His home paper, the Jerusalem Post, reports that Rabbi Shmuley Boteach plans to debate in public one Jew-for-Jesus leader, moderated by a Christian who sees converting Jews as his life’s mission, in the Nine Days leading up to Tishah be’Av, that the New Testament would contain “blatant antisemitic statements.” Here are eight reasons not to do so:
1. We have an old tradition to postpone any dispute with Gentiles for after the Ninth of Av. Him volunteering to do this before is such a break with Tradition that his rabbinic title should be taken away. An alternative would be to declare him insane. But quickly.
2. If he wins, the reaction will be that his opponent was weak. If he loses, “the Jews” will have lost. He’s not seen as just a Jew. He’s seen as our representative, whether he wants that or not. Who is he to dear sullen our name?
3. For me, Jews for Jesus form not a religion or are not Christians. What I have seen of them (I’m not an expert, so my knowledge is sporadic), their leaders often seem less than honest and insincere. True Christians are rather proud of their beliefs and seem more frank when they try to sell it. Jews for Jesus pretend for Jews that they do a sort of elevated Judaism — Heaven forbid. As if specializing in euthanasia is elevated medicine. To me it seems that they copy Christian practice and then give everything Jewish names. (Boteach’s opponent presents himself as an expert on Judaism but by his own admission never learned any of it. He exchanged hard drugs rather than Judaism for Jesus.) You can’t win from dedicated pretenders. If needed, they may lie that they won.
4. Even if they would lose – there is no such thing as bad publicity – they would win still. He gives them credibility by debating them. They need the debate — we don’t. They won already by having the debate.
5. Such a debate must annoy bona fide Christians for no reason at all. Classically, Christians believe in biblical literacy. They don’t have the myriads of commentators that Jews have who can defuse an explosive text. An eye for an eye seems to be about taking revenge? Not so, say and prove our Sages — this means: compensate people whom you injured. So when you tell a Christian that their Scripture is flawed, they’ll be as happy as when you tell Jews that the Torah is made up by Men. Why annoy billions of people for your thrill to take them on?
6. So, the debate is a lose-lose for the Jews. If Boteach wins, he has angered billions of Christians. If he loses, he’s made a fool of us.
7. Large debates with Christians always resulted in us being massacred, no matter who won the debate, even when not just before Av 9th.
8. I wanted to say that he deserves a lot of credit for the good he has done as a rabbi. Problem is that he is using this credit to do something foolish. We have no choice but to reject him as an outsider, a charlatan, an arrogant amateur. So, rabbi, with all due respect: Shut up or get out.
He’s been shunned by the rabbis for decades. Let’s now tell the Gentile world that he’s out of the fold, before he does irreparable damage.
Surely, we should be tolerant of differences of opinion. But like Freedom of Speech should have its limits (No More Hate Speech), tolerance must not allow for actions that hurt or endanger vulnerable people (Jews included).
The incompatibility of Judaism and Christianity
Jews have generally disputed Christians never to disqualify Christianity. Rather, their aim was always to ease anti-Semitism (the oppression of Jews) and/or anti-Judaism (the attractiveness of Christianity to Jews).
* While for evangelistic Christians it would be important to make Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah, the Jewish aim always was much broader than just rejecting that. Christianity is from the Jewish perspective a mixture between Judaism, Paganism and Greek Philosophy. We Jews need to keep this mixing out. We need to keep our religion and worldview pure. Especially the Hellenistic point of view is diametrically opposed to the Jewish one and we should stay far away from it.
* Far away from making sexuality sinful, taboo or boundary-free, instead of a healthy way to serve G^d and (wo)mankind.
* Worse than Jews accepting the Trinity was possibly seeing Satan as a force opposite G^d, Heaven forbid, instead of an Angel (provocateur, enticer, Angel of Death) send and controlled by Him.
* Worse than not keeping the Commandments and Guidelines of Jewish life would be the loss of the Day of Rest, of the Jewish People and of a here-and-now down-to-earth life (as a means to elevate ourselves) in exchange for a total focus on the spiritual and the future.
* Worse than accepting the New Testament as Divine would be to close the Mishnah, the Talmud, our Commentators and all of the Oral Law.
* Worse than the theological distance between Jews and Muslims are our religious differences with Christians. Christians remark that they also read the “Old Testament” but that is just shallow compared to what we read. Muslims are more geared towards a lawful life and have no Trinity.
* Jews are a Nation with a distinct culture and philosophy of which its religion, Judaism, is distinctive while Christians form a religious congregation with beliefs suitable to all Gentiles. To equate Judaism and Christianity is already a mistake.
The list goes on. Judaism and Christianity cannot be done in one life by one person unless s/he doesn’t know anything about Judaism or pretends.
Jewish-Christian Disputes and Debates
Patriarch Abraham and Matriarch Sarah spread the notion of One indivisible invisible G^d by spreading kindness. Abraham feasted total strangers and Sarah, her childbearing miraculously restored at the age of 90, indiscriminately breastfed all the babies around, thus planting the seeds of the future monotheistic traditions. But when their grandson Jacob went down to Egypt, he only took 70 souls with him from his loins (and some spouses) and none of those converts.
Disputes in which the Jews explained their beliefs were rare in the Torah. Pharaoh didn’t want to let the Jews go. There was more power play than argument that played out there. The Jews left everyone to their idols as long as they could serve the One G^d. The Jews needed to separate (from Lot, Ishmael, Esau, Egypt, the Peoples around them).
Fast forward, in the West, after WW II, many Christians have humbled themselves a bit. They understood that if their culture could have mass-murdered Jews, from the Crusades to the Pogroms to the Holocaust (and the Jews have still survived and even returned to Palestine), something in the Replacement Theology or belief that Jews should convert or die must be off. Many have participated in Jewish-Christian meetings. I dislike the false equivalency here. (It’s like White and Blacks in the US meeting because we’re all scared. That wipes the whole issue of racism under the table.) Jews and Christians should certainly meet — for Jews to teach Christians. That’s not arrogance. That’s our holy calling.