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Interfaith Dialogue Under Fire

 

I. The Traditionalist

I find the recent exchange between R. Hershel Schachter and R. Shlomo Riskin about interfaith dialogue distressing. Both scholars are accomplished in their respective areas yet both present troubling claims, some excessively difficult. Allow me to explain my objections and why I believe that R. Schachter is, overall, correct. (Some may object that I would, of course, side with my teacher but I did not have to comment at all. As you will see, I believe that R. Schachter is supported by the foremost Orthodox expert on interfaith dialogue.)

R. Schachter began this exchange with a critique of unnamed rabbis who support Christian activity in Israel and an unspecified Jewish program that teaches Torah to Christians (link). R. Schachter’s presentation suffers from a lack of nuance reflected in a conflation of Christian factions and an imprecise statement of their theology. This is certainly because, as R. Schachter will freely admit, he is not particularly familiar with Christian theology. He instead relies on R. Soloveitchik’s presentation and haphazard mentions in popular media and Torah periodicals. A more nuanced presentation would acknowledge that there are multiple Christian denominations and, even within those denominations, varying schools of thought. Even Catholicism, despite its distinct hierarchy, allows for debate on many theological issues. (Let me add that I make no claims to expertise on Christian theology but have tried to follow articles on interfaith dialogue in Christian periodicals for a number of years.)

R. Schachter’s arguments can be restated in the five following points:

  1. A large number of Christians, particularly supporters of Israel and including the current Pope, believe in some version of Supersessionist Theology. In their view, Christians have taken over the biblical role of Israel and Jews must accept Jesus to achieve salvation.
  2. Some (not all) adherents to one or another version of this theology actively missionize to Jews, across the world and particularly in Israel. Publicly supporting Christian leaders and movements plays right into the hands of missionaries, who appropriate those statements for their own purposes.
  3. Teaching Torah to Christians is forbidden and teaching them to perform commandments intended for Jews is doubly so. A Christian does not accomplish a mitzvah by performing the act if he intends it as a Christian act.
  4. Even though some authorities believe Christians are permitted to engage in Christianity, they do not allow Jews to become involved in Christianity at all. Furthermore, R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik quoted his grandfather as ruling that even Christians must abandon Christianity.
  5. Additionally, this activity certainly falls under the theological dialogue that R. Soloveitchik forbade in his classic essay, Confrontation.

II. The Innovator

In responding to R. Schachter’s critique, R. Riskin offers a broad defense of his Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Israel which I found disturbing. I share R. Riskin’s sense of comradeship with many Christians, who share so many of our values and display so many virtues. I want to engage in theological dialogue with Christians because I believe the potential intellectual and emotional benefit to be great. However, I recognize R. Soloveitchik’s concerns and, even if I disagreed, would defer to his authority. R. Riskin seems to have an extra portion of the enthusiasm I share, because that is the only way I can explain his surprising responses to R. Schachter’s critique.

R. Riskin published an Op-Ed in The Jewish Week (link) and a long paper on his institute’s website (link).

  1. R. Riskin argues that most Catholics and Protestants reject Supersessionist Theology, as shown in the 1965 Catholic document Nostra Aetate (“The rejection of the idea that our Jewish covenant with God has been cancelled, or superseded – taken over – by the Christians”). As we will discuss, this is incorrect and only half the story. R. Riskin seems to paint here with as broad a brush as R. Schachter.
  2. R. Riskin states, quite accurately but also inadequately, that Christians of all stripes have repeatedly and publicly denounced missionizing to Jews. There are two related issues that we will discuss shortly.
  3. R. Riskin states that even the Rambam, who unquestionably believed that Christianity is considered idolatry, allowed teaching Bible to Christians and even saw ultimate value in Christianity. I believe R. Riskin’s point here is twofold: 1) He can certainly teach Torah to Christians even according to the strict opinion because Rambam allowed it. And 2) even according to the strict opinion, Christianity has divinely intended positive value.

    In his longer essay, R. Riskin more fully defends his teaching Torah to Christians. He points out that Rambam explicitly permits teaching Bible and Noahide commandments to Christians as well as bringing them to love God. R. Riskin puzzlingly finds in this permission to teach Christians not just Bible and the Noahide commandments but also “the basic lessons of our Written and Oral Torah.”

  4. R. Riskin then takes his argument to a dangerous level. He argues that, according to R. Schachter, we would be obligated to destroy all churches in Israel. This highly charged accusation is incorrect, unfair and can ironically be turned back at R. Riskin, as we will see shortly.
  5. And finally, R. Riskin interprets R. Soloveitchik’s essay, based on Dr. Eugene Korn’s approach, to allow for theological dialogue as long as there are no concerns of missionizing, no debate and no theological compromises.

III. Mediating the Views

As should already be clear, I believe that R. Schachter is essentially correct in this debate. Let me address the five issues listed above.

  1. We speak a different religious language than Christians. Broadly speaking, if you ask a Christian whether he wants to convert Jews, he may very well say no because he is not interested in conversion. He may think that Jews should stay Jews and not abandon their ancient and holy religion. But if you ask him whether he will witness to Jews, he will most likely say yes because he of course wants to share his faith in Jesus with his Jewish friend. Witnessing is central to (most forms of) Christianity. Even a Christian who does not want you to abandon Judaism, still wants to help you bring Jesus into your life. Most likely he doesn’t see the contradiction but even if he does, he still feels obligated to witness. I don’t see anything wrong with this on a personal level and can respect someone for his view despite finding it religiously objectionable. Like R. Riskin, I find great many areas of mutual interest and respect with Christians. Of course, on this issue theologies and personalities vary, but R. Schachter is correct that witnessing is core to the Christian faith, something which even Nostra Aetate does not deny.

    Let us discuss Nostra Aetate for a moment. This monumental document radically changed Catholic-Jewish relations. It did not appear out of nowhere but was under development for years. I mention this only to point out that R. Soloveitchik was aware of its basic contours when he wrote Confrontation. Nostra Aetate did not conclusively end witnessing to Jews. If anything, it left the status of Jews within the Catholic worldview ambiguous and subject to decades of debate. Some theologians adopted a “double covenant” theory, proposing that Jews need only their covenant with God and not Jesus. Most reject this approach.

    Significantly, in the year 2000, the current Pope Benedict XVI when he was merely a Cardinal published a document titled Dominus Iesus, approved by Pope John Paul II, which rejected “double covenant” theory and affirmed that all people, including Jews, can only achieve salvation through Jesus. Pope Benedict had previously published a book, Many Religions–One Covenant, in which he states that Christianity has superseded Judaism. He also affirms the importance of missionizing and states that “mission and dialogue should no longer be opposites but should mutually interpenetrate” (p. 112).

    The prior two paragraphs were informed by, and the quote taken from, Dr. David Berger’s collection of essays, Persecution, Polemic, and Dialogue: Essays in Jewish-Christian Relations. The bulk of the book discusses Medieval topics but the final section contains indispensable studies on contemporary interfaith dialogue by the leading Orthodox thinker on the subject. Dr. Berger’s conclusion, in essays spanning three decades, is clear: Mainstream Christians still believe in missionizing and witnessing to Jews. Dr. Berger writes: “In sum, we now have an official document of the Catholic Church, ‘ratified and confirmed’ by the Pope himself [and whose author is now Pope! -GS], declaring that a key purpose of interfaith dialogue is mission, which includes the message that conversion is necessary to attain full communion with God” (p. 383). “Cardinal Ratzinger’s [now Pope Benedict's -GS] vision, however, is not confined to the eschaton. He appears interested in bringing individual Jews to a recognition of Christian truth even before the end of days, and he sees interfaith dialogue–though that is not its only purpose–as one means of accomplishing this end” (p. 390).

    In a recent statement (link), Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, clarified: “‘The Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed toward the Jews,’ but that does not exclude Christians bearing witness to their faith ‘in an unassuming and humble manner.’”

    I fully believe that many fine Christians do not intend to offend Jews by attempting to convert them. However, many find the instinct to witness impossible to overcome. The July 24, 2005 New York Times carried a story about R. Yechiel Eckstein and his Fellowship of Christians and Jews. In the course of an interview with the reporter, one of R. Eckstein’s Christian staff members, Sandy Rios, openly admitted to wanting to convert Jews! (He was fired shortly after.) I can’t find it right now but I believe R. Eckstein wrote in a Jewish magazine, perhaps Jewish Observer, about how a Christian friend witnessed to his son. He was proud that his son was uninterested but not every teenager is a rabbi’s confident son.

    Regardless, there can be no denying the frequent missionizing to Jews by many Christians. Every summer, I see New York flooded with missionaries who specifically target Jews. According to this news item, missionaries planned to build a center right off of Kings Highway in Flatbush (link)! In Israel, Yad L’Achim tracks and counters missionaries (link). The website of Catholics for Israel explicitly states “Our mission to the Jewish people is to provide resources to our Jewish friends who are interested or curious in knowing more about the person of Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth and about the Catholic faith” (link). And who can forget the Southern Baptist 1995 declaration on missionizing to the Jews (link)?

    R. Riskin correctly speaks of Christians who denounce converting Jews. However, that is only part of the story. Many believe that Christians should formally missionize to Jews and many more believe they should informally witness to us.

  2. R. Riskin argues that, according to the Rambam, he may teach Christians Bible and about the commandments, and brings textual proofs to this position. However, he inexplicably fails to explain the key texts underlying this issue–Sanhedrin 59a and Chagigah 13a. The acharonim discuss this issue at length and, while one view exists that could justify R. Riskin’s activity (which he does not quote), authorities such as R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggeros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah vol. 3 no. 90) and R. Yechiel Ya’akov Weinberg (Kisvei Ha-Gaon R. Yechiel Ya’akov Weinberg, vol. 1 pp. 26-30, discussed here) would not approve. R. Weinberg analyzes the Rambam’s view in detail.

    The second issue, of messianic purpose in Christianity, seems irrelevant to me. That Christianity and Islam further the divine plan by bringing people closer to truth does not automatically mean that they are true. The statement itself means that those religions are better than paganism. That is certainly a statement of value, a finding of an element of truth inside the religions, and a declaration of praise for Christians and Muslims who rise above prior religious errors. But it does not constitute justification for those religions. As R. Walter Wurzburger wrote, “with all our appreciation of Christianity as an avenue to God available to the non-Jewish world, we must not gloss over the fact that the Trinitarian faith still falls short of our universal religious ideals” (link). I quickly note that my calling a Christian wrong for accepting Jesus is no more offensive than him calling me wrong for rejecting Jesus. We clearly differ on this basic religious issue and we each develop our theology accordingly.

  3. R. Riskin’s claim that “the overwhelming majority of halakhic decisors during the past several hundred years see Christianity as idolatry for Jews, but not for Christians” fails on three counts. First, it is objectively wrong. I once set out to conduct such a survey and concluded that the majority fell just slightly on the other side. Second, debates such as these are never decided by merely counting the numbers. We must also consider the weight of the authorities. Heavyweights such as R. Akiva Eiger, the Minchas Chinukh and the Noda Bi-Yehudah fall on the strict side (I am surprised that R. Riskin lists the Noda Bi-Yehudah as lenient based on a clearly apologetic front-note when his son’s responsum, published in Noda Bi-Yehudah, vol. 2 Yoreh De’ah no. 148, dismisses the lenient view). And third, R. Schachter fully admits in his critique that some disagree but pointed out that R. Soloveitchik quoted his revered grandfather as siding with the strict view.
  4. R. Riskin’s implication that R. Schachter’s view inevitably leads to the destruction of churches inadvertently plays to the Jewish media’s frequent misattribution of offensive positions to leading rabbis. In this case, it is not only untrue but equally applicable to R. Riskin himself. The Satmar Rav cleverly pointed this out (Va-Yo’el Moshe, Ma’amar Gimmel Shevuos chs. 90-98). Even according to the lenient view above, which R. Riskin claims the overwhelming majority of authorities adopt, the obligation to destroy churches should still apply because Christianity is considered idolatry to Jews, even if not to Christians. I discussed elsewhere the legal niceties with which R. Menachem Kasher thoroughly rebuts this argument (here). My point here is that R. Riskin’s attribution of this obligation to R. Schachter is incorrect and applies equally to him.
  5. On the issue of interpreting Confrontation, R. Riskin states that he follows Dr. Eugene Korn’s approach. Dr. David Berger firmly rebuts Dr. Korn’s analysis in his book (pp. 385-391), available online here: link. While, as Dr. Berger notes, there are gray areas of theology on the borders, that does not undermine R. Soloveitchik’s clear position on theological dialogue. We should also take note that R. Soloveitchik closely guided the RCA for decades in its interfaith dialogue, long after Nostra Aetate was published. He never allowed anything remotely as bold as R. Riskin’s project.

R. Schachter’s critique seems like a rough draft, a correct analysis that required further development. R. Riskin’s response is much more startling because of its polish. When looking at content rather than form, and developing the ideas provided to their fullest, R. Schachter seems to me to be siding with Dr. Berger’s general approach in his own halakhic way while R. Riskin is basing a radical departure on debatable, if not entirely inaccurate, analysis.

 

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Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

75 Responses

  1. G Pickholz says:

    In defense of R Riskin, there is far too much potential revenue from interfaith dialogue for it to be marginalized. The new Center adds millions of dollars of new revenue towards R Riskin’s many other initiatives

  2. Baruch says:

    I enjoyed reading your analysis.

    My general comment would be that we are far more scared of Christians than we should be. When is the last time an Orthodox Jew converted to Christianity? Orthodox Jews, however, do constantly fall prey to our semi-hedonistic culture. It is the religious Christians who try to combat this culture, and we should do well to join hands with them in this endeavor (as Rabbi Sacks and others have stated).

    Fighting Christianity is fighting yesterday’s battle. It’s frankly rather silly. Fight secularists, not Christians who agree with you on 90% of the issues.

  3. Hirhurim says:

    Baruch: I agree with you but see no conflict between joining Christians in a mutual battle and refraining from engaging in dangerous partnerships.

  4. Adamchik says:

    I’ve spent a considerable amount of time traveling for business and working in the depths of the “bible belt” of the US. They are respectful, interested, and well-meaning people. However, if you get to really know them well, you will see that usually there is an undercurrent of support for Israel and for the Jews that is part of a larger interest in converting us. These efforts may not pose a danger to the few observant Jews with such extensive contact, but less religious Jews are certainly in their sights for conversion. Russian immigrants, college students, and the elderly suffer disproportionately. Klal Yisrael as a whole is hurt dramatically and the threat should not be minimized. Torah shebaal peh is most certainly not for them. Even in small doses, it either blows their minds or makes them anxious (and have even more animosity towards Jews) as they start to realize the deep contradictions and problems with their own faith. The sense that the Ch-istian faith and its zealous practitioners are not enemies of ours and we can be comfortable with them is an indication of the maddening depths of our golus. We have to fight the battle against a secular world, a world that can even use such a nonsensical phrase as, “Judeo-Ch-istian,” in our own way, via our mesorah. In moments of such safek and intense spiritual danger, best to defer to giants like R. Schachter and R. Soloveitchik.

  5. Nachum says:

    I’m of two minds: I think R’ Riskin is more correct, on the whole, on the facts. But I keep coming back to one question: What, simply put, is “dialogue”? Is it a Jew simply saying “I believe in X” while a Christian says “I believe in Y”? Well, that’s fine, although it seems a bit pointless outside of a purely educational prism. But it always seems to me that there’s an undertone, if not an explicit attempt, to somehow “reconcile” religions so we all merge or something. I suppose that’s fine between (some? all?) Christian groups, which is probably where the idea comes from, but it’s pointless, impossible, an oxymoron, and unhalakhic to attempt between religions.

    Can someone enlighten me if I have the whole definition of “interfaith dialogue” wrong? What is it?

  6. shachar haamim says:

    “G Pickholz on September 20, 2012 at 12:31 am

    In defense of R Riskin, there is far too much potential revenue from interfaith dialogue for it to be marginalized. The new Center adds millions of dollars of new revenue towards R Riskin’s many other initiatives”

    Without taking sides in the debate, I’m not sure that provides a justification for an activity that is otherwise forbidden. I’m sure that many people whose children are being educated in Ohr Torah Stone institutions – even those who are overburdened by excessive tuition which covers bloated administrative salaries (like many other religious educational institutions in Israel) would not be happy to find out that funding for the schools comes from these activities with Christians.

  7. Elon says:

    I have thought about this for some time. And it does come back to the reconciliation thing. In this culture, people EXPECT the dialogue to end with some common ground, the Pastor and Rabbi hug, and reach enlightenment. And the true religious truth belongs to no one faith, and everyone is partly right. This expected outcome is clearly against Judaism, which make these dialogues extremely problematic.

    One could say instead that the purpose of dialogue is to teach others about your religion and learn about theirs. But generally, we are forbidden from learning about their religion, and also generally speaking, we are forbidden from teaching too much about ours.

    One could instead say that mere interpersonal relations foster communications between different religions and tamp down on hatred. Peace seems to be a desirable end, but at what cost? And what to talk about?

  8. IH says:

    Gil –- I’d be interested in your thoughts on how the Rabbinic Jewish concept of Sheva Mitzvot B’nai Noah differs from Chrirstian Supersessionism. Aren’t both a methodology by which to assert theological supremacy among its own adherents?

  9. Hirhurim says:

    In general, dialogue is crucial because leaders of different communities need to maintain personal relationships so they can help each other out from time to time and work together on projects of mutual concern. This does not require theological discussion.

    IH: First, it isn’t supersessionism because the Noahides covenant came first. But even if it was, who cares? I don’t criticize supersessionist theology for any inherent flaw. I am just concerned about its impact on witnessing.

    The idea that any criticism we have of Christianity should lead to our changing Judaism is another negative of interfaith theological dialogue.

  10. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    G. Pickholz: I assume your remarks were sarcastic. If so, they are contemptible–particularly before Yom Kippur.

  11. IH says:

    We’ve debated the specific issue of Nostra Aetate a number of times over the last year. At its crux, the issue here is the degree to which the Rav’s positions of the 1950s and 1960s are relevant 50 years on. It seems to me that R. Riskin made a tactical decision to re-interpret the Rav such that his words remain relevant today in an effort to be charitable to his beloved teacher.

    Since I have no such ties to the Rav, I look at his words and the increasing amount of historical evidence. While I can understand why the Rav said and wrote what he did, I conclude with 20/20 hindsight that he was wrong. The latest evidence can be found in Prof. John Connelly’s From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933–1965 (Harvard, 2012) in which he explains (about the process of creating Nostra Aetate): “Cardinal Bea found a new language to talk about Jews only after he began talking to Jews.”

    Finally, with no disrespect to Prof. Berger, who is a fine scholar of Medieval Christianity, it is debatable that he is “the foremost Orthodox expert on interfaith dialogue”.

  12. joel rich says:

    2 thoughts:
    1. Listening to R’YBS tapes I definitely got the impression that he was fully conversant with the Catholic Church’s history and evolving theological positions. The mastery of the subject is a key in persuasive speaking/writing.

    2.In the trenches, I have had a number of religious non-Jewish clients etc. over the years. I can never remember the slightest attempt to convince me of anything (but then again I am often oblivious:-)) and the conversations were always an exchgange of information. At one dinner I was seated with a Bishop who explained to me that my perception of Vatican Daas Torah was wrong (I was trying to understand the shitah of those who opposed certain teachings-like abortions)

    KT

  13. Steve Brizel says:

    I completely concur with R Gil’s post, even though IMO, there should have been some discussion of R Riskin’s remarks at Yale.

    IH-please name one person within the mainstream orbit of the MO world , other than R D D Berger, who is considered “the foremost Orthodox expert on interfaith dialogue.”

