Friday, February 08, 2008

Saving The Jews!

Interesting posts and discussions from a Christian perspective.

Our salvation depends on our accepting their idolatrous ways of thinking! The question is how to get us to join them. That is what I gather from the discussions with a few exceptions. The arrogance really galls me. Or am I missing something?

There is no introspection on their part that maybe the watered down idolatry their doctrine teaches, is a stepping stone to Monotheism. I say watered down because from pantheons they now have only three!

Interestingly the apostate Cardinal Lustiger said it in an article in the NY Times Sunday Magazine March 20 1983

"For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That's my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it. I think that in being a disciple of Christ in my way, I enter into God's design, a part of a promise made good.'' (See MT Hilchot Melachim 11:4 for the source of this idea).

Did he say the Prayer?

Note the comment about Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Tragic.


  1. Do you say the second paragraph of Alenu? How do you interpret ltakun olam, l'malchut shaddai?

  2. For my part, I interpret it as everyone acknowledges Hashem as real and having the basic attributes Jews propose; that everyone lives lives of doing their best to be good and doing t'shuvah when they fail, promtply and conscientiously. Judaism has some special teachings on reaching this state, but it is conceivable there are other paths that could accomplish the same goal from the premise of One G*d, Just and Good G*d.

    Of course, I was told that Rambam said that this wouldn't work. That he said other nations would have to explicitly agree with the Jews beliefs, even if their peoples weren't formally converted to Judaism. Is this so? If it is, I think maybe he was biased by the times he wrote in, myself...the Rambam lived through the Spanish Expulsion. After that sort of experience, I can see wanting to have the non Jews eventually have to at least admit the Jews had it right all along.

    I think the key difference, Larry, is that the Christians are specific about how their vision will happen. The Jews...are much less so. This is a good thing, immo, and worth cherishing. This vagueness is what will help keep us from "gaming the system" trying to create the false appearance of the Messianic age without the reality. But here as with so much else, the Christian revelation ignores human nature...and I 'm sure there are going to be some high tech Christian societies that WILL try to fake the second coming, eventually. May that day not come anytime soon...

  3. Larry,

    I am not sure what the question is. It means exactly what Rambam says to make the world know that God exists and is king.It is paralel to kabalat ol malchut shamayim we do at Kryat Shema.

    Kendra, I am also not sure what exactly you are trying to say. There is only one goal for man 'to know God and emulate Him" and also to know that God's essence is unknowable. Any imagination of God being represented, transmuted, into a physical entity or any physical emanating from Him is idolatry and not acceptable in any shape or form. Humankind will only be "saved" using the Christian term facetiously, when all know and accept this premise. Christianity has not made it Islam is closer but both are still not all the way there. I got to go but keep on reading my blog. i am getting into the subject at my uasual snail's pace.

  4. "If it is, I think maybe he was biased by the times he wrote in, myself...the Rambam lived through the Spanish Expulsion."

    This is absolutely wrong. Please be more familiar with history before making such a rash assertion.

  5. Kendra probably meant the Shmad that was in his times in Granada and North Africa when Moslems forced conversions.

  6. First, I apologize, yes, anonymous was right, I was thinking "I know the Rambam had to leave Spain against his will" and accidentally conflated that with the great expulsion in Isabella's reign . That was lax footnoting and extremely lazy thinking. However, double checking my sources, the Rambam did basically leave because Christian Spain was benighted and Arabic Spain was being dominated by a new dynasty that wanted the Jews gone, converted or dead. I would think it fair to suspect such an experience left its mark. He was a great man but only a saint could have lived through that without a little resentment for non Jews....

    David, my apologies for being unclear. All I meant was that in the Aleinu I see a beautifully poetic but also brilliantly vague statement about the Messianic age which as far as I can see does not prohibit Christians from being part of it. Even if they continue to profess their faith, as long as they keep the peace and live lives of t'shuvah I don't see that contradicting the Aleinu. One might think that logically, it would be impossible for Mashiakh to come and Christianity not to abandon its ways en masse. However, people are capable of surprising convolutions and rationalizations. Mashiakh will work by purely mortal means. Thus his success can be misattributed. Perhaps one day in the end, they might give it up.

    But I honestly don't see how it makes a difference. I guess what I'm saying is I'm a panentheist and I don't see this contradicting Judaism. If you know of stuff which contradicts this belief, please, share. What I hear in the Aleinu is a panentheist sentiment: as long as people behave well, how they come to this state is moot save that it will _have_ to involve acknowledge a supreme transcendent deity that is worthy of human respect.

    (For the record I believe Jesus was in no way divine or some conduit of Hashem's will or anything like that. In point of fact, I'm very bitter towards him and most of his prominent followers. I just meant I don't see this mistaken belief having much meaning in the end. If Christians learn to be the best they can be, maybe a false belief can facilitate that. if they don't learn how to be their best, this failure to learn +totally overshadows+ the veracity of their cosmology.)

  7. >Even if they continue to profess their faith, as long as they keep the peace and live lives of t'shuvah I don't see that contradicting the Aleinu.

    When we say Emet Malkeinu Efet Zulato (our king is Truth naught exists except Him) we refute the possibility of there being a son of god or a holy spirit. As long as they believe that they are still mired in what to us is idolatry.

    >I guess what I'm saying is I'm a panentheist and I don't see this contradicting Judaism.

    I am sorry to disappoint you but it is anathema to Judaism. Even the mekubalim who struggle with the concept came up with the idea of Tzimtzum to save their ass (sorry for the term) from idolatry. As I progress with my posts on idolatry I will address this in depth.

  8. David,

    Commenting on your previous post...

    With all due respect, it is hard to accept your derech. At the most I can say that mysticism is dangerous if it falls in the wrong hands. THat is one of the reasons that the GRA opposed Chassidim. He held of the Zohar, but did not believe it was for the masses. And for good reason. Look what happened shortly before with the Sabbetean debacle.

    Even R' Yakov Emden, who may be the most independent mind that we have had in the last five hundred years, and critiqued the Zohar, was a supporter of the Zohar and the Arizal. He believed that parts of it were less reliable than others and did not believe that any of it was literally the words of RSBY. But even R' Emden held of the Zohar. I do not think that you will find anyone else (other than R' Yihye Kafa who was a lone voice and a bit of a reformer) excluding Scholem and company who remotely agreed with R YE.

    I need to put some context to my remarks. I struggle every day with rationalism vs. mysticism trying to understand how two paths seemingly so opposite can each be part of authentic Judaism. They seem very opposite. Your conclusion though is very difficult to accept. There have been many times that I have thought exactly like you basically thinking that mysticism (Zohar) is one big mistake. But how can it be that so many greats from all walks of life-Sephardim, Chassidim, Litvaks-all accepted the Zohar. Can they all have made a mistake? I doubt it. However, I sometimes hear kabbalistic thoughts or even peshatim on chumush based on remez or sod which do not do much for me. Does this mean that there is a flaw in kabbalah. No, it just means that sometimes people will say peshatim to suit their particular ideology and may be saying incorrect things just like from a rationalist approach there are many peshatim that do not seem logical so too mystical peshatim do not always do justice for mysticism.

    I understand that the Yeshiva education that you received which leaned heavily to mystical thought over rational thought was not right for you. I can understand that. However, can't you also see that perhaps you were not taught this approach correctly? Perhaps they should have stressed the rational path which is certainly the path that we all should follw at first? True mysticism is really about finding a deeper meaning to mitzvos and understanding things on a cosmolgocal level. While this may not be for everyone, does it really contradict rationalism which seeks intellectual reasoning for all that we do. I do not think that mysticism claims to be a replacement for rationalism as you claim; rather, it is a path that proponents feel can add to the somewhat-limited rational experience by helping you "get" things that the rational mind can not. Of course this is dangerous as once we get out of the rational realm, anything can be stated as a mystical truth. There is no way to rationally explain a mystical fact. This is that point that I am making. Mysticism must be handled very carefully. It is not for the masses. This was a concern of the GRA and others as mentioned. However, to the defense of the Chassidim, I do not think that they intended for the masses to learn Zohar, rather to take on certain mystical customs, etc. that they felt would be more appealing to those less-rationally inclined.

    I do agree with you that for the most part mysticism opposes philosophy (though I believe a handful of mekubalim were also philosophers) but this is no proof that their way opposed rationalism. They simply opposed philosophy as a method because they believe it leads to endless speculation and confusion (see the blog XGH for a good example of this).

    All in all, I respect your views as they are respectful. I also struggle similarly so your blog interests me a great deal; however, your conclusion is quite out there and though I may want to accept it, rationally, I can not.

    I would also add that your rationalist-only approach is tough to accept putting the Zohar aside for a second. There are so many gemaras that discuss miracles especially in the bais hamikdash. Apparently, miracles can and did happen though we do not see them much today. Additionally, as skeptical as I am, I have heard stories from relatives and people who I really trust that are quite miraculous in nature. I am talking about berachos from great people or even dreams, etc. I have difficulty accepting these things, but apparently they do happen. It is difficult to deny that. What I would say is that I am much more comfortable with the rational method than the more mystical type who seem to have their faith enforced by hearing the next godol miracle which to a certain degree is shallow (though there is no doubt that inspirational stories can be very positive). I would not confuse this with true mysticism which is really a deeper understanding of the universe as mentioned above. Miracles do not necessarily have to be a part of that derech.

