Canon White is not only concerned about the physical safety of the scrolls; he is also dedicated to what’s written on them.
“The thing that I really respect about how Jews live is that God is in everything. If you’re really Orthodox, God is not removed from anything. From the bathroom to the bracha [blessing] you make afterwards, you bless Him and you thank Him. Every time you say ‘Baruch ata Hashem,’ you are showing that you believe that He is the King of the Universe!”
He pauses. “Do I sound frum?”
Yes, he does. Canon White learned the lingo as the first non-Jewish student at the Karlin yeshiva in Jerusalem. A rabbi there permitted him to get a taste of Jewish learning.
He has grown from a student of Judaism into a teacher of it. He offers a weekly course about Judaism to Christians in Baghdad.
“The Iraqi Christians who come to my class are shocked,” says Canon White.
“They say that nobody has ever told them about Judaism before. It’s hard for them to accept that they’ve been told lies.
None of the young Iraqis have heard about the Holocaust. They don’t know how Christians have persecuted Jews.”
-by Ari Werth
“Struggle for the Scrolls”
Every once in a while, I’ll hear about an extraordinary person, an extraordinary Christian who really does love the Jewish people and Israel. In my circle of friends and acquaintances, I hear a lot about Christians loving Jews, but I don’t think the lot of us can hold a candle to the Vicar of Baghdad.
Andrew White is an Anglican priest risking his life helping Christians in Iraq. Even more dangerous, however, is what he volunteers to do – protecting the last few Iraqi Jews.
“I help Jews because the very heart of my own education, of my faith, is a love for Judaism,” says Canon White. “I don’t see how I can be a Christian without knowing my Jewish roots, and without loving them.”
Given the opportunity, I wonder how many of us would take the risks that White is taking to protect Iraqi Christians and Jews and to try to rescue the single largest collection of Torah scrolls in existence; 365 deteriorating Torah scrolls hidden away in a secret sub-basement in the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.
I said just the other day that no Christian would ever be admitted into a Yeshiva, but obviously I was wrong. As you read in the quote above, White is the first non-Jewish student ever admitted into the Karlin yeshiva in Jerusalem. His “reward” perhaps for truly dedicating his heart and his spirit to understanding the Jewish people and their closeness to God.
Ignorance, as Canon White calls it, prompted him to write a book about the Jewish roots of Christianity. He shared the newly finished manuscript . It describes several fundamental concepts and practices of Torah observance.
“There is nothing more inspiring than ‘Shema Yisrael,’” he writes in the upcoming book. “I say it every morning and every night. I taught my little boys to say ‘Shema’ before they go to sleep.” He’s planning on translating the book into Arabic. “The Muslims need to know that our faiths come out of Judaism and that therefore the Jews are our brothers, not our enemies. We need to learn from and love our older brother.”
Most believers live in a world where we’ve been taught that the Jews have been marginalized and that Christianity has ascended over them. I know the church is changing, but change is slow. Sometimes change can get sidetracked and Jewish practice and tradition isn’t dismissed, but rather taken over by non-Jewish “Christians” and reinvented as a new type of Christian faith. But there’s a difference between practicing Christianity with a thin Jewish veneer and what White is doing. When he teaches his children to say the Shema, (Deut. 11:19) he isn’t doing so in a way that diminishes the Jewish people but rather, in a manner that honors them. Canon White is one of the few Christians who really “gets it” as far as comprehending what it actually means to honor his faith and recognize Judaism as its root.
Christianity isn’t evil, in spite of what you may have heard in certain corners of the blogosphere. God is opening our eyes and turning our hearts. Men like Canon White are living proof of this (my final article in my supersessionism series for Messiah Journal, which will be published this coming winter, will show how White is hardly alone).
There’s another way to look at Christianity within the current context as well.
On the one hand, it is very difficult for Jews to accept that something is built on the spot of the Holy Temple.
On the other hand, we can thank God for the kindness He has shown – since I imagine He could have allowed a much less flattering structure built on it – like a parking lot, or a sanctuary to an idol. In this case, the Muslims believe in one God and treat the Temple Mount with sanctity.
In fact, Maimonides explains that other monotheistic religions have flourished in order to help spread essential Jewish ideals, to better prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah.
from “Ask the Rabbi”
A strange attitude for a Rabbi to take regarding Islam (or Christianity) but then, it’s just as strange for an Anglican priest to teach Arab Muslims and Christians that Jews aren’t the enemy. Jesus himself said that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22) and from a Jewish point of view, salvation is about both national Israel and the individual human being. And it’s about hope.
Each day we hope for Your salvation. -Shemoneh Esrei
The Talmud states that one of the questions that will be posed to each person on his or her day of judgment is, “Did you look forward to salvation?” While the question refers to anticipating the ultimate Redemption, it can also refer to the salvation of the individual.
Positive attitudes beget positive results, and negative attitudes beget negative results. Books have been written about people who have recovered from hopeless illnesses because, contrary to medical opinion, they did not give up hope. On the contrary, they maintained a positive attitude. While this phenomenon may be controversial (for many people are skeptical that cheerful outlooks can cure), people certainly can and have killed themselves by depression. With a negative attitude, a person suffering from an illness may even abandon those practices that can give strength and prolong life, such as the treatment itself.
I have seen a poster that displays birds in flight. Its caption comments, “They fly because they think they can.” We could do much if we did not despair of our capacity to do it.
Looking forward to Divine salvation is one such positive attitude. The Talmud states that even when the blade of an enemy’s sword is at our throat, we have no right to abandon hope of help.
No one can ever take hope from us, but we can surrender it voluntarily. How foolish to do so.
Today I shall…
try to always maintain a positive attitude and to hope for Divine salvation.
-Rabbi Abraham J Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Elul 11”
Never abandon hope, even when “the blade of an enemy’s sword is at our throat.” Men like Canon White give me hope in Christianity and the church. He shows me that Christians and Jews can co-exist, work, live, and worship God side-by-side in unity. We don’t have to do away with the Jews so that Christians can thrive. We don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” by creating new “Christian” religions or denominations or sects that discard the church and the Jewish people while taking over Jewish worship practices.
In the modern world, it’s difficult for me to have heroes. So many of them are revealed to be flawed and damaged human beings. I don’t know who Andrew White is behind the article I just read, but today, he became one of my heroes; one of the few. If I needed a model for how to be a Christian in relation to the Jewish people, I wouldn’t have to look any further than men like Canon White.
I hope you read all of the Ari Werth’s article Struggle for the Scrolls. If you haven’t, please do so now. Read it all. Scroll all the way to the bottom. There, you’ll find a section in yellow with information and links that instruct us on how to “save the scrolls” that are being held in Iraq. Read the article. Spread the word. So much of Jewish history has been lost to oppressors. If even some of the scrolls are still undamaged, we can return them to their rightful owners, the Jewish people.
To achieve wonders takes a heart both humble and fearless.
Yes, two opposites. But also from two opposite directions:
The mind awakens the heart to its nothingness, and by this, the soul G‑d gave you is bared in all its brazen power.
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Fierce and Humble”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
If you love Israel, and I know many of you reading my words do, then you can do something with that love. You can give hope.