  14. Steve Brizel says:

    As I have said before,I had great respect for R Riskin as a rebbe of mine in JSS and as a rav at LSS, where he set the standard for adult education and for kiruv and chizuk in the heart of NYC’s UWS. Yet, I spent a number of years as a talmid of RHS’s shiur at the YIFH and at other venues, and I saw how a Gadol BaTorah acts in and out of the Beis Medrash. It gives me a great deal of pain to cite Erehin 16b, but IMO, RHS was quite correct in viewing R Riskin( and R Korn) as out of bounds. As of this date, neither R Riskin nor the website cited by R Gil have responded to the following excerpt from R Riskin’s address at Tale in the fall of 2010:

    “Allow me to add to his symbolism. Can we not argue that, although we use different
    names, symbolic images, rituals, customs and incantations by which we call and
    worship the Deity, everyone is speaking and praying to the same Divine Force who
    created and guides our world? Allah is another name for the one God (“El” or “Elohim”),
    the Trinity is mysteriously considered a unity by Christians, all the physical
    representations of the Buddha are meant to express the All in the All that is the god of
    the Far East. Is it not possible that the real meaning of the credo of Judaism, the Sh’ma,
    is: “Hear Oh Israel, the Lord (who is known by our different names of different forces
    and powers), Elohaynu, is (in reality the) One (YHVH of the entire cosmos).” Just as the
    white of the cloud is refracted into different colors, so the one God of love may be called
    by different names and different powers, but these all coalesce in the mind of the one
    praying and in the reality of the situation into the one all-encompassing Lord of the
    Universe.
    Institute for Theological Inquiry
    The United Mission to Redeem the World
    Shlomo Riskin, Ohr Torah Stone
    41
    If this is the case, as long as humans are moral, they can call God by any name or
    names they wish since their true intent is the God of the universe. They may even be
    secular humanists, as long as they do not engage in the abominations of idol worship.
    The ultimate religious concern is that humans not destroy the world, and this can only
    be predicated upon the universal acceptance of ethical absolutes, compassionate
    righteousness and justice, the inviolability of the human being, and his/her right to live in
    freedom, peace and security”

    IMO, R Riskin has never answered the following query-if R”L the above statement is correct, what is the purpose of being a Shomer Torah Umitzvos today?

  15. IH says:

    Steve — if you hold by Prof. Berger’s view on contemporary interfaith discussion with Christians, do you also hold by his view on Meshichist Chabad (which has more impact on Israeli Jews than Christian proselytizing)?

  16. AZ says:

    I respectfully put forth the question whether, even within RYBS’ and R’ Schachter’s views,there is some room for an “ais laasos” determination. My point being that with fundamentalist and jihadist Islam on the rise, and posing a real danger to not only Jews and Israel, but free, non-Muslim people everywhere,don’t we need all the friends we can get? Isn’t it imperative for Jews and Christians to join forces to try to combat the dangers posed by fundamentalist Islam?

  17. Hirhurim says:

    IH: We are dealing with various forms of proselytization. Nostra Aetate did not end it entirely.

    In a recent statement (link), Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, clarified: “‘The Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed toward the Jews,’ but that does not exclude Christians bearing witness to their faith ‘in an unassuming and humble manner.’”

  18. Hirhurim says:

    IH: Dabru Emet proved that R. Soloveitchik was right that interfaith theological dialogue will lead to theological compromise.

  19. Hirhurim says:

    AZ: Yes, of course we can join forces. But there are ways to do that without crossing lines.

  20. ruvie says:

    on the rav’s confrontation – see below for a compendium of analysis – berger, korn, klapper, brill, carmy…

    http://www.bc.edu/dam/files/research_sites/cjl/texts/center/conferences/soloveitchik/index.html

  21. Hirhurim says:

    Also relevant: Left-Wing Catholics Find Common Ground With Right-Wingers: Hatred of Israel http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/09/19/left-wing-catholics-find-common-ground-with-right-wingers-hatred-of-israel/

  22. Steve Brizel says:

    IH asked:

    “Steve — if you hold by Prof. Berger’s view on contemporary interfaith discussion with Christians, do you also hold by his view on Meshichist Chabad (which has more impact on Israeli Jews than Christian proselytizing”

    I stated on more than one occasion that I agree with R D Berger’s POV re messianism and Chabad. However, that being the case, I cannot deny that for many Jews, whether in the streets of Manhattan, on a college campus in the US or Israelis backpacking in Asia or South America , Chabad has long been the only portal of entry or exposure for many unaffiliated Jews to a Shabbos table, etc. Asking a Jew to put on Tefilin, come for a Shabbos meal, or to recite a bracha hardly strikes me as messianist in any way-rather it is a means of showing pride in Judaism.

  23. Steve Brizel says:

    IH asked:

    “Gil –- I’d be interested in your thoughts on how the Rabbinic Jewish concept of Sheva Mitzvot B’nai Noah differs from Chrirstian Supersessionism. Aren’t both a methodology by which to assert theological supremacy among its own adherents”

    Simple question-who led and supported the Crusades and other episodes of anti Semitism until the dawn of secular Anti Semitism ? Who aided and abetted the Holocaust throughout Europe and aided and abetted the escape from Europe of its perpetrators, unless they were interested in converting its victims? I think that it borders on the intellectually dishonest to even speak of the consequences of Christian supercessionism with the consequences of Klal Yisrael having entered into a Bris Avos and Bris Sinai unless you R”L think that having a covenental relationship with HaShem somehow is a rationale for classical anti Semitism.

  24. Henoch says:

    This seems to be a reformulation of the Machlokes between Rav and Shmuel Shabbos 116a (and Rashi there), at the bottom. The discussion there is whether to be involved in debates with other religions which Shmuel frequented and Rav avoided.

  25. Ezra says:

    Well analyzed sir, bravo!

  26. Steve Brizel says:

    IH asked:

    “Gil –- I’d be interested in your thoughts on how the Rabbinic Jewish concept of Sheva Mitzvot B’nai Noah differs from Chrirstian Supersessionism. Aren’t both a methodology by which to assert theological supremacy among its own adherents.”

    I would be curious as to how someone who considers himself a MO Jew can ask the above question and recite Malchiyos, Zicronos and Shofaros, which RYBS described as the most beautiful statement of Jewish belief extant.

  27. ruvie says:

    in the latest Conversations -autumn 2012(just received via mail) -is an article by joseph ehrenkranz: the hakakhic obligation of jewish-christian dialogue

    interesting timing. interesting article

  28. micha says:

    I don’t understand the relevence of the question of whether the church is still hostile to Judaism or Jews, or whether not. It might not be productive if they hate us either way. It might be more productive to specifically talk with those who hate you, if it means understanding can replace hatred. I don’t know which, but that’s a tactical question, not a halachic one.

    I agree with Elon at al that the underlying theme of such conferences is the search for a common ground, which in turn pushes toward novel (if plausible) interpretations of Judaism which aren’t what we would normally believe.

    I think RYBS in Confrontation means something more fundamental along these lines. RGS writes about the difference in language in the literal sense — most Xian denominations mean something different by the word “conversion” than we do, as they have room for “witnessing” as a buzzword where we wouldn’t. But when RYBS speaks about lacking a common language, I believe he means this on a deeper level — a lack of one-to-one correspondance of concepts.

