Supplement to Rabbi Eli Cohen’s Open Letter
I received varying reactions to Rabbi Cohen’s letter. As usual, Sharlee’s comment was insightful, encouraging and to the point. But not all reactions were so friendly.
In light of this, I figured a bit of education never hurt anyone – except the cause of falsehood – so here goes.
John Adams, the second President of the United States wrote: “I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing nations.”
(From a letter to F. A. Van der Kemp [Feb. 16, 1808] Pennsylvania Historical Society)
Now – I am quite aware that many Christians do not value the accomplishment of “civilizing” nations. They consider this accomplishment to be fleshly, earthly and material. I would argue that moving people from the jungle to a civilized democracy where everyone enjoys equal rights is quite a Godly accomplishment – but let us talk the language of the Christian.
I imagine that most Protestant Christians would consider the reformation of the Catholic Church to be a Godly accomplishment, and perhaps some Jews could also admit that it is a step in the right direction. A tiny step, but a step nonetheless.
Martin Luther, the most prominent figure of the reformation was heavily influenced by a Franciscan theologian; Nicholas of Lyra. Lyra’s influence on Luther was so strong that the saying went: “if Lyra had not played his lyre, Luther would not have danced”. Lyra, in turn was heavily influenced by Rashi, the Jewish Bible commentator. Lyra wrote: “I usually follow Rabbi Solomon (Rashi)”. Those Christians who could not stomach Lyra’s dependence upon Jewish scholarship, ridiculed Lyra with the term: “Rashi’s ape”.
In other words, no Jews, no reformation.
Are you still looking for a light?
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal