intimate involvement with all”, how do you believe this will happen? Will we only become aware of the “spirituality hidden beneath every surface” when the Messiah comes?

I received Rabbi Dixler’s prompt reply thus:

James, You make a great point. He did give instructions to the rest of the world, but not to the level He gave to the Jewish people. It would seem that the discrepancy would give the appearance of Him acting as Master over the Jews, while exhibiting less mastery over the non-Jews. The point of the message was to say that He has as much a desire to have that relationship with the non-Jews, if they reach the required level of recognition of Him. While Jews may not always act at that level of recognition, they are the descendants of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs which gives them an advantage.

The recognition of the non-Jews has been happening throughout history and it will certainly reach it’s zenith at the time of the Messiah. The spread of the belief in monotheism to most of the civilized world was likely the greatest manifestation of this that we’ve seen so far.

Rabbi Dixler stopped just short of referencing Christianity and Islam when he mentioned the “spread of the belief in monotheism”, but without those two non-Jewish religious traditions, there would be no awareness of ethical monotheism, as Jews understand the concept, among any non-Jewish people.

ForebodingThis leads me to my next question. If in the first century, non-Jews were brought to an awareness of Jewish monotheism through the life, death, and resurrection of the Jewish Jesus of Nazareth (and certainly most Jews would take exception to my wording here) and that word of this “Good News” was spread in the diaspora to the Greek and Roman speaking peoples of that time by the disciples of the Jewish Jesus, why didn’t the “Universal Message”, as Rabbi Dixler calls it in the title of his missive, start and continue right then and there? Why didn’t the Jewish and non-Jewish worshipers of the Jewish God (and remember that the original worshipers of Jesus were almost all Jews) remain united? Why did a journey that started out with so much promise and light enter into such darkness?

OK, I know what you’re thinking. Most people are aware of the history of the first three centuries of the church and how a variety of events resulted in an ever-widening gulf between the Jewish and Gentile worshipers of Jesus, until what was once a Jewish sect with Gentile members became two separate and fully independent religions. On his blog yesterday, Derek Leman commented about the change in perception of Christianity from the martyr Stephen in Acts 6, to the Justin Martyr, who actively rejected the law of Moses for anyone, Jew or Gentile, who was a disciple of Jesus (Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho the Jew, ch. 11).

It has occurred to me more than once that for Gentiles to be able to experience a fully-realized relationship with God, we couldn’t do it as a part of Judaism. It’s probably the same reason why the landscape isn’t flooded with “synagogues” of mostly Gentile Noahides who fully embrace the Seven Laws as their core “Torah” and worship the God of Israel on that basis. Rabbi Dixler’s commentary seems to suggest that it should work this way, but he doesn’t operationalize it; that is, he doesn’t say how to make it work this way, particularly since Judaism has no mandate to “evangelize” to Gentiles. The only such mandate that I’m aware of was issued in Matthew 28:19-20 and the program it instituted, as least as administered by Jews, lived and died at the end of the first century. Gentile worshipers of the Jewish Jesus were only able to carve out their own identity as worshipers of the God of Abraham by separating themselves from Judaism altogether.

Today, Christians bristle at the thought that they could learn anything from the Jewish people (especially since Jews reject Jesus) and many still hold fast to supercessionism or the theological belief that the church has completely replaced the Jews in the covenant promises of God. The idea of Jews and Christians co-existing as God’s people, albeit at different levels of responsibility, is abhorrent to many Christians and Jews. Judaism has Moses as the lawgiver and Christianity has Jesus as the “law-taker-away”. As they exist in the minds of their followers, trying to make these two religions work and play well together is like trying to get the National Organization of Women to endorse Sarah Palin for President.

It’s not going to happen. In fact, here are three of the comments people made in response to Rabbi Dixler’s letter that punctuate my point:

I’m a Chab Jew and I have experienced the disdain of other Orthodox jews, some Chassidim. If we cannot be one how can we expect to have the goyim in the boat?