    Words are pigeonholes for ideas. A community tends to refer to some concept, be it “ball”, “run” or “salvation”, and therefore their language has a word for it. If the idea rarely comes up, they would use an expression to define it. But if the idea isn’t part of their worldview altogether, one would have to start with the differences in givens and spend hours building up our worldview in order to explain the idea to them. And even then they only know the words in the abstract, absent the emotional attachments.

    “Ge’ulah” and “yeshu’ah” don’t really mean anything like “redemption” or “salvation”. Nor does “berakhah” have much to do with blessing, nor “qedushah” to holiness. “Yir’ah” is somewhere between fear and awe. Our worldview lends itself to a different set of pigeonholes — we lack ground for common dialog.

    We not only lack a “safah achas”, we lack a “devarim achadim” (to reference Migdal Bavel).

    I think this is what RYBS means when he speaks of an uncrossable abyss between faith communities, that we speak different languages that makes meaningful dialog simply impossible. Instead what happens is that the majority community’s language is used, and therefore the minority community ends up shoehorning ideas into a lexicon that doesn’t really describe them correctly. Judaism is bound to be misrepresented in these exchanges.

    My thoughts on the 7 mitzvos benei Noach issue…

    First, in practice, most Jews who work in the diamond exchange DO hold like Tosafos that trinitarianism conforms to the 7 mitzvos. I don’t know which idea is dominant in the text. But judging from the number of frum-owned booths in the 47th St Diamond Exchange (here in NYC) that sell crosses, I would say it’s what dominates contemporary pesaq.

    Second, a Moslem (assuming they are part of the non-murderous majority) complies to the 7 mitzvos. So do all trinitarian Christians according to the above shitah. For that matter, I would think that those trinitarians who place the three-ness in the realm of their god-as-perceived would be observant Noachides according to all shitos. Today’s more educated Hindus also teach that their 3.1mm gods are human perceptions of One Incomprehensible Divinity.

    My point being, Noachidism is a meta-religion, a criterion a specific religion may or may not conform to. It might (see next issue) mean proselytizing to true polytheists, but it doesn’t mean “believe this specific religion”.

    Third, are we obligated to teach Non-Jews? Or are we obligated to set an example for them to teach themselves? If we are supposed to passively lead them by example to Noachidism, not actively teach it, then it’s hard to call that missionizing.

    The Sifri in Vaeschanan can be read either way. The Rambam takes it to mean there is a mitzvah, either chiyuvis or qiyumis (either an obligation or a good thing to do if you happen to do it). I can’t tell. The Lub Rebbe clearly stated the Rambam obligated (Malechim 9 onward), but I think that is his novellum. The naive reading (pashut peshat) is explicitly not to convert them to a religion of Noachidism, and only that he permits teaching them the parts of the 7 mitzvos they come to you to learn. Tosafos (Chagiga 13a “ein”) clealy says it’s a non-obligatory mitzvah to teach them the laws they are trying to observe. In contrast to the prohibition against teaching them the rest of Oral Torah. Unclear about the mitzvos they aren’t yet drawn to. If it weren’t for the LR, I would assume there is only one opinion shared by both rishonim.

    Related: What does it mean that there is a prohibition of lifnei iver (enabling another to sin) WRT leading a non-Jew to violate one of the 7, but the rabbis saw no need to enact mesayeia lidevar aveirah (handing someone over to sin) when the issue is helping them do a sin that could have done (with more difficulty, and perhaps the motivation-killing difficulty) without you?

  29. S. says:

    I’ve blogged extensively about the theological dialogue between the rabbis of the Perushim, talmidei ha-Gra, and missionaries in Eretz Yisrael in the early part of the 19th century, some of whom were and some who were not Jewish.

    In general it appears that their belief was “we can dialogue with them because we need their material support and that this dialogue should be restricted to knowledgeable rabbis and not laypeople.”

    True, the conditions and facts changed in the second part of the century and furthermore the accounts we have are mainly from the missionaries themselves. However, there can be absolutely no doubt that these very theological dialogues occurred. Shouldn’t the example of, say, R. Mendel Shklover (chosen by the Gra to publish some of his works) be part of such a conversation?

  30. Hirhurim says:

    And didn’t those theological dialogues lead to some high profile conversions?

  31. S. says:

    It did, but that was also because the Perushim were stuck believe that 5600 was the year of geulah and that came and went. Presumably we are more circumspect than they on points such as this.

    The point isn’t that it should be followed like a roadmap; we can learn from the past, both its mistakes and what were not mistakes. For example, in the second part of the century the rabbonim were imposing cherems on people using the missionary’s hospitals, but that was of course ignored, and the rabbonim were not doing much to provide alternatives, especially when European Jews tried to implement ideas which would make the Old Yishuv more self-sufficient. These were opposed, so of course the poor masses went where material support was available.

  32. Hirhurim says:

    These East European Jews were faced with a completely new situation and attempted to handle it the best way they could. Which was badly. Over a century later, we were more educated about their attitudes and capable of making a more informed policy.

  33. S. says:

    Maybe it wasn’t badly. It clearly allowed the community to survive in the early years; it’s unclear how they would have otherwise. The only things I could think of which changed is that on the one hand Jews themselves began materially supporting them more and on the other, the European consuls arrived in Palestine (most of those officials were missionaries too, though).

    Anyway, even to reject it, I believe such historical precedent should be addressed. Not everything that one can learn about how to act is in books! (Although, ironically, the way we know about this is from books.)

  34. ruvie says:

    “Additionally, this activity certainly falls under the theological dialogue that R. Soloveitchik forbade in his classic essay, Confrontation.”

    from an article in the link i provided above:

    “The late Rabbi Prof. Pinchas Peli claimed that Rabbi Soloveitchik told him explicitly that his concern was only to ensure that only those rabbis well educated enough to engage in theological dialogue with Christians be encouraged to do so. Moreover, many disciples attest to the fact that Rabbi Soloveitchik himself participated in a number of interfaith dialogues.
    While he does question the very possibility of the dialogue across a theological divide, his profound concern relates to what he views as the imbalance in the relationship of “the few and weak vis-à-vis the many and the strong” and appeals to friends within the Christian “community of the many” to respect “the right of the community of the few to live, create and worship in its own way in freedom and with dignity”. “

  35. Sam says:

    Gil:

    Why do you hold other rabbis (such as R. Riskin) have to adhere to R. Soloveitchik’s position on this matter. R. Riskin, or other rabbis, can disagree with R. Soloveitchik and take a differing halakhic position.

  36. James says:

    Lawrence Kaplan – Why are G Pickholz’s comments contemptible? Rabbi Riskin has a huge financial interest in interfaith dialogue. Might it not be possible that his position is colored by those factors which, in some contexts, are perfectly legitimate considerations? His argument, in sum, is that the benefits of interfaith dialogue outweigh the costs. Financial support is one of those benefits.

