We have 613 Mitzvot

©by Menashe Dovid Ben Avraham, 28 Jan 2016

The Animals.

Did you know that some people considered bands like the Beetles to be dangerously rebellious which was indicated by the way they dressed? No doubt even today some may hold them and other bands as the instigators of the world’s present day problems. What with all that free love and musical expression it just goes to show that sometimes stigmas about peoples, cultures, and religions still abound despite the obvious efforts by some to correct these stigmas.

Very often in conversation with non-Jews about Jews, certain theological stigmas and preconceived notions still exist. You see its all about a collective subconscious perception which is often part of the non-Jewish mindset. The collective subconscious by Christians is often vocalized with how Christians see the ‘old’ Testament as a bunch of oppressive laws of which, according to their ingrained theology, cannot be kept. And why would you even keep them if after all Jesus kept them all perfectly on your behalf and also suffered vicariously too for our lack of perfect obedience demanded by the Almighty. The bunch of oppressive laws if not kept one hundred percent perfectly, ultimately causes both Jews and non-Jews to go to hell. The faulty nature of these oppressive laws only came to be corrected two thousand years ago with the first advent, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as the ‘new’ Testament shows.

Moreover, prior to Jesus we have a mystery:

that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people(Col 1:26). 

Which means that nobody knew about the whole divine/ human sacrifice/ atonement eternal BBQ thing or ‘else’ until Jesus came on the scene because it had been kept hidden for ages and generations.

In stark contrast the Jewish scriptures reveal that there are no mysteries in the ‘old’ testament. In fact it is quite the opposite:

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. Deut 29:29

I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right. Is 45:19

The problem with the word law is that it reminds you of the police, or like some “stern” character sitting there telling you what to do, which is what the NT says:

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. Gal 3:23-25

And of course more tellingly as part of the mystery, ‘faith’ was missing prior to Jesus which is how Paul was able to horribly mangle the Torah’s message:

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Deut 30:11-14

cf

Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.”But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:5-9)

So with Paul’s mangling of the Torah, he cuts out the idea that the ‘Law’ is doable and replaces it with faith which was not present/ available to people prior to Jesus. Also from the heavily redacted gospels, no doubt influenced by Paul, we have a reference to the “word”  as in “The word ismystNT near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. The parallel to the “divine” word becoming flesh (John 1:1,14) does not go unnoticed to a discerning reader of the NT and like a magic spell uttered in the mouth of a believer, the believer is saved! Moreover, the utterance of the magic spell gives birth to the idea of the ‘evangelical paradigm’ introduced by the NT writers. The evangelical paradigm which somewhat restricts people who are to be ‘saved’ (another unfortunate term at odds with the Hebrew bible[1]) to a new belief in a ‘mystery’ which only came to light two thousand years ago.

In contrast according to the evangelical paradigm, Jesus’ coming caused myriads of formerly ‘saved’ Jews and gentile God-fearers to slip into perdition or least into an eternal jeopardy because the basis of salvation had changed and narrowed with Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, or ascension. The year before Jesus died and rose, faithful Jews and God-fearers needed only seek to live faithful to God, trusting in His faithfulness to Israel and in the provisions he had made through the Torah. Under such an arrangement, certainly there must have been tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of Jews whose status with God was assured, in this life and the next. But according to the New Testament, with the coming of Jesus, all that changed! Now, according to the prevailing paradigm, all of these Jews AND non-Jews were fundamentally lost, unless and until they accepted Jesus as their personal Savior. The evangelical paradigm still to this day requires Jews AND non-Jews to accept Jesus as their personal Savior or they are doomed. The evangelical paradigm means that human substitutionary atonement (before atonement using just animals is one part of the religion of Israel), now becomes a sole basis for a whole new religion/ faith for the new “Spiritual Israel” where blood is key!

Getting back to the problem with the word ‘law’ reminding you of the police, or some “stern” authority character sitting there telling you what to do and ready to punish you for your mistakes…… Law is a very bad translation of the word Torah which means to instruct. Specifically the word “Mitzva” often translated as ‘commandment’ (613 of them) actually means and conveys the idea that G-d gave us 613 ways to come close to Him. The ways are divided into two parts, 248 ways of reaching G-d by doing certain things, and 365 ways of reaching Him by not doing certain things. A further refinement of the idea is that in the Torah itself, aside from teaching us the actual mitzvot, we are also taught how to keep these mitzvot in a way that brings us closer to the purpose of the Torah. To understand the difference, we can use a car as a mashal/ parable.  It is one thing to know about all the parts of the car and what they do- but it is another to actually know how to drive the car to get to your destination. However, whilst doing normal everyday driving if there is a red light and I stop as I should, according to the law, nothing happens, right, no reward? However, if G-d’s red light flashed and I stop when I have a chance to do wrong, then something happens inside me, I have made a moral decision. The difference between man made laws and G-d’s laws is that something happened to me by me doing the right thing, in effect the Torah and its laws and my performance of them has converted me:

The law (Torah) of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7

A person, according to the teachings of the Jewish Scriptures takes an active role in his spiritual progression. In contradistinction a person according to new testament teachings takes on a passive role, since Jesus has done it all to one hundred percent satisfaction of god. One merely has to utter the magic spell a la Romans 10 and your saved! Why god would want to then continue roasting folks on  the eternal BBQ forever is also a mystery. Moreover, another mystery is how Jesus’ sacrifice was in actual fact a sacrifice, since by contrast a real sacrifice is used up/ gone forever, yet the teaching of the NT says Jesus lived again, how can this be considered a sacrifice?

In a strange paradox there are parts of New Testament which appear to have missed the efforts of the redactors of the New Testament. The strange paradox seems to re-affirm what might be labeled classical Abrahamic faith:

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” Luke 10

Perhaps the thoughtful Christian or messianic may possibly wish to consider how quickly their respective organizations have rejected the definitive content of these New Testament declarations? Perhaps thoughtful Christian or messianic may consider the disharmony between the statements attributed to Jesus above and his idolatrous claim of being “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”? Perhaps thoughtful Christians or messianics may possibly consider the Jesus who was stripped and still is stripped of his most basic identity as a Jew who affirmed the oneness of G-d and who upheld the commandments of the Torah as the way to eternal life?

_________

  1. A look up of the word משיע (savior) in the Jewish scriptures shows up over 250 times and consistently carries the idea of being saved from ones enemies and NOT to be saved from sin!

THE GENTILES WHO ACT LIKE JEWS

Why Do These Non Jews Keep Orthodox Jewish Laws  – Tablet Magazine.png

Who are these non-Jews practicing Orthodox Judaism?

By Ilana E. Strauss
January 26, 2016

A man with a brambly salt-and-pepper beard, a kippah on his head, and circular glasses balanced on his nose stood behind a podium, lecturing on the parasha, the weekly Torah reading, in a southern twang. He was not a rabbi. He wasn’t even Jewish.

In front of him, an audience of about 20 sat in rows, listening attentively. Some wore head wraps and dresses suitable for a wedding, and others looked like they came in off the street. One man boasted neck tattoos and a gauge earring.

I was the only Jew in the room, but everyone else was here to study Torah. I was here to study them.

They call themselves Righteous Noahides: non-Jews who believe in Orthodox Judaism. According to Jewish theology, there are laws that Jews must obey, the 613 mitzvot, but then there are seven laws for children of Noah—everyone else in the world. They are: Do not deny God; do not blaspheme; do not murder; do not engage in incest, adultery, pederasty, or bestiality; do not steal; do not eat of a live animal; and establish courts.

The Noahide laws, which are derived from passages in the Torah, were enumerated in the Talmud. In the Middle Ages, Maimonides urged their observance on non-Jews, writing, “Anyone who accepts upon himself and carefully observes the Seven Commandments is of the Righteous of the Nations of the World and has a portion in the World to Come.” But the idea never really caught on among non-Jews.

But about 40 years ago, Chabad grand Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson launched a global “Noahide Campaign,” writing and speaking about the need for Righteous Noahide communities, believing Noahide laws would bring about peace and understanding and would hasten the coming of the Messiah. Some non-Jews listened. For example, in 1987, President Reagan signed a proclamation glorifying “the historical tradition of ethical values and principles, which have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws, transmitted through God to Moses on Mount Sinai.”

