Sufficient

True prayer is a service of the heart. Saying words and singing songs can only be true prayer if these activities are an expression of a heart that sees itself as beholden to God in submission and thanks. Prayer is all about acknowledging that every iota of existence, especially my own existence, belongs exclusively and absolutely to God. Prayer is gratitude and awe. Gratitude for the gift of existence that is underserved. And the awe is the awe of one who is utterly helpless standing in the presence of the Master of all.

Prayer is worship and the worship of the Jew is a heart that allows itself to be drawn to the majesty and wonder of the Creator of all.

The Christian Scriptures claim that Jesus prayed. Was this lip service? Was Jesus’ prayer a mere recital of words that do not flow from a heart that is bent in submission and filled with gratitude and awe?

Let us give Jesus the benefit of the doubt. Let us assume that his prayer was a true prayer that acknowledged God’s absolute sovereignty over his own person. If it were anything less, then Jesus would have never prayed.

So who was Jesus praying to? Was it not the same God to whom all of his Jewish brothers and sisters were praying to? Did Jesus not allow his heart to be drawn to the greatness of Israel’s God?

Please consider the following. If the One to whom Jesus prayed was a sufficient God for Jesus why then is He not a sufficient God for you? What will you be missing if you do not give your entire heart to the God that the Jewish people pray to? Why do you also find the need to give your heart to Jesus? Is the majesty of God not enough for your heart that you need to supplement it with the attraction your heart feels toward one of His subjects?

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334 Responses to Sufficient

  1. charles says:

    When Abraham interceded with God’s messenger, why is the latter repeatedly called ‘LORD’?
    Why then did he dare not pray directly, but go through this Mediator?
    We have already multiplied similar examples.

    • Jason Aull says:

      I assume you are referring to Genesis !8 which as far as I can tell is not in the proof texts. I think the answer my lie in the Hebrew. Try this link.
      The Complete Tanakh (Tanach) – Hebrew Bible – Tanakh Online …
      https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/…/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm
      It seems pretty strait-forward in there.

      Oh, and I don’t think you mean “We have already multiplied similar examples”. I think what you mean is “I already have multiple similar examples”.

      If you are Christian and you want to make a strong case to a Jew, try to use the Jewish Bible from the masoretic text instead of a Christian Bible based on the greek Septuagint.

      Now, the real answer to your question why does G-ds messenger get the title of Lord? I think there are two Hebrew words for Lord, Jehovah(Almighty Creator) and Adonai(for kings and dignitaries). The messenger or messengers were likely some kind of dignified creation, I assume Angels, and probably got the title of adonai(Lord). Can I prove this in the Hebrew text? No. I can’t speak or read Hebrew. This answer is my best guess.

      You talked about an intermediary between Abraham and G-d. Perhaps the Christian bible has it, but I cannot seem to find it in the Hebrew Bible taken from the Masoretic text for Genesis 18.

  2. Annelise says:

    This is a strong point, to me… Jesus prayed the words of human gratitude and awe towards the Creator, placing himself publicly on the ‘created’ side of the relationship between God and creation.

    The last question is less compelling perhaps…lots of Christians feel that they worship Jesus not because it’s what they want, but because it’s what they think God revealed…so in that sense they just see it as accepting and obeying a revelation. I don’t think that’s accurate, but still, they might not feel that they are merely following their hearts.

    In any case, I think your main point here is especially valid because the Hebrew scriptures make numerous clear declarations about all things in the earth and sea and sky (includng all animals and humans) owing this gratitude and awe of the created towards God. It’s repeated in a very central way that the things in these realms aren’t objects of worship.

    So for Jesus to be considered an exception, we would need to see really clear proof of that. What we have instead is the fact that there isn’t even a clear claim of deity from Jesus or the early church about him, and there are things that send the opposite impression- such as Jesus praying, the disciples refering to him and God separately, and the absence of any clear discussion about why including a human in the worship of God would be no risk of idolatry. That should have been a foundational conversation if that’s what they were doing unambiguously from the start. It seems like the churches had him in a blurry category of ‘revealing God’s glory’ and didn’t address till later whether this role would fit in the position of a created manifestation (owing worship) or of the Creator (deserving it). That’s a very troubling ambiguity when it comes to the practical side of things, and doesn’t fit in with the clarity and caution of the law and prophets on the issue of not worshipping any created being.

    Some might say that Jesus prayed so as to fulfill his role as part of Israel, and that his submission to the Father was still as a person within God. Yet by praying as Israel, he was demonstrating his inclusion within Israel’s distinct meaning of worship: that is, affirming that they are created beings standing before God, as a model for all the world to follow.

    • Annelise says:

      In less words…I think you’re very right about the public impression he was sending by standing as one of the worshippers, in the context of prayers that are all about being on this side of the relationship between Creator and created.

  3. Ezra says:

    A conundrum: if Jesus was G-d in the flesh like Christians say he was, then why did he pray to G-d? Was he praying to himself?

    You’ve mentioned some great points. I love your blog and your work.

    • Eliza says:

      ? I thought they say he was messia, not god?

      • Annelise says:

        They say he was both. Which is odd, considering how the Hebrew prophets spoke about God and the messiah separately and in relationship with each other.

        I think that the Christian scriptures describe Jesus as being the greatest expression of God’s glory and presence and wisdom in the world. Later, people misunderstood this to mean that the early Christians thought Jesus was actually God. They also had the same confusion regarding the ruach hakodesh (holy breath/wind/spirit of God’s movement in the world). So they devised a trinity concept of God ‘including’ three people- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit- and said all three are actually totally unified yet distict. It doesn’t make sense but they say it’s a revealed mystery.

        • Eliza says:

          That actually makes some sort of sense to me….
          I love how you know so much…. how do you?

          • Annelise says:

            I was raised Christian, and only got to know Judaism after meeting some rabbis- one was my lecturer at university, and the other is the family friend of my Jewish Christian classmate. So I learnt a lot from Jews for Judaism, and my understanding of Christian beliefs comes from growing up in Christian communities.

            There is actually some debate about whether certain verses in the Christian scriptures do claim Jesus to be God, for example in the book of John and a few other places (which are believed to have been written a bit later than the earliest ones). There are a few different valid explanations for those, but the majority of the Christian scriptures seem to see Jesus as the messiah who was created first before anything else and has great power and honour, and is even the manifestation of God’s glory, yet is still a created being and God’s 2IC. Christians can explain how it all fits with their trinitarian view of Jesus as God’s son and yet also as God…but I don’t think those are the most natural readings. And there are other pre-Christian apocalyptic texts from just before Jesus’ lifetime that had similar impressions about who the messiah would be on a cosmic level, but without deifying him, and it seems that Jesus’ followers saw him like that too, at first.

            But for me this isn’t the important reason for not accepting him as God incarnate. After considering how the Torah warns its followers to be utterly careful to worship God alone, and how the prophets describe everything in the sea and sky and land as being made by God, I don’t think that any follower of Torah could rightly worship a human being while even a grain of doubt exists regarding his deity. Also, the Torah has a process for identifying a true prophet, but not for identifying a true claimant to deity, which would be a much bigger issue. So even if Jesus did miracles and claimed to be God, I don’t that would erase alternative explanations enough to create the kind of clarity in worship that Torah describes. I heard someone put it well by saying that the only evidence that would be enough to make him worship Jesus would be perhaps if the Torah had been written differently. If the Torah is true then the worship of Jesus isn’t an option.

            There are some Christians who do believe that Jesus was just the messiah and not God. But I don’t think they can explain how it could be that for the majority of Jews since Jesus’ time, he has been presented to them as an object of worship…so they couldn’t accept him based on what they knew. The only sincere Torah followers for well over a millenium are the middle ages were those who rejected Jesus. I don’t think this would be a reasonable scenario for the real messiah, so I don’t consider him to be even a non-divine messiah.

          • Eliza says:

            Thanks for explaining.
            I’m in awe of how you’ve really worked through it…

          • jasonannelise says:

            I felt I really had to because the community I was raised in was very emotionally and practically devoted to God in the Christian context…I felt that way too and I couldn’t let it go without being quite sure. I was lucky to have access to lots of resources through the people I met, the biblical studies department at uni, and through the Internet.

            I find it hard that I can’t find similar clarity about whether the Torah is really from God. But I’ve come to realise that the agnostic and the believer have something in common at the very deepest part of the heart. None of us can rely on our own understanding for a sense of security, because human understanding is limited. So if there is a caring God then we all 100% rely on him to sustain and guide us, whether we know a lot or only a little, as long as we’re open to that.

          • Eliza says:

            Thanks for sharing…

  4. mr.sonic says:

    “lots of Christians feel that they worship Jesus not because it’s what they want, but because it’s what they think God revealed…”

    compounded gods.

    god reveal x through/to y, every time y utter x , one should bow before y and take y as god. makes no sense why almighty god would even think about allow worship of another because of what he revealed.

  5. “After this manner therefore pray ye:
    Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
    Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    Frgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
    And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
    For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen”

    — Yeshua

    • Eleazar says:

      Luke 1:4 has it as “forgive us our sins” in the Greek. Are you saying Jesus had sins to be forgiven or that this prayer model was meant for everyone except him?

      • Brother Eleazar! That’s an interesting point!
        Please notice that Yeshua did not say, “let us pray like this… forgive us our sins…”
        He said, “When YOU Pray, say… forgive us our sins…”

        As you know, the main audiences of the Matthew’s gospel are the Jews; whereas, Luke’s are the Gentiles. Probably, Matthew put “Feileima- debt” as something to be forgiven because the Torah emphasizes on the shalom relationship among the fellow Jews. Maybe Luke put “hamartia- sin” as something to be forgiven because the Gentiles were not given the commandments of God in the Torah, which clearly define what the sins are.

        • Eleazar says:

          The problem is both texts are describing the same event. Did Jesus say Feileima or did he say hamartia? One of the two would have to be an altered version and thus a lie and deception. How can you trust a scripture that does such things?

          • Elazar and Gean Either way – By putting forth this prayer Jesus was giving his audience to understand that God will forgive your sins when you turn to Him with sincerity 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Brother, how do you know both texts must have happened at the same time and in the same place? Matthew’s accout on the lord’s prayer occured in Yeshua’s early ministry; as a part of Beautitude on the Mout of Galilee (Matthew chapter 5). AFTER that, feeding of 5ooo (Mt 14:13-21) and Transfiguration occurred (Mt 17:1-13). Whereas, feeding of 5000 (Lk 9:10-17) and Transfiguration (Lk 9:28-36) occurred BEFORE Yeshua’s second teaching about the lord’s prayer in Luke 11:1-4. The context, the timeframe, and the contents of the lord’s prayer are obviously different. Therefore, we can assume that Yeshua taught the prayer twice.

          • Annette Leon says:

            It has taken me a long time to find who the real ( Jesus ) is. I call him YESHUA away from the Greek god…. Yes I agree with you. ( Save us from our sins..) He was Human…! ! ! ? ? 🔯 🔯

  6. Eleazar says:

    Well, Gean, there are several places where Jesus is said to have said or done something and the same thing takes places at different times and circumstances. For examples, I refer you to Tovia Singer’s crucifixion table, in which most of the details do not match at all from one gospel to another. You assume its because he did the same thing twice,even introducing the prayer the same way each time (This then is how you should pray. And BTW, why would a Jew ask Jesus how to Daven?), but many scholars believe its because the text is recorded differently in each gospel because the event either because it is fiction or because the recording of the event took place so long after the event that there is great disagreement as to when it happened and what actual words were used. Regardless, you say Jesus says the prayer one way for Jews and one way for Gentiles. But I’m pretty certain his audience was Jewish both times.Jesus said, “I am sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Thus, his teaching was meant for Jews both times.

    One of the most committed Christians I know admitted to me personally that, in his words, “The New Testament is a mess”.

    • Brother Eleazar, Yeshua was SENT only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Yes, if you look the NT carefully, it is amazing to see that all the houses Yeshua entered was all Jews’ houses!! He could have entered but he did not. If you find one, please let me know. Whereas, his teaching was recorded and written in the NT. The NT books were not sent only to the Jews, they were sent also to the Gentiles; i have it on my hands!

      The gospel accounts seem to be inconsistent within itself; however, this fact proves that the four gospel writers honeslty recorded as to what they have heard and witnessed without having a quadripartite conference where they made up stories and matched all the details to creat a religion called Christianity. The inconsistencies of the historical records within the Tanakh cannot make anybody call it a mess. I believe that Every verse and phrase and even spelling and grammar have all its intended meanings. God has designed it that way so that we could continue to get curious and discuss – like Talmud Sicha at Yeshiva or Q.T. Sharing at Christian cell groups.

      In 2005, i had once stood up at LAPD yard. Many reporters from TV broadcasting and news papers in LA gathered to record my witness and to take pictures of my family. The story went like this. A month ago from that flashlighting day, i was driving on the Hill Avenue in downtown LA to go to Pasadena. There were two babies and my wife in my car. All of sudden my son (22 months old) had a seizure (at that time, my wife and i didn’t know what that was!), so my wife got freaked out and i stopped the car and took him out. It was on crossroads between Olympic Blvd and Hill Ave. My wife kept crying and yelling, and i kept calling “O God O Lord!!” He did not seem to breathe, his eyeball was rolling back to all white, obviously he was dying pale. Some Latino workers and koreans gathered around us trying to help us, showing all gestures to pound his back to take somthing stuck out of his throat. One lady rushed to us from her parking lot, introducing herself as a pediatrician, and as soon as she watched what was happening, ran to the Olympic Blvd and tried to catch police car or 911. Finally, two policemen came and treated him emergency care and a white milk chuck vomitted out of his throat. A little later, 911 came and took him to the hospital. After my son’s fever seizure was taken care of, we went back hom from the nightmare in downtown LA.

      Now, brother, this is what i have written from the very memory in my mind. I was there. I saw and heard almost everything in that situation. I described as far as i can remember in front of the reporters. You know what? I saw newspapers description was a little different from KCAL news! I saw one internet news channel copied another internet news company’s report (which had some slightly wrong information; my son was 22 months and my daughter was 12 months – but they said 11 months) and pasted on their website. Even myself, i can’t exactly remember all the details. Maybe you could find the misspellings in my paragraph written by the very witness- myself.

      Brother, now i know when someone witnesses what he saw or heard from his own experiences, it can be recorded in variuos ways with minor differences. The difference cannot deny its historicity, rather spark curiosity. Tanakh and NT have not contain great inconsistencies, rather trivial inconsistencies. And if the spirit of God illumines our eyes, we will see the intention of the author. I hope this helps.

      • jasonannelise says:

        Gean Guk Jeon, I’m so glad that your son was ok. It’s a great relief that he got through it all fine.

        About Jesus/Yeshua… Some of the psalms are about the adoration of created beings towards their creator. Assuming that Yeshua took part in those prayers publicly together with others, do you think it would have implied to the people around him that he was standing before God with the surrender and gratitude of a fully created being?

        • jasonannelise says:

          For example, I think that Yeshua would have prayed the Shemoneh Esrei almost as it is now; perhaps Rabbi Blumenthal could clarify whether that’s historically true. So then he was very much publicly identifying with the attitude of the congregation in that prayer.

        • Thank you brother Jasonannelise for your heartfelt words for the accident. Yes, it was all by grace of God. I don’t know how Yeshua recognized himself whether as a created being or agent of creator before the crowd. One thing i remember is that he often used word “God SENT me…” and he called himself “son of man” and called God “Father.”
          Shabat Shalom bro.

          • Annelise says:

            Sorry I assumed you were trinitarian, many of the Christians I know are.

            I think that if someone believes that Jesus was messiah but not God, there’s still a problem with accepting that belief. From just a few hundred years after Jesus’ life, and for over a thousand years after that, there are no known Jewish communities who followed Jesus as a non-divine messiah. So what community was the righteous remnant of Israel at that time? And Jesus was usually presented to traditional Jews all throughout that time as someone to be worshipped, which would mean that according to such a belief, the messiah was presented to Israel in the form of an idol for all that time. I find it impossible to think that the Jews of the middle ages should have accepted Jesus at all, even as a non-divine messiah, when almost all of the churches were presenting him as an object of false worship.

          • Annelise, let me have some time to study on Christians in Jewish community in the first four centuries.

            I have a question about Jewish morning prayer. Whenever i hear Chrisitan pastors quoting the formula of Jewish morning prayer which goes something like ” Blessed be the God of the universe who made me not Gentile, slave, and woman.”
            Whenever they say this is Jews’ everyday morning prayer, i am much worried because that might cause to create antisemitic feeling among gentiles. I guess they are quick to generalize it.

            Open question for Jewish brothers and sisters:
            Is it true that this is recited in every lip of the Jewish men in all synagogues on the world? Or Is it a tradition of the sects of Judaism, influenced by Hellenism or something?
            What is the common morning prayer for Jewish men?

          • Annelise says:

            PS The Shemoneh Esrei is also called Amidah prayer, it predates Jesus/Yeshua. It has sections of praise for God, asking for God’s help, and gratitude. Perhaps none of the sentences are specifically only able to be spoken by a created being, but the overall attitude of the congregation, while praying this, absolutely involves a personal affirmation of relying on the Creator’s hand for sustainance.

          • “None of the sentences are specifically only able to be spoken by a created being?” Sorry I don’t get it.
            Then only creator is able to speak the sentences??

          • Annelise says:

            Sorry, I didn’t write that sentence very clearly.

            Created humans can and do pray thise words. I meant to say that perhaps a Christian could argue that even if Jesus was ‘divine’ and a ‘person of God’, he would still have been able to speak the words of submission, love, and dependence on the Father. But I was trying to say (like in Rabbi Blumenthal’s though in this blog post) that Jesus prayed as one member of a congregation that was standing before God in intent awareness of their reliance upon Him, because He is their Creator. When Jesus prayed as part of that group, I think it gave the public impression that he believed he was not God.

  7. Eleazar says:

    >>>>> And if the spirit of God illumines our eyes<<<<<<

    And this is how every conversation with a Christian one does not agree with ends.
    Best of luck.

  8. Dina says:

    Following.

  9. Concerned Reader says:

    Bravo Annelise, Bravo. By showing people how to pray, and how to relate to G-d, Jesus showed that this was his own self understanding of the ideal relationship between himself and G-d.

    Whatever Jesus’ ontological status was (divine or human,) the way that he behaved showed that he desired submission to G-d the Father as it is defined by the covenant, not submission to himself, or glory, or honor for himself.

    In fact, if Jesus desired glory for himself, he could not possibly have repaired the sin of Adam as the New Testament claims, because seeking for glory for the self apart from the father’s will is what got Adam booted out of Eden to begin with.

    That’s why Paul of Tarsus says the following in 1 Corinthians 15:28 “When he has done this, (when G-d has submitted earthly authorities to his king Messiah) then the Son himself will be made subject to him (G-D) who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”

    If Jesus was to sit in the temple of G-d, to be worshiped by humans as if he were G-d, then this would be a disaster, and a direct repeat of Adam’s mistake. (revelation 13 confirms that.)

    Jesus himself asked G-d “let this cup (my suffering) pass from me, YET NOT MY WILL, BUT YOUR WILL BE DONE.”

    Jesus wants the will of his father to be done, not his will. A man called him good, and Jesus said “why calllest thou me good, none is good but G-d!” Jesus in this sentence EXCLUDES himself as a man from any possibility of seeking worship for himself as a divine being beside the father. HE WONT EVEN AGREE TO BEING GOOD, much less being G-d!

    When people wanted to make him king by force, he refused it (John 6:15)

    Christianity got lost in the weeds with its theological obsessions and mystical speculations over whether Jesus was a created or an uncreated being. Because of that obsession, the message of Jesus is lost. Follow the Father for his own sake, keep his commands.

    Even if you are of the camp that says Jesus was the eternal Son of G-d, or G-d the son, and therefore is fit to receive divine worship, consider that opinion up against the following.

    Philippians 2:6-8

    6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (before he took on a human nature or human likeness, it says he thought it not robbery to be equal with G-d.) At this point a physical being named Jesus of Nazareth existing in the shape of a human man on earth is not yet existing. (no human nature exists yet in relation to the “son.”)

    7 But made himself of no reputation, (NO REPUTATION FOR EQUALITY WITH G-D!!) and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (Deuteronomy 4:16 says explicitly not to worship ANY SHAPE, and lists the form of A MAN AND A WOMAN 1st as things not to make images of for worship.

    8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (humbled in relation to who? G-d the father!)

    Christians today worship the incarnate son of G-d, or G-d the Son (a body of flesh) with the same devotion and service that they do G-d the father. They look at a human shape on a cross, and say “that is G-d who died for me.”

    If a person is Catholic, they may even look at the Eucharistic host, and adore it too as the real presence of the Logos in a body, a body of bread.

    This seems to me contrary to Jesus’ words, even if you believe that he is actually the deity walking around in a body.

    Why is that?

    When describing what the “Son” is, the NT says the following Colossians 1:16-17 “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and INVISIBLE, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

    What does it mean to be the image of something invisible?

    It means, you comprehend the effects, even when you do not PHYSICALLY SEE ANYTHING. The New Testament describes G-d as an invisible spirit, not a physical being. Everything John assigns to the Logos, proverbs assigns to wisdom. “wisdom” is not a physical thing, it is something we sense, with mind and heart, a thing we comprehend. You cannot contain it.

    the only “sight” of G-d that the New Testament actually discusses is sight of the heart, or of the minds eye, IE Beatific vision, (comprehension) not physical sight of G-d. (Mathew 16:16-17) flesh and blood does not reveal the “sight” of G-d, but a pure heart. (Mathew 5:8)

    If you somehow believe that Jesus as a flesh and bones being deserves worship, consider that the New Testament tells us that while he existed in this world with a human brain, and a human body, the incarnate word lacked the knowledge that only the father possessed, whether that was by choice or by nature is irrelevant. (Mathew 24:36)

    If you worship the man on the cross as G-d, you are acknowledging that you are worshiping a human shape that lacked knowledge that only G-d the father possessed.

    Worshiping Jesus this way would be like worshiping the temple, or praying to the burning bush for some atoning sap.

    Remember that Jesus compared himself to the serpent of brass. The very same serpent of brass that was declared an idol and had to be destroyed, despite initially working for G-d’s purpose, and being made by Moses.

    The miraculous work of G-d was comprehended and observed when people gazed at the serpent of brass.

    However, the minute people looked at the serpent of brass itself as the subject and source that was granting them relief (made it an object of worship, and necessary manifestation,) it had to be destroyed.

    The Churches (all of them) have made Jesus into the new Nehushtan, the serpent of brass which they declare is a necessary component of proper faith in G-d.

    • Dina says:

      Con, I think Unitarian Christians would agree with you and insist that they do not worship Jesus as God. What would you say to them?

    • tony says:

      hello , what would you say to christians who say the following :

      “the Jews made god in the idol/image of a COW”

      “god MADE himself in the form of WALKING and TALKING human being/god EXisted as a human being ”

      it appears to me that christian need their god to make movement, they are not happy with idol which just sits there . i have been listening to benjamin somer , he mentions about spirits of gods FRAGMENTING and entering into idols. what would the christian say in this regard ? and if they need moving gods, goddess ishtaar was known as planet venus.

      • Jim says:

        Tony,

        I hope you do not mind if I answer your above comment, though you directed your questions to Concerned Reader and Dina. The idea that the Christian world was looking for a mobile god, one that would appear more potent that a stationary statue is interesting. However, I do not think that is a good read. In the polytheistic world, nothing would prevent one from worshiping both a human being and an idol. No trade off need be made, and in fact, the Roman world often did worship human beings after their deaths, elevating them to some level of deityhood. One tale of Romulus has him ascending into the clouds to godhood, for example. This was not a statement about the impotence of other idols, because they did not see the idols as the gods themselves. So, rather than attempting to make the idols more potent, I believe that the Christians wanted a god more accessible than how they viewed God. They wanted a god that was more human than God, not more human than statue.

        The Platonic schools had theorized that God could have nothing to do with the physical world. This was based on the mutability of the physical world, its corruptibility. They saw God as non-physical, unchanging, perfect and pure. Because of how they defined “love,” they could not see God as condescending to give form to a physical world, to manipulate lesser stuff. According to Platonic thought, love is a desire for the good. (See for example, Plato’s “Phaedrus” and “Symposium.”) So, God, being the ultimate good—being pure incorruptible essence—eternally loves himself. He is totally focused on himself and could never change that focus to some other thing, because then he would be loving something less than the ultimate good. But in his abundant love for himself, a sort of exuberance leads to the creation of something like himself, a slightly lesser god but of the same basic substance, also considered eternal. This being would form the physical world and would serve as something of an intermediary between God and creation. (Note that he does not create the world, because matter, though constantly changing, already exists. He only gives it form; he orders it. Please note also that this is a simplified view for the sake of brevity.)

        The Christian worldview did not wholly accept Platonic thought. However, it was influenced by Platonic thought. Because Christianity accepted the Torah’s teaching that God created the world, they did not hold that He was detached from humanity on the grounds of their corruptible physical forms. But, it did teach that God was separated from humanity due to their moral imperfection. Like in Platonic thought, this separation would require an intermediary, someone to bridge the gap between God’s perfection and man’s imperfection.

        So, the Christian was not attempting to make an idol that had powers that statues did not have. Instead, he was making a god more accessible to himself than a god that could have nothing to do with imperfection, who was detached, who was remote. This intermediary god would make God approachable. The unfortunate truth, however, is that this god would not serve as a bridge from Man to God but a wall between Man and God. Rather than approaching God, the followers of Jesus would move farther away from him.

        Jim

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Jim,

          Thank you for your comment . I find your comments insightful and informative.
          You stated the intermediary G-d (Jesus) would not serve as a bridge from Man to G-d but a wall between them.

          I don’t agree with that . I have always regarded Jesus as a bridge . Thanks to him mankind is aware and have grown to love the G-d of Israel . Christianity offers what I have not found in other religions thus far-relationship with G-d . I have never felt more closer to G-d than when I was a Christian.

          We have to consider how walls can be established between Man and God- treating a fellow human being/groups of people poorly in the name of religion can also create walls in the poor fellow’s mind towards G-d. Jesus broke those walls , by reaching out to the poor and marginalized in his lifetime and to all humanity through his death and resurrection.

          Another point to consider-idolatry does not necessarily mean worshipping a physical being. It can be career , traditions or anything under the sun-things that G-d has blessed us with to carry out his will (means) ,we turn it into an end.

          The question is how should one view Jesus? If Jesus is only the means then Christians should not have deified him . However is it sufficient to approach G-d without Jesus as the intermediary (means) ? If Jesus did not come to the scene would Man’s relationship with G-d improve? You can clearly see from history -from creation to Noah’s generation and beyond how most mankind , except the Jew has regressed in the relationship with our Creator . Jesus brought the knowledge of the G-d of Israel and the Jewish scriptures to mankind -some of the laws and precepts in it are made available and followed by the masses as well- thereby improving our lot and standing with our Creator .

          Again , thank you for your comment. Apologies if my comments missed the mark.
          Your opinion is most welcome.

          • Eleazar says:

            The Christian trinity is not the God of Israel.

            The God of Israel condemns human sacrifice and human blood upon the altar, which Christians believe is the real bridge.

            The God of Israel would never say to eat a man’s body or drink his blood, both of which Christians symbolically carry out several times per year.

            The God of Israel condemns worship of a human being.

            Christians see Jesus and his human sacrifice as a bridge for themselves, but a wall of everlasting condemnation for those who do not believe in the human sacrifice and “eat the body and drink the blood”.

            Biblically and by Torah law, an idol is a literal thing that is consciously worshiped or worshiped through. Confused priorities in life or “whatever occupies your thoughts more than God” are not worship and are not biblically defined as idols.

            Christians are not getting closer to the God of Israel by violating His Commandments in denying the grace of the God of Israel by worshiping a human being and accepting human blood sacrifice as mankind’s only means of atonement.

            That is NOT the God of Israel. That is paganism.

          • LarryB says:

            Sharon S
            “I have always regarded Jesus as a bridge”.
            You could say the same thing about Horace’s tree. 🙂
            https://judaismresources.net/?s=Horace’s+tree

          • Sharon S says:

            Eleazar and Larry B,

            Thank you for your replies .

            Now I shall repeat the question to both of you.
            If Jesus did not come to the scene would Man’s relationship with G-d improve?

            1.If yes ,kindly quote scripture references from the Torah to support (with regards to ALL of mankind)
            2. Please do not give scripture references to justify why worship of Jesus is wrong (for example , the references Eleazar just quoted-blood sacrifice and all that) in order to answer the above question.

            I want to know what Judaism has to offer to mankind on its own merit.

            Thank you.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, the Torah doesn’t talk about Jesus at all, so how can you ask for proof from the Torah that if Jesus hadn’t come, mankind’s relationship with God would have continued to improve? Perhaps I misunderstood your question?

            If I have understood your question, then it’s like asking what the world would like today if Karl Marx hadn’t written Das Kapital or if Hitler had never come to power. The answer is unknowable.

            What does Judaism have to offer on its own merit? That’s a fair question. Judaism doesn’t seek to offer anyone anything but to ask, what does God want of us? It’s about worshiping God, not seeking benefits for ourselves. However, because God is good, following his commandments is good for us too. Judaism emphasizes a strictly monotheistic relationship with a personal God and all the ethics that you know are associated with Judaism (such as the Ten Commandments and Leviticus Chapter 19). I don’t have time to write more today, so I hope this answers your questions at least somewhat!

          • LarryB says:

            Sharon S
            I reject your question and Torah restrictions for worshiping idols.
            “Please do not give scripture references to justify why worship of Jesus is wrong (for example , the references Eleazar just quoted-blood sacrifice and all that) in order to answer the above question.”
            If I cannot refer to the Torah what source would you like me to use?

          • Sharon S says:

            Dina,Larry B,

            I apologise if my question confuse you.
            I just want to know what Judaism has to offer to mankind on its own merit.

            Dina,thank you for your answer.It does answer the question . I hope you could do more of this in the future.Have a good Shabbat.

            Larry B,I hope the revised question makes it clear where I’m coming from.That is why I requested not to give scriptures that justify why worshipping Jesus is wrong.

            Thank you

          • LarryB says:

            Sharon S.
            I also think Dina gave a great answer to your question will leave it at that. Thanks for clarifying.

          • roger says:

            “What does Judaism have to offer on its own merit? That’s a fair question. Judaism doesn’t seek to offer anyone anything but to ask, what does God want of us? It’s about worshiping God, not seeking benefits for ourselves. However, because God is good, following his commandments is good for us too. Judaism emphasizes a strictly monotheistic relationship with a personal God and all the ethics that you know are associated with Judaism (such as the Ten Commandments and Leviticus Chapter 19). I don’t have time to write more today, so I hope this answers your questions at least somewhat!”

            i know what these christians are saying, they think that before jesus, no jew was able to master over lust, hate and anger. we all know this is a lie because the whole point of a God giving revelation to creature is to help them to master over lust, hate and anger. jesus is ABSOLUTELY not needed to help person become a better person.

          • Jim says:

            Sharon,

            Thank you for the tone of your disagreement. Too often disagreement on the internet is expressed without civility, and it is quite pleasant to read disagreement without disrespect. In that same spirit, please allow me to explain some of the ways in which Jesus serves as a wall between humanity and God rather than as a bridge.

            The supposed need for Jesus is based on a lie, one told about God. The Christian makes God to be unforgiving, indeed, unable to forgive. It contradicts direct statements in Tanach regarding God’s mercy. An obvious example is found in Ez. 18 and Ez. 33. In those passages, HaShem promises forgiveness to those that repent. He counts as righteous those that turn away from wickedness and resume practicing His ways.

            Christian doctrine makes a mockery out of the statement that HaShem is slow to anger. According to Christian doctrine, the smallest infraction separates one from God eternally, making one worthy of eternal torment. In what way then can God be called “slow to anger”? The statement becomes meaningless, just something nice to say about God, but without having any truth; and, lacking all truth, it lacks ability to comfort those who would trust in His mercy.

            That God is paternal toward His creation is denied by Christian doctrine. While they call God a “Father,” Christian doctrine contradicts this, for their god expects the impossible. He demands from imperfect creatures perfection. This is not only the antithesis of paternalistic love, it is irrational.

            In this way, Jesus serves as a wall between humanity and God. Christian doctrine separates humanity from God entirely. This God is unappeased by repentance: He demands the blood of an innocent.

            Because Jesus is supposed to be that innocent, he receives the devotion that is owed to God. Devotion is owed to those that have done one a great kindness. In the Christian story, the one that has done humanity the most good is not God; it is Jesus. While God could not forgive humanity, even if he wanted to do so, Jesus obtained that forgiveness. And he did it through accepting upon himself suffering, the suffering deserved by others. Even if one did not deify Jesus for this, one would bear him the much greater gratitude. One consequence of this is that, for many, God is to be feared, while Jesus is someone to be loved. God is all wrath, and Jesus is all mercy. Conversely, if one does not see God as only to be feared, the need for Jesus still makes God to appear basically impotent. God is willing to send an agent to secure His forgiveness due to His love for the world, but He Himself does nothing. His love does not involve His suffering. His agent does all the hard work. God’s love costs Him nothing, while Jesus’ love is expressed through great sacrifice. These ideas—even when they are not articulated but only linger in the psychology of the believer—keep one at a distance from God. The greater part of one’s devotion goes to a human being, who is more capable of loving and being loved than God is.

            This is reflected in the way the Bible is read by the Christian. When he reads Tanach, he scours it for indications of Jesus, the object of his affection. He treats the Torah as a scavenger hunt. Jesus becomes the main topic for him. The duties prescribed by God become a secondary concern. It is not that he does not consider these at all, but they are not his primary focus. Generally speaking, when a Christian reads the Bible for how to live his life, he reads the NT. The “Old Testament” is there to point Jesus.

            This is the natural outcome of Christian theology. The duty to obey God arises from gratitude. When one realizes the good that God has done one, then he will follow God’s commandments, even more so when he realizes that those commandments benefit himself. But, for the Christian, the greatest good done to him was performed by Jesus. Therefore, when he fulfills God’s commandments, it is usually because Jesus told him to do so. That is to say, he is really fulfilling Jesus’ commandments, not God’s, because of the debt of gratitude he owes Jesus.

            This can be seen in the way that the Lord’s Supper replaces Passover. The Christian story minimizes the work of God. Both stories are stories of liberation. Passover is about God freeing the Jews, a work limited to one people. The Lord’s Supper is about Jesus freeing humanity, a work universal in scope. The liberation of Passover is from the bondage of physical slavery. The liberation of the Lord’s Supper is from the bondage of spiritual slavery. God would lead the Jews to the Promised Land, but Jesus would lead believers into everlasting life. In all ways, Jesus’ work is made to be the greater, and so his feast replaces that implemented by God. In the Christian story, God is minimized and Jesus is magnified. So, the believer replaces God’s commandment with Jesus’ commandment, and he makes God’s work to be nothing more than a foreshadowing of the greater work that would be done by Jesus.

            Moreover, because Jesus is the focus of the Christian, he does not mind if the words of God are misrepresented, as long as those misrepresentations serve to support his love of Jesus. If God were the object of his affection, he would object to the distortion of His words. But this he does not do. In fact, he justifies each twisted verse, each misquote, each false meaning. Of course, he will defend the words of Jesus; those are teachings with which no tampering can be tolerated. But, the words of God—those are fair game.

            These things I do not write to indict the Christian. I write them only to show the ways in which Jesus is a wall and not a bridge. First, the Christian becomes separated from God by the notion that God is unmerciful and unforgiving, either because He is incapable or unwilling. Then, Jesus becomes the greater object of his affection, the one to whom his devotion is due. Jesus’ love is made to be greater than God’s by both its efficacy and its self-sacrificing nature. So, the Christian seeks to fulfill God’s will, but because it is the command of Jesus. He reads the words of God to find Jesus, even tolerating misrepresentations of those words in order to find Jesus in them. These are indications that one is not led to God through Jesus, but that Jesus is an interposition between humanity and God.

            Jim

          • Sharon S says:

            Dear Jim,
            Thank you for your comments, though it came in a bit late . You have put forth very good arguments as to why Jesus serves as a wall , rather than a bridge between man and G-d.

            Unfortunately , you have not answered the question “If Jesus did not come to the scene would Man’s relationship with G-d improve? ” .

            I hope that you could put aside Jesus and Christianity and answer the question honestly , based on the Torah and your knowledge of Judaism.

            I would like to commend Dina again for being honest on the nature of this blog -it is a counter missionary blog (tagline notwithstanding) , so all comments will be in relation to Jesus and Christianity . Hence I would understand if you do not reply to them -or if you reply them within the context of Jesus and Christianity.

            Thank you.

          • Jim says:

            Sharon,

            I am sorry. I do not understand your question: “If Jesus did not come to the scene would Man’s relationship with G-d improve?” Do you mind rephrasing or clarifying for me?

