Sunday, February 26, 2012

Non kosher Jesus and Der man Fun Natzret

This essay suppose to be posted last week but since we are dealing with Hanotzri for the last two thousand years we have already well developed paths how to do it, I posted my last week essay about Mrs. Feldman’s affair.
“Feldmans” are also not a new phenomenon but after seeing that there is silence on our side for longer than we can afford in this inflated with information world, I decided to write and post some answer for her book.
But now please let me spread my wings over the space which I really know, the space which I was flying over for big part of my life – the history of Christianity. I can understand that it may look strange for some to see guy who looks like me to talk about it but well… in our days, there is not to many of us in our camp who have sufficient education and experience with this topic, to take a stand.

Non kosher Jesus and Der man Fun Natzret.

That’s right! Rabbi Boteach is not the first one who is trying to kosherise the Christian messiah for the Jewish people. Rabbi Boteach declared however in his article published on Huffington Post that he is addressing his new book to the Christians but the title of the book however suggests to me something else. Some may say that I got the wrong impression about the book from the title but doesn’t the title represent the book? That’s what the title has to do isn’t it?
The title of this book definitely is not addressing Christiandom, for kashrus is not a part of the Christan religion. If someone is labeling anything as ‘kosher’, to my simple understanding he is looking to sell his product to the Jewish public. It could be an object which really needs this kind of labeling like food or some other religious items. It could sometimes be an item which by stretching the meaning of word ‘kosher’ is labeled this way to assure Jewish buyers that this item meets the requirements of a specific Jewish group regarding certain restrictions like ‘kosher’ phone or ‘kosher’ wig. In all of these instances there is no doubt that it is the Jewish consumer that the seller expects to buy his product.

Now let us deal with ‘kosher’ Jesus.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this essay, Rabbi Boteach is not the first one who is attempting to bring the gospel to the Jews. Sholem Ash, one of the leading ‘yidishisten’, wrote a book “Der Man Fun Natzret”, almost a hundred years ago. In beautiful prose he describes the life of Hanotzri, reading the gospel as only a Jew can. Colorful descriptions of first century Palestine, together with knowledge of the Jewish environment at the time is the background of the story of the gospel’s main hero. All described in a way unlike anyone before. B-H the book of Shalom Ash is almost forgotten by now and doesn’t influence the healthy minds of the Yiddish speaking public. But now we have Rabbi Boteach who once more is trying to do what thousands of Christian missionaries and persecutors have failed to do since the offshoot of the Jewish religion was invented.

Dear Rabbi Boteach,
I don’t believe that you will ever read this essay posted on an obscure blog authored by a convert, a convert who calls himself just ‘Another Convert’. But if you do see this essay, please do yourself a favor and read my book “Another Convert”. You will see that on the so fashionable for you ‘scholastic level’ there is already someone who wrote about Hanotzri but with the exactly opposite goal then one which you appear to have.

I feel strange, that I an ex Christian clergyman, teacher, missionary and preacher, have to come to you with words of Mussar. And believe me there is nothing in my heart causing me to write this critical essay about your book other than the good of Klal Yisroel which I have joined and I love. Rabbi Boteach you are on the wrong path!
There is no question that Hanotzri was a Jew and his teachings are derived from his environment but it is not he who should be credited for these highly moral teachings. It is   this environment, an environment filled with Torah and her followers. Devoted Jews who like him lehavdil learned from Moses, the Prophets and the Scriptures. He preached what he learned from his family members or from his rebbe in the local cheider or from both. Like every Jewish child he breathed the holy air of Torah from his young age. Like every Jewish man he was raised to take upon himself the sweet burden of the Torah and carry it with him throughout his life. Everything good that he preached, all that is so admired by the nations for a large part of human history, is Jewish! But is it Kosher?

Do we the Jews, need to learn from him? Do we need him and his distorted version of Torah, to enrich our service to Hashem? Is Hanotzri so important to us that we should stray from our mesorah/tradition of not learning or teaching about him and his views? The tradition which many of your ancestors gave their life for?

We, Jews are doing just fine without him and for all these years we have no need for him and his views! His philosophy brings nothing new to our values of the highest morality and love for our fellow Jew, the gentile as well as all of the bria – creation as taught to us by our sages. We aren’t deficient in any way and nothing from his teachings can increase our love to HBH our beloved Creator and Father. That’s how it was and that’s how it should be.
Our Jewish mission recognizes the good in everyone and everything that is good according to our Torah shaped definition of goodness. No Mitzva – good deed performed by Jew or gentile will be left unrewarded by our Creator. These are the teaching of our holy sages. But our task, the task of the Jewish nation requires clarity of mind and clarity of our tradition. We learned as soon as we left Egypt that it is not enough to be a so called ‘kosher Jew’ to fulfill our mission. We learned from the example of those who engaged in the sin of Chait H’Aigel but mostly from the sin of Korach and his comrades as well as from the transgressions of the meraglim, the spies.

