«okug rfzk The JEWS FOR JUDAISM edition of THE REAL MESSIAH? A Jewish Response to Missionaries is dedicated by Nison Ciss in loving memory of Helena ...»
The JEWS FOR JUDAISM edition of
THE REAL MESSIAH? A Jewish Response to Missionaries
is dedicated by
in loving memory of
v”g ovrct,c ktbhha vph :u,at
Sheridan Louis Ciss
v”g ivfv ixhb ic rzghkt ktuna :ubc
and his family, who perished at the hands of the Nazis, in the Shoah:
Itel Ciss Leib Ciss
s”hv xhm kyht :unt s”hv ivfv xhm chk :uhct Rachel Ciss Moshe Ciss (1920-1942) (1919-1941) s”hv ivfv chk,c kvr :u,ujt s”hv ivfv chk ic van :uhjt Eliezer Ciss Shmuel Ciss (1921-1941) (1923-1941) s”hv ivfv chk ic rzghkt :uhjt s”hv ivfv chk ic ktuna :uhjt Zalman Ciss Chaim Ciss (1933-1942) (1935-1942) s”hv ivfv chk ic inkz :uhjt s”hv ivfv chk ic ohhj uhjt Mordechai (Motel) Ciss (1894-1941) s”hv ivfv xhm hfsrn :usus and members of his wife’s family, the Tiegermans,
who perished at the hands of the Nazis, in the Shoah:
Sarah Tiegerman Miriam Tiegerman-Bielinka (1888-1942) (1910-1942) s”hv ;xuh,c vra :vnt s”hv ovrct,c ohrn :v,ujt and Blanca Tiegerman (1926-1927) v”g ovrct,c tebtkc :v,ujt May their souls be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.
ohhjv rurmc vrurm o,nab tv, Aryeh Kaplan ® Together we’re stronger Published by
JEWS FOR JUDAISM
Very often, in an attempt to respond to a missionary challenge, one can make a number of seemingly logical moves which, in fact, play directly into the hands of the missionaries. Therefore, a number of Jewish communal leaders have prepared these guidelines for dealing on the spot with missionaries and their followers.
A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO
THE MISSIONARY PROBLEM
1) You will not win hearts to Torah by trying to convince people that the claims of Christianity are false. Spend your time learning, teaching and explaining the meaning of the Torah and its Mitzvos. Better still, invite a person who is in search of religious values to a Shabbaton, or to your home for Shabbat. Let the truth and beauty of Torah and its way of life restore people to the right path.
2) Do not argue with missionaries; do not lend credence or dignity to their efforts at soul snatching. There are tens of millions of non-practicing Christians in this country who are better targets for their efforts.
3) Missionaries are usually closed-minded fanatics. They are trained to respond to your arguments with pat, almost memorized answers. If they can’t handle your objection, they will deﬂect it by raising another, and still another point. Even if you win—you lose.
4) Do not debate, dialogue or argue with missionaries. Missionaries often seek to engage Jews in public discussion. Do not be drawn into this utterly fruitless exercise. Above all, do not invite missionaries or their followers to address meetings under Jewish auspices. Such hospitality only gives the missionary cause institutional dignity and legitimacy. On the other hand, do not publicly attack or abuse the missionaries; this merely serves to surround them with an aura of martyrdom, to our loss.
Our essential obligation is to shore up our Jewishness.
5) Do not be taken in by the “Jewish Christian” ploy. Some missionary groups appeal speciﬁcally to Jews with the specious notion that those joining them are thereby “completed” or “fulﬁlled” as Jews. This is patently incompatible with Jewish tradition and conviction. Conversion to Christianity or any other faith is an abandonment of Judaism. We must strive, with loving concern, to restore erring individuals to their own faith and community.
6) Do not lose your “cool.” The style of the missionaries is likely to be cool and affable. Emulate it. When they come smiling to the door, respond politely—ﬁrmly but with no recrimination—“No, thanks, I’m not interested,” or some brief and deﬁnitive equivalent.