            Jim

          • Sharon S says:

            Dear Jim,

            I have explained the question at https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-42561

            Thank you.

          • Jim says:

            Sharon,

            Thanks for directing me to this comment. I will answer as soon as I am able, but it may take me a few days, depending on what I must get done here today.

            Jim

        • tony says:

          Hello Jim

          are there any arguments recorded in the hebrew bible which have something like :

          “God is too holy to approach directly, we need our intermediaries because we get close to God through them ” ?

          this is what the modern christian seems to be saying. the intermediary is god, but an emptied version of god in heaven.

        • tony says:

          “The unfortunate truth, however, is that this god would not serve as a bridge from Man to God but a wall between Man and God. Rather than approaching God, the followers of Jesus would move farther away from him.”

          i have asked christians if it is possible for them to worship the father without involving jesus in their worship, they are unable to and think that it would be blasphemous to approach the father directly.

    • tony says:

      i don’t understand why christians have a problem with worshipping a flesh being . if i went to post resurrected jesus and shot him with machine gun, would jesus die? if not, then the flesh in a sense has become like the “invisible spirit” which is hiding in body of jesus. so why they have a problem with worshipping flesh makes no sense to me. having belief in an immortal flesh god should not be seen as idolatry in christian beliefs.

      “Christians today worship the incarnate son of G-d, or G-d the Son (a body of flesh) with the same devotion and service that they do G-d the father. They look at a human shape on a cross, and say “that is G-d who died for me.””

      immortal spirit in mortal flesh. mortal flesh becomes immortalised. look, if christians can have god BECOME created and weak, then they can REVERSE that and have it exist as immortalised flesh being.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        i don’t understand why christians have a problem with worshipping a flesh being . 

        They absolutely should have a problem with worshiping a man of flesh, even if it becomes “immortalized flesh.”

        But why? Because according to their own gospel, even a false prophet can do miracles and decieve people. (Revelation 13)

        IE if one man can be claimed to be G-d in a body, anyone else can make the same claim.

        Thats why the texts say that faithfulness to the commandments is what counts.

        In fact, Jesus’ divine nature being described as a physical fleshly reality, and worshipped as such, is already considered a heresy even by the Orthodox Christians themselves, ie the heresy of Mormonism.

        G-d said in Deuteronomy “guard yourselves very carefully lest you become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, the image of ANY SHAPE.”

        Right after this it says not to worship the “whole host of heaven” IE if G-d has an entourage of messangers/angels/manifestations, they should not be worshipped.

        I too have read Dr. Sommer’s book. His model of “divine fluidity” may explain some ambiguities in scripture, but regarding the question of who is supposed to be the sole object of divine service, scripture shows it unambiguously to be G-d the father, even if you factor in Jesus.

        Dina, unitarians run into the issue where they say catagorically that Jesus is NOT G-D, but that NONETHELESS they (little w) worship ie Proskuneo (honor) Jesus because they believe that if G-d desires it, they must honor him.

        The problem is that the oldest form of worship, ie the veneration of ancestors rests on the same premises. “My ancestor is gone, but I honor him with this, or with that.”

        “Im not praying to this image, it just brings to mind the wisdom of my teacher when I gaze at it.”

        It devolves into idolatry either way, because Jesus is still the only way that they can see someone as properly relating to G-d.

        In my opinion, Islam has the same issue with Muhammad. Even though they all say that Muhammad is not a deity, if you dont follow according to their prophet, or worse, if you draw a picture of this fully human man, they may inflict bodily injury on you.

        In seeking not to give undue honor to a man of flesh, they inadvertently do exactly that.

        • tony says:

          quote :
          In fact, Jesus’ divine nature being described as a physical fleshly reality, and worshipped as such, is already considered a heresy even by the Orthodox Christians themselves, ie the heresy of Mormonism.
          end quote

          mormons do have a point.

          imagine a pagan in the past believed that his god came down as 100 % human which did not need to eat, sleep, rest etc etc ….

          what will be the argument then? maybe that it requires a body and needs location to exist.

          if we concentrate on post resurrected jesus , he now has “immortalized flesh” and christians should have no problem worshipping this flesh because it is no longer on created level.

          many christians think god is CURRENTLY existing as “fully human and fully divine ” in one person.

          i will say again, the christians believe that the invisible being CHANGED and became creature like you and me. now lets REVERSE THIS .created becomes divine. i see no problem from philosophical and logical angle why christian polytheists shouldn’t worship the flesh. they don’t really care about what scriptures say, if they did, they would never had said that god became man.

        • tony says:

          you said you listened to somer, do you mean these podcasts?

          http://podcast.foundjs.org/size/10/?search=sommer

        • Dina says:

          Thanks, Con, great answer!

  10. I really want to know how the common Jewish men’s pray in the morning.
    Hello~

  11. Eleazar says:

    Roger wrote: i know what these christians are saying, they think that before jesus, no jew was able to master over lust, hate and anger.

    The truth is, Roger, no Christian ever has either….including Jesus.

    People who follow this blog closely know that other than worshiping a man and believing they go to heaven because of a human sacrifice, this is my main argument against Christianity. It simply does not deliver on its biggest promise.

    The book of Hebrews main argument for the superiority of Christianity over Judaism and Torah is that Christianity results in a person that does not need any further sacrifices because the REAL Christian does not purposely sin….ever. That those Jews who sacrificed could not by those sacrifices year after year become perfect enough to approach God ( a fallacious argument on its face, since Torah NEVER says that only by blood sacrifice can a person be forgiven and redeemed, NOR does it ever claim that such a sacrifice is what makes you perfect, OR that absolute perfection is required for salvation). While Hebrews teaches that those who believe in Jesus receive the indwelling spirit of God that prevents you from sinning through acceptance of the human blood sacrifice. That is why Hebrews then goes on to say that anyone who sins on purpose after accepting the blood of Jesus no longer has atonement because Jesus cannot be sacrificed a 2nd time to cover those sins committed after accepting the 1st sacrifice.In the NT’s own words, “Counted the blood a common thing”, “crucified Christ afresh”, “trampled the son of God underfoot” and “insulted the spirit of grace”. According to Hebrews, to not become literally perfected by the blood of Jesus brings a certainty of damnation.

    In truth, to believe you need to accept a human sacrifice and worship a man is the ultimate insult to, and rejection of, God’s spirit of grace.

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Eleazar,

      I would like to know further about G-d’s “Spirit of Grace”.
      Is this stated anywhere in the Tanakh?

      I have always come across the term “unfailing love” especially in Psalms
      – is that what you mean by grace?

      No offence , but listening why product B-Christianity/Jesus is faulty to justify superiority of product A-Judaism can sound boring after some time.That is what I think after listening to the same rhetoric over and over.

      So please tell the world why Product A is superior on its own merit.
      I don’t see that comments often in this blog -other than it being used to discredit Christianity.

      I think highlighting the merits of Judaism on its own generates a much more
      positive discussion.

      If you notice at the top right hand corner of this blog ,it states “Judaism Resources-Tap into the strength of Judaism”. It gives me an impression that this blog is meant to showcase what the strengths of Judaism.

      Unfortunately the materials and comments hint of a strong “Keep Out” sign.
      Please do correct if I’m in error.

      Have a good Shabbat.

      Thank you.

      • Eleazar says:

        Sharon wrote: I would like to know further about G-d’s “Spirit of Grace”.
        Is this stated anywhere in the Tanakh?
        -And –
        So please tell the world why Product A is superior on its own merit.

        My answer to both:

        “Who is a God like you,
        pardoning the sin and overlooking the crimes
        of the remnant of his heritage?
        He does not retain his anger forever,
        because he delights in grace.
        He will again have compassion on us,
        He will subdue our iniquities.
        You will throw all their sins
        into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18, 19

        Grace is why Judaism, “Product A” as you call it, is a higher view and the God of Judaism a superior God to the co-opted quasi pagan trinity of Christendom. And this text is a clear testament to God’s spirit of grace (which is not a third god-person, BTW). No blood sacrifice, animal OR human, is mentioned. I found it ironic that C.S. Lewis once stated that grace was what separated Christianity from other world religions. But he had it wrong. Christianity, in its insistence that God is unable to grant salvation without belief in and worship of a man and by the acceptance of a human sacrifice, is the very denial of a God of grace. Please compare the following texts:

        Product A – Micah 7:18,19- He does not retain his anger forever,
        because he delights in grace.
        He will again have compassion on us,
        He will subdue our iniquities.

        Product B – Hebrews 10:26,27- For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

        I chose Hebrews 10 because it was written for the sole purpose of being a treatise on the superiority of Christianity vs Judaism from the Christian perspective presented in the New Testament. Verses 1 and 2 spell out the entire argument against Judaism: that is, that Judaism and Torah cannot produce perfect people, while Christianity can and does. And if it doesn’t, then you can look forward to the result in the text above.

        Another thing to consider in your comparing “products A and B”, if you haven’t before. Christianity’s holy days were founded hundreds of years after the supposed events that inspired them and are in fact co-opted pagan celebrations mixed with Christian legends. Jewish holidays were founded either at the time or just following the actual event/miracle they are commemorating. Purim was founded by Esther and Mordecai themselves to commemorate a series of events that saved the Jewish people in Persia. Passover was established at the time it happened.Even Hanukkah, a non-biblical observance, was officially established the year following the miracle of oil.Judaism has never had to draw on legends long past for any of its Biblical holy days/holidays, the most important of which are directly commanded in scripture.

        Not a single Christian holy day observance is commanded by God or mentioned in scripture, not even in the New Testament.
        I hope this helps.

  12. Concerned Reader says:

    Sharon S.

    1. Judaism does not hold you responsible for anyone else’s sins.

    2. No teacher is deemed infallible. (no risk of a Papacy or a Joseph Smith in Judaism.)

    3. You do not need to be a member of the Jewish faith to be worthy of dignity as a human.

    4. Because Judaism has its focus on a person’s free will vis ethical actions, sectarianism is less virulent or prone to violence.

    5. Because of the emphasis on the Shema, and insistence on G-d’s utter uniqueness vis the question of worship, it is very rare for Jews to put stock in things like Demons, End Time speculations, faith healing hucksters etc. and this is a natural defense against the many forms of advantage people try to take.

    6. Because Judaism believes that miracles do not prove a prophet to be right or valid, Judaism is much less prone to being taken advantage of generally.

    7. Judaism does not make unilateral decisions about the afterlife or who gets in.

    8. Judaism has the benefit of being the root faith of all 3 Abrahamic religions. The claims of Judaism serve as a baseline criteria about which all the 3 traditions can actually agree.

    That baseline opens the real possibility that we can choose not to fight about the things that the sister faiths of Christianity and Islam have always insisted be fought about.

    9. Judaism’s traditional interpretations keep ideas fresh, but also keep sectarian squabbles at bay.

    IE you would never need to have the kind of theological disputes that lead to centuries of Christians killing other Christians. Judaism says “the secret things are for G-d and not for man.”

    10. Even when sectarianism arises in Judaism, the centrality of Torah law serves as a safe means for those who disagree about theology to be able to make inroads to reconciliation.

    (You wouldn’t see the likes in Judaism of the purge of the Judaizers or the Gnostics that we saw in Christian history. )

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Concerned Reader,

      Thank you for your reply . It is very informative.
      Actually , I find your comment at https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-42528 very enlightening. It really made me think and review my assumptions about Jesus.

      It was also one of the triggers for my comment to Jim as well.
      Since you are very knowledgeable on religion , I would like to do an about turn and ask you the initial question I posed in my comment:
      “If Jesus did not come to the scene would Man’s relationship with G-d improve? ”

      Now , I know this question was not taken too kindly (I hope no one here think I am a closet missionary) , but please hear me out:
      1.You can clearly see from history -from creation to Noah’s generation and beyond how most mankind , except the Jew has regressed in the relationship with our Creator .
      2. What I learnt thus far is that the command of G-d i.e the 7 laws are not adhered to , or at best adhered to but out of necessity to maintain civilization -it was not followed out of obedience to G-d.
      3. Only the Jew is given revelation at Sinai- hence the Jewish nation is the sole nation that is on a higher spiritual plane than the rest of mankind.
      4. In the Hebrew Bible , one can always find references to the nations , who worship idols of “wood and stone” , and their foolishness of doing so.

      The above points (1 to 4) is what I gathered from my very amateur studies of Judaism worldview , on my own and through discussion with Rabbi Blumenthal .

      Now , if Jesus haven’t come to the scene , this is what I imagine would probably happen:
      1. I will be a Hindu/Buddhist/Animist today and still be worshipping idols of wood and stone , stars, tree -whatever under the sun.
      2. I would be aware of the elements of the 7 laws-not to kill,steal ,etc -but I will be doing it to preserve civilization or conscience -not out of obedience to G-d

      So , how is my standing with G-d?
      I would be guilty of idolatry without really being aware of it in the first place.

      Impact of Jesus coming into the scene:
      1. I come to know Jesus and the G-d of Israel through him.
      2. I have access to the Jewish Bible -and the knowledge of G-d and his commands-though distorted by the teachings of the Church
      3. Instead of worshipping idols of wood and stone , stars , etc-I now worship the G-d of Israel , though in a distorted way via partnership , or “shituf” .
      4. If I research and assess my assumptions -I will eventually come to a realization that my beliefs in (3) are wrong -which is what all of us have come to realise here- we all make life changing choices to worship the G-d of Israel in truth.

      Now which is scene is better ? With or without Jesus?
      Which scene shows a better standing with our Creator? Outright idolatry or shituf?

      I need to side-track a bit here.
      I know the standpoint of this blog that the Trinity is idolatry for both Jew and Gentile-but there are differing opinions out there -one opinion I read says that shituf or “belief in an intermediary” is not forbidden to the Gentile but it is an unrighteous belief.
      I have also discussed this matter extensively with Rabbi Blumenthal as well.

      Hence , that is why I state in my initial post that Jesus improved our lot and standing with our Creator . I would like to further specify that Jesus improved the Gentile lot and standing with our Creator.

      I do admit that Jesus’s coming has a negative impact for the Jew. This is because the Jewish people are on a higher spiritual plane than the rest of the world.

      Appreciate your opinion on this matter.

      Thank you.

      • Concerned Reader says:

        Sharon S, the 1st thing is that Shituf is not “permitted” in the sense of a person directing worship, but only in the sense of someone oath taking.

        IE lets say that a Platonic philosopher said, “I swear by the great highest god that I am telling the truth about X.”

        All Shituf allows is that a Jew knows they can take this oath seriously. As you are aware, even Polytheists tend to have a head of the pantheon that they designate as the most important. Shituf just means that in the context of an oath or testimony, if someone swears by G-d, but they believe that he has parteners, their testimony can nonetheless be trusted.

        As to your question about whether Jesus improved the world, I would ask you this in a serious fashion.

        Did Muhammad improve the world?

        Muhammad brought a theological knowledge of the one G-d (without it containing much of the mystical baggage of Christianity that has caused harm and made Christianity have a negative impact.)

        IE no trinity, no incarnation, (and none of the bloody feuds over mysticism) no necessary requirement stated outright to insist on accepting his person for salvation. Muhammad brought a knowledge to billions of Arab pagans. That doesn’t make it good

        (even though they dont strictly have to, Muslims still insist that a person MUST accept Muhammad to serve G-d properly.)

        IE the Quran actually tells Muslims not to show compulsion in your religion, and to trust the people of the book, and ask them for guidance if they need it.

        Now, we both know that even though the Quran contains that good advice, it doesn’t negate what is bad, and it hasn’t stopped the Muslim countries from doing the exact opposite of what they should do.

        That is how I would answer your question.

        If Islamic extremeists can still do such harm in the name of their faith, (when their opinion of monotheism stands closer to Judaism,) then how can we ask if these sister faiths made the world better?

        The world has the same problems, but exacerbated by the fact that you now have 3 faiths, two of which claim a monopoly on the truth.

        I do not think Jesus was an unethical guy, but I cannot say that the faith he started made the world objectively better. In fact, it made the world ignore his ethical advice in order to prop up his death, at the expense of peoples lives.

        In fact, I would say that a key part of what the messianic hope means to Jews (which Jesus’ movement rejected,) is that the world can always be made better if you try, and its a human being’s purpose to make this world better.

        In Judaism, being made in the image.of G-d means you have the dignified position of bettering the world, not consigning it to a fallen state.

        For years as a Christian, I saw the toxic apathy Christians took towards the needs of others outside of their community, the willingness to shift blame for their problems, and the inability to effect real change because they believed with all their heart that their deeds were filthy rags, and the only way to do anything was for Jesus to bear the burden.

        • Dina says:

          Sharon, I’ve given more thought to your question on what Judaism has to offer.

          I think the more pressing questions are, Is Jesus God? Is Jesus the Messiah? All other questions pale in significance compared to these two.

          What does Judaism have to offer? The truth.

          And truth is the highest and most noble calling.

      • Dina says:

        Sharon, you wrote that if not for Jesus, you would likely have been a Buddhist or Hindu (why not Muslim?) or some other kind of pagan. There is a bit of history that I think is fascinating and might make you reconsider that notion.

        During the Second Temple period, many gentiles flocked to the Temple during the holiday pilgrimages along with the Jews. Many attended synagogues and lectures and were known as God-fearing gentiles, or “God fearers.”

        When the Jesus movement, having failed to attract Jews, turned to the gentiles, they lured many of these God fearers to their camp. Therefore, I think it’s likely that had Christianity not taken root in the West, the God fearer movement would have continued to grow.

        But all this is speculation. As I said last time, the answer to your question is unknowable, and God had other plans.

        You also said, “Listening why product B-Christianity/Jesus is faulty to justify superiority of product A-Judaism can sound boring after some time.” I’m trying to figure out what you are saying here. Are you saying that you are bored by claims that Christians are wrong to assert the superiority of Christianity over Judaism? Or are you bored by claims that Judaism is superior to Christianity? Or are you bored by claims that Christianity is faulty in order to justify the superiority of Judaism?

        Since I don’t understand which of these you mean (or I may be wrong on all counts!), I hope you will forgive me for taking the liberty of answering all of them. Before I do that, please don’t worry about asking questions that we might find uncomfortable. This blog is about seeking the truth, and the process can be messy, it can be fraught, it can be rancorous and heated and passionate. But I believe that we will get there in the end!

        So…are Christians wrong to assert the superiority of Christianity over Judaism? (I will not assess the degree of boredom this question induces :)). The answer is, yes, of course they are. Christianity claimed to lead its followers on a moral path that is superior to Judaism. Yet its history is splattered with the blood of countless Christians and non-Christians, all people created in God’s image, simply because other Christians followed a different theology or non-Christians were regarded as less than human. All you need do is examine the community that followed Jesus and the community that followed Torah over the past two millennia to see which religion created a better society. Jews were exemplary citizens of every host country they lived in, paying their taxes, helping each other, and refraining from barbaric and bawdy behaviors (for example, Jews engaging in drunken brawls at taverns is not something you hear about). Were they perfect? Of course not. Were they better off morally and ethically? Of course they were.

        Therefore, Christians are wrong to assert the superiority of their religion over Judaism.

        Are you bored by claims that Judaism is superior to Christianity? Perhaps you are, but I think it is fair to say that every religion’s adherents believe theirs is superior to all others. That said, Jews are not in the habit of telling everyone that. All Jews want, and have ever wanted, is to be left alone to worship in peace. Alas, Christians still won’t leave Jews alone, and that is the only reason for this website. I assure you, Sharon, if Christian missionaries would not proselytize Jews, this website would not exist.

        Or are you bored by claims that Christianity is faulty in order to justify the superiority of Judaism? Again, leaving aside the boredom factor, this question is unfair. Jews do not seek to claim that Christianity is faulty in order to boost their faith. Judaism can stand on its own whether Christianity is inferior or not. It is Christianity which needs to knock Judaism in order to have a raison d’être. Please compare the writings of Christians, beginning with the New Testament, including the writings of the Church Fathers, and down through the centuries to Martin Luther and beyond, to the writings of Jews beginning with the Talmud and down through the centuries.

        I think the results will shock you. While Christians, in their writings, are obsessed with Jews and Judaism and poured torrents of ink to demonize them, Christians and Christianity are barely mentioned in the writings of Jews–and when they are, it is usually only in passing and with indifference. The irony is, Jews had the more right to feel bitter toward Christians, since by the time the Talmud was being compiled, persecution of the Jews had already begun. Talk about turning the other cheek!

        Even today, Christians still teach each other about the inferiority of Judaism through their New Testament in order to justify their belief. Yet Jews do not talk to each other about Christianity for the most part.

        So can you imagine how it sounds to a Jew to hear a Christian say that our rhetoric regarding this is boring?

        There was a Christian who used to comment on this blog that hearing Jews discuss Christian persecution of Jews is boring. It’s galling, to say the least.

        By the way, there is a Sharon who posts here from time to time. I actually discussed with her the topic of Christian persecution of Jews and she read a book I recommended on the subject. Are you the same Sharon?

        Keep asking questions! That’s the best way to achieve clarity. And I hope I haven’t bored you too much 🙂 !

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Dina,

          This is the same Sharon who have read 2 out of the 3 books you recommended and have actually visited some of the sites where the acts of persecution actually took place recently- like the site where inquisition activities were carried out . If you plan to visit Europe , there are many “Jewish Heritage” tours that you can book online before your trip -it is very informative ,eye opening and in some places -physically challenging (need to walk up steep roads).

          The tag line at the top right corner of this blog is ” Judaism resources-tap into the strength of Judaism” .

          I have listened to both Muslim and Jewish missionaries/counter missionaries -so I have been hearing criticisms of Christianity for a very , very long time . I admit it do make me sick to hear them at times (“wrong to assert Christianity’s superiority”/”Christianity is faulty”) but I’m pretty much used to it.

          However there comes a time when I get bored listening to all these criticisms and wanted to learn the strengths of Islam and Judaism on its own terms . Let’s forget about Jesus and Christianity and see what Judaism has to offer . I don’t see that often in this blog . Do correct if I’m wrong.

          In addition ,the further I study these faiths , there seem to be some “red flags” (refer to my comment to Concerned reader below) .I wondered why has this not been declared in the blog, or perhaps I missed it? These information need to be considered in the critique of Christianity so that all can see the full picture. It may be “material” to some readers out there .

          You say that the reason this blog exist is because Christians won’t leave the Jews alone -which means if Christians eventually do stop bothering Jews than this blog cease to exist? To me that defeats the purpose of the tag line -tap into the strength of Judaism.

          I truly appreciate you being open . Thank you.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, this is indeed a countermissionary blog. It was founded for the express purpose of showing Jews who had been led astray by missionaries why their newfound belief is wrong. That is why nearly all the articles on this blog are based on some idea of Judaism versus Christianity. If you want to learn about Judaism only, this is not the right place for it (tagline notwithstanding). I recommend aish.com and simpletoremember.com to learn about Judaism. These two websites are primarily interested in outreach to secular and/or unaffiliated Jews, but I think you can learn much of value there.

            Rabbi B. has always been extremely tolerant of difficult questions and discussions of hard truths. I don’t think you need to worry about asking the tough questions here. Judaism does have elements that are hard to understand or can be very uncomfortable, and we do not shy away from challenges to these ideas.

            I’d like to add a little more to Con’s answer to you on the higher nature of the Jewish soul. It is true that many Jews believe this. It is true that they have believed this for centuries. But even Jews who believe this also accept that all humans are created in God’s image, and therefore all human life is sacred. That is why this belief has never translated into Jews acting violently toward or murdering non-Jews.

            A big fear among Arabs with the creation of the Jewish state was that as soon as Jews attained some power they would treat Arabs as they themselves had been treated at Arab hands. This fear is one of the causes of the flight of hundreds of thousands of Arabs from the Jewish state after she won independence. Yet ask any Israeli Arab if he would rather live in Israel or any other Arab country. The answer is very telling! Although the state is secular, the sacredness of human life and justice for all are so ingrained in the Jewish psyche that secular Jews cannot easily give them up.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,
            Thank you for being honest about this.

  13. Sharon S says:

    Hi Concerned Reader,

    Thank you for your brilliant answer . Yes , I do agree with your assessment on Muhammad and Islam . Muhammad did bring a lot of good to the Arab pagans by bringing them to the knowledge and worship of the one G-d . However that does not mean that its adherents brought good to the world -which is an analogy of Jesus and Christianity as well.

    So what I got from your analogy -mankind’s lot or standing with G-d is no better with or without these two figures entering the world scene. There was an awareness of G-d and His laws , but adherents of these two faiths committed terrible acts in His name , thereby breaking His commands and going back to square one . Please correct if I’m wrong.

    You have mentioned “You do not need to be a member of the Jewish faith to be worthy of dignity as a human.” and “In Judaism, being made in the image.of G-d means you have the dignified position of bettering the world, not consigning it to a fallen state. ”

    I want to bring to your attention the following article by Dr. Menachem Kellner – Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Jewish Thought at Shalem College (Jerusalem) and Wolfson Professor Emeritus, University of Haifa in the article at the following link:
    https://www.jewishideas.org/article/orthodoxy-and-gentile-problem

    “Looking around me today, what do I see? A very different Orthodoxy. I want to focus here on only one aspect of the “new Orthodoxy”: the emphasis on the metaphysical, innate, inherent, absolute difference between Jews and non-Jews. There is, admittedly, a long history to this idea, dating back at least to R. Judah Halevi (and, if one believes that the Zohar was written by R. Shimon bar Yohai, then back to the third century at least). In the Judaism in which we were raised, however, this history was unknown, ignored, or glossed over. [5]”

    I have been listening to criticisms to Christianity’s condemnation of those who do not believe in Jesus and how Judaism respects the dignity of man . I agree that Christianity view the actions of those out of its faith system as futile as man is deemed sinful by nature . There is a more positive view in Judaism -, however mankind are affected by the sin of Adam . The patriarchs and the Jewish people are able to partially remove the negativity and it is their calling to counteract that negative impact completely from the soul of mankind. This is a result of my discussion with Rabbi Blumenthal.

    As to shituf , kindly refer excerpt from Moshe Weiner’s “The Divine Code” at the link below:
    https://asknoah.org/wp-content/uploads/the-divine-code-web6.pdf

    “It has previously been explained that some Rabbinical opinions
    maintain that a Gentile is not forbidden to [only] believe in the
    mistaken concept of an intermediary to G-d, and this includes a belief
    that another entity exists that is fitting to respect because this is the
    will and honor of G-d. The Rabbinical opinions that say this is not
    forbidden admit that it is forbidden to perform any type of worship
    service for the supposed intermediary. Nevertheless, if such a belief
    itself is not forbidden, it is likewise not forbidden to swear in the name
    of G-d combined together with the intermediary that one believes in as
    another divinity.”

    What I gather from discussion with Rabbi Blumenthal with regards to idolatry as follows:
    a. Both outright and partnership idolatry is prohibited to both Jew and Gentile.
    b.Some opinion allow partnership provided that primary worship is directed to G-d
    c. No explicit prohibition of idolatry to the non Jew but it is implied in the Jewish Bible

    In conclusion , I am aware that discussion of these items may be frowned upon this blog . I would also like to apologize to Rabbi Blumenthal for that , and for bringing up his name in this discussion . These matters came about from an honest study of Judaism and the materials I found are from Jewish sources . I have discussed them with him and he has been very open to look into them and respond accordingly , of which I am grateful.

    The reason I bring these matters up in the blog is to highlight that there are uncomfortable truths in Judaism as well , that needs to be brought up and discussed so that all can come to the truth , to mutual understanding and respect . I still believe that Judaism has the truth that all man seek , however we need to bring all truth , good and bad to the table and not gloss it over.

    Whether it is appropriate to continue discussing these things on this blog , I leave it to Rabbi Blumenthal as the blog owner.

    I shall not comment any further.

    Thank you.

    • Sharon, Dina, Concerned Reader, Elazar and Jim I was out of the country for a while without access to the blog. I feel truly blessed by the conversation that took place on the blog while I was gone. Sharon your questions are great. I will not answer all of them now but I hope to get to them in the near future. I see that Concerned Reader, Dina. Elazar and Jim did much to clarify things. For now I will just add two things. A dimension that Judaism offers is respect for honest questions. And that although this blog was originally established to counter the missionary arguments I would want it to move towards clarifying Judaism (hence the tagline) – I accept your rebuke Sharon – but I will point out that many articles do bring out the strength of Judaism – there should be more and I hope to share them in the near future. Thanks to all of you

      1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

      • jasonannelise says:

        I haven’t been following the discussion closely enough to really get an idea of context and be able to comment; I’ve just seen a few of the comments come up in my email inbox.

        Just wanted to mention that I agree that Judaism in general is open to honest questions. Of course in any culture, including sometimes in Judaism, people feel uncomfortable with certain questions and aren’t able to truly hear or respond to them well. But in general, Judaism is one big community of conversations about what is important and what needs to change.

        And these conversations really do bring change. It may be too slow at times, because (among other reasons) people are humbly hesitant to lose any wisdom implicit in the teachings of generations prior. But the global Jewish community is also remarkably dynamic. The discussions within Judaism have also often inspired many powerful and influential observations regarding human nature and broader society.

        Personally I have lots of questions about whether any religion is true, but I still feel I’ve learnt the most from this Jewish conversation, and I feel that even my questions are best understood by religious Jews. Perhaps it depends where we are and whom we meet, as well.

      • Welcome back myphariseefriend! Rabbi, I do want to know if there is a common Jewish mens’ morning prayer pattern which goes like “Thank to the God of the universe who made me not slave, gentile, and woman…” I do not want to criticize it, nor i deserve to. If it is true, it is their honest thankful prayer to God for how God made them. I just want to know whether it is a part of Talmudic traditions (thus there are many other patterns or types or sidur? of morning prayer) or general and common trandition of the Jews. I am asking this question third time, and no one in this blog answered yet.

        • Gean Guk Jeon Yes, there is such a prayer. The point of the prayer is that a Jewish, free, male has more Torah obligations than a non-Jew, or a slave or a female. The prayer is thanking God for the Torah obligations.

          1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Finally i got the precious knowledge.
            Your explanation of “The point of prayer” is so precious that i can teach gentiles who might misunderstand the Jewish religion. Thank you so much. Please know that i am learning lots of treasures of Judaism and truth of gospel through many debates in this blog.

  14. Concerned Reader says:

    Sharon S, Zohar is not the law of Moses. It is a midrash, and therefore nobody is obligated to believe it.

    Any notion in hassidic philosophy that says a gentile has a lesser soul, or is of lesser worth does not have any legal backing in the Bible.

    You can ask anybody on this blog how I feel about that particular theological notion that some try to pass off as Torah based. I have spoken out against that idea here before.

    A Jew does not have a higher soul, he has more commandments. That is what that metaphor of a Jewish soul means.

    If any text tries to make it out to mean more, they are ignoring many texts that state that stranger and native born are equal.

    “There was an awareness of G-d and His laws , but adherents of these two faiths committed terrible acts in His name.”

    Not only did they commit terrible acts, but they did so with the blessing of their teachers and their “newer and better” doctrines.

    All that Rhetoric against the Pharisees spoken by Jesus had a real world and bloody negative impact.

    When the crowd in John’s gospel says “his blood be on us and our children forever,” that verse was taken as gospel by centuries of Jesus believers who would charge Jews with deicide.

    There is a saying. “If it is new, its not Testanent, and if it is Testament, it is not new.”

    There is nothing moral that a Christian can do that a Jew is not also capable of doing. Nothing ethical in the New Testanent is really new, and what is new in it has extreme potential to be unethical, as centuries of violent Christian history has shown.

  15. Jim says:

    A brief note—

    At various points in the conversations that have taken place in these comments sections, followers of Jesus have put forth the notion that they can feel his presence. Because of this, they know that he is active in their lives, making a difference in the world to bring people closer to God. They know that he is either God or the Messiah, depending upon who is making the claim, and any arguments that run counter to the claims made on behalf of Jesus eventually run into the subjective test proposed by the believer: they feel Jesus. These feelings, however real they are to those that experience them, are no indication of truth, and anyone that seeks the truth must not rely upon their feelings as a guide.

    It is a danger into which one easily falls to be guided by his emotions. One who is secretly in love with another, particularly if he is young, often finds himself interpreting the actions of his beloved through his own emotional state. If he is fearful, he reads her actions as a rejection. If he is hopeful, he reads the same actions as indications of returned affection. This happens all while the beloved has no knowledge of his feelings and is neither rejecting nor encouraging them. His emotional state says nothing about the reality.

    That a believer senses the presence of Jesus is no indication that Jesus is actually with that person. Consider the child, alone in his bedroom at night afraid of the dark. As he lies there, and his imagination runs wild, he becomes convinced that something is with him. Yet, when the lights come on, the child discovers that he is indeed alone. The certainty that some malevolent being was hovering just out of arms reach is proven false, and he is comforted by the revelation that no threat is present. It matters nothing if the imagined presence is malevolent or benevolent: the presence of such a being is not discovered through one’s emotional state or through some vague sense. The belief that such a being is present does not make it so. A sense that Jesus is present in one’s life is no more reliable than the belief that a monster lies in the closet. The light of Torah dispels any notions that Jesus is present but unseen; it subjects one’s subjective feelings to Torah’s objective truth.

    That feelings do not guide one to truth, Jesus’ followers ought to recognize. They do not credit the feelings of those of other faiths. They do not, for example, give credence to the “burning in the bosom” that the Mormon promises to those who pray to discover whether or not the revelation of Joseph Smith is true or not. It is not that Jesus’ followers do not believe that such a feeling will happen. It is that they believe that such a test is not a good indicator of truth. And he is right. But his own subjective feelings as to whether or not Jesus was a prophet, Messiah, or a god are not a good indicator of truth either.

    Recently, Netflix released a documentary called “Wild, Wild Country,” which covered the time of the Rajneeshes in Oregon. It is fascinating how differently the Baghwan Shree Rajneesh (from here on, “Rajneesh”) was perceived by his followers and his opponents. His followers saw him as the most beautiful man that ever walked the earth. The felt refreshed in his presence. They could feel the holiness radiating from him. Oregonians saw Rajneesh in the opposite light. They felt that a great oppressive darkness surrounded the man. They saw him as almost demonic. It is impossible that these two views of Rajneesh could be right. So, whose subjective feelings are to be trusted?

    The only answer is not to trust one’s subjective feelings.

    It is no different with Jesus than it is with Rajneesh. The claims of Jesus must be subjected to Torah, not to one’s feelings. The missionary often says that he can demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah or that he is divine from the Torah and the Prophets. Yet, when his demonstrations are proven to be empty, he takes refuge in his feelings. Those feelings are illusory. The test of the truth of a claim is made by reason, by the careful consideration of the facts. It is not made with the feelings. One that subjects his mind to his reason deceives himself.

    Jim

    • Eleazar says:

      I was in Oregon during the Baghwan’s time in Antelope. To me, he was a con man who had duped his followers for personal gain. The whole thing was a scam, and there was nothing spiritual about it. That and he looked like Cheech Marin in a beard and a Punjabi.

  16. Jim says:

    Sharon,

    It is difficult to say with certainty what the world would look like without Jesus. This does require a bit of speculation. It is to imagine an alternate history, but doing so in terribly difficult. I cannot say what the world would have been like if Jesus had not come into it, but I propose that one possibility is that the general relationship of humanity with God would be much improved.

    At the time of Jesus, non-Jews were already coming to the Jewish people to learn about God, independent of and preceding Jesus’ ministry. As far as I know, it is unknown how significant the numbers were, but this “movement” did exist. So, it is not clear that one would be left with nothing but Animism, etc., if the Jesus movement had not come along.

    Indeed, it is quite plausible that the Jesus movement prevented the seed of Torah observant non-Jews from flowering into a larger movement. While the Jesus movement can be seen as improving the non-Jewish world’s view of God, it harmed the non-Jewish world in a significant way. It turned the non-Jewish world away from their teachers. It is the Jewish people that carries the testimony of God into the world (see, for example, Deut. 4). But, the Jesus movement poisoned the minds of the non-Jewish world against that nation of priests, which ultimately has led to the corrupted understanding of God and His Torah. So, even if the Jesus movement offered something better than Animism and the other religious philosophies you mentioned, it also offered something worse than what was available at the time. Just as Jesus serves as a wall between humanity and God, the Jesus movement has served as a wall between the non-Jew and his teachers, the Jewish people.

    I apologize for taking so long to respond to this question. Originally, I had intended a longer answer, but I do not believe it is necessary. The teaching of the Jesus movement regarding the Jewish people is well known. It is equally well known how the Church silenced the voice of the Jewish people. So that, I think it can be asserted with reason that the Jesus movement co-opted and corrupted the work that was already being done on behalf of the non-Jewish world. It is quite possible that the Jesus movement prevented the non-Jewish world from growing closer to God than it otherwise would have done.