Image result for Rod Bryant and Ira Michaelson

Rod Bryant (left) & Ira Michaelson

Noahidism now encompasses communities around the world, especially in Great Britain, the Philippines, Latin America, Nigeria, Russia, and the United States. According to Rabbi Michael Schulman, who runs Noahide website AskNoah.org, the Philippines may have the most developed community, with well over 1,000 adults and their children living in a collection of agricultural towns. They run Hebrew schools, community meetings, and even a national summit.

The group I visited, called Netiv, is a bustling 40-person community located in Humble, Texas—in the United States, Texas is the center of Noahide life. Some members travel over two hours each way, two or three times a week, for classes. They obey the Noahide laws, but they also take the concept further, endeavoring to obey other mitzvot and learn more from Judaism.

Adults set out a potluck in the kitchen while children ran around. The man with neck tattoos showed everyone the Kabbalistic painting he made and auctioned it to the crowd.

But the main event was Rod Bryant’s lecture on the parasha, in which Moshe—Bryant used Moses’ Hebrew name—strikes down an Egyptian for beating a Jew. It’s a familiar story, but Bryant put a Noahide spin on it. He emphasized how Moshe stood up for what he knew was right, despite the masses around him just following the status quo.

Like Moshe, Bryant said, Noahides struggle to stand up for their beliefs, despite being surrounded by Christian families and friends. Unlike those around them, Noahides do not identify as Christian. Their feelings on Christianity and Jesus range from respect of the “all religions have something to offer” variety to palpable disdain. They’ve given up what they consider idol worship to follow Jewish theology.

Bryant didn’t always teach Torah; he was a Pentecostal chaplain in the Army during the first Gulf War. He started a small study group in his house that got so large that it moved to a church. Around that time, Bryant began finding inconsistencies in Christian scripture, so he started digging into historical records.

“It was like archeology,” Bryant recalled.

The larger his group grew, the more uncomfortable he felt: He was responsible for the spiritual lives of all these people, and here he was teaching things he didn’t believe. When people asked him to lecture on passages about Jesus, he started making excuses.

“He was like, ‘It’s too long,’ ” remembered one former Christian group member. “I was like, ‘I’ll bring food.’ ”

He started teaching Torah from a Jewish perspective to a small group. Arilio Navarro, who had been having similar doubts about Christianity, came in to learn at one point. Navarro pulled Bryant aside and told him quietly, “I don’t think Jesus is God.” He was pretty sure he’d be thrown out.

To his surprise, Bryant replied, “Oh, you don’t? Me neither.”

It eventually became obvious that Bryant couldn’t be part of the church anymore, and he left, or was kicked out, depending on whom you ask. Probably a bit of both. Either way, he found himself without a job.

“OK, Hashem, funny sense of humor,” he remembered thinking. “Now I really have to trust you.”

He started communicating with rabbis who had been inspired by Rabbi Schneerson’s teachings about Noahides, and he learned about Righteous Gentiles and the seven laws of Noah. Eventually, in 2010, he founded Netiv, which has been growing ever since.

***

Like Bryant, others who have discovered Noahidism, while not identifying as Jews, seem to love Judaism: the emphasis on asking questions rather than just taking a priest’s word for things, the traditions, the intellectual rigor, the in-depth instructions it provides for maintaining family relations. But above all, they say Judaism gives them a newfound sense of peace.

“It gives me a new way to breathe before God,” said Irene Griffin, a Netiv regular.

The typical story goes like this: A person starts out Christian. (I’ve yet to meet someone who came to Noahidism from anything else. Bryant said one Muslim girl used to stop by, but her family found out and put a stop to it.) These seekers then find inconsistencies between the scripture and the priest’s or minister’s teachings. They start asking questions their religious leaders can’t answer to their satisfaction, questions like: “Why don’t we keep the Sabbath?” “Why do babies need to be baptized?” “If the Bible says God is one, why do we have a Trinity?”

And so on.

Thus begins a journey into different kinds of Christianity. Some searchers become Seventh Day Adventists, who obey Old Testament commandments. Many, interestingly enough, join Messianic Judaism, which becomes a stepping-stone toward more traditional Judaism—apparently, Jews for Jesus can occasionally bring Christians to Judaism rather than the other way around.

At some point, many give up Christianity altogether, which puts them in a boat that seems to be taking on water.

“We’re not Christian. So, what are we?” Dianna Navarro, Arilio’s wife, remembered thinking. She recalled when she discovered that God was one in Genesis while in her old Christian church, while she was starting to doubt the Trinity. She jumped up, excited, crying, “God is one!” The lady next to her muttered, “I know.”

Tina Sachs was already part of Bryant’s group while she was questioning, resulting in a fairly smooth transition from Christianity to Noahidism. But for others, like the Navarros, there was no easy way to land safely: They gave up Christianity and found themselves like Looney Tunes characters who had walked off a cliff with nowhere to stand.

***

Though he and his wife Jackie are currently Noahides, Richard Waer didn’t used to be religious at all.

“He wouldn’t let me baptize my babies!” pouted Jackie Waer, who had been raising their children Catholic up until a few years ago. It must have been a big source of marital stress at the time; I marveled at how irrelevant it is now.

Richard’s friend Arilio Navarro brought him to a Netiv class, and Richard was hooked. “I felt like I’d been taken out of the Matrix,” he said. “And I felt a little lost.”

Jackie came on board immediately. Something about Judaism attracted her. But even more important was seeing how much her husband began to change. He’d struggled with alcoholism before, but Noahide theology set him free—paradoxically, by calling him to account. “Seeing alcoholism not as the devil, and not as me, but as something in me was what did it,” Richard said. Judaism didn’t demonize alcohol but set forth a way of thinking about the yetzer hara—evil inclination—that made sense to him.

“God speaks to people how they listen,” he said. “I just had to get out of my own way.”

Jackie covers her hair with colorful wraps that she finds on Wrapunzel.com, an online community of Orthodox Jews. A foodie at heart, she zealously tries to make her Netive Mexican cooking kosher, although cholent remains a challenge.

“A lot of us are just fumbling in the dark,” she said.

People around the Waers didn’t really know what was going on when they became Noahides, and many confuse them for Muslim. Even the Waers’ three daughters were perplexed by the sudden “Guess what, kids! We’re not Catholic anymore!” nature of their family’s change, but they noticed that their parents seemed happier.

Ryan Smith’s journey to Noahidism was considerably different. While incarcerated in 2009, he dreamed he was watching the news, and the weatherman said there would be a solar flare causing temperatures to hit about 800 degrees.

In the dream, Smith waited for everything to start burning. Then he saw some sort of figure coming out of the sky, saying, “Don’t be afraid, I’ve come to take my people home.” Smith started crying in his sleep and woke up.

Despite growing up Catholic, Smith had never seriously read a Bible before, but the moment after waking up from an apocalyptic dream seemed like a good time to start. He went on to research religion obsessively and even taught himself to read Hebrew, he said, so he could read the Torah. He contacted Schulman, the rabbi who runs AskNoah.org, from whom he learned about Noahidism, and began teaching Noahidism to other inmates, turning it into a small prison religion.

For Smith, who has since been released and is now volunteering with Schulman, Noahidism changed everything; he wouldn’t take back being incarcerated.

“It was the highlight of my existence,” he said. “I’m glad I went there.”

Just as paths to Noahidism are different, so are individual practices. Tina Sachs is a Noahide, and her husband is a secular Jew. For her, Noahidism mainly means attending classes at Netiv and lighting candles on Shabbat. On the other hand, others at Netiv are “Noahide Hasidim,” as Bryant, the Netiv leader, jokingly calls them.

The Navarros for instance, keep kosher and observe Shabbat, and Arilio studies with a rabbi online. When we met, Dianna was wearing a necklace with a Kabbalah tree of life symbol on it and a red string around her wrist.

“It reminds me never to speak badly of anyone,” she said.

Noahides elicit mixed responses from religious Jews. When I first began researching Noahidism, one rabbi emailed me, telling me to avoid a particular Noahide leader, saying the leader was “throwing teachings like pasta at the wall to see what sticks.”

