(below is a response by Rabbi Riskin to my post: Did you hear the one about the Jewish Knight, the Pope, the Rabbi, and Jesus?
Dear Rabbi Riskin,
Sent: Thursday, December 25, 2008 9:43 PMSubject: from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
To Ellen Horowitz et al,
It is my understanding from Yaffa Ganz that you would be glad to reprint, as well as, send out my response to issues raised on "Ellen’ Horowitz’s blog" to your entire list. I greatly appreciate your willingness to do this. While I welcome honest and sincere criticism to stands that I take, the entire picture of opinions and quotes should always be taken within the context it was expressed. Below, you will not only find my response to the subjects mentioned in the blog, but my fundamental positions that I hold firmly to.
I – Ellen's first quote
Ellen Horowitz suggested to her readers that they sit down before reading her following choice quotes lest they plotz. She quoted me as saying "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 2,000 years ago".
This is an accurate statement, and lies at the very root of the reason for our Center for Jewish Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC). G-d initially elected Abraham and his descendants to present the religion of ethical monotheism to the world, or at the very least the seven Noahide laws. At the very time of Abraham's election, G-d informs him "All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you" (Gen. 12:3), and all of our prophets speak of the
from which Torah will go forth to the entire world (Isaiah 2 and Micah 4). Holy Temple
Even Maimonides legislates that it is incumbent upon the Jewish people even to coerce the rest of the world if necessary to accept the Noahide laws (Mishneh Torah , Laws of Kings 8,10) Indeed, in the unexpurgated versions of Maimonides' text of Mishneh Torah as transmitted by Rav Kapah in his Yemenite version, we find the following quotation:
But the thoughts of the Creator of the Universe can never be grasped by human beings, since our ways are not His ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts. All of these words of Yeshua the Nazarene and of that Yishmaeli who came after him were only in order to prepare the road for the king Messiah and to perfect the entire world to serve G-d together…. how so? Since already (through them) the entire world has been filled with words of messianism and with words of Torah and with words of commandments; and these concepts have spread to the furthest islands and to many nations whose hearts are not yet circumcised and they (the Nazarene and the Yishmaeli) have carried and given over these concepts as well as commandments of the Torah… (Laws of Kings 11, 11-12)
The fact remains that during the
and until the Hadrionic persecutions, after the abortive Bar Kochba rebellion, Jews were avid proselytizers. Judaism was indeed a charismatic religion with a core tenet to spread the Torah to the world. Josephus writes a great deal about this, insisting that throughout the Second Commonwealth Roman Empirewherever there were heavily populated Jewish areas, the overwhelming majority of Gentiles were not working on the Sabbath, were eating kosher food and fasting on Yom Kippur.
In addition to prominent proselytes like Onkelos, Avtalyon, Ben Bag Bag and Ben Heh Heh, both Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Akiva were traditionally said to have come from converts. It is important to also take note of the Mishnah in Avot: "Be among the students of Aaron: love peace, pursue peace, love all human beings (briyot) and bring them close to Torah." Apparently our Jewish missionary activity stopped during the period of the Hadrianic persecutions when it became forbidden for us to convert others.
I completely subscribe to Professor Huntington's position in his path breaking work The Clash of Civilizations. We are in the midst of the fourth world war, a religious struggle between the free world (which believes in a G-d of love compassion and peace, the G-d of the 24 books of Tanach which are accepted as sacred by Judaism and Christianity) and the world of fundamentalist Islam which believes in a god of will, world domination and jihad. I see the present day rapprochement between Christianity and Judaism after almost 2,000 years of enmity as one of the critical signs of the fateful times in which we are living and a strong ray of light through the darkness emanating from
, Al Quaida, Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran
A sea change has occurred during these last several decades. Christians are sincerely trumpeting the call that G-d remains faithful to His initial covenant with
Israel, and that the Biblical prophecy is continually being fulfilled through the people of living in its covenanted land. I do believe that together we must champion the belief in our joint G-d who created the world and promises eventual redemption to a fragile and fragmented world on the brink of disaster. Israel
II – Ellen's second quote
Ellen Horowitz further cited:
"Nekrutman assured his guests that he wanted them to feel comfortable and even urged them despite being in a synagogue 'pray in Jesus' name, don't leave Jesus at the door'"
David Nekrutman serves as the Executive Director of CJCUC. When lecturing to Christian groups, he begins by telling the audience that he is an Orthodox Jew who does not believe in the divinity of Jesus or in the sacredness of the Christian canon. What makes our dialogue possible is that we pray to the same Father and our expressions of faith are rooted in the covenant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The major view of most poskim such as Rav Yaakov Emden and the Shach say that dialogue between both faiths is possible since Christian Trinitarian doctrine looks upon the trinity as a belief in one God, not three separate god-heads. Therefore, there is a unity with the trinity. Of course, Jewish belief does not subscribe to this theology and in our talks with Christians we make it quite clear that any individual who accepts the divinity of Jesus can ipso facto never be considered Jewish. Retaining Jewish identity at the same time believing in the supreme core doctrine of Christianity is heretical to both faiths. You are either Jewish or a Christian. There is nothing in between.