    Jim

    • Sharon S says:

      Dear Jim,
      Thank you for taking the time to reply to my question . I appreciate it very much.
      Allow me to summarize the main points from your two comments as follows:
      1.If Jesus had not come to the scene, would man’s relationship with G-d improve? Yes
      2. Jesus created a wall between man and G-d
      3. There was movement of Torah observant non Jews at the time of Jesus
      4. Jesus movement prevented the seed of Torah observant non-Jews from flowering into a larger movement-it co-opted and corrupted the work that was already being done on behalf of the non-Jewish world
      5. Jesus movement served as a wall between non Jew and their teachers, the Jewish people.

      My reply as follows:
      1. We have moved on from the holocausts , progroms etc . Although anti semitism still exists , Jews are currently living at a time where they have the opportunity to be our teachers.
      2. There seems to be hesitance from the Jewish people to take on this role.This is from the recent conversation that I had here and my observance on the blog.
      3. The testimony from G-d are conveyed as an attempt to prevent members of the Jewish community from being lured by Christianity missionaries , rather than an active attempt to teach non Jews .
      4. I have always been impressed with Abraham-I learnt that he was very hospitable and taught all that came to him the knowledge and truth of G-d
      5. In fact Abraham interceded to G-d for the fate of the righteous people in Sodom.If he can see that there is potential for good in non Jews , why can’t his descendants see it as well?
      6.You mentioned that the Jesus movement created a wall between the non Jew and their teachers. Our teachers are currently at a better place in history , why aren’t they willing to teach? Who is creating the wall here , the Jesus movement or our teachers themselves?
      7. Perhaps I was misled on the purpose of this blog from the tagline and this may not the best platform to learn these truths . If that’s the case please consider to change the tagline to “Keeping Jews Jewish”.

      Thank you .

      • Eleazar says:

        Sharon wrote:
        “2. There seems to be hesitance from the Jewish people to take on this role.This is from the recent conversation that I had here and my observance on the blog.”

        You are absolutely correct. I see the same hesitation at shul and in the Jewish community. I would like to see the Jewish community pick up the torch of truth and carry it to the world. But I also know I needed no Jewish missionary to find my way to the light of Torah. The Jewish people have done well in preserving Torah over the millenia. God can and does lead the sincere seeker to the truth of the Jewish faith.

      • Jim says:

        Sharon,

        Your dissatisfaction with the lack of teachers is understandable, and, to some degree, I share it. I desire very much that we as non-Jews should have more teachers available to us from the Jewish people. I believe that this would be a great benefit to the world. However, I also believe that we need be patient: change comes slowly.

        It is not only holocausts and pogroms that have rendered the voice of the Jewish people mute. The Christian world has long asserted that the Jewish people were hypocrites, legalists, and killers of God. They have believed and vocalized the notion that the Jews could not understand the message of the Torah with which they were entrusted. Christians have deeply drunk the message that the rabbis are “the blind leading the blind” and that they strain at gnats while swallowing camels. To this day, Christians accuse the Jewish people of purposefully avoiding scriptures that seem to have a Christological bent. The campaign of the Church to discredit the Jewish people has not ended, regardless of the lack of pogroms.

        Because of this, few students come to the Jewish people looking to learn. Certainly, the number is larger than it has been in a long time. But, this is a new phenomenon in a sense. A large number of students has not come looking for Torah instruction from the Jewish people in 2,000 years. The current Noahide movement only goes back to the 1980’s. It is younger than I am. In that time, quite a few rabbis have been of enormous help to the non-Jewish world, teaching the nascent Noahide movement. Moreover, a number of books have been published on the Seven Laws, and various websites are up devoted to instructing the non-Jew. While, local teachers are rare for many Noahides, some resources are available. This is remarkable, considering that the Holocaust was performed less than 100 years ago and that the non-Jewish world has only lately become interested in learning Torah from Jews in any significant numbers. If the Noahide movement continues, I believe that in time more teachers and teaching will become available to the Jewish world.

        But, I imagine that certain factors make the Jewish people reticent to teach more widely too quickly. One such factor is that not all that come claiming to seek to be taught are sincere. Christian missionaries sometimes portray themselves as students when really, they come to preach. The request for instruction is only to gain them entry to the Jewish world. The false humility of such students is a cloak wherein are hid their true intentions. And their professed love of the Jewish people is a device to bring the Jew into the Church.

        A second kind of Christian claims that he desires to learn from the Jewish people, but, though he does not aim to proselytize, he is no more sincere than the first. This “student” has his own agenda for learning Torah, to support his Christian belief. His agenda is to learn Torah and then twist it to his own ends. He turns the Torah into a prop, perverting its meaning to justify his beliefs. He uses the Torah, abuses it.

        One such gentleman came to my house, asking me to teach him about the Jewish holidays. I told him that this was not an area that I, as a non-Jew, busied myself with overly much. But, I told him I would tell him what little I knew. When I began, however, he immediately started to rewrite what I said to make it support his Christianity. So, I told him that I could not continue, because I would not be party to his twisting the Torah in order to support the worship of a human being. Instead, I talked about what the Torah teaches on idolatry. He listened and took notes, but, of course, he never asked me about Torah again. (For which I was thankful: I am not a Torah scholar, and I do not profess to be one.)

        And, I do not think Christians are the only difficulty for the Jewish people in regard to teaching. Among Noahides, it seems to me that certain problems exist. Many Noahides are former Christians, and they believe they know more than they really do. Many have spent their whole lives learning the “Old Testament,” and so they have a familiarity that deceives them. They think they need only drop the Jesus-part of their understanding, and then—boom!—they have got Torah. But, it is not so. In my opinion, the non-Jew really has to go back to square one and start learning all over again. After all, if he did not understand one of the fundaments of Torah, it is quite likely that he does not really understand the rest, and he should not believe himself to be expert except in this one arena. He must come to understand that he has not really understood it at all, and he must patiently build up a new understanding. However, one sees that some Noahides quite confidently assert their expertise, even after learning that they have not understood the basics.

        This is sometimes reflected in the disdain shown for the Seven Laws. I have heard from several Noahides a dismissive sentiment when it comes to the Seven. Some have said something to the effect: “Big deal. Who doesn’t know not to steal? That’s all God wants of me?” This outlook on the Seven means that he does not wish to study them further. He wants something else: he wants to wear a kippah, keep the Sabbath, or affix a mezuzah to his door. He wants to be Jewish without being Jewish, his own brand of Jewishness. And, he does not want to be told that he ought not do these things. Teaching such a person must be difficult, because one does not wish to lead him astray by indulging his own ideas, nor does one want to alienate him by making him feel that he has no real religion and is only expected to keep the simplest of ethical codes.

        For some Noahides—perhaps many—a certain amount of jealousy exists, which carries with it dangerous undertones. It is not just that they feel that the Jews have Sabbath, so the non-Jews should have Sabbath. They believe that the Jew does not really respect the non-Jew. A few years ago, some Noahides were angry that the rabbis questioned what it meant that Noah was righteous “in his generations.” One rabbinic explanation argues that Noah would not have been considered as righteous in another generation, which argument compares Noah disfavorably to Abraham. The Noahides in question assumed that the rabbis were intolerant of the idea that a non-Jew would be singled out for his righteousness, and for this reason they made Noah to be inferior to the father of the Jewish people. The assumption of the Noahides is incorrect and neglectful of the rabbinic argument, which was not, in fact, rooted in Noah’s non-Jewishness. Still, this group of people found this to be an outrage.

        Indeed, some non-Jews are annoyed by the fact that the Torah was given to the Jewish people and relates primarily to the Jews. They have taken it upon themselves to focus upon righteous non-Jews in the Torah and celebrate them. This might appear laudable, but it speaks to a mindset that misses the entire point of the Torah.

        These are some of the challenges that face the current age. They are not insurmountable—I think. But they will likely take time to be overcome. As time goes on, it may be that more Jewish teachers are available to the non-Jewish world or that a greater body of reading material exists. The difficulties I have enumerated probably mean that this will not happen quickly, at least, not as quickly as we might like. Nevertheless, if sincere non-Jews continue to come to the Jewish people asking to learn the Torah that applies to them as non-Jews, I believe more teaching will become available.

        Jim

      • Jim says:

        Sharon,

        Regarding the tagline of the website:

        Of course, it is not my website, so it is not up to me to change it or not. But, allow me to present a case for leaving it the way that it is.

        I believe that many non-Jews have benefitted from R’ Blumenthal’s website and have been educated regarding the basic tenets of Judaism. My guess is that Larry, Annelise, Cflat7, and Southern Noahide number among those non-Jews that have learned basic Torah principles from the writings of R’ Blumenthal. I may be mistaken, and I certainly cannot speak for them, but I can say that I have so benefitted from R’ Blumenthal. One of the challenges of his work is that it is geared not just toward the ignorant but toward the miseducated. It is more difficult to learn when one does not realize that he does not know something. Similarly, the teacher’s task is made more difficult when the student has false beliefs rather than recognizing his ignorance.

        One of the strengths of R’ Blumenthal’s work is that it relies upon the basic concepts of Judaism to counter the false claims of Christianity, rather than relying only upon countering each verse. R’ Blumenthal gives over the fundaments, those truths that cannot be violated by a teacher. So, when one learns from him why Christianity is false, he learns also the fundaments of Torah.

        In this way, R’ Blumenthal does help one “tap into the strength of Judaism,” and has exceeded the task of “keeping Jews Jewish.”

        Jim

        • Sharon S says:

          To Jim & Rabbi Blumenthal,

          Jim , thank you for taking the time and your patience in addressing the concerns I have raised . I may not be fully aware on the realities of Jewish Christian relations in the West .Your explanation is an eye opener for me.

          Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal . I checked the “About” link on your blog . It states “Welcome to 1000 verses. This blog has been formulated to help you read the Jewish Scriptures and find God’s truth from the perspective of God’s first-born son; the people of Israel (Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:8).” I learnt to read the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament that I have with me) from the perspective of the people of Israel thanks to studying your articles and looking up all scripture references contained therein. I am most grateful. Thank you.

          During this process , I come to realize of my place as an outsider reading into a conversation between G-d and the people of Israel . Hence the 10 commandments and the Torah are actually commands /precepts commanded upon the Jewish people alone . I was especially curious on the prohibition to idolatry-is there any explicit command to the non Jew in the Scriptures ? Upon further checking I realized that the prohibition of idolatry to the non Jew, in particular shituf is a subject to debate and the fact that it is an implied , not an explicit command to the non Jew.

          I listened to another Rabbi claiming that those who persist in the belief of the Trinity has no place in the world to come. His video , coupled with the basic Torah teachings in your blog made me abandon my faith . I would not have done that had this information been made available in the first place . I was persuaded rather than being educated.

          Much have been said about the Christian Scriptures contains extensive hate speech for the Jew and bare mention of Jesus/Christianity in rabbinical texts . However one fact that is glossed over is the anti Gentile verses which are quite significant in these texts. I admit there is a difference between Gentile and Christian . However to not acknowledge the existence of anti gentile texts in the critique of Christianity is not showing the full picture . All facts , good and bad have to be laid out on the table .

          I followed this blog based on the tagline “tap into the strengths of Judaism” . . I thought that this blog will teach me the truth – and yes , it did lead me to the truth . However it did not show the full truth ,as shown in the above examples.

          In a recent conversation , I found out the nature of the blog -it is established as a counter missionary blog .Its critique of Christianity is to show the Jewish believers of Jesus why their new found faith is wrong. I realized that perhaps the intended audience is for the Jew , hence the distinction of idolatry for Jew and Gentile as well as anti Gentile texts is perhaps given knowledge within the Jewish community which may not be relevant to the discussion . Had this blog been about reaching out to non Jews as well as Jews , perhaps these differences would have been considered relevant and discussed.

          Rabbi , I do not mean to undermine all your hard work and effort in this blog and elsewhere. I have highlighted these facts to you in our e-mail conversations before this . The reason I do this is to alert other truth seekers out there , other non Jews who might be questioning their Christian faith and who may come to your blog or other blogs of this nature. I want them to know that ‘one truth does not fit all’ when it comes to Judaism . There are distinctions and differences in obligation between Jew and non Jew . The truths in the Jewish Scriptures , though relevant to all humanity is still explicitly directed to the Jew alone . There are no clear guidelines for the non Jew (at least in the written Torah).

          Hence , this is my justification that way this blog is moving , is more in keeping with the tagline “keeping Jews Jewish”, rather than “tapping into the strengths of Judaism”.

          Do correct if I’m in error. Thank you.

          • Shalom, Sharon S. The God of Israel is God of universe. I believe, and i hope so that Judaism is meant to enhance justice, love, and peace in all humanity. They are the priest to the nations and the steward of the Word of God. All the tribes of the earth must have Jews because they will be blessed in the seed- the covenant people of God (Gen. 12:3)

            Last week, the young adult group of my church visited upon a 111 years old church in Seoul. it was originally a small house church, planted by a 23 years old Jewish young man in 1907. Alexander Pieters was from an Orthodox Jewish family in Russia. He wanted to experiece the greater world. So, he roamed about in Middle East and Asia to find his vision for his future and finally ended up in Nagasaki, Japan in 1895. With the desire to know the truth, he searched and found a reformed Christian church and he came to believe Yeshua as the messiah.

            He came over to Korea as a colporteur, selling and distributing many roughly translated New testament. He also planted house churches in Korea. How amazing! The Jewish young man spread the God of Israel on the Korean soil! However, his heart was toward introducing the Jewish Scriptures to the Korean people, so he started translating Pslam into Korean; he was a quick learner of English and Korean (he already had expert knowledge in Greek, Latin, German, and of course Hebrew). After he studied at MacCormick Seminary and came back to Korea as a ordained pastor- missionary, he was a core member and the leader of Old Testament Translation team. Now, the Korean people is so much blessed with the truth in Tanakh and blossomed with love and support toward Israel and the Jewish people. All these blessing started from one Jewish man.
            Genesis 12:3 has been fulfilled in the history of Korean people.

            I guess “keeping Jews Jewish” includes not only keeping the regulations, commandments, and holidays within their own ethnic society, but also includes doing the work of God who created both Jewish and non Jewish world, with the passion of God whose glory will be filled in the whole earth.

          • Jim says:

            Sharon,

            Thank you for continuing to present your thoughts and questions, which enables us to converse with the eventual goal of clarity. Thank you also for your patience; I know that my answers do not come quickly. Your most recent comment has a few different topics, all of which are worthy of discussion. I shall not take them all up in this one comment, but as I have time, I will try to address them. One topic I would like to address specifically is idolatry and the non-Jew. For now, however, I must content myself with a brief introductory remark.

            Let us put aside the halachic question for a moment and consider only philosophically whether or not a non-Jew should worship Jesus (as long as he does so in partnership with HaShem). If the non-Jew is concerned with truth, he will not continue to worship Jesus, regardless of what questions regarding the non-Jew and shituf might be. Jesus is not a god. He is a man. And, no man deserves worship. Once one knows this, if his desire is for truth, then he will no longer worship Jesus, a mere human being.

            Moreover, if one wishes to be close to HaShem, he will not worship something other than HaShem. He will not seek to please Jesus or dedicated his life to Jesus. His reason for keeping divine law will not be because Jesus also spoke them. Rather, he will devote himself to pleasing HaShem, keeping His laws, because they are His will. He will worship only HaShem and nothing else in conjunction with Him. The focus of his life will be to please HaShem, to serve HaShem, and to make his life comport entirely to the will of HaShem. He will thank HaShem for each moment he lives and each commandment he is able to fulfill. And he will not allow himself to be distracted with false gods. The question will not be whether or not he will be punished for worshiping Jesus. He will not worship Jesus, because he wants nothing to distract him from God.

            A parable:

            Before the internet, a man and a woman had become pen pals. Through their letters in the course of time, they fell in love. And, they decided to meet, having never seen one another before.

            The woman worked in a bookstore and was herself a collector. She had a particular fondness for the poetry of Emily Dickinson of which she had informed her suitor. And, as she had informed him of her love of books and poetry, she informed a fellow shopkeeper of her beau. This second woman fell in love with the man by proxy, carried away by the stories she heard from her friend. When she heard that the young woman was to meet her beloved pen pal, she decided to beat her to the punch. She found out where they were meeting and arrived early to pose as her friend.

            When the man arrived, he was greeted by the second shopkeeper, who passed herself off as his pen pal. He was delighted to meet her, of course, having never seen his actual beloved. Quickly, she hurried him away from the place of their meeting to avoid discovery. They went to a restaurant together, where the man professed his love. He presented the woman with a rare original edition of Dickinson’s poems.

            The real pen pal was heartbroken when he stood her up. She walked through town, wondering what might have gone wrong, and by chance, passed the restaurant wherein the man and her friend were dining. She saw them through the window, her friend admiring the volume of poetry before her. She became suspicious and entered the restaurant to investigate. And soon, the whole thing was sorted out.

            The man was terribly apologetic. He explained how the poetry was intended for her, as were all his professions of love. She was forgiving, counting each profession of love intended for her as if it had been truly given her.

            Now, do you think he ever went out with the second woman again? Rather, when he learned that she was stealing his affections, he wanted nothing more to do with her. And, if he had gone out with her again, do you think his pen pal would be so forgiving a second time? Not at all. His misplaced affections were a result of ignorance the first time. A second date with her friend would end his relationship with herself. It would be obvious to her that he did not really love her.

            Similarly, many have worshiped Jesus out of ignorance. But their intentions were good; they wanted to be close to HaShem. After recognizing the truth, if they want to be close to HaShem, however, they must not go back to worshiping Jesus, not from fear of punishment, but out of love.

            Jim

  17. Sharon S says:

    Dear Jim,
    Thank you for your continued response to my comments . I appreciate your interest in some of the points raised , your courtesy and most importantly your patience.

    I need to clarify my background here because it may have a bearing on this discussion . I come from a Catholic background . However my knowledge of absolute monotheism , belief in One G-d and prohibition of idolatry , including partnership is formed through my study of Islam -from its missionaries , its books down to its religious text . My convictions of idolatry and especially of partnership (shirk) is formed thanks to Islam-most notably through the stories of Abraham (Prophet Ibrahim) in the Quran . Islam regarded idolatry and partnership idolatry as the worst of sins and the prohibition of this is incumbent to all humanity .This prohibition is explicitly stated in the Quran.

    Naturally , I followed this blog (ironically I found this blog through a link in a muslim blog that I used to follow) with the understanding that Judaism , being a strictly monotheistic faith will have the same ideas on idolatry and partnership as Islam . I realized now that there are significant differences between these two faiths when it comes to this . Partnership idolatry is not as severe as outright idolatry and that there are no explicit prohibition to idolatry for non Jews in the Jewish Bible (written Torah) . However, according to Rabbi Blumenthal , the Torah implied that prohibition to idolatry was given to non Jews as part of the 7 laws. I searched relevant verses in the Talmud and other sources but cannot find the exact proof (exact proof here meaning exact sentence or directive).

    I am absolutely convinced that idolatry is wrong . I was absolutely convinced that partnership idolatry is wrong too thanks to Islam . However , studying Judaism’s stand on idolatry , especially on the non Jew has made me confused . Yes , G-d is our Creator and He alone should be worshipped . However there are no specific directions or prohibitions and even if there are , they might be lost , owing to the disobedience of the nations (I understand this from Avoda Zara 2b). Logically speaking if there are no explicit command , then how can the non Jew know the full extent of this prohibition ? The non Jew may observe nature and from his/her reasoning may come to realize that there is a First cause . The non Jew may cease worshipping idols . However at certain point he/she may wonder if it is sufficient to worship G-d alone without the “aid” of certain beings and deities.

    It’s like applying for a job at a prestigious company . There are many job applications for a single opening in the company . You are one of those applicants and you happen to know someone working in the company . Will you just wait to be called for the interview ? Or will you approach your acquaintance to make a recommendation on your behalf to human resources ?

    Thank you

    • Annelise says:

      Hi Sharon,

      I haven’t read all the conversation again, but just in reply to your last comment. The way I understand the lesser level of prohibition for non-Jews is that it is meant to be a leniency, not an ideal. Jews believe that at Sinai they explicitly entered a covenant with the Creator alone, whereas the nations weren’t included in that covenant experience. Therefore, perhaps they can’t be *judged* for holding other beings in association with God in their worship. However, the nation of Israel is meant to function in a priestly role as a light to the nations, and the prophets give glimpses of a world in which everyone is at a higher level of the knowledge of God as the One Creator. That is the ideal.

      Also, keep in mind that this is only the opinion of some rabbis. Other rabbis disagree and say that any assocation of another entity with God in worship is plain idolatry. This concept only affects the way a Jew classifies a Christian halachically for practical reasons of association with them. But it is a ruling with no practical significance for non-Jews. Any non-Jew actually seeking to obey God according to Judaism won’t be interested in following a leniency in the area of idolatry; they will be looking to reflect the same light that is reflected by the testimonial nation.

      Another thought about Islam and Judaism and absolute monotheism. Muslims sometimes shudder at the idea that God could be metaphorically portrayed in the Hebrew Bible as a human husband or having an ‘arm’ of strength in the world, etc. However, there is a clear understanding that these are purely metaphors, and any belief otherwise would violate the central and clear message of Torah. And keep in mind that any and all reference to God involves metaphor.

    • Jim says:

      Sharon,

      My apologies for the time between responses. My schedule is a little busy, and it will likely remain busy for a while. In a little over a month, I am moving, and I have quite a few other things for which I am responsible at the same time. Please forgive me if I seem neglectful.

      Various topics remain from your comments. In particular, I would like to take up idolatry a little more fully that I have in this conversation. However, I am going to delay that for a moment to address a related topic. You posited that a reasonable person might come to the idea that God could best be approached through an intermediary. And, you ask how such a person, with no direct prohibition in the Torah issued to the non-Jew could know that such worship was prohibited to him.

      Let us call this person a philosopher. For whatever reason, he believes that he must approach God through an intermediary. But, the philosopher must realize that much of his work is speculative, and that it is quite possible that he might have made a mistake somewhere in his reasoning. For example, he might rest his argument on an analogy like the one you have drawn between a potential employer and a candidate, but it is possible that the metaphor is incorrect. Without communication from God, he cannot be sure that he knows what God would want.

      This has been a major problem for philosophers throughout history. For example, certain schools held that God could not have anything to do with the physical world. They did believe that a mediate being, a demiurge, created the world. And they believed that God could only be approached through the demiurge. But, this is incorrect. Their speculation was just wrong.

      Returning to the philosopher: because he knows that his speculation may be wrong, when he realizes that the Torah is true, he rejects his own speculations. It no longer matters what he thinks about God. God has communicated His will to the Jewish people. It is to them he must go. It is upon them he must rely.

      But he might take an intermediate step. He might see if he can verify his own ideas by looking within the Torah. He focuses on those passages that show how God relates to non-Jews, considering that Israel has a special relationship with God and some of what is written in regard to them might not apply to him. This means that Genesis will be his primary source of information. And, when he reads it, he will find that no intermediary was necessary for him to approach God. Adam spoke directly with God. So, did Noah. When Noah brings a sacrifice, he does not bring it to an intermediary. He does not pray to a spiritual being, asking him to secure divine favor for himself. He reads that Abraham declared the name of God to the people living in Canaan, but he never sees Abraham teaching people the intermediary through whom they can approach God. He has insufficient evidence to support his earlier speculation.

      At this point, then, he must abandon it. It seemed reasonable, but it turns out it was wrong. If he goes on to approach God through an intermediary anyway, then he will be following his own imagination or inclination, not divine command.

      But, a friend might approach him with the objection that no Torah verse explicitly rejects approaching God through an intermediary. The philosopher is likely to respond that, if he puts an intermediary between himself and God, that can only put distance between himself and God. Moreover, he does not know what formula he should use or who that intermediary should be. He cannot point, for example, to Noah praying, “Oh so-and-so, please seek to obtain my favor with God, etc.” It is safest for him to abandon the whole notion altogether, inasmuch as he has nothing to recommend it to him from the communication from God. In order to worship God through an intermediary, he will have to create his own religion. But, the philosopher is not married to his own opinion; he wants to know the truth and live in accordance with it.

      The philosopher will recognize, too, that his understanding of Torah must come through the Jewish people, to whom Torah was given. He will see that the laws that Adam had were not enumerated at the point he received them. So, he cannot expect a verse that lays out the details of each of the Noahide Laws. He will see that he must rely upon the Jewish people to gain understanding of the laws. The lack of a specific verse to counter his own speculation will not bother him, because the Jewish people will tell him that one should not worship God through an intermediary. And, as they are the guardians of the Torah, he will rely upon their wisdom.

      I hope that this helps clarify some questions regarding “partnership” and intermediaries. If not, I offer my apologies.

      Jim

      • Sharon S says:

        Dear Jim,

        Thank you for your willingness to engage me in this conversation , despite your busy schedule . I apologize for bringing up new questions and thoughts to your comments . However as always I do appreciate your patience and effort.

        Your have put in a very accurate picture from the analogy of the philosopher in order to address the question on gentile idolatry . I would be of the same mind as the philosopher. If one seeks the truth then it is absolutely wrong to engage in idolatry or worshipping G-d through an intermediary .

        There is just one more aspect to consider. You mentioned that the philosopher must rely on the Jewish people to gain understanding of the laws. Now imagine the philosopher coming across Deuteronomy 19-20. He read commentaries written by his teachers and found that these verses are meant to emphasize Israel being set apart from the other nations when it comes to worship . Some commentaries do imply that the worship of G-d through an intermediary is an accepted norm . What would the philosopher do in this situation ? How would he perceive G-d , His Torah and his teachers ? If not addressed , would it not put a distance between them?

        In this regard , I do notice that there is very little meaningful input from the Jewish side , be it Rabbi Blumenthal and others to the issues I have raised during these past 2-3 weeks . It has primarily been a conversation with you , with Annelise and Gean chipping in , of which I’m grateful. I was hoping for a meaningful comment or a post from them to specifically address these matters . I wish they could respond with the same passion and fervor as how they would respond a Christian missionary . I am very disappointed.

        To Rabbi Blumenthal and other Jewish commenters , I would like to know what exactly is your calling and position in the world ? Is your role:
        a. As merely tools to show the world that G-d exists and nothing else (Ezekiel 36:20,23)?
        b. As priests and teachers (through words or actions ) to the world ? Then you would care about addressing these concerns. (Exodus 19:6, Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 43:10,Isaiah 45:14, Isaiah 49:6,Isaiah 52:11,Isaiah 60:3, Zechariah 9:23)
        c. As kingdom of priests only? This would mean that teaching the nations about G-d would not be priority or something to be considered at all. (Exodus 19:6, Isaiah 52:11)

        I live in a country many considered to be anti semitic ,hence there is zero interaction with Jews where I am . My main interaction and observation of the Jewish people is through this blog and email conversations with Rabbi Blumenthal. My observation shows your role is more of a (c ). Do correct if I’m wrong.

        Thank you.

        • Annelise says:

          Hi Sharon,

          I have had the experience of Jewish teachers making lots of time to answer my questions. At other times I’ve found them to have not much time to spare.

          There’s always another side to the story…it’s better to listen than to judge…this is a busy time of year in the Jewish calendar, and many religious Jews have quite a few children, including young ones, and may also go to work and have community commitments. If they’re men they tend to have busy wives to support as well as extra study and prayer commitments each day. I imagine Rabbi Blumenthal will usually comment if he thinks a question has gone unanswered by everyone else.

          We can’t use anecdotal experiences to characterise a person, let alone a global community. And none of us is really entitled to expect someone else to make a time investment if they haven’t promised to.

          • Annelise says:

            It’s also a sign of a healthy community atmosphere when the leader doesn’t need to make all the statements about everything…but everyone’s words have equal status as long as they make sense as answers. I think that the rabbi intends for this blog and its comments to bring light onto issues and insight to people who are thirsty for it.

            The Western image of Jews has historically been one that is ‘larger than life’, rather in positive or negative ways. Many Jews rightly try to keep their personalities out of the spotlight when Christians are seeking regarding Torah, to let God and wisdom and the collective testimony of Jewish history be what is clung to. Don’t mistake that attempt at humility, and allowing everyone’s voice to have equal respect in the conversation as an expression of apathy 🙂

        • LarryB says:

          Sharon
          Do you have an example of the commentaries you mention?

          • Sharon S says:

            Dear Larry,

            I got these commentaries at https://www.sefaria.org/texts , which should be a reputable source for Rabbinic texts

            Sforno:
            He arranged for them to appear in a manner appropriate for the needs of each respective nation , according to their individual difference . This very fact proves how wrong those are who believe in the universe’s existence being the result of the “big bang” i.e forces , sources of energy , which operated without design , happenings which are totally random , haphazard . How could zodiac signs be of significance unless a superior intelligence had arranged for them ?

            Rashi:
            AND LEST THOU LIFT UP THINE EYES to ponder on the matter, and to set your heart to go astray after them.
            WHICH THE LORD ASSIGNED to give light to them (to all peoples) (Megillah 9b). — Another explanation: which God assigned to them as deities; He did not prevent them from going astray after them, but He allowed them to err (to slip) through vain speculations, in order to drive them out from the world. Similarly it states, (Psalms 36:3) “He (God) made him err (slip) through his eyes (i.e. through what his eyes behold) until his iniquity be found and he be hated” (Avodah Zarah 55a).

            Ibn Ezra:
            the sun or the moon which are the great lights [Genesis 1: 16]. After mentioning the stars, Scripture proceeds to give the general term all the heavenly bodies: the planets (which are luminous like stars), the constellations, and their shapes.
            be drawn away [Hebrew: niddaḥta] like a man who slips [Hebrew: yiddḥeh] and falls.
            allotted It is well-proven that every nation has a designated star. Every city, also, has its star. God has granted Israel great stature, in that God is their Advocate: they have no star, for they are the “inheritance of God ” [II Samuel 20: 19].

            Rashbam:
            in order to provide light. According to the principal meaning of the text the meaning is that these celestial bodies were put at the disposal of all nations to serve them. By doing so G’d wanted to show that He is not concerned about their competition as influences that could override His authority in the universe.

            Chizkuni:
            “unto all the peoples;” the luminaries shine for all of mankind, regardless of their religious orientation. They shine equally for the dumb and the intelligent, the righteous or the evil doers. Anyone who worships such phenomena which do not distinguish between different categories of creatures, must surely consider himself as having been greatly humiliated by such “gods.”A different interpretation about the words: לכל…..אשר חלק העמים, “which He has assigned to all the nations.” According to this approach, the phenomena in the sky are indeed intended to exert a degree of awe for all the other nations, barring the Jewish people. You, the Jewish people whom G-d has chosen as His inheritance on earth, it behooves not to bow down to any power but to Him. They need not be in awe of any other phenomena in nature.

            Avoda Zarah 55a:
            Rav Yehuda said to Rava bar Rav Yitzḥak: Now, were I dead I would not have been able to tell you the explanation of this matter. It is therefore good that you reminded me of this matter while I am alive. The explanation is as Rav says: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And lest you lift up your eyes to the heavens, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, even all the host of heavens, you are drawn away and worship them, and serve them, which the Lord your God has allotted [ḥalak] to all the nations under the whole heaven” (Deuteronomy 4:19). The verse teaches that God allowed the nations to be misled [sheheḥelikan] by matters that seemingly indicate that idol worship is effective in order to expel the nations from the world due to their decision to engage in idol worship.

            Megillah 9b:
            Instead of Moses’ assertion: “I have not taken one donkey [ḥamor] from them” (Numbers 16:15), they wrote in more general terms: “I have not taken one item of value [ḥemed] from them,” to prevent the impression that Moses took other items. To the verse that discusses the worship of the sun and the moon, about which it is written: “Which the Lord your God has allotted to all the nations” (Deuteronomy 4:19), they added a word to make it read: “Which the Lord your God has allotted to give light to all the nations,” to prevent the potential misinterpretation that the heavenly bodies were given to the gentiles so that they may worship them.

            You may also refer to the following article at https://anshesholomnewrochelle.org/sermons/gentile-idolatry/

            Thank you.

          • Annelise says:

            Some thoughts from my perspective about the quoted passages…

            Sforno lived in a time when astrology and monotheism were widely accepted to be compatible: the heavenly powers were spoken of as servants of the Creator. So he wasn’t directly commenting on idolatry; he was saying that the Torah affirmed the belief in monotheistic astrology and that he believed this was a proof that there is created order in the universe.

            Rashi wasn’t promoting gentile idolatry, but saying that it was a destructive path, which God allowed to exist as a natural consequence of people/nations not being interested in loyalty towards Him. Avodah Zara 55a says the same.

            Ibn Ezra believed that every nation/city had a star as its ‘angel’. In his day and age, he probably also believed that each star has a soul and that celestial powers are part of the created world just like the actions of people are. So he also wasn’t discussing idolatry, but instead saying he believed Israel has special protection from God, away from the tumultuous (yet natural and created) spiritual influences he perceived were upon the world.

            Rashbam only said here that the heavenly bodies serve the nations by giving them light; he didn’t say that people should worship them.

            Chizkuni seemed to be saying that it is humiliating for a created being (human) to worship another created being (heavenly entity). I don’t know exactly why he had the opinion that it was appropriate for gentiles to be humiliated in that way. It may be in line with an older concept about how all the nations were offered the Torah, but chose not to accept it, therefore they weren’t given the same insight or clarity. In any case he is saying that having spiritual awe towards celestial beings is an attitude that is demeaning for all created beings, including gentiles.

            Megillah 9b says that the verses aren’t about heavenly powers but rather heavenly light.

            Regarding the idea in the weblink describing how Israelite worship seems to have evolved from monolatry towards monotheism, I do see how there is a case for that. It’s a complicated topic that I haven’t looked into as much as I’d like to.

          • Sharon S says:

            Dear Annelise,

            Thanks for your explanation on the commentaries.I appreciate it very much.

            I understand the situation better thanks to your comments.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Sharon,

            You’re welcome…I’m not very well read in rabbinical writings at all, but the old idea of monotheistic astrology clarifies the subject a lot. It was widely discussed in the Middle Ages in Jewish, Christian and Islamic communities.

        • Dina says:

          Sharon, I am sorry I haven’t had the time to give your questions the answers they deserve. I have been unusually busy this summer.

          You asked about the role of the Jewish people. My understanding is that God gave us the Torah and our job is to be obedient to Him by fulfilling His commandments to the best of our ability. The natural result of following God’s commands is that we become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, a light to the nations, etc. So our obligation is not to go to the nations to teach them Torah—in fact there is not even a hint of such an obligation in the Torah.

          That said, if a non-Jew wants to learn, we are generally eager to teach.

          I agree with Annelise that your expectations of the Jewish people might be a little high. Unfortunately, a lot of non Jews have little to no contact with actual Jews and therefore paint a picture in their minds that is either unfairly negative or overly romanticized. The truth is, we’re ordinary folks just like you, entrusted with a different mission, but nevertheless still just regular people.

          As Annelise pointed out, we tend to have a lot of kids and often both parents work so we can afford to send our kids to private Orthodox Jewish schools. The demands of Jewish life are rigorous, so I plead for your patience. I might not have more time for a post of this length until after the Jewish holidays (till the end of September), but if I do I will make it a priority to respond.

          To that end, if I can trouble you to put together a list of questions you would like for me specifically to answer, that would be helpful for me to formulate a response.

          Thanks for your patience and understanding!

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,

            Thank you for your feedback,despite your busy schedule.I appreciate it very much.

            Yes, I did develop a romanticized picture of your people ,and my expectations are a bit high. But hey,it was also fed by the romanticized notions of your people from the blog posts and comments here.

            My questions are in my comments and there is no need to articulate them again.

            Anyway ,it’s really nice knowing you.I do learn a lot of things from you through our conversation here.Do take care and all the best in your future endeavours.

            Sharon

          • Annelise says:

            What you said about the Jewish people speaking about their mission in a romanticised or grand way does make some sense. This is the language of the biblical prophets, though.

            It originally came in a two-part form: the prophetic message was extremely harsh on Israel’s disobedience, and on the other side there was a message of deep comfort and a promise of restoration to national and spiritual glory. The book of Jonah is a particularly good metaphor to show the concept of Israel’s role during the time of being scattered among the world: God will use them to bring light and healing to other nations, and it is up to them to decide what their attitude is about that 🙂 Yet there is also a sense in the strongly Orthodox Jewish community of wanting to stay separate from pagan and secular ideologies and influences, and a lingering wariness of gentiles in the culture due to European history. There are so many sides to it and they are emphasised in various ways at different times, and by different people.

