Kosherizing Jesus

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A few months ago, I wrote a post that, while explicitly refraining from endorsing R. Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Jesus, can still be construed as doing so (link). After reading the book, I regretted even possibly giving that impression and wrote this review to rectify the matter. This was published in the latest issue of Jewish Action (link):

In the food industry, kosherization is a method to purge a vessel of non-kosher absorption. It is achieved through the use of boiling water or intense heat, depending on the manner of non-kosher use. In attempting to kosherize the Christian Gospels, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an author and media personality, wields inflammatory literary and historical tools to remove Christianity from its own history.

After diving in to rescue Jews from missionaries by ferociously beating back Christianity, Rabbi Boteach needlessly diverges from traditional Jewish theology. While this book has already been denounced by a number of rabbis from Rabbi Boteach’s Lubavitch sect, these condemnations—not book bans, but disavowals of the book’s content—are worthy of a broader demographic.

Kosher Jesus is a passionate but confused book. Following the idiosyncratic approach of English scholar Hyam Maccoby, Rabbi Boteach argues that the basic claims of Christian theology are founded on early Christian historical revisionism that Jesus the Jew would have found offensive. In Rabbi Boteach’s reading, Jesus preached a messianic gospel in the Jewish sense—freedom from external rule, self-governance in a sovereign Jewish country. He opposed religious hypocrisy and encouraged devotion to Torah observance. A learned Jew, he would have condemned any attempt to identify God with a human being or divide Him into a Trinity. Despite his predictions of an imminent political redemption and spiritual renewal, Jesus was captured and brutally executed by the Romans as a rebel leader…

Read the rest here: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

95 comments

  1. The shame of it is that it provides excuses for pepetuating positions taken by the Rav in the 1950s and 1960s that have time-expired. See: http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/rabbi-hershel-schachter-rejects-the-common-covenant-with-christians/

    The one keeper from the recent crop of books, btw, is: The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford, 2011).

  2. IH: I believe that the time has not expired and that R. Hershel Schachter, while lacking nuance, enunciated the right position for today.

    The Jewish Annotated New Testament is generally assur for Jews to read. Its value is for scholars and gentiles.

  3. Note that I deleted comments that insult R. Boteach. Let’s keep this discussion about the issues and not the person.

    One comment about the acknowledgments section of his book was border-line but I chose to be strict.

  4. IH-ask R D D Berger whether the RCC has completely abandoned supercessionism as an article of faith. Then, read any Sunday Styles section of the NY Times and ask yourself whether intermarriage has increased or decreased since the 1950s and 1960s.

  5. Perhaps Rabbi Student could elaborate on what distinguishes Boteach’s ideas regarding “more than one truth” from Chief Rabbi Sacks’s approach.

  6. Actually, as I read R. Boteach’s book, I thought he was heading in the same direction as the Chief Rabbi. But he didn’t. He actually wrote that the Torah is an incomplete truth and we need other religions to arrive at the whole truth.

    Here is what I think R. Sacks meant: https://www.torahmusings.com/2011/12/dignity-and-difference-in-defense-of-r-sacks/

  7. Thanks for the reply.

    When you said that Boteach writes that “Torah is an incomplete truth,” he says that explicitly?

  8. I agree with Gil on the issue of encouraging Jews to study the Xian bible — that should be out of the quest. But I’m not so sure about the issue of Xians studying it. Eventually, in the messianic age, all the peoples of the world will abandon their heretical beliefs and worship the same G-d. However, just as there is legitimate variety within (Orthodox) Judaism, I wonder whether there is also legitimate variety within the Noahide faith.

    If that were the case, then it would be understandable that there are Noahide groups that continue to study the Xian Bible, while redacting or reinterpreting any heretical elements (which R’ Boteach seems to advocate). People tend to be attached to the religion they grew up with, and surely something of lasting value to some has resulted from most religions (after all, R’ Avraham ben Rambam suggested imitating Muslim sufi practices in some ways). So if the masses are to become Noahides, doesn’t it make sense that some Noahide groups will retain some interest in studying texts from their old religion (whether Xian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.?)

  9. From an anti missinary blog:

    “A book written by an Orthodox rabbi, with the title; “Kosher Jesus”, plays right into the hands of the missionary effort to redefine Judaism. Although the contents of the book make a pathetic attempt to redefine “Jesus”, the name of the book, the cover of the book and the hoopla surrounding the book all serve to redefine Judaism.

    Those who read the book will find that Boteach actually does dispense his duty as a member of God’s witness nation. In the 25th chapter of his book Boteach writes: “Jews, including Jesus, have always found the deification of human beings to be utterly anathema to Judaism”. If Boteach would have put that sentence on the cover of his book and the words: “kosher Jesus” in chapter 25, he would have spared the Jewish community much heart-ache…”
    http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/persuasion-versus-education-response-to-dr-brown/

    There seem to be 2 separate issues here.

    1) Problems related to the content of the book itself (which you highlighted)

    2) The ostentatious style of presentation that provides PR for Jews for J types.

    “R’ Avraham ben Rambam suggested imitating Muslim sufi practices in some ways”

    Do you mind sourcing that?

  10. Dovid: From page 197 of the book: “For God, truth is like a puzzle. When you put all of the pieces together, the contributions from different faiths – under the umbrella of the Ten Commandments – build a higher truth.”

    And on the next page: “There are crucial lessons that can only be found in the intersection between faiths.”

  11. Purely at a tactical level, I would think the best defense against Christian missionaries — to the extent they are a salient threat — is to understand the primary ways in which they interpret our text differently as well as having some degree of acquaintance with the NT.

    It is worth mentioning that religious Christian support for Israel is bringing O Jews in contact with Christian texts (with no context) as well.

  12. Shaul: I don’t have exact citations, but try searching for “sufi” in the Amazon look-inside feature for R’ Avraham ben Rambam’s Guide to Serving God. He consistently argued, however, that these sufi customs were actually customs of the Jewish prophets that were lost to Judaism but copied by certain non-Jewse. It’s interesting to reflect that Rabbeinu Avraham did spiritually what his father did intellectually with Aristotelianism — embrace, in large part, trends from the surrounding society — while remaining completely frum.

  13. IH: I agree. I actually have a heter from an Agudah rabbi to study the NT for countermissionary purposes (long story).