Some rabbis emphasize that Noahides should not perform any mitzvot designated specifically for Jews; they point to interpretations of Genesis 8:22 that argue it is forbidden for non-Jews to keep Shabbat. According to Maimonides:

The general principle governing these matters is: [Non-Jews] are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create mitzvot for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the mitzvot, or retain their statutes [in the Noahide Code] without adding or detracting from them.

Arilio Navarro understands these concerns, but he doesn’t abide by them.

“There are a lot of blessings that come with Shabbat, and I don’t want to leave them on the table,” he said. “I spent most of my life doing that; I don’t want to do that anymore. I have a Jewish soul.”

All the rabbis and Noahides I talked to agreed that Noahides don’t have an obligation to keep more than the seven laws. But the sort of people who go on a spiritual quest that leads them out of Christianity aren’t the sort who are typically satisfied with that. They want to do more.

“We left Egypt and can feel the warmth of Judaism,” said Bryant. “We don’t want to just keep wandering through the desert.”

The Navarros, like several others at Netiv, want to convert to Judaism. What holds them back is not conviction, but logistics: It’s hard to maintain an Orthodox lifestyle alone. There are no shuls within walking distance, and the closest Orthodox Jews live in downtown Houston. Moving would be expensive; houses cost twice as much in the city. That’s why many at Netiv want to start an Orthodox Jewish community of their own, one intimately connected with Noahides.

But most Noahides don’t express a need to convert. They like the flexibility of not being obligated to take on the laws.

***

When Gallup took a poll of 3,789 Texans in 2004, only 0.7 percent identified as Jewish. So, why has Noahidism taken root here, albeit on a small scale? I heard a variety of theories, involving, variously: Texan independence, superior leadership, or a surplus of shekhina—divine feminine presence—in the Lone Star State.

Considering the large number of Noahides in Latin America and Africa, Schulman theorized that countries that had had Christianity forced upon them might be pulling off the yoke of their oppressors. And it’s true that Noahidism seems to spring up mostly in Christian countries. But imperialism is pretty much everywhere—what place hasn’t been taken over by Christianity or Islam or nationalism or something else?

The best explanation for Noahidism’s spread lies not in space, but in time. A few decades ago, Noahides were usually lone individuals, or perhaps groups of four or five, who had come to the Noahide commandments on their own.

“No one knew each other existed,” explained Bryant.

But thanks to the Internet, Noahides realized they weren’t alone. Religious seekers were suddenly able to get their hands on all kinds of information on Judaism (many talk about Aish.com and Chabad.org like family friends), and Noahide-specific websites appeared. The true headquarters of Noahidism isn’t in Texas or the Philippines; it’s in the web servers. Bryant regularly gets emails saying, “I’m so happy I found your video. I thought I was the only person in the world who lived this way.”

Because Noahides are so spread out, dating can be a problem; it’s not that easy to find non-Jews who practice Judaism. So, Noahides having started dating sites, such as Soulmate Connections. Cherrie Lacrosse, another Texan, met her husband through one such site.

“It was like we’d known each other forever,” she remembered.

***

Of course, many are already married before becoming Noahides, such as Peter and Val Loth, a couple that frequents Netiv.

They both grew up Christian, but as an adult Peter found out he was actually a Jewish Holocaust survivor who’d been adopted by a Polish family as a baby. Already married, Peter and Val started looking into Judaism, and they discovered that many did not consider their marriage valid. All of a sudden, religious Jews were telling them that they might need to get divorced. “It was scary,” said Val. Peter met Bryant at a church speaking engagement, and the Loths joined his study group, which eventually became Netiv.

They decided to remain married—“God brought us together for this purpose,” said Val—but life got complicated in other ways. Peter had from time to time spoken on forgiveness to church groups, but once he announced that he was religiously Jewish, speaking engagements dried up. Upon finding out he was Jewish before one speech, a pastor dropped Peter off at a McDonald’s, leaving him to find his own way back to his hotel.

Peter and Val aren’t alone in experiencing these problems; Netiv is a kind of support group for Noahides. “We stick together because we have to,” said Jackie Waer. Extended families rarely understand what’s going on, and that’s created rifts. Val Loth simply hasn’t told her elderly Christian mother, knowing it would break her heart. “Honoring her is leaving her in her little Catholic world,” she said.

Most people simply don’t know Noahides exist. Bryant remembers one time a Noahide group from Waco, Texas, took a trip to Israel for Sukkot and, for some reason, decided it would be a great idea to show up on the Temple Mount. A Muslim man approached them.

“Are you Jewish?” he asked.

“No,” replied one of the Noahides, who looked like a Hasid. “I’m a Noahide.”

“Are you an American?”

“No, I’m a Texan.”

“… OK, then.”

And when Noahides show up at Chabad houses or synagogues, saying they want to learn Torah, they’re frequently turned away at the door.

“What about being a light to the nations?” asked Bryant, the Netiv leader. “Where else are they going to learn Torah? At church?”

One thing about Noahides: They really, really want to be accepted by Jews.

“We all came from Adam and Chava,” Smith pointed out. “We’re all related, just with very big branches.”


The Insidious Agenda

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since I first posted about the beginnings of an insidious agenda and its instigator Omri Jaakobovich. The name of such an insidious agenda is called by the acronym HIT: Hosting Israeli Travelers which has now gone international as in HIT International! The idea behind HIT is outlined below which like any insidious agenda starts out by operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect as the following blurb from Omri’s own mouth explains in a recent article:

It runs like a travel club, with a $30 annual membership fee that pays for the website, as well as providing discounts on bungy jumping and other popular activities.
“The first thing is to create the situation where they want to come,” he says.
“If it’s a missionary network, 50 per cent of them won’t come, so you can’t witness to people if they don’t come.
“So we created a network that creates the atmosphere for Israelis to want to come to your home and once they are in your home you can witness to them.”

Now that HIT has gone international we have a cash strapped (?) Omri jetting off, setting up HIT inShowing the love of Jesus to God s Chosen People pic various parts of the world and various return journeys back to his new homeland New Zealand and his Old homeland Israel. The parallels between his belief in the ‘New’ Testament and the ‘Old’ Testament are staggering are they not? No doubt Omri’s best friends Daniel Secomb, Corry Bell and Jacob Damkani are just as cash strapped as Omri! Below is the article from way back when:

I had a strange encounter recently with a missionary at the Kotel. The missionary was originally born and brought up in Israel on a secular Kibbutz. Like most secular Israelis after army service he went on a spiritual journey to find himself. The crowning glory of finding himself was tied to his travels in a country which he now has gained citizenship of. There in the country, whilst travelling he was influenced and converted to Christianity by some locals offering ‘free’ accommodation. Now post conversion he has hit on an idea of providing a ‘free’ service to Israeli travelers to the country in Hebrew/ English which gives lots of useful information and discounts to the ‘secular’ Israeli traveller. Included in the information is the similar ‘free’ accommodation and other attractive services provided by Christians, who else of course?

By his own admission he grew up to hate and failed to see the relevance of Judaism. What can you expect from a secular Kibbutz? So irrelevant was Judaism to him that he did not undergo a bar mitzvah since he decided to do such a thing would be hypocritical! Well you have to at least admire his honesty!

So now we are at the Kotel, we go through all the usual proof texts. Nothing doing here I am afraid. The same route of him jumping to another text when things do not work out with his arguments. It’s nearly the end of our time together and where have we got to? In conversation I realise that he cannot be convinced about the verses or that in reality he does really not have a clue about Jews or Judaism in particular. No wonder he was a prime candidate for conversion to Christianity and now he is the poster boy for the international messianic/ church circuit with their fool-proof idea of “if a Jew believes it, it must be true agenda!” Strange how this fool-proof idea does not extend to those secular Jews who in search of spirituality in their travels in different parts of the world become Buddhists or Hindus!? I pointed this out to him too by the way but I was treated to the standard response of “just look at how believing in Jesus changed my life” etc.. Strange how converted Jews to Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism etc have in common in their personal testimonials, how their religious faith has transformed their lives miraculously. It seems as if they all somehow belong to the same religion, their testimonials all pulsate with the experience of an encounter with the divine!