            I think many individual religious Jews think of themselves as everyday people with their own personal strengths, weaknesses, interests and situations just like anyone else…and yet they see their connection to the heritage of their nation as being what is special. And of course gentiles can join that covenant and convert if that’s what they want to do, and if their situation permits it…but most Jews I know will emphasise that the personal relationship a gentile can have with God is also very close to Him. After all, we rely on Him not only for being created in the past, but He also sustains us and all things, even time and place themselves, continuously. So Judaism teaches that He is closer to all of us than anything else, and often draws on the idea of gratitude for every breath as a gift from Him. Existence isn’t seen as just a mechanical gift, but a deeply personal one, and clinging to the Creator of our hearts on an existential level is a kind of worship that is for everyone.

            I myself struggle with questions about the truth of Torah, but I believe strongly that both Jews and gentiles are blessed to learn from the Jewish paradigm. It gives a lot of light to the space of many other questions and paths of seeking wisdom. A lot of Jews I know see that inheritance as precious and are careful to preserve their nation through following Torah, and strengthen their collective national memory through their customs and traditions…as well as feeling that all humans, Jew and gentile, can be beneficiaries of the Jewish heritage. So in a ‘national’ sense they feel separate, but in a ‘personal’ sense many Jews I know don’t act as if they are superior to gentiles. (Of course it depends very much on who you’re talking with and what their life experiences have been.)

      • Sharon S says:

        Dear Jim,

        A correction to my earlier comment. It’s supposed to be Deuteronomy 4: 19-20 .

        Thank you

  18. Sharon
    There is no question that God did prohibit Gentiles from worshiping idols – its just that there is no direct verse addressing them with the commandment.
    And why do you compare worship to “applying for a job”? Worship is opening your heart and with the One who created your heart, your heart will find all it wants.

    • Dina says:

      I would like to add: do you need someone to speak to your husband on your behalf?

    • Sharon S says:

      Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal & Dina,

      Rabbi Blumenthal , I am just demonstrating a spiritual reality common among non Jews . One may feel the need to seek assistance of an intermediary in worship , just as how one needs the help of a well connected person to get noticed in the real world.

      This is also implied in Deut 4:19 : And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.

      Some of the commentaries I read state that G-d has given over the heavenly array to all the nations except Israel – G-d’s inheritance. Hence it seems that idolatry among the nations is an accepted reality in the Torah .

      How can I be convinced that G-d prohibit idolatry among the gentiles when there are no direct verses as proof? Judaism is all about reason .Proof is needed to establish truth- why the exception here?

      Dina, Israel has a covenant relationship with G-d , which is a marriage relationship. This is an exclusive relationship . Hence G-d is “Husband” to Israel , not to any other peoples. I used to think that G-d is our “Husband” and “Father” as a Christian . However I have to realign my thinking thanks to looking at the the Jewish scriptures from the perspective of an outsider reading into a conversation between G-d and your people. So , to answer your question , it seems there is a need to have someone to speak on behalf to your “Husband”.

      Thank you.

      • Dina says:

        Fair enough, Sharon, but God is the Father of everyone.

      • Annelise says:

        “…For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea…” (Habukkuk 2)

        • Annelise says:

          And when Jews welcomed me as a non-Jew into their homes and shared their experiences and beliefs, they didn’t pose as intermediaries to God but simply as fellow humans with a valuable heritage to share. These were individuals from a number of communities around me.

  19. Dina says:

    Hi Sharon,

    I find myself with some time on my hands, so as promised, I am devoting that time to responding to one of the issues you raised. You raised a fair challenge. You acknowledged that while Jews didn’t write horrible things about Christians (especially as compared with the venom directed at Jews from Christians and especially in light of Christian persecution), nevertheless, you found unfavorable statements about gentiles generally in Jewish writings.

    Context is important, and these statements were made in a context of observation of the world around them. During ancient times, all cultures had barbaric practices that are often glossed over in the study of history. The Romans, for example, rejected newborns who were not perfect, leaving them to die on the mountainside. It was acceptable to kill your child in the course of disciplining him. Women were treated like chattel. And slaves were forced onto the arena to die horribly as gladiators for the entertainment of the masses. This is beside the wholesale slaughter of innocents that occurred from time to time.

    The brutality of the Vikings is likely well-known enough that I need not describe it. Human sacrifice was practiced by the Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Druids.

    Most of the horrific suffering endured by people was inflicted on them by other people.

    In addition to this, every culture that Jews found themselves in, be it Roman, Greek, European, Christian, Muslim–whatever it was–they found themselves oppressed.

    In this context, the negative statements about gentiles seem unbelievably restrained. There is certainly no comparison with these types of statements and with those directed against Jews.

    It must be pointed out that circumstances hardly improved as civilization marched through the Dark Ages toward the Holocaust.

    Jews looked at the mad, mad world around them and said, “Thank God I’m not a part of it.”

    I hope that clarifies!

  20. Dina says:

    Sharon,

    I’d like to address your question of idolatry.

    The Torah is a letter from God to the Jewish people. When a writer crafts a message, he must keep his target audience in mind. He will use a context that is familiar to his audience. His audience will get his private jokes.

    The Torah can only be understood through the national experience of the Jewish people. It is written in a specific context. With private jokes, as it were. It is not a history book. It is not a complete record of all of Moses’s teachings–rather, it is the lecture notes version. The book itself testifies that the primary mode of transmission is from parent to child. The parent provides the context, the extra material not found in the Torah.

    When a gentile reads the Torah and expects he has understood it, it is as if I were to read my friend’s husband’s love letters and think I get the inside jokes.

    The only way a gentile can properly understand the Torah is by asking the Jews what the Torah teaches. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if the Torah doesn’t address gentiles specifically on the question of idolatry. Jews understand nevertheless that the prohibition applies. Noah was not a Jew. He was expected to serve only God.

    Similarly, the prohibition against murder is not specifically addressed to gentiles. But I don’t think anyone would assume that there is any fuzziness about the prohibition to murder.

    The Jewish tradition holds that God gave the Torah to the Jewish people to obey His myriad commandments, but only seven categories of commandments, known as the Seven Noahide Laws, are incumbent upon gentiles.

    I hope this helps.

  21. Dina says:

    Sharon, please let me know if you have other questions. I skimmed over the comments but am sure I missed a lot of points! I appreciate your penetrating observations, as they help me think more deeply about my own beliefs and lead to greater clarity.

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Dina,

      Thank you for your effort in going through my concerns and addressing them in your latest comments . I appreciate it , more so that you take the time out from your busy schedule to look into them.

      Yes , you are right . There are many points I raised in my previous comments here. I actually went through the comments myself and organized these concerns into 6 main themes for you and others interested . I have also included summaries of your latest comments and my counter questions as well . So here goes:

      https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-42603
      https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-42655
      https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-42675

      1.Observations on the role of the Jewish people
      2.Observations on 1000 verses
      3.Observations on the Jewish Scriptures
      4.Observations on the Anti Gentile verses in Rabbinical texts /Jewish Tradition
      5.Observation on Gentile idolatry in Judaism – a comparison with Islam
      6.Observations on Judaism from the perspective of a gentile truth seeker

      1. Observations on the role of the Jewish people
      a. The Jewish people are currently living at a time where they have the opportunity to be our teachers . Yet there seems to be hesitation from them to take on this role.
      b. The testimony from G-d are conveyed as an attempt to prevent members of the Jewish community from being lured by Christianity missionaries , rather than an active attempt to teach non Jews .
      c. This attitude is unlike that of Abraham who is their ancestor . I learnt he was hospitable and taught all that came to him the knowledge and truth of G-d
      d. In fact Abraham interceded to G-d for the fate of the righteous people in Sodom. If he can see that there is potential for good in non Jews , why can’t the Jewish community today see it as well?
      e. The Jewish people are at a better place in history , why aren’t they willing to teach? Who is creating the wall between man and G-d , the Jesus movement or the Jewish people themselves?
      f. What exactly is the role of the Jewish people in the world? Is their role:
      i. As tools to show the world that G-d exists and nothing else?
      ii. As priests and teachers? Then they would care about addressing these concerns (listed below).
      iii. As priests only? This would mean that teaching the nations about G-d would not be priority or something to be considered at all.

      Note: You have addressed this theme in your latest comment :
      i.The job of the Jew is to be obedient to Him by fulfilling His commandments to the best of our ability.
      ii.The natural result of following God’s commands is that we become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, a light to the nations, etc.
      iii.Obligation is not to go to the nations to teach them Torah

      My response – What about Abraham ? He taught those around him the ways of G-d (Genesis 12:8)

      2. Observations on 1000 verses (related to (1))
      a.The actual nature of the blog and the way it is moving , is more in keeping with the tagline “keeping Jews Jewish”, rather than “tapping into the strengths of Judaism” which is it’s official tagline.
      b.This blog does not show the full truth about Gentile idolatry and anti gentile texts in Rabbinical texts/Jewish traditions.
      c.This is a counter missionary blog , hence these areas might be given knowledge within the Jewish community which may not be relevant to the discussion . If the blog is established to reach to non Jews , these areas may have been considered relevant and discussed.
      d.I need to alert truth seekers out there , other non Jews who might be questioning their Christian faith and who may come to this blog or other blogs of this nature .

      3. Observations on the Jewish Scriptures
      a.I come to realize of my place as an outsider reading into a conversation between G-d and the people of Israel
      b.The 10 commandments and the Torah are actually commands /precepts commanded upon the Jewish people alone .
      c.The prohibition of idolatry to the non Jew, in particular shituf is a subject to debate and the fact that it is an implied , not an explicit command to the non Jew.

      Note: You have addressed this theme in your latest comment :
      i. The Torah is a letter from G-d to the Jewish people
      ii. The Torah can only be understood within the national experience of the Jewish people
      iii. A gentile can understand the Torah by asking the Jew what the Torah teaches
      iv. Torah doesn’t address gentiles specifically on the question of idolatry. Jews understand nevertheless that the prohibition applies.

      My response – Then why is there no consensus in the Jewish community regarding partnership idolatry and the gentile ? If the Torah prohibits idolatry to all , then there should be unanimous consensus in the Jewish community on this matter.

      4.Observations on the Anti Gentile verses in Rabbinical texts /Jewish Tradition
      a.Anti Gentile verses which are quite significant in rabbinical texts , which has been glossed over
      b.There is a difference between Gentile and Christian .
      c.However to not acknowledge the existence of anti gentile texts in the critique of Christianity is not showing the full picture . All facts , good and bad have to be laid out on the table .

      Note: You have addressed this theme in your latest comment :
      i. The negative statements about gentiles seem unbelievably restrained
      ii. There is certainly no comparison with these types of statements and with those directed against Jews.

      My response- Yes , I do agree with you on this one. Perhaps “anti gentile” may not be a suitable word to describe verses in these texts pertaining to the gentile. I admit of just reading snippets of the Talmud on gentiles , where I come away with the impression that gentiles have certain flaws or are incapable of doing good –or are we rewarded as much for the good that we do? It is of a lesser degree than the inherent sinfulness of man in Christianity . Nevertheless I still find it disturbing.

      5.Observation on Gentile idolatry in Judaism – a comparison with Islam
      a.Islam regarded idolatry and partnership idolatry as the worst of sins and the prohibition of this is incumbent to all humanity .This prohibition is explicitly stated in the Quran.
      b.Initial understanding that Judaism would have the same ideas on monotheism as Islam.
      c.However there are differences in the two faiths- Partnership idolatry is not as severe as outright idolatry and that there are no explicit prohibition to idolatry for non Jews in the Jewish Bible (written Torah)
      d.This has caused tremendous confusion . If there are no explicit command , then how can the non Jew know the full extent of this prohibition ?
      e.Confusion arise from reading commentaries of the Jewish Sages/Rabbis by the non Jew. I highlighted the example of Deuteronomy 4:19-20 which seem to permit gentile idolatry (worshipping G-d through an intermediary)
      f.These concerns are not being addressed , which can put a distance between the gentile truth seeker , his teachers (the Jewish people) , G-d and His Torah.

      6. Observations on Judaism from the perspective of a gentile truth seeker (from 3,4,5)
      a.There are distinctions and differences in obligation between Jew and non Jew
      b.The truths in the Jewish Scriptures , though relevant to all humanity is still explicitly directed to the Jew alone.
      c.There are no clear guidelines for the non Jew (at least in the written Torah).
      d.‘one truth does not fit all’ when it comes to Judaism

      I understand this is an especially busy time of the year for you and other Jews out there . You can take your time . There are no worries if you feel that this blog is not a suitable avenue to discuss this . I leave it to you to decide.

      However if you choose to address it here then I will be most grateful -for it shows your openness to discuss these things and to move forward.

      Thank you.

      Sharon

      • Annelise says:

        Hi Sharon,

        I think that the question of shittuf has usually been only a question of whether a Jew who has a business partnership with a gentile may take the gentile to court if the business partnership ends, so as not to lose his share of the business. It isn’t saying that the false worship of the gentile is good or ideal or desirable; it’s a practical ruling so that a Jew isn’t cheated in business.

        A few rabbis have, much more recently, suggested that this might be extended to mean that Jews don’t have to condemn Christian worship. Again, this doesn’t make it an acceptance of the worship of Jesus. I think it’s more because with all the antisemitism that has existed, and lies barely dormant even at the best of times, it has at many times been life-threatening for Jews to publicly accuse Christians of idolatry. Also, idolatry potentially carries a death penalty, and of course people would want to spare their neighbours from that. But the Jewish heritage is to be a light to the nations about the one God.

        Apart from having a lot to juggle time-wise, a lot of Jews have experienced the way that Christians constantly twist Jewish scripture to include Jesus in it; I’ve seen Christians get angry and threatening about it too. So they say, ok, we’re here if people want to come to us. But there are rabbis who are focusing on Noahides (I’ve spoken to some), and actually the first religious Jew I ever came to know was teaching a biblical studies class to a group of mostly non-Jews in a public university.

        • Annelise says:

          PS- I meant, taking them to court, which may result in them swearing an oath with an idol in mind.

          • Annelise says:

            …and from a number of Jews for Judaism rabbis, Rabbi Blumenthal included, I’ve seen very generous giving of time towards answering non-Jews’ questions; trying to articulate Judaism in a way that will let its core concepts make sense to anyone without a Jewish heritage, as this blog intends; and thinking deeply about how to help their communities be more open to gentiles. It would be futile to do outreach among non-Jews, but they try to let the light shine with as much purity as they can where they are so that their neighbours might be blessed by seeing it and perhaps coming closer to start asking questions.

          • Annelise says:

            …Sorry for a fourth comment in a row, it’s a bit fragmented- I forgot to emphasise also that lots of rabbis do publicly say that Christian worship is idolatrous, even though it is risky for them to do so. I would agree with this perspective, while adding that the idolatry of Christianity is accidental- they are trying to worship the one God and getting confused about how to do that. So it actually is qualitatively different from someone intending to worship finite powers.

      • Dina says:

        Wow, Sharon, thanks for taking the time to review all your comments and summarize them for me. I hope I’ll have time in the coming days to answer here and there. Thanks also for your patience!

      • Sharon, i want to say “good job” on this well summarized comparison of the Jews and gentiles. You said, “Torah doesn’t address gentiles specifically on the question of idolatry. Jews understand nevertheless that the prohibition applies.” At Sinai, when the people of Israel received the Torah through Moses, there were very small number of gentiles included in the congregations. The majority was Israelites. I guess that’s why the Torah doesn’t address gentiles specifically on the question of idolatry. However, the Jewish people have cherished, i strongly believe, the passion for manifesting the glory of God not only in their own people but also throughout the whole world. Their national experience of destroying the high places of idolatry of Baal, Asherath, Dagon, in the land of promise proves that God still wants to be worshipped even in Gentile world.

        I guess God teaches the humanity in order. He makes His disciple- Israel true worship of God, and then He let His disciple teach another student- gentiles. I am looking at the history of Israel now; In the time of Tanakh, God might have focused on making His disciple- Israel, teaching them of blessing through true worship and cursing through idolatry. They learned this not only through words and books but also through national experience. The teacher Israel not just a lecturer but a WITNESS to the gentile world about the true worship of God. I believe that God has been waiting for the appointed time until Israel is ready to witness through their full experiences.

        When the gentile general Naaman experieced the power of God of Israel, he promised to abandon the idoltry rather to do true worship of God. Yet surprisingly the prophet Elisha has not taught the gentile actively about the true worship in 2 Kings 5:17-18 :

        ” And Naaman said, “Now, if only your servant be given a load of earth as carried by a team of mules, for your servant will no longer offer up a burnt-offering or a sacrifice to other deities, but to the Lord. .For this thing may the Lord forgive your servant; when my master comes to Beth-Rimmon to prostrate himself there, and he leans on my hand, and I will prostrate myself in Beth-Rimmon; when I bow in Beth-Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this thing.”

        The teacher- Israel’s response for the gentile student was, “Go in peace”. That’s it.

        I believe the time for the gentiles to know the true worshp of God has not come yet. God might have needed to write down more chapters of the Tanakh through the ups and downs of the history of His own people. When the Tanakh has been closed and 400 years had passed, and the Jewish prophet Yeshua and his disciple knew the time has come.

        Yeshua said to the gentile woman, ” Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him”

        The Pharisee Paul could not stand with the gentile worshippers of Jupiter and Mercurius,
        “Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein.
        Who IN TIMES PAST SUFFERED all nations to walk in their own ways.
        Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

        I see God’s suffering in Elisha’s saying of “Go in Peace” to Naaman who found the true God but bound the idolatry. and Now I believe whether most of Christians worship in Shituf or orthodox way, the God of Israel is not unhappy with them.

        • In the history of Christianity in Korea, many Christian leaders have been put into prison and martyred because of their rejection to the idolatry of Japanese emperor worship during 1920s, 30s and 40s. Even today, millions of Korean Christians including my mom have been struggling with (actually fighting against) bowing down at ancestors’ photo set up on the table for big family meals during the major holidays EVERY YEAR. They suffer from persecutions by their families and relatives who have no Judeo-Christian faith. We have been doing this because of the first and second commandments of the Ten Commandments.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Gean,

            Thank you for your comments. I appreciate it very much.

            I can identify with what’s going on in Korea. Ancestor worship is a must in East Asian cultures ,especially during major festivals like the lunar new year. It must have been tough not to bow when almost everyone in your extended family is doing it – for not doing so is a sign of disrespect and it can affect harmony in the family.

            Your mother must be a courageous woman for refusing to bow during these gatherings . It may not have been easy for you and your family when these festivals come around. I understand Chuseok , a harvest festival is around the corner?

            It is tough , but we need to continue being obedient to G-d . Hope you and your family will be encouraged and strengthened at this time.

          • Sharon!! How come you know Chuseok?? Just got startled at seeing a Korean word in this blog.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Gean,

            I used to watch many Korean drama series .
            These dramas portray Korean culture and promote good values such as love,loyalty and filial piety.

            I remember the theme of these dramas will revolve around Chuseok this time of the year.

          • Annelise says:

            What a meaningful understanding the two of you have there…that exchange was beautiful to read. It’s amazing how people find each other across the world.

            Strength to you and your family, Gean Guk Jeon. One of my best friends is a Chinese convert to Christianity, and she married a Messianic man with mostly Jewish lineage. It’s very hard for her and for her family to come to terms with her not following their ancestral worship or traditions.

  22. Eliza says:

    I love this post!
    God is god, the infinite is the infinite, what is the point of a mediator?
    Not that I know if Judaism is true or not, but this makes sense either way.

    • Annelise says:

      It’s interesting how technically, most forms of Christianity don’t involve an intermediary between us and God because they believe that Jesus is God. But mentally and emotionally, I don’t think it works like that. Christians will say that God is present in the world now, yet they are waiting for Jesus to “come back” in a personal sense. They will say that the members of what they see as the trinity are fully one, yet speak of them separately and as if Jesus is an intermediary between humanity and God. And so emotionally there sometimes is an element of God the Father being more distant and of Jesus’ presence being more personal, even if their theology would contradict that.

      I also don’t know if Judaism is true or God is knowing and caring. But Judaism definitely adds stability to the search by eliminating Christianity’s shifting ground regarding God’s connection the world.

      • Eliza says:

        I’ve never really understood the trinity….
        I’ve lots of religious christian friends and sometimes I wonder how they can be so devout. I never really realised that Jesus is considered to be god. Though I doubt they all think that, for that’s just, I mean, c’mon, how can a god be dead? If a god is dead than it ain’t god for it ain’t all powerful…. but as an intermediary, well why not? He could be that, even if he’s dead.
        But why speak through someone else if you can go directly to the source? Hmm, I should really work through it all. Just, way too complicated and no clue where to even start.
        Although, another thing I wonder about. They all believe the Old Testament is true (all as in religious Muslims, Jews, Christians), why then would there need to be a new one?

        • Annelise says:

          I think most Christians (Catholic, Evangelical, etc.) believe that when Jesus died, his soul was still alive and they believe that he willingly allowed his body to die as a gift to humanity. They think he was essentially taking away the spiritual death that comes as a penalty of rebelling against God, because believers consider themselves to be joined to him in his death and resurrection in a spiritual sense of redemption and freedom from sin’s consequences for the human race.

          Those who believe in the trinity concept see it as a complete that God has revealed and that they should accept for that reason, but they think it can’t be understood by human minds. There’s something fair about that. However, there seems to have been an evolution of Christian doctrine towards that point, since sometimes the Christian scriptures speak of Jesus and God (rather than always saying Jesus and ‘the Father’)…and there is no clear statement of faith, or even clear conversation, about Jesus’ divinity in the first century. And of course it simply doesn’t fit with Torah to start worshiping someone as God if there is any doubt whatsoever that it may be false worship, so the fog around this topic in early Christianity is really problematic.

          About why there could be a newset of scriptures, Christians rightly see that the redemptive passages in the Hebrew Bible point towards a spiritual redemption as well as a return from exile, and they believe that it all points towards Jesus as messiah (begun in the past with his teachings, ‘atoning death’ and ‘restorative resurrection’, and to be completed in future). So they see continuity between the two. Some believe that the Torah laws still have to be literally followed by Jewish Christians, while others believe that these laws have been transformed into a spiritual, ethical version of the law since the coming of the one they think was messiah.

          It’s hard for a lot of Christians to read the Hebrew scriptures without seeing lots of passages as pointing to Jesus…rather than potentially all having non-Christian explanations. And it’s also hard for devout Christians to consider the idea that Jesus may not be God because they wouldn’t want to betray him if he actually were God, and because Christianity connects salvation from hell with holding a cognitive belief and emotional loyalty to Jesus. Questioning the Christian scriptures can also destabilise their entire reason for believing in the Torah and in God at all, which can be overwhelming as well.

          • Annelise says:

            Missed a word- *Those who believe in the trinity concept see it as a complete mystery…

          • Eliza says:

            Okay so I have to re-read it because I stopped focusing half way through…

            The first part of what you said (when I was still focusing 🙂 ) about jesus being messia/god/spiritual redemption, well it theoretically makes sense. A convoluted sense, but sense nontheless. For in a way than by dying he could be dying for everyone else in the future. Although in that case it means that anyone could be as ‘bad’ as they want because Jesus has atoned already for them…. And on that point, if he took away the ‘rules’ with his death than they really could do whatever they want for Jesus is god.

          • Annelise says:

            Christianity definitely does have some convoluted answers when it comes to the idea of who Jesus was.

            About whether atonement means that disobedience to God is acceptable, they think not. Christians believe that receiving forgiveness inspires obedience, and also that sincere believers will seek out what God wants. This is similar to the Jewish concept of repentance in that Jews are deeply encouraged to obey God even though forgiveness is a possibility.

            A lot of Christians believe that the ethical and devotional elements of the Torah remain relevant, while the ritual parts are obsolete because they supposedly represented or prefigured elements of what Jesus is said to have ‘fulfilled’. This is their interpretation of a law written on people’s hearts rather than on stone.

            But then there are other Christians (including probably the authors of the Christian Bible) who think that the written law is still binding even while believing in Jesus.

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Eliza,

          It seems from your comment that you are someone who is keen to seek the truth.You are a sincere person .Your questions do surprise me ,as they are simple yet profound.

          I do identify with your statement that it is too complicated and you don’t know where to start.I remember asking similar questions myself and the quest to answer them caused me go on a very long and winding trip (which never seem to end).It is complicated and many a times I wonder if the search is futile one.However this trip has opened my mind and enable me to meet interesting people-people who challenged my assumptions ,who forced me to learn and increase my knowledge as a result .

          I believe you have started at the right place through asking the right questions. Start with the Source and explore from there .Strive to educate yourself.It may take a lot of searching, probing ,lots of reading and most importantly prayer to G-d as how you understand Him. In addition you may need to wrestle with hard truths ,which may challenge your worldview and come to a decision as to how to deal with them .

          Most important is not to give up when things don’t seem to fall into place.Pray and continue doing what you believe is right. Continue to ask yourself and others who are knowledgeable more questions,like what you are doing now.

          Take care

          • Eliza says:

            Thanks Sharon! That’s so nice of you….

            I’m actually beginning to pray to god, beginning to be okay enough with the concept of an infinite power who’s through limit created a world. and want to connect to this god – well sometimes anyways.

            How long did it take you to work through what you believe?

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Eliza,

            Your welcome . I hope it helps.

            It took twenty years for me to work my way through this .I started by exploring another religion for many years before coming here.

            I am still working my way through this -the journey never stops.

            Each individual may have different experience. Your experience may differ from mine. Good luck.

          • Eliza says:

            Thanks Sharon!
            I finally read through all the comments on this post and understand – a little
            – where you’re coming from.

        • tony says:

          “I think most Christians (Catholic, Evangelical, etc.) believe that when Jesus died, his soul was still alive and they believe that he willingly allowed his body to die as a gift to humanity. They think he was essentially taking away the spiritual death that comes as a penalty of rebelling against God, because believers consider themselves to be joined to him in his death and resurrection in a spiritual sense of redemption and freedom from sin’s consequences for the human race.”

          what is spiritual death and
          how does willingly allowing to kill a physical thing fix an invisible thing ? jesus kills his flesh willingly and that act has solved an invisible problem ?

          • Eliza says:

            lol this sounds good. None of us here are saying what we believe. Or not in this conversation per se. Rather trying to understand what others believe and where they’re coming from.

            How does physicality fix spirituality? Well the physical is just a cover for reality, a conduit, so maybe the killing was more than just physical death but a spiritual high.

          • tony says:

            ” so maybe the killing was more than just physical death but a spiritual high.”

            what is a “spiritual high” ? is a “spiritual high” dependant on shedding flesh before the experience of “spiritual high” ?
            i honestly don’t understand what you said, please explain.

          • Eliza says:

            I thought I replied to this and for some reason can’t see the response.

            I think sometimes when a person removes the physical it allows for true connection.

  23. LarryB says:

    Annalise
    “I also don’t know if Judaism is true or God is knowing and caring.” How can you even know there is a god?

    • Annelise says:

      I meant, whether the infinite source and sustainer of all finite things is knowing and caring.

      • LarryB says:

        Annalise
        I’m confused as to why you now substitute infinite source for god. What do you mean as infinite source?

        • Annelise says:

          Isn’t that what Judaism means when speaking of God? It’s not about worshippong a particular finite power, it’s about worshipping the infinite source of existence- in the context believing that there is personal, intelligent, loving communication to us from this infinite.

          • LarryB says:

            Annalise
            I have been following you for sometime now and have never heard you express god in that way and just wanted to make sure what you meant. I think the teaching is a particular infinite source. Would you consider that different from your belief?

          • LarryB says:

            Annalise
            I have another question and if you don’t wish to answer I won’t ask anymore questions. You said you don’t know if Judaism is true. Does that include the Torah?

          • Annelise says:

            I think that Judaism doesn’t define God as anything, how could we define him without comparing him to what is finite…but instead, Judaism defines his particular actions in the world and way of relating to us. That’s how I understood it anyway.

            I don’t know if Torah is true…of course some aspects must certainly be historical, but sometimes it’s hard to tell which. Ancient Near Eastern memories of history were often recorded with symbolism mixed in, not to be dishonest but because it conveyed their beliefs. So how do we know what was recorded literally? I want to learn more though about this.

  24. Jim says:

    Sharon,

    In a couple of posts, you have compared Judaism to Christianity or Islam. In making these comparisons, you suggest that Judaism does not measure up to those religions in one way or another—at least it does not deliver what you would expect after your experience with those other two religions. However, in doing so, you have skipped an important step. In comparing them, you have implied that they have an equal claim to the truth. The first comparison that must be made between these religions is whether or not they have an equally valid claim to the truth, and, if it is found that any of them lack a legitimate claim, then any further consideration of its teachings is unnecessary.

    Among the religions of the world, and certainly among these three, only Judaism has a valid claim to truth imparted by God. Of course, any religion will happen to be correct on any number of points, but this does not mean that it has legitimate claims to having received any communication from God. When a human being happens upon a truth, he either gets it through the proper exercise of reason, from someone else, as in the case of a received tradition, or he hits upon it accidentally. That he knows a truth is quite useful, but, because he is human and his reason fails him upon some other point, or because the tradition is wrong on some point, or because he is unlikely to accidentally hit upon the whole of the truth, he will err on some other points. All the religions of the world, except Judaism, have this problem, because their wisdom is not divinely given. When one studies them, then, one takes in error as well as wisdom. It is proper, then, that one seek divine knowledge if it is available to him.

    Thus, one must be able to identify which religion, if any, contains communication from God, which one has divine knowledge rather than the products of human thinking. Some means of testing a prophet must be available to differentiate the claims of one religion from another, the claims of one religious leader from another. If no means can be found to identify which prophet has heard from God, then all religions must be likewise rejected, for, if the claims of one prophet are accepted, then the claims of all must be accepted. And, because the various religions contradict each other upon various points, it is impossible that they are all equally true.

    (I use the term “prophet” here loosely. Properly, it should mean something like, “one that carries a message from God.” However, I am using the term to mean, “one that has special knowledge imparted to him either from God, another agent of God, such as an angel, or has had a spiritual experience and shares it with others.” Therefore, Siddhartha Gautama, commonly called the Buddha, is a prophet in this second sense, because, though he does not carry a message from God, he does have a spiritual experience and brings knowledge of that experience to others. Any number of gurus, preachers, and the like will fit this definition. The claims of all can be tested in a similar way.)

    The test most often proposed by members of various faiths is subjective. What one usually finds is that the believer is given a sense that something is true. It may be impressed upon them by a holy spirit, as in Christianity. It may be a burning in the bosom, as in Mormonism. Whatever the case, the potential convert is told that he will feel the truth of the religion if he prays or meditates or practices the religion long enough.

    This test is obviously faulty. If two people sense their religion is correct and the other person’s is incorrect, they cannot both be correct. At least one of them must have an untrustworthy sense of what constitutes a spiritual truth or divine message or whatever might constitute a true religion. Moreover, except in religious matters, no one believes this to be a means of arriving at truth. One’s feelings are not the validation for a logical proof, a geometrical proof, or a political argument. One may feel like his spouse is having an affair, but be quite wrong. His feelings are not a measure of the truth of the matter. Feelings are influenced by all manner of things: lack of food or sleep, a sense of rejection, the ego—so many are the influences on one’s feelings that they can hardly be catalogued in this brief comment.

    Some other tests of a prophet may be applied by the proselytizers of a religion; yet, these too will be subjective. For example, they will say that if one reads the holy words of their prophet, one will see that they can have only be given by a divine source: no man can have invented such words. Or, as with Christianity, they may appeal to prophecies fulfilled by the prophet (i.e. Jesus), even though the prophecies they quote are no such thing. In this case, they rely upon ignorance of the text to imply an objective standard being met. Only later does it become apparent to the convert that the prophecies were not an objective standard, that they were misrepresented and a subjective standard applied to the text in order to give it Christological import. These and other tests acknowledge an objective standard must be met, but still rely upon subjective tests.

    The necessity of these subjective tests comes from the fact that, because prophets have private experiences, they cannot be verified as true or false. One cannot know whether or not Siddhartha Gautama experienced Nirvana while he meditated. One cannot know whether or not an angel spoke privately to Muhammad or if a different angel spoke to Joseph Smith and gave him the golden plates from which he learned Mormonism. One cannot know if Jesus heard from God or even rose from the dead. All of these are private events for which too little proof exists to establish them. Therefore, the practitioners of these religions invent subjective tests to establish in the minds of potential converts the validity of their prophets. And choosing one over another is more a matter of taste than judgment.

    What one must seek is an objective test that can be applied to the prophet. The essential problem is this question: how can one know that this prophet received this message? What credentials can he provide? Who will testify on his behalf that he is a prophet—another unverified prophet?

    It is desirable that God appoint the prophet publicly in order to credential the prophet. Only one religion has a prophet publicly appointed by God in the full view of the people: Judaism. Only Moses received his prophecy openly, so that an entire people could know that he heard from God. It is this public prophecy that gives Judaism its credibility, a credibility not shared by any other religion in the world, including Christianity and Islam. Moreover, Moses received a double-appointment, for, after hearing God speak, the people ask for Moses to deliver God’s teaching to them (Ex. 20:18-19). So, Moses is chosen by both God and the people to whom he will serve as prophet. No other religion has this level of verification or anything close to it, to which fact the Torah draws attention (Deut. 4:33).

    This is the first and last point upon which Christianity and Islam—indeed any other religion—must be first compared to Judaism: does it have greater, lesser, or equal authority to Torah? And, all of them fall far short of Torah. Not one of them has a credible claim to prophetic authority.

    Once this is known, it is useless to draw any farther comparisons between them. The Torah’s wisdom is divine; the others cannot be known to be divine. Any further comparison between Judaism and other religions should be left aside. The sources of those other religions must always be in doubt; they must be abandoned. One must instead fix himself upon the Torah, studying in it divinely authored truth. Wherever a deviation occurs between Judaism and another religion, it must be assumed that the other religion, which lacks verification, is at fault. Studying such religions only leads to confusion.

    Jim

    • Annelise says:

      Hi Jim,

      How do we know that the exodus and Sinai events recorded in Torah are literally accurate? In those times, plenty of metaphor and symbolism were accepted, and expected, in describing a foundational event or idea. At the point when a large percentage of Israelites accepted the Hebrew religion, would they have minded if someone embellished the account in a way that underscored their belief in Hashem being greater than other gods and of Moses being the greatest prophet? Would exaggerating the numbers of those who came out of Egypt have seemed like a lie, or an expression of national unity? In the ancient near eastern way of telling ideas through representational language, there was a much less clear divide between metaphor and literal accounts, because both are valid ways of expressing perceptions of truth, and modern historical methods hadn’t been explored in such depth.

      Consider how many Jewish historical parables are preserved from the great sages of Judaism, which some people believe are unquestionable history. There is also evidence of multiple versions of biblical texts having existed, and the currently canonical version took hold of the entire nation, for this reason or that.

      I think it’s clear that some Israelites came out of a slavery situation in Egypt, and had experiences that are reflected within the biblical texts. But it’s strange that there would be no other evidence at all of it, if the numbers and the devastation of Egypt were as large as described. The Bible itself speaks about how non-Jews like Rahab joined the Israelites, and this may have been an expression of a larger phenomenon that is toned down for the sake of expressing the Sinai community as the origin for them all. But what exactly happened? I don’t know if we can sift out the exact details, with a historical method approach.

      In the end, that argument still relies on miracles anyway: the belief that the miracles surrounding Moses’ ministry were greater than any other. But there are certainly ethical questions about some elements of Torah that seem not to follow its usual principles of justice, things that can be explained either as the usual territory grabbing and religious control, even religious genocide, or else as the unusual event of God actually commanding it. And people who don’t accept the laws are socially condemned, if not worse. (The same all applies to Islam- and Christianity has a different but greater set of reasons for doubt.)

      So what level of miracle certainty do we require in order to put our support behind the authority claim by the Torah-affirming community?

      • Annelise says:

        PS Some of the greatest miracles attributed to the Torah faith include the survival of the Jewish nation, and the revival of the state of Israel. But there is an alternative explanation that Jewish survival has more to do with the particular nature of the community, how it separates itself ritually from other nations, yet there is great appeal in its strong social justice mindset and relational monotheism. And doesn’t Islam use a similar argument in saying that the speed of its conquest (rather than length of survival) was unique and thus miraculous? So to me it remains unclear, even though I so much want to believe that Judaism and its people are inspired with spiritual truth.

        As to the state of Israel, the Zionist idea of establishing a Jewish nation with a Jewish government in an area that was for so many generations shared between peoples doesn’t seem to have a secular justification apart from the values of colonialism. So it needs to be questioned itself, before it can stand as evidence, as far as I can understand. (I think the issue of true democracy being incompatible with the Islamic expansion effort, and self defense from that, is a huge but separate part of the issues in that region.)

        • Annelise says:

          PPS I don’t want these questions or objections to come across as a personal attack at all. I love and and very endebted to Judaism and its followers, and I believe that humility is even more important than skepticism. Somehow, Sukkot seems like a time and place where questions feel more possible, and the intensity of uncertainty feels more bearable.

