Responding to Attacks on ‘Kosher Jesus’
by Shmuley Boteach
Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf’s vicious attack against me and my new book, Kosher Jesus – to say nothing of the insane comments attending his diatribe, some of which called on me to be ‘burned out from the Jewish people’ – betrays a malignancy growing among we orthodox Jews that should be resisted and combated by all who are concerned for the heart and soul of the Jewish community.
I am prepared to give Rabbi Wolfe the benefit of the doubt, which he denied me, and assume he wrote his tirade calling for me to be ejected from the Chabad movement (does he think Chabad is a football game and he is the referee?) because of his concern, as he states, for the ignorant who may be misled. Still, his fanatical screed would seem more appropriate being pasted on a wall in Meah Shearim than posted on the home page of a Chabad website. His knee-jerk reactionary assault against a book which he admits he has never even seen betrays a growing tendency among a small, extremist fringe in Chabad toward uninformed criticism, anti-intellectualism, contempt for scholarship, disrespect for Jews searching for a way back to Judaism, venomous personal attack, and uninformed personal vendetta. Chabad, whose very name means Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, is better than that.
A curious thing happened last week in Jerusalem at the official press conference where we launched Kosher Jesus. All the Jewish and mainstream news outlets that covered the event loved the book, but some Evangelical Christian reporters took offense. They argued that my book, which demonstrates from Christian and Jewish sources that Jesus was a Torah-observant Jew who condemned any fellow Israelite who did not observe every last letter of the Law and never claimed to be divine, is insulting to Christianity.
I countered that, to the contrary, in this new era of Christian-Jewish alliance for the security and safety of Israel, it was time for our Christian brothers to reject the false legacy of Jesus as an anti-Semitic enemy of his people and embrace the fully observant, Jewish patriot who never sought to create a new religion and devoted his life to reinforcing Jewish observance, as Christian scripture makes clear.
That Rabbi Wolf never read my book does not matter. I did not expect him to. That he condemned it without so much as knowing a single paragraph of its content is perhaps to be expected. But what is utterly unforgivable is how he did not use the very same computer with which he sent his harangue to collive.com to simply Google my name where he would have encountered tens of audio and video debates between me and leading Christian missionaries all over the world where I am at the forefront of combating efforts to evangelize Jews and reverse the trend by bringing Jews who have converted to Christianity back to Judaism.
Those efforts are the reason that Christian missionaries are taking umbrage at my book. How bizarre to now find Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf in the company of the world’s leading Christian missionaries who hate Kosher Jesus.
Mind you, I mean no offense to Christians. My evangelical brothers and sisters are stalwart supporters of the Jewish state and through great men like Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein – one of the biggest supporters of Kolel Chabad and countless other Jewish social-welfare charities – give more than $100 million a year to poor Jews in Israel. God bless them. But it is time that our Christian brothers reject all efforts to proselytize Jews and come to the Jewish community to learn about the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. It is not Jews who must learn from Christians about Jesus but rather the reverse.
Jesus was a Jew. He lived a life totally devoted to Torah and Mitzvos, as should every Jew. He resisted all efforts to change Judaism. As my book clearly demonstrates from Christian sources, Jesus drew upon the Torah for everything he taught and states emphatically that “those who do not keep every last letter of the Torah will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:18) It is high time that Judaism received credit for the riches it has brought the world through Christianity. It is also time that our Jewish brothers lost to us through conversion to Christianity come back to the religion Jesus himself practiced, namely, Judaism.
Contrary to what Christians have learned, Jesus hated the Romans rather than the Rabbis. He fought the Roman Emperor and was put to death for opposing the tyranny and paganism of Rome. Later, after the Jewish revolt of the year 66-70 that saw the destruction of the Temple, when the Jews became the most hated group in the Roman Empire, the story was changed to strip Jesus of his Jewishness and Romanize him. Added to this was the abominable charge that the Jews killed one of their own, a blood libel which would later claim the lives of countless Jews for the past two millennia. Using reams of scholarship my book puts the nail in the coffin of the greatest lie of all time, that the Jews, rather than the Romans, killed Jesus. Kosher Jesus combats these falsifications that have had such bloody consequences for our people.
It is also time, although Rabbi Wolf does not seem to much care, that the Rebbe’s vision for spreading the Noachide Covenant, be realized by Christians discovering the humanity and Jewishness of Jesus rather than emphasizing his divinity.
I have no doubt that many of my Christian brothers and sisters will take issue with my book, although I believe that the scholarship is sufficiently sound to hold its own. Kosher Jesus involved 10 years of scholarly study and public debate and has been praised by Publisher’s Weekly in the book’s very first review as an “informed and cogent primer on Jesus of Nazareth…. a brave stab at re-evaluating Jesus through an intensive look at the New Testament and historical documents… and a well-researched analysis that will certainly reopen intrafaith and interfaith dialogue.”
What I did not expect was that Rabbis who have watched tens of thousands of Jews lost to Christianity without a fight would attack a book that can reverse that trend without knowing the first thing about it.
As a Lubavitcher and self-proclaimed Shliach, Rabbi Wolf should know better than this.
Judaism is a wondrous religion that has infinite beauty to share with the world. But its riches will be darkened and tarnished if it is overtaken by fanatics.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the international best-selling author of 27 books, was the London Times Preacher of the Year at the Millennium, and received the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.