    I think Rabbi Riskin is partially blinded by the money but mainly blinded by the extreme Zionism of the Christian right.

  37. Hirhurim says:

    Ruvie: Right. Who are we going to believe, our eyes or some unattested testimony contrary to the written record? This is even worse than the claim of his reversal on Brain Death.

    Sam: Why do you hold other rabbis (such as R. Riskin) have to adhere to R. Soloveitchik’s position on this matter. R. Riskin, or other rabbis, can disagree with R. Soloveitchik and take a differing halakhic position

    Where did I claim that R. Riskin has to submit to R. Soloveitchik?

  38. DF says:

    1. For Jews to discuss the Nostra Aete from 1965 is like Christians discussing the pronouncement of Rosh Yeshivahs about Reform Jews in 1956. Neither outsider group can fully understand the details the way insiders do. (Doesnt mean you have to be a Christian to understand Christianity, but you at least have to devote your life to it. More than just reading journals.) We dont know if its viewed as authoritative, persausive, binding, optional, or what.

    2. The discussion about what the Rambam holds, let alone what R. Solveitchik holds, is immaterial. R. Riskin does not believe himself beholden to the opinions of rishonim and achronim to the same degree as R. Shachter does. Naturally it would be impolitic to say that outright, so he uses the time-honored tradition of distinguishing and hedging. It’s been done for thousands of year, when you dont like the precedent, but you cant overrule it and you dont want to flast-out disregard it. So, the halachic discussion, while interesting, is not really relevant.

    3. I also did not find Gershon Pickholz’s comments contemptible. Dont know enough to agree or disagree, but there is nothing wrong with positing that money can color one’s perceptions. I say that with utmost respect for R. Riskin and his great accomplishments.

  39. Arnie Lustiger says:

    Agreeing that theological dialogue should be strictly off-limits (despite the opinion of my famous cousin), it should also be noted that we have much more in common, epistemologically speaking, with Fundamentalist Christians than with secular Jews. The increasing estrangement of liberal Jews from the State of Israel (read the Forward), versus the strong support it gets from Fundamentalist Christians is but one example We should take advantage of our strong mutual interests in various issues (sexual morality is another example) and translate what we have in common into a more formal alliance.

  40. joel rich says:

    I think R’D’ Berger’s closing remarks may explain R’ Riskin :

    The assertion that the caveats expressed in “Confrontation” bear continuing relevance does not mean that they carry the authority of Sinaitic revelation or that they are easy to apply. I have already emphasized my understanding that Rabbi Soloveitchik was not asserting the categorical impossibility of all theological communication. Persuasive anecdotal evidence indicates that he worried about the lack of qualifications for such dialogue among most Orthodox rabbis, a concern that comes to the fore in Dr. Korn’s eloquent peroration. One of the rabbis most committed to enforcing Rabbi Soloveitchik’s guidelines has told me on more than one occasion that his revered mentor had said that he trusted Rabbi Walter Wurzburger to deal with theological issues in conversation with Christians. Discussions of anti-Semitism, which Orthodox representatives consider kosher and even essential, lead to the most sensitive issues involving sacred Christian texts. For pragmatic reasons, Orthodox Jews want Christians to understand the theological importance that Judaism assigns to the land of Israel . Because of these blurred boundaries, I have prepared several presentations on such issues in a dialogical setting with the approval, sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes ambivalent, of Orthodox organizations. This is not an exact science, and Dr. Korn’s own caveats toward the end of his talk may mean that our positions are not that far apart. However that may be, the value of interfaith discussion is real, and its dangers, especially to traditionalists, are no less real. The forty-year old document that we are addressing today is very much alive.

    BTW (a topic for a post?) I am not an expert at all in the work of R’YBS but I do get the feeling that the practical issues (such as mentioned by R’ Berger) were of particular concern to R’YBS in his role as a manhig (vs. a Rosh Yeshiva)
    GCT

  41. micha says:

    OTOH, RAL, we should not overestimate the overlap. I’m thinking of notions like identifying abortion with murder and thus being pro-life. Just because we often agree with the US’s Right Wing Religious Fundamentalist camp doesn’t mean we’re really the same RW. As RAL knows — and all our brains know, even if our guts might sometimes forget — the space of moral decisions has too many dimensions to collapse to a single right-left axis.

    GCT, especially to RAL whose hard work is a big part of my Yamim Noraim experience!

  42. joel rich says:

    R’ Ruvie,
    I thought the R’ JE article was much more focused on general dialog, didn’t really say much new as I saw it.
    GCT

  43. Shlomo says:

    IMO, R Riskin has never answered the following query-if R”L the above statement is correct, what is the purpose of being a Shomer Torah Umitzvos today?

    Perhaps that is where Chief R’ Sacks’ writings about the value of following the religious community you were born into, whichever it is, come into play. Not clear if that is sufficient though.

    Isn’t it imperative for Jews and Christians to join forces to try to combat the dangers posed by fundamentalist Islam?

    “He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.” – Benjamin Franklin

  44. joel rich says:

    “R’ Micha,
    GCT, especially to RAL whose hard work is a big part of my Yamim Noraim experience!”

    Amen to that and thanks for reminding me to call R’ Lustiger to say thank you again
    GCT

  45. Mark says:

    If something is contemptible to say, it is unacceptable at any time during the year. The fact that it is before Yom Kippur is not relevant. it’s always “before” Yom Kippur.

  46. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Mark: I was careful to write “PARTICULARLY before Yom Kippur.”

    James: G. Pickholz did not just suggest that R. Riskin’s views may be colored by financial considerations, though that would be objectionable enough. He wrote a very nasty and sarcastic post, which, to repeat and clarify, is contemptible all year round, and particularly contemptible before YK.

  47. Nachum says:

    Micha: All well said, but one point: Where would the Rambam’s statement that someone who accepts the sheva mitzvot on their own is not a chasid meumot haolam (“ve-lo” is a typo, of course, but that doesn’t matter) fit in? Is it enough to believe in them (in some cases passively- do Hindus really have a law against ever min hachai?) because *some* religion says so, or does it have to be Judaism?

  48. Arnie Lustiger says:

    Thank you, Micha and Joel for your kind words. It’s been six years since the RH machzor has come out and I worried that it was sitting on people’s shelves. Hopefully a Rav Chumash Bereishis will be out in time for the Seforim sale. GCT.

  49. micha says:

    Nachum: I don’t know. But: the Rambam appears to be a daas yachid in even mentioning that requirement. AND even with it, we would still include members of our daughter religions. (Depending on their trinitarinism, and I don’t know about that granddaughter, Mormonism).

  50. Arnie Lustiger says:

    Micha, our differences with Fundamentalist Christians regarding various issues, including abortion, pale in comparison to what we have in common. Homosexuality, promiscuity and the like are celebrated in the liberal press and almost promoted in the NYT and the Forward. We need a strong counterbalance to this trend and Fundamentalist Christianity is a natural ally in this effort.

