Who is right on the essence of Jewish “Chosen” mission – Rabbi Schachter or Rabbi Riskin?

Rabbi Schachter describes his views in “Experimental Judaism: Playing with Fire” at


in the following way:

“It is very painful to see that there is missionary activity taking place in Eretz Yisroel. …

How painful it is that some Orthodox rabbis also state that their “brethren” (the Catholics) have “a covenantal connection” to Eretz Yisroel. These rabbis don’t realize that by making such irresponsible statements they are playing into the hands of the idol-worshipers. …

The human desire to act as an original thinker has misled these rabbis (like rabbi Riskin and others) in Eretz Yisroel to play into the hands of idol-worshipers. … in Eretz Yisroel we are required to be even more careful when dealing with the church. Time and time again the Torah warns us that in Eretz Yisroel we must not get involved with idol-worshippers. Officially Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the King over Eretz Yisroel, and the midrashim refer to all of Eretz Yisroel as the “palace of the King”. The Ramban explains that the main location for observance of all of the mitzvos is Eretz Yisroel, and one who sins there is compared to one who rebels against a king’s authority in his palace, which is a more brazen sin than sinning elsewhere.”

Thus Rabbi Schachter’s view of Torah guidance on relationships with non-Jews (in this case the Catholics) is clear – the Jews should not collaborate with the Christians on spiritual issues, we should preserve and strengthen our separation from the non-Jewish Judeo-Christian world built on the Ten Commandments. Also, Rabbi Schachter believes that being an original thinker is a sort of sin in spite of the Torah statement that we the humans are created in the image and likeness of God Who indisputably is “an original thinker”.

Rabbi Riskin, who founded the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Israel, thinks differently as seen from “Christianity Has Changed Drastically In the 20th Century” at http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/opinion/rabbi-shlomo-riskin-christianity-has-changed-drastically-20th-century-0

He says:

“I was taken aback by Rabbi Hershel Schachter’s article, “Experimental Judaism: Playing with Fire”. It paints a picture of Christianity that was accurate before 1965, but which has undergone a sea change–one might even say a theological earthquake. This occurred as a result of the miraculous establishment of the State of Israel and the realization by honest and authoritative Church leaders that the Holocaust could not have taken place had it not been for the seeds of anti-Semitism sown by Christian teachings over the last two millennia. The groundbreaking document, Nostra Aetate, adopted overwhelmingly by the majority of Catholic bishops around the world at the Second Vatican Council in 1965 is now official Catholic doctrine. It explicitly condemns anti-Semitism, repudiates the charge of deicide and asserts that the Jewish people is still in a living covenant with God. This covenant has not—indeed can never be—revoked. The Catholic Church has said again and again “God does not repent of the gifts He makes or the calls He issues (to the Jewish people.)” (Epistle to Romans 11:28-29 and Nostra Aetate, 4)

Most official Protestant churches today also espouse these positions regarding Judaism and the Jewish People. … These theological changes have been demonstrated by the close friendship of many in the Christian community, a friendship without ulterior motive and based purely on the Torah’s insistence that Jews are God’s chosen people and we are called upon by God to bring blessing to the gentile world and in turn be blessed This has been reiterated orally and in writing by leading representatives of all branches of Christianity—Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical. …

Once again, Rabbi Schachter seems to have overlooked major positions in our religious teachings. Maimonides clearly believes that Christianity is idolatrous. Yet at the same time, Rambam believes that teaching Torah to Christians is salutary: “It is permissible to teach the Torah and commandments to the Christians and draw them closer to our faith” … Maimonides writes: “ It is beyond the human mind to fathom the Creator…all these matters relating to Jesus of Nazareth…..only serve to pave the way for King Messiah and to prepare the entire world to worship God together as one. Thus the Messianic hope, the Torah and the Commandments have become familiar topics of conversation among the inhabitants of the far isles and was brought to many peoples uncircumcised of heart and flesh…” Apparently, Torah–its concepts and its laws–are important areas of study and practice even for Christians today.”


When two orthodox rabbis disagree on fundamental issues of Judaism non-rabbis have to decide who is right and whom to follow. My own Torah understanding leads me toward the spirituality of Rabbi Riskin since it is oriented toward building a better world for everybody. I am against the spirituality of Rabbi Schachter because it preserves isolation of the Jews from the entire world and makes difficult if not impossible building a better world for everybody; it makes difficult fulfilling the Jewish mission as the Chosen. And here is how I have arrived to this conclusion as a “sinning original thinker” in definition of Rabbi Schachter”:

  • Three fundamental events had created the Jewish People: (1) discovery by Abraham of One God; (2) Exodus from Egypt from slavery to freedom led by Moses; (3) receiving from One God the Torah on Mount Sinai as the “constitution” for building the entire human society with a special mission for the Jewish people as the Chosen. Thus the very crux of Jewish mind-set is based on the unquestionable belief in the existence of One God with His commandments on building the human society – and that is true for all Jewish people including so-called non-religious and religious.
  • One God created all humans in His own image and likeness. Therefore interpreting His guidance on how to build the entire human society requires an interpretation of God’s “image and likeness”. Naturally, we the humans are interpreting God’s image and likeness in terms of human characteristics since we have no other way to understand God’s image and likeness. To do this, we the humans created many religions and religious streams which are interpreting God’s human-like characteristics and required human behavior directly linked to God’s characteristics. All major contemporary religions such as for example Christianity or Hinduism are doing that even if they may appear non-monotheistic. If it appears they have many gods, among these many gods there is one true Mono-God and the other gods are symbols of certain characteristics of One Mono-God.
  • Every religion is trying to convince as many people as possible that its understanding of God and His guidance is the only true understanding. Every religion designs its own version of “a better world” and is trying sometimes violently to impose on the others its version of “a better world”.
  • We the Jews sincerely believe that our version of “a better world” is the closest one to the true God’s version – at least in the Judeo-Christian world – since we and only we received the God’s guidance on Mount Sinai in the Torah together with the mission of the Chosen.
  • However if we the Jews are not spiritually cooperating with the non-Jews, in this case with the Christians, we cannot convince them that our version of a better world – the major characteristics of which have been transferred to the Christian faith from the Torah – has a common foundation for the entire Judeo-Christian civilization. And if we cannot do this we are failing in fulfilling our mission of the Chosen.

That is how I arrived to the conclusion that Rabbi Schachter is wrong and Rabbi Riskin is right.

About the Author
Vladimir Minkov graduated from the Naval Engineering Academy in the former Soviet Union, served in the Soviet Navy and there received his Ph.D. At the end of 1970s he immigrated to America where democracy and the Judeo-Christian spirituality of this country made it possible for him to actively defend both his scientific and spiritual ideas. In the USA he has found the place for his scientific public work in the spiritual realm of One God and Torah.