    It seems that your biggest beef is that the Rambam did not hold of this derech and even virulently opposed it. However, as you know there have been many disagreements throughout our history with great men on either side of the battle. Sometime the truth is that both sides have validity depending for who. WIth that sais, I think that your defending the Rambam at all costs to the exclusion of any other path is short-sighted.

    Discussing Gilgulim makes us uncomfortable, but does that mean that it is not true? It is scary to contemplate and sometimes an easy scapegoat to explain away certain occurences, however, why can't it be true? We accept the concept of soul and judgemet day, but can not accept that souls may return for what the kabbalists call tikun? I am not sure about it but I do accept the possibility that it is true.

  9. There is no one Christian position on Judaism. Some Protestant groups, the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist
    Church most notably, have categorically stated that God's covenant with the Jewish people is eternally valid. (Their official statements actually use the word, "eternal".) These are not small splinter groups but major churches with roots going back hundreds of years.

  10. Charlie,

    I guess not all Christians say the good friday prayer.

  11. "I guess not all Christians say the good friday prayer."

    Only a tiny minority of Catholics, and zero Protestants, will recite the prayer in question. (Protestants don't recite Catholic prayers, and the overwhelming majority of Catholics use the Vatican II liturgy rather than the Council of Trent liturgy.) I don't know whether the Orthodox Christians have anything comparable to the prayer in question.

  12. Thank you, David, for posting on this galling subject with honesty.

    I'm wondering, though, if the source of the gall does not go deeper. Jewish exegesis and prayer also looks forward to a time in which idolaters / Gentiles / Esau / Edom / Rome / Christianity will be brought low and the righteous / Jacob / Israel / Judaism, in the Olam Haba or with the advent of the Messiah, will be exalted. Surely I do not have to cite chapter and verse, beginning with the Tanach and the Midrashim.

    But I assume that you take Rambam to a logical conclusion and demythologize this exegesis and prayer, not to mention prayer itself. I'm not sure I would follow you, but I want to keep an open mind. In any case, that means you are an opponent of mysticism tout court, of whatever origin, Jewish, Christian, or other. Isn't that the real issue?

    Jewish supersessionism and Christian supersessionism are symmetrical at the theoretical level; the problem, and it is a grave one, comes at the practical level. For this reason, it seems wise to many on the Christian side to refrain from missionizing, though of course individual apostates as you are not afraid to call them continue to be accepted by the "opposing sides."

    Another school of thought, represented by people as diverse as Yechezqel Kaufmann and Franz Rosenzweig, seems to suggest that Christianity is not idolatry but a parallel path to the one God.

    Many Christians, including myself, consider this to be almost an obvious truth. Obviously the concept of a triune God is galling in its own right. Why are chochmah and the bat qol and ruach haqodesh and the Son of Man of Daniel treated as hypostases of the one God, as if they were divine in their own right and personae of God? Can the Son of Man of Daniel be identified with the Messiah? These are Rambanesque questions. Still, at the level of religious experiences, apperception of the above "entities" took place - and continues to take place - in personalistic terms.

    This religious experience is what you call mysticism, or the school of Ramban. That it gives rise to a Baal Shem Tov or a M.M.S. bothers you greatly, I realize. Personally, I can think of far worse things.

    What will happen at the end of days, if that is more than a figure of speech, is of course an open question. Woe to us if we cut the Gordian knot here and now. If you really thought that should be done, the siddur would be in for a radical revision.

    About eschatology, Jesus is reported to have said, "It is not for you to know." A Rambamesque statement, as it were.

    I hope you are not too offended if I pray along with you that, at the end of days, all Israel will be saved, and that I too may be not found wanting that day, though I have the misfortune as it were to experience the God of Israel through "idolatrous ways of thinking."

    Perhaps whatever salvation the future holds will not come about through acknowledgment of Jesus as Messiah, or vice versa, perhaps whatever salvation the future holds for Gentiles will not come about according to traditional interpretations of Isa 66 and Zech 14.

    And it would be wonderful if the future holds no more wars of God and Magog. We have had enough of them already.

    We pray according to whatever lights we have been given. We see through a glass darkly. Only then we shall know in full, even as we are already fully known.

  13. John,

    Thank you for responding and clarifying a position that I wish was understood by many of your co-religionists even in our times. look what occurred just a few days ago in Vilnius!

    I believe with all my heart that Avraham taught the idea that there is One Entity completely transcendental, completely separate from all physical existence, an "existence" by itself. It is an idea, that for humanity to develop and fulfill its purpose and objective, must understand. Any understanding other than that, giving any power other than physical to any entity other than that One God, is tantamount to idolatry. Atheism risks chaos and immorality but idolatry brings ignorance and superstition. The latter is worse because morality and ethics can exist in a society without religion - it is after all needed for self preservation - ignorance and superstition bring about dark ages and oppression. Dark ages and oppression are so powerful that they require millenia to break loose. That is why Rambam presents idolatry as a rapid progression into it (two generations see Breishit 4:26 according to the Rabbi's exegesis) and a long
    arduous process of extrication thereof which is still ongoing. When I say dark ages I mean not only in a physical sense but intellectually. Science and knowledge of the world we live in, will not and cannot progress under a regime of superstition and idolatry. Truth is therefore suppressed and that is tragic. I am in the midst of a series of post dealing with this subject and will clarify this position in depth.