  51. Steve Brizel says:

    Shlomo wrote in response to my query:

    “IMO, R Riskin has never answered the following query-if R”L the above statement is correct, what is the purpose of being a Shomer Torah Umitzvos today?

    Perhaps that is where Chief R’ Sacks’ writings about the value of following the religious community you were born into, whichever it is, come into play. Not clear if that is sufficient though.

    IMO, the above response does not answer the question that I posed, namely according to R Riskin, what inherent and intrinsic religious value, as opposed to “we observe Shabbos because it is our family’s tradition”, in being a Shomer Torah UMitzvos? Somehow, in the above formulation, I see no affirmation of Bris Avos and bris Sinai, the twin cornerstones of Jewish identity since the dawn of Am Yisrael.

  52. Interested Catholic says:

    As a Catholic – who knows about this blog from my Orthodox business partner – I can tell you that religious dialogue with him has been fruitful. We don’t talk about the divinity of Christ or the Trinity (not to minimize their importance to me) but we discuss areas where our respective religions have left ample room for our reason to do the heavy lifting:

    a. how can there be a God in a world of suffering
    b. how do you convince a secular humanist that belief in God does not require one to abandon science and reason?
    c. What are the rational reasons for belief in a God?
    I believe these and other questions go beyond mere discussions about “universal values” that Soleveitchik discussed – they are intrinsically theological discussions. And it doesn’t end here — we also discuss Biblical hermeneutics. What was going through Abraham’s mind when he lifted his knife over Isaac? As much as we link the Hebrew Scriptures to New Testament theology, we Catholics know that the last thing Abraham was thinking about on that mountain was Jesus! I value an Orthodox Jew’s take on these and other biblical stories. It seems these are fruitful areas of theological discourse.

    The Church may want us to be witnesses but when it says to be “humble and unassuming” that’s a big deal. Humble and unassuming to me does not mean subtle and ulterior in motive. It’s a limiting principle that is meant to foster respect for Judaism as our mother religion and to form the basis for dialogue that is free of any other agenda.

  53. G Pickholz says:

    Lawrence, I have no idea who you are, and you do not know me. My comment was sincere and self evident, and I say that as a parent if two OTS graduates.
    Like most other aspects of the Rabbinate today, this is truly Big Business, and R Riskin and OTS are receiving millions in new funding due to this initiative. And all of OTS benefits from that initiative.
    To paraphrase you, I am shocked at your venomous remark at any time of the year, but it is particularly inappropriate at Yom Kippur. R Riskin is pursuing another multi million dollar initiative from outside the community sources, and all of our children will benefit long term.

    There could be no more innocent, nor self evident, remark.
    Mechol lechah — I publicly forgive your sinat chinam. It is not the OTS derech.

  54. Nachum says:

    Arnie Lustiger: Who’s the publisher?

  55. Shlomo says:

    If something is contemptible to say, it is unacceptable at any time during the year. The fact that it is before Yom Kippur is not relevant. it’s always “before” Yom Kippur.

    Technically, it’s better to say something unacceptable before YK. You might get kaparah for it on YK. Without YK (and teshuva of course), you certainly won’t get kaparah :)

    IMO, the above response does not answer the question that I posed, namely according to R Riskin, what inherent and intrinsic religious value, as opposed to “we observe Shabbos because it is our family’s tradition”, in being a Shomer Torah UMitzvos? Somehow, in the above formulation, I see no affirmation of Bris Avos and bris Sinai, the twin cornerstones of Jewish identity since the dawn of Am Yisrael.

    The approach I am throwing out there is that, not only is there value in a human being performing the sheva mitzvot bnei noach, but there is also value in belonging to a cohesive community which views these mitzvot as obligatory across the generations and tries to implement them across society. As I see it, R’ Sacks promotes this approach to non-Jews but also to Jews. The question is, what exactly is the difference between [1] the 613 mitzvot, and [2] the 7 mitzvot (which really encompass much of bein adam lechavero) plus the various rituals (which in R’ Sacks’ approach are a necessary part of any religious society). One big difference is the sense of obligation based on historical events (avot, sinai). But this is obviously the hardest part of Judaism to prove, and for many people the hardest to accept. So I understand why R’ Sacks and R’ Riskin might focus on developing a more general sense of obligation to religion. And once that is developed, the sense of historical obligation might come more easily.

  56. Arnie Lustiger says:

    The Chumash will be published by an independent publishing house in Israel. The OU Press will cosponsor.

  57. Joseph Kaplan says:

    I would much rather think that R. Riskin is doing what he is doing and saying what he is saying out of principle rather than for financial reasons. And, in fact, that’s what I do think. Whether he or RHS is right or wrong is a different question that I am not capable of answering.

  58. Steve Brizel says:

    Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:

    “Whether he or RHS is right or wrong is a different question that I am not capable of answering”

    Would you adhere to this statement if no other talmid of RYBS agreed with R Riskin’s recent arguments re the binding nature of the guidelines in Confrontation?

  59. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    G. Pikholz: I am truly sorry I completely misunderstood the tone of your remarks and apologize for my very harsh comment.
    Thank you for your mehilah in advance. I found it hard to imagine that you could actually believe that financial reasons could justify such an inter-faith dialogue initiative if it could not be justified on grounds of principle, and that R. Riskin was, in fact, motivated by finacial reasons. That was why I mistakenly concluded your comment was sarcasic. I now see you sincerely meant your remarks to be a defence of Rabbi Riskin. Needless to say, I strongly reject your defence. But, since both of us are admirers of R. Riskin, I would ask you to seriously consider whether R. Riskin HIMSLF would view your remarks as constituting an adequate defence or rather an unintended devastating criticism. Again, I sorry for mistaking the tone of your comment and for what I said. Gemar hatimah tovah.

  60. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Steve Brizel: Re the debate between Rabbis Schachter and Riskin, while they cannot both be right, they can both be– and, in my view, are–wrong. Therefore, the fact that R. Riskin may be wrong does not make R. Schachter right.

  61. Charlie Hall says:

    These are two rabbis whom I greatly respect, but I think R’Gil did a good job in this analysis. A few comments:

    “A large number of Christians, particularly supporters of Israel and including the current Pope, believe in some version of Supersessionist Theology.”

    I am aware of only two Christian churches in the US that have actually renounced supercessionist theology through official statements: The united Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church. (If you want, I can cite links, but they are to Christian sites and I will not do so unless asked. If anyone knows of any others, please cite.) Interestingly, neither is among the major supporters of Israel.

    “Teaching Torah to Christians is forbidden”

    I was going to write something about this, but I think R’Gil addressed it adequately.

    “most Catholics and Protestants reject Supersessionist Theology, as shown in the 1965 Catholic document Nostra Aetate”

    Maybe the Latin is different, but I do not see an explicit rejection of Supersessionist Theology in the English translation I’ve read. And of course Protestants ignore Catholic dogma.