  14. One thing I’ve noticed is that when Boteach has a somewhat simplistic (or, if you wish, overly and/or properly frum) view of the history of halakha and popular adherence thereto. Therefore, when he says that Jesus believed something, he basically means that:

    1. Rabbinic/Talmudic Judaism believes it;

    2. Rabbinic/Talmudic Judaism of the Bavli is identical to that of the Pharisees 500 years earlier;

    3. Most people in the year 1 were Pharisees.

    4. Jesus was learned in halakhah- that specific halakhah;

    5. Jesus adhered to halakhah, and consistently so.

    6. Jesus was “all there.”

    You generally can’t deny 1. Lots of scholars would deny 2; you don’t even have to be non-religious to deny it in some senses. 3 is not even the position of Chazal; most people were am haratzim and lots were Tzedukim. There’s no reason to assume 4. The New Testament (and Jesus himself) are contradictory on the first half of five, which makes the second half, at least, true, which then bounces back on the first half. 6 makes everything else possible.

    In short: There’s no real reason to think that Jesus didn’t think he could be the messiah or even the son of God, and that perhaps he was deluded enough to believe it; there’s no real reason to think he wouldn’t approve of at least “creative” changes in halakhah (making him, in the words of a rebbe of my brother’s, a good Reform or maybe Conservative rabbi); and, of course, there’s no reason non-Jews have to keep halakhah anyway, which makes Christianity (apart from the whole trinity thing) a nice thing for them to do.

    I’m sure Boteach *means* well. I just can’t help but shake the feeling that he’s not very educated and/or sophisticated in his world view.

  15. “When you put all of the pieces together, the contributions from different faiths – under the umbrella of the Ten Commandments – build a higher truth.”

    In his defense, see יא in http://www.mechon-mamre.org/i/e511.htm

  16. IH: That is not by any means a sufficient defense.

  17. Ipcha Mistabra

    I don’t think Rabbi Boteach said people should study the gospels. What he said was that we can learn from Jesus and Christianity. If he said we could learn from Ghandi would you also say that is a deviation from Jewish theology?

    Furthermore, if you would have laid out that quote in full and included the examples he gave on the next page, you would have seen that Rabbi Boteach gives examples of what we can learn from Christianity. He writes there, “…working with Christians I have learned a great deal – particularly from the passion for social justice so crucial to Chrsitian activists today. Both religious communities have their specialties – imagine how much stronger they would be if they learned openly from one another?”

    I also think you have to take this part of the book in context. It is unfair to cherry pick a quote near the end of the book without pointing out that the book had spent the last 196 pages completely ripping Christianity to pieces.

    Furthermore, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, who is on the Sydney beis din, and is himself a Lubavitcher, took the time to ask Rabbi Boteach what he meant when he spoke of multiple truths. What Rabbi Gutnick showed was that what Rabbi Boteach wrote could be read in a kosher way or a problematic way, yet he gives Rabbi Boteach the benefit of the doubt when Rabbi Boteach clarified his intentions in what he wrote; “Rabbi Boteach assures me his intent was not to suggest multiple truths other than the Torah, but rather that not everyone has to believe as a Jew. He in facts alludes to this when he writes “Judaism permits …a diverse world” – he knows that for something to be permissible Judaism must permit it. However the wording as published is certainly very problematical and I have suggested that to be true to himself and Judaism he corrects the language for future editions.”
    The entire article can be read here http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/kosher_shmuley_20120509/
    Rabbi Student I don’t think you thought out this article sufficiently before you wrote it. Its really unfortunate that you’ve unfairly maligned Rabbi Boteach.

  18. “In his defense, see יא in http://www.mechon-mamre.org/i/e511.htm

    How does a mistaken opinion, belief in which is helpful to some people for reasons they don’t understand, become a “higher truth”?

  19. IH:

    “as well as having some degree of acquaintance with the NT.”

    i’m ok with jews studying NT, but how about they study our bible first?

    “It is worth mentioning that religious Christian support for Israel is bringing O Jews in contact with Christian texts (with no context) as well.”

    i think a lot of O jews realize have some vague idea that christian support for israel is part of an eschatological context, but that’s about it. some may understand it a bit deeper. but that it brings o jewws in contact with C texts? nope.

  20. i’m ok with jews studying NT, but how about they study our bible first?

    Abba — That was implicit in the first half of my statement “to understand the primary ways in which they interpret our text differently as well as having some degree of acquaintance with the NT.”

    There was a time when this was happening in many MO shuls, simply through the use of the Hertz chumash. This is particularly true in the notes for the haftarot, for example: see for example p. 305 for the notes at the end of Haftarat Yitro (Isaiah 9:5-6). But, it occurs in the Torah text as well – for example, I noted in the notes for this past Shabbat’s parsha on p. 824 (Deut. 17:18):

    At the crowning of a British monarch, the Bible is delivered to him with the words, ‘We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing the world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal law; these are the lively (i.e. living) oracles of God’ cf. II Chron. XXIII, 11.

  21. I think that this linkhttp://cjcuc.com/site/2011/05/24/cjcuc-statement-on-a-jewish-understanding-of-christians-and-christianity/ represents one example ( along with RYG’s book that R R D Berger seriously critiqued in Tradition) that RHS viewed as incompatible with RYBS’s views in Confrontation.

  22. The following paragraph in particular would certainly raise issues as to whether the same is compatible with traditional hashkafic views of the unique mission of Am Yisrael:

    “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.”

    I preface this comment with the fact that R S Riskin was a rebbe of mine in JSS who inspired me to learn, who impressed on me the importance of sweating the details in Halacha LMaaseh , emphasized Kavod Chachamim, and enable me to grow in my Avodas HaShem while developing the model of all adult education programs in the MO world at LSS.Many of us on this blog have our memories of R Riskin in LSS and JSS, and we are all entitled to our own perspectives, as R Riskin served as a rebbe and rav to many of us. Yet, R Riskin never encouraged his talmidim in JSS to become Riskiner Chasidim. That is why it pains me all the more to write the following comment.

    Yet, the Talmud in Arachin 16b records that a talmid may raise a question and even severely criticize the comments of a rebbe. The most simple and yet IMO fundamentally important critique of such a proposition is why would anyone want to be Jewish if R”L there are no differences between Judaism and other faiths. IMO, it is a logically simple hop and jump to make such an equation if R”L if one does not view Jews as having a covenental relationship with HaShem via the dual covenenants of Bris Avos and Bris Sinai. When one reads the comments of R Boteach together with the essays of R Riskin on this issue, one cannot come to the conclusion that in the search for allies for Israel, they have seemingly forgotten the essence of Havdalah-the differences between Kodesh and Chol, Or and Choshech,and Yisrael and the nations of the world. Once again, we see the consequences of emphasizing Kiddush at the expense and necessity of making Havdalah.

  23. Steve — then be consistent by unambiguously rejecting the religious Christian support for Israel such as Christians United for Israel (http://makeadifference.cufi.org/?cat=11).

