Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

How Rabbi Boteach lost the latest debate with his leading Jew for Jesus opponent

I finally had a chance to see the whole video clip of the debate between Rabbi Boteach and his sparring partner of 20 years, a leading Jew for Jesus. The debate that I didn’t want to happen.

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.

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. To see other blog posts by him, a second blog - under construction - can be found by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture.
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