Sunday, May 22, 2016


And so dear Rabbi, after dragging you through 2,000 years of mostly unpleasant history, I am ready to answer your question. Must a Jew convert? Yes. So must the pope, so must the president, so must I, as well as all Jews and Christians, especially the clergy. Convert to what? I must be converted to the righteousness of the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  I have tried to demonstrate that the idea of chosen-ness is at the heart of the problem. If my people are the chosen, then you really should forsake your people and join mine, as was required by both Jew and gentile for centuries. 

At least until modern times, no matter how much a Jew tried to join the Goyim (gentiles), he really couldn’t.  There was always suspicion that the conversion wasn’t real, as in the case of Spain and the conversos. As far as people like Hitler, Stalin and those like them were concerned, the waters of Baptism could never wash away Jewishness. A Jew could never really become a gentile and I suspect the reverse was true. A gentile might convert, but he would never be quite Jewish, maybe his children or grandchildren, but the stain of baptismal water could never quite be forgotten.

My point in all this history is that it wasn’t that way at first. The first century was a heated argument about what it meant to be an Israelite. I have struggled for years to understand righteousness (in Hebrew, “zedekah,” in Greek “diakosyne”).  This is as far as I have come: to be righteous is to be godly, to imitate the love and generosity of G-d as much as possible because G-d alone is truly righteous. The best I can hope for is to imitate, to struggle towards His life giving, generous righteousness. You, a rabbinic Pharisee, believe that righteousness, to the degree it can be attained is available in the precepts of the Torah.  Am I right in saying that the Torah is instruction in how to walk in the way of righteousness? We followers of Jesus claim that He is ultimate Torah, the Torah come to life and the ultimate instruction in how to walk in the world.  I remember asking you to comment on something another rabbi was once heard to say, that G-d is hesed (loving kindness). And, as I thought you would say, you told me that “A Jew cannot say this. All that a Jew can really say is that G-d is ONE. Loving kindness is an attribute of G-d, but we cannot say that G-d is hesed.” 

We believe that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the binding of Isaac on the cross and so doing showed us that G-d is what He asked of Abraham – total, self-sacrificing Hesed and Ahubah, that is, Love. He made us in His own image, an image which we darken with sin and selfishness. We, the followers of the little heretical sect of the Nazarenes insist that Jesus was the Messiah, son of Joseph and that he will return as the glorious Messiah, son of David. We believe He was more than we expected. He was the very heart of G-d, which has always been fixed on His people, Israel. And we believe that He showed us Heaven’s plan which is more than we expected. We claim that He taught us that the ONE-ness of G-d is a One-ness of union, not of isolation and that the destiny of humanity is to be restored to intimacy with the Fellowship that is G-d.

Don’t worry if this is a bit hard to swallow. I am not expecting you to do so.  However, these are not ideas completely foreign to Judaism, especially in the Meditative Kabbalah and exemplified by Abulafia. We Notzri (Nazarenes) are not really completely foreign to you. Even our Trinity which we claim to be perfectly one yet perfectly diverse sounds strangely Kabbalistic because it is about union with the divine. We believe that the Messiah revealed the fullness of the divine nature and has invited us to participate in that sacred fullness.

As I said, I am certainly not expecting you to say, “Oh, now I understand!” In fact, knowing as I do and you knowing me as you do, I can almost hear you saying, “No, don’t be crazy. You misunderstood, and I’ve warned not to get involved with Kabbalah!” Don’t worry. I won’t get involved with Kabbalah. I leave that sort of thing to Hollywood Goyim, but I am trying to say that we, Nazarenes and rabbinic Pharisees or as most people would say “Christians and Jews,” are after the same thing: true union with the divine. We believe it can be attained by grace and trust, and by Heaven’s generosity, but we are struggling after righteousness and we define righteousness by Torah and Hebrew Scriptures.

Most Christians don’t understand this. Why should I expect Jews to understand it? This was what Paul taught and what Jesus incarnated, at least as I understand it. So many have made the whole thing a matter of joining the club. You must be my religion and my nationality to get in the pearly gates and to receive your mansion on a street of gold. There is no mansion. There are no streets of gold. Jesus never talked about a mansion or gold streets. He talked about the Father’s house where there is a place for me and for you and for every human being who strives for and accepts the righteousness of G-d.  To accept Heaven on Heaven’s terms and not on our own, to seek righteousness by our own stumbling towards light, we are in the same boat you and I.

In a sense I don’t want you to join my club. I want to be allowed to join yours, though I may not understand it in same way as you. I genuinely believe that that the Torah is G-d’s heart and Jesus of Nazareth is the Torah come to life. There are a thousand reasons to say this is wrong, but this Jesus has drawn me closer to righteousness, despite my resistance to His invitation. 