7) Get the facts. Fact-ﬁnding is a “must.” This is an indispensable step. Until the actual situation in the community has been established, planning cannot proceed intelligently. Are Jews, as Jews, being 2 THE REAL MESSIAH? A Jewish Response to Missionaries missionized? By whom, from what centers or sources? In what settings and by what means—in schools, through coffee houses, “drop-in” centers, via the communications media, prayer meetings, home study groups, bookmobiles?
8) Plan strategy and approaches. Assuming the fact-gathering process
indicates a problem requiring action:
(a) Survey the available resources—knowledgeable and experienced personnel, appropriate literature, suitable facilities.
(b) Priority should go to marshalling individuals—young and old.
Set up a task force of peer-to-peer as well as adult resource people with some forte or expertise in this area.
(c) Very carefully study at ﬁrst hand the needs of those Jewish young people who are ﬂirting with or have been drawn into other religious movements, and what they are seeking. Make no prejudgments on these matters. The Jesus Movement is very complex.
(d) With equal care plan how to offer a positive Jewish response to their need and search. Only then will it be possible to reach out to them and to share the needed knowledge and understanding with others to be trained for further intensive outreach.
9) Focus on the teenager. Not only college students, but those in the high schools and even in the junior high schools must be deemed vulnerable. Many missionaries may concentrate on teenagers, deliberately using a peer-group approach, exploiting the unsettled state that marks the adolescent years particularly in these times, and the readiness of young people to challenge any traditional accepted values. These areas demand our greatest scrutiny and innovative planning. Our caution against overreaction bears repeating here. “Crash programs,” counter-crusades, or resort to gimmickry must be avoided.
10) Create opportunities for youth participation. Unfortunately those who are confused Jewishly and troubled personally will not always avail themselves of the programs conducted in synagogues, or youth organizations. Additional ways need to be developed for reaching out with approaches that truly enable young people to shape the content, directions and policies of the programs in which they participate, including those programs that are regarded by them as not controlled by the “establishment.” Some recently initiated youth and teen programs reﬂect this approach, utilizing informal settings such as storefronts and coffee houses, providing opportunity for “rapping” and for making contacts with other youth. Such programs are consistent with the long range goals of reaching youth, providing a Jewish setting in which they can relax, meet other Jewish youth, “shmoos” and talk seriously with warm, sensitive, responsive and skillful people —including members of their own peer-groups. Experimentation with innovative and creative approaches to opening channels of participation by our youth must be given high priority.
WHY AREN’T WE CHRISTIANS? 3 Most of all, remember that most people drawn to the missionaries have never experienced real Torah living—just suggest “before you go to the gentiles, why not see what our own tradition has to offer.” But follow through by making positive Torah experiences available to them.
For almost 2,000 years, Christian missionaries have been trying to convince the Jew to accept their beliefs, and for just as long, the Jew has resisted. The ones who resisted most strongly were those who sought G-d with the most fervor. What was their motivation?
Why did we never give in to the missionaries?
W e hear quite a bit today about a movement called “Jews for Jesus.” A small number of Jews seem to be ﬁnding the teachings of Christianity very attractive. The vast majority of Jews, however, still reject these teachings in the most emphatic terms.
For almost two thousand years, the Christians have been trying to win over the Jew. And for the same period of time, the Jew has resisted all such overtures. But why? Why don’t we accept Jesus? In short: Why aren’t we Christians?
In order to understand this, we must look at the origin of Christian beliefs. Christianity began with a Jew. Jesus lived as a Jew, around the same time as many of our greatest Talmudic sages. The great Hillel lived just a generation earlier, and Rabbi Akiba, a generation after. Our own sources, however, record very little about Jesus’ life. Everything that we know about him is found in the Gospels of the New Testament, a book written by and for the early Christian church. This book, however, was written primarily to further the cause of Christianity, and it is therefore impossible to separate the historical person of Jesus from the “Christ” required by early Christian theology.