  24. “H on August 27, 2012 at 7:32 am
    The shame of it is that it provides excuses for pepetuating positions taken by the Rav in the 1950s and 1960s that have time-expired. See: http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/rabbi-hershel-schachter-rejects-the-common-covenant-with-christians/

    The one keeper from the recent crop of books, btw, is: The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford, 2011).

    Hirhurim on August 27, 2012 at 8:52 am
    IH: I believe that the time has not expired and that R. Hershel Schachter, while lacking nuance, enunciated the right position for today”

    Certainly the Ravs theological positions would not have changed-however I believe it is a very nuanced position usually misinterpreted by most on both sides of the debate thus according to the Rav it is clear that one can’t engage in non academic discussions of faith , but on the other hand permissible discussions are not limited to social action type issues action. There is probably around 20 years of detailed history of what interfaith events the Rav permitted to attend and what he did not permit to attend. It would be worthwhile for some scholars such as Professors Kaplan, Brill etc to write on the Ravs viewpoint as to permissible interfaith activities as shown by what events he permitted attendance and what events he did not.
    BTW-I believe it is irrelevant to the Ravs position as to whether or not it is advantaged to engage in such activity-his important argument is timeless theological-the pragmatic ones often cited are mostly irrelevant those conditions may or may not have changed and the Ravs expertise was halacha not practical benefits/loss of dialogue. Thus even if the church would tomorrow recognize Israeli sovereignty on both banks of the Jordan it would be irrelevant to his basic general opposition to theological dialogue.

  25. IH: It’s really far-out to claim that Rambam as support. The Rambam felt that Christianity was avoda zara and that Islam was lunacy. And what does that line from Hertz have to do with anything?

    As to “truths” in the NT, I’m sorry. I can’t see anything of value there that can’t be found in Tanach. Of course, who today learns, say, Trei Asar? But it’s there, and we should learn it. The Sermon on the Mount always seemed a bit trite and simplistic for me. Malachi- now *that’s* something.

  26. Ipcha Mistabra: I don’t think Rabbi Boteach said people should study the gospels. What he said was that we can learn from Jesus and Christianity.

    Interesting take. I find it implausible but I’ll have to take another look.

    Furthermore, if you would have laid out that quote in full and included the examples he gave on the next page, you would have seen that Rabbi Boteach gives examples of what we can learn from Christianity

    The example contradict the earlier statement, truths vs. actions. I specifically write in the review that I don’t think R. Boteach believes the theological relativism his words invoke.

    I also think you have to take this part of the book in context. It is unfair to cherry pick a quote near the end of the book without pointing out that the book had spent the last 196 pages completely ripping Christianity to pieces

    Please reread this review and you will see that I do no such thing.

    Furthermore, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, who is on the Sydney beis din, and is himself a Lubavitcher, took the time to ask Rabbi Boteach what he meant when he spoke of multiple truths

    I wrote that I don’t think R. Boteach believes this. He just wrote poorly in order to give a feel-good sound-bite.

  27. Nachum — I’m not sure what you are arguing. I am not a supporter of this book as you may remember from previous discussions, but I am also Dan L’Chaf Zchut on the quotation Gil provided, which IMO does not prove his point. R. Boteach is no dummy.

    Regarding Rambam, the passage I referenced is not in most printed editions of the MT, so it is hardly surprising that it is jarring to those of us who were taught (as I too was) the simplistic position you summarize. As far as I am aware, no one disputes that the text I referenced in הלכות מלכים ומלחמות פרק יא is not authentically his.

    In regard to Hertz, ay pa’aam — when the standarrd MO shul Chumash was Hertz — there was more opportunity for the amcha to understand textual interpretive differences of Tanach with Christians than there is today. Chaval.

    —–

    Finally, since no one has mentioned it, I wonder if R. Boteach’s penchant for Hyam Maccoby’s da’at yachid is related to a personal relationship that was established during his time working for Chabad in Oxford? Are there any hints in the book, Gil?

  28. IH:

    -I know full well that passage in the Rambam. I can almost recite it by heart. (I once took a course in Jewish eschatology in which we were required to have an unedited Rambam.) But the point is that contra to what you (and the Conservative movement) say, that quote in no way validates Christianity; it finds the good in a bad thing. Revolutionary enough, but not as much as some would like.

    -I like the Hertz very much. I just don’t see how that one line you cited supports your opinion. In general, while Hertz may quote Christian interpreters (and chaval that Soncino removed all such from the rest of Tanach), he doesn’t cite things that are against the Jewish view.

  29. Nachum — you seem more familiar with the Conservative movement than I — what do they say, specifically? In any case, I never said it validated Christianity. I said that it might be a defense of the quotation Gil offered as damning:

    For God, truth is like a puzzle. When you put all of the pieces together, the contributions from different faiths – under the umbrella of the Ten Commandments – build a higher truth.

    On Hertz, as previously, I refer you to p. 305 (and p. 202 to which it refers). While flipping to that page, I also noticed the trenchant note on Ex. 23:4.

  30. To be constructive, Nachum, why don’t you offer your English translation of the passage from Rambam that you can almost recite by heart, making an attempt to contrast/compare it with the quotation from R. Boteach:

    אבל מחשבות בורא עולם–אין כוח באדם להשיגם, כי לא דרכינו דרכיו ולא מחשבותינו מחשבותיו. וכל הדברים האלו של ישוע הנוצרי, ושל זה הישמעאלי שעמד אחריו–אינן אלא ליישר דרך למלך המשיח, ולתקן את העולם כולו לעבוד את ה’ ביחד: שנאמר “כי אז אהפוך אל עמים, שפה ברורה, לקרוא כולם בשם ה’, ולעובדו שכם אחד”

  31. To be “constructive,” IH, why don’t you quote the rest of the Rambam where he explains himself:

    כיצד: כבר נתמלא העולם כולו מדברי המשיח, ומדברי התורה ומדברי המצוות, ופשטו דברים אלו באיים רחוקים, ובעמים רבים ערלי לב; והם נושאים ונותנים בדברים אלו, ובמצוות התורה–אלו אומרים מצוות אלו אמת היו, וכבר בטלו בזמן הזה, ולא היו נוהגות לדורות. ואלו אומרים דברים נסתרות יש בהם, ואינן כפשוטן, וכבר בא משיח, וגילה נסתריהם.

    יג וכשיעמוד המלך המשיח באמת, ויצליח וירום ויינשא–מיד הם כולן חוזרין ויודעים ששקר נחלו אבותיהם, ושנביאיהם ואבותיהם הטעום.

  32. Anonymous was me. The quote is from Hil. Melachim Umlichamoseihem, 11:12-13, which immediately follow 11:11 which IH quoted.

  33. “whether the RCC has completely abandoned supercessionism as an article of faith. ”

    Two American Protestant groups, the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church, have explicitly done so. I’m not aware of any other Christian groups that have.

    (I can provide links if R’Gil thinks that links to Christian sites are kosher.)

  34. Links are fine but remember that mainstream Protestant groups are religiously liberal (think Reform) and don’t represent a good deal of Christianity.

  35. Here is an English translation of the above-cited Rambam I copied from a Chabad website. It seems accurate, although the last sentence is a bit stronger in Hebrew than in English:

    Nevertheless, the intent of the Creator of the world is not within the power of man to comprehend, for His ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts, our thoughts. Ultimately, all the deeds of Jesus of Nazareth and that Ishmaelite who arose after him will only serve to prepare the way for Mashiach’s coming and the improvement of the entire world, motivating the nations to serve God together as Tzephaniah 3:9 states: ‘I will transform the peoples to a purer language that they all will call upon the name of God and serve Him with one purpose.’

    How will this come about? The entire world has already become filled with the mention of Mashiach, Torah, and mitzvot. These matters have been spread to the furthermost islands to many stubborn-hearted nations. They discuss these matters and the mitzvot of the Torah, saying: ‘These mitzvot were true, but were already negated in the present age and are not applicable for all time.’

    Others say: ‘Implied in the mitzvot are hidden concepts that can not be understood simply. The Mashiach has already come and revealed those hidden truths.’

    When the true Messianic king will arise and prove successful, his position becoming exalted and uplifted, they will all return and realize that their ancestors endowed them with a false heritage and their prophets and ancestors caused them to err.

  36. Tal — I see (and saw) nothing in the followon that contradicts the striking similarities between R. Boteach’s quotation and Rambam’s precedent.

    I disagree with R. Boteach overall, but that heresy hunting quote Gil provided is just not convincing to me. If it is convincing to others, so be it.

  37. IH: Of *course* it’s different. The Rambam isn’t saying that Christianity and Islam are puzzle pieces for a higher truth, he’s saying that they’re useful falsehoods that will someday enable their followers to *get* to the actual truth, which is Judaism; they will then discard their false faiths.

    Look, I’m sure there’s room to say that a god Christian or Muslim can be considered a Ben Noach. But the Rambam is *not* the person to cite for that. See, for example, the very end of Chapter 8 of the same section. A one-letter typo makes it even harsher, but even the original doesn’t give much leeway. (By Conservative, I was referring to that “Dabru Emet” or something issued a few years back which trying using the Rambam for the same purpose. It may not have been officially Conservative.)

    A good example of a dead-end to “dialogue,” by the way, is the Catholic cardinal I recently saw quoted as saying that Christians can change some of their ideas if Jews removed certain references to Jesus from the Talmud. He seems to have no idea what the Talmud even *is*- you don’t “remove” things from a set text.

  38. Typo: *Good* Christian or Muslim. Or Hindu or Sikh or Buddhist (or pagan?), for that matter.

  39. IH: The Rambam and the quote from Boteach are as different as chalk and cheese. Not clear to me why you can’t (or refuse to) see the difference between preparing the world to accept our truth, and emergence of a “higher truth” through combination of different religions. The quotes are there in English and Hebrew; others can judge.

    (Caveat: I am not judging R. Boteach. I have not read the book, and I don’t know what he wrote in context. The quote Gil cited is disturbing, although perhaps it can be explained away. In any case, the Rambam it isn’t.)

  40. A good example of a dead-end to “dialogue,” by the way, is the Catholic cardinal I recently saw quoted as saying that Christians can change some of their ideas if Jews removed certain references to Jesus from the Talmud.

    Someone told me a story, perhaps apocryphal, that when Rav Soloveichik was about to come out with his Confrontation in opposition to theological discussions with Christians, he was visited by a Cardinal who tried to convince him otherwise. The Rav then went through several Catholic doctrines with him to show him how the two religions were incompatible. As he went through them, the Cardinal supposedly said, “We can give up on that” or something to that effect. After several of these, the Cardinal turned to an aid and asked, “Am I still a Catholic?”

    Strange that they are so eager for “dialogue.”

  41. From Prof. John Connelly’s From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933–1965 (Harvard, 2012) pp. 249-250:

    […] Cardinal Bea would not let [Decretum] De Judaeis disappear and die, however, and intervened with John XXIII to ensure that the item be returned to conciliar business. In December 1961, Bea wrote the pope that a statement on the Jews was “demanded by the bond of kinship between Christians and Jews which is far deeper than the bond which unites all humans.” The “appalling crimes of National Socialism against six million Jews” required a “purification of spirit and conscience.” He lamented that all too often Catholic preachers had accused the Jewish people of deicide.

    In this note to the pope, the cardinal was reversing two ideas he had defended in the Secretariat just a year earlier: that the Jews were just one people among others, and that they had suffered a curse for rejecting Christ. What changed his point of view? The favor he showed the Freiburger Rundbrief through the 1950s had done nothing to alter his belief in the deicide myth, a belief he had expressed in academic prose as early as 1920. Perhaps, as was the case with Karl Thieme, Cardinal Bea found a new language to talk about Jews only after be began talking to Jews. Among the people with whom the cardinal entered a sustained conversation in late 1961 – just as the Secretariat was discussing De Judaeis – was the American rabbi of Polish origin Abraham J. Heschel, who like Bea was a German-trained theologian. The two met for the first time on Sunday, November 26, 1961, in the company of the German-Jewish philosopher Max Horkeimer, Zachariah Shuster of the American Jewish Committee, and Karl Thieme’s old Vatican supporter Father Felix Morlion (also the American Jewish Committee’s most highly placed Catholic advocate). At this meeting, Heschel presented the cardinal with two volumes of rabbinic commentary on the Torah with place markings indicating commentaries on the Song of Songs, on which Bea had written an introduction to a critical edition in Hebrew. During their conversation, Heschel emphasized that “Jews want to be known, understood and respected as Jews [Als Juden]. When Bea and Heschel next met in New York City in March 1963, they quickly disappeared from public view for an intimate exchange of ideas “like old friends”.

    After the first meeting Heschel had got busy compiling a memorandum for Bea’s Secretariat on what he hoped a Vatican declaration on the Jews might say. Among other things, he hoped it would reject the deicide charge and recognize “Jews as Jews”. Indeed, after this point, drafts of De Judaeis did precisely these things, explicitly condemning deicide and dropping all reference to the Jews’ joining the church.

    http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674057821

  42. IH-I have previously mentioned that R D Berger has many issues with both RYG’s hashkafa on these issues, as he has on the messianist aspects of Chabad, and that there are few people in our generation akin to R R D Berger who are intellectually equipped to do so in his inimitable manner. That’s why I think that his view on the quote from R RIskin made perfect sense to me. I have no quarrel with evangelicals who support Israel, simply because their faith presents no threat to me nor should it to any Shomer Torah UMitzvos. I do think that we need not engage in blurring of hashkafic fundamentals or watering down of the same in our search for allies.