I dare to remind you Rabbi Boteach, that Korach was a righteous man, a man who saw the holiness of his Jewish brothers and sisters. He kept Shabbos and ate only kosher. He put on tefilin and wanted to dip the all of his tzitzis in the blue dye of tacheles to do even more than what was asked from him by the Torah, and that’s precisely where his problems began. He ended up being swallowed by the earth together with many other ‘kosher Jews’. The Meraglim seemed to have legitimate concerns about the lives of their people. What can be more admirable than their concern about their fellow Jew, basically just saying ‘don’t go there because you will be killed by giants’. And than one day after the wrongdoing of the meraglim some of the Jewish people did not heed Moishe’s warning and decided to go and conquer the Promised Land - Eretz Yisroel after Hashem said not to. Their bones, like the bones of shavet Ephraim whiten the surface of the desert.  Now these ‘good’ Jews were severely punished by Hashem. Their lives were taken for much less serious Aveiros than the one who you seek to ‘kosherize’ in your book!

Yes, Hanotzri was a Jew and so were his first students and the entire Christian congregation of the first century beginning from his birth. But our Teachers who were smarter than me and you, they saw the events as they were happening and not from the perspective of history, two thousand year history covered with the ‘patina of paganism’as you call it. Those teachers decided that it is good for us not to be busy with him and others like him. They taught us that he and his teachings are not kosher!

Rabbi Boteach, being a Jewish patriot doesn’t make anybody Jewish al pi Torah, at least not for most of our history. It was and it is the Torah which makes one a Jew – Jewish - kosher adherence to the Torah and nothing, nothing else.
Again I will encourage you to read the chapters of my book dedicated to the topic of the Notzrim which I used to be one of. However, I wrote those chapters for reasons different than yours, to explain to thousands of my Jewish brothers and sisters who in their confusion due to their detachment from the true source of Jewishness believe that Hanotzri was a Kosher Jew. He was not, and like others like him, religious or patriotic Jews like Hanania, Shabsay Tzvi, Frank, Hertzel and countless of others, distanced himself from his people causing confusion and sometimes even great bloodshed.

I also take issue with another one of your ideas, dear Rabbi Boteach. On the Hufington post and elsewhere, you write about ‘interfaith dialog’. Well I don’t know where you took this idea but the way you are applying it seems to be strange. Strange not only to our Mesora but it is also not in sync with the ideas of those who are considered to be the fathers of ‘dialog philosophy’.
Let’s start with my great Rabbi  Rav Hirsch, how he understood the cause for the division of the nations in to seventy distinct identities. He wrote that the reason for this pluralism was for us humans to learn and collaborate in mutual understanding despite differences dividing us. In other words, the goal is to ultimately unite all humanity in serving the One Creator; it should be achieved however not by giving up all distinctive aspects of their cultures, but rather opposite, i.e. by engaging by these nations their own cultural elements in this service . Rav Hirsch applies a similar idea to the fact that our Creator divided His chosen nation into twelve separate tribes with different tasks and talents which were given to them to serve common task of Yisroel as a nation and humanity in general. This is the basic idea of Rav Hirsch.

Now let’s dwell a little bit on what Martin Buber wrote about ‘dialog philosophy’. In his various works and perhaps most prominently in his “I and Thou” he is quite clear. Dialog doesn’t require resignation from the principals of any of the participants of the dialog. Just the opposite, a Jew should stay a Jew, a Christian should stay a Christian and a Muslim should stay who he is! The different sides of the dialog shouldn’t require or expect the other side of the dialog to compromise their beliefs or even compromise on differing elements of their culture but rather to concentrate on the recognition of the human character of the adversary or of the friend. So why does your version of the dialog see it as necessary to make the messiah of the other religion, kosher? (I realize what I am saying may sound strange being written by a convert who became Jewish after being born to a Christian family but that’s a separate topic impossible to explain in this short essay but you may understand to a certain extent after reading my book and my other essays.)

If however from the very beginning you knew what I have written above and the title of your book was designed as a marketing trick to attract the public and sell your book then I would advise you to use something much more common in contemporary advertisement techniques. I think that if you would put in the title of the book… lets see … ‘sex’!  Much more people would buy your book. Oh! … You did that already?!

Matys Weiser