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Monday, December 15, 2008

Did you hear the one about the Jewish Knight, the Pope, the Rabbi, and Jesus?

New: Rabbi Riskin Responds this post

UPDATE: Batya has follow-up posts on this issue here and on A7

Posted by Ellen W. Horowitz for Jewish Israel

Riskin Drops a Bomb

You can’t make this stuff up. The December 2008 Jerusalem Post Christian Edition has a feature article on Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s new interfaith endeavor - Ohr Torah Stone's Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation. David Nekrutman is the Executive Director of the center which is located in Efrat.

You may want to sit down before reading the following choice quotes from that article lest you plotz

Rabbi Riskin said, “The Christians have told the whole world about the God of love and peace, and they did it by picking up the ball that we Jews dropped 2000 years ago."

“Nekrutman assured his guests that he wanted them to feel comfortable, and even urged them, despite being in a synagogue, to ‘pray in Jesus name. Don't leave Jesus at the door’."

I don’t know if we dropped the ball, Rabbi Riskin. I think it’s more like we Jews dropped back for a pass, and the other team (let’s call them “the Saints”) were guilty of illegally roughing the passer and stealing the ball - among a torrent of other fouls.

And from where I’m sitting, it does seem that certain progressive rabbis – not unlike “Progressive rabbis” - are playing dangerous games and may be at risk of fumbling the future for all of us.

These “Orthodox” rabbis, like their “messianic” Christian counterparts, are trying to “put a new face on Jesus” in order to market him in the name of interfaith dialogue and Jewish-Christian reconciliation (or Jewish conversion – depending on which side of the fence you are standing).

But the fences have been breached…

Guys like Rabbi Shmuely Boteach regularly invite debates with messianic pastor/rabbis and promote the position that, “Judaism was the faith practiced by Jesus for his entire life, and from which he never wavered.” Or “Jesus was a Pharisaic rabbi. Everything he taught and lived was based on the Torah and the Talmud…Jesus' mission was to renew Jewish attachment to the Torah in a time when the threads of tradition were being unwoven due to the oppressive hand of the occupying Roman beast. “

Note how similar Shmuely’s explanations are to the one found at Messianicjewish.net, in response to the question: If I believe in Yeshua, won't that mean I'm no longer Jewish?

The site’s reply: ” Yeshua was born of a Jewish mother … and lived a Jewish lifestyle. He consistently followed the Jewish traditions and taught others to do so … The early followers of Yeshua (called disciples) worshipped daily in the Jerusalem Temple.. Also, the B'rit Chadasha (New Testament) was written by Jewish authors…to explain Jewish teachings to a Jewish audience. The Jewishness of the New Testament is clearly reflected in a recent translation entitled "The Jewish New Testament". Believing in Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, is a very Jewish thing to do. "

Rabbi Riskin announced his shift in position regarding interfaith dialogue in the Jerusalem Post in a July 2007 oped (which was - in part - a response to an editorial which I had written expressing concern about the crossing of theological red lines) :

“…the founder of Christianity was a Jewish teacher who - it would certainly appear from the Gospels - lived a Jewish life-style, replete with the Sabbath, festivals and kashrut. Hence there is every logical, historical and religious reason for there to be a rapprochement between us.”

Several months ago Penina Taylor, the Director of the Jerusalem Branch of Jews for Judaism, and I met with Rabbi Riskin and discussed our concerns with regards to his understanding of certain Christian theological concepts, like “grafting” and “One New Man. It was certainly a cordial meeting, but both Penina and I came to the conclusion that Rabbi Riskin may not have grasped what these concepts mean to evangelical Christians.

And while we may be able to dismiss Rabbi Shmuely Boteach’s antics with messianics as a PR stunt by the “Chief Rabbi of Kosher Sex; Rabbi Riskin ,on the other hand ,is the Chief Rabbi of Efrat and is approached in that capacity by many people as a Rav Posek .

That Rabbi Riskin is enthusiastically awaiting the messianic era of peace and reconciliation is to be admired, but he may be jumping the gun a bit ( and I’m not referring to his being one of the first in line to be measured for his own custom-made set of Priestly Garments).

His embrace of evangelicals becomes problematic when an organization under his auspices appears to be the recipient of significant funds which were raised at a CUFI –sponsored event held at a missionary training center which is affiliated with an actively proselytizing Tel Aviv Messianic Outreach Center

And it’s literally playing with an Aish Zarah - a strange fire - when his center for interfaith dialogue encourages Christians to enter an Orthodox Jewish synagogue and to “pray in Jesus name”.