        • Dina says:

          Annelise, I don’t see the relevance of the State of Israel to the discussion (I suppose you’re responding to a point made elsewhere on this thread), but I do find odd your contention that Zionism cannot be justified on secular grounds and is colonialism.

          First, why should the Jewish nation, alone among nations, be denied a homeland?

          Second, why does the creation of Pakistan (a large parcel of land created as a separate country from India and causing a crisis of millions of refugees) not elicit a similar reaction from you or anyone else?

          Third, based on your contention, there is similarly no justification for the United States of America, or, for that matter, Australia. I wonder what your thoughts are on that, and what are we supposed to do about it?

          Fourth, Israel has been the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people for over 3000 years and there has been a continuous and unbroken Jewish presence on the Land since. When European Jews began to migrate to the Land in the nineteenth century, it was a barren wasteland, and then Arabs from neighboring countries began flocking to the Jewish settlements, lured by the economic opportunities afforded by the Jews.

          Based on all of these, a characterization of Zionism as unjustified and colonialist is, to understate the case, hardly fair.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Dina, I didn’t mean that Israel bears greater blame than other nations for their histories. I brought it up because the re-establishment of Israel is usually cited as a miracle and fulfillment of prophecy. So it’s a side point. But I think it does illustrate how Torah beliefs affect policy and so possibly the weighing of justice

            I also don’t think there’s a fair leap between sharing a land with neighbours for an extended time, and then asserting governance over them. The media is defininitely antisemitic and influenced by pro-Arab groups, but I think that people are also questioning Israel’s right to call its origins blameless and utterly just. That’s something that many nations are trying to step away from in telling our histories and dealing with the impacts.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise,

            There is a huge gap between saying that Israel’s origins are blameless and utterly just and harping on the fact that Israel asserted governance over her neighbors.

            Even many among Israel’s supporters do not assert that Israel’s origins are blameless and just (especially those who have studied the history of the region). I would say, the overwhelming majority. That said, no other group of people had a cause more just to seek a homeland than a nation that had lost 70% of its people in the recent Holocaust and who were hated and persecuted everywhere they went for thousands of years, both in the West and in the East.

            And the land for which they had been yearning for millennia seemed a natural choice.

            To call this colonialism, as if the Jews were greedily expanding an empire, is despicable.

            It’s utterly unrealistic to “share a land with neighbors” because every country must have a government. In this case, the Arabs switched from being governed by the British to being governed by the Jews, who were a whole lot nicer to them than their own Arab counterparts in other countries would have been. Since Israel’s inception, Israeli Arabs have had it way better in Israel than Arabs in any other Arab country. Furthermore, if Arabs leaders in other countries hadn’t flipped out over the creation of Israel, Israeli Arabs would have stayed put and there likely would have been no conflict.

            The focus on Israel’s origins and the double standard to which she is subjected are unacceptable and inexcusable to anyone who cares about eradicating anti-Semitism.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Dina,

            I didn’t mean the Jews were engaging in colonial expansion. I meant that some people say there is no discussion left because the land was fairly won via warfare. I don’t think that’s a good answer, why should war be considered fair? In Australia we don’t say that Europeans deserve to govern the nation due to previous military conquest. We have a multicultural society with a democratic process, where people of any race can be in government. If you were only saying, “It isn’t safe to allow Islamic law to take over our democracy,” then there would be a fair conversation. But to say that a land that is a homeland to two peoples should be the nation of only one of them doesn’t make sense to me from a secular point of view.

            I’m not antisemitic and it shakes me emotionally to be described amongst those who maliciously attack or persecute others. We should be able to have a nuanced conversation, even one that is heated and exacting, without using the language of disgust to reflect morally on another individual in the conversation. That comes across as a personal attack, which is different from plain factual disagreement and/or describing vividly the effects of any injustice. Words of personal attack can be retraumatising for the people who have been systematically put down in previous relationships. They can make a truly hateful and/or narcissistic person become only more blindly cruel. And they can normalise the replacement of logical persuasion with social persuasion. I feel that we should all also be careful in conversation with Christians, to focus on communicating our ideas and experiences, rather than talking about others’ personalities, personal flaws, or motives.

            I think it would be ok to say that you believe that rhetoric against Israel stem from antisemitism and support it; I agree. But that’s not to say there can be no fair discussion or criticism of it at all. Even someone who believes in Zionism more generally, and thinks that Palestinian leadership bears most of the responsibility for the suffering in the region could question some of the claims given for Jewish governance of the land at this time and in this way. I may be wrong, I know; it all seems complicated.

            Sharon, I want to reply to your comment too, but need to think through it a bit more.

            And Jim, I hope everything goes so well with the move and settling in.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, I’m sorry that sounded like a personal attack. I was making a general observation that I find certain rhetoric against Israel anti-Semitic. I don’t believe there is an anti-Semitic bone in your body. In fact, you are one of the kindest and most sensitive people I have ever had the privilege to meet on this blog.

            Still, some of the arguments and language in your comments on Israel are unfair, to say the least. And while I don’t believe you personally harbor any ill feelings to the Jewish people, some of the language you repeated is used by people on the left with strong anti-Israel animus. (Anti-Israel = anti-Semitic, so I am surprised to hear you repeat their arguments.)

            It seems to me that your research into this matter is one-sided.

            Let’s take your statement that it’s wrong to say that Israel fairly won land in a war.

            Israel did not engage in any war of expansion but was unfairly and maliciously attacked by other Arab nations whose wish then (as now) was to eradicate the State of Israel. Over and over again. In one of these unprovoked wars, Israel secured more land that made its borders more defensible. Had the Arabs decided not to attack, Israel would have no need of these defensible borders; Israel would not have taken the land in the first place.

            Your statement that Israel is a homeland to two peoples reflects–forgive me for saying this–ignorance of the history of the region. Israel was never a homeland to the Palestinians. Before 1948, there was no “nation” of Palestinians. They were mostly Arabs from Jordan, with some hailing from other Arab countries in the region, who had flocked to Israel in the late nineteenth century in search of the economic opportunities afforded to them by Jewish settlers from Europe.

            While there is zero history of Palestinian claim on the Land of Israel, there is loads of history of Jewish claim on the land, of which I am sure you are aware.

            I do not think there can be any fair discussion of Israel’s legitimacy, inasmuch as there is no such thing as “fair discussion” of the legitimacy of any other country in the world. I would like to know why there is no discussion of the legitimacy of Pakistan, which created far more refugees than the State of Israel. If you want to have a fair discussion, you must answer this.

            I would also like to know why no one discusses the approximately same number of Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries due to real persecution and whom Israel absorbed without fanfare. I would like to know why the Palestinians, alone among all the refugees in the world, are kept in permanent refugee status and why, since 1948, other Arab countries have refused to grant them citizenship. If you want to have a fair discussion, you must answer this.

            I would like to know why you failed to mention that the Palestinians turned down three generous offers for a Palestinian state from the Israeli government. In any “fair discussion” of the legitimacy of Israel and the unfairness of one people governing another, this omission is glaring and shocking. If you want to have a fair discussion, you must answer this.

            I would like to know why the onus for peace is on the Israelis, who want nothing more, while the Palestinians, whose sole objective is to destroy the State of Israel, are given a free pass to engage in murderous terror attacks. If you want to have a fair discussion, you must answer this.

            A few weeks ago, my daughter’s teacher was brutally murdered, stabbed in the back, by a 17-year-old Palestinian, while out doing errands for his wife. Where is the outrage?

            My apologies in advance for the heated rhetoric, but this topic has a tendency to generate such heat.

            So I hope you won’t feel cowed from asking further questions and I certainly hope you don’t take any of this personally.

            If I may recommend a book on this topic, Joan Peters’s From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab–Jewish Conflict over Palestine is an excellent start.

          • Annelise says:

            I know you’re right that the media is singling out Israel in a bizarre way, given that the Palestinian (and wider Muslim) desire to take over the whole land is no less than what people complain of in the ideals of Zionism, and is more violent. I don’t support the Palestinian national movement as such.

            But I read that 2/3 of Gaza’s inhabitants are refugees, or descendents of refugees, from areas in Israel. There were more Arabs than Jews in the land, when Jews received most of the land. Some of the peace offers were rejected because they seem too limited. And families who have lived in an area for at least a few generations (or even much longer) are excluded, while others whose direct family link to the land goes back centuries/millenia are given free access to the towns and villages that others fled due to fear (which is significant, regardless of the cause of that fear). If Israel only says they can’t return because it’s a threat to democracy and safety in the region, then there’s something to work with in the peace process. But if Israel says that they can’t return because it fundamentally isn’t a home for them…what is that? How many generations does a family need to live somewhere before it’s their home?

            I don’t know all that much about this conflict, though I think I’ve heard more information from the kind of resources you’re citing than I have from the other side. But I don’t know that I’m simply repeating the other side’s arguments, since I disagree with many of them. But a few seem important.

          • Annelise says:

            I meant- families who have lived in an area for at least a few generations (or even much longer) are excluded, while others whose direct family link to the land is from centuries/millenia ago are given free access to the towns and villages that the others fled due to fear.

            My main concern is that rather than just saying they can’t return for security reasons, Israel is also saying that these areas aren’t their home…but for a real amount of time, they have been their homes. European Jews have a very strong connection to the land historically, and they are largely the ones who revitalised the land and really made it livable. Nonetheless, in terms of the last couple of centuries, the majority of European Jews were newcomers into an existing social dynamic, upturned it, and refuse the return of genuine refugees not only for security reasons but in order to deliberately displace them.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, you wrote that you don’t know all that much about the conflict, and that is all too obvious from some of the things you wrote here (some of which are blatantly untrue and some which reflect a lack of understanding of the complexity of such issues such as the right of return). It isn’t fair to make judgments until you get all your facts straight. I presented some to you, but based on your response, either you did not read what I wrote or you are not hearing me.

            I still highly recommend the book From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters.

            One more point for you to consider. Non-Jews who want to pass judgment on the Jewish people for their behavior generally should approach this with great humility, seeing as how in every single instance of “conflict” between Jews and non-Jews, history has always vindicated the Jews. Sometimes it took a long time (about a thousand years in the case of the Crusades) and sometimes it happened quickly (a few years in the case of the Holocaust). But it always happens.

            I use ironic quotations marks for the word conflict because it’s always one sided. Jews have never sought to cause friction between them and others.

            Since history has a tendency to repeat itself, I am confident that history will vindicate Israel as well.

          • Annelise says:

            I think that most of what I’ve heard (presentations and conversations) has been based on ‘From Time Immemorial’. I’ll get a copy though.

          • Annelise says:

            PS I didn’t say the right of return should be implemented…but that’s because of security and the extreme scale of Palestinian Arab dreams for the area.

            All I’m saying is that I don’t like the rhetoric that it wasn’t really their home for any significant length of time, that their societies weren’t upturned, that it’s ok to displace them and expect them to find somewhere else to live. Not simply by stating the legitimate safety concerns, but also by minimising their connection to their home towns.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, I’m responding to this comment:

            https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-42953

            Two major issues, but first it must be pointed out that you haven’t responded to most of my arguments, which you can find here:

            https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-42941

            The first issue is that you take issue with the rhetoric. With apologies in advance for my bluntness, your like or dislike of the rhetoric is not relevant. The only thing that is relevant is the truth, however unpleasant it may be.

            You stated that some of the rhetoric you dislike regards the notion that it’s fine to displace Palestinians and expect them to find someplace else to live.

            Can you substantiate this remarkable statement with documentation from mainstream sources? (Fringe groups need not apply). If you cannot, I know you will apologize for maligning Israel.

            Maybe I’m wrong, but I have never heard any talk among supporters of Israel about displacing Arabs, never mind expressing comfortability with the idea.

            You may have heard the dismay expressed by people of common sense and good will in response to the Arab world’s keeping the Palestinians in a permanent refugee status and refusing to absorb them and grant them citizenship, unlike the refugees of the rest of the world. These people will also point out that at the same time that roughly 600,000 Arabs fled Israel (mostly of their own volition and at the urging of Arab leaders, not because the Israelis chased them out), approximately the same number of Jews fled Arab countries to Israel, escaping real persecution. They will remind you that while Jordan and Lebanon and other Arab countries refused to absorb the Palestinian refugees, the fledgling state of Israel with its far fewer resources absorbed the Jewish refugees without complaint or fanfare. These people will ask you why the Arabs wouldn’t do for their brethren what the Israelis did for theirs?

            That’s a far cry, Annelise, from suggesting that displacement was okay and they should find another place to live.

            In addition, it must be emphasized that most of the refugees left because their Arab leaders promised them that they would drive Israel into the sea in no time and the refugees would then be able to return and take over Israeli homes. Some left out of fear that now that Jews had some power, they would retaliate for all the suffering inflicted on them by Arabs for about two millennia. The fear was unfounded, of course.

            (By the way, it is helpful to remember that while Jews in the West were suffering horrific persecution at the hands of Christians, Jews in the East were suffering horrific persecution at the hands of Muslims. The argument that Arabs treated Jews well until the creation of Israel is a lie pushed by Arab propaganda.)

            You mentioned that the Israelis argue that Israel wasn’t the home of Arabs for any length of time. This argument is, to my knowledge, made only in response to the Arab claim that Jews have no historic connection to the land. The correct response to this malicious fabrication is that Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people and that the Jews have maintained a continuous presence on the land, whereas the Palestinians are actually Jordanians and Arabs of other nationalities who began flocking to Israel in search of economic opportunity when Jews started settlements there in the late nineteenth century. Jews built up the wasteland into the thriving country it is today; before they arrived the land was barren. The only Arabs there then were some nomadic tribes.

            This is an argument to resolve who has the greater claim to the land, not to decide to throw Arabs out.

            You have misrepresented this argument.

            You wrote that you don’t like Israel supporters saying that Arab societies weren’t upturned. I don’t know anyone who says that! But I will tell you this: with rare exceptions, their societies weren’t upturned by the Israelis, and so the Israelis are not to blame for this.

            On the other hand, the Israelis upturned one of their own societies, forcing hundreds of men, women, and children at gunpoint to relocate from Gaza and leaving intact for the benefit of the newcomers extremely prolific and lucrative greenhouses. Hamas took over, destroyed the greenhouses, and turned Gaza into a launching pad for rockets, thousands of which have landed in Israel to date.

            (In another comment you wrote that the offers for statehood were turned down because they were limited. This is not true. First, the logic makes no sense. Why not take what you can get, and then expand it from there? Second, Mahmoud Abbas admitted that had he accepted the offer, he would be a dead man walking, namely, a target for assassination, because the Palestinians are not interested in a two-state solution. They will accept nothing less than a one-state solution, with the complete destruction of Israel. Don’t take my word for it. Read the charter of Hamas, the rival party to Abbas’s Fatah party. It explicitly calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.)

            The second issue is a much larger one, and very disappointing. You write about your dislike of pro-Israel rhetoric, but surely you are aware of the rhetoric emanating from Gaza and the West Bank? Rhetoric which makes Nazi propaganda look tame by comparison? What gives, Annelise? How could you misrepresent pro-Israel arguments, which even with your spin are nothing compared to the venom Palestinians pour out of their TVs, radios, and even children’s school textbooks, without batting an eye? To call this a double standard would be to understate the case by a million miles. I could hardly believe this of you.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Dina, I’m not sure that we’re quite hearing each other. In any case I need to let the conversation rest, the only reason being that I’m going through some stressful experiences in other parts of my life closer to home so I need the emotional space. I mostly agree with the things you mentioned.

          • Dina says:

            I hope things work out for you and I wish you well.

          • Annelise says:

            Thanks, Dina.

          • Dina says:

            As for the miraculous nature that people cite, it’s kind of easy to see why. There is no other case in the history of the world of a people exiled from their land, weakened and scattered all over the world, who maintained their national identity and then returned to their ancestral homeland. It’s hard not to be awed by that!

        • Shalom Annelise.
          How do we know it is a true religion? Your logics are reasonable in terms of a study of comparative religion. However, one thing stands out as a key distinguisher. The words written in canon and words spoken in the community are really fulfilled in history or not!

          Isaiah 55:11-12 “so shall be My word that emanates from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, unless it has done what I desire and has made prosperous the one to whom I sent it. .For with joy shall you go forth, and with peace shall you be brought; the mountains and the hills shall burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap hands. .Instead of the briar, a cypress shall rise, and instead of the nettle, a myrtle shall rise, and it shall be for the Lord as a name, as an everlasting sign, which shall not be discontinued.”

          The re-establishment of Israel and her unmatched growth is itself the proof of the truth of the Judaism. Isaiah said “it is an everlasting sign.” There have been so many factors to press down her growth and prosperity for the past centuries, however, it has been happening in our days. What can we say?

          As a side note, i believe that Judaism needs Christianity because many prophecies of an everlasting government and worldwide reign of the Messiah had seemed to fail when the temples and the Davidic kingdom have been destroyed. However, Christianity succeeds it in spiritual sense, and in our days, the two religions become united together so that the prophecy is continued to be fulfilled in both spiritually and literally. Jerusalem March is a good example because it fulfilles Zechariah 14:16, “.And it will come to pass that everyone left of the nations who came up against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to prostrate himself to the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to celebrate the festival of Tabernacles.”

          • Annelise says:

            History contains a lot of unique and amazing events. I find it hard to know on what basis we would say that a great success implies God’s approval. The prophecy of a return from exile makes sense as being spoken and written in a time when that was yearned for deeply, as it has been for very long since.

            I think that if Judaism is true, it doesn’t need Christianity to help fulfil it. I’ve written earlier here about my thoughts on Christianity. Regarding the Jerusalem March, maybe that’s a deliberate attempt to fulfil prophecy? It seems like a missionary attempt to indirectly evangelise, through showing love to Jews and hoping that those with a need for friendship or support will feel the aura of acceptance and care and decide that this is a spiritual experience… As well as an event where Christians can feel involved in a large and meaningful movememt. I know that it is often extremely sincere, with no deceptive intention. But I find it questionable because it doesn’t really address the issue of proving that Jesus deserves worship beyond any doubt or alternative explanation. It draws people in to the Christian experience through a different gate of the heart.

          • Shalom Annelise,
            Yes, as you said, i was one of the marchers who was extrememly sincere with no deceptive intention. More correctly, my 3 hour crazy, fanatic, and entertaining dancing on the street was to show them the repentance from Chriatian side. That’s why i was often in tears while i was dancing. By the way, are you a wife of Jasonannelise??

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Gean Guk Jeon,

            The joy of forgiveness and closeness to God is familiar to many of the Orthodox Jews you saw there, too. I heard one rabbi say that the joy of dancing on Simchat Torah is proportional to the depth of repentance on Yom Kippur. And the joyous dancing of Purim is similar, from the angle of accepting God’s completely unconditional love.

            Jasonannelise is the username that came up when I was signed in with my joint email account 🙂

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Gean & Annelise,

            I am currently reading “Ten from the Nations-Torah Awakening Among Non Jews” -a collection of personal stories from non Jews and Jews edited by Rivkah Lambert Adler. The editor is an orthodox Jewish educator based in Israel. You may refer to the link here
            http://www.tenfromthenations.com/

            These are stories of individuals from various backgrounds coming to a deeper faith in G-d and having great love for the Jewish people and the Torah (voices of the nations) . These are also stories of Jews who were raised with a certain perception of the non Jew and how they overcome these fears to fulfill their role as light to the nations.

            Some of these individuals consists of Christians who are disgusted with anti-Semitism in the Church and are doing all they can to make things right . Then there are those who have left the Christian faith and are Bnei Noach . Though their beliefs vary , there is one thing they have in common-love for G-d , His Torah and Israel. I am amazed at their deep love and their humility towards the Jewish people.

            I am also amazed on the efforts of Jewish educators , activists and Rabbis to teach the Torah to the nations although there is limited support from the Jewish community around them and how their perception of the non Jew has changed from the one they are raised with in that process .The editor herself wrote that one cannot paint all non Jews with the same brush.

            I may be wrong here ,but reading these stories shows me that two things must happen before things we hope for will come to pass. First ,we should be humble towards the Jewish people -they have the knowledge of G-d and like it or not we have to go to them .
            Secondly being lights is only possible when the Jewish people themselves are comfortable being in that role . This can only be possible when the Jewish nation are established in Israel -then “The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”. I see this currently happening in a small way from the efforts shown by the contributors of this book . Let us do our part for better things ahead.

          • Annelise says:

            Sharon, that sounds like a really interesting book! Thanks for sharing it with me.

      • Jim says:

        Annelise,

        Hello, I am sorry for the tardiness of this response. I have been overwhelmingly busy for the past couple of months, making it difficult to find time to write.

        You speculated that the Jewish people en masse might have agreed to lie about the Sinai revelation in order to bolster the claims of the Judaism, to show that their god is superior to the gods of other nations and their prophet is superior to the prophet of other nations. This speculation concedes that a public revelation is more credible than a private revelation. So, the question is whether or not the Jewish people might have invented this lie in order to bolster their claims.

        One way to investigate the likelihood of the entire nation agreeing to what they know to be a lie is to consider whether or not other religions also lie about having a mass revelation. One might expect the Council of Nicea, for example, to create a lie about the ancestors of then current Christians all being witness to the Resurrection. Of course, this did not happen. Nor has any other religion the world over made such a claim.

        The Gospel of Matthew comes close. The author wishes to bolster the claims of the nascent Church, so he attempts to create witnesses to the resurrection other than the disciples. But, he does not write that all of Jerusalem saw a risen Jesus, a lie which could be investigated. Nor does he say that all living Christians were witnesses or children of witnesses. The chain of intermediates between the resurrection and current believers was well-known. What he does write is that the Jewish leadership was aware of the resurrection, but lied about it. This makes them appear to be witnesses, while at the same time discrediting their testimony. If someone were to ask the Jewish leadership if they or a previous generation knew of the Resurrection, a denial could be met with, “You would say that.” Indeed, Matthew maligns the Jewish people so much, particularly the Jewish leadership, largely to discredit their testimony. This allows him to testify on their behalf. He can claim that they saw Jesus perform such and such a miracle, and if they deny it, one will know it is because the Jew will lie rather than accept the truth.

        What he cannot do, however, is tell people that they can just go ask the Jewish leadership if they knew about the Resurrection. Their testimony would be otherwise. Nor can he tell people to ask their parents; they did not witness the Resurrection either. Their parents will claim to have heard about it from Peter. Or Paul. Or one of their followers. Or they read it in a Christian account. They will not say that they witnessed the Resurrection themselves. People do not lie en masse like this. This is why, even though the Gospel of Matthew will attempt to substantiate itself by the creation of more witnesses, it will not appeal to a mass revelation.

        Neither does any other religion except for Judaism. While the strength of public revelation would be a welcome addition to any religion, no other religion attempts it, because no such mass conspiracy is possible. If it were, Judaism would not be the only religion to make such a claim. Other religions rely instead upon subjective tests of their revelation claims. They might say the words of their prophet must be divine, because no human could have said something so wise. They might say that the words of their prophet resound in the spirit of the believer, revealing them to be true through their spiritual power. After one hears the words of the prophet, he may experience a burning in his bosom. One feels they are true by their internal effect. (And, if one later doubts these words, it is because of a defection in his spirit that is revealed by the light of the words of the prophet.) They rely upon these subjective tests, precisely because they cannot bolster their religion with the fake claim of public revelation.

        If such a claim were faked by the Jewish people, surely they would not have then written that only the Jewish people would be able to claim a public revelation. Knowing that they had lied, they must have known that other peoples could also lie about having a similar revelation. Yet, they proposed as an objective test of their faith that no other nation should make such a claim: “For inquire now regarding the early days that preceded you, from the day when God created man on the earth, and from one end of heaven to the other end of heaven: Has there ever been anything like this great thing or has anything like it been heard: Has a people ever heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire as you have heard, and survived?” (Deut. 4:32-33). It is not feasible that people that invented such a lie for themselves would find it impossible that others should invent a similar lie. This test can only be proposed because such a lie is implausible. Conspiracies happen among a few, not on a nation-wide scale. If they did, other religions would claim public revelation, and this extravagant claim of the Torah would be proven empty. These verses would not strengthen the Torah but weaken it.

        A final example might show that public revelation narratives are desirable, but cannot be invented. A Christian might say that his books contain public miracles, so that it has a strong claim to the truth. In fact, this does come up sometimes. For example, Jesus is supposed to have fed thousands. So, it appears the gospels contain public events, which are just as strong as that of the Torah. But, the Christian has gone wildly astray. No one knows who those thousands were. The testimony of those people does not exist. Their testimony is given through the few writers of the New Testament. This is nothing like the testimony of the Jewish people, which is passed down from generation to generation, beginning—not with the written Torah—but with the living witnesses. The written Torah itself appeals to those people to pass on their direct knowledge, not that which is gained in the book. The Torah could not contain a a passage like this: “These things were written that you might believe…”

        It would not be difficult to imagine a similar event to the feeding of the masses in the modern day. I could easily make the same claim. I could say that I am a prophet of God, and to prove it, I fed 5,000 people today with only 5 baguettes and a can of sardines. This lie is only investigable by you finding out who the 5,000 people were and asking them. But, I assure you that I could never have lied about so many witnesses. In such a case, I am pretending to have the testimony of 5,000, when I really only have offered the testimony of one, myself.

        In appealing to the 5,000 that were fed on the mountain or the 500 to whom Jesus is supposed to have appeared after his resurrection according to Paul (1 Cor. 15), the Christian acknowledges the weakness of private revelation. He seeks support in numbers. But these numbers are illusions, attempts to disguise the private revelation with the mask of public revelation. These 5,000, that 500, these are unknown people that have offered no testimony, and whose testimony cannot be verified. The Church seeks for itself a public revelation, but the marks of forgery are all over those public events. This is an attempt to magnify the claim of the one or the few into the claim of the many. But what they cannot do is appeal to the knowledge of the people to whom they are writing. Again, if they could have put forward the lie of a public revelation, they would have, but because they could not do so, they approximated one.

        Such a lie is just not possible. Otherwise, other religions would have seized upon it as well. They do not, because they cannot. The legitimacy of the public revelation is desired, but such a lie cannot be propounded, because it relies on the knowledge of the people that know they did not see a thing. For this reason, the Torah can appeal directly to the fact that no other people will tell such a story. The strength of its claim is also what keeps it from being used by others. And so, though one search the whole world over, he will not find another religion that relies upon a public revelation, that appeals directly to the knowledge and experience of the audience.

        Jim

        • Annelise says:

          There’s some good logic to that, and I agree that it’s impossible for an outright deception to happen to a nation. What I question is whether it could have happened more gradually.

          Perhaps a leader called Moses brought a group of Hebrew slaves out of Egypt in extraordinary circumstances. They camped for some time around Sinai and Moses gave prophetic messages in that context. They then came into Israel and quite a number of others from the region also joined their society. Over the following generations there wasn’t great unity yet in the priestly or scribal traditions. At times exaggerations were made, which after some time spread through the region and became well accepted. Since the telling of history in the ancient near east often involved symbolic elements, it wouldn’t be impossible for exaggerations or teaching-stories to enter the narratives, and be accepted as long as they underlined the common values held by the group. In this context, the inflation of numbers could have occured (for symbolic numbers or to support a unified notion of the nation). The exodus miracles, the phenomena at Sinai, people witnessing it and hearing the voice from heaven, etc., could have been accepted by people who already believed that God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt and spoken to Moses in glory on Sinai…in a cultural context where adding such details was considered honest to the meaning of the events and the beliefs connected to them.

          After a number of centuries, the priesthood and scribal traditions started to stabilise, and we have a clear picture. But can we accept the witness of people who lived centuries after the events, if there is this lack of clarity about he beginning of the chain of testimony? Some things are certainly true to the original story, but it’s hard to know whether the elements that became foundational after some time are same as the ones that were central to the generations following Moses.

          • Annelise says:

            I meant, I agree that a whole nation couldn’t be deceptively told that they themselves heard/saw something in very recent history.

          • dovid says:

            Annelise,
            The logic you bring is perhaps the greatest issue with the Mass Revelation argument. Yet still the argument is precisely that – an argument. The LIKELIHOOD is that the scenario you’ve described hasn’t happened. The reason it is an unlikely is because myth formation (the idea of a story changing over time) in all likelihood only happens to narratives within the following two categories: 1. stories that are fictional in the first place and are intended to capture the imagination (such as king warriors etc). 2. stories that aren’t fundamental and thus no focus is placed on preserving the accurate story-line.

            The Mt.Sinai narrative is a fundamental pillar of our religious, cultural and historical significance as a Jewish Nation. Thus we can assume with almost high certainty that much emphases was put in preserving it in its original form.

            This perhaps explains why Judaism is the only religion out of the world’s hundreds of faiths that can argue the Mass Revelation argument. If the Mt. Sinai narrative was indeed subject to the natural myth formation, then we should expect to find other religions which should have naturally developed the same (or similar) myth. But we don’t find that.

            Let me know what you think about my take

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Dovid,

            Unusual and unlikely things appear throughout the records of history (religious and general). And there are some other reasons to question Judaism and the texts of Tanach, along with the fact that “God said this” is a huge claim in itself…so we are looking for some extremely clear evidence. Reasonable alternative explanations are only theories, but they might still take away from our certainty.

            That said, there does seem to be some weight to the fact that no other supposed prophet has managed to have a mass revelation claim affirming them. I haven’t thought enough through the uniqueness of the mass revelation claim and what that could mean in the larger picture…I’ll keep considering it.

            As to the other point about foundational beliefs being too closely guarded to change, I’m not sure that applies to this. It’s true that the account of Israel collectively witnessing the awesome phenomena and voice of Hashem at Sinai has been foundational to Judaism for at least the majority of Jewish history. But if these elements only came into the stories after a few centuries, then they would only have become core stories after that.

            I do think it extremely likely that Moses actually claimed to have prophetic revelations at Sinai, and that the Hebrew community with him attributed their escape from slavery, their survival, and their conquest of the land as being miraculous. Perhaps these beliefs were the original well-guarded foundations.

          • Jim says:

            Annelise,

            The speculation that the Sinai Resurrection is exaggeration, the evolution of a myth over time fares not much better than the notion that the entire nation lied intentionally for quite a similar reason. If this is how myths develop, then other instances of it should appear. Especially among other peoples that do not take literalism as the only expression of truth, one would expect that other public revelations would develop. Then, when we looked at the words of Deuteronomy 4 and followed their injunction to see if any people had claimed to hear their god speak to them, we would see that the words of Moses failed. We would recognize that this is a common confusion that arises in religions, that the individual prophet should become over time the mass of prophets as the story grows. But this is not what we find. Instead we find that only one religion makes this claim. The best explanation for this is that religions do not develop a mass revelation narrative over time. No evidence supports the speculation that this is an evolved myth.

            Jim

          • dovid says:

            Annelise,
            First of all I must say that I love your objectivity and consideration of arguments perhaps against your beliefs. Now, what you say is true. Indeed unlikely things happen throughout history, and statistically unlikely things are even expected to happen. But the thing is, that those very same statistics would mandate that more than just once should this unlikelihood happen. The fact that no other religion has this unique phenomena is so unlikely, the unlikes of which don’t happen throughout history.

            You said that “and G-d said” is a claim so unlikely as well that would need incredible backing. Indeed that is true and as the saying goes extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It is for this reason that i prefer not to use this argument in a discussion with an atheist because to him or her the notion of a G-d speaking to mankind would be an extraordinary claim. The Mass Revelation argument is not extraordinary evidence. The Mass Revelation argument is however a relatively good argument for someone who already believes in a G-d that relates to mankind (e.g. a believer in Christianity or Islam etc).

            I believe there is extraordinary evidence for Judaism outside of the Mass Revelation argument. There is a sequence of prophecies foretold in Deuteronomy Ch. 28 that clearly materialized throughout history against all odds. To keep it short, the prophecies include destruction of the Land of Israel, exile, dispersion, persecution, all the while the Jews retain their identity and their Torah and will eventually return to their Land. This is prophecy that couldn’t have been predicted and hasn’t happened to any other nation. In fact, the Jews were among the very few handful of full nations that were exiled. After being exiled, they were dispersed – something which hasn’t happened to any other nation. After that they did not assimilate, against all odds despite being persecuted. They even kept their Torah. In fact, Judaism is perhaps the world’s oldest religion – despite all the odds of the Jews keeping their religion throughout their suffering. If a human wrote the Torah how would he be able to predict all these things?

            King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great Christian philosopher, to provide him proof of G-d’s existence. Pascal replied with just one sentence: “Why the Jews, your Majesty, the Jews!”

            You write that the texts of Tanach have many issues within them. I would love to discuss those if you’re interested. Let me know if i need to elaborate more on the prophecy thing brought.

          • Dina says:

            I think Jim and Dovid pretty much nailed it. I would just like to offer a correction to Dovid’s comment. Judaism is not the oldest religion in the world. (For example, Hinduism long predates Judaism.)

            Also, I believe the story about Pascal is apocryphal. I heard the same story about Thomas Jefferson!

          • Annelise says:

            Every religion has some unique elements…I think what I need to consider is whether this mass revelation claim is in a totally unique class, and also how much weight to give to it. I very much want it to be true that there is a loving Creator and a community following real revelation. At the same time I just don’t want this hope to colour my vision, because seeking God and seeking truth can’t be separated, and because I find cognitive dissonance more bewildering even than agnosticism.

            I’ll hold the uniqueness idea and get back to you if I have any questions about it.

            I don’t believe that divine revelation is impossible or unlikely, and I think that when people believe that they are misunderstanding the concept of science and natural laws. The reason I said that claiming God said something requires extraordinary evidence is for a few other reasons. First, because if there is a knowing Creator, it’s disloyal to put words in his mouth; second, because the power that comes with such a claim shouldn’t be wielded over anyone if it has only human origin; third, because false beliefs cloud our ability to see; fourth, because the Hebrew Bible commands that we trust Hashem, and the presence of reasonable doubt brings confusion to that.

            Is it possible that the prophecy in Deutoronomy of exile and return was composed during or after the exile? The ancient biblical manuscripts do include variations and fluidity, so it was possible in early time for sections to be added ‘in the spirit’ of the surrounding text. This includes prophecy, as there seems to be textual evidence that the original records of Isaiah’s prophecies were added to later, for example. National encouragement would be a reason to do so.

            For me, the biggest question in the Tanach isn’t who wrote what or when, although that does cast a level of uncertainty. It’s the violence that the Israelites claimed that God had commanded them to do. Of course there are explanations that it was for survival in a warring region, that it was for preserving holiness; and there’s the fact that we can’t understand suffering in general, either, and will never have all the answers. Yet it is so extreme that people were commanded to be compassionate, and yet to kill children with their own hands and consider young girls to be plunder. To maintain faith towards Hashem in light of such narratives would require a very solid and unbiased foundation. It is also suspicious, because both war in general and holy war specifically could have other motives and could often be attributed to gods. These things, and others, we simply can’t be allied with based on a mere feeling about a community, its history, its values, and its richness. It’s another reason to need clear evidence.

            I actually think that Christianity has a level of uniqueness about it in that the followers of Jesus, meeting in Jerusalem mere decades after his death, including people who followed him closely in his lifetime, seem to have believed that he performed great miracles. I think it’s historically unlikely that absolutely all the miracles mentioned in the Christian gospels originated at far distance from Jerusalem, especially since the narratives contain so many elements that come from particular knowledge of that region in that period. I don’t follow Christianity anymore because I don’t think that there is sufficient evidence (or even discussion) to convince a Torah observant Jew to worship Jesus; nor do I think it plausable that the history of Christianity could support him as simply being a non-divine messiah, either. But to me there is still something historically unexplained about the early Christian movement. Perhaps for this reason I’m much more cautious, once bitten twice shy…or perhaps it’s reasonable to be quite cautious of ascribing unexplained events to miracles.

            If the situational circumstances of early Judaism were unique, then maybe this could explain the unique mass revelation story coming to exist. It would be similar to how the survival of Judaism for so many extremely difficult centuries, uniquely and seemingly against all odds, can be explained by elements that are inherent in the religion. I wonder whether anything situational could similarly explain the emergence of elements in Israelite faith that are unique either to their region or to the whole world. For example, a combination of geographical and social factors in the first centuries after Moses that hasn’t been the case for many other peoples in history. Then we wouldn’t expect repetition.

            Thanks for the discussion, I appreciate having focus drawn to this question.

          • Annelise says:

            PS Unique probably isn’t the best word to describe the early Christian belief that their leader performed miracles. But still unexplained, and particularly since their movement survives and continues to have miracle claims to this day in the context of prayers to Jesus. Some of them difficult to explain. The point is that we can’t throw ourselves into believing a whole faith system just because some things about it are extraordinary. Somehow we need to decide what level of evidence we need for a particular claim to persuade us.