For your remarks. Perhaps no issue is so easily misunderstood as that of particularity or election. As a stranger come into the faith, I still, occasionally, wonder if I have crashed the party. during my morning prayers, for the longest time I changed one to “Thank you for making me a goi.” Even now, every time I recite the prayer, I think that God has remade me. This, however, does not stop the occasional flinch that perhaps I was dissatisfied with the state of my original creation and that I did God a disservice by converting to Judaism.

There is no way to get around the particularism of Judaism. We are “Am Segulah” the special precious possession of Hashem. We are meant to be a light unto the nations, but the nations themselves have no part in the Torah. Non-Jews who feel that they are spiritually close to the Jewish people must go the way of Yitro and Ruth and become part of Am Yisrael.

Without Christianity (and short of having all the Goyim convert to Judaism), there would have been no mechanism for non-Jews to come to faith and trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And yet, as a result of Christianity, an enormous wedge has been hammered between Jews and Christians.

Another thing. The Rebbe, when responding to a question about secular and religious Jews, said…

You categorize them as religious Jews and secular Jews! How dare you make such a distinction! There is no such thing as a secular Jew. All Jews are holy.

The Rebbe’s words seem almost an echo of Paul when he said “and so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:16). You may still choose to debate this conclusion, but there’s no way around the inexorable unity that joins all Jews, even those who passionately disagree with each other, together at an extremely fundamental, “DNA” level. The Rebbe put it this way:

The Jewish people are one. A Jew putting on tefillin in America affects the safety of a Jewish soldier in Israel.

Soldier praying with TefillinI haven’t experienced this kind of unity within the church and doubt that even the most devout Christians can claim a bond with each other that is so complete as one Jew has for another. Is this what Sinai did? No one chooses to be a Jew unless you convert, but the vast majority of the world’s Jewish population were “born that way” (to quote a popular entertainer). No Christian is “born that way”, we all make the choice independently, even if we are born into Christian families.

Where did we go wrong? Why do we struggle between our two faiths when God is One? Rabbi Dixler tries to answer those commenting in his newsletter, and maybe even my own question, with these words:

An issue that has been raised by a few is that this message somehow dilutes the idea of the Chosen Nation and that the commandment to love is only towards others Jews. To be clear, the Jews were chosen by G-d to be the recipients of His Torah since they are the children of the the Patriarchs and Matriarchs – those who discovered G-d’s presence for themselves, devoted every ounce of their being to Him, and introduced the pagan world to what it means to have one G-d. At the same time, the mission of Jews that they’ve been chosen for is to spread the knowledge of G-d’s presence to all of humanity, by acting as a light to the nations. Built into this mission is the concern that all of humanity appreciate G-d and the spiritual relationship we have with Him.

Unfortunately, “all of humanity” appreciating God and the spiritual relationship the Jews have with Him has necessitated the separation of the Jews from those of us who were “first called Christians at Antioch” (Acts 11:26).

I had asked Rabbi Dixler if, in his opinion, the unity between the Jews and Gentiles under the One God would only happen when the Messiah comes (a second time, from the Christian viewpoint). He replied that while God has as much desire to have a relationship with non-Jews as he has with Jews, the recognition of God by non-Jews “will certainly reach it’s zenith at the time of the Messiah”. From Christianity’s vantage point, we already have that recognition through Jesus Christ. But it’s the Christian theology and dogma of 20 centuries that has been wrapped around the teachings of Christ and his early Jewish followers like a thick blanket that has both kept us warm in the love of God and isolated from the Jewishness of our Master.

Paul said in Romans 11 that Jewish branches were temporarily broken off the root to make room for Gentile branches but how long will it be until we can both be part of the root again? How long until the Jews and the Christians can share an awareness and a love for our common God and put aside 2,000 years of enmity?

How long?

Words and Drawn Swords

Tisha b'Av at the Kotel 2007Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Barack Obama he’s willing to make some compromises to achieve peace in his nation, but that returning to Israel’s 1967 borders is not an option.

Netanyahu met with Obama in Washington, D.C., Friday, on the heels of the president’s public call to return Israel to the borders the state held before the 1967 Six Day War, as a concession for peace with the Palestinians.

CBN News Story
“Netanyahu Tells Obama 1967 Borders ‘Indefensible’
by Jennifer Wishon

My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.
His talk is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.
Psalm 55:20-21

On Tisha B’Av, five national calamities occurred:

  • During the time of Moses, Jews in the desert accepted the slanderous report of the 10 Spies, and the decree was issued forbidding them from entering the Land of Israel. (1312 BCE)
  • The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar. 100,000 Jews were slaughtered and millions more exiled. (586 BCE)
  • The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, led by Titus. Some two million Jews died, and another one million were exiled. (70 CE)
  • The Bar Kochba revolt was crushed by Roman Emperor Hadrian. The city of Betar — the Jews’ last stand against the Romans — was captured and liquidated. Over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered. (135 CE)
  • The Temple area and its surroundings were plowed under by the Roman general Turnus Rufus. Jerusalem was rebuilt as a pagan city — renamed Aelia Capitolina — and access was forbidden to Jews.

-Rabbi Shraga Simmons
“Overview and laws of the Jewish national day of mourning”
Aish.com

I sometimes wonder what keeps the Jewish people going. I know, the “politically correct” answer is “God”, but think about it. You are Israel. You are surrounded by nations who have wanted to completely destroy you since the day you arrived in the modern world. Within your ancient and historic borders is a people group who demands that you give up more and more of your land and if you don’t, they’ll keep on killing your citizens. Even your biggest “ally”, the United States, for decades has continued to demand that you “give up land for peace”, even when you’ve already shown (think Gaza) that doing so only results in more terrorism; the opposite of peace.

Not only does the world hate Israel, the world hates Jews. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Sweden, Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada, Anti-Semitism is on the rise all over the world.

If you’re a Jew, you’re not really safe anywhere. Sooner or later, someone is going to turn on you.

Why go on?

You can sort of see why assimilation has always been a forbidden but attractive alternative for Jews in the diaspora. Tisha b’Av is a reminder of just how much the world hates the Jews and how many times throughout history, everyone else has tried to kill the Jews; to wipe them out of existence.

Why go on? Why not either give in and let the world have their way, or assimilate and quietly disappear into the pages of history, as so many other ancient people groups have done (ever hear of a Canaanite, a Hittite, or an Edomite anymore)?

Why go on?

In the times of the First Temple lived very lofty souls. It was their thirst for spiritual ecstasy that led them to worship foreign gods.

Thousands of years later, the holy Ari taught, in the 500 years of forced conversions from the Crusades until the Spanish Expulsion, these souls returned so they could be repaired.

Many of the martyrs of that time were men of reason—and for a philosopher to give his life for the sanctity of G–d’s name is a very great test. Many did, and so they were healed.

When the Ari came, however, he revealed the secret wisdom and repaired the world so that all souls were healed and no repairs were left to be made. It follows that all the suffering of the Jewish people since the Ari are neither punishment nor repair. If so, what are they?

We do not know.

One thing we do know: That we do not know.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
“Beyond Punishment and Repair”
Chabad.org

Were you hoping for something more uplifting? So was I.

I’m not Jewish, so I lack any real understanding to be able to answer the question. The Hamasonly thing I know is that the Jews have endured and they continue to endure. Is it God’s will that the Jews should continue to exist and that they should also continue to suffer?

“I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?” -Teyve from the film Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

There are times when individuals get so discouraged they want to give up. Some quit their jobs, some get divorced, some simply withdraw into themselves and we call that depression, and some do the ultimate “quitting” by committing suicide. In these cases, the people involved feel trapped and alone and hopeless. Whether it’s true or not, they feel like everyone is against them and that there’s no where to turn. They feel out of control of their environment and their lives and they want to make the pain stop.

They’re willing to do anything to make the pain stop because life doesn’t make any sense.

I know you’re reading this a day later, but I’m writing this on Tisha b’Av. I know that hope is supposed to be mixed in with mourning and loss, but mourning and loss are a vital and inescapable element on the 9th of Av. The hunger of fasting is a reminder of how empty the world is of justice and mercy:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.” –Matthew 5:3-6

Tisha b'Av at the Kotel 2011The Master might as well have been talking about Tisha b’Av…or about life.