The simple fact is of course is that God permits man to become enraptured with false religions for the same reason He permits a married man to be attracted to women other than his wife. Freewill is within the grasp of everyone! Virtue is only possible when sin is alluring. If alien religions were unappealing, there would be no merit for rejecting their blandishments. If this tender balance of freewill were ever injured or compromised, virtue would be impossible.

The blindness of my missionary friend in the context of the Kotel was astounding. He said that Judaism did not work and nobody does the commandments. Yet here at the Kotel were Jews doing just what he said Jews were not doing. For him like it or not as a Jew he is bound to the words of the Torah!

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. If, though, your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. (Deuteronomy 30:15-19)

In stark contrast the Christian philosophy of those who aided him in his conversion to Christianity resonates forth the idea that the jews a carnal people were destined to misapprehend the Bible:

It is a wonderful thing, and worthy of particular attention, to see this Jewish people existing so many years in perpetual misery, it being necessary as a proof of Jesus Christ, both that they should exist to prove Him, and that they should be miserable because they crucified Him; and though to be miserable and to exist are contradictory, they nevertheless still exist in spite of their misery. Page 180, Pascal’s Pensées, by Blaise Pascal.

To show that the true Jews and the true Christians have but the same religion.—The religion of the Jews seemed to consist essentially in the fatherhood of Abraham, in circumcision, in sacrifices, in ceremonies, in the Ark, in the temple, in Jerusalem, and, finally, in the law, and in the covenant with Moses. I say that it consisted in none of those things, but only in the love of God, and that God disregarded all the other things.  Page 167, Pascal’s Pensées, by Blaise Pascal.

According to Pascal, the New has absorbed the Old; the Church has absorbed Israel. The Jewish people are stripped of their essence, if not their very existence and their suffering proves the Christians right! Here at the Kotel of all places my missionary friend echoed the same sentiments: nobody ever kept anything or keeps anything even now and Judaism is a failure. There at the Kotel in front of his eyes were Jews keeping the very same mitzvots as commanded by Moses just like Jews did way before Jesus and now way after Jesus. What are these Jews doing now here I asked him. Is this not proof in front of your very eyes that Jews are doing exactly what G-d has asked them to do? I asked him again. ….silence from my missionary friend……And the Kotel wall said …………Amen!!

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah:  “This is what the Lord says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne. I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars in the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.’

”The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Have you not noticed that these people are saying, ‘The Lord has rejected the two kingdoms he chose’? So they despise my people and no longer regard them as a nation. This is what the Lord says: ‘If I have not made my covenant with day and night and established the laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and have compassion on them.’ ” Jer 33

“1 And it shall be that all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse that I have set down before you, and you will bring it to your heart amongst all the nations that the Lord your God has driven you. 2 And you shall return unto the Lord your God and you shall hearken to His voice according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul. 3 And the Lord your God will return your captivity and He will have compassion upon you, and he will return and gather you from all the nations that the Lord your God has scattered you there. 4 If your outcasts be at the ends of the heaven, from there will the Lord your God gather you and from there will He fetch you. 5 And the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your ancestors inherited and you shall inherit it, and He will do you good and He will multiply you more than your ancestors. 6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your children to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul for the sake of your life. 7 And the Lord your God shall place all these curses upon your enemies and upon those that hate you who have persecuted you. 8 And you will return and hearken to the voice of the Lord and you shall do all His commandments that I command you today. 9 And the Lord your God will make you plenteous in all the work of your hands, in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your cattle, and in the fruit of your land, for good, for the Lord will turn to rejoice over you for good just as he rejoiced over your ancestors. 10 When you hearken to the voice of the Lord your God to keep His commandments and statutes which are written in this book of teaching, when you return to the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 30:1-10).

As far as Jeremiah is concerned G-d will restore the Jews fortunes and have compassion on them. The point being that as far as anyone can see even today, day and night are still the same as they have always been. How much more so that G-d’s covenant with his people is not broken either!!

rejIn Deuteronomy 30:1-10, God sets down before His people a passage which gives a clear portrait of the Messianic era. The clear portrait is not one that is ambiguous and murky. Rather, God used sharp and well-defined brush strokes to paint this portrait. From the passage, the return of Israel to her land will be precipitated by her repentance. The passage teaches that repentance means turning back to obedience of God’s law as Moses taught it (i.e. all 613 commandments). The passage also teaches that repentance is effective even when Israel is in exile and when it is not possible to bring a blood offering. Further, the passage shows that God will accept exiled Israel’s repentance even before He circumcises their heart. Finally, from the passage it is learned that the commandments that Moses taught us, will be fully observed in the Messianic era. Theologians presentations of the Jewish arguments are often inaccurate at best. In stark contradistinction, Christianity teaches that Israel’s return to the teachings of Moses, will play no part in the ushering in of the Messianic era (cf Mal 4:4 – 6). Christianity teaches that repentance without a blood offering is not accepted by God. Also, the Church teaches that with the advent of Christianity, the law of Jesus has superseded the Law of Moses. How do theologians answer the Scriptural challenges from the passage, to the doctrines of Christianity?

Theologians claim that after the advent of Jesus, the central issue is; believing in Jesus, obeying Jesus, following Jesus and honoring Jesus. Speaking of the ‘inferiority’ of Israel’s high-priests when compared to the High priesthood of Jesus, Hebrews states, “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless…”

Omri and I at the Kotel after our meeting.

Theologians often say that there is a divergence of views amongst followers of Jesus. Some Theologians understand that obedience to Torah which the passage speaks of, is a reference to obedience and faith in Jesus. Other theologians say that other followers of Jesus believe that the passage, a Scriptural prophecy, will never be fulfilled because of Israel’s failures. Both of these positions are openly refuted by the text. Moses told the people that they will return to obey God, “according to all that I (Moses) command you (Eternal Israel) today”. These words were spoken by Moses more than 1000 years before Jesus was born. Moses made it clear that he expected the last generation of Jews to look back to him (Moses) as their ultimate teacher, and that he expected them to follow his commandments as they were understood on the day he presented them to Israel. These words of Moses clearly preclude the Christian belief that Jesus is the ultimate teacher, and that the teachings of Jesus are somehow superior to the teachings of Moses. The second position that Theologians attributes to followers of Jesus, is also invalidated by the passage itself. The passage opens with words: “And it shall be that all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse…” The curse that Moses is referring to is the curse that God warned would befall Israel should they fail to obey His voice. How then can one make the claim that on account of Israel’s failure to obey God, the Scriptural prophecy will never be fulfilled?

The Scriptural prophecy clearly predicts Israel’s failure to obey and tells how, after Israel’s failure, Israel will ultimately return to God. It is clear that God took Israel’s failures into consideration when He encouraged Israel with these words, and God’s promises are irrevocable. The two Christian explanations that theologians offer readers of the passage are therefore, clearly refuted by the words of the passage itself. Theologians, therefore do not even begin to provide a textual justification for the Christian interpretation of Deuteronomy 30. The real question is: What do the Hebrew Scriptures teach? This passage in Deuteronomy clearly teaches that Israel’s repentance is the precursor of the Messianic age, this passage teaches that repentance is efficacious while Israel is still in exile, and this passage clearly teaches that the Law of Moses, as Moses taught it, is going to be observed in the Messianic era. Each of these issues is central to the debate between Judaism and Christianity.

Does Judaism Believe in Human Sacrifice?

“Take your son, your only son, the one you love—Isaac—and go to the land of Moriah. Offer him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Thus begins one of the most famous episodes in the Torah, but also one of the most morally problematic.

The conventional reading of this passage is that Abraham was being asked to show that his love for G‑dwas supreme. He would show this by being willing to sacrifice the son for whom he had spent a lifetime waiting.

Why did G‑d need to “test” Abraham, given that He knows the human heart better than we know it ourselves? Maimonides answers that G‑d did not need Abraham to prove his love for Him. Rather the test was meant to establish for all time how far the fear and love of G‑d must go.1

On Why did G‑d need to “test” Abraham this principle there was little argument. The story is about the awe and love of G‑d. Kierkegaard wrote a book about it, Fear and Trembling,2 and made the point that ethics is universal. It consists of general rules. But the love of G‑d is particular. It is an I-Thou personal relationship. What Abraham underwent during the trial was, says Kierkegaard, a “teleological suspension of the ethical,” that is, a willingness to let the I-Thou love of G‑d overrule the universal principles that bind humans to one another.