  43. IH-re the link to CUFI, it is well known that RAK said during WW2, that he would kiss the ring of the Pope if it would save the life of a Jew. I think that it is great CUFI exists and marshals gentile support for Israel. I could care less about their philosophy simply because it poses no threat to me.

  44. IH-IIRC, RYBS also met with Cardinal Bea. See R D JJ Schachter’s work on Kinos for RYBS’s recollections, which I think were quite different, and by no means as obsequeious as R D Heschel. IIRC, RYBS described the RCC hierarchy as acessories in its aiding and abetting the Holocaust, as well as failing to recognize the Jewish right to rebuild the Beis HaMikdash as evidence of a lack of good faith and recognition of our ultimate religious goals.

  45. I could care less about their philosophy simply because it poses no threat to me.

    Steve — As far as I am aware serious Christian proselytizing of Jews is a much bigger problem in Israel than in the US.

  46. IH-Proselytzing of Jews by Christians even in Israel should never pose a threat to anyone who is a Shomer Torah UMitzvos.

  47. IH-I think that in light of this discussion, it bears reiteration that despite the messianist element within Chabad, in many locations throughout the world, Chabad serves a a port of entry for many Jews who have never seen a Shabbos table, a Shofar, or a pair of Tefilin, etc and who begin their exploration of Judaism. Without the influence and impact of Chabad, there would never have been the growth and developments of either a kiruv movement or community kollelim

  48. “As far as I am aware serious Christian proselytizing of Jews is a much bigger problem in Israel than in the US.”

    Non-religious American Jews are too secular to see an appeal in Christianity. Non-religious Israelis are too traditional to see the appeal- and Christianity is too foreign as well.

  49. Ipcha Mistabra

    Rabbi Student, I still think you have gone too far. You say that Rabbi Boteach’s religious relativism is sacrilegious nonsense. What you should have written is that although Rabbi Boteach has clarified that he does not believe in multiple truths beside the torah, his wording in the book could possibly lead a person to that reading and this should be clarified and corrected.

    Also, when you explain Rabbi Boteach’s words as a soundbite that he doesn’t believe, you nonetheless imply that he intended people to believe it, which he did not. You cannot assume what his intentions were when you don’t know.

    Also, for you to accuse him of “deviance from traditional Judaism,” you should 100% sure that you are reading his book correctly. If he never wrote that people should read the gospels, then you have no right to assume he did and accuse him of this in such a public way.

    Finally, although your image of the cover of Kosher Jesus stamped with the word treife is a clever picture, it is a very deceptive depiction that will lead many people who do not read the article or who simply glance at this picture to assume the entire book is heresy and that Rabbi Boteach is somehow treife for having written it. And all this when really you’re main problem with it is one line whose meaning is unclear, as well as your erroneous assumption that Rabbi Boteach wants people to study the gospels.

  50. Charlie Hal-neither of the two Protestant denominations that you mentioned are known as great friends of Israel. IIRC, there are rather noisy supporters of BDS in both groups.

  51. The misunderstandings that seem to have become “mesorah” in some circles are clarified in: http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/letters/rabbi-hershel-schachter-distorts-christian-jewish-relations

    “Rabbi Schachter’s assertion that Catholics understand Jews to have lost their status as God’s people directly contradicts today’s normative Catholic teaching, which has been publically reiterated many times by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Most Protestant churches have issued similar statements, as even a cursory glance at our online resource library compellingly demonstrates. (See http://www.dialogika.us.)”

  52. IH-See my critique of the letter to the JW that shows a rather curious inability to distinguish between permissible ecumenical intefaith dialogue, as opposed to exercises in comparative religion that for the purposes of allies for Israel, wreck havoc with traditional Jewish views of Christianity as AZ,as well as the uniquely Jewish roles of a covenantal community, regardless of the changes in Christian doctrine that one must always view with a strong dose of salt. As long as supercessionist rhetoric is alive and well, and no Christian movement acknowledges our right to build Bayis Shlishi, the proper POV remains as expressed by RYBS in Confrontation.

  53. wreck havoc with traditional Jewish views of Christianity as AZ

    Yes, How dare the Christians modify their views just to lure us into dialogue. For shame!

  54. IH-see the views of the participants in a symposium at Boston College and many of the op eds in the Commentator following the visit of some RCC clergy to YU. There was no doubt that Confrontation was meant by RYBS to serve as a Psak, to set forth the limits of what constituted permissible interfaith ecumenical dialogue and what was prohibited. We have no reason to enter into any discussions of a theological nature, which R D Lamm described in his hesped for RYBS as an invitation for Shmad rooted in Ahavah, as opposed to Yirah. We have no reason or basis to bestow any covenental relationship upon any other religious community, especially when the Torah tells us explicitly that by dint of our acceptance of the Mitzvos as well as via the dual covenants of the Avos and Sinai that only Klal Yisrael has such a relationship.

  55. Steve — as I stated in the first comment in this discussion thread, my view is that the positions taken by the Rav in the 1950s and 1960s have time-expired. It seems others have also come to a similar conclusion.

  56. IH-your posts on this issue and the links therein ignore the fact that neither the RCA nor the OU are listed among the various Jewish agencies that participate in its deliberations. Once again, we see what happens when secular Jewish agencies get involved in issues of Jewish theology and essentially urge Orthodoxy to dispense with Confrontation as the Psak of RYBS.Noone ever appointed ADL or AJC as a representative of Jewish interests or granted them an expertise in interfaith relations. Perhaps, both ADL and AJC should spend their collective time looking for anti Semitism where it is alive and well, on the college campuses of the US, as opposed to engaging in apologetics with he RCC where none are called for and aiding and abetting the RCC in proclaiming that it has a joint covenant with Klal Yisrael!

  57. Steve — Is R. Riskin representing the ADL or the AJC, then?

    Also, check this out from the Rabbanut (point 2 in particular):
    http://www.millenniumpeacesummit.com/2nd_Hindu-Jewish_Leadership_Summit_Declaration.pdf

  58. IH-you obliquely refer to “others” Yet, we all know who you are refering to ( RYG, RS Riskin , R Weiss [the outgoing head of YCT], and RDH). The overwhelming majority of talmidim of RYBS have viewed Confrontation as a binding Psak.

