Wednesday, January 14, 2009

He's in there?

"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." -John 5:39

When Christians read the Bible, they see Jesus in every verse and every portion. In their minds, Jesus is literally bouncing off every page. They make the claim that Jesus's messiah-hood and divinity is apparent from a cursory reading of Scripture and that if a person would only honestly examine the texts, they could not possibly deny his truth.

A favorite missionary claim is that the early Christians were Jewish, proof of the compatibility of the two faiths. Yet their very own argument works against them. If the Scriptures clearly and unequivocally point to Jesus's coming, one would expect that the people who would be the first to recognize him would be the very people who spent their lives studying the Torah. It would make sense that the Sanhedrin, the great rabbis and leaders of the people would have recognized Jesus's coming, clearly foretold in the Torah. One could imagine, if the Gospel tale is to be believed, Jesus coming before the Sanhedrin and arguing that he was divine, sent by G-d to redeem the world. The rabbis, who should have known from the Torah about such a person, refuted and rejected all of Jesus's arguments and reasoning. Obviously, the idea of a human saviour-god, son of a virgin and the divine, dying for the sins of humanity was not a Jewish concept based on the Torah, but rather a pagan one. While the learned men did not accept Jesus, his disciples were tradesmen, common folk and Torah students. Peter and John were Galilean fishermen, while Paul was a Roman tax collector. Mary Magdelene was a prostitute- certainly not a paragon of Torah scholarship and learning. Far from having the Scriptures clearly testify of Jesus, those who were familiar with the Scriptures were the first to reject him!

Similarly, one would expect that missionaries would have the most ease persuading Jews who have studied in yeshiva. Coming out of the synagogue and beit midrash, with a holy book tucked under their arms, they should be easy prey for the missionary sharing "the good news". It is then quite odd that missionaries rarely are sent to Crown Heights, to Monsey, Meah Shearim, Bnei Brak or Hebron. They would have little luck there as Jews well-versed in their faith and Torah are insusceptible to Christian missionizing. On the contrary, missionaries often concentrate their efforts on college students alienated from their Jewish heritage, lonely seniors, new Russian or Ethiopian olim, segments of the Jewish population that do not possess a strong Jewish heritage. A quick glance at testimonies on missionary sites such as 'Jews for Jesus' and the like show that most were raised in homes devoid of Jewish spirituality and whose only Jewish connection was gefilte fish and matzoh balls. That is why the Christian Bible places great emphasis on faith, rather than knowledge. This is because belief in Jesus cannot stand up to a true Jewish examination, based on traditional Jewish teaching and practice.

The classic Christian response to this is that Jews have been blinded by Satan. If the Devil had not caused them not to see, they would quickly accept the Cross. The Pope recently restored mass prayers calling for "the veil of blindness" to be "lifted" from the "eyes of the perfidious Jews". This arrogant and condescending claim ignores the many arguments and oppositions that Jews have with Christian theology. The Jewish rejection of Jesus as the messiah is based on study of the requirements of the messiah, which Jesus did not fulfill. The Torah records that in the End of Days, it will be the gentile nations, and not the Jews, who have been mistaken.

"O LORD, my strength, and my stronghold, and my refuge, in the day of affliction, unto Thee shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say: 'Our fathers have inherited nought but lies, vanity and things wherein there is no profit.' Shall a man make unto himself gods, and they are no gods?" (Jeremiah 16:19)

"[In the Messianic Era] nations shall walk at thy [the Jewish people's] light, and kings at the brightness of thy rising." (Isaiah 60:3)

"I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and have taken hold of thy hand, and kept thee, and set thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house." (Isaiah 42:6-7)

May we merit speedily the day in which all mankind will recognize that HaShem is One and His Name is One. Amen!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Liar, Lunatic or Lord?

A Christian polemicist once argued famously that Jesus was either "a liar, a lunatic or lord". This circular argument has been repeated endlessly by missionaries in their obsessive drive to convert Jews. As such, it is necessary to take a look at who Jesus actually was, and who he most certainly was not.

1) Was Jesus a Prophet?

The Christian Bible refers to Jesus as a prophet (Matt. 14:5, John 4:44). However, from a Jewish perspective, this claim is problematic. Therefore, it is necessary to compare Jesus's claims with the qualifications set down by a prophet in the Torah, contained in Deuteronomy 13 and 18.

According to these sources, a prophet is a man sent by G-d to bring revelations. if a prophet predicts something that does not come to pass, or commands something contrary to the Torah, he is considered a false prophet and must be put to death. It is hard to square the idea that Jesus was a prophet with the claim that he was G-d, since that would make G-d His own prophet. We must examine whether all of Jesus' prophecies came true. Jesus prophesied that he would return during the generation and lifetime of his disciples.

"Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place." (Mark 13:30)

"Truly, I say to you, there are some standing among you here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in the Kingdom." (Matt. 16:28, 24:38)

Jesus's disciples most assuredly see the second coming in their lifetime. Therefore, Jesus was a false prophet.