Soon after the death of Jesus, we ﬁnd a marked change in the teachings of his followers. Christianity as we know it began during this period in the work of Paul of Tarsus. Paul, or as he was earlier known, Saul, was a disciple of the great Talmudist Rabbi Gamliel, and he began his career by actively opposing the early Christians. In a dramatic incident on the road to Damascus, Paul converted to Christianity, and later became one of its foremost leaders. Although he had never seen Jesus alive, he claimed to have spoken to him in spirit. Under Paul’s leadership, many of the distinctive doctrines of Christianity were ﬁrst proclaimed, and, for the most part, they have never changed. His teachings are recorded in his Epistles, which form the second part of the New Testament.
4 THE REAL MESSIAH? A Jewish Response to Missionaries
Among Paul’s major teachings, we ﬁnd the following:
1) Jesus was the Messiah or Christ predicted by the Prophets of the Bible and awaited by the Jews. He is also the Son of G-d, and like any son, is essentially the same as his Father.
2) Man is evil and sinful. All mankind is damned because of Adam’s sin.
The Torah cannot save man, since its many commandments make it too difﬁcult to keep. The only thing that can prevent man’s utter damnation in hell is the belief in Christ.
3) The Jews were originally G-d’s chosen people, but they were rejected when they refused to accept His son, Jesus. The name “Israel,” G-d’s chosen people, is no longer carried by the Jew, but by those who accept Jesus as the Messiah. Only these share G-d’s love. Everyone else is damned in hell.
4) There is only one law now that Christ has come, and that is love. One must follow the example of Christ’s sacriﬁce, and patiently hope that G-d will be gracious in return.
It is enough to state these articles of Christian faith to see why the Jews could not accept them. Taking them one by one, the Jewish viewpoint
1) Jesus could not have been the Messiah. The Prophets predicted a world of peace and love after the Messiah’s coming, and this certainly does not exist today. Furthermore, any talk of the Messiah as being the “son of G-d” is totally unacceptable. In no place do the Prophets say that he will be anything more than a remarkable leader and teacher.
2) Although the Torah does speak of Adam’s sin, it teaches that man can rise above it. Man might not be able to perfect himself, but it was for this reason that G-d gave us the Torah. It is absurd to think that G-d would give a Torah that was impossible or too difﬁcult to follow. In no place does Judaism teach that one can be saved from damnation by mere belief. Any true belief in G-d must lead a person to also follow His commandments.
3) It is impossible to imagine that G-d would ever reject the Jewish people. In many places, the Bible clearly states that His covenant with them will be forever.
4) In many places, the Bible says that the Torah was given forever. It is therefore impossible to say that it has been replaced by a new law or testament. Love alone is not enough, for one must know how to express it, and for this, we need the Torah as a guide. Love is only one of the Torah’s commandments, and good deeds are its necessary expression.
Why do we believe these ideas rather than the ones expressed by Paul and Christianity?
For one thing, we see no evidence that Jesus was indeed the Messiah expected by Israel. The Messianic promise included such things as perfect peace and unity among men, love and truth, universal knowledge and WHY AREN’T WE CHRISTIANS? 5 undisturbed happiness, as well as the end of all evil, idolatry, falsehood and hatred. None of these things have been fulﬁlled by Christianity.
The Christian answer to this is the simple assertion that all things have indeed changed by the coming of Jesus. If the change is not visible, it is because man is evil and has not truly accepted Jesus and his teachings.
Thus, the Messiah or Christ will have to return in order to prove his victory.
The Jew refuses to accept the excuse that the major prophecies concerning the Messiah will only be fulﬁlled in a “second coming.” He expects the Messiah to complete his mission in his ﬁrst attempt. The Jew therefore believes that the Messiah is yet to come.
But there is also another more important issue at stake than the mere identity of the Messiah. Christianity teaches that Jesus was also G-d in human form. The Jew sees this as a totally mistaken idea about G-d. It makes G-d too small, for in stating that He can assume human form, it diminishes both His unity and His divinity.
We disagree with Christianity not only with regard to belief, but also with regard to what man must do. Christianity tends to deny that man’s actions are ultimately very useful. The only thing that can save man is his utter despair in his own sinfulness, and total dependence on G-d. The Jew, on the other hand, believes that man can come close to G-d by obeying Him and keeping His commandments.