We Christians and Jews are not strangers and we must not be. You have brought me closer to the Messiah by your patient explanation of Torah, and I can only hope that I have brought you some little encouragement as you pursue the life of righteousness. Together, let us both be ever more converted to the G-d who is ONE!

Your friend and devoted student.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Rabbi asks a priest a question... part 19

Continued from last week…

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.” Charles Darwin, the Descent of Man.”

In 1517, the Reformation killed Christendom. In 1618, the Thirty Years’ War killed Europe. In 1789, the French Revolution killed God, and in 1859 with the publication of The Origin of Species, Darwin pointed out that we had never really needed God anyway. We weren’t God’s creatures. Evolution had created us by means of sexual selection. To be fair to Darwin, he wrote in The Descent of Man, quoted above, that we really can’t kill inferior and savage peoples, we should simply not encourage them to breed and hope that they would just be absorbed by superior races like the English I imagine.

Later readers of Darwin, like Hitler and Hitler’s friend Margaret Sanger of Planned Parenthood took Darwin’s ideas to their more logical conclusions. The inferior should not be allowed to breed. In the Thirty Years’ War and the French Revolution, the nation state had replaced God and Christendom as the object of worship. We, Us, Our Nation was superior and all others inferior. Our way was better, our music more beautiful, our laws more perfect and our genetic material more special. Darwin had discovered that the purpose of natural life was not love nor was it virtue. The most insistent purpose of life is the struggle for resources and the survival of the fittest. There was no room for a loving God in a cruel world.

The readers of Darwin applied these ideas to the new age of 19th century nationalist imperialism. The nations of Europe scrambled for control of resources among the inferior nations of Asia, Africa and the land still held by indigenous Americans and Australians. These chosen superior Nations, each more chosen than the other, needed resources. By this, they meant territory. A nation, according to these Imperial Darwinists was an organism. Its purpose was survival and thus, the control of resources. The inferior would just have to take their lumps and part with their possessions, and if need be by their lives.

There were however two special nations, two nations that didn’t have any land at all, and didn’t seem to want any, first the Roma people, the “Gypsies,” but far more significantly, the Jews. The Jews may have been chosen by God, but now that there was no God, they were nothing more than parasites. The Gypsies lived off the land and what they could take with them when they left for greener pastures. The Jews were far more insidious, according to some of the Imperial Darwinists. The Jews didn’t move on. They settled in like an infection, loaning money and controlling factory production and art and theater. They controlled the press, the manufacture of weapons, public opinion, etc., etc. They had to be rooted out like any infection. Europe was about to meet just the physician to perform the operation: Adolf Hitler.

Adolf Hitler, the leader of the National Socialist Party was not a madman. He was evil, not insane. He coolly, reasonably convinced a whole nation, famous for its art and science, that the Jews were nothing more than a parasite nation living off the wealth of others since they had no resources that is no land, of their own. Hitler could dispassionately decide that an entire ethnicity should be extinguished, because there was no God who loved and had chosen Israel as His Firstborn. The German People were the true chosen, and Hitler in effect was the god who had chosen them.

In ten years six million Jews would be rounded up and killed. They were among the 80-million-person butcher’s bill that the glorification of the nation and Imperial Darwinism had demanded.  (I have no stomach for holocaust deniers. In my grandfather’s town in Germany there were 300 Jews as there had been since the Middle Ages. In 1945 only 3 remained alive. Most of the 80 million dead were the direct or collateral casualties of war. The Jews, the Gypsies and many Poles were butchered not as the result of war, but for the sake of genocide.) A parallel horror continued in Russia, China, Eastern Europe, and much of the rest of the world until 1991. It continues to this day in Cuba and to a lesser degree in China and Vietnam. 

Karl Marx, an atheist of German-Jewish background, created a social philosophy that promised an earthly paradise, since there was no heavenly one. In the chaos following Hitler’s death and the end of the Second World War Marxist Socialism took over a third of the world and cost the world even more lives than had the world wars. The death of God in Europe and America and the worship of nation, the race and the State had spawned Darwin, Margaret Sanger, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Marx and the litany of sorrow that was the 20th century.

The result of all this is that Christianity is no longer the required state religion of any country that I can think of and, more often than not, Christianity in any form is discouraged if not persecuted. Christianity is no longer a state. It has the opportunity to become a religion once again.

Curiously the madness of the 20th century has witnessed the birth of a Jewish state after 19 centuries of statelessness. In a sense, we are back to the years of the birth of Christianity. Christianity claims to be a spiritual Israel, and Judaism has become a very concrete state in this world as well a religion. This amazes me.

Next Week: I am now ready to answer the Rabbi’s questions.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Rabbi asks a priest a question... part 18

Continued from last week….