The final verses of the Torah testify that Moses was the greatest and most authoritative of the prophets. It is a cardinal Jewish principle that never will a prophet arise who will be greatest than Moses and be able to cancel that which he commanded in the Torah. The Torah tells us how to recognize false prophets:

Deuteronomy 13:1 The entire word that I command you, that shall you observe to do; you shall not add to it and you shall not subtract from it. [2] If there should stand up in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of a dream, and he will produce to you a sign or a wonder, [3] and the sign or the wonder comes about, of which he spoke to you, saying "Let us follow gods of others that you did not know and we shall worship them!; [4] do not hearken to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of a dream, for HASHEM, your G-d, is testing you to know whether you love HASHEM, your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul. [5] HASHEM, your G-d, shall you follow and Him shall you fear; His commandments shall you observe and to His voice shall you hearken; Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave. [6] And that prophet and that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death, for he had spoken perversion against HASHEM, your G-d Who takes you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeems you from the house of slavery to make you stray from the path on which HASHEM, you G-d, has commanded you to go; and you shall destroy the evil from your midst. (Artscroll)

Just about everything that Jesus and Paul preached violated this clause. Paul opposed and condemned ritual observance of the Torah. Jesus dealt with many laws with a curious ambiguity. In Mark 7:18, Jesus declared all foods to be "clean", thus violating the laws of kashrut. Jesus limited or opposed divorce and remarriage in Matt. 19:9 and Mark 10:3-4, although this is permissible by the Torah. We see that Jesus tried to change the Torah, although no one has the authority to "add or subtract" to G-d's perfect Laws.

More importantly, it must be remembered that any prophet succeeding Moses must preach a message keeping in line with that of Moses.

FACT: No Jew prayed to Jesus prior to two thousand years ago.

FACT: Jews would have been unfamiliar with the concept of G-d in human form.

FACT: Jesus was, in essence, something that the Jews had not known.

FACT: Deuteronomy 13 specifically warns us that G-d will grant the power of miracles to people who would lead us astray from Judaism.

FACT: Deuteronomy 13 specifically says that Jews must not worship anything they had not previously known, no matter how many miracles the prophet performs, or how many events he predicts correctly.

This brings us to our next point, which will determine if Jesus's message was idolatrous.

2) Was Jesus divine?

Christianity teaches that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. That is contradictory to G-d's explicit statement that He is not a man.

"God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent..." (Numbers 23:19)

"And also the Glory of Israel will not lie nor repent; for He is not a man, that He should repent.'" (I Samuel 15:29)

"..for I am God, and not man, the Holy One in the midst of thee; and I will not come in fury." (Hosea 11:9)

If Jesus is a deity, then G-d is not alone because Jesus is a discrete physical being. The Torah and the prophets are filled with statements hat G-d is alone and that there is no other. Claiming that G-d has a physical form and is a Triune being is contradictory to the teachings and spirit of the Torah.

"You are the ones who have been shown, so that you will know that God is the Supreme Being, and there is none other besides Him!" (Deuteronomy 4:35)

"Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other!" (Deuteronomy 4:39)

"To whom then will you liken Me, that I should be his equal?" says the Holy One. (Isaiah 40:25)

"I am the Lord, that is My name, and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images!" (Isaiah 42:8)

"To whom shall you liken Me and make Me equal and compare Me that we may be alike?" (Isaiah 46:5)

"Remember the first things of old, that I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me." (Isaiah 46:9)

Isaiah 11:3 states that the Messiah will fear G-d. Logically, G-d cannot fear Himself. As such, it is illogical to claim that Jesus was G-d. It is important to note that Judaism never considered the Messiah divine but rather a very righteous human being. The early Christian made no claims about the divinity of Jesus. Jesus was actually elected divine at the Nicean Council in 325 CE, by former pagans who worshipped various saviour demigods similar to Jesus.

3) Was Jesus perfect?

Christian claim that Jesus was a perfect being, yet a careful review of the Christian Bible reveals a far from perfect view of him. One incidence where Jesus sinned was the incident recorded in Matthew 21:18-19 in which Jesus destroyed a fruit tree which did not bear fruits. Mark informs us that it was not in the fruit-bearing season. This is in direct violation of the Torah's commandment of bal tashchit, prohibiting even the destruction of enemy fruit trees in times of war (Deut.20:19) If Jesus was "the son of god", certainly he could have caused the tree to blossom rather than vindictively destroying it. (Interestingly, the Talmud describes a story where Rabbi Yossi's son wanted to feed his workers and the fig tree had no fruit. Rabbi Yossi cried out and the fig tree produced fruit.)

Jesus also sinned when he ordered his disciple to violate the commandments to honour ones parents and to promptly bury the dead. "And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him." (Matt.8:21-23) By ordering his disciple not to bury his parents, Jesus violated the Ten Commandments and was guilty of a major sin under Jewish law.

Despite being portrayed as a "prince of peace", Jesus was actually quite harsh to those who opposed him and certainly did not practice what he preached. Jesus taught other to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:38-39) yet when he was struck by the officers, he answered them back (John 18:22-23).