Rav Soloveitchik explained the episode in terms of his own well-known characterization of the religious life as a dialectic between victory and defeat, majesty and humility, man-the-creative-master and man-the-obedient-servant.3 There are times when “G‑d tells man to withdraw from whatever man desires the most.” We must experience defeat as well as victory. Thus the binding of Isaac was not a once-only episode but rather a paradigm for the religious life as a whole. Wherever we have passionate desire – eating, drinking, physical relationship – there the Torah places limits on the satisfaction of desire. Precisely because we pride ourselves on the power of reason, the Torah includes chukkim, statutes, that are impenetrable to reason.

These are the conventional readings and they represent the mainstream of tradition. However, since there are “seventy faces to the Torah,” I want to argue for a different interpretation. The reason I do so is that one test of the validity of an interpretation is whether it coheres with the rest of the Torah,Tanakh and Judaism as a whole. There are four problems with the conventional reading:

  1. We know from Tanakh and independent evidence that the willingness to offer up your child as a sacrifice was not rare in the ancient world. It was commonplace. Tanakh mentions that Mesha king of Moab did so. So did Jepthah, the least admirable leader in the book of Judges. Two of Tanakh’s most wicked kings, Ahaz and Manasseh, introduced the practice into Judah, for which they were condemned. There is archaeological evidence – the bones of thousands of young children –– that child sacrifice was widespread in Carthage and other Phoenician sites. It was a pagan practice.
  2. Child sacrifice is regarded with horror throughout Tanakh. Micah asks rhetorically, “Shall I give my firstborn for my sin, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” and replies, “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your G‑d.” How could Abraham serve as a role model if what he was prepared to do is what his descendants were commanded not to do?
  3. Specifically, Abraham was chosen to be a role model as a father. G‑d says of him, “For I have chosen him so that he will instruct his childrenand his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.” How could he serve as a model father if he was willing to sacrifice his child? To the contrary, he should have said to G‑d: “If you want me to prove to You how much I love You, then take me as a sacrifice, not my child.”
  4. As Jews – indeed as humans – we must reject Kierkegaard’s principle of the “teleological suspension of the ethical.” This is an idea that givescarte blanche to a religious fanatic to commit crimes in the name of G‑d. It is the logic of the Inquisition and the suicide bomber. It is not the logic of Judaism rightly understood.4 G‑d does not ask us to be unethical. We may not always understand ethics from G‑d’s perspective but we believe that “He is the Rock, His works are perfect; all His ways are just” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

To understand the binding of Isaac we have to realize that much of the Torah,Genesis in particular, is a polemic against worldviews the Torah considers pagan, inhuman and wrong. One institution to which Genesis is opposed is the ancient family as described by Fustel de Coulanges in The Ancient City(1864)5 and recently restated by Larry Siedentop in Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism.6

BeforeHe had power of life and death over his wife and children the emergence of the first cities and civilizations, the fundamental social and religious unit was the family. As Coulanges puts it, in ancient times there was an intrinsic connection between three things: the domestic religion, the family and the right of property. Each family had its own gods, among them the spirits of dead ancestors, from whom it sought protection and to whom it offered sacrifices. The authority of the head of the family, the paterfamilias, was absolute. He had power of life and death over his wife and children. Authority invariably passed, on the death of the father, to his firstborn son. Meanwhile, as long as the father lived, children had the status of property rather than persons in their own right. This idea persisted even beyond the biblical era in the Roman law principle of patria potestas.

The Torah is opposed to every element of this worldview. As anthropologist Mary Douglas notes, one of the most striking features of the Torah is that it includes no sacrifices to dead ancestors.7 Seeking the spirits of the dead is explicitly forbidden.

Equally noteworthy is the fact that in the early narratives succession does notpass to the firstborn: not to Ishmael but Isaac, not to Esau but Jacob, not to the tribe of Reuben but to Levi (priesthood) and Judah (kingship), not to Aaronbut to Moses.

The principle to which the entire story of Isaac, from birth to binding, is opposed is the idea that a child is the property of the father. First, Isaac’s birth is miraculous. Sarah is already post-menopausal when she conceives. In this respect the Isaac story is parallel to that of the birth of Samuel to Hannah, like Sarah also unable naturally to conceive. That is why, when he is born Hannah says, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” This passage is the key to understanding the message from heaven telling Abraham to stop: “Now I know that you fear G‑d, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son” (the statement appears twice, in Genesis 22:12 and 16). The test was not whether Abraham would sacrifice his son but whether he would give him over to G‑d.

The same principle recurs in the book of Exodus. First, Moses’ survival is semi-miraculous since he was born at a time when Pharaoh had decreed that every male Israelite child should be killed. Secondly, during the tenth plague, when every firstborn Egyptian child died, the Israelite firstborn were miraculously saved. “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to Me, whether human or animal.” The firstborn were originally designated to serve G‑d as priests, but lost this role after the sin of the golden calf. Nonetheless, a memory of this original role still persists in the ceremony of pidyon ha-ben, redemption of a firstborn son.

What G‑d was doing when he asked Abraham to offer up his son was not requesting a child sacrifice but something quite different. He wanted Abraham to renounce ownership of his son. He wanted to establish as a non-negotiable principle of Jewish law that children are not the property of their parents.

That is why three of the four matriarchs found themselves unable to conceive other than by a miracle. The Torah wants us to know that the children they bore were the children of G‑d rather than the natural outcome of a biological process. Eventually, the entire nation of Israel would be called the children of G‑d. A related idea is conveyed by the fact that G‑d chose as his spokesperson Moses who was “not a man of words.” He was a stammerer. Moses became G‑d’s spokesman because people knew that the words he spoke were not his own but those placed in his mouth by G‑d.

The clearest evidence for this interpretation is given at the birth of the very first human child. When she first gives birth, Eve says: “With the help of the Lord I have acquired [kaniti] a man.” That child, whose name comes from the verb “to acquire,” was Cain who became the first murderer. If you seek to own your children, your children may rebel into violence.

If the analysis of Fustel de Colanges and Larry Siedentop is correct, it follows that something fundamental was at stake. As long as parents believed they owned their children, the concept of the individual could not yet be born. The fundamental unit was the family. The Torah represents the birth of the individual as the central figure in the moral life. Because children – all children – belong to G‑d, parenthood is not ownership but guardianship. As soon as they reach the age of maturity (traditionally, twelve for girls, thirteen for boys) children become independent moral agents with their own dignity and freedom.8

Sigmund Freud famously had something to say about this too. He held that a fundamental driver of human identity9 is the Oedipus Complex, the conflict between fathers and sons as exemplified in Aeschylus’ tragedy. By creating moral space between fathers and sons, Judaism offers a non-tragic resolution to this tension. If Freud had taken his psychology from the Torah rather than from Greek myth, he might have arrived at a more hopeful view of the human condition.

Slavery had not yet been abolishedWhy then did G‑d say to Abraham about Isaac: “Offer him up as a burnt offering”? So as to make clear to all future generations that the reason Jews condemn child sacrifice is not because they lack the courage to do so. Abraham is the proof that they do not lack the courage. The reason they do not do so is because G‑d is the G‑d of life, not death. In Judaism, as the laws of purity and the rite of the Red Heifer show, death is not sacred. Death defiles.

The Torah is revolutionary not only in relation to society but also in relation to the family. To be sure, the Torah’s revolution was not fully completed in the course of the biblical age. Slavery had not yet been abolished. The rights of women had not yet been fully actualized. But the birth of the individual – the integrity of each of us as a moral agent in our own right – was one of the great moral revolutions in history.

FOOTNOTES
1. Guide for the Perplexed 3: 24.
2. Søren Kierkegaard. Fear and Trembling, and the Sickness Unto Death. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1954.
3. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, “Majesty and Humility,” Tradition 17:2, Spring. 1978, pp. 25–37.
4. This is a large subject in its own right, that I hope to be able to address elsewhere.
5. Fustel De Coulanges, The Ancient City: A Study on the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1956.
6. Larry Siedentop, Inventing the Individual. London: Penguin, 2014.
7. Mary Douglas, Leviticus as Literature. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.
8. It is perhaps no accident that the figure who most famously taught the idea of “the child’s right to respect” was Janusz Korczak, creator of the famous orphanage in Warsaw, who perished together with the orphans in Treblinka. See Tomek Bogacki, The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak (2009).
9. He argued, in Totem and Taboo, that the Oedipus complex was central to religion also.