  59. IH-R Riskin has been a “lone ranger” hashkaficallly for decades, as have been the other LW Mo rabbonim that I mentioned. The last link that you posted did not open, but if it was the Israeli CR, then one must remember that the CR is a political institution and Israel has sought alliances of an economic and political nature with India since India moved in a more capitalistic manner, which would have been unheard of and unthinkable with an India headed by “disciples” of Gandhi such as Nehru, etc.

  60. Conversely, perhaps RHS is the “lone ranger” on this issue within MO. Let’s see what the response is to the Jewish Week letter.

  61. IH-I was able to open the link and saw R Lau’s and R Amar’s names. That only convinced me that as the Ashkenazic and Sefardic CRs, they are helping Israel to find allies and understanding, as R Lau described in his autobiography, and as CR Sacks did in his writings and speeches to the outside world. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and since India, a longtime antagonist of Pakistan, and Isarel, are both worried about Islamic rooted terror, alliances of this nature make sense from a POV of realpolitik.

  62. I see. So halacha is fungible when politically correct. Interesting.

  63. “Conversely, perhaps RHS is the “lone ranger” on this issue within MO”

    Is RHS MO? It is clear he has good relations with many MO-many MO treat him as their Rebbe-he certainly tolerates MO-but it is unclear to me that it is a lechatchilah to him.

  64. ” There was no doubt that Confrontation was meant by RYBS to serve as a Psak, to set forth the limits of what constituted permissible interfaith ecumenical dialogue and what was prohibited”
    One has to read Confrontation together with the statement of permissible and non permissible activities that the Rav promulgated for the RCA and the large record of what the Rav permitted and what he prohibited.

    Confrontation and the guidelines for interfaith discussions were not intended to stop exchanges between Jews and non Jews . The Lonely Man of Faith was first presented as an oral lecture at a Catholic seminary in Brighton, Massachusets by the Rav!!!!!. The Rav approved of discussions concerning socio-political issues, although in Confrontation the Rav states for people of faith such issues are not secular concerns but are grounded in theological convictions.

  65. “I see. So halacha is fungible when politically correct. Interesting.”

    That’s more charitable than my reaction, which was “So Jewish leaders are motivated by politics when one doesn’t agree with them but one has a good opinion of them. Without a good opinion, they’re just LW.”

  66. IH: I agree that R. Hershel Schachter is incorrect on official church policy. However, there are Catholics who still preach that view, not to mention plenty of non-Catholics. Interfaith Dialoguists fool themselves if they believe they have changed everyone’s views.

  67. I see. So halacha is fungible when politically correct.

    Or perhaps halakha recognizes distinctions that you refuse to see. As Mycroft well put it, Rav Soloveichik approved discussion about socio-political issues; what he disapproved of was theological discussions, which he believed would end up blurring the theological lines.

    It strikes me that working with other religious groups to build poliitcal support for Israel falls distinctly on one side of the line. The Chief Rabbis, as functionaries of a secular, political entity likewise seem to so fall, although I am not privy to their discussions. Many of those Steve is criticising, OTOH, seem to have gone well beyond these parameters.

    Before you accuse someone else of bad faith, perhaps you should re-read your absurd postings about the Rambam, above.

  68. By the way, as to the point of what the Chief Rabbis said, there’s a very strong possibility that Hinduism is indeed monotheistic, and doesn’t have the replacement baggage Christianity or Islam do.

  69. The classical Christian believe is not to denigrate or reject the Old Testament, but rather to say that it is insufficient without the New Testament, which completes the Divine revelation. That approach sounds virtually the same as Rabbi Boteach’s “higher truth” line. The jarring thing here is not so much that he made a fuzzy statement which blurs the boundaries between religions, but that he chose a formulation right out of the Christian religion.

  70. By the way, as to the point of what the Chief Rabbis said, there’s a very strong possibility that Hinduism is indeed monotheistic, and doesn’t have the replacement baggage Christianity or Islam do.

    Since “Hindusim” is practiced by hundreds of millions of people, and by what little I understand of it has numerous sects and subsects, I doubt you can make a blanket statement about it. I suspect (or at least would not be surprised) that what you say is true of some but not of others.

    A nafka minah, of course, might be its status as Avodah Zarah, and related questions such as whether certain items used in the religion are tikrovet avodah zarah.

  71. A short video on YouTube explaining the art and architecture of the Hindu temples of India.

  72. I would be interested in a link to any any knowledgable explanation of how Hinduism is not AZ, but Christianity is.

  73. “I would be interested in a link to any any knowledgable explanation of how Hinduism is not AZ, but Christianity is.”

    They call them gods but they mean sephirot 😛

  74. 1) At Ramaz we read the gospels, in ancient-history class. It was part of the 10th-grade anti-missionary indoctrination, about the only heavy-handed indoctrination we ever got. History class had the Gospels, Judaism class was Jewish sociology of the twin evils of Intermarriage and Assimilation (reading As A Driven Leaf among other things), Navi was Yishayahu-Yirmiyahu, with side helpings of Aryeh Kaplan’s “The Real Messiah” and Xtian missionary literature. Chumash and Gemara were Chumash and Gemara.

    2) I don’t see much wrong with the first part of Gil’s review. Much the same position was taken by R’ Riskin 20 years ago, based on David Flusser’s “Jesus” – that Jesus of the Gospels, if you strip out the accretions by doctrinaire Christians, did nothing wrong by Tannaitic standards – most of the areas where his practice differed from ours, were in areas that were still unsettled law in his time. Jesus the Pharisee, by Falk, takes a similar view – Jesus was the leader of a BT movement, he did nothing against then-current halacha, but it got away from his ideas after he died. Of course, the pluralistic stuff Boteach adds to his work is bogus, logically impossible – how can two religions whose existence negates the validity of the other, coexist as parts of a “higher truth”?

  75. btw, it’s always fascinating what you can find on the internet.

    http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/JUDAISM%20AND%20HINDUISM.htm

    http://western-hindu.org/2007/09/24/hinduism-and-mystic-judaism/

    Apparently some hindus took my joke seriously.

  76. Tal, as a friend of mine who knows more of Eastern religion than I do puts it, the “Modern Orthodox” Hindus says it’s monotheistic.

    Or to put it another way, the priests know there’s one god (or God), but the message never filtered down to the hamon am.

    R’ Norman Lamm once told us a story how he was sent by the OU to India in the 1950’s and found the Jews literally worshiping idols.

  77. Tal, as a friend of mine who knows more of Eastern religion than I do puts it, the “Modern Orthodox” Hindus says it’s monotheistic.

    Or to put it another way, the priests know there’s one god (or God), but the message never filtered down to the hamon am.

    IIRC, the Rambam says the same thing happened when Avodah Zara first started.