Instead of forgiveness and tolerance, Jesus cursed those who opposed him. "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:6) In Luke 19:27, Jesus commanded that his disciples bring his Jewish enemies before him and slaughter them before him, a role that the Church was all to happy to play throughout history. Similarly, Jesus cursed the cities that did not believe in him (Matt.11:20-24).

The Jewish people revere our holy and righteous sages, who rose to unparalleled levels of holiness and sanctity. One such individual was Rabbi Akivah, who was martyred around the time when Jesus supposedly lived. The Romans punished him for teaching Torah and skinned him alive with a hot metal comb.

According to Mark and Matthew, Jesus' last words on the cross were a complaint: "My G-d, my G-d, why have you forsaken me?". In contrast, Rabbi Akivah's last words were the Shemah, in which he proclaimed G-d's Unity and Oneness. Arguably, Jesus, who was supposedly the son of G-d, did not measure up to the exaltedness of Rabbi Akivah.

4) Was Jesus the messiah?

The Jewish tradition of "The Messiah" has its foundation in numerous biblical references, and understands "The Messiah" to be a human being - without any overtone of deity or divinity - who will bring about certain changes in the world and fulfill certain criteria before he can be acknowledged as "The Messiah".

First of all, he must be Jewish - " may appoint a king over you, whom the L-rd your G-d shall choose: one from among your brethren shall you set as king over you." (Deuteronomy 17:15)

He must be a member of the tribe of Judah - "The staff shall not depart from Judah, nor the sceptre from between his feet..." (Genesis 49:10)

To be a member of the tribe of Judah, the person must have a biological father who is a member of the tribe of Judah.

He must be a direct male descendant of King David and King Solomon, his son - "And when your days (David) are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall issue from your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will make firm the throne of his kingdom forever..." (2 Samuel 7:12 - 13)

The genealogy of the New Testament is inconsistent. While it gives two accounts of the genealogy of Joseph, it states clearly that he is not the biological father of Jesus. One of the genealogies is through Nathan and not Solomon altogether!

He must gather the Jewish people from exile and return them to Israel -"And he shall set up a banner for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." (Isaiah 11:12)

Are all Jews living in Israel? Have all Jews EVER lived in Israel since the time of Jesus?

He must rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem - "...and I will set my sanctuary in their midst forever and my tabernacle shall be with them.." (Ezekiel 37:26 - 27)

At last check, there is NO Temple in Jerusalem. And worse, it was shortly after Jesus died that the Temple was DESTROYED! Just the opposite of this prophecy!

He will rule at a time of world-wide peace - "...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." (Micah 4:3)

Have you seen a newspaper lately? Are we living in a state of complete world peace? Has there ever been peace since the time of Jesus?

He will rule at a time when the Jewish people will observe G-d's commandments - "My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow My ordinances and be careful to observe My statutes." (Ezekiel 37:24)

The Torah is the Jewish guide to life, and its commandments are the ones referred to here. Do all Jews observe all the commandments? Christianity, in fact, often discourages observance of the commandments in Torah, in complete opposition to this prophecy.

He will rule at a time when all people will come to acknowledge and serve one G-d - "And it shall come to pass that from one new moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, says the L-rd" (Isaiah 66:23)

There are still millions if not billions of people in the world today who adhere to paganistic and polytheistic religions. It is clear that we have not yet seen this period of human history unfold.

All of these criteria are best stated in the book of Ezekiel Chapter 37 verses 24-28:

And David my servant shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. they shall also follow My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Yaakov my servant, in which your fathers have dwelt and they shall dwell there, they and their children, and their children's children forever; and my servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover, I will make a covenant of peace with them, it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, which I will give them; and I will multiply them and I will set my sanctuary in the midst of them forevermore. And my tabernacle shall be with them: and I will be their G-d and they will be my people. Then the nations shall know that I am the L-rd who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary will be in the midst of them forevermore.

If an individual fails to fulfill even one of these conditions, then he cannot be "The Messiah." A careful analysis of these criteria shows us that to date, no one has fulfilled every condition.

Jesus is illegitimate on all counts. He did not possess the proper genealogy to be eligible for the throne of Israel, nor did he fulfill ANY of the basic requirements of the messiah. There is no more reason to believe that he was the messiah than Shimon Bar Kochba, Shabbtai Tzvi or my uncle!

In summary, the response to the missionary question of "who was Jesus" is "who cares?" The Torah commands us to venerate G-d and G-d alone. It is immaterial to a Jew who Jesus, Muhammad or Hare Krishna was. Their worship must be avoided at all cost.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Always a Jew

Inside every Jew is a spark of G-dliness, a pintele yid, a Jewish soul that yearns to reconnect with HaShem. Even the most distant Jew longs to come back to his people. The Jewish spark cannot be erased or destroyed but is eternal. Even if a Jew, G-d forbid, gets baptized, moves to India and lives in an ashram or joins a cult, he remains a Jew.

May HaShem merit that every single lost Jew return home.