Just how close are we to setting up Stations of the cross, from Gush Etzion to Har Tzion?

Rabbi Riskin’s Center, touted as “the first Orthodox Jewish center to theologically dialogue with Christians”, recently issued the following press release:

Orthodox Chief Rabbi Meets With Latin Patriarch Of Jerusalem

(Excerpt)

....The meeting between the Rabbi Riskin and the Latin Patriarch was coordinated by Gary Krupp, founder and president of Pave the Way Foundation, an organization that bridges the gaps between religions. Krupp is organizing the first ever Lyon, France religious leaders mission to visit Israel in March of 2009. The group will be hosted both by the Latin Patriarch and Rabbi Riskin.

Just who is Gary Krupp and what does the Pave the Way Foundation do?

“Vatican Knight Gary Krupp and wife Meredith of Long Beach are Jews with strong ties to Rome”,

"I was knighted by Pope John Paul II, then knighted by the Anglica church, and then knighted by Pope Benedict and I'm Jewish!"

According to Pave the Way Foundation’s brochure, “Being a trusted member of the Papal household has enabled him [Krupp] to act as a catalyst in initiating changes and eliminating many obstacles to the furtherance of Judeo-Christian relations. Gary has also been invested, by permission of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, as an Officer Brother in the Anglican Order of St. John.”

If you ever wanted to know what a court Jew looks like, I imagine it’s something like this (just look at all of Gary’s little crosses!)

A fatwa on Krupp

As long as we’re on the topic of honor, Gary Krupp was awarded “the Fatwa of Al-Aqsa” from the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. (Like I said, you can’t make this stuff up) And I was going to suggest that someone should really ask Mr. Krupp if perhaps the Grand Mufti didn’t put out a fatwa on him for having approached Al Aqsa. But then I saw it. It does exist on the Pave the Way Foundation sit. Top row center - running smack through the center of the State of Israel is the Fatwa of Al-Aqsa. And prominently featured in the center right of Pave the Way foundation’s brochure is Rabbi Riskin’s endorsement of that organization.

But wait. It was three years ago, in late October of 2005, that Rabbi Riskin’s office told this writer that Rabbi Riskin would request that his name be removed as a sponsor of Pave the Way Foundation due to the organization’s efforts to get Israel to give control to the Vatican of the room above the traditional burial site of King David. I guess Rabbi Riskin has since changed his mind, as the updated literature once again sports Rabbi Riskin’s endorsement of the Pave the Way Foundation.

Supper over Mt. Zion:

Krupp has unrelentingly campaigned for the return of the Cenacle Shrine to Catholic control.

According to Krupp, it’s “one of the most important sites for Christianity… It’s where Jesus first broke the matzo that Christians remember at each Mass….The Catholic Church has owned it since the 11th century. They have a bill of sale...It only makes sense now that it goes back to Catholic jurisdiction.”

Well, Mr. Krupp, this writer believes that High Mass at the Kever Dovid HaMelech complex could really throw a wrench into one’s davening, and Gregorian chants are likely to disturb Gemorah classes at the Diaspora Yeshiva - which operates the campus and manages the Mt. Zion complex.

Some of you may recall that three years ago the Committee to Save Mt. Zion played a pivotal role in upsetting ongoing Vatican efforts to gain control of “the Last Supper Room (Cenacle Shrine)”

It was Gary Krupp and his Pave the Way Foundation which has been acting as a facilitator in the Vatican – Israel property negotiations of the past few years. And it remains high on his agenda, although his most recent literature makes a special point that “use” of the Shrine “will not disturb the Tomb of King David below or the Yeshiva on the ground level”

I’m certainly no scholar, but it was my understanding that there is an absolute halachic prohibition of Jews giving away land in Eretz Yisrael to non-Jews, worse so to Ovdei Avodah Zara, worse so when being done as a gift. Perhaps Rabbi Riskin could shed some light on this, and offer some clarification.

Rehabilitating Pope Pius XII


Another one of Krupp’s papal priorities is to see to it that Pope Pius Xll has any anti-Semitic blemishes removed so that the Vatican can proceed with his beautification process without Jewish sensitivities getting in the way. And so last September Pave the Way Foundation sponsored an international symposium of scholars and rabbis.

...Krupp told Catholic News Service after the audience that Pope Benedict "was very appreciative" of the organization's extensive research, which had revealed clearly that the current negative perception of Pope Pius "is completely wrong.".....

Krupp uses David Nekrutman of Rabbi Riskin’s center to bolster Pave the Way Foundation and the Vatican’s position:

David Nekrutman, executive director of the Israeli–based Center for Jewish–Christian Understanding and Cooperation, told CNS the exhibit at Yad Vashem should be taken down “until it’s done correctly.”