Maybe the only answer is the one provided by the Rebbe as interpreted by Rabbi Freeman at Chabad.org:

We are imprisoned because we have exiled our G-d.

As long as we search for G-d by abandoning the world He has made, we can never truly find Him.

As long as we believe there is a place to escape, we cannot be liberated.

The ultimate liberation will be when we open our eyes
to see that everything is here, now.

If the Jews are in exile, if the Jews suffer and mourn, God suffers and mourns with them. They aren’t alone. Even in torment, they are never alone. However, based on the words of Jesus quoted above, does that also apply to the rest of us? In mourning, where is our promised comforter? In sorrow, where is our peace?

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
Therefore I have hope.
The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the LORD. –Lamentations 3:19-26 (NASB)

As it is said, every descent is for the sake of an ascent, and so we have this Kabbalistic interpretation of Tisha b’Av from Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh:

The Seer of Lublin passed away, at the age of 70, on the 9th of Av 5575 (1815), a day of national mourning, but also, according to the sages, the birthday of the Mashiach. Long before his passing he hinted to his followers that he would pass away on the 9th of Av.

The passing of the Seer of Lublin joins together with the “passing” of the Divine Presence from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on the 9th of Av (the day of the destruction of the Temple – only its physical body “died” but its soul ascended to heaven) to arouse God to bring the Mashiach (who will permeate reality with Divine revelation, bringing redemption, peace and goodness to all) – now!

As If Considering Angels

Broken AngelFor this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.2 Peter 1:5-8

Said Rabbi Joshua the son of Levi: Every day, an echo resounds from Mount Horeb, proclaiming and saying: “Woe is to the creatures who insult the Torah.” For one who does not occupy himself in Torah is considered an outcast, as is stated “A golden nose-ring in the snout of a swine, a beautiful woman bereft of reason.” And it says: “And the tablets are the work of G-d, and the writing is G-d’s writing, engraved on the tablets” ; read not “engraved” (charut) but “liberty” (chairut)—for there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah. And whoever occupies himself with the study of Torah is elevated, as is stated, “And from the gift to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to The Heights.”Ethics of the Fathers 6:2

I know these two quotes may not seem to go together, but consider this. Peter says that we should add faith to goodness and then add goodness to knowledge. What knowledge? Where does this knowledge come from? Rabbi Joshua ben Levi implies that knowledge comes from Torah by expressing the inverse that one who does not occupy himself with Torah “is considered an outcast” and is like a “golden nose-ring in the snout of a swine, a beautiful woman bereft of reason”.

Sounds pretty harsh, but then, so does Peter:

This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord. But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish. –2 Peter 2:10-12

I’ve been involved in a series of online discussions lately that have been critical of Talmud study among Christians. Specifically, the allegation is that the sages who documented the Oral law and established a system of rulings for the Jewish people, were the inheritors of the tradition of the Pharisees and that Jesus had nothing good to say about the Pharisees, citing examples such as this:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. –Matthew 23:1-7

This is just one of the examples in the Gospels which cast all Pharisees everywhere in a particularly bad light, but as I commented recently, Jesus is upset with this group of Pharisees, not because they taught bad things, but because they didn’t practice what they taught! Keep that in mind. If the Pharisees had behaved consistently with their teachings, Jesus wouldn’t have had a problem with them at all. His only beef with the Pharisees is that they were hypocrites, not false teachers.

Think about it. If, as some have stated, the Talmudic scholars and sages have inherited the mantle of the Pharisees and they behaved consistently with their own teachings, then it is quite possible that the “Rebbe of Nazaret” wouldn’t have any problem with them either.

