Changing circumstances often, but not always, demand a different application of the law. But they do not allow incorrect reinterpretations. Dr. David Berger recently published, in Makor Rishon, a lengthy rebuttal of R. Shlomo Riskin’s defense of his radical position (at least 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 translation of his conclusion:
- R. Riskin’s reliance on the Rambam’s responsum permitting teaching Torah to Christians is dangerous. The Rambam’s rationale amounts to teaching Torah as a mission to convert Christians either to Judaism or at least to a Jewish viewpoint (i.e. Noahide). Espousing such a position justifies Christian missionizing to Jews.
- Christians still want to missionize to Jews, as can be seen in even very recent developments.
- R. Soloveitchik opposed interfaith theological dialogue because, among other things, it encourages horse-trading of religious beliefs. In this respect, dialogue is more dangerous than disputation.
- R. Soloveitchik explicitly guided the RCA in its interfaith dialogue, composing specific guidelines that contradict R. Riskin’s interpretation of R. Soloveitchik’s essay, “Confrontation.” Additionally, R. Fabian Schonfeld testifies about R. Soloveitchik’s specific instructions on this subject, which were certainly nuanced but nevertheless unquestionably contrary to R. Riskin’s position.
Dr. Berger concludes his essay (my translation):
In summary, there is room to argue that Rav Riskin’s efforts are appropriate in the emergency situation which we currently face, although I don’t think so. However, the attempt to justify teaching Torah to Christians based on the Rambam’s responsum poses an existential threat to Jewish-Christian dialogue, and the argument that Rav Soloveitchik did not oppose interfaith theological discussion at all, and certainly not in current circumstances, is entirely untenable.