The New ‘Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity’ – An Analysis

(Sunday, December 20th, 2015 04:45 PM)

[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times]

A new statement has been issued at the beginning of the month and signed by a number of purportedly Orthodox Rabbis. The statement is entitled, “To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven: Toward a Partnership between Jews and Christians.” It was issued by an organization led by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin called, CJCUC.

Rabbi Slomo Riskin

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

Many of the authors and signers on the document are certainly brilliant scholars and thinkers. It is this author’s view, however, that the initiative, unfortunately, contains a number of serious misrepresentations and that the ideas behind the initiative are predicated upon fundamental halachic errors.

The first paragraph states that there is a historic opportunity to work together with Christian brothers and sisters to address the moral challenges of our era. While it is true that in general, Jews should work together with others to address and improve moral challenges, there is a grave distinction between working together with individuals and working together on broad denominational and organizational level. Like it or not, the churches in which Rabbi Riskin is encouraging us to work with together do not share.

What is most disturbing, however is that the document in this initiative seems to purposefully distort the Rabbinic views that it cites. An integral aspect of Judaism is honesty. The Talmud (Shabbos 55a) teaches us that “the signet ring of Hashem is Truth.” Maimonides view of Catholicism and other Trinitarian forms of Christianity is that it constituted Avodah Zarah – even for gentiles. Thus to write that Maimonides acknowledged that “Christianity is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations” when, in reality, he viewed it as a minor step to wean off gentiles from full-fledged polytheism is disingenuous. The language that the Rambam uses is that ultimately they will learn that “sheker nachalu avosaihem.” The same holds true for Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi.

The document further reads, “In separating Judaism and Christianity, G-d willed a separation between partners with significant theological differences..”

judeo-christian

This too is a mischaracterization of both history and Jewish theology. It is an attempt to “paper over” differences. The great theologians of Judaism all held that the idea of the Trinity was not born of Jewish origin- it’s origins were pagan. Thus, to characterize Christianity and Judaism as “partners” is also disingenuous.

The citation of Rabbi Jacob Emden is also truncated. According to Judaism there is no “common covenantal mission to perfect the world” – as the initiative would have. Such language and terminology recasts three thousand years of Jewish tradition in a manner that is quite foreign to Jewish tradition and values.

The truth is that almost all of the denominations of Christianity in which Rabbi Riskin has entered into dialogue with are halachically considered Avodah Zarah.

There are those, of course, who are members of mainstream denominations of Christianity that do not truly share the theology of their denomination. Their conceptualization of the nature of G-d is, what Rav Elchonon Wasserman describes as intuitive. In an unofficial survey, a good percentage of this country falls under this category.

There is also the view found in some Poskim that modern day practitioners of the religion are just following the ways of their parents (Maaseh avosaihem b’yadeihem), and do not truly believe in the theological underpinnings (See Shulchan Aruch, YD 148:12; Bach ibid; Responsa Yehudah Yaaleh YD #170).

Yet to enter into a partnership with the “mother group” is tantamount to partnering with Avodah Zarah.

There are denominations that even today do not subscribe to a Trinitarian doctrine. Some of these denominations could be construed as believers in shittuf, but not true Avodah Zarah. They are (1) Christadelphians, (2)Christian Scientists, (3) Dawn Bible Students, (4) Friends General Conference, (5) Iglesia ni Criso, (6) J’s Witnesses, (7) Living Church of G-d, (8) Oneness Pentecostals, (9) Members Church of G-d International, (10) Unitarian Universalist Christians, (11) The Way International, (12) The Church of G-d International and (13) the United Church of G-d.

kosher pig copy

But even partnering with these groups would be forbidden as well. The Ran’s view (Sanhedrin 61b) is that belief in any religion other than Judaism is also considered Avodah Zarah.

The well known and published views of both Rabbi Riskin’s Rebbe, Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik and that of Rav Moshe Feinstein is that dialogue with Christian groups can and does lead to devastating results.

It is this author’s view that the RCA, the Moetzes Gedolei Torah of Agudath Israel, and NCYI should analyze the subject and issue statements condemning this initiative as an unprecedented and serious breach in hashkafa, mesorah and a grave violation of Torah.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

YWN notes that Chief Rabbi of Efrat Rabbi Shlomo Riskin has previously referred to “J” as a “model Rabbi”, and called him “Rabbi J”.

Some excerpts of the 5 minute video(link here):

Shalom to all. My name is Shlomo Riskin. I am the Chief rabbi of the City of Efrat…..I am an Orthodox Rabbi…and an Orthodox Rabbi who is very profoundly interested in religion in general, in Christianity, and especially in the persona of Jesus in particular….I was truly fascinated by the personality of Jesus, whom to myself I have always referred to as “Rabbi Jesus”….because I think he is indeed a “model Rabbi” in many counts…and he lived the life of a Jewish Rabbi in Israel in a very critical time in our history…..I have constantly come back to the study of his personality and his teachings which are very strongly rooted in Talmudic teachings…..”

 

– See more at: http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/371619/the-new-orthodox-rabbinic-statement-on-christianity—an-analysis.html#sthash.G3xiPDpZ.dpuf

Aint no Business like the Chri$tian / Me$$ianic Bu$ine$$

23 Israeli Charities Receive $3.2 Million from John Hagee Ministries [VIDEO]

“Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.” (Genesis 18:18)

At the recent 34th annual “Night to Honor Israel” event held by John Hagee Ministries, various charity and non-profit organizations from all over Israel were presented with donations which will allow them to continue their work for the Jewish State. Over the years, John Hagee Ministries has given over $95 million in donations towards humanitarian efforts in Israel, cementing the strong bond between Christians and Jews. A the 2013 “Night to Honor Israel” event, John Hagee Ministries presented $2.7 million to 26 charities, and at the event in 2014, the organization gave $2.8 million to 26 charities. This year’s donations represent a 12.5% increase over last year.

Here are some of the organizations honored by John Hagee Ministries and the amounts they received followed by a video from the event.

$400,000 – Nefesh B’Nefesh  

Headed by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart (pictured below), this organizations Jewish residents of the United States and Canada immigrate to Israel.

yehoshua-fass-and-tony-gelbart-cropped- with logo
Rabbi Yehoshua Fass (left) and Tony Gelbart (right).

$250,000 – Shurat HaDin

Shurat HaDin – The Israel Law Center directed by Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner (pictured below) helps victims of terrorism fight in court for legal justice.

Nitsana-Darshan-Leitner-cropped  - with logo
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner (left) and John Hagee (right).

$200,000 – Netanya Academic College

Netanya Academic College senior vice-president Dr. David Altman (pictured below) shakes hands at the “Night to Honor Israel” event in Texas.

 

netanya-academic-college-david-altman - cropped - with logo

Dr. David Altman of Netanya Academic College shakes hands at A Night to Honor Israel.

$200,000 – Galilee Medical Center

The Medical Center Of The Galilee is a hospital located in the coastal city of Nahariya and is the second largest hospital in northern Israel. It was established in 1956.

Galilee Medical Center
Galilee Medical Center

 

$200,000 – Laniado Hospital

Laniado Hospital, also known as the Sanz Medical Center, is a voluntary, not-for-profit hospital in Kiryat Sanz, Netanya, Israel, serving a regional population of over 450,000 in Netanya and the Sharon plain.

Laniado Hospital
Laniado Hospital

$200,000 – Herzl Institute 

The newly established Herzl Institute was founded by Dr. Yoram Hazony,  in Jerusalem. It seeks to contribute to a revitalization of the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the family of nations through a renewed encounter with the foundational ideas of Judaism.

Herzl Institute
Herzl Institute

$150,000 – National Council of Young Israel

Young Israel is a network of affiliated synagogues originally founded in 1912. Representing the group was Rabbi Pesach Lerner (pictured below) who served as executive vice president for over 20 years.

young-israel-rabbi-lerner-cropped with logo
Rabbi Pesach Lerner of the National Council of Young Israel.