  78. IH-R Lau makes no pretense about his discussions with such despots as Castro and other world leaders, secular and religious. What R Lau does not do, as opposed to RS Riskin and RYG , is seek allies by watering down core Jewish values and proclaiming that other faith communities have the same values as Torah observant Jews, or assert that the covenant between HaShem and Klal Yisrael is R”L not binding.

  79. Also, check this out from the Rabbanut (point 2 in particular):
    http://www.millenniumpeacesummit.com/2nd_Hindu-Jewish_Leadership_Summit_Declaration.pdf

    Yes, I find that document extremely disturbing, particularly Point 2. I supposed you could answer it up acc. to the view the shituf is permitted to a Ben Noach, but that is a very dochak reading. For one thing, as R. Schachter always says, even acc. to that view, it is certainly AZ for Jews. For another thing, saying something is not an idol is an objective statement. (Which is one reason I always found that view so difficult — either something is or is not an idol.)

    It certainly appears that they have crossed the line here.

  80. “I agree that R. Hershel Schachter is incorrect on official church policy. However, there are Catholics who still preach that view, not to mention plenty of non-Catholics. Interfaith Dialoguists fool themselves if they believe they have changed everyone’s views.”

    Not that Gil needs my haskama but I agree with Gil.

    I don’t believe that those who engaged in interfaith activities under the haskama of the Rav thought that they could change anyones view of theology. Theology is not a matter for negotiation.

  81. “with traditional Jewish views of Christianity as AZ,as well as the uniquely Jewish roles of a covenantal community, regardless of the changes in Christian doctrine that one must always view with a strong dose of salt. As long as supercessionist rhetoric is alive and well, and no Christian movement acknowledges our right to build Bayis Shlishi, the proper POV remains as expressed by RYBS in Confrontation.”
    Even according to those who held in medieval times that Christianity is AZ for non Jews-it is a question of fact if 21st century Christianity’s beliefs are always AZ.
    Irrelevant of course-even if a Christian movement would recognize the right to a Bayis Shlishi, renounce supercessionist beliefs etc would not change the basic objection to theological dialogue.

  82. Mycroft — repeating mantras does not constitute an argument. Just as we do not change halacha, Christians do not change theology. But both halacha and dogma are interpreted for their age.

    There is no question that Christian attitudes towards Jews have been re-intepreted to our benefit. You are older than I and I find it hard to believe you do not accept this as true.

    As Prof. Connelly observes about the change in the Vatican in 1961-1963 “Cardinal Bea found a new language to talk about Jews only after be began talking to Jews.” Similarly, such changes have occurred in the mainline and evangelical Protestant communities.

    By and large, traditional clerical anti-Semitism in Western Christendom has disappeared and its remnants marginalized.

  83. “There is no question that Christian attitudes towards Jews have been re-intepreted to our benefit.”
    I agree but that is THEIR decision.
    I remember that 50 years ago or so walking home from schul around Good Friday and Easter would be a time of being on the receiving end of anti-semitic comments-I believe that has changed.

    “As Prof. Connelly observes about the change in the Vatican in 1961-1963 “Cardinal Bea found a new language to talk about Jews only after be began talking to Jews.” Similarly, such changes have occurred in the mainline and evangelical Protestant communities.

    By and large, traditional clerical anti-Semitism in Western Christendom has disappeared and its remnants marginalized.”
    Agreed but so what-the opposition to theological dialogue is not based on political grounds-it is based on different faith communities.

  84. Of course it is “THEIR decision” but it wss influenced to a large degree by Jewish involvement (despite the Rav’s bitter objection).

    Again, I point to the most recent scholar of Nostra Aetate which I fully quoted earlier in the thread:

    During their conversation, Heschel emphasized that “Jews want to be known, understood and respected as Jews [Als Juden]. When Bea and Heschel next met in New York City in March 1963, they quickly disappeared from public view for an intimate exchange of ideas “like old friends”.

    After the first meeting Heschel had got busy compiling a memorandum for Bea’s Secretariat on what he hoped a Vatican declaration on the Jews might say. Among other things, he hoped it would reject the deicide charge and recognize “Jews as Jews”. Indeed, after this point, drafts of De Judaeis did precisely these things, explicitly condemning deicide and dropping all reference to the Jews’ joining the church.

    In other words, the decision was theirs, but it was shaped for Jews davka because of theological dialogue with Jews — cleric to cleric, sharing common theological interests.

  85. I agree with Tal’s comment of 5:42 PM. Again, I attribute the participation of the CR in such discussions purely as a matter of realpolitick-Israel and India, especially the pro capitalist India of today, have a common enemy-fundamentalist Islam, which is a major player in Pakistan. Politics makes strange bedfellows, especially when one considers the fact that the CR has been a politicized institution for decades, and that RAL pointed out that many DL had viewed such Gdolim as RSZA as their answers for halachic queries in place of and instead of the CR due to the same.

  86. IH-RYBS’s objections were not bitter, but rather a well thought out halachic response, as opposed to acting in a servile Karaoke manner based on the John Lennon School of Diplomacy and Interreligious Affairs that we have a right to dictate or applaud changes in RCC doctrine without reserving our rights to ask what prompted a change from Shmad MeYirah to Shmad MeAhavah. I think that historians and students of the growth of MO will ascribe RYBS’s stances on mixed seating and on interfaith ecumenical theological dialogue as the two key stances that led to the development of a dymanic MO and Charedi world in the US. I wouild argue that if one compares what one reads about the demise of the secular Jewish agencies in terms of fund raising, their mission and future, and CJ’s morphing into the RW of RJ, and the development of the Charedi and MO worlds, that the aforementioned stances were crucial , critical and clearly made in light of the experience of the Rishonim in theological debates and in realizing that such debates in the US, which guarantees free exercise of religion, were extraordinarily inappropriate for the faith community of the majority to insist on or invite the participation of a community that has historically been and will always be a minority nunerically, but eternally the Am HaNivchar.

  87. See Pages 183-184 of “The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways” re how RYBS spoke “with the head of the Vatican department for non-Christian religions.”

  88. In R. Yigal Sklarin’s Oct 2009 article in Modern Judaism, is this very illuminating historical record of the Rav’s written reaction to the temporary setback around which Prof. Connelly explains the key role R. Heschel played:

    From ‘‘Schema: Statement and Analysis,’’ The Jewish Horizon, Vol. 28, No. 1 (September to October 1964), p. 4.]:

    Those who are perturbed now, should have realized before that the theological ‘‘dialogue’’ was bound to become a theological monologue on the part of the Church, which is not ready to depart from her basic interpretation of Jewish history. Instead of complaining bitterly against the Church [for approving a schema that was not as liberal as many Jews had hoped for], they [those Jews who participated in theological ‘‘dialogue’’ with the Catholic Church] should say ‘‘nostra maxima culpa’’—in plain Hebrew, chatanu (we have sinned) for rushing in where angels fear to tread. The Church is within her rights to interpret our history in her own theological-dogmatic terms. We are the ones who have transcended the bounds of historical responsibility and decency by asking for theological documents on the Jews as ‘‘brethren’’ in faith instead of urging the Church to issue a strong declaration in sociological-human terms affirming the inalienable rights of the Jews as human being.