I know there are a lot of variables to consider and we won’t know for sure until Jesus returns to us, but based on this small bit of simple logic, we cannot reasonably discard or disdain anything in the Talmud based on the behavior of a collection of hypocritical religious authorities that operated in Roman-Judea in the time of Jesus. We can’t also reasonably apply the following to the Rabbis of the Talmud:

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” –Isaiah 29:13-14

I know it’s enormously tempting to apply the words of the Prophet not only to the Pharisees but to the Talmudic sages as well. Certainly, if we think of the Talmudic writings as only the rules of men with no Biblical source, then we might be justified in doing so, but taken out of context, we don’t know if Isaiah is even considering the Oral Law (which he would have seen as Torah) or the Rabbinic commentaries and rulings on said-Oral Law (and Written Law), which are recorded in the Talmud. The rulings of the Rabbis don’t overwrite and contradict Torah, but rather, are intended to interpret and make sense of the Written and Oral Law for each generation of Jews as they met new challenges in applying a Torah lifestyle in an ever-changing world.

Here’s something else to consider:

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. –Matthew 11:25-26

Taken together with some portions of the quote from Isaiah 29:13-14, these words of the Master might suggest that it’s bad to be intelligent, well-read, and educated. Why bother to learn how to read at all if intelligence is not to be trusted and if it’s better to be ignorant and untaught? I don’t think this is what the Master means here, but rather, he’s saying you don’t have to be a scholar to have access to the grace of God. Of course, he’s not saying grace is denied the learned sage, either.

It’s been suggested that Rabbinic judgments and rulings are not to be trusted and that the wisdom of the average individual, as guided by the Spirit, reading the Bible in English and outside of its history, culture, and other contexts, is far preferable to trusting and learning from people who have spent all of their lives pouring over Scripture and striving to master the teachings of God.

And yet Peter was critical “of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority”. Further, he said that “First of all, understand this; no prophecy of Scripture is to be interpreted by an individual on his own, for never has prophecy come as a result of human willing – on the contrary, people moved by the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) spoke the message from God”. (2 Peter 1:20-21 [CJB]).

Cutting BranchesWe could be tempted to say Peter is confirming that all a person; any person, needs is the Holy Spirit to interpret the Bible, but he’s also speaking of Prophets like Isaiah, not the average guy on the street. We read the prophecies of Isaiah because he was a prophet of God and we’re not. We read the teachings of Jesus because he’s the Messiah and we’re not. Also, lest we forget, Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, and the key to bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations of the world, was a very well-educated man…in fact, far more educated than many of Christ’s inner circle who were what we would consider today as blue-collar workers and laborers.

There’s no problem with who Jesus chose to be close to him as being, relatively speaking, uneducated, because, as I’ve already mentioned, the love of Christ isn’t primarily accessed through “book-learning”. But on the other hand, the fact that Paul was chosen by Jesus says that education and authority isn’t a problem either. Certainly, being learned and possessing authority requires that such a position be used with justice, honor, and humility. The Ethics of the Fathers 6:5 speaks to this:

Do not seek greatness for yourself, and do not lust for honor. More than you study, do. Desire not the table of kings, for your table is greater than theirs, and your crown is greater than theirs, and faithful is your Employer to pay you the rewards of your work.

In fact, from the same chapter (Chapter 6:6), we find that study of Torah (which includes Talmud in this context) yields people who have qualities such as:

love of G-d, love of humanity, love of charity, love of justice, love of rebuke, fleeing from honor, lack of arrogance in learning, reluctance to hand down rulings, participating in the burden of one’s fellow, judging him to the side of merit, correcting him, bringing him to a peaceful resolution [of his disputes], deliberation in study, asking and answering, listening and illuminating, learning in order to teach, learning in order to observe, wising one’s teacher, exactness in conveying a teaching, and saying something in the name of its speaker.

As long as the teacher behaves consistently with these, and the other teachings in the Torah and Talmud, what problem could this present? What problem could it present for any person of faith and good will who wishes to devote time to pondering this wisdom?

We see that taking Scripture out of context and applying an overly simple interpretation to what may turn out to be very complex matters of principle actually results in a disservice to the Prophets and Apostles, as well as to the later sages, and finally to Jesus and to God the Father.