Christians believe that theirs is the perfect revelation to which ultimately everyone will convert. We, as Jews, also believe that Judaism is the perfect revelation to which ultimately everyone will convert. We make the above points very clear in our discussions with Christians, even stressing that any Christian sect who presents a raison d'etre to convert Jews as a specific mandate is bordering on spiritual anti-Semitism, because they are saying the Jewish soul in its present state can not be “saved”. We understand that part and parcel of Christian identity is spreading the gospel to everyone, but there are ways to do this. Coming to
under guise of supporting the Jewish people and the Land and distributing missionizing material is not only unlawful, religiously dishonest and offensive. CJCUC does not dialogue with Jews for Jesus or any Messianic entities. Israel
III – Ellen's third charge
Ellen Horowitz then writes the following: "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
Christians United for Israel (CUFI) does not evangelize Jews. Pastor John Hagee, the founder and leader of this movement, has dedicated his cleric career in serving Israel without ulterior motive – and has even been strongly criticized by many evangelical pastors because of his belief that Jews as Jews have a share in heavenly reward and eternity. The churches which belong to CUFI have special "Nights to Honor
Israel", wherein they talk about the importance of the landof Israelfor the Jews and the world, encourage political support and raise funds to help the poor in . Israel
Let it be stated on record that in the last two years, we have received the sum total of less than $50,000 from these
nights, with none of that money going to our Ohr Torah Stone Institutions but rather to a special loving kindness fund which feeds poor Jews and Palestinians who live near Efrat. The particular evening which Ellen speaks of was held in the Israel Cavalry Tabernacle Churchheaded by Pastor Clem Salerno in The Church may very well have donated to other Christian operations which send out missionaries; however, to the best of my knowledge they do not at all have as a central goal of missionizing Jews. Churches are by there very nature involved in sending out pastors whose job is to spread the gospels; my interest is to try to get these churches to support Cranford N.J. unconditionally and without specifying any mission to the Jews. If I were to discover that any who I have a connection with whose raison d'etre is converting the Jewish people, all ties with them would be severed. Israel
IV - Ellen's final quote
"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."
I am not and never was a board member, officer or endorser of the Pave the Way foundation. I did mail a letter of gratitude for his invitation to meet with Pope John Paul II with other organizational leaders. It was this letter that was prominently featured in the foundation’s brochure. When I heard that the foundation was trying to get
Israelto give control to the of the room above the burial site of King David, I clearly voiced my objection to those efforts. I consider Gary Krupp a good and sincere friend – one who I respect but with whom I do not always agree. Vatican
In regard to reviewing the Papacy of Pope Pius XII, Krupp has done extensive research in this area. I sent David Nekrutman to attend the symposium sponsored by Pave the Way Foundation in September of this year. He debriefed me of the events that took place and mentioned that his own judgments on the Pope were changed. Nekrutman originally thought that Pope Pius XII was indeed a Nazi collaborator and the documents shown at the symposium counter that claim. I have voiced to him as well as to others that I believe the jury is still out until the documents in the
Vaticanfiles are all properly studied and interpreted. Yad Vashem is the premiere Holocaust institution in the world and will deal with these issues according their own protocols and standards.
I do believe in Jewish-Christian dialogue especially during these fateful times. There will be those who will disagree with me about this issue, and they have every right to do so. In my relationships with Christians, I have found that we have much more in common than what separates us - such as the sanctity of our shared Biblical Scriptures (the 24 books of the Bible) as well as in a G-d of love, morality and peace. Thus far in our relationship, I have found more Christians (many thousands) being moved to accept more and more Jewish practices and even coming closer to our theological views than the other way around.