          • dovid says:

            Annalise,
            I wish we could discuss all the points you bring but for now I’d rather keep it short for the meantime. You speak about the possibility of the prophecies being written during or after their fulfillment. That is a very fair concern and in fact that’s how we should critically examine each claimed prophecy fulfillment. But I believe that this set of prophecies is very different.
            The facts are that these prophecies happened exclusively to the Jews; meaning that they weren’t predictable based on the laws of nature.They are also much more than just a singular prophecy which could have been fulfilled by mere luck. The prophecies were extremely vivid and clear beyond any interpretation. The prophecies were fulfilled in the past 2,000 years and they thus couldn’t have been written during or after the fulfillment (we have copies of Deut. ch. 28 among the Dead Sea Scrolls).

            The most common objection to this prophecy is that it is referring to the Babylonian or Assyrian exiles of the Jewish Nation (and therefore it could have been written post-fulfillment). But much internal evidence proves otherwise. We can get into that discussion if you desire. Let me know what you think.

            p.s. I don’t think it’s worth it to fully dive back into the Mass Revelation argument but I’d just like to comment on a point you made. You write that many religions have exclusive aspects to them and thus the Mass Revelation aspect of Judaism is among those. But I think that the exclusiveness in other religions are all in side details not directly related to the origins of its Revelation. The Mass Revelation is about the very foundation of the religion.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Dovid, thanks for these thoughts. I have thought that once the nation was in exile, it is natural that prophets would predict both faithfuless and return. I would value hearing your thoughts on how it applies to the later periods of history.

            I was thinking also about how Judaism makes claims on us about how to see and interact with others. Should we see it as kidnapping when a calf is removed from their mother for farming? Judaism says it’s fine, but empathy on its own may notice how these mammals have very similar emotions and parent-infant attachments as those of humans. Yet the conversation is a non-starter when the Bible is accepted. Should we mingle freely with other cultures, or hold back from getting very close to the multicultural groups in our communities because of the idol worship involved in their everyday lives? Should we hold an opinion about who should marry whom, who should eat what, etc…an opinion which can make some people feel like they’re marginalised for their choices? Should children and teenagers be expected to follow limitations beyond just a basic level of fairness, kindness, modesty, and wisdom? Believing in the divine origin of Jewish law would lead me to accept ideas that I wouldn’t otherwise value, and which would affect not only my life but also those of others. So that’s an extra reason for wanting to be convinced without bias.

          • dovid says:

            Annalise,
            Here is attached a link do a short document which addresses the issue of which exile Deut. 28 is going on. I decided not to write it here because I think it is too long for a comment. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1aXUxSmg_AJnadD6FR159mFBt4hIKXHHP/view?usp=sharing

            You ask very interesting ethical questions and I hope my answers will satisfy you:

            > “Should we see it as kidnapping when a calf is removed from their mother for farming? Judaism says it’s fine, but empathy on its own may notice how these mammals have very similar emotions and parent-infant attachments as those of humans.”

            I think that the Torah doesn’t get involved in such ethical issues and let’s us make the decisions and decide if we think it is ethical or not. It’s similar to the government which abstains from certain ethical issues, such as the one in discussion, and leaves it for personal decisions.

            > “Should we mingle freely with other cultures, or hold back from getting very close to the multicultural groups in our communities because of the idol worship involved in their everyday lives?”

            This would obviously depend on the commitment and observance level. But as a whole I think that there needs to be a balance in which we are not secluded from the world but on the other hand we keep our children away from external influences which may astray them from a meaningful life. Further than that I think that someone can be in a crowd of people with different beliefs yet can be proud of their faith to the point where no one can influence them out of their standards. More than that this individual can influence the others to live a meaningful life after they realize and appreciate the morality and strength of this individual.

            > “Should we hold an opinion about who should marry whom, who should eat what, etc…an opinion which can make some people feel like they’re marginalized for their choices?”

            No, I don’t believe we should hold an opinion about how others should conduct their personal life. But G-d obviously does have the rights to. G-d tells us that if you’d like to live a meaningful life and fulfill your purpose of creation than A, B and C should be kept. It should be noted that Judaism doesn’t mandate who to marry and what to eat. It is only that restrictions (with both physical and spiritual advantages) are placed while leaving much leverage for personal choice.

            > “Should children and teenagers be expected to follow limitations beyond just a basic level of fairness, kindness, modesty, and wisdom?”

            The basic level of fairness, kindness, modesty, and wisdom are all standards established by society as universal morality. However, if one has personal standards of morality and meaning that surpass those basic standards, then I don’t see an issue with educating their children with such standards. The only issue would be is if a large percentage of the children would grow up to despise what they were taught and would have rathered their parents wouldn’t teach them those standards. But that is not the case with perhaps any religion in the world. People are generally happy with the education and upbringing they got from their parents (unless of course they wanted even more).

            Let me know what you think.

          • Annelise says:

            Thanks. I’ll read it soon, I appreciate it.

            I think that the idea of removing young from their mothers for farming is fairly universally accepted in Jewish communities. Even if a few people may find room to object to large scale dairy farming where calves are removed in the early days or months after birth, the general attitude in Torah is that animal relationships don’t matter and they can be separated.

            Apart from that point, I wasn’t suggesting we should disagree with the other things I mentioned. I meant that being utterly loyal to those standards is only a good thing if we’re sure that they’re what God wants…if there really is inherent value in them and in obeying them. If these things aren’t commanded by God, there may be wiser and kinder choices in various circumstances. Just a cause for the caution that you also affirm as important.

          • Annelise says:

            The article was a worthwhile read. So I have a couple of things to mull over now…thank you.

          • Dina says:

            Hi Annelise,

            I have so many thoughts in my head, I’m not sure I’ll be able to pin them all down!

            I haven’t done a whole lot of research on this topic, but I seem to recall that the dating of Deuteronomy by scholars is only a few hundred years later than the traditional Jewish dating, and thus well before the prophecies could have taken place. I’m not aware of any scholarly research that dates specifically only the prophecies as later interpolations. If you can find such evidence I would be interested to see it. I think we need to be extremely cautious about speculation.

            As for mass revelation, to me it’s mind blowing that the Torah would predict that no other religion would make such a claim–and that history has borne out this prediction. Why on earth would Moses make such a prediction? How could he have known? And indeed, why has no other religion made this claim?

            Have you ever watched/listened to Rabbi Lawrence Keleman’s lecture on mass revelation? I don’t like when people send me to video links, but this is well worth it. If nothing else, he is an entertaining speaker! I find that I can’t poke holes in his argument.

            https://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/proof-torah-true/

            About animals, the Torah places a value on human life that it does not on animal life. Human life is sacred because humans are created in God’s image. Animals are not. But the Torah also forbids causing gratuitous pain to animals, be it emotional or physical. The Talmud relates the story of a Jewish sage who was punished for his callousness to a lamb about to slaughtered. The lamb ran to him and tried to hide in his clothes, and the sage sent it back, telling it that it was created for this purpose. This was considered a bad attitude!

            As Dovid pointed out, the Torah did not forbid the consumption of animals but also did not forbid the option of veganism. But it must be pointed out, from a biological, scientific perspective, that our bodies are designed to consume both plant and animal matter, and if you were a vegan before vitamin supplements were invented and before it was known what important plant proteins could be substituted for meat protein, you could have serious health problems. In short, veganism is only a viable, healthful option in very, very, very recent history.

            It must also be pointed out that animal experimentation has saved and continues to save human lives.

            One can have empathy with animals while not being a vegan and while supporting animal experimentation.

            That said, the Torah does not support the idea that animals are people too.

            Your question about commanded violence is interesting. The reason you are bothered by this is because you believe there is value to human life. Please realize that the Torah introduced to the world the idea of the sanctity of human life. This was not a universal ideal. It was not a universal ideal even as Christianity and Islam spread in the West and East. It did not become a universal ideal in the Western World until after the Holocaust (with the exception perhaps of the United States). Yet this ideal comes from the Torah.

            Your value of human life comes from the Torah, and it is that which makes you question the commanded violence. It’s a very tough question and I don’t have an answer for you. I have to agree that all the answers I’ve heard are not completely satisfying. But the source of this tension between the two does make one think, doesn’t it?

            I have a lot of questions about the Torah and about Judaism. There are a lot of things I don’t understand. So for me, the question was, can I be certain the Torah is true? I needed to establish that first. If I could know with a reasonable degree of certainty that the Torah is God’s word, then it would be irrelevant if I didn’t understand something because I can trust that God knows what He’s doing. If I could be sure that the Torah isn’t true, then the commandments themselves would be irrelevant.

            An essay that helped me a lot in my own journey is this:

            https://ohr.edu/explore_judaism/living_up_to_the_truth/living_up_to_the_truth/992

            I think I sent this to you in the past but not sure we ever discussed it. It is quite long, sorry!

          • dovid says:

            Annalise,
            I think the entire discussion of animal treatment is a very broad one and fairly complicating. As far as relative morality goes, most humans would kill a cockroach even though cockroaches have feelings as well. The human treatment of animals (which has evolved over the years) is definitely not on the standards that we treat fellow humans. The Torah has the general approach that animals were created for human use. [This stems from the more fundamental approach of Torah is that creation was intended for mankind as the central actors.] But that Torah notion doesn’t negate a feeling of sympathy an individual might feel towards mammals. In fact there are a some (although few) Torah observant people who are vegan and the like.

            I feel that these questions are much stronger if you do not believe in Torah and are much weaker if you do believe in Torah. Therefore the underlining answer to all these issues would be to investigate why we believe Torah to be true. For me, the prophecies of Deut. 28 do the job. Below is attached a full discussion of the topic. I think you’d particularly enjoy the footnotes. I appreciate constructive criticism, so please let me know what you think as I highly regard your objective train of thought.

            https://drive.google.com/file/d/1317Gy38S90zp2I9QtjIW8Tf5xTsScY0G/view?usp=sharing

          • Annelise says:

            Dovid, Dina, and LarryB,

            It may be a few days before I can really reply to all this…I’m looking after a three year old on my own and have just moved house for the third time this year, and I’m also starting part time study. I’m not really in a stage of life where I can thoroughly examine the issues of biblical criticism, so this conversation could be a long and slow progression…but that’s the nature of life learning, anyway.

            Dina, I have seen the links you mentioned before, but I’ll look at them again. I may have missed some of the emphases while thinking about others. Dovid, I look forward to reading the document you gave as well, and will try to see what counterarguments exist. I do strongly value objectivity, although I don’t think I’m objective. I also do think that personal experience plays an important role in shaping our values. What we have personally witnessed is meaningful; we just need to be able to verify its level of connection to broader reality.

            A few thoughts about animals…I agree that veganism hasn’t been a viable option until recently. And even now, although for many of us veganism is arguably the kindest and most environmentally responsible thing to do (cows are an urgent issue in climate concerns), there are still many people with limitations that mean they still can’t be vegan in a healthful way. A lot of that is because of what options are available and affordable for children, people with allergies and other dietary needs, people with very low incomes, lack of education or food prep time/ability, etc. The reduction of animal use is a social issue as much as it is an individual one. So I agree with that point.

            Regarding cockroaches, I don’t think that they are capable of grieving for the loss of each other, so I am not opposed to killing them. Letting them live and breed will only cause a larger infestation that will eventually mean more of them will be killed by someone else. But I do feel anguished about the chemicals used to do so. These insects probably feel pain and fear more intensely than mammals do, because the fight or flight response dominates their brains and they are unable to balance those emotions. And yet the companies developing the pest control seem not to have any interest at all in finding chemicals or other methods to minimise insect suffering. They are trying only to maximise visible impact and minimise the amount of pests dying in noticeable spaces. There are certain products that are blatantly inhumane in ways that are convenient but in no way necessary. And there are no really good options.

            I don’t see the point of asking which life has more ‘value’. I do think it’s important to consider how much suffering we are causing. That said, the valuing of human life above all is essential for the functioning of societies. And also, people who don’t care about even their own species are likely to be lacking empathy in general and/or have antisocial tendencies.

            I think that perhaps the bigger question for me is why there are limitations on the Torah, and that all rolls into the question of why there is suffering. Why should there be any slavery, warfare, animal slaughter, and all the other uncompassionate elements that the Torah limits but can’t do away with? Why should that suffering exist, and why are we forced to contribute to it? This casts a dark shadow over the idea of a loving God and a perfectly righteous path.

            The idea that believing in Torah lessens the weight of certain questions does make sense, because if there is ample reason for belief then we can accept our unknowing regarding all kinds of things. We couldn’t possibly understand why God would do things; ‘why’ in a causative sense isn’t even applicable to the uncaused infinite. So some questions are negated in the light of a certain amount of pro-Torah evidence. But many questions, I think, sit for us on the opposite side of a scale, measuring the weight of evidence for Torah and the weight of questions against it (textual, historical, philosophical, etc.). The scale tells us what seems likely to us. The more questions on the other side, the more difficult or impossible wholehearted trust becomes. And I do think that the questions of suffering and of our contribution to it do have a place on the scale when we’re considering the likelihood of a loving, inifinite Creator. How clear the revelation claim is on the other side, and how possible the alternative explanations are, are factors in how much counterbalance there is. The difficult thing is trying to interpret it without letting emotions and long-held ideas/values colour everything.

            I look forward to having the time soon to consider the prophecy of the exile, and the meaningfulness of mass revelation being unique.

          • LarryB says:

            Annalise
            “I was thinking also about how Judaism makes claims on us about how to see and interact with others. Should we see it as kidnapping when a calf is removed from their mother for farming? ”
            What about Deut 22, 6@7. “do not take the mother with the young” This must be very important because I think there is only one other place in the Torah where there is a promise of long life. Honor your mother and father. I don’t think it matters whether it’s a bird or not.

          • dovid says:

            Annelise,
            I will attempt to address, at least briefly, your points made and of course there’s no rush for you to respond. The questions raised are certainly questions even after accepting the Torah as true.

            You ask why the Torah didn’t outlaw slavery completely. I’d suggest imagining the Torah would have forbade slavery entirely. The Jewish Nation, who were rebellious enough as it is, would have undoubtedly rejected the restriction against slavery. It was at a time that the world’s economy was dependent on slavery and the Israelites would not have given up such a prize. Therefore, the Torah balances out the practice in attempt to moralize the treatment of slaves as much as possible while still keeping the basic structure of slavery as to not alienize the Jews from keeping the restrictions.

            I think a good example would be when we often compromise with our children in school or at home. Sometimes we must put away the truth for the sake of practicality. There’s a saying that goes that not always must we “scream out the truth”.

            The guidelines set fourth by the Torah regarding slavery were the most moral possible given the circumstances and era the Torah was given in.

            You mention the fact that the Torah doesn’t forbid animal slaughter. First of all, Dina mentioned a good point about the possibility of veganism in that day and age. Second of all, I don’t think that by any standards is animal slaughter a moral issue that is binding on everyone. Unless the Creator of the universe forbids something, then the standards of one person cannot hold another person accountable. It is called “relative morality”. The fact is that most people do eat animals and don’t feel that it’s a moral issue. So we cannot ask why the Torah doesn’t forbid something that most the world doesn’t find an issue with. If an individual feels particular compassion towards eating an animal, then the Torah does not discourage them from becoming vegan. It is a personal standard as discussed earlier.

            Animal suffering is clearly outlawed in Jewish Law and ritual slaughter is done in order to cause the least suffering possible for the animal.

            You mention warfare. I’m not sure to which specific instance you are speaking about and I don’t think it is worth getting into all of them at the moment. However, on a more general note I think there’s a moral obligation for warfare in some instances. For example, a war on terrorism. It can be argued that the war against Amalek, given the historical context, was something along those lines.

            Similarly, it will be noteworthy pointing out that haven’t the Seven Nations of Canaan been wiped out, the world as we have it today would probably not have reached this point. The modern democracy is a direct branch from Judaeo-Christian ethics. Have the Seven Nations been around to influence the Jews into idol-worship and away from Torah values, the world wouldn’t have been where it is today and where it is heading tomorrow. G-d saw the greater picture and commanded us to do accordingly.

            The Torah’s values were set on moral basis. There are particular exceptions for the sake of a greater world, but those exceptions are clearly noted as exceptions. It is for this reason that historically speaking the Jews were probably the most moral nation (or at least from the most moral nations) out there.

            You mention the idea of suffering that G-d created (or allowed). For the sake of avoiding the long discussion, I will answer briefly that it is for this reason that G-d will repay all those who tolerated suffering in this world although they haven’t deserved, in the World to Come – the World of Justice. If G-d is a moral Being then that is certainly what He will do; and if he’s not a moral Being then the question doesn’t begin in the first place.

            Again, don’t feel any pressure to rush with your thoughts and study of the Deut. 28 argument. Let me know if I should clarify any of my thoughts.
            Dina, if you can weigh in on this that would be appreciated. I really enjoy your take.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Dovid,

            I think I wasn’t clear enough…I meant that the fact that the Torah has to compromise is the thing that troubles me. Understanding the fact that slavery, warfare, animal slaughter, etc. were all realities of life in that time, I was saying that the biggest issue I have with the Torah may not be a moral one…but rather, the difficulty of believing that a loving God created a world like this, despite not being forced at all by any reason or cause beyond Himself. How much evidence for faith would be needed to outweigh the fact that despite all the good and beauty in the world, it is certainly outweighed by the amount of pain? And we can’t exist without the compromise of inflicting suffering.

            That’s not a proof against God, of course there are possibilities that explain it. It just adds a lot of weight to the other side of the scale, in my perception.

            A separate thing is that I think it’s more realistic to believe that the Torah was compiled at some point from previous scrolls and traditions. (I don’t believe we can precisely say who wrote what, though.) This doesn’t mean that Torah’s foundational points, or the authority of the oral tradition, are untrue. But I’m not quite sure what the implications of this idea would be for ability to believe in Judaism. (It may also be the reason a lot of children in Modern Orthodox homes don’t take their faith seriously, but that doesn’t prove whether it’s true or not.)

          • Annelise says:

            PS Without being able to know that there definitely is a world of justice, it’s hard to come or the conclusion that there is a loving God. Despite the joy and beauty we can experience, and the very good things that sometimes happen, I think thay the evidence from this world alone leaves us believing that our ultimate cause is mystery and is probably not caring. Clear divine revelation could disprove that theory, but it would need to be very evident in order to do that…because the apparent lack of care is so evident.

            Most of the planet is filled with animals such as insects, which feel a lot of pain in their short lives, and have no capacity for feeling deep meaningfulness, beauty, or close relationships, as we can.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, I think your problem is not with the Torah so much as with a belief in a compassionate Creator. How could a loving God create a world with built-in suffering? Suffering is built in for animals in the wild, who have to contend with predators, disease, injuries, hunger, bad weather, and so on. It’s built in for animals in civilization, for pets with cruel owners, for animals abused by children (my kids have reported neighborhood boys torturing kittens), for horrible conditions for animals raised for food.

            Suffering is built in for humans, for children born to abusive and/or neglectful parents, for people of all ages contending with poverty, terminal illnesses, chronic pain and/or disease, and so on. Even people with good lives have to suffer the pain–for women–of bearing children, the aggravation of raising them, the conflicts and mistreatments that arise from time to time, mild illnesses such as the common cold, etc.

            There is so much more. I haven’t even touched on natural disasters. As of this writing, hundreds of people are reported missing and presumed dead from forest fires in California, for example.

            For someone who believes in a compassionate God, this is the unanswerable question. However, here is an interesting thought experiment. How much suffering would be acceptable in your world if you could create one? What kind of suffering? Or would you create a world with no suffering at all? Everyone would have exactly what they need or even what they perceive they need (sometimes people feel deprived for not having things they think they need but don’t really need). No one, neither people nor animals, would suffer any pain at all, ever. Everyone would get along beautifully. There would be no painful challenges. Religious truth would be evident to all.

            Wouldn’t that be pointless and boring?

            (Sometimes I think that the picture painted by the prophets of the messianic era is that life would be kind of boring and pointless. I hope that’s not a heretical thought!)

            Before you can question what is in the Torah, I think you need to resolve your belief in a Creator. That’s a much more basic question so it comes first. The Torah is only true if there is a loving and compassionate God. If there isn’t, then you can forget about the whole thing.

            So first things first :). In your journey, the first stop is to resolve your questions about God. Then you can turn to figuring whether or not He is the Author of the Torah.

          • Dina says:

            Dovid, the question of slavery is an interesting one. How did someone become a slave in the first place? Either he was captured in war or he was kidnapped and sold. Kidnapping in the Torah is a crime punishable by death, so I would imagine that purchasing a kidnapped human being would be forbidden. I do not know if this is discussed in the rabbinic literature. Is one allowed to purchase stolen goods? Similarly, I think it would be forbidden to kidnap a stolen human.

            As for war, the Israelites did not commonly make war in which they took captives. These types of wars were exceedingly rare, Biblical proscriptions and descriptions notwithstanding.

            The Hebrew word for servant and slave is the same, which can cause some confusion. The greatest discussion of this topic in the Torah regards not slavery as many people translate it, but indentured servitude. If someone was found guilty of theft but was unable to repay what he stole, then he would be indentured as a servant. That is a far cry from slavery.

            Then there is the point you made about how slaves/servants are to be treated. Nowhere else in the civilized world up to and including the United States during the period of slavery were slaves treated according to these Biblical standards.

            I think the Torah did not forbid slavery because the concept of owning a human being is foreign to the Torah. All humans are created in God’s image; therefore it stands to reason that you cannot own a human being the way you own a cow. I do not think Jews in Biblical times ever saw themselves as owning slaves.

            As for animal slaughter, I see no moral problem with killing and eating animals. Animals are sentient beings but lack the ability to contemplate their future or to consider whether their actions are wrong. Lions, for example, have no qualms about hunting for their food. Cows do not worry that one day they will be taken to the slaughterhouse. As long as the slaughter is done in a humane manner, it’s fine. Thanks to Temple Grandin, slaughterhouses are designed in such a way that the animal has no idea what’s coming until it’s over, so there is no fear. And trust me, the animals back home aren’t discussing among themselves the heinous crime of mass animal slaughter or weeping over Daisy.

            When our cat had kittens, we gave away the kittens as soon as they were weaned. Our cat was lonesome for about a day, then completely forgot about them. Was it immoral to give away the kittens? Should we have dealt with having to house four more cats?

            The reason we have a cat in the first place was because of an intractable mouse problem. Should we have let the mice thrive in our home? Was it wrong to get a cat to scare them away, and eat one from time to time?

            In general, how should one deal with infestations, whether bug or mammal, in the home? Is it wrong to spray for ants, roaches, and the like?

            To me the question is morally silly.

            If someone wants to be vegan, well and good. But I do not think veganism is morally superior.

            As for the commanded genocides, morally, that is a very tough question to answer. I cannot imagine running a sword through a baby. The very thought makes me shudder to my very bones. I suppose the Israelites did not have the stomach to fulfill this command, as we see that they did not fully carry it out. That is why the question for me is, can I believe with a reasonable degree of certainty that the Torah is truly God’s word? If the answer is yes, then I can trust that in cases where I really cannot comprehend the why, that God knows what He’s doing.

            For example, I cannot understand why the Torah ever permitted polygamy in the first place. To me, the concept of sharing one’s husband with other women is sick. It for sure seems to violate the commandment to love your fellow (if what is hateful to you should not be done to your fellow, then a husband should not take another wife unless it is not hateful to him that his wife should take another husband, which it is unless there is something seriously wrong with him). Believe me, there is nothing cultural here in my view. All women of all time hated sharing their husbands. Don’t take my word for it: read the stories of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and his wives, Elkanah and his wives.

            I struggle with the concept of agunah (chained wife). I cannot understand why any human being is given so much power over another human being, a power that has been abused many times throughout history.

            I have many questions about the Torah’s commands or things the Torah did not limit, but because I am satisfied that it is from God, I don’t experience too much angst over them. It might seem like the easy way out, a relief to not have to worry. But it isn’t, because it’s quite the journey to get there!

          • Annelise says:

            Right, I think a lot of the question is about belief in a compassionate Creator. Part of it is still about what the Torah did or didn’t limit. I don’t believe that the question implies it’s impossible that there is Hashem and He gave the Torah. Just it makes the whole thing seem less likely.

            Torah and Judaism contain stunning examples of compassionate society, particularly in comparison to their time and place. Yet compassion, and justice for the oppressed, have come into human history from other cultures as well. And there does seem a juxtaposition in the Torah between the parts that contain it and the parts that don’t seem to…for whatever reason. It means that I give more caution to the seeming miracles, in the same way that I do for Christianity’s ones now that I understand the much more compelling reasons not to accept it.

            I don’t think a world without awful suffering would be boring…there could still be challenge, difficulty and growth, knowledge, experience, relationship…and infinite possibilities because God is considered totally unlimited by cause or reason. It’s true that a large amount of the meaning in our lives comes from the strength, insights, and relational understanding that are built through loss and pain. But the chasm goes so deep as to be unbearable, sometimes.

            There is apparently newer research that insects can probably feel pain/fear. I hope they don’t, but would give them the benefit of the doubt.

            The question is whether God has revealed that He does in fact know and care, in a way that overrides the visible conclusion.

          • Annelise says:

            Also, there is research to show that calves separated from their mothers exhibit pessimistic reactions later on, similar to that of cows in pain from dehorning, which probably indicates something in the category of depression and anxiety. Separated calves also are less socially competent as adults and are quicker to give up trying in situations where they feel trapped (defeat response). Their stress response is also physiologically different from that of cows who weren’t separated as calves. I’m not sure whether similar research has been done for the mothers, but without asking them how they feel, it’s hard to know. We have similar brains to any other mammal in the emotional and attachment areas. And cows do have best friends, showing stress when separated from them. It’s purely a human choice not to care about those relationships or emotions when managing livestock, taking their children, their milk, their parents, their friends from them and deciding that they seem visually ok after a few days.

            Things are often worse for chickens, though, as they are smaller, worth less money each, and more subject to inhumane situations generally…and abuse or unnoticed illness individually.

            That’s beside the point of the rest of the conversation. But it’s still important. An industrialised world, and the rapid rise of the world’s population and wealth levels, have changed what it means to use animals.

          • LarryB says:

            Annalise
            I just looked up whether insects feel pain or not and apparently they don’t. They don’t have pain receptors.

          • dovid says:

            Annelise,
            It sounds like one of your strongest arguments against the existence of G-d is the fact that He caused (and allowed) suffering in this world. But candidly who ever said that G-d must be a total loving Being? or at least since when does His existence depend on this perception that we have of Him? (i.e. we cannot doubt the existence of Him because we decided that He must be a loving Being.)

            Let’s start with the basics. G-d, as you pointed out, isn’t limited by anyone’s rules and thus He sets the standards for Himself. Next, love and compassion is our relative morality that essentially speaking isn’t any more true or superior to evil and murder, say. The only place that love is superior to hate is in our minds. We want to live in a stable and enjoyable world and therefore we have embedded in society the deep morals of good and justice. But objectively speaking there’s no essential superiority in love over hate.

            Perhaps this is a dangerous thing to say, but I think it’s essential in order to understand at least somewhat the ways of G-d. G-d isn’t limited to our preference of good and love. Technically speaking, He could be the most evil devil imaginable – yet still be the unlimited Creator of the world.

            In reality though, He decided (not because He was bound to it) to be a good and moral (i.e. moral by our standards) Being, which explains why He commanded us to act the same. However, He wasn’t/isn’t COMPLETELY good. He is RELATIVELY good (the relative is measured based off our standards etc.). Some people might think I’m a heretic for saying this, but I couldn’t care less. I have proofs that He cannot be the ultimate lover, but that goes way beyond our discussion. There’s no source in Torah that refutes my approach.

            So, He created a world in which most people are happy (which is why they don’t commit suicide). He created a World to Come which is far greater than this world (in the pleasurable sense) in which people will be compensated for the suffering they have endured in this world. As for why He gave the suffering in the first place, it is perhaps to test us whether we will withstand the suffering and remain faithful. To make a long story short, He’s loving but not entirely loving.

            But here’s where it gets complicating: Philosophically speaking, I don’t think it is possible for Him to be entirely giving and gracious to a creation. Our entire perception of good and evil is relative to the standards that we are familiar with. For one person, the greatest evil would be for him or her to not being able to pay their mortgage while for another the greatest evil would be if they lose their WiFi. If theoretically G-d would cease all wars and death etc. that would elevate our standards to an even higher perception of good and evil. On such a level suffering would perhaps be for things that we currently don’t perceive as so bad. Every level elevated would just up and up our standards of good and evil. This issue would go on and on as long as we’re finite beings. There’s no limit to big – big can always get bigger. No matter what, we would always have the question: WHY NOT EVEN MORE?

            Hence, it is not even POSSIBLE for G-d to provide us with the ultimate good, precisely because there’s no such a thing as ultimate good – bc good can always be even better.

            This is all to answer the logical aspect of the question. To answer the emotional aspect of the question (i.e. when we are suffering ourselves and are seeking comfort), I would say the following.

            There is a beautiful parable to bring out the point. A primitive man from an African tribe unaware of modern technology and advances, got lost and ended up in a hospital. He is hiding in an operating room. Suddenly, this man sees the most horrifying scene of his life! An unconscious person lays on a rolling-bed followed by a man dressed in white clothing. Unaware to this primitive, it is a doctor and his patient. The man watches in horror as the “butcher” uses his knife to begin dissecting and cutting at the patient… In reality this “butcher” is in fact saving the patient’s life by performing an urgently needed life-saving operation.

            We, with are limited physical intellect, often do not grasp the actions of our Creator, but having this parable in mind, we can begin to understand that not everything is on our capability of understanding. If we would understand Him, we would be Him! But we’re not… Not everything that G-d does do we have an answer for.

            This is not only a pill to take to comfort ourselves in a time of suffering, but this is also a true concept. The suffering we endure is for a greater purpose (which will be visible in the World to Come). If so, why did I bring the philosophical approach earlier? Because on a deeper level we need to get to that answer. Because G-d is the omnipotent He could have had us reach the greater good without the need for suffering first. That is why we must come to the earlier points I brought.

            This is my take on the matter and I hope G-d will forgive me if I misunderstood His actions.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Dovid, I just saw this comment after replying to Dina. I agree that philosophically there is no reason why the Creator must be loving according to our standards. I don’t know that philosophically we can say anything about our Creator at all, since everything we could say, even calling Him our Source or Creator is to use finite metaphors. However, I would find it very difficult or even impossible to love Hashem with all my heart, soul, and mind if He were indifferent to the suffering of anyone. I can only reject that emotionally, and I think that there are elements of Torah that appear to oppose it as well, since it advocates concern towards the very most vulnerable members of society. The logical conclusion of that commandment seems to be a valuing of universal empathy.

            I don’t think there can be any reason for suffering, the way we understand reasons, because God isn’t finite like the surgeon, or like a parent, or like the government. If He made the world, and us, and our desires, and revealed that He cares, I can accept that without expecting to understand. Some suffering is so senseless and painful that no answer could negate it. But without the state of things being as it is, it would be much easier to believe that the compassionate elements of Torah (defining so much of its essence) come from the author of existence.

          • Dina says:

            Dovid, I was thinking about that very parable, funny you should raise it!

            I disagree with you on relative standards of good and evil. The Torah sets the standard for absolute good and absolute evil, which refutes relative morality. The Torah uses the words good and evil in a way that expects its audience to understand that those terms are absolute and not relative. This is also the case for the words “righteous man” and “wicked man”; these are absolute terms. See Deuteronomy 30 and Ezekiel 18 and 33.

            Furthermore, the Torah itself describes God as compassionate and gracious, long suffering and quick to forgive (see Exodus 34) and also filled with loving kindness (Psalm 103:8). So Annelise, in the Torah view God is not indifferent to suffering, that he is with us in our misfortune (Psalm 91:15), that he does not desire the death of the wicked, etc. (Ezekiel 18 and 33). I agree it would be impossible to love an unloving God.

            However, the suffering that we see that is so unbearable and seems so senseless–for that there is no answer.

            I seem to remember that the traditional Jewish explanation of Moses’ question to God, “Show me your glory” is that he was asking why bad things happen to good people and vice versa. And God answered “I will favor when I wish to favor, and I will have compassion when I wish to have compassion.” In other words, it’s for God only to know.

          • Annelise says:

            Mm. That’s why the question of suffering isn’t an absolute proof against the possibility of Torah being from God.

          • dovid says:

            Annelise,
            I want to also briefly comment on your point about the Torah being written over time by different people. Technically speaking, there’s no issue with that. If that’s what it takes for someone to believe in Torah, then let it be so. The only thing is that there is a strong tradition in Judaism which says that the author of our Torah was Moses. [From the Torah itself it is not clear that Moses wrote all Five Books.] I call it a strong tradition because it is not a tradition on a side detail of our religion but on a fundamental pillar of the Jewish faith. Therefore I think high credibility should be given to this tradition.

            As for Bible Criticism, there’s a separate answer for each particular question. As a whole however, the different usage of terminology in the Torah can be explained by simple historical context. The Talmud says that the Torah was written over the course of forty years in the Wilderness. After each time G-d spoke to Moses, Moses documented the conversation in the Torah. After each story happened, Moses recorded the incident. A natural result is that different terminology would be used at different times. I see this with myself as well. I write very different now than i did even a year ago.

          • dovid says:

            Annelise,
            I’m totally on board with you. The issue of suffering in this world isn’t an issue at all questioning the existence of G-d, as discussed. [Just to comment on a point you made: the issue of giving G-d our standards and perception of morality isn’t just because we cannot attribute finite elements to Him, but it goes beyond that. It’s not even possible – logically – for Him to provide us with the greatest good without suffering because every good has an even better, as discussed.]

            The core issue at hand is the command to love G-d with all our heart and soul. I’ll be honest with you, this is certainly the hardest commandment for me to keep. However, I think some thought on these two thoughts can help tremendously:

            (1) If you love yourself (and everyone does) then by extension you must love the One Who created you. We are literally nothing compared to Him, and the very fact that He even considers us is mind-boggling and arouses a love for Him.

            (2) Most people love their parents – tremendously. This is despite the fact that they have some self-centered agendas and they haven’t given up EVERY second of their life in supporting us. The logic is simple. We love them for what they have done and cannot expect them to have done even more for us. Similarly is with G-d. He gave us what He gave us and we should love Him for that. [Now, although there are fundamental differences between the comparison, e.g. that G-d is omnipotent and our parents aren’t, the core of the issue – philosophically – is the same etc.]

            (3) The point brought earlier that it’s not even possible for Him to give us the ultimate good is a point worth thinking about. He cannot be the ultimate good precisely because such a thing isn’t possible just like 1+1=3 isn’t possible.

            Anyways, the issue of G-d’s morality is an emotional issue that leaves the topic of whether the Torah is true or not. I’d love to hear from you when – and no rush – you find the time to read the Deut. 28 document I sent you.

          • dovid says:

            Dina,
            The Torah does indeed set the standards of absolute morality as you point out. However, it only became absolute because G-d decided that it should be so. Therefore we cannot question His existence based off the very standards that He decided should be absolute (for us).

            Also, the fact is that G-d is indeed loving and compassionate – except that it has its limitations, as discussed earlier.

            The Torah does indeed describe G-d as loving and compassionate. Initially I would say that those statements should be put into context – its about Him forgiving our sins, something He has no reason to do and its purely out of His love. But even further than that I’d say is that He is indeed loving and compassionate even beyond the context of Him forgiving our sins. Except that that has its limitations for the reasons discussed above. I can describe a friend as loving even though he or she might have some self-interest or might not be as loving as loving gets.

            You are %100 right that there’s no explanation for the suffering that G-d makes (or allows). However, we still need to answer why that doesn’t make Him an evil monster, which is what I attempt to do. Saying that we cannot understand why G-d does these things is good to help us emotionally with the issue. But to answer the rational issues with it, we must also use other means.

          • Annelise says:

            If God has no needs, then He can’t be selfish in any way that’s comparable with the same attitude in humans/animals. Even human cruelty comes from psychological issues that are one way of expressing the experience of anxiety.

            As to the idea idea that suffering exists because there is always greater good…I don’t think that means there must be intense suffering. Contentment is also a real possibility.

            I definitely will look closely at Deuteronomy 28. At the same time, I’m just considering how I would weigh that evidence, which would be significant if you’re right, against the difficulty believing that the compassion found in parts of Torah doesn’t contradict the universe’s foundations.

            It’s hard not to see the Jewish nation as so unique and filled with such treasure that there must be a supernatural explanation. However, there are good natural explanations for a lot of the unique elements and for the survival that is seemingly against all odds. I think that means that we need to set aside the intuitive impression, and consider only the elements that can’t reasonably be explained away. Intuition can help us very much to notice things that might be important, but it isn’t the final place for closely considering them, I think. We sometimes come to biased conclusions when we shift without noticing between mind and heart. So I think that Deuteronomy 28 needs to be considered in isolation from any other feelings or impressions that may be less provable. It seems you think it can be, so it will be good to delve into that.