$150,000 – Just One Life

Just One Life offers expectant mothers assistance and empowers mothers to continue their pregnancy through social services and financial support.

Just One Life
Just One Life

$150,000 – Ohr Torah Stone

A net of institutions for Jewish education, focusing on social justice and Jewish unity. Founded in 1983 by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.

Ohr Torah Stone
Ohr Torah Stone

$150,000 – Save a Child’s Heart

Save a Child’s Heart improves the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease, and who cannot get adequate medical care in their home countries. It was founded in 1996 and is based at Israel’s Edith Wolfson Medical Center.

Save a Child's Heart
Save a Child’s Heart

$125,000 – Lev Benyamin 

Sondra Baras (pictured below) is the head of of Christian Friends of Israel Communities Heartland (CFOIC), which supports Lev Benyamin (Heart of Benjamin), an organization that helps children with Down Syndrome.

Sondra Baras of CFOIC Heartland, a supporter of the Lev Benyamin (Heart of Benjamin) organization that helps children with Down Syndrome. (Photo: screenshot)
Sondra Baras of the Lev Benyamin (Heart of Benjamin) organization that helps children with Down Syndrome. (Photo: screenshot)

$100,000 – Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum

The Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum headed by Father Gabriel Naddaf (pictured below) assists Israelis of Christian background who choose to join the Israel Defense Forces.

 

Gabriel Naddaf cropped - logo

Father Gabriel Naddaf was born near Nazaerth and is a spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

$100,000 – Koby Mandell Foundation

Rabbi Seth Mandell (pictured below) and his wife founded the Kobi Mandell Foundation in memory of their son., The group runs therapeutic healing programs for those who have lost a loved one to terrorism including overnight camps and retreats.

Rabbi Seth Mandell, head of the Kobi Mandell Foundation shakes hands with Father Gabriel Naddaf of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum. (Photo: Screenshot)
Rabbi Seth Mandell, head of the Kobi Mandell Foundation shakes hands with Father Gabriel Naddaf of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum. (Photo: Screenshot)

$100,000 – American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

The JDC provided rescue and relief assistance for Jewish communities in crisis in more than 70 countries and in Israel. It was founded in 1914 initially to provide assistance to Jews living in the Land of Israel under Ottoman rule.

American-Jewish-Joint-Distribution-Commitee 660x330
American Jewish Joint Distribution Commitee

$100,000 – Magen David Adom

Magen David Adom is Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service. Jonathan Heart to Heart director Jonathan Feldstein, director of Heart to Heart Israel has worked closely with pastor John Hagee to arrange the donation of ambulances.

Jonathan Feldstein stands behind John hagee at the Night to Remember Israel event.
Jonathan Feldstein stands behind John hagee at the Night to Remember Israel event.

 $75,000 – Friends of the Israel Defense Forces

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces was established in 1981 dedicated to assisting active IDF personnel, wounded veterans, and the families of fallen soldiers.

 

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces

$75,000 – WIZO – Women’s International Zionist Organization

The Women’s International Zionist Organization is a volunteer organization dedicated to social welfare in all sectors of Israeli society, the advancement of the status of women, and Jewish education in Israel and the Diaspora.

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Women’s International Zionist Organization

$75,000 – Afikim Family Enrichment Association

Afikim is a network of afternoon centers across Israel for disadvantaged, troubled families.

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Afikim Family Enrichment Association

$75,000 – The Jewish Agency for Israel

The Jewish Agency for Israel is the largest Jewish nonprofit organization in the world. Founded in 1908, it is best known as the primary organization responsible for the immigration (“Aliyah”) and absorption of Jewish people and their families from the Diaspora into Israel.

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Jewish Agency for Israel

$75,000 – The Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio

Since 1975, the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio has raised awareness of the dangers which prejudice, hatred and violence brought about during the Holocaust.

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Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio

$75,000 – Israel Help and Educational Center at Kiryat Gat

The Israel Help and Education Center at Kiryat Gat, helps children and needy people that have little to no other means of support or family care. Kiryat Gat is located in the southern district and was founded in 1955 as a development town by Jewish families who were depopulated from Morocco.

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Israel Help and Educational Center at Kiryat Gat

Read more at http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/52517/23-israeli-charities-receive-3-2-million-from-john-hagee-ministries-video-biblical-zionism/#pHJ0BHz42vHAu6gM.99

What the Vatican Didn’t Say—And What It Did

By on Dec 17, 15 4:30 am in Journal / 3 responses

nostra aetateby Yoram Hazony

On Friday afternoon, I was meeting in my home with an Israeli rabbi who asked me excitedly: “Did you hear that the Church has announced it will no longer seek the conversion of Jews to Christianity?” I had not heard, and when our meeting was over, I flew upstairs to my computer, where I discovered that this headline was indeed everywhere:

  • The New York Times:  “Vatican Says Catholics Should Not Try to Convert Jews.”
  • The Wall St. Journal: “New Vatican Document Says Church Doesn’t Seek Conversion of the Jews.”
  • BBC: “Catholics Should Not Try to Convert Jews, Vatican Says.”
  • Ha’aretz: “Vatican: Catholics Shouldn’t Convert Jews but Must Work With Them to Fight anti-Semitism”

Many other media outlets followed suit, reporting that (as the Wall St. Journal put it) “The Vatican released a document Thursday stating with unprecedented clarity that the Catholic Church doesn’t seek the conversion of the Jews.”

Stunning, I thought. Really incredible. I had been certain that the Church would never be able to change its position on an issue so central to Christian theology. But since all the media were saying the same thing, and I allowed myself to be get caught up in what, for a moment, seemed to me to be a truly extraordinary development in the story of the Western nations. I sent off some excited emails to Jewish and Christian colleagues, and as the sun was going down, printed out the document to read over Shabbat. I told my family that if the newspapers had the story right, I was holding history in my hands.

Unfortunately, the newspapers did not have the story right. As is clear to anyone who actually reads the new Vatican document in question, the words “Catholics should not try to convert Jews” do not appear anywhere. Nor is it possible to find anything remotely resembling this proposition in the 25 pages of the document in question—a declaration authored by the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews entitled “The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable: A Reflection on the Theological Questions Pertaining to Catholic-Jewish Relations.”

How could such an outrageous mistake have been made? A Catholic scholar with many years of experience in these matters wrote back ruefully: “Just the media making things up again.” I’m sure he has ample reason to react in this way. But you have to wonder whether they really could all have made up the same story without having had something to go on. Could it be that something like what we saw in the headlines was in fact expressed at the press conference in which members of the Commission discussed their paper with reporters? Perhaps. Yet even if something like this was intimated by a member of the Commission, why not include such an important position in the written document itself?

It’s worth taking a look at what the Commission’s “Reflection” actually does say. Among other things, it tells us a great deal about why the Vatican is unlikely to call upon Christians to refrain from trying to convert Jews in the foreseeable future.

*    *    *

Like other Vatican statements in recent years, the “Reflection” does demonstrate an intense desire on the part of the Church to rebuild Catholic theology so as to put an end to nearly two millennia of Christian hostility toward Judaism. The document repeatedly and explicitly renounces the mainstream medieval view according to which the Christian “New Covenant” has replaced or superseded the Jewish people’s covenant with the God of Israel.

In this vein, the Commission writes that “the Church does not question the continued love of God for the chosen people of Israel.” (Sect. 17) It emphasizes that “It does not in any way follow [from Christian teaching] that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus.” (Sect. 36) Moreover, the Commission believes that:

[God’s] Word invites all people to respond. If their responses are in accord with the Word of God they stand in right relationship with him. For Jews this Word can be learned through the Torah and the traditions based on it. The Torah is the instruction for a successful life in right relationship with God. Whoever observes the Torah has life in its fullness (cf. Pirqe Avot II, 7). By observing the Torah the Jew receives a share in communion with God. (Sect. 24)

Given the Church’s historical views concerning God’s rejection of the Jewish people and abandonment of the “Old Covenant,” these statements must be read as proposing, or perhaps confirming, very deep changes in official Catholic attitudes toward both Jews and torah.

These are changes that Jews should obviously welcome. And to the extent that it is possible to assist in establishing such an approach to Judaism among Christians, it seems both just and prudent to do what we can—provided, of course, that we can do so without damaging the integrity of halacha and Jewish theological tradition.     

Having said this, it is important to note that the “Reflection” is not an endorsement of the idea that there are two different possible routes to salvation. Jews sometimes talk as if the Church is moving toward a view of this kind, which would recognize the Mosaic torah and covenant as an independent and sufficient way of doing God’s will. In fact, such a theory is explicitly rejected by the Commission as endangering all of Christianity. As the Commission writes:

The theory that there may be two different paths to salvation, the Jewish path without Christ and the path with the Christ… would in fact endanger the foundations of Christian faith. Confessing the universal and therefore also exclusive mediation of salvation through Jesus Christ belongs to the core of Christian faith. (Sec. 35)

Here the authors of the “Reflection” deny any possibility that the Jewish torah could constitute a kind of parallel track, permitting Jews to fulfill our covenant without any reference to Jesus. The mediation of the New Testament’s messiah remains “the universal and therefore also exclusive” way of doing God’s will.

The Commission thus holds what to Jews must appear to be two irreconcilable and contradictory views: On the one hand, that the torahis sufficient for “a successful life in right relationship with God”; on the other, that the Christian teaching is “the universal and therefore also exclusive” way of doing God’s will.

The Commission admits that it has not completed the theological work of reconciling these two views. In fact, the Commission concludes that how these two positions can be reconciled “remains an unfathomable divine mystery.” (Sect. 36)

Interestingly, the Commission does not leave the matter at that. It is interested in trying to find a way out of the dilemma. So at one point, the authors of the “Reflection” write that while “God’s word is one single and undivided reality,” it is possible to see that both “Torah and Christ are the locus of the presence of God in the world as this presence is experienced in the respective worship communities.” In other words, if Jesus and the torah are recognized as two different ways of experiencing the single and undivided reality of God’s presence in the world, then for a Jew to live in accordance with torahcould end up being a way of accepting Jesus. (Sect. 26)

We should not rule out the possibility that the Church could ultimately accept a position of this kind as being right. Christianity has done much to advance important principles of the torah among the nations. And it achieved this stunning success by announcing a series of metaphysical equivalences that have never been able to attract much enthusiasm among Jews: The claim that a single human being is God; the claim that a single human being is God’s word; the claim that Godis love; and others. And now the Commission in effect proposes yet another such equivalence—one in which Jesus and the torah are seen as two different things that are, at the same time, somehow one “single, undivided reality.”

As I say, Jews have never been able to accept these sweeping metaphysical equivalences that are the foundation of Christian doctrine. In our eyes, such claims are a stumbling block to clear thinking about God’s nature, God’s presence in the world, and the demands he makes of human beings. But who knows? There is much evidence to suggest that positions of this kind were needed for the nations to begin their approach to the true God. Perhaps Christian elaboration of additional such doctrines in our own time is also a necessary stage in bringing the world closer to God and torah.

As Jews, our task is not to contribute to the development of Christian theology in this vein. Our responsibility toward the nations who wish to learn the content of God’s torah is to speak only the truth to them, as best we understand it. That is, we must make available a strong and clear understanding of God and of what he wants from the world that is not obscured by what are, according to our understanding, confusing equivalences drawn between things that are not equivalent to one another at all. On this view, the messiah of the Christians is not thetorah, just as the messiah of the Christians is not God.

*    *    *

Which brings us to the question of Christian efforts to convert the Jews. On this matter, the Commission correctly notes that the Christians’ “ ‘mission to the Jews’ is a very delicate and sensitive matter for Jews because, in their eyes, it involves the very existence of the Jewish people.” (Sect. 40)

It is telling that this sentence refers to Christian missionizing as a threat to the existence of the Jewish people “in their eyes” (that is, in the Jews’ eyes). The Church is still not able intuitively to grasp what is obvious to virtually every Jew, which is that a Jewish community that embraces Christianity will immediately disappear as a historical actor in the Jewish story, just as a Jewish community that embraces Islam likewise comes to an immediate historical end. This is an experiment that has been tried time and again over the centuries, from Spain to Turkey, so that we do not need to speculate about the results. And given the unequivocal nature of these results, it should be obvious that anyone who truly understands the nature and position of the Jewish people—and who wishes to see us flourish so that we may play the role God that has commanded us to play on this earth—would quickly give up on the desire to turn the few remaining Jews of the world into Christians.

What does the Commission have to say about this? It says this:

The Church is… obliged to view evangelisation to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views. In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews. While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah. (Sec. 40)

In concrete terms, there are two things said here: First, that the Catholic Church does not have any organs or institutions whose purpose is specifically to bring Jews (as opposed to people generally) to embrace Christianity. Second, that despite the absence of any formal institutional frameworks aimed specifically at converting Jews, “Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews.”

Much expert discussion has been devoted to what “bearing witness” to one’s faith in Jesus entails. But from a Jewish perspective, these discussions are largely academic. In practice, a call to “bear witness” regarding faith in Jesus “also to Jews” does amount to a call to bring Jews to a belief in Jesus where this is possible. Indeed, the Commission itself states a few sentences later that “Christian mission and witness, in personal life and in proclamation, belong together.” (Sect. 42) Thus while the Church will not, out of consideration for the sensitivity of the matter, maintain and operate organs whose declared purpose is to bring Jews to Jesus, the mission to bring Jesus to the Jews will continue in a more “humble and sensitive manner.”

Here, too, the Commission seems to be holding two opposed positions simultaneously. If a Christian really believes that for Jews, “The Torah is the instruction for a successful life in right relationship with God,” (Sect. 24) then “Christian mission and witness” directed “also to the Jews” becomes entirely superfluous. For in this case, what possible reason could be left for insisting that Jews should embrace Jesus? A Jew living according to the torah would be in a right relationship with God, and that should be the Christians’ highest hope for their Jewish friends and acquaintances. Then it would be possible to issue a document stating in plain language, understandable to all, that “Catholics should not try to convert Jews” (as the news media put it).

The fact that the Commission did not include any such plain language in its document strongly suggests that the Church is not yet ready to truly accept the idea that for Jews, torah is the instruction for a life “in right relationship with God.” Moreover, given the Commission’s unequivocal statement that the theory that there are two different paths to salvation, one for Jews and another for Christians, “would endanger the foundations of Christian faith,” we must be prepared for the possibility that the Church will never be ready to take the step of calling on Christians to refrain from mission and witness directed toward Jews.

It is not clear, however, that we should view this as such a terrible thing. Jews have many interests that may be advanced through practical cooperation with Christians, and the number of such common concerns seems only to be growing with time. An alliance on issues of common concern does not, however, require some kind of theological “end-of-conflict” agreement between Jewish and Christian theology as a precondition. On the contrary, there is much to be lost in seeking such an agreement. Having read the Commission’s proposed affirmation of a unity between the Christian messiah and the torah, I cannot escape the feeling that this equivalence is designed to permit some kind of syncretistic resolution of Jewish-Christian disagreements—one in which Christianity recognizes the redemptive potential of thetorah in exchange for one or another kind of Jewish acceptance of Jesus as a path to salvation.

We should be thankful for much that is in the Vatican’s “Reflection,” and for the fact that God has permitted us to see a day in which the Roman Church sincerely wishes to bring the centuries of bitter Christian antagonism toward Jews to a close. At the same time, we must emphasize that from our perspective, a rapprochement of the kind that would involve fitting the Jewish and Christian theological traditions together into a single system, acceptable to both sides, is neither possible nor desirable. There is no such system that would be true to God’s word as Jews understand it. Indeed, if Jewish theological tradition can contribute something important to Christians and to the rest of the world, it is precisely because it is in conflict with the Christian tradition on a series of crucial issues. The fact that, in other spheres, Jews and Christians seem to be entering an era of unprecedented cooperation, does not lessen the importance of maintaining and presenting, in a humble and sensitive manner, the Jewish critique of Christian theological constructs. Indeed, if relations between Jews and Christians continue to improve in the coming years, the importance of this critique will only be all the greater for that.

Yoram Hazony is author of The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. His new book, God and Politics in Esther, will be published next month with Cambridge University Press.