Dear Pope Francis,
You are more than a friend to the Chosen People. You learn from us. You started gaining knowledge from Jewish friends before you became the Pope. And you were right.
Jews as Teachers
I hope you won’t mind that I think that your friendly comment that Jews are Christians’ ‘older brother’ does not go far enough. Judaism is rather your parent creed, a full generation above you. It is correct to be close to us and love us, but it’s not enough yet: we need to be extra respected too (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16). (In most parts of the world ‘older’ means esteemed, but unfortunately, in the West it often means: seen better days.)
Thinking highly of us will not make Jews bigheaded. Arrogant educators would be poor teachers. We know that in a way we have greater responsibility than non-Jews, and that we have the capability to realize that mission. That doesn’t make us better than Gentiles. If we don’t live up to our larger duty, we are actually less meritorious than non-Jews who do abide by their tasks in life.
When G-d gave mankind Instructions, He didn’t throw these Guidelines onto earth, Heaven forbid. He gave them to the Jews to communicate them further. And not to try to make everyone Jewish – no need. It is enough when humanity would learn from us periodically.
However, more than Jews should teach all people, we should hint to our Monotheistic friends when we think that they got something wrong. The great religions that believe in One G-d and are rooted in the Torah should sometimes check their Sources. So please allow me to tell you some Jewish ideas that seem improperly represented in present RC teachings.
Human Needs are Fit for Humans
First of all, let me state something positive. Although Christians call a kind of translation of the Hebrew Bible merely “the Old Testament,” they are right to still carry it up-front in their Scriptures.
Clearly, humans need air to breath, fluid to drink and food to eat in this world. That is not a weakness of the flesh or imperfection of Creation. Rather, these are needs to help us appreciate a generous Creator and – enjoy life. In His eternal wisdom, He made fulfilling our needs pleasurable.
Part of our human challenge is that abuse of our need fulfillment may also be pleasant (in the short run). That sometimes gives food and other gratifications a bad name, but basically, meeting our needs is perfectly fine.
The first curse in the Bible (Genesis 3:14) was for the snake to eat dust all the days of its life. That doesn’t seem something awful given the abundance of dust in the world. However, the curse was: get out of My eyes – I will provide for you so plentifully that I never need to hear from you again. It is a blessing to depend on the All-Good for our needs. While over-indulging would not be a good idea, within limits, we are meant to enjoy this life and praise G-d for that. Refusing His gifts is an improper affront. Having established this important Jewish insight, let’s look at one detail.
Really early in that G-dly text the Bible says that it’s not good for humans to be alone (Genesis 2:18). What solution is there? To bond with a partner, to become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). This is not optional, like what profession or residence to choose. We must do this or G-d calls our lives not good! It seems that our deep psychological isolation is only defeated in a close loving sexual relationship. That makes sexuality more than an optional nice activity. Rather, when properly used, it is an indispensible cure of deep loneliness.
Now, one could be brave and say: I can handle discomfort. Let me be celibate and isolated. However, such fearlessness has several consequences outside of oneself. As an idealistic sacrifice it looks impressive and commands respect. Unfortunately, it also gives the impression that G-d ideally demands a life of self-chosen suffering. That paints a picture of the Lord that is degrading. Judaism teaches that putting G-d to shame is the worst sin. But there is more.
The vows of poverty and obedience are beautiful, but the vow of chastity is unattainable, except for maybe some people with certain mental of physical ailments. (Secretly spilling of seed cannot be taken for obedience or success.) With superior ambitions, we could always say that one should try harder, but it’s G-d Himself Who tells us to not even attempt this, as it is not good. The Hebrew Bible is Mankind’s Instruction Manual produced by our Manufacturer. We would know better than G-d? (There was one person who was demanded to refrain from sex, from the age of 80 — Moses. It’s admirable to want to be like him, but outright arrogant to pretend that one could be at his level.)
If it’s hard to learn from the Jews, let’s learn from the Messiah. He must be a Jew; he must be very learned in Judaism; he must keep the Commandments. If he’s fit for marriage and nevertheless unmarried, he cannot be our Redeemer.
Please free your holiest, your Priests, for the unattainable mistaken devotion to everlasting sexual abstention and tell them to get married to a partner who would encourage their pastoral devotion, and have children (Genesis 9:1, 9:7). This is extra important now that life-spans have doubled making a life of solitude extremely unbearable. If we should love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18), you certainly should mercy upon your Priests.
May G-d bless you and safeguard you. May G-d illuminate His Countenance for you and be gracious to you. May G-d lift His Countenance to you and establish peace for you (Numbers 6:24-26). Shalom, from Jerusalem!