          • Dina says:

            How intense the suffering? Suffering is one of those things that is truly relative and highly subjective. People who commit suicide are suffering intensely, but there are people who suffer from the same things yet are happy nevertheless. (I am not talking about suicide as a result of mental illness.)

          • Dina says:

            Dovid, I disagree that there are limitations on God’s love and compassion. Can you find where the Torah supports this? The statement “Praise the Lord for He is good, for His loving kindness endures forever” from Tehilim is not made in the context of forgiveness of sins. The Biblical metaphor of God as Father is both to see Him as a father who loves and has compassion for his children and also who chastises out of love (Deuteronomy 8:5).

            There are plenty of examples of God’s love in other contexts. Deuteronomy 7:7-8 comes to mind.

            Our inability to comprehend the suffering in this world is our own limitation; it is not a limitation on God’s ability to love and have compassion but a limit on our understanding. In fact, I believe that God’s love and compassion is boundless and limitless and greater than our ability to comprehend.

            When push comes to shove, I don’t think anyone believes in moral relativism. As soon as an injustice is perpetrated on themselves, they believe in absolute values!

          • dovid says:

            Annelise,
            “If God has no needs, then He can’t be selfish in any way that’s comparable with the same attitude in humans/animals.”

            True, but my point was to compare them in the aspects that they are similar in. The point was that just like we can appreciate an even small good that someone does. So too with G-d. We don’t need the extreme good in order to love.

            “As to the idea idea that suffering exists because there is always greater good…I don’t think that means there must be intense suffering. Contentment is also a real possibility.”

            But then again that brings me to my point about how you define “intense” suffering. On every level such suffering exists. That is because it is called “intense” only relative to our perception and reality.

            “I definitely will look closely at Deuteronomy 28. At the same time, I’m just considering how I would weigh that evidence, which would be significant if you’re right, against the difficulty believing that the compassion found in parts of Torah doesn’t contradict the universe’s foundations.”

            It is important not to reject the existence of G-d solely based off the RELATIVE MORALITY of the universe (because He is not bound to our comforts and standards). However, I’m confident that after your research you will find that the two moralities do coexist at a comfortable level.

            “However, there are good natural explanations for a lot of the unique elements and for the survival that is seemingly against all odds.”

            I discuss those natural phenomena theories in a footnote to the Deut. 28 document and explain their shortcomings.

          • Annelise says:

            I agree that anything at all given by God is cause for us to love Him wholeheartedly. But if He is apathetic towards the pain of anyone, how can I love Him in that case? If you had a parent, friend, spouse, or leader who is kind towards everybody, or on the other hand one who favours a select few and has no empathy for others…there will be a vast difference between the relationship you’ll have with that person, depending on which is the case. The tradition is to thank Him for being good and having absolute love; that’s the language used.

            I think that a state of not being content often comes not from the existence of good above our level, but from a state of suffering internally.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, you wrote, “But if He is apathetic towards the pain of anyone, how can I love Him in that case? ” This is not what Jews believe at all. It may seem as if He is, but we do not believe that He is.

          • dovid says:

            Annelise,
            You raise a very question that got me thinking. Here’s my conclusion. We base our attitude on other people (i.e. to admire them or despise them) through comparing them to others. If they are much nicer and empathetic towards others – more than average – then we generally will admire them more than we do an average person.

            The problem when it comes to G-d is that we have no one on His level to compare Him to. All we can do is compare Him to humans. However, being that He is so much greater than humans, what ends up happening is that He exceeds human action, both in good and evil (for He’s the One Who allowed all happiness and suffering to enter my life). Yet at the end of the day His good that He does (i.e. the good that’s measured compared to human good) considerably outweighs the suffering He causes (both in this world – which is why people are usually happy that they’re living – and more particularly in the World to Come).

            You write that you think that the state of not being content often comes from an internal suffering and not because of the perception of a higher good. I can’t see any truth to that given that I can pretty much always pin-point an occurrence as the source of a discontentedness moment or a better vision that I long for (sometimes it is more subconscious than others).

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Annelise,

            I would like to respond to your comment here https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43332

            I once heard a Rabbi say that Torah teaches man to respect reality and recognize reality as part of G-d’s world . One have to live life in conformity to the principles of reality that G-d created. G-d wants man to live in reality according to the divine elements He has implanted our souls.

            I learnt the practical application of this truth through a study of a Torah narrative – Jacob took blessings meant for Esau through deceptive means. It seems the traditional interpretation does not see any issue and that this is a divinely orchestrated event .

            This interpretation bothers me. It is much easier to accept if this deception is regarded as unjust , or that it is a consequence of living in a fallen , sinful world. It is much easier to believe that G-d did not intend for this act to take place , but allowed for it to happen anyway. It is much easier to see all that is bad coming from man and all good things come from G-d.

            Through the majority/traditional view , I learnt that G-d does intend for this deception to happen -that a less than ideal means is necessary to achieve a greater good . However there will be consequences from adopting those means.

            I was taught to see G-d in an “ideal” sense , perhaps due to my own religious traditions. This interpretation forces me to see G-d in a “pragmatic” sense and my circumstances as part of His Will. G-d wants us to use our intellect to navigate through these circumstances in order to achieve a certain outcome. Sometimes employing a less than ideal means may be necessary.

            It is hard for me to relate to G-d from this newfound perspective. It is difficult to reconcile this with the idea of G-d as good and loving to all creation. However it helps to see G-d as our Creator and that we owe our existence to Him . He holds our breath and life in His hands . As such we are responsible to do our best with the “Garden of Eden” that He bestowed on us.

            Thank you.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, I loved those last three sentences so much, I read them again and again! Thank you for inspiring me!

          • dovid says:

            Annelise,
            I feel like I overcomplicated my thoughts with too many words. So I would like to paraphrase my thought in just one sentence: If at the end of the day we love life, with all its ups and downs – then love G-d, the One Who created our life and its occurrences.

          • Annelise says:

            I think that Torah does see God being pragmatic in His actions within the world. Particularly since people, and even nature itself, are believed to have a level of free will that He gives and allows (within limits).

            However, in the instance of creation itself, there could be no pragmatism or context at all; only what He wills into existence, including all its outcomes. We can’t even begin to ponder any kind of reason for why the framework and limitations of the world are what they are, because to do that is to imagine that God is inherently limited by His context…whereas Judaism asserts that there is none besides Him.

            However, verses like the ones that Dina brought out claim that His kindness is universal and without limit. The phrasing is so absolute that all unexplained suffering must fit within that, rather than being exceptions to it.

            This all seems like a possible explanation. I want so much for it to be true. But even so, I feel that the expected outcome of a Creator who truly cares about everyone He creates doesn’t look at all like this world does. The idea that He is loving but mysteriously sustains the existence of terrible atrocities is the much less likely explanation. Only clear revelation could make me consider it as likely in any way. (I haven’t had a chance yet to finish going through the article.)

            I agree with Dina also about the allowance of captive wives and polygamy, neither of which seem necessary in the social context…both cause real suffering and loss, especially the first.

            My own experiences haven’t been unbearable or absurd enough to make me think this way. It’s more from witnessing the realities that others go through. I can only consider how it seems from an outsider perspective.

            About discontentment existing on every level, I think that it isn’t totally relative. Considering Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the are people who have their needs met adequately to feel content. They know there is more, and they are still happy with what is theirs. It isn’t relative because there are certain levels of need that are distressing, particularly on the lower levels of that hierarchy of needs. More recent studies into resilience identify particular anchors that allow people to cope as long as they have at least a few of them.

            I think that sometimes, feelings of discontent that we feel may be triggered by small things, yet really be connected to larger longings, anxieties, and/or insecure attachment styles…which we may, in time and in the right circumstances, be able to address or calm within ourselves. That’s what I meant by discontent being a form of internal distress, which doesn’t necessarily have to be experienced by everyone.

            It sometimes helps to rest on these kinds of things. I think philosophy and language can be circular and not really touch on the Uncreated at all. We can’t logically surmise that God is this or that. All we can do is surrender to hope, live as wisely as possible, try to reasonably examine the possibility of a supernatural revelation…and ask for help and guidance.

          • Dina says:

            I’m not sure I get the discussion of internal discontentment and its relevance, but I do have this to say:

            How happy you are, or to use your word, how contented you are, is how happy or contented you decide to be.

            There are people who have it all and are miserable and people who have nothing and are content. My brother has visited India on business trips. He said the inhabitants of that country are dirt poor but they are the happiest people he ever met. My sister traveled to Guatemala as part of a surgical team. She gets loads of complaints and bad attitude from her patients here at home. But the poor of Guatemala were the most grateful people she ever met.

            Of course, the more you have, the more you take for granted, and thus the harder it is to be happy and grateful. But it can be done! I used to be a very negative person. I thought I had the worst life ever. But when I started working on my gratitude attitude, that flipped. I now consider myself an extremely blessed individual and am much more content and happier in my life than ever I was.

            The worst suffering in developed countries besides for health issues is the suffering we inflict on ourselves and others. God gives people the free will to figure out for themselves (or not) how to make their lives and the lives of those around them pleasant. In a world without suffering, there would have to be no free will.

            What would be the point of that?

            That said, suffering is still the unanswerable question. As a famous rabbi once said, believers have to answer the question of suffering; atheists have to answer everything else.

            On the subject of a loving God: it’s hard to fathom how a God who allows atrocities to happen is a loving God. That still remains the unanswerable question of suffering. But this is what traditional Jewish people believe.

          • Annelise says:

            Also, I’ve read the article now, just quickly to begin with…and I’ll give my first impressions here. I wish I could look more deeply at it all, at this point in time.

            One thing you discussed was the idea that Jewish survival can’t be explained by natural means. I agree that there were other ancient nations with similar law codes to that of Israel, and also that overly strict codes can often push people out of a religion… so that the laws regarding kashrut, intermarriage, etc. alone can’t explain how Jews remained distinct. But I think that a more complex picture, including those laws, might be a natural explanation for the unique survival of the Jewish nation and religion in the Diaspora. These laws, inherent in the religion, definitely played a role in keeping families Jewish. Monotheism, the concept of actually loving the Creator of all things, has kept people loyal to these laws. The Jewish community’s values of compassionate justice and human dignity also kept people close to home, especially amidst the persecutions. The strong scribal tradition and the value of literacy helped to keep the study of Torah so alive. And the fact that both Christianity and Islam arose out of Judaism, and began to forge their identities as ‘not Jewish’, meant that Jewish communities mirrored this while retaining and developing their own identity. I think that this set of influences on Jewish continuity in the current exile could be described as either divine or natural in origin. Although it definitely is unique, I don’t think it would catch my attention quite as much if it didn’t involve the devoted keeping of monotheism.

            The chapters you discussed from Deuteronomy definitely contain some predictions that read directly into the experience of this exile. Those really catch and hold my attention, too. I agree that some of the exile statements fit even more closely with the second exile than with the first. I think I would say that it could be believed, though, that these could still have a natural origin. The curses seem to be kind of a jumble of worst-case situations, and not all of them apply so neatly to the Roman destruction and exile. And I think some of those that refer to exile could still have been influenced by the Babylonian captivity.

            Jeremiah 5:15, as you mentioned, interprets the ideas of a nation from afar and an unknown language as applying to the Babylonian exile. The extra description “from the ends of the earth” could be read as poetic parallelism, and it isn’t uncommon in the Bible for a repetition to magnify an image. You also mentioned Esther 3:9, saying that one nation was dispersed amongst the nations of the world. A passage like Psalm 137 could also be added, to answer the points about having no place to rest, and about the Babylonians being punished. You concluded that since these descriptions apply more clearly to the second exile, they couldn’t have been influenced by the first; I would disagree with that, while still keeping in mind how unusual that fact is.

            The references to becoming few in number and to returning to Egypt seem to be directly influenced by the promise to Abraham and the promise of the Exodus. Again, it seems significant that these also happened with the second exile, but it’s not surprising that they would exist in the ancient list of curses- a reversal of some foundational blessings.

            The thing I struggle with is knowing how to make a big picture out of all the smaller maybes. Christians try to say that a picture of Jesus is built up in the Jewish scriptures, even though each one of those supposed reflections of him has an alternative non-Christian reading as well. They feel that there are so many of these reflections that in the bigger picture, a strong theme emerges. But we can see that they are just reading their theology back into the text. In the case of Judaism, it’s hard for me to see whether all these unique, valuable, and noteworthy elements do or don’t build up into any pattern or picture, despite each one of them probably having another explanation.

            I think that the realm of textual criticism does make it more difficult to accept, because so many elements of the Hebrew Bible seem to be influenced by other cultures. The flood story, and the appearance of God in physical form, for example. The book of Enoch also has a story of angels marrying women, mentioning Azazel, which parallels a couple of obscure verses in the Bible as well… raising the question of what other traditions also existed, from which some of these Torah stories and ideas may have been chosen and compiled. And with the linguistic evidence for some of the prophetic writings being added to over time, there are reasons for the dating of each part. And it wasn’t uncommon to attribute war to the command of a god. There were significant differences between Israel and the other ancient near eastern nations, but still there is seemingly borrowing and post-Moses era compilation in the composition of Torah. How much does this hurt its credibility? (This is why the Mass Revelation argument is so relevant. If the Sinai revelation happened, then halacha and the Jewish understanding of Hashem are authoritative, regardless of other historical details.)

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, I don’t know how you read that essay and supplied a thorough critique so quickly. That is really something!

            I think you can take each prophecy on its own and explain it away (though the explanations are so unlikely as to be absurd), but all of them taken together cannot fairly be dismissed after objective review.

            This is not like the prophecies about Jesus in the Bible for the following reason:

            Christians believe that all the many prophecies about Jesus taken together–the same argument I just used–provide an irrefutable case for Jesus. But if you take each prophecy by itself and examine it in context, correctly translated, you will see that it is not talking about Jesus at all. So 300 x 0 is still zero.

            On the other hand, if you take a prophecy from the list of examples in that essay, you will see that there is a prediction that “just happened” to come true. The Torah predicted that the Jewish people would be exiled and dispersed. That came true. Now, you can think of a natural explanation how that would happen by coincidence, but the fact remains that a prediction was made that was fulfilled.

            Then you have another prediction: the eternal survival of the Jewish people. You might be able to explain away the survival of the Jewish people by natural means (I think it’s a bit tortured, but be that as it may). But you are still left with the fact that an unlikely prediction was made and fulfilled.

            And yet another prediction: no other people would ever make the claim of mass revelation. It’s a weird prediction to make. I don’t know why a prophet would make such a random claim. You can explain away why no one else thought of using this claim (again, a tortured explanation, but be that as it may). But you are still left with the fact that a prediction was made that was fulfilled.

            Then there is the prediction that the Jews will return to the Land. (Here you can correctly but irrelevantly argue that many predictions remain unfulfilled.) You can explain away the return of a people, exiled for 2000 years, to their homeland, something unique in history for sure. But you are still left with the fact that a prediction was made that was fulfilled.

            I don’t know how someone can look at the fact that the Torah predicted the Jewish people would be exiled, dispersed, and persecuted, that weakened and scattered though they be they would survive their persecutions, that the claim of mass revelation would forever remain uniquely Jewish, that the Jewish people would return to the Land (and there are more I haven’t covered) and fail to be impressed. I should really say, and fail to be blown away.

            And that is only one line of evidence for the Torah.

            So at the end of the day, you’re arguing how each unusual, unique thing that happened to the Jewish people can be explained away through natural means, but you are not explaining away the staggering fact that a prophet made multiple, fulfilled predictions about these unusual, unique things.

          • LarryB says:

            I would like to correct what I said earlier, “What about Deut 22, 6@7. “do not take the mother with the young” This must be very important because I think there is only one other place in the Torah where there is a promise of long life.” I think There are only two commandments that have the promise of long life.

        • dovid says:

          Dina,
          Hinduism is officially the world’s oldest religion. But in a sense Judaism is. While Hinduism has its origins predating Judaism, it constantly changes and its present form and beliefs is very different than it was say, 3000 years ago. Judaism is primarily the same as it was from Mt. Sinai besides for Rabbinic additions (Takannos). I’m not too familiar with Hinduism but this is at least what I’ve read up on Google.

        • dovid says:

          Annelise and Dina,
          I’d like to briefly explain my standpoint on the issue of G-d and morality before continuing to Deut. 28 discussion in an upcoming comment. Dina, you bring (a) verse(s) that describe(s) G-d as a Loving Father. I do believe that the verse is referring to Loving as a whole (and not only in the pardoning sins context).

          However:
          Given the world that we live in, we must conclude that while indeed Loving like a father, He still isn’t ENTIRELY loving. While I might feel uncomfortable saying this, I think the truth is that even a parent can often have self-interests and isn’t ENTIRELY loving, in the literal sense of the word. After all, they are a person for themselves with self-interests (except that one of their strongest self-interests is to protect and sustain their children). Given this, I don’t see why we can’t explain that G-d as well has self-interests so to speak (the self-interests wouldn’t be something He needs obviously but something that He decided to want etc).

          I do believe that we cannot understand G-d’s actions – and indeed I do not attempt to rationalize them. However, what I do attempt to do is explain how His actions aren’t an issue given that He is a Loving Father. Putting all my trust in faith alone, is something that I’m not accustomed to.

          Regarding contentedness: Yes, there are people who have luxurious lives yet are still content. As Dina pointed out this is because we often take life for granted and its all in the mind. At the end of the day, this contentedness is the result of being on a lower level than the individual imagines for themselves. Therefore as long as is there is a higher level than there’s always room for contentedness. And as discussed earlier, bigger can always get bigger, so I can’t see a solution to the problem. In a sense, it’s asking G-d to make 1+1=3.

          Leading back to the backbone of the issue: If someone is overall happy about life, then by extension they should love G-d. No one is saying that the Mitzvah to love Hashem is an easy, but given this rationale I believe its very possible to develop a love for Him after contemplating all the good He provides us. In the prayer before Shema every day we pray to G-d to help us love Him wholeheartedly.

        • dovid says:

          Annelise,
          Thank you for taking your time to review and critique my essay.

          “These laws, inherent in the religion, definitely played a role in keeping families Jewish. Monotheism, the concept of actually loving the Creator of all things, has kept people loyal to these laws. The Jewish community’s values of compassionate justice and human dignity also kept people close to home, especially amidst the persecutions. The strong scribal tradition and the value of literacy helped to keep the study of Torah so alive. And the fact that both Christianity and Islam arose out of Judaism, and began to forge their identities as ‘not Jewish’, meant that Jewish communities mirrored this while retaining and developing their own identity. I think that this set of influences on Jewish continuity in the current exile could be described as either divine or natural in origin. Although it definitely is unique, I don’t think it would catch my attention quite as much if it didn’t involve the devoted keeping of monotheism.”

          You certainly are right that there are natural components in the explanation of Jewish survival. However, given that no other nation parallels this – in addition to the fact that it was predicted – there’s a high level of probability that it was G-d who made sure these natural components all combine into this singular nation to have them survive against all odds.

          “The chapters you discussed from Deuteronomy definitely contain some predictions that read directly into the experience of this exile. Those really catch and hold my attention, too. I agree that some of the exile statements fit even more closely with the second exile than with the first.”

          I would just add that they don’t only more closely fit the Roman exile but there are existential issues with it going on the Babylonian exile, as pointed out in the footnote.

          “I think I would say that it could be believed, though, that these could still have a natural origin. The curses seem to be kind of a jumble of worst-case situations, and not all of them apply so neatly to the Roman destruction and exile.”

          Which curses are you referring to? (bear in mind that some of the curses have materialized during the actual years of Roman destruction and occupation.) Also even if it is a jumble of worst-case of scenarios, it still is perplexing how indeed these worst-case of scenarios happened exclusively to the Jewish Nation as predicted.

          “And I think some of those that refer to exile could still have been influenced by the Babylonian captivity.”

          It would be rather dumb of the “scholars writing the Torah” to predict that a rare occurrence of events will repeat itself. Also, the very fact that it indeed happened twice is mind-boggling whether or not the scholars found reason to predict a second exile.

          “Jeremiah 5:15, as you mentioned, interprets the ideas of a nation from afar and an unknown language as applying to the Babylonian exile. The extra description “from the ends of the earth” could be read as poetic parallelism, and it isn’t uncommon in the Bible for a repetition to magnify an image.”

          Granted. The phrase from Jeremiah is indeed a rather weak piece of evidence.

          “The references to becoming few in number and to returning to Egypt seem to be directly influenced by the promise to Abraham and the promise of the Exodus. Again, it seems significant that these also happened with the second exile, but it’s not surprising that they would exist in the ancient list of curses- a reversal of some foundational blessings.”

          Of course the reason of the curse and picking Egypt out of all countries is for the reason you mention. But why does that weaken the prediction and its fulfillment? Also, the point made in the essay was that according to Bible Critics the Torah was sealed (well) after the Babylonian exile. If that was the case, then the authors of the Bible would have certainly omitted this failed prophecy (the Jews were not sold as slaves in Egypt by the Babylonian exile as opposed to the Roman) if it was written about the Babylonian exile. This proves that they had a different exile in mind.

          “The thing I struggle with is knowing how to make a big picture out of all the smaller maybes. Christians try to say that a picture of Jesus is built up in the Jewish scriptures, even though each one of those supposed reflections of him has an alternative non-Christian reading as well. They feel that there are so many of these reflections that in the bigger picture, a strong theme emerges. But we can see that they are just reading their theology back into the text. In the case of Judaism, it’s hard for me to see whether all these unique, valuable, and noteworthy elements do or don’t build up into any pattern or picture, despite each one of them probably having another explanation.”

          Dina pointed out well why it shouldn’t be compared to Christianity’s proof-texts. 300×0=0. I mean the fact that Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9 are their top proof-texts shows us what game they’re playing.

          “I think that the realm of textual criticism does make it more difficult to accept, because so many elements of the Hebrew Bible seem to be influenced by other cultures. The flood story, and the appearance of God in physical form, for example. The book of Enoch also has a story of angels marrying women, mentioning Azazel, which parallels a couple of obscure verses in the Bible as well… raising the question of what other traditions also existed, from which some of these Torah stories and ideas may have been chosen and compiled.”

          On the contrary it can be argued that precisely because these narratives occurred do we find them across cultures. If the Great Flood has indeed occurred, shall we complain why other cultures share the story?!

          “And with the linguistic evidence for some of the prophetic writings being added to over time, there are reasons for the dating of each part.”

          Please specify a particular instance that we can discuss. BTW just for arguments sake, even if an issue is found with a particular Prophet, that wouldn’t disqualify the Torah – an entirely different book written by an entirely different author.

          “And it wasn’t uncommon to attribute war to the command of a god.”

          Just like it wasn’t uncommon to attribute Mitzvos to a god. But that doesn’t delegitimize the claim.

          “There were significant differences between Israel and the other ancient near eastern nations, but still there is seemingly borrowing and post-Moses era compilation in the composition of Torah.”

          You suggest “post-Moses era compilation”. How about the reverse possibility that the other cultures borrowed it from the Torah.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, all along I thought you were responding to the essay that I linked and I was confused because your comment didn’t quite match up! Now I know you were responding to Dovid’s link!

          • Eleazar says:

            So basically we’re talking Documentary Hypothesis? This conversation reminds me of reading the commentary in the Etz Chaim Chumash commentary Vs the Artscroll Stone Edition commentary, lol! 🙂

          • Annelise says:

            Dina, sorry I didn’t say which article! I’m still going to go back to the one you gave as well 🙂

            I didn’t mean that Judaism says God doesn’t care about some people…that’s the point I was disagreeing with, as you were as well. There are some seeming contradictions, so I guess that Dovid is saying that there is kindness with exceptions, whereas the traditional reading is that the suffering somehow fits within God’s kindness. If it is true that He doesn’t want even the ‘wicked’ to continue heading towards the consequences, but to turn and live, then surely His compassion is also there in unexplained suffering. If He is unlimited, then there’s no reason why self-interest should get in the way of looking after absolutely everyone to a perfect level…The God of the Jewish faith can do it all, and saw no limitations while creating the complex and intricate web of interactions that would happen in the world.

            I think that contentment comes from a combination of having ‘enough’ materially and socially (we may not need much for it to be enough), and having a level of mental health. So it’s not all in the mind…some suffering is far harder to bear, and a lot of mental health comes from more than just adjusting our attitude (although that concept of gratitude is so important, as you both said). The point is that if we have enough external anchors and emotional wellbeing, then we aren’t suffering as much as someone is without having these. And if we have emotional health, a higher degree of comfort/opportunity, and meaningful relationships, we are likely to be suffering even less at those times. There will always be more, but sometimes people have ‘enough’ of these important elements; sometimes at least they have enough of a few of the elements; and sometimes it seems people don’t have much of either one at all…there is much greater distress when that happens. The reason for saying that is to say I don’t entirely agree with the concept that suffering is relative and exists equally on every level when there is more that we don’t have. Although I can see some truth to it in some ways.

            About the prophecies, I’m not sure whether it is so astonishing as that. The verses I mentioned from Esther, Jeremiah, and Psalms show that very similar language (including about being dispersed) was used to describe the Babylonian exile. The references to Egypt and being small in number are direct reversals of foundational blessings for the Jewish people. As to the repentance and continuity of Israel and Torah, would the prophetic tradition of Israel ever have imagined anything else? All of these things could have very easily been written during and/or after the experience in Babylon.

            And the seeming internal contradictions, or the fact that some things didn’t come to pass in that exile, are not really an issue because the list of curses in the prophecy wasn’t written as if they should all refer to one event.

            So the existence of the prophecies in Deuteronomy 28 doesn’t seem impossible, or even amazing, if the chapter was written or compiled during ir after the exile. Yet I definitely see how it is amazing that it all happened again and in closer detail to the content of that chapter. So I want to keep that in mind for sure while trying to see the bigger picture.

            As to the statement in the Torah that Israel were the only nation to have collectively heard God and lived…I think that wasn’t so much a prediction that they would claim a mass revelation, but rather a recognition of the fact that they already did, by the time that verse was composed.

            Eleazer, I don’t hold to the documentary hypothesis because it is way too speculative and often makes assumptions that can be easily explained away. But it does make sense to me that the Torah seems to have been compiled from, various sources and to have undergone some scribal evolution, for a few centuries after Moses.

            I don’t know if I can really go into critical scholarship at the moment because I don’t even really have access to the sources, or to the time needed to consider them broadly and deeply. I hope that in a few years I might be able to do some postgraduate research in Biblical Studies, because I want to understand where the evidence really does or doesn’t stand. I know there are frequent assumptions and generalisations on both sides. Personally, I know I have a bias to believe in Hashem and accept that the Jewish community holds truth, and a competing bias to avoid being duped or committing to something that doesn’t have steady foundations. It’s really hard for me to intuitively assess the evidence in a way that isn’t heavily swayed by those factors. Biblical Studies as an academic field is undergoing huge overhaul at the moment, as well, and it isn’t clear what will be able to be seen out of that. But I would love to see more academic willingness to properly consider both the possibility and the probability of divine origins to the scriptures.

          • dovid says:

            Annelise,

            “Dovid is saying that there is kindness with exceptions, whereas the traditional reading is that the suffering somehow fits within God’s kindness.”

            In a sense that is true that the suffering is a part of his kindness. If we are faithful to Him throughout the suffering, we get much reward in the World to Come. So suffering does end up being a good thing/opportunity in that sense. However, more objectively the question becomes why did G-d create the system that suffering (and faith) is needed in order to achieve this goal. Because He is omnipotent, He technically could have created the system in the first place that hard work and suffering would not be needed in order to achieve a greater good. It is regarding THIS that I say there’s the exception to G-d’s attribute of kindness.

            “If He is unlimited, then there’s no reason why self-interest should get in the way of looking after absolutely everyone to a perfect level…”

            100% true. He had no reason binding Him to act in a specific way. However, because He is the omnipotent, He has the ability to generate a desire for Himself – and amongst those desires were specific rules of how the world should work. One of those rules was that through hardships we are brought to a greater good. That desire is comparable to the human self-interest.

            [It should be noted that the fact that He decided to generate a desire within Himself to create the world, is the most “kind” possible action. “Kindness” is the action of caring for an external being other than oneself. Because He is infinite, He had no reason to care about His creation and yet alone create them. This that He cares about us (finite beings) is incredible and somewhat comparable to a king caring about the most low-class peasant that lives hundreds of miles away from the palace (except that by G-d it is much more so since infinite has absolutely no connection, essentially, with finite).]

            “I think that contentment comes from a combination of having ‘enough’ materially and socially (we may not need much for it to be enough), and having a level of mental health. So it’s not all in the mind……. The reason for saying that is to say I don’t entirely agree with the concept that suffering is relative and exists equally on every level when there is more that we don’t have. Although I can see some truth to it in some ways.”

            I’m not sure why we’ve diverted to a discussion of where contentedness comes from. I think the point stays the same. For sure some are better off and happier than others, but that’s exactly the point. Although big can get bigger (i.e. one person can be happier than another based on the factors you list), we can never reach the epitome of big (largely because the definition of big is relative in the first place and can therefore go on and on just like numbers). Consequently, no matter how happy G-d created us, there’s always room for the question: WHY NOT EVEN HAPPIER?

            “About the prophecies, I’m not sure whether it is so astonishing as that. The verses I mentioned from Esther, Jeremiah, and Psalms show that very similar language (including about being dispersed) was used to describe the Babylonian exile.”

            100% true. Similarly, I would add, that Leviticus 26 also uses similar language. But the reason is simple. They were describing an event that almost paralleled one another. Both were exiles and dispersion etc. Leviticus 26 seems to be going on the Babylonian exile, while Deut. 28 MUST go on the Roman exile (with robust evidence listed in the footnote to the deut. 28 essay). If the “authors” of the Torah were writing Deut. 28 being influenced by the Babylonian exile, then they wouldn’t add all those details that only applied to the Roman exile. Additionally (i.e. besides for the question of WHY the authors would write a different account than what happened at the Babylonian exile), the details couldn’t have “happened to have occurred” exactly as recorded in Deut. 28. Additionally (as discussed in the essay), even if it wasn’t predicted in the Torah, the history itself is pretty ironic. I mean it’s very hard to give a natural explanation to explain the Jewish survival phenomena (as explained in the essay).

            “The references to Egypt and being small in number are direct reversals of foundational blessings for the Jewish people.”

            But bear in mind that this did not happen at the Babylonian exile and that “it happened by chance” by the Roman exile.

            “As to the repentance and continuity of Israel and Torah, would the prophetic tradition of Israel ever have imagined anything else? All of these things could have very easily been written during and/or after the experience in Babylon.”

            The experience of the Babylonian exile (a duration of 70 years – in which BTW the Torah was forgotten among a big part of the nation as seen from Nehemiah Ch. 8) does NOT say that the Jewish faith should survive 2,000 years of persecution against the Jewish belief.

            “And the seeming internal contradictions, or the fact that some things didn’t come to pass in that exile, are not really an issue because the list of curses in the prophecy wasn’t written as if they should all refer to one event.”

            Which curse can we say that historically it hasn’t happened?

            “Yet I definitely see how it is amazing that it all happened again and in closer detail to the content of that chapter. So I want to keep that in mind for sure while trying to see the bigger picture.”

            I’m happy to hear that! Leaving suffering aside, what would the biggest issue with Judaism be? I really am enjoying this intellectual conversation with you!

          • Annelise says:

            I think that we can’t guess why He did anything, or what He is like in sny sense apart from what He reveals in relating to the world. Otherwise we’re kind of anthromorphising Him.

            Also I’m not sure that now is the right time for this conversation, as I need to read more so I can stop speculating about some topics. But thanks so much everyone for the insights.

          • dovid says:

            Annelise,

            Again I’d like to reiterate how much I enjoyed your intellect and objectivity. If you ever feel like continuing this conversation in the future feel free to contact me at dovid354@gmail.com or comment on this web and hopefully I’ll take notice.
            Good luck with your studying and G-d bless you!

            Dovid

          • Annelise says:

            Thanks. Blessings too.

    • Sharon S says:

      Dear Jim,

      Thank you for your response to my comments .It has been quite a while. Yet I appreciate that you look into them.

      The Torah is revealed to Israel and not to any other nation (Psalm 147:19-20) , hence although it is divine truth but this truth is revealed to a single nation . Moses’s prophetic office , though publicly validated by G-d is meant for the children of Israel alone. I could not find a statement in the written Torah, which hints that the Sinai revelation as a guidance to all humanity as well. Do correct me if I am wrong.

      Islam and Christianity regard Moses as a mighty prophet and Sinai revelation as a historical fact. I remember listening to a speech made by Yasmin Mogahed ,an Egyptian born US Muslim author to her American muslim audience for an event ,held shortly after Donald Trump’s presidential election victory . Her speech was based on the exodus narrative as described in the Quran , in particular the flight of the Children of Israel from Pharaoh which resulted in the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. She told this story from an Islamic/Quranic perspective to encourage her muslim listeners , discouraged by Trump’s presidential victory and worried for their future to believe that G-d is on their side. The Scriptures of Islam and Christianity repackage the Torah narratives by bringing out its universal elements so that the message will be relevant and appreciated by humanity.

      You stated “One must instead fix himself upon the Torah, studying in it divinely authored truth”. I am aware that the 7 laws for humanity are part of the Sinai revelation. However these laws are not explicitly stated in the written Torah . One have to go to the Oral Torah in order to ascertain that this is so. The Rabbis of the Talmud derive 6 out of the 7 laws from Genesis 2:16-17(refer Sanhedrin 56b) based only on their interpretation of certain words and phrases in that verse ,for example –the phrase “and..commanded” imply a system of commandments i.e to establish courts .

      Is there any difference between the authors of Christian scriptures and the Talmudic Rabbis on the interpretation of the Jewish Scriptures? Why do you criticize Paul’s interpretation of Scripture in your writings and not consider this? How is believing in a Triune G-d based on a number of verses which imply plurality of the Godhead any worse than taking on the 7 laws , 6 of which is derived from just two verses of scripture?

      I remembered reading your article “Twilight man” in which you wrote (to another non Jew) “Just know that the Torah does not see you as an inferior being.” The more I study the 7 laws , Jewish scriptures and reading rabbinic commentaries the more I come to conclusion that the Torah does see me as inferior.

      You are right in saying my comparison of Judaism with Christianity and Islam imply that these faiths have claims to truth. These are universal faiths .There are no additional barriers such as birth , ethnicity or election in one’s relationship with G-d in Christianity and Islam other than consequence that arise out of belief or disbelief in its message (salvific exclusivity). Believers of these faiths stand on equal footing. There are no difference in laws and observances among believers , unlike the different set of laws and reasoning behind them for the Bnei Israel and Bnei Noach in the Torah structure. G-d is represented as actively reaching out to all mankind through either sinless sacrifice or through the continuous revelation of His Will via prophets and messengers to all nations -not giving up or “divorcing” a large section of humanity after the Tower of Babel episode and the subsequent “lost” transmission of the 7 Laws to humanity in the Torah.

      I derive the conclusions above through reasoning. It makes sense to believe in a prophet that has a public validation from G-d . However one has to consider the target audience and goal of his prophetic office . Should one devote to studying a message that is divine , yet not directly addressed to him/her or worse has the potential to divide and create a sense of superiority/inferiority of some over others ? Is the worldview of the Torah (concept of divine election on the basis of ethnicity-we can’t choose to be born Jew or non Jew) feasible in the age of globalization and breaking down of racial/class/gender barriers ? Is that what our Creator wants us to be –divided and not appreciating our diversity and our own worth?

      To my understanding, the Torah calls on man to engage his/her mind and reasoning to ascertain truth. Please advise if this method is subjective as well. Thank you.

      • Jim says:

        Sharon,

        Sorry about the delays: I am in the middle of a move. That and some other responsibilities are slowing me down.

        Jim

        • Sharon S says:

          Dear Jim,

          Your comment caught me by surprise because I thought the points I raised would have been forgotten by now .I did not wish to respond initially because you do have a valid point.Upon further thought I realised there are other things for you to consider as well,hence my reply.

          I really appreciate you taking the time to put forth insightful and well thought out comments despite your busy schedule.I learn a lot from our conversation and your posts and comments on this blog .

          I can see you have a heart for the non Jew , Torah and the relationship between the two.I am encouraged from reading your posts on these themes .I hope you will continue to write more of these posts in the future. Please take the points raised as honest feedback .I hope you will address them in future posts.

          Thank you.

  25. Jim says:

    Annelise and Sharon,

    Please forgive the delayed response to your comments. As I mentioned, my family and I are in the middle of a move. The move was complicated when we were unable to move into our new home and had to look for a different one. Today, we move into a lovely house in a village. I will not have internet set up for a few days. But, I am not ignoring your comments. I have them printed out in a folder, so that I will hopefully not overlook anything. I hope by next week to respond to both of you. (I will be gone this weekend, visiting my sister and brother-in-law.)

