The following words are not addressed to Tzahi Shapira. These words are also not directed to those religious leaders who endorsed him and presented him to the public as a scholar. I am writing to those who do not readily have the ability to evaluate the teachings of Shapira but instead rely on the evaluation of their leaders.
Your leaders are making a laughingstock of you.
I have already pointed out (https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/spiritual-responsibility/ ) how Shapira emphatically argues that a particular Hebrew word must be translated in a certain way. He makes this argument against a respected translator of the Bible. We would assume that he did not make this argument lightly. If he is going to discard the work of scholars we would expect that he researched the matter thoroughly and only then did he come to his dramatic conclusion.
But these assumptions would be dead wrong.
Shapira himself translates the same Hebrew word several times in the same book just like the translators whose work he trashed.
This is a man that does not take his own arguments seriously. How then does he expect others to take his words seriously?
In his latest series of videos he continues to display his amazing ineptitude.
In the video entitled Objection 10 ( http://youtu.be/jdlhUfa0CPc ) Shapira attempts to defend himself against my critique of his quotation from the Rosh Hashana prayer (https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/the-school-of-matthew/ ). My critique was limited to one paragraph. In this paragraph I simply stated that the article (authored by professor Yehuda Liebes) that Shapira quotes to support his theology actually refutes it. While Professor Liebes does believe that the prayer is referring to Jesus (a conclusion that I reject), he makes it clear that the authors of the prayer did not believe that Jesus was divine.
In his lengthy video response Shapira tells his audience that he is responding to my critique but he does not share my argument with the audience. Throughout the video Shapira fails to address my argument. Furthermore, Shapira does not tell his audience where they can read my argument. If this is not a mockery of the trust that the audience has placed in him then what is?
In the video entitled Objection 11 (http://youtu.be/0K74ocNR8Iw ) Shapira continues to mock the intelligence of his audience. He argues that the Hebrew word “echad” means a “compound unity” because it is derived from the Hebrew word “achdut.” That is as ridiculous as saying that the English word “unit” is derived from the English word “united” and must therefore mean an entity that is part of a political alliance. Or that perhaps the word “unit” must be associated with the airline that goes by the name “United.”
This is the “scholarship” that the leaders of Christendom are comfortable to pass on to those who trust them.
The Hebrew word “echad” simply means “one” and the Hebrew word “yachid” means an “only one.” Both of these words can refer to either absolute or compound unities. There is nothing inherent in the definition of the words that limit their usage to absolute or to compound unities.
Shapira goes on to misquote a midrash (a book of rabbinic homiletical teachings) in a manner that would embarrass a schoolchild. The midrash contrasts God’s humility over and against the haughtiness of human kings. The midrash tells us that a king of flesh and blood would not allow another to use his name, but God allowed Moses to use his name (Exodus 7:1). The midrash continues by telling us how a king of flesh and blood would not allow another to wear his garment but God allows Israel to wear His garment. A king of flesh and blood would not allow another to sit on his throne but God allowed Solomon to sit on His throne (1Chronicles 29:23). In this context we read that a king of flesh and blood would not allow another to wear his crown but God will place His crown on the head of the Messiah.
Shapira completely misunderstood the entire thrust of the midrash and he isolated the passage about the Messiah. Shapira presents the opening phrase of the sentence as if it said that God would not allow a king of flesh and blood to wear His crown. Based on this nonsensical mistranslation, Shapira concludes that the point of the midrash is that the Messiah is not a king of flesh and blood.
Is there no limit to the absurd?
At no point does Shapira tell his audience where they could study my critique of his work. Trusting that his audience will not discover my blog, Shapira tells his audience that I ignore his misquotation of a particular passage in the Zohar (a book of rabbinic mysticism). The fact of the matter is that I dedicated an article to that passage in the Zohar, but Shapira expects his audience to take his word as gospel truth https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/context-and-kabbalah/ .
In the video entitled Objection 12 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4fKQn_RyXM ) Shapira goes on to demonstrate his ignorance of Jewish literature starting with the biblical book of Psalms. At the 6:30 mark Shapira formulates his own version of a verse from the Psalms. He obviously forgot the words but he had no hesitation filling them in from his faulty memory relying on the trust that his audience places in his scholarly supporters to get away with this foolishness. Where is Shapira’s respect for the Scriptures? Does his attitude toward this book not demand that he take the pains to quote the text with accuracy? Where is his respect for the audience?
Shapira tells his audience that all Hassidic Jews believe in the “compound unity” of God. He bases this incredible accusation on the fact that Hassidic Jews accept the kabalistic terms of “sefirot” as they relate to God’s interaction with the world.
The Hassidic thinkers as well as many Kabbalists that preceded the Hassidic movement directly addressed Shapira’s accusation. They clearly explained that the “sefirot” do not describe God’s essence in any way and that God is absolutely one. These Jews who are steadfast in their loyalty to the covenant that our nation shared with God taught that the “sefirot” represent different lenses through which God interacts with the world but in no way do they define or describe God’s essence.
Shapira ignores the direct words of these authors and he ascribes his own idolatry to the teachers of Judaism. He concocts an imaginary interpretation of some of the terms of Jewish mysticism and he presents it to his audience as “Judaism.” There is no need to refute his malarkey because it has no basis outside of his own imagination.
In this same video Shapira goes on to misquote and mistranslate a passage from the midrash (Otiyot d’Rabbi Akiva 13). Shapira presents a document that speaks of the “triangular” nature of God. He tells his audience that the midrash says that all of the oneness of God is in three. I searched through many editions of the midrash that Shapira had quoted and not one of them had the sentence formulated in the way Shapira presents it. The midrash simply points to a pattern of praise that is offered to God in triplicate and to triplicate pattern found in the mentioning of God’s name. The midrash says nothing about God’s essence nor does it say anything about triangles. The Hebrew word for triplicate is sometimes used to describe a triangle but in the context of this midrash the meaning of the word is clearly “triplicate” and not “triangle.”
Since the publication of Shapira’s book, the Jewish community has taken the trouble to lay out in writing why it is that his book deserves no consideration. One of the criticisms directed at Shapira’s book is that he manufactures quotations out of thin air. If these accusations were false they would be the easiest to refute. All that Shapira would need to do is to provide the references for his quotations. In the twelve videos that Shapira has released in response to the Jewish critique of his writing he failed to provide a single reference for the quotations that he was accused of fabricating. Instead of correcting the errors that fill his book Shapira devotes these video responses to the perpetration of new mistakes.
What else does Shapira need to do in order to prove to you that his teachings are not rooted in truth?
Some of those who endorsed Shapira’s book are capable of seeing through the thin veneer of his audacity. These leaders were presented with detailed critiques of Shapira’s work yet not one of them has so much as said a word of warning to those audiences who trust in their endorsement of Shapira and his book. This incredible display of spiritual irresponsibility makes a mockery of the trust that their followers have placed in them. Moses foresaw this abuse of innocent trust when he wrote Deuteronomy 27:18.
If you found this article helpful please consider making a donation to Judaism Resources by clicking on the link below.
Judaism Resources is a recognized 501(c) 3 public charity and your donation is tax exempt.
Yisroel C. Blumenthal