We should all be very, very careful how we interpret and apply Scripture, especially if we use it to malign our teachers and scholars and, by inference, every religious Jew who has ever lived or will live, for they too revere the sages and attempt to live their lives by the principles of Torah, which have been established and interpreted across the ages.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” –Genesis 12:3

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” –Romans 11:25-27

All Israel has a share in the World to Come, as is stated: “And your people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever. They are the shoot of My planting, the work of My hands, in which I take pride.” –Sanhedrin 11:1

for there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah. –Ethics of the Fathers 6:2

Do not denigrate the root, lest your branch be cut off from it.

The Irrelevant Drunkard

PogromOn today’s daf we find the laws of when we follow the majority.

It is difficult to imagine the precarious state of our fellow just a few centuries ago. Even in places where they were relatively safe and prospered, the status quo could change at any time. Virtually all clergy were antisemites, always trying to trip up the Jews who were generally no more than tenuous second-class citizens in their host countries. If a Jewish rabbi could not give a satisfactory reply to a prominent priest’s questions or accusations, the entire community could be exiled from their homes with hardly any notice and no time or even right to sell their possessions, most of which were often confiscated. And if the king himself asked a question which could not be answered, things were at least as bad.

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Majority Rules?”
Chullin 19

It’s difficult for Christians (and everybody else who’s not Jewish) to imagine what living this way must have been like. Probably the closest we get to comprehending a Jewish life of eternal uncertainty in a hostile world is when we watch the film Fiddler on the Roof (1971) or see the stage musical. Even then, we are unlikely to register the true horror of the pogroms, the inquisitions, and the general hatred of the Jews in most parts of the world.

As much as we’d like to believe that all of the Jew-hatred is behind us, there is still a significant presence of these feelings among people, including Christians, today. Even among those (non-Jewish) Christians who are aligned with the “Messianic” movement, while they make a public declaration of love for the Jewish people, love of Judaism, and love of Israel, there is also an underlying current of distrust and frustration, particularly when religious Jews insist upon maintaining a lifestyle and set of traditions that chafe at Christian “goyishe” sensibilities. I once heard a Christian fellow exclaim, “Why can’t the Jews just accept Jesus?”. He was operating out of a sense of historical, social, and theological ignorance that has held the church in thrall for nearly twenty centuries and still exists in many churches and “Messianic” communities to this very day.

To illustrate the point I’m about to make, I will continue to quote from the aforementioned commentary on the daf:

Once, a priest primed his sovereign to ask Rav Yonasan Eybeschuetz, zt”l, what he thought was a genuine stumper. The king was delighted at this trick, since if Rav Yonasan could not answer the question he would fill the coffers of his treasury with Jewish property – an excellent way to improve the economy.

He asked, “The Talmudic rule is that one should follow the majority. Since the non-Jews are the majority of the world’s population, why don’t you join our religion? According to your own law you must follow the custom of the majority!” But Rav Yonasan could not be bested. “We only follow the majority when we are in doubt. When we know the truth, the practice of the majority is irrelevant.”

This could sound pretty harsh to Christian ears. Here we have Rav Yonasan telling a priest and a King that Christianity is irrelevant to a Jew. That’s pretty much a slap in the face, but you have to look at the larger context and what was at stake. If the Rav answered poorly or not at all, his entire community could be evicted from all the lands where the King ruled with not so much as a “by your leave”. The Jews weren’t being “witnessed” to by concerned and well-meaning Christians about the love of Jesus; they were being given an ultimatum that could even be escalated to a death sentence. Rav Yonasan had not only the right to be a little “snippy” toward the priest and the King based on this, but he was also following a path of Godliness and truth that the Jewish people have traveled for untold centuries, going all the way back to Moses at Sinai.

I suppose all this begs the question of how (or if) Christians should witness to Jews and a detailed answer goes beyond the scope of this small article. In short, the answer is “yes” with the caveat that you don’t just go into a synagogue, start “preaching Jesus”, denigrate everything there is about being Jewish, and expect your audience to cry out joyously “Give us an ‘Amen’, brother!” Instead, you’ll be politely asked to leave. If and when God requires that a Gentile Christian share his or her faith with a Jew, that door will become very apparently open. Don’t presume ignorance for “missionary zeal”.