    ” that Christians of all stripes have repeatedly and publicly denounced missionizing to Jews”

    Not all stripes. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant Church in the US and it still actively targets Jews for conversion.

    “interprets R. Soloveitchik’s essay, based on Dr. Eugene Korn’s approach, to allow for theological dialogue as long as there are no concerns of missionizing, no debate and no theological compromises.”

    WADR to Rabbi Riskin, I do not see that in the pshat of the document.

    “that witnessing is core to the Christian faith”

    Time to out myself again. I can personally tell you that this statement is correct, and it has an explicit source in the Christian scriptures.

  62. Alex S says:

    anybody want to comment on Interested Catholic’s comments? He raises some interesting points and provides a fresh perspective.

    Are dialogue regarding Biblical interpretation and a host of other universal theological issues with substantial overlap between religions part of the universal and permissible or particularist and objectionable divide in R. Soloveitchik’s Confrontation?

  63. Joseph Kaplan says:

    ““Whether he or RHS is right or wrong is a different question that I am not capable of answering”

    Would you adhere to this statement if no other talmid of RYBS agreed with R Riskin’s recent arguments re the binding nature of the guidelines in Confrontation?”

    Yes.

  64. G Pickholz says:

    Lawrence, YU opened medical, law and business schools to finance REITS. This is how life works. There is certainly no criticism in stating that self evident fact.
    קמח קדמה לתורה.
    As a proud parent of 2 OTS alumni, I applaud any initiative that brings in millions of dollars from sources outside the core fundraising community (we parents and core Dati donors). There is nothing wrong with this, and there is no criticism of R Riskin for pursuing these funds, any more than prior initiatives and projects were (rightfully) assessed for their fundraising capabilities. This is responsible management of nonprofits intimes of economic hardship.
    Were we all able to simply pursue Quixotic endeavors in the name of Yiddishkeit, but that is not our world.

  65. mycroft says:

    “G Pickholz on September 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm
    Lawrence, YU opened medical, law and business schools to finance REITS. This is how life works. There is certainly no criticism in stating that self evident fact”

    It is not self evident that the reason YU opened AECOM is to support RIETS.

    “Would you adhere to this statement if no other talmid of RYBS agreed with R Riskin’s recent arguments re the binding nature of the guidelines in Confrontation?”
    Thw Rav had thousands of talmidim-there are certainly those who agree with R Riskin-I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of the Ravs talmidim would disagree with R Riskin.

    “Lawrence Kaplan on September 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm
    Steve Brizel: Re the debate between Rabbis Schachter and Riskin, while they cannot both be right, they can both be– and, in my view, are–wrong. Therefore, the fact that R. Riskin may be wrong does not make R. Schachter right”

    Perhaps we could be privileged if Prof Kaplan-talmid of the Rav and former Judaic studies teacher at Maimonides HS- could expand on where each one of them are wrong

  66. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    G. Pickholz: I am glad we can argue the substance of your point. Yuor argument not at all self-evident to me and evidently to some other bloggers as well. Again, I do not believe R. Riskin would agree and be happy with your line of defence. R. Riskin defended his Center on grounds of principle, not as a worthwhile fundraising endeavor. But you appear to be close to R. Riskin. Why don’t you ask him?

  67. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    mycroft: I am tempted to elaborate on what I have in mind, but to do so properly would require a lengthy analysis, and right now I have neither the time or energy. If I can figure out a way to make my main points briefly and succinctly , I will reconsider. In any event, whatever credibility my views on this issue may have, it does not derive from my having been a Judaic Studies teacher at Maimonides

  68. Steve Brizel says:

    I thkink that R Gil’s essay demonstrated that RHS’ views on ecumenical interfaith dialogue were closer to those expressed by RYBS than the admittedly more expansive views advocated by R Riskin.

    Interested Catholic wrote;

    “a. how can there be a God in a world of suffering
    b. how do you convince a secular humanist that belief in God does not require one to abandon science and reason?
    c. What are the rational reasons for belief in a God?
    I believe these and other questions go beyond mere discussions about “universal values” that Soleveitchik discussed – they are intrinsically theological discussions. And it doesn’t end here — we also discuss Biblical hermeneutics. What was going through Abraham’s mind when he lifted his knife over Isaac? As much as we link the Hebrew Scriptures to New Testament theology, we Catholics know that the last thing Abraham was thinking about on that mountain was Jesus”

    I think that the way this obviously searching and intelligent person posed these queries are illustrative of what RYBS viewed as beyond the realm of discussion on more universal issues, inasmuch the questions posed cut right to the core of religious committment- a subject that RYBS viewed as beyond the realm of such discussions.

  69. Charlie Hall says:

    “It is not self evident that the reason YU opened AECOM is to support RIETS.”

    Not only is it not self evident, this is the first time I’ve ever heard it suggested!

    Full disclosure: I’m a professor at AECOM.

  70. G Pickholz says:

    Lawrence,
    As a former American watching its kehilla self destruct under the weight of yeshiva tuition for all but the most affluent, it is important to underscore the importance of initiatives such as R Riskin’s, and remove any and all stain that you and others might perceive exist from what should be seen as self evident, responsible nonprofit activity.

    As a tuition paying parent, this is marvelous. I regret your perception that responsible initiative is somehow tainted, but I lack the financial luxury of such distinction. All I see is millions in assistance for OTS from new and outside sources. As someone who openly made Tuition Aliya (permitting the blessing of two more children born Sabras that could never have been afforded in America), don’t view these actions and motivation as tainting R Riskin’s actions at all.

    We lack the luxury of looking down on activities that are not 100% theoretical and leshem shamayim, and are also designed to responsibly address soaring tuition costs in the kehilla. Here is an initiative that may very well meet both criteria — what could be bad?

  71. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    G.Pickholz: If, indeed, it met both criteria, not only would that not be bad, but it would be very good. But your initial remark focussed only on the fundraising criteria. Again, first it has to be shown that the initiative is on grounds of principle acceptable, only then could one introduce the fundraising aspect as an additional, indeed important, consideration.

  72. G Pickholz says:

    Gmar tov to all
    I have elected to combine taslich and kapparot this year, and threw a live chicken into La Mer Med.
    That should light up discussion :-)

  73. mycroft says:

    “I have elected to combine taslich and kapparot this year, and threw a live chicken into La Mer Med.
    That should light up discussion :-”

    Proof of Christian influences on Jewish religious behavior -way before modern theological dialogue.

  74. G Pickholz says:

    Mycroft: very well said, indeed :-)

  75. [...] within Orthodox Judaism) toward interfaith theological dialogue. We discussed this recently here: link. Here is Dr. Berger’s recent Hebrew article: link. Below are my highlights of his points and [...]

 
 

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