Nekrutman, who knows Krupp from his past – as Director of Community and Interfaith Relations for the Consulate General of Israel in New York - can also be seen on YOUTUBE as he gets an “awakening call” and is “transformed” as he discovers, “whatever I was taught from day one about the Catholic church and Pope Pius was wrong.”

To be fair, Rabbi Riskin and David Nekrutman are not the only Torah Observant Jews who have had dealings with Gary Krupp, the “trusted member of the Papal household” (does that make him a house Jew?).

Ronny Levy of MADP Tarshish Foundation recently dined and “broke bread together” with the Krupps, “a Catholic priest, two Protestants, and two Palestinian Muslims.”

Levy is the personal advisor to the President of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land and served as an advisor to the former chairman of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus. I will give you more on Mr. Levy in my next report, but here’s a little preview:

“As an orthodox Jew of the Levy tribe, son of an orthodox family of 11 generations in Jerusalem, educated all his life in orthodox schools and yeshivas, I can guarantee you that when the day of Salvation arrives God will open our eyes, and if God shows us that Jesus is the Messiah, we will receive him with love and joy! We do not turn our backs on God and His message! If He sends Jesus as His Messiah we will have to accept Him! We will be unable to turn our back on God!”

Conclusion:

By opening the “first Orthodox Jewish center to theologically dialogue with Christians”,I believe Rabbi Riskin has compromised the currently accepted halacha, and consequently puts at risk our spiritual continuity and imperils our future in a Jewish Israel.

BREAKING NEWS: from the President of Israel Spokesperson's Office

Vatican Advance Delegation Meets With President's Residence Officials In
Order To Prepare For Possible Visit By Pope Benedict Xvi To Israel

Israel attributes great importance to the visit and is preparing to receive
Pope Benedict XVI with full ceremony and official events that will
strengthen ties between the State of Israel, the Holy See and the entire
Christian world.



12 comments:

Azamin Ippish said...

Rabbi Riskin said, “The Christians have told the whole world about the God of love and peace, and they did it by picking up the ball that we Jews dropped 2000 years ago."

Coming from America doesn't make him a history mayven. Rabbis tend, too, to be as arrogant in assuming their expertise extends far beyond its actual borders.

We didn't DROP anything. 1500 years ago, the nascent Catholic church under its (then) new alignment with Constantine's Roman empire began a millenium of BLUDGEONING the ball, our culture, our children, oh, I could go on.

Riskin? G-d. How deserved does it have to be, before smacking him in the forehead and screaming, "Schmuck!" ceases to be Lashn haRa?

ellen said...

Hi Azamin,

I don't think we dropped the ball either, because it's not our mission to "spread the word" through proselytizing - although Rabbi Riskin will differ with me on this.

But this simple Jew sees things the way her grandmother did. And she used to say, "more is caught than taught".

I think it was intended that we set such a stunning example that the nations would want to emulate us and follow. It was the ultimate challenge for us to dwell alone and maintain separation, while at the time get a universal message across through the kelim which Hashem provided.

But I dunno know if it's appropriate to smack a "Rav Posek" like Rabbi Riskin upside the head (although my grandmother may have felt differently).

But there is this interesting dynamic at play here. Some people think their role is to be Avraham Avinu and to open up the tent on all sides and let anything and everything in. And others act like
Sara Imenu and say in no uncertain terms, "I will not tolerate this in my house!" (and that's my role)

I don't believe the Jewish people can allow idolatry in their house.

Schvach said...

I recall having read, in the distant past, that Rabbi Riskin majored in Classical Greek and Latin as an undergraduate? Surely then, he must be familiar with Homer's Trojan Horse, as well as with Aesop's wolf in sheep's clothes.

Uri DeYoung said...

Shalom!
Avraham Avinu let anyone and everyone in because he was confident in his ability to teach them to correct their idolatrous ways. G-d confirmed Sara Imenu's demand. We aren't living in the time of the Patriarchs and we must act accordingly. Our ability to do outreach with other "faiths" is unfortunately sometimes more limited than we realize.
Hadassa

ellen said...

Hi Schvach,
both the theme of the Trojan Horse
and the wolf in sheep's clothing are so appropriate.

It seems Homer was blind, and Aesop wrote a tale about a blind man and a whelp. So here's a classical sphinx-like riddle to ponder: Is Rabbi Riskin
a) naive
b) turning a deliberate blind eye to the dangers of interfaith theological endeavors or
c) is he is pulling the wool over our eyes ?????

ellen said...