PrayingThe other question this brings up is, when a Jew does accept Jesus, does he or she accept the stereotypical white-Christian Jesus, or are we talking about the Moshiach; the Messiah? Opinions vary, even among believing Jews. Some Jews who have come to faith in Christ lead lives that are little different than any other Christian, including setting aside all of the Torah laws related to the Sabbath, kosher eating, the traditional prayers, and so forth. A very small (but perhaps growing) minority can’t be said to be followers of the Jesus one sees in most traditional paintings of Christ, who bears no resemblance to a first-century Jewish man living in Roman-Judea. Instead, they are disciples of the “Moshiach, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16).

For this latter group of Jews, there is no inconsistency between living a lifestyle completely consistent with religious Judaism, including Talmud study and adherence to accepted halachah and the logical and ultimately expected discipleship of the “Rebbe of Nazaret”, the “Jewish Jesus of Nazareth”. Although Rav Yonasan Eybeschuetz wasn’t necessarily referencing the Moshiach as opposed to Jesus in the responses we’ve read thus far, the Messiah is always anticipated. Why do a few Jews see him in the person of Jesus while most currently do not? I’ve heard it taught more than once that Jesus, the brother of all Jewish people, is currently concealed, just as Joseph in Egypt, though he spoke to and interacted with his brothers, was temporarily concealed behind an Egyptian “mask” (see Genesis chapters 41-45 for the details).

I’ve also recently read that “prominent sages such as Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and the Chazon Ish have ruled that we live in a time of God’s concealment” (quoted from the Lev Echad blog), and although those noteworthy Rabbis are not likely referring to the concealment of Jesus as the Messiah, perhaps we Christians can take such a meaning when considering the Jewish people from our perspective.

The conclusion of our “Story Off the Daf” contains an even more difficult lesson for Christians to learn:

Rav Elchonon Wasserman, Hy”d, offered a different explanation, however. “A sober person would never follow the opinion of even a hundred drunks since they are not thinking straight. The Jewish sages are likened to a sober minority since they purify themselves from ulterior motives and personal agenda. How can we expect people who have not purified themselves from impure agenda to find the truth?”

Thus Christianity goes from being “irrelevant” to in the possession of “drunks” and “people who have not purified themselves from impure agenda”. That does not, in fact, describe the majority of Christians who truly are disciples of the Master and live out his holy teachings, but in the era being described in today’s story, it was most certainly true of the corrupt church authorities who spared no effort to harass, malign, and abuse the Jews just because they could.

However, we don’t have to repeat the mistakes we see laced throughout Christian history. We don’t have to demand that Jews stop being Jews just because we don’t understand them. We don’t even have to demand that Jews who have come to faith in the Moshiach, who we call “the Christ”, stop being Jews just because we’ve been taught that “the law is dead” and that “Pharisees are all hypocrites”. We can however adopt the lesson I found at the Lev Echad blog, from which I previously quoted:

One of the unique aspects of Judaism is learning about all the different roads people take that lead them to God and a life of goodness. While this is certainly a fascinating phenomenon, it can also be a great impediment to how we treat one another. Therefore, our goal in life should not be to turn all our fellow Jews into ideological and/or religious replicas of ourselves. Rather, it should be to guide – not force – others into a life of serving God and His children in a way that best matches their individual personality.

Extending this lesson beyond Judaism, we can realize that it’s not our job to judge. There is only one righteous Judge, and He is God. As there are many different churches and many different congregations of God, so there may be many different ways to offer worship and glory to the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. Can you, as a Christian, say that only your church is the true and righteous church and that no other churches, even within your own denomination, worship God in a way that is accepted by Him? Without seeing the world as God sees it, can you dare pronounce judgment on your fellow human being and companion along the path of faith?

If you can be so daring, then perhaps the words of Rav Elchonon are true for you. More’s the pity.

“If your heart is bitter, sugar in your mouth will not help.” -Jewish Proverb

“It was Judaism that brought the concept of a God-given universal moral law into the world…the Jew carries the burden of God in history [and] for this has never been forgiven.” -Reverend Edward H. Flannery

“A Jew never gives up. We’re here to bring Mashiach, we will settle for nothing less.” -Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

Good Shabbos.