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An Open Letter on the ‘Kosher Jesus’ Tussle

January 15, 2012 11:13 am 11 comments

Group photo of Chabad emmisaries from around the world.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and his new book ‘Kosher Jesus‘ recently came under attack by Chicago Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf. Rabbi Wolf called for Rabbi Boteach’s ecclesiastical excommunication (‘Cherem’), accusing him of attempting to proselytize Jews to Christianity. Rabbi Boteach retorted that if Rabbi Wolf read his book he would see that in it he explicitly condemns Jesus’s divinity and claims of messiahship, and rather embraces the Jesus that was Torah observant.

My point is not to discuss the merits or lack thereof of the book itself. I want to clearly reiterate by unequivocally stating that I’m not qualified to comment on the legitimacy or lack thereof of Rabbi Boteach’s book ‘Kosher Jesus.’ I’ll leave that debate to qualified Rabbis, New Testament scholars and theologians with more knowledge than myself. This letter is about claims of Chabad’s closed-mindedness.

It is surprising that Rabbi Boteach viewed Rabbi Wolf’s remarks as reflecting the Chabad movements position on this issue, especially considering that Rabbi Wolf himself admits in his initial attack on Shmuley that he is “no spokesman for Orthodox Jewry or for Chabad.” He is speaking for himself as a “lone Wolf.”

I think most sensible people would be incensed by the incendiary and mean-spirited comments against Rabbi Boteach. When I advocated for gender equality in voting rights at my local government-funded Jewish community council elections, I was also attacked for representing a different viewpoint. I understand Rabbi Boteach’s anger and hurt.

With that said, it is unfair for Rabbi Boteach to label those in the Chabad movement who reject “Kosher Jesus” as a bunch of “knee-jerk reactionaries,” “anti-intellectuals” who “celebrate ignorance” when the movement has not even responded to his book.

Rabbi Boteach should not be painting Chabad with such a broad brush. What is more representative of closed-minded, prejudiced non-thinking? Someone who condemns an author of a book he has not read or someone who condemns a whole group of people based on the statement of one of its members?

Unless the Chabad movement formally excommunicates Rabbi Boteach or renounces his book, which they have done neither, Rabbi Wolf’s comments carry no weight and neither do the reams of “sickening, stomach-turning comments” that Rabbi Boteach refers to. Rabbi Wolf is a Rabbi speaking for himself, not the Chabad movement.

There are those in the Chabad community who strongly agree with Rabbi Wolf’s sentiment but also those that disagree. This is to be expected and reflects the diversity of opinion within the Chabad community but just like Rabbi Boteach is one Rabbi with an opinion, albeit a counter-intuitive and provocative opinion about the Jewish Jesus, so too is Rabbi Wolf.

Lastly, given the premium I place on the First Amendment’s right to freedom of expression and the press as well as Judaism’s rich culture of debate, I recoil at the notion of the Chabad websites censoring any viewpoint but at the same time I recognize that insular communities have a right to maintain their insularity.

Just my thoughts.

11 Comments

  • frania kryszpel block

    Salvage is a genius thinker. I am not brilliant enough to even go back smd forth in dialogue but whether one disagrees, agrees, Is confused or stunned …it all is pure genius. Unless, religion goes by faith alone, which. The Jewish religion had been punished for centuries, by having no idols to worship, no physical evidence of a G-d one can point to, touch or look at while praying,then Salvage has opened minds to practical, dead practical ways of seeing religion. Like a scientist with his petrie dish. Is that why many scientists are aetheists?

    • frania kryszpel block

      The anger against Jews was that even in the face of no talisman to touch, no physical icon to pray to, the Jewish people had faith. This caused much animosity in the host countries. How can a people have faith with no object to worship,nothing that can be seen with the mortal eye. A favorite comment, while persecuting the Jews was “where is your G-d?”…. and no matter what faith endured. This is a cause of anger for generations.

      • Uh no, not really. Most religions have trouble producing their god when asked. The Jews suffered bigotry the same way most minorities did coming into host cultures.

    • Not really sure what you’re trying to say here but most scientists are indeed atheists because they are usually sensible and that sort of person is disinclined to believe in superstition and the supernatural.

      And theists never answer specific points about their beliefs and the little sesnse they make.

  • I expect better quality writing from Algemeiner than this disjointed and pointless drivel, the sum of which amounts to “quit bickering and hold hands.” Without taking sides (or at least acknowledging the merits of either), the author effectively says, “my perspective is above the fray.” What a load of hot air. If you don’t have the capacity to debate the issue, please don’t open your mouth and waste our time.

  • TRY THE JESUSNEVEREXISTED WEBSITE FOR THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS PS NAZERETH DIDNT EXIST TILL AFTER BAR KOCHBA

  • In response to Salvage

    Seems to me like you’re missing an option:

    c) G-d wants everyone to have free choice, and respects people’s freedom of speech.

    If G-d revealed Himself and censored all speech about other “gods” with his omnipotent powers, who in their right minds WOULDN’T believe in Him? It wouldn’t be an actual “choice” anymore.

    So G-d chooses to let people say and believe what they want, so everyone can choose their own path.

    • >If G-d revealed Himself and censored all speech about other “gods” with his omnipotent powers, who in their right minds WOULDN’T believe in Him? It wouldn’t be an actual “choice” anymore.

      Yes.

      And that would be bad… because?

      >So G-d chooses to let people say and believe what they want, so everyone can choose their own path.

      No.

      If your god were to pop into my living room and tell me the exact score of the upcoming New York / Green Bay game enabling me to bankrupt every bookie in a five mile radius I would have no “choice” other than to believe in it.

      But I cannot believe in it because it makes no sense to do so, again I have no choice FOR THE EXACT SAME REASON.

      There is no evidence of your god, the stories in the Torah that describe it make no sense other than in atypical mythological context and the fact that every culture comes up with gods but no two separate cultures have ever come up with the same god I have no “choice” other than to be an atheist.

      If your bizarre god is real it does such an excellent job of behaving exactly the way something that isn’t real behaves it would seem rude if not ludicrous to believe in it.

      This whole “my god doesn’t reveal itself because of… of… free will!” argument is beyond sophistic based on its own merits but where it really falls apart is in the Torah your god shows himself to mortals ALL THE TIME!

      Why no Moses in the last 2,000 years? Why no telling some guy to kill his son as a human sacrifice? (I know, I know, your god was just screwing with him). Why no walls of Jericho crumbling down around Israel’s enemies? Isn’t odd how your god only talks to crazy people in our modern world?

      Have you noticed that your god has stopped destroying cities… right around the same time volcanoes, earthquakes and other natural phenomenon started?

      You believe things that only a child should believe and then grow out of, you should stop.

  • Rochel Chana Riven

    Should we teach our young children that it is okay to cross the street on a red light as long as you look both ways? Is everything always okay as long as we don’t squelch anyone’s freedom and creativity? Is anything sacred?

  • >accusing him of attempting to proselytize Jews to Christianity

    Why does the Jewish god, the One True One all others are fakes, allow these other gods to horn in on his racket?

    Not just this Christian charlatan but Allah and whatever it is the Hindus beg favor from.

    And even before those fakers you had all those Roman and Greek and Egyptian gods.

    Wouldn’t it have solved all kinds of problems if the One True One god had made sure that it was the only one?

    Hmm the only two explanations that make sense are:

    a) your god loves conflict be it on a small scale like this or full on war.

    b) There are no such things as gods, all of it is a bunch on nonsense.

    Which one sounds more reasonable?

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