    Coming back to Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The way I see it Avraham's religion as understood by the school represented by Rambam is the ultimate objective. It is a very difficult concept to get accepted that we are alone adrift in a universe and it is solely up to man to find God and understand how to act constructively thus do good. But it is a fact no matter how hard it is to accept. Christianity took that message to the world but accepting the reality and weakness of man, diluted it and conceded some powers to others other than the One God. It at least brought back the One God idea into the world though in a misconceived way, but that is an accomplishment too! So you are traveling in the right direction but in a roundabout way. You are joined by many others including many of my Jewish brothers both over the ages and nowadays who are still struggling with accepting an undiluted monotheism. They also profess a belief in One God but accept other spiritual powers. As long as they do that they have not yet understood Avraham's message to its proper conclusion. We Jews pray, by offering ourselves as models, by struggling ourselves with the issues, writing and talking and discussing them, getting the idea out into the world. The hoped for success is what we call Yemot Hamashiach - Messianic Days and the human leaders who will teach and reinforce that idea during those days are called Mashiach - Messias.

    So yes I will pray along with you that my Jewish brothers (including Rosenzweig,Kaufmann et al.)who still struggle with a Unique God, together with all people of the world who are struggling with the issue, all of us together bring about the Messianic era.

    In answer to the sources that you refer to in Daniel, the prayer book etc... in general I demythologize and read all as allegory and metaphor.

    John, thank you for responding. Again I wish from a practical point, your views could be taught and seen by many more of your co-religionists.

  14. >>I demythologize and read all as allegory and metaphor<<
    What a great difficulty it is to look and hear beyond the assured knowledge of a particular tradition! The work of the one Adonai in the world is clear and it is indescribable except through metaphor and analogy. Why should not this One make flesh of such metaphor, that the light above might be revealed in a particular tradition? Why indeed is this not a possibility to be kept in mind by all traditions? Because we want the power ourselves and we do not want the escape from our distortion by a real covering. Personally, I think we must avoid the whole concept of 'conversion' except as it helps us to turn to the One who lives. If so, it seems better also to avoid labels like apostate.

    Your post title - believing is knowing - raises enough lovely questions that cannot have answers spelt out but may indeed have answers lived - i.e. as an enfleshed metaphor. So I would rest in the knowing depicted in the Song, taking R. Akiva's high opinion of this marvel. That we should be known will give substance to our engagement in faith, whatever our tradition. Daughters of Jerusalem, this is my beloved.

  15. The fact that a literate human being in the 21st century can accuse Christianity of polytheism is incomprehensible to me. The charge of idolatry is one thing, but to actually misrepresent Christianity as a belief in three gods is either willfully ignorant or sheer lie.

    I cannot understand how someone can go into any kind of multi-faith discussion (or even function in a multi-faith society) if he purports such willful and fundamental distortions of someone else's views.

    For that matter, the charge of indemnifying idolatry against Christians (and consequently, all non-Jews) seems to be an even more mendacious kind of chauvinism as the Good Friday prayer.


  16. David, I came to this through the link from John Hobbins' blog. Now I cannot complain that you as a Jew hold to a position significantly different from my Christian position. Our religions and outlooks are different and we should expect them to be.

    But I do want to complain at the label you have put on this post, "Antisemitism". It is not antisemitism for orthodox Christians to believe that in order to be saved Jews need to accept Jesus Christ as Lord, because we believe exactly the same about all peoples. This is simply holding a consistent position, the same one which the Apostle Peter took before the Jewish Sanhedrin in the very early days of Christianity (Acts 4:10-12).

    What is potentially antisemitic and clearly absurd is the position you seem to be sympathetic to, and which John Hobbins specifically takes, that Jews can be saved without accepting Jesus as Lord but others need to accept this. This kind of special privilege for the Jews leads straight to the ghetto. And how can God accept into his kingdom two separate groups of people one of whom continues to accuse the other of idolatry? Either Jesus is God or he is not, and at some point the truth of the matter will come out and one group or the other will be proved wrong.

  17. Peter,

    The prayer itself is antisemitic and singles out the Jews for salvation. It has been the source of much grief to our people and I feel it my bones and family history not only last generation but back in the mist of time.

    We do not advocate any active missionizing except by example unlike your churches. Unfortunately the word "salvation" has a much harsher practical connotation than "enlightment" which you seem to advocate (I hope). So my label stands.