Shalom Hadassa,
Yep. We are so far away from the lofty levels of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs that we have no choice other than to use the Talmudic formula of "respect and suspect", when it comes to dealing with theologically inspired peoples of other faith communities.

Schvach said...

Ellen:
I have no idea what convinces some Jews to acquiesce to Christian proselytizers. Perhaps they simply can't see the ruse when challenged that if they (the Jew) have no good retort to the evangelical's routine, then he (the Jew) has no legitimate reason to not accept the Christian faith. Boulder dash! Those Jew-haters might as well tell me that since prostitution is legal in Israel, I'm obligated to patronize them. I've always liked to analogize the stories of the 'New Testament' to the German children's classic of yesteryear,
'Der Struwwelpeter' - it's a lesson in comportment and propriety that is incumbent on all Jews, especially rabbis and rabbinical students; namely to not exceed their bounds or make boastful claims, or else!

ellen said...

Schvach,
This is a complex issue. Look at the depth of the halachic dissertation, "Confrontation", which Rav Yosef B. Soloveitchik wrote concerning interfaith relations and dialogue.

Obviously,evangelicals evangelize and their theology is part and parcel of everything they do. So "saving" Jewish souls is and always has been high on their agenda - and that includes the use of deceptive practices to draw us in. And that poses a big problem for us. HOWEVER a good part of that Christian community does strive to live to moral standards, engages is humanitarian works,and offers vast amounts of "support" to Israel politcally and finacially.

The lines can easily get crossed as we Jews try and navigate the ins and outs of this issue - and fall into western democratic traps and religious freedoms and tolerance pitfalls.

We must not forget that we are halachically bound to avoid
ecumenical endeavors, to shun missionaries and apostates, and to turn our backs on idolatry.

But at the same time, we can't bash gentiles who are simply doing what "good" Christians do.

This is a Jewish issue and a Jewish problem and the onus is on us. So I don't blame the Christians.

It is required of our rabbis and Jewish community leaders to delineate and clarify those lines for us - not to play acrobate and try to walk and twist them - and confuse the Jewish people as to their obligations. And this is the especially the case in Israel, where we need to hold to a different standard.

So the last part of your statement
"...is incumbent on all Jews, especially rabbis and rabbinical students; namely to not exceed their bounds.." is especially appropriate.

Schvach said...

Ellen:
Thank you for engaging my comments.
While I recognize that many Christians do 'good works', I am equally convinced that Christians who proselytize Jews are entirely wrong for doing so. Despite the fact that Christianity requires all good believers to evangelize to the Jews, the fact remains that to do so is an absolute affront to us. It is not the Jews' responsibility to accommodate a foreign theology at the expense of abandoning our own. Quite to the contrary, there exists no justifiable reason for any Jew to abandon the commands of HaShem's revelation, regardless of the misinterpretations of those who make counterclaims to our theology based on our own writings. To put it plainly, when dealing with attempts to convert Jews away from Judaism, the Christian missionary is simply wrong. The evangelist's
greatest weakness in this matter is that he/she is preaching to the recipients of HaShem's revelation, while the evangelist has received no revelation at all. This is the reason, I believe, that we Jews have been commanded to serve as 'a light unto the nations', whereas HaShem never commanded us to hold ourselves in abeyance until the
'real' revelation is received.

ellen said...

Schvach,

I wholeheartedly agree with your points that "It is not the Jews' responsibility to accommodate a foreign theology at the expense of abandoning our own." and that evangelizing is "an absolute affront to us."

But until our religious and political leaders take a stand and understand those points, we remain with an enormous problem. So we first need to clarify, define and lay down the law. And to reaffirm our commitments and obligations as Jews (and to knock some sense into our leaders).

And thank G-d for "The evangelist's
greatest weakness" and for our greatest strength.

Anonymous said...

Riskin says,
“The Christians have told the whole world about the God of love and peace..."
The xians false god is a god of love and peace and the muslim god is a god of war and judgement but our G-d is the one true G-d and is the G-d of everything. True Judaism is the balance.

ellen said...

Hi Anonymous,

I'm not in a postion to pass judgement on other faiths, because
I just have trouble looking at other gods and delving into other religions altogether.

A comparative study of other faith doctrines may interest some as an academic endeavor, but on a spiritual level it would seem that Torah observant Jews would find tapping into other belief systems
to be irrelevant, alien, and simply wrong.

We just have to do our part and hope and pray that one day soon, the world will recognize the one true G-d, and will worship Him
accordingly.