    I am very little concerned over the response of the Jewish community to the evangelical appeal contained in the new draft. The Jew, tenacious and totally committed to his past, with faith in his glorious eschatology, will reject this appeal with dignity . . . . What hurts me is that for the first time in our history the Church was, because of naïve and equivocal statements, led to believe that in the interests of good will we are ready for some revision of our historical attitudes and commitments. The situation does not call for hysteria and readiness to incur martyrdom. All it requires is common sense, responsibility, dignity and particularly a moratorium on theological ‘‘dialogue’’ and pilgrimages to Rome.

    Bitter, and with 20/20 hindsight just plain wrong.

  89. For ease of reference, here is the relevant excerpt From Prof. John Connelly’s From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933–1965 (Harvard, 2011) pp. 249-250:

    Yet before this draft could be presented to the bishops, the Council’s Coordinating Commission dropped Decretum de Judaeis from the agenda in the wake of a political controversy stirred by Nahum Goldmann, President of the World Jewish Congress. In the summer of 1962, Goldmann tried to nominate Dr. Chaim Wardi an observer to the Council without first clearing this move with the other Jewish organization or the Vatican. Because Wardi was also an official in the Ministry of Education of the State of Israel, allegations emerged from Arab states – which sheltered vulnerable Christian minorities – that the Vatican was taking the side of Israel. Cardinal Bea would not let de Judaeis disappear and die, however, and intervened with John XXIII to ensure that the item be returned to conciliar business. In December 1961, Bea wrote the pope that a statement on the Jews was “demanded by the bond of kinship between Christians and Jews which is far deeper than the bond which unites all humans.” The “appalling crimes of National Socialism against six million Jews” required a “purification of spirit and conscience.” He lamented that all too often Catholic preachers had accused the Jewish people of deicide.

    In this note to the pope, the cardinal was reversing two ideas he had defended in the Secretariat just a year earlier: that the Jews were just one people among others, and that they had suffered a curse for rejecting Christ. What changed his point of view? The favor he showed the Freiburger Rundbrief through the 1950s had done nothing to alter his belief in the deicide myth, a belief he had expressed in academic prose as early as 1920. Perhaps, as was the case with Karl Thieme, Cardinal Bea found a new language to talk about Jews only after be began talking to Jews. Among the people with whom the cardinal entered a sustained conversation in late 1961 – just as the Secretariat was discussing De Judaeis – was the American rabbi of Polish origin Abraham J. Heschel, who like Bea was a German-trained theologian. The two met for the first time on Sunday, November 26, 1961, in the company of the German-Jewish philosopher Max Horkeimer, Zachariah Shuster of the American Jewish Committee, and Karl Thieme’s old Vatican supporter Father Felix Morlion (also the American Jewish Committee’s most highly placed Catholic advocate). At this meeting, Heschel presented the cardinal with two volumes of rabbinic commentary on the Torah with place markings indicating commentaries on the Song of Songs, on which Bea had written an introduction to a critical edition in Hebrew. During their conversation, Heschel emphasized that “Jews want to be known, understood and respected as Jews [Als Juden]. When Bea and Heschel next met in New York City in March 1963, they quickly disappeared from public view for an intimate exchange of ideas “like old friends”.

    After the first meeting Heschel had got busy compiling a memorandum for Bea’s Secretariat on what he hoped a Vatican declaration on the Jews might say. Among other things, he hoped it would reject the deicide charge and recognize “Jews as Jews”. Indeed, after this point, drafts of De Judaeis did precisely these things, explicitly condemning deicide and dropping all reference to the Jews’ joining the church.

  90. IH wrote:

    “By and large, traditional clerical anti-Semitism in Western Christendom has disappeared and its remnants marginalized”

    If one looks in France, and the US , one can easily find evidence of the traditional bases of anti Semitism ( Buchanan, Lefevre)

    Once again-look at whether supercessionism has been openly repudiated-that is one key. Plus, look at who is being considered for “sainthood”-Pius XII. It amazes me how intelligent people can be deceived by or willingly accept ecumenical theological rhetoric for the price of a proverbial bowl of lentle soup. Today, anti Senitism, as CR Sacks has pointed out, is a function of the cultural elite who subscribe to human rights, just as the elites who ran Europe in the names of Christianity and science perpetrated anti Semitism and developed theories that fit their POVs as well. Noone has granted anyone who participates in such foolishness carte blanche to act in a manner that diminishes our role and beliefs that we are Am HaNivchar and that we have a special covenant with HaShem merely for views voiced on paper that have no practical effect.

  91. Tal: I remember a line from one of those British short-story collections Feldheim published- “The Prisoner,” I think, a version of the Avram-Nimrod story. When Avram says there’s one God, Nimrod turns to his priests and asks if this is true. After some hemming and hawing, they admit that, yeah, back in the days of Utnapishtim (i.e., Noach) people talked about something like that. But while it may have been muttar for them… 🙂

  92. Do you really think Catholics are not missionizing in Israel? One goes to Hell if they are not batized. Baptism of other faiths is a Mitzvah. Wake up and smell the truth There are still plenty of missionary groups out there whose goal is to proselytize and convert, Vatican statements not-withsdtanding. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

  93. As far as the church’s behavior vis-a-vis missionizing, control
    of Jerusalem, etc., a simple Google search demonstrates that Rabbi Schachter is
    correct (see links below). For anyone to take the church at its word,
    especially when those words are contradicted by deeds, is (at best) extreme
    naivete.
    Rome says it won’t intervene in row between US bishops,
    Jewish groups over Catholic proselytizing.

    Pope pushes for international status
    of holy sites

    Vatican impatience with Israeli visa
    policy

    Tensions mark Israel, Vatican relations
    Israel Postal Company workers in
    Ramat Gan say no to handing out thousands of holy Christian booklets

    Lastly, given that Rabbi Riskin seems to think that Buddists, Jews, Christains,
    etc. all serve the same exact God (see this document and this video) it is hard to
    understand how any traditional Orthodox Jew could see one who believes and
    wrties such things as a viable Torah leader.
    At least Rabbi Schachter had the decency to not name names and instead focus on
    ideas. It seems the same can not be said for Rabbi Riskin and The Jewish Week.

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