I’m writing this review because of what I saw happening, a debate between a politician and a timid academic, it seemed. The academic (very smart guy but not up to the debate) never had a chance to really confront the clever politician because he didn’t understand the tricks employed. I follow politics from the age of 10. I saw what happened. (Rather than accusing his opponent of being dishonest, I prefer to see him as a dedicated salesperson with heart for selling his merchandise.)
Boteach’s opponent is clearly a very good speaker and a very intelligent and knowledgeable man. But like every top politician, he never answered a hard question. Instead, he filled his speaking time with very intelligent, warm and heartfelt words that he wanted to promote and so avoided admitting when he had no recourse. But there was more.
Boteach apparently felt that he had to prove his humbleness and friendliness, all the time. Flattery will get you there. Not only did he feel a need to constantly refer to their friendship and the friendship with most Christians. In all this, he forgot his own writings that it’s time we Jews start proselytizing. Why was he on the defense all the time, trying to explain Judaism and to seem cute? It’s the fear the Jew feels in a Christian surrounding. That’s why it’s so great that we’re safe, back in Israel.
He should have said, This whole idea that people would need G^d’s Grace, you got completely wrong. People are not born in sin. We are all inherently good, equipped with a choice between good and evil, and capable to save our own souls. None of you need anyone to die for you and you should all become Torah-abiding Jews if you want to be so special.
Or, at least, you should send all baptized Jews back to the religion that their ancestors so often have died for. This, often is done so well by Gurus in India — so it can be done. Not doing so is not only an insult to Judaism (as if it would be incomplete without Jesus, Heaven forbid) but also an insult to Christianity, as if you need to show to Jews that you’re better, which would be a sign that you lack enough healthy self-worth.
Further, he should have said, Your whole idea that I can only be a virtuous human being if I accept Jesus is not just offensive to me as a Jew but to all human beings. And to think that a perfect G^d gave Jews a whole Bible full of Commandments that would not make us virtuous because they cannot be done is also an insult to G^d.
It’s a nice attempt at humbleness to say “None of us are worthy” but it’s too demeaning and extreme and that’s why Christians became known for shedding innocent blood and not for turning the other cheek. We need to be humble but not too much because that backfires.
He should have said, It’s not a wonderful cooperation that together we join to rid the world of anti-Semitism. It’s your work, not mine. We didn’t cause it, you clean it up. And don’t come to me with the false equivalent that Christians have been or are persecuted too. It’s not the same thing.
Besides, the whole Replacement Theology was “proven” by persecuting Jews. G^d has left them, see how they suffer. Never mind that the ones who pointed out our suffering caused that suffering.
He should have said, It’s nothing new that you now reject Replacement Theology in words — it’s all been said, but you don’t mean it. “Proper” Christians still bless Jews and praise Jews as if they’re closer to G^d and have a special power to bless us. It’s rather that if you bless us, G^d will bless you. We don’t need your blessing — you need your blessing of us.
And it’s simply not true that Christians love Jews from reading their Bible. For 20 centuries, most (but not all) of them hated us from reading Christian Scripture. It’s only now, that this is being corrected, though not by all Christians yet. Not from the goodness of the Church but because you became shocked and forced, first by the evil of the Holocaust (not by the Crusades but now yes by the industrial slaughter of G^d’s Chosen), and second by the miraculous emergence of a Jewish State.
We Jews have a holy task to teach the whole world. The reason that we haven’t done so is that in a hostile world, we never had a chance. Only the last hundred years, some not so religious Jews in enlightened Europe could make a start. Like Marx, Einstein, Freud, Zamenhof, Herzl, etc. had a first shot. It was not Paul who discovered how to do it. He found a way to stop the Jews from doing so for the last 2000 years.
We Jews are still your teachers. If you come to “exchange views with the Jews” you disrespect us. It’s not that we want to be your teacher. We are commanded to teach you and you are commanded to listen.
Surely, as teachers, we will learn most from our students. Surely, we’d better be humble because arrogant teachers are no good. But that’s our worry. You Christians must flock to us and demand to be taught by us. That is the true relationship that the Hebrew Bible wants. The rest is just fooling around.
He should have ended by saying, I love you but I won’t let you take kosher Jews for granted anymore. Why do you think you live now and not 2000 years ago? Because G^d wanted you to learn from the Jews that are around now, not from Jesus. And I mean, the Jews that live as well as we can by the Commandments — not those that only studied Jewish history or replaced the Commandments by love for Jesus.
Because that’s what you do when you debate someone who will avoid a real debate. You don’t try to argue with him. You try to reach the public, the bystanders. That’s the basis for proper hasbara. Saying the above would have taken him 6 minutes and shown some Jewish pride and substance.
There is a chance, though, that he never could have said any of the above. Not after posing as a prominent rabbi. I can say it. I’m a nobody. If Christians take offense, I’m just one silly Jew. But I might have reached a few hearts and minds. But if “America’s rabbi” says it, who knows what backlash that could give? I’m giving the rabbi the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was right to plaster over all potential unpleasantness.