Liberté, égalité, fraternité!!  Liberty, equality, fraternity! But now off with your head. The French revolution lopped off the heads of at least 20,000 in an attempt to blot out the evils of the Bourbon Monarchy and Catholicism and then went on to kill hundreds of thousands more in suppressing counter revolution.

Who pray tell were the Bourbons? Remember the wars of religion? The old royal family, the Valois petered out due to insanity and debauchery, and the nearest royal cousin was, heaven forfend, a Protestant!  Henry married a Valois princess, whom he eventually divorced and promised to become a Catholic in order to escape death in the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre in which French Catholics slaughtered several thousand Protestants who were in Paris to celebrate the wedding as well as thousands more throughout France. He escaped Paris in 1576 and renounced Catholicism.

He rejoined the Protestant forces in the wars of religion, then so popular in Europe. He eventually became Catholic (again), saying that, “Paris was worth a Mass.” No way could he rule France and not be Catholic. His grandson was Louis XIV (1638-1715). He was the Catholic Sun King who went to daily Mass with his wife and mistresses and fought Catholic Austria with his allies the protestant swedes. His great grandson was Louis XVI who got his head cut off by the revolutionaries a few paragraphs back. The whole revolution thing was such a great success that having cut off the head of the last Bourbon king, Louis XVI in 1793 they elected Napoleon Bonaparte as their dictator in 1799.

He won three million of the one and a half million votes cast, thus proving that equality was the rule of the day. Your vote was as worthless as everyone else’s vote. Vive la Revolucion! Napoleon then placed himself on the imperial throne in 1804 plunging Europe and the world into a war that cost about one million lives. So where are the Jews in all this?

Up until the revolution the Jews were repeatedly exiled from France then invited to return. It seems that Jews were good for the economy. But come the revolution, and a councilor of the revolutionary parliament declared, “I believe that freedom of worship does not permit any distinction in the political rights of citizens on account of their creed. The question of the political existence of the Jews has been postponed. The men of all sects (should be) admitted to enjoy political rights in France. I demand that… a decree (be) passed that the Jews in France enjoy the privileges of full citizens.”

Judaism in France became, “nothing more than the name of a distinct religion.” French Jews were French. In gratitude for their new nationality, French Jews dedicated themselves to France, fighting in the Army of the Republic against the European enemies of their new homeland France. They contributed materially to the war effort. Candelabra of synagogues were sold, and wealthier Jews donated their jewels to the cause. They were French and proud of it. Napoleon brought Jewish emancipation and citizenship to the lands he conquered, liberating Jews from their ghettos and making them full citizens of the new Europe. In 1807, he made Judaism an official religion in France, along with Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism. Still, he may have had mixed motives. He seems to have been prone to the medieval custom of borrowing money from Jewish financiers and then welching on the debt.

In 1808, Napoleon took back some of his reforms. All debts owed to Jews were cancelled, reduced, or at least postponed. The new decrees also restricted where Jews could live. The restrictions were ultimately eased in 1811 and eventually abolished, but still…

Why dwell on Jews in France? It’s pretty much the story of Jews in Europe. You’re welcome to live here, just don’t get too comfortable. You are not us. After the revolution things were different, right? Not quite. In 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer who happened to have a Jewish background was sentenced to life imprisonment for sharing French military secrets with the German Embassy in Paris, Dreyfus was imprisoned on Devil's Island in French Guiana. He was released after five years, a broken man. He was completely innocent. The real culprit was eventually exposed, but at the time it was quite convenient to blame the Jew! After all, how loyal could a Jew be? 

The Dreyfus Affair had unanticipated fruit. The Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl, a Jew, was present at part of the trial, the cancellation of Dreyfus’ army rank in 1895. Herzl was convinced of the need to resolve the Jewish question. “If France, the bastion of emancipation, progress and universal socialism, can get caught up in a maelstrom of antisemitism and let the Parisian crowd chant 'Kill the Jews!' Where can they be safe once again, if not in their own country? Assimilation does not solve the problem because the Gentile world will not allow it as the Dreyfus affair has so clearly demonstrated…” If the Jew could never become part of another nation, they would have to form a nation of their own.

Christendom had broken down into political chaos and now Judaism would enter the fray. The superior nation state that had become the substitute for religious chosen-ness in the Christian world would engender the Jewish state. Christianity and Judaism were a long way from their competition as religious variations on the faith of Israel. Religion took a back seat to secularized, nominal Christianity and a secular “reformed” Judaism. Oh, by the way, Alfred Dreyfus died an old man in 1935, just before the greatest horror known to human history broke, and it broke hard on the Jews.

Next week “If you worship me, I will give you all the kingdoms of the world….”