    Oh, and Annelise, I am not offended by your questions. Please do not worry about such a thing. One must be allowed to ask honest questions, if one is to pursue truth.

    Jim

  26. Dina says:

    Sharon, I hope to find the time next week, God willing, to track down the summary you wrote for me of all your questions and finally address them. The Jewish holidays ended tonight, so I expect to be slightly less busy!

  27. Dina says:

    Sharon,

    I found your post https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-42743 where you kindly summarized all your questions, my responses, and your further challenges, and now I will finally take a stab at answering them. I thank you for your patience! You waited a long time for this.

    You organized your questions into several categories, so I will follow those here.

    On the Role of the Jewish People

    After some back and forth on this, you asked why we don’t follow Abraham’s lead and teach the rest of the world about God.

    To answer simply, obedience to God means obedience to His commandments, not doing anything the patriarchs were recorded as doing. For example, Abraham also married his wife’s maidservant and kicked his son out of the house. He moved to the Land of Canaan at God’s command. It doesn’t immediately follow that all Jews should do all these things. Although if you’re a Jew and you can move to Israel, that’s great :)!

    To answer more speculatively, Abraham was not a Jew. There was no Jewish nation yet, and the terrible scourge of anti-Semitism did not yet exist.

    We now live in a time where the Jewish nation exists, and frankly, most of the world hates us. For that reason alone, for the sake of our safety, the lower profile we keep, the better off we are.

    Our experience has been, even in modern times, that Christians and Muslims are not open to our teaching. In my mind, who is creating the wall is not even a question. Christians still teach other that Judaism is evil; the New Testament itself contains the seeds of this idea. The Koran–well, you know what the Koran says about Jews. Even peace-loving Muslims who don’t hate Jews have little to no respect for Judaism.

    On the Tagline for 1000 Verses

    Rabbi B. answered this. If you still have further questions, please feel free to ask.

    On Idolatry in the Jewish Scriptures

    You ask why there is no consensus in the Jewish community on idolatry for gentiles. The fact is, no one disputes that idolatry is forbidden to all gentiles. The consensus on this is unanimous. I’m not sure about avodah zarah be’shituf (worshipping God through an intermediary). I may be wrong, but here’s what I understand: partnership idolatry is forbidden to all gentiles. However, in Rabbinic law, there are rules regulating business relationships with idolaters. The question then arose if those who worship God through an intermediary are also subject to these rules, not whether they are permitted to continue their worship. I may be wrong, and I hope Rabbi B. will step in to clarify if I have misrepresented this.

    You devoted another section to this topic, so I’m combining that here because I think I answered most of the questions in the other section. You ask a really good question. Deuteronomy 4:19 seems to imply that God apportioned to the gentiles the worship of the heavenly bodies. The classical commentaries on this verse discuss this very question. One answer is to be found within Jewish tradition. According to Jewish tradition, God gave all the other nations the opportunity to accept the Torah, but they rejected it. Therefore, God did not prevent them from straying into idol worship.

    On Anti-Gentile Writings

    While you agreed with my response on this, you nevertheless find it disturbing. You conceded that you had only seen snippets, so I assume you might have seen these out of context. For example, I am not aware of any texts that teach that gentiles are not rewarded as much as Jews for the good they do or that they are incapable of doing good.

    That said, please remember that the writers of these rabbinic texts were extremely civilized human beings living in a world where people didn’t blink at the murder of innocents, and where they were surrounded by oppressors on all sides. Civil rights and social justice were still foreign concepts for the rest of the world. For these writers to have not a single negative opinion about the people amongst whom they lived would be strange. Considering all this, I reiterate my former statement that they were in fact unbelievably restrained. It’s obvious in all their writings about gentiles (which contain many positive statements as well) that they viewed their non-Jewish counterparts with compassion as humans created in the image of God. Here are some examples:

    The righteous of all nations will have a share in the world of eternal bliss (Tosefta
    Sanhedrin, XIII:2).

    If a pagan prays and evokes God’s name, Amen must be said (Jerusalem,
    Berachos, 8).

    Antonius once asked Rabbi Judah the Prince, “Will I have a share in the world to
    come?” To which the latter replied, “Yes.” “But is it not written, ‘Nothing will
    remain in the house of Esau’?” “True,” Rabbi Judah answered, “but only if they
    do the deeds of Esau” (Avodah Zarah 10b).

    No one can become a Kohen or Levite unless he is so born. But if anyone wishes
    to become a holy and religious man, he can do so even though he is a pagan.
    Kindness, holiness, and piety are not hereditary and are not the possession of an
    exclusive race or nation. Justice and piety are acquired through one’s own deeds
    (Numbers Rabba, 8).

    Heaven and earth I call to be witnesses, be it non-Jew or Jew, man or woman,
    man-servant or maid-servant, according to the work of every human being does
    the holy spirit rest upon him (Yalkut, Section 42).

    Whether Israelite or heathen, if he only executes a righteous deed, God will
    recompense him for it (Tanna Devai Eliyahu, Section 13).

    On the Perspective of the Gentile Truth Seeker

    I don’t understand what you are asking, so here is the quote of your statements:

    a.There are distinctions and differences in obligation between Jew and non Jew
    b.The truths in the Jewish Scriptures , though relevant to all humanity is still explicitly directed to the Jew alone.
    c.There are no clear guidelines for the non Jew (at least in the written Torah).
    d.‘one truth does not fit all’ when it comes to Judaism

    If you can clarify what you are asking here, I will try to take another stab at answering.

    I hope this helps!

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Dina,

      Thank you for looking into these questions and responding to them . I have read your replies to the points raised and would like to respond to them . Apologies for going back and forth but some things need to be clarified . I will quote some of your comments and my response to them . It is a bit lengthy so please bear with me:

      1. Observations on the role of the Jewish people
      a.“To answer simply, obedience to God means obedience to His commandments, not doing anything the patriarchs were recorded as doing”
      “Abraham was not a Jew. There was no Jewish nation yet, and the terrible scourge of anti-Semitism did not yet exist.”

      My response:
      Isn’t the Abraham , Isaac and Jacob your ancestors though they are not Jews? Isn’t the establishment of Israel and the giving of the Torah a promise that G-d made to Abraham , a non Jew as per verses below?

      Genesis 18:16-18
      “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.[c] 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

      Isaiah 51:1-2
      “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
      and who seek the LORD:
      Look to the rock from which you were cut
      and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
      2 look to Abraham, your father,
      and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
      When I called him he was only one man,
      and I blessed him and made him many.”

      b. “We now live in a time where the Jewish nation exists, and frankly, most of the world hates us. For that reason alone, for the sake of our safety, the lower profile we keep, the better off we are.”

      My response
      I am aware of the continued existence of anti-semitism in the world . However the circumstances have changed for the better . The state of Israel is established and the Jewish people have a homeland . Israel is still standing despite the threats to its existence and wars it has engaged with nations and peoples hostile to it. It still exists despite the lack of support and criticisms against it by most nations in the world , including the leaders of my country .You should be amazed and proud that G-d has established your nation in the eyes of the world despite all odds stacked up against it . Why should you cower in fear when He has done so much for you and your people-His inheritance?

      c. “Our experience has been, even in modern times, that Christians and Muslims are not open to our teaching”

      My response
      I strongly disagree on this one . There are many among the nations who thirst for the teachings and truths you and your people have received from G-d . I would like to recommend the book “Ten from the Nations-Torah Awakening Among Non Jews” -a collection of personal stories from non Jews and Jews edited by Rivkah Lambert Adler. The editor is an orthodox Jewish educator based in Israel. You may refer to the link here http://www.tenfromthenations.com/

      I have visited her website , listened to her videos and interviews as well as read the book. This thirst is not only among Christians but also among Muslims as well .

      2.On the Tagline for 1000 Verses

      “Rabbi B. answered this. If you still have further questions, please feel free to ask.”

      My comments:

      Rabbi Blumenthal has indeed answer this question .Again , one has to go back to the original purpose of the blog – to counter the efforts of missionary in targeting Jews for proselytization by putting forth the strengths of Judaism. I noticed that articles on Jesus, Christianity etc , including “Sufficient” are written from the perspective of one Jew reminding another Jew (one who is bent towards Christianity ) his/her status as a member of the covenant nation and how he/she should hold fast to the covenant . This may cause confusion when a truth seeker reads an article on idolatry for example and thinks that the message in the article is addressed to a universal audience and did not probe further . Also these articles may be picked up by muslim blogs to bolster their claim for prohibition to idolatry and for their Christian bashing.

      In additions the videos posted in this blog comes with the tagline “Keeping Jews Jewish”. Why can’t this tagline be applied to the blog as well? This is not consistent. I will always exercise some caution whenever I listen to a “Jews for Judaism” video because the tagline tells me that the message though positive is not meant for non Jews . If the tagline reflects the purpose of the blog than it will avoid misunderstandings such as these.

      After all , you have also implied that the role of the Jewish people is to obey the commands and teaching the nations (in the example of Abraham –the non Jew ) is not one of them . So why don’t just change the tagline to reflect that direction?

      3. On Idolatry in the Jewish Scriptures

      “Deuteronomy 4:19 seems to imply that God apportioned to the gentiles the worship of the heavenly bodies. The classical commentaries on this verse discuss this very question. One answer is to be found within Jewish tradition. According to Jewish tradition, God gave all the other nations the opportunity to accept the Torah, but they rejected it. Therefore, God did not prevent them from straying into idol worship.”

      My response
      I have compared the prohibition to idolatry in Judaism to Islam in my previous comment .It seems from your response that idolatry among the nations is an accepted reality in the Torah . The prohibition to idolatry is incumbent to the Jewish people . However unlike the Torah , the Quran prohibits idolatry and especially partnership idolatry to all mankind . The commands of the Torah are for a particular nation and it seems G-d does not care how the rest of humankind worships Him. The commands of the Quran is universal for all. G-d is represented as continuously reaching out to all humanity . I can’t see that in the Torah .

      4. On Anti-Gentile Writings
      a. “I am not aware of any texts that teach that gentiles are not rewarded as much as Jews for the good they do or that they are incapable of doing good.”

      My response
      Please refer to the following texts:
      Avoda Zara 2a-3a

      The Gemara asks: And from where do we derive that they did not fulfill them? As Rav Yosef teaches in explanation of the verse: “He stands, and shakes the earth, He sees, and makes the nations tremble [vayater]” (Habakkuk 3:6): What did God see? He saw the seven mitzvot that the descendants of Noah accepted upon themselves, and He saw that they did not fulfill them. Since they did not fulfill them, He arose and nullified for them [vehitiran] the command to heed these mitzvot. The Gemara asks: Do they gain from not obeying, as they are now released from the obligation to fulfill these mitzvot? If so, we find that a sinner profits from his transgression.

      This serves to say that even if they fulfill the seven Noahide mitzvot they do not receive a reward for their fulfilment.

      The Gemara asks: And are they not rewarded for fulfilling those mitzvot? But isn’t it taught in a baraita that Rabbi Meir would say: From where is it derived that even a gentile who engages in Torah study is considered like a High Priest? The verse states: “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My ordinances, which if a person do, and shall live by them” (Leviticus 18:5). It is not stated: Priests, Levites, and Israelites, but rather the general term “person.” From here you learn that even a gentile who engages in the study of Torah is like a High Priest. This demonstrates that gentiles are rewarded for fulfilling mitzvot, despite the fact that they are not commanded to do so.

      Rather, the verse serves to tell you that they do not receive as great a reward for their fulfillment as one who is commanded and performs a mitzva. Rather, they receive a lesser reward, like that of one who is not commanded and still performs a mitzva. As Rabbi Ḥanina says: Greater is one who is commanded to do a mitzva and performs it than one who is not commanded and performs it.

      Avoda Zara 3b :
      “The gentiles say before Him: Master of the Universe, give us the Torah afresh and we will perform its mitzvot. The Holy One, Blessed be He, says to them in response: Fools of the world! Do you think you can request this? One who takes pains on Shabbat eve will eat on Shabbat,but one who did not take pains on Shabbat eve, from where will he eat on Shabbat? The opportunity for performing mitzvot has already passed,and it is now too late to ask to perform them. But even so, I have an easy mitzva to fulfill, and its name is sukka; go and perform it.”

      “Immediately, each and every gentile will take materials and go and construct a sukka on top of his roof. And the Holy One, Blessed be He,will set upon them the heat [makdir] of the sun in the season of Tammuz, i.e., the summer, and each and every one who is sitting in his sukka will be unable to stand the heat, and he will kick his sukka and leave, as it is stated: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Psalms 2:3). The Gemara asks: Why does God heat the sun over them? But didn’t you say that the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not deal tyrannically with His creations? The Gemara answers: This is not considered dealing tyrannically with the gentiles, because for the Jewish people as well, there are times when the season of Tammuz extends until the festival of Sukkot, and in such years sitting in the sukka causes them suffering. The Gemara asks: But doesn’t Rava say that one who suffers in the sukka is exempt from performing the mitzva of sukka, and under these circumstances even a Jew is permitted to leave the sukka? If so, why are the gentiles criticized for leaving? The Gemara answers: Granted that one is exempt from performing the mitzva and is permitted to leave his sukka, but should one kick it?”

      “The Gemara resumes its narration: Immediately, the Holy One, Blessed be He, sits and makes sport of those gentiles, i.e., He laughs at them, as it is stated: “He that sits in heaven makes sport, the Lord has them in derision” (Psalms 2:4). With regard to this verse, Rabbi Yitzḥak says: There is no making sport for the Holy One, Blessed be He, but on that day alone.”

      Bava Batra 10b

      It is taught in a baraita: Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai said to his students: My sons, what is the meaning of that which the verse states: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but the kindness of the peoples is sin” (Proverbs 14:34)? Rabbi Eliezer answered and said: “Righteousness exalts a nation”; these are the people of Israel, as it is written: “And who is like your people Israel, one nation on the earth?” (I Chronicles 17:21). “But the kindness of the peoples is sin,” meaning that all the acts of charity and kindness that the nations of the world perform is counted as a sin for them, since they perform them only to elevate themselves in prestige, as it is stated: “That they may sacrifice offerings of pleasing aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and of his sons” (Ezra 6:10). Even though they donated offerings, they did so only for their own benefit.

      What I derive from these verses as follows:
      •The reward of a gentile for fulfilling mizvot is lesser than a Jew as the gentile is not commanded but still fulfills it
      •The gentile is incapable to perform a simple command by G-d i.e setting up and staying in a sukka. In fact the gentile “kick the sukka” . Yet today there are many Christians who congregate to Jerusalem or create sukkas where they are and stay in them during Sukkot . They do it out of love for the G-d of Israel and solidarity with the Jewish people .
      •All acts of charity and kindness of the nations “is sin”. Does this imply that all the courageous acts of justice , charity and mercy done by non Jews all over the world is of no worth –rather G-d look at it as “a sin” ? How is it any different from the concept of original sin espoused by Christianity? Christianity started as a sect of Judaism – the apple does not fall far off from the tree.

      b.“I reiterate my former statement that they were in fact unbelievably restrained. It’s obvious in all their writings about gentiles (which contain many positive statements as well) that they viewed their non-Jewish counterparts with compassion as humans created in the image of God.”

      My response
      Yes , I do agree with you that the statements are restrained , unlike Matthew 23 . However the above texts shows that gentile is far more inferior than the Jew , not as humans created in the image of G-d

      5. On the Perspective of the Gentile Truth Seeker
      “I don’t understand what you are asking, so here is the quote of your statements:
      a. There are distinctions and differences in obligation between Jew and non Jew
      b. The truths in the Jewish Scriptures , though relevant to all humanity is still explicitly directed to the Jew alone.
      c. There are no clear guidelines for the non Jew (at least in the written Torah).
      d. ‘one truth does not fit all’ when it comes to Judaism”

      My response
      These are my conclusions from the little information I gained from exploring Judaism and following this blog . It seems these conclusions are confirmed correct from our conversation . There is no need to respond to them if you agree.

      Thank you.

      • Sharon S
        Thanks again for your comments and questions. It is this type of discussion that will lead us all closer to truth.
        Here are some partial answers to some of your questions (perhaps I will have more time in the coming weeks – but for now I hope this will help)
        1 – About the role of the Jewish people.
        Now that we stand in a covenantal relationship with God, our primary concern is to fulfill the direct commandments of God. We trust that this will be the greatest benefit for all of God’s creations.
        2 – The tagline of this blog
        Here are some sections of the blog which I had in mind when I posted that tagline
        https://judaismresources.net/category/the-righteous-gentile/
        https://judaismresources.net/category/addressing-atheism/
        https://judaismresources.net/category/judaism/page/3/
        Not every article is addressing the gentile reader, but I feel that these articles would help the reader (Jew or Gentile) by highlighting the strength of Judaism rather than focusing on the weakness of Christianity – hence the tagline.
        3 – Idolatry in the Torah (Jewish Scriptures)
        The Torah is not addressing the world in a direct way but Gentiles can learn indirectly what it is that God expects of them – a verse such as Daniel 5:23 or a passage such as Isaiah 44 make it clear that God expects Gentiles to avoid idolatry and that they should be able to figure this out on their own.
        4 – On the antiGentile passages in the rabbinic writings.
        As a general rule these passages are talking about the Gentiles, not as individuals, but as national entities.
        As national entities, the Gentile nations did not maintain a tradition of “commandment” that goes back to Noah – therefore they cannot, as national entities live under the awe of true commandments – (this one affects the individual as well – but only because of the sin of the national entity)
        The passage about the Sukka clearly refers to those who have still not understood the truth by the time the Messianic era rolls around and not to all gentiles.
        And the passage about the charity of nations is also clearly talking about the nations as nation-units, national entities and not about individuals. I would add that even as national entities the Talmud is speaking in generalities and not making a hard and fast rule.
        I hope this helped
        Please continue to ask and question

        • Sharon S says:

          Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

          Thank you for replying to the points I have raised in this thread .

          I agree these discussions have led me to greater clarity and truth -uncomfortable truths about
          G-d ,about the role of your people and also of this blog . I come with a set of expectations and saw it unravel one by one as I went along. I condensed my observations and highlighted them with the hope that it might be refuted -like how you ,Dina and others refute arguments of Christians in this blog to shreds .I was surprised and sad to find that Dina and your replies confirmed these observations.

          I do not wish to undermine your work ,but can I suggest that you review your articles in the light of these truths? For example you have made some assertions such as the inherent Godliness of mankind and the relationship man shares with G-d in Christianity Unmasked-one of the earliest articles I read on your blog . Since all these truths are laid out on the table ,some of your assertions can be quite misleading to the truth seeker out there.

          I admit there is a high expectation on my part which was fed by the ideal Jewish nation as espoused by the prophets and championed in your arguments ,notably against Dr Michael Brown . It is very different in reality.

          I have no questions to ask .These truths answers all questions .It has been nice knowing you .Thank you for your guidance all this while . My apologies if my queries or comments -be it here or in our emails are offensive .All the best in this blog and your other endeavours .

          Sharon

        • Sharon S says:

          Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal ,

          I would like to apologize for my comment. I overreacted and did not properly consider your replies .

          Thank you for responding to my comments . On further thought I do have further questions , which I have raised to Dina in my comment at https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-42993 and https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43003 . Your input will be much appreciated, but please take your time.

          I will do my best to accept whatever replies come with an open heart.

          My apologies once again . I realized I have been very unjust towards you . Thank you for your guidance all this while

          Sharon

      • Dina says:

        Sharon,

        The reason I pointed out that Abraham was not a Jew was only to highlight the fact that anti-Jewish sentiment did not yet exist. This does not negate what you wrote but makes it irrelevant; do you see what I mean?

        My answer about anti-Semitism is only speculative, but I do need to say this: of course I am proud of my heritage, of the triumph of our survival, and of God’s favor in sustaining my people against all odds. But we’re not out of the woods yet. Only 70 years ago my own relatives were killed in the Holocaust. Today we are witnessing a rising tide of anti-Semitism sweep the whole entire world. Forgive my bluntness, but it’s easy for you to tell us to be brave; it’s not you who is inviting trouble. Still, my main point is that teaching gentiles is not commanded. That might be a disappointing truth, but it’s the truth. I can’t change that.

        Here is something to ponder. The Torah contains 613 commandments, laws which govern our lives from what we eat to when to work to how to conduct our business to how how to treat the poor–and so on and so forth. Some of these laws are unbelievably detailed. Yet in this whole book of instruction, God did not see fit to command us to teach the gentiles. Why do you suppose that is? And should we simply ignore that glaring omission? Should we assume this was an oversight on God’s part?

        I can’t answer to your quotes about gentiles because I would want to check the original sources for mistranslations or out-of-context quotes, but my ignorance of Aramaic is an impediment. I hope Rabbi B., who did partially answer, can provide more guidance here.

        Nevertheless, the positive quotes that I submitted to you flatly contradict your assertions that traditional Judaism believes that gentiles are not rewarded for the same mitzvos and that they are incapable of doing good. This point cannot be ignored.

        One other point about Talmudic quotes: they do not rise to the level of Scripture, which is God’s words. The Talmud recorded the opinions of all the rabbis of the time and did not censor anything, so there are many opinions in the Talmud that today remain just that–opinions–and they are not binding today; nor do they have the force of law. For example, the Talmud recommends certain types of healing that we do not follow today. For another example, the Talmud records a great many disagreements among the rabbis over various issues. So to take one opinion in the Talmud and say that this is the traditional Jewish perspective makes no sense.

        An extreme analogy to illustrate the point: During the debate over slavery, Christians who supported slavery used the Bible to prove their case, while Christians who sought to abolish slavery used the same Bible to support theirs. If someone were to take a quote from a pro-slavery Christian and claim that is the traditional Christian perspective, that would just make no sense.

        I’m not sure what bothers you the most, but I sense that the fact that the Torah addresses the Jew only and not the gentile disturbs you deeply. I can certainly empathize with that. If I were not Jewish I would probably find that disturbing as well. I did tackle this in my previous post, and while I have nothing to add to that, I do acknowledge that for a lot of non-Jews and even a lot of Jews, the whole concept of chosenness and the idea that God gave a guidebook to just one small people are uncomfortable ideas.

        I suspect you were hoping we would rip this idea to shreds, but I’m sorry–this is not a contradiction to Judaism.

        You’ve been seeking the truth for decades, which is amazing. It’s a difficult, sometimes tedious, sometimes grueling task, and I admire your fortitude. Your next step might be determining if the Torah is true. There is no way to definitively prove this, but there are compelling arguments, and you can weigh them for yourself and see if you agree.

        The Torah itself gives proof of its credibility with the mass revelation argument. Rabbi Keleman does an excellent job of presenting this argument in this video:

        https://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/proof-torah-true/

        There is a great philosophical argument in this essay:

        https://ohr.edu/explore_judaism/living_up_to_the_truth/living_up_to_the_truth/992

        I hope these help. Please don’t give up. Keep searching, keep asking, and best of luck!

        • Dina says:

          One more thing: the reason I think the next step is determining the truth of the Torah is that if you find it to be true, you can accept all of it, including all the uncomfortable truths, with a clear conscience. If you find it to be false, you can reject all of it, as well, with a clear conscience. So either way, this next step will, I believe, bring you peace of mind.

          • Annelise says:

            I also think that Dina’s point is very central, about determining whether the Torah is true…and thus being able to either accept or reject both the comfortable and uncomfortable parts. Often, people judge a claim to religious revelation based on whether or not they like it. But our feelings and opinions can be so deeply influenced by the social paradigms and philosophies around us all of which are limited by our human lack of full perspective. So the question is more: is there any clear reason to think that this message comes from God? If so, then we surrender to it, to whatever extent the weight of the evidence makes right.

          • Dina says:

            Exactly right!

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Dina,

          Your comments are painful to read but they are honest . At this point I would like to let matters rest -you have very strong points . However your comments , strong as they may be shows me that G-d , your Creator and mine is particularistic and your people an inward looking people . Hence I would like to reply in order to confirm if this is so.

          1. -G-d did not command the Jewish people to teach the nations.
          -G-d gave 613 commandments to the Jewish people yet He did not see fit to command
          the Jewish people to teach Gentiles.

          Reply :
          a. To my understanding , Israel is to be a “Kingdom of priests” and “a holy nation” . One article I read in the Chabad website states “Just as the Cohanim bond the Jewish people to G‑d, so the Jews, as a Kingdom of Priests, bond the whole world to G‑d.”

          The priestly class is supposed to “teach your precepts to Jacob and your law to Israel” (Deut 33:10) . This means the descendants of Aaron are supposed to teach Israel in addition to doing their priestly duties in the temple. Rabbi Blumenthal states in his writings that Israel’s responsibility as priests is to carry G-d’s message throughout the corridors of history – a weighty and dangerous responsibility it bears on behalf of humanity . What about the teaching G-d’s precepts and laws to humanity as well? Why focus on one angle and neglect the other?

          b. You stated that the 613 laws are detailed and govern most areas in life . Does that mean that the principles and truths behind them are not applicable at all to the non Jew? I learn that the Jew need only to teach the 7 laws, which is more of 7 headings or classes of laws in contrast to 613 individual laws . If an individual choose to take on additional laws he/she may do so on a voluntary basis a. I don’t see all the 613 as applicable to us Gentiles –in my opinion there is no need to observe Kashrut or any other laws that sets Israel apart from the other nations or Sabbath for that matter, unless if one considers conversion . However I do need to learn laws that can bring me in a better standing with G-d and with other people .

          We non Jews are born without Torah . We know of G-d and His requirements from traditions we are born into and from our experience in life. Some of us will realize that our traditions are faulty, that there is a Creator , He has intervened at a certain time in history and He has given a guidebook to a specific nation .Do you, as a member of that nation expect us to say “Well , good, praise G-d ” and ignore this guidebook completely ? Do you think that is what G-d desires from His creation?

          c. The prophets , especially Isaiah declares Israel to be G-d’s witnesses . There are quite a number of verses which states that Israel is to play a more universal role (Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 43:10,Isaiah 45:14, Isaiah 49:6,Isaiah 52:11,Isaiah 60:3, Zechariah 9:23) consistent with G-d who is the Creator of all .

          The question is what exactly is Israel’s role as G-d’s witnesses? Who should Israel witness to? If the answer is the nations, is it a passive witnessing whereby the nations see Israel as carrying G-d’s message alone and punished for the slightest transgressions (Isaiah 52:11)? Or Israel being an active witness of G-d’s truth to individuals keen to listen (Isaiah 42:6, 43:10,49:6)?

          Another point –is Israel’s role as “light to the Gentiles” contradictory to the Torah , since G-d does not command Jews to teach Gentiles?
          I find the following link helpful- http://www.acjna.org/acjna/articles_detail.aspx?id=102

          2.Abraham’s example is irrelevant (i.e to follow his lead and teach the world about G-d)

          Reply:
          I don’t understand why you see Abraham’s example as being irrelevant . If G-d chose Abraham as the progenitor and Father of your people then isn’t his example relevant to your own role as a Jew?
          I posed the same questions (on the role of the Jewish people) to another Rabbi and he came back with response that is totally different from yours citing the example of Abraham in his reply.

          3.The positive quotes that you provided contradict my assertions that traditional Judaism believes that gentiles are not rewarded for the same mitzvos and that they are incapable of doing good.

          Reply:
          In my summary of points I mentioned “I come away with the impression that gentiles have certain flaws or are incapable of doing good –or are we rewarded as much for the good that we do?”
          You have provided Talmudic pieces that which shows that the righteous deeds of gentiles is indeed recognized. I have put forth Talmudic pieces which shows that gentile is not rewarded as much for the good that we do and there’s one piece which states that the acts of kindness and charity of the nations is regarded as “sin”.

          Please read Rabbi Blumenthal’s reply . There is a distinction between the individual and the nation . The nations cannot live under the awe of the commandments. Hence whatever we non Jews do as a nation is regarded as “not commanded” or “not rewarded” because it is not done out of conscious reverence for G-d .

          The gentile who does not steal , kill , etc for any reason other than consciously obeying G-d’s commands is not rewarded as much. I have watched videos and read articles written by a few Rabbis on this.

          4. The Talmud does not rise to the level of Scripture, which is God’s words-it records opinions and many disagreements among the Rabbis

          Reply:
          What about the 7 laws? There is no mention of it in the Mishnah (if you know of it kindly provide the tractate name) . It is mentioned in the Talmud as coming from the Baraita -which I cannot find at all . One can find the 7 laws and its details only in the Talmud .
          If what you say is true , then is the 7 laws just an opinion by the Rabbis as a mechanism to regulate Gentile behavior in Israel and Jewish-Gentile business relations and not a divine command?

          5. The fact that the Torah addresses the Jew only and not the gentile disturbs me deeply
          Reply:
          I am not disturbed about this as much as the Jew does not see the need to teach its truths to the world.

          6. Your advice that my next step might be determining if the Torah is true
          Reply:
          I thank you for your sincere effort to advise me . However I see it as “rubbing salt on the wound”-more so since it comes after you argued that G-d did not see fit to command the Jewish people to teach Gentiles.
          In addition , what is the point of my ascertaining whether the Torah is true when all I can afford to do is say “Well , good, praise G-d ” and unable to learn its truths because you do not see it as a command to teach me?

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, the last thing I want to do is cause you pain, and I am sorry for that. I am dismayed, however, that you took my advice to determine the Torah’s truth as rubbing salt in your wound. My point was that this would give you peace of mind, because you could then with a clear conscience accept painful truths or reject them as falsehoods. I would also like to add that if you don’t accept the Torah as true this conversation is meaningless and pointless (forgive me!) and that we should be spending our time first discussing that, and then moving back to this discussion. I hope that makes sense!

            You wrote that you would like to let matters rest, but continued with a bunch of challenges. Would you like me to address them?

            If not, there is one point I must clarify. The Talmud doesn’t only record opinions; it also records laws, both Biblical and rabbinic. The Seven Noahide Laws fall under the category of Biblical law, although they are not expressly stated in the Bible.

            Let me know if you would like me to continue, and God willing I will do so next week.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina ,

            I would like to apologize for the “rubbing salt on the wound” remark . You were trying to help and to provide some direction. The essay you suggested is really helpful and I can really relate to it . Thank you. I appreciate it very much.

            I do believe that the Torah is true . But what should I do with this truth? Should I ignore the Torah completely because it is not addressed to me? Should I ignore the Torah completely because the Jewish people I know say they are not commanded to teach it? Is this the will of my Creator , the author of the Torah that I should ignore this guidebook completely on the basis of the above?

            Initially I would like for matters to rest . However your view seems to give an impression that G-d is for the Jews only and that your people ,being His ambassadors are inward looking .I don’t believe this is true due to the reasons I have put in my previous comments , which I shall summarize here:
            •Israel’s role as kingdom of priests . Priests cannot exist without a laity . The Cohanim are priests for the Jewish nation (laity) , so Israel should be priests for mankind (laity).
            •The Cohanim are supposed to teach G-d’s precepts to Jacob on top of their priestly duties (Deut 33:10). Why can’t this role apply to Israel and humankind as well?
            •Israel’s more universal role in Prophets , in keeping with G-d as Creator of all . Is Israel’s role as “light to the Gentiles” contradictory to the Torah , since G-d does not command Jews to teach Gentiles?
            •Israel’s role as G-d’s witnesses. What exactly is Israel’s role as G-d’s witnesses? Who should Israel witness to? If the answer is humankind , then should Israel be a passive witness (bearing the message alone) or an active witness (sharing the message to those keen to learn the ways of G-d)?
            •Relevance of Abraham’s example in the role of the Jewish people

            I would like to discuss the above with you in order to confirm if my initial impression is true . I also hope- for myself and others that this discussion will shed light on how should we (non Jews) respond to the truth of the Torah in accordance with what G-d desires from us.

            Thank you.

          • Annelise says:

            I’ve heard that it’s both ok and worthwhile for non-Jews to read Torah and learn about Judaism, even the Talmud, in any area of study that can shed light on the spiritual principles behind the Noachide laws. Further to that, most public classes for Jews these days are designed to be appropriate for a mixed audience of Jews and non-Jews, religious and non-religious, etc., so there is no need to discourage a non-Jew from learning in that context.

            In my experience, including on this blog, Jews are more than happy to answer our questions (time permitting). I see a lot of the posts here as being written with the intention to try and express the heart of Judaism in a way that is accessible to every reader.

            There’s a long way to go in some synagogues in terms of really finding an open place towards non-Jews, but that said, you may be just as likely to find people in shul who are encouraged by and supportive of your journey. The priestly role may usually work best in the sense of setting a living example… yet in the context where non-Jews actually want to learn, I see most religious Jews (including those writing here) considering teaching to be a natural extension of that example-setting.

          • Dina says:

            Hi Sharon,

            It seems I have given the wrong impression or misunderstood your questions. I do not believe that Jews have a responsibility to actively proselytize amongst the non-Jews, i.e., become missionaries for Judaism. Nevertheless, we do not turn away anyone who comes to us to learn. Anyone who wants to learn Torah from the Jews is welcome. In fact, I have argued on these pages that because the message of the Torah was crafted for a Jewish audience and can only be properly understood within the collective national experience of the Jewish people, gentiles who want to understand should approach the Jewish people for clarification.

            The Torah was given to the Jewish people, but her truth is universal. Thus, non-Jews who believe in the truth of the Torah should certainly study, at the very least, the portions that are relevant to non-Jews.

            While the overwhelming majority of the Torah’s commandments are only for Jews, we do not have a monopoly on a relationship with God, who is the Father of us all. God is for everyone. I do not see where I wrote that God is only for the Jewish people. If you can find such a statement from me, please show me so I can correct that.

            I do object to your characterization of Judaism as particularistic. Of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism is the only one that is universalistic, accepting into her heaven not only adherents of the faith but also righteous people of all faiths and no faith. Your Talmudic quotes notwithstanding, traditional Jewish belief holds that anyone who lives a decent moral life regardless of his or her faith has earned a place in the World to Come. God is not only just, but also merciful, and He takes into account the circumstances of your life. If you are a sincere Christian or a sincere Hindu or an adherent of any other religion or even an atheist who truly believes what you believe because you were indoctrinated into that belief system or sought the truth as best as you knew how or whatever, you can’t be faulted for what you didn’t know.

            When the prophet says that God created the Jewish people to be a light to the nations, it is not a commandment of “thou shalt be a light to the nations”; rather, it is a description of what happens when the Jewish people follow the Torah and live by its teachings. This is borne out by history. The fact is that anyone with eyes to see knows that throughout history, Jewish religious societies have been model societies in every host country we have lived in. Not perfect, but certainly superior to the surrounding cultures in both a moral and ethical sense. This is how we are a light to the nations.

            When the prophet says “You are My witnesses” that is also not a commandment of “thou shalt be My witnesses” but rather a description of our function. The very fact of the survival of the Jewish people against all odds testifies to the existence of the one true God of Israel; thus, we are witnesses by default. Furthermore, throughout history, Jews have testified to God’s truth by refusing to accept the message of Christianity in the West and the message of Islam in the East at great personal cost and even unto death.

            So while we are warm and welcoming to anyone who comes to us with questions or who simply wants to learn, we do not see it as our mission to actively recruit non-Jews to convert to Noahidism (I think I made up that word). We are a light to the world by our living example, and we are God’s witnesses through His intervention on our behalf to keep us alive and by testifying to His truth by resisting the conflicting messages of surrounding cultures.

          • Shalom brother Sharon!

            As i read through the recent conversations on this blog, i came to ponder how Ezra and Yeshua taught the truth of the Torah.

            Ezra prepared his heart to seek the Torah of the Lord to perform (1st) and to teach (2nd) in Israel… (Ezra 7:10)

            Yeshua began to DO (1st) and to TEACH (2nd)… (Acts 1:1)

            Maybe God did not command the Jews to teach gentiles because He wanted to see their obedience and performance first and then display the divine blessings in the nation of Israel, which come from their obedience to the gentile world. God teaches the mankind with evidence not with mere words and theories.

            Simple truth is that if God wanted them to teach gentiles, HE would have commanded it!

            As Dina explained what it means to be “a light to the nations” , i guess we need to pay attention how the Prophets chose the word “LIGHT.” Not ” teacher to the nations” but “LIGHT to the nations.”

            I believe Yeshua expounded it well.
            “Let your Light so shine before men that they may SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS (Torah observance) and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16)

            The national obedience to the Torah is itself the Light- shining to mankind so that the gentiles learn the Torah.

            Brother Sharon, we dont have to push the Jews to come to the North Pole and hold a Torah conference in igloo. We can go to the Jews and bless them and learn feom them. The Torah COMES FROM Zion, not Zion sends forth the Torah.

            One of the most terrible misunderstandings of Christian interpretation of Genesis 12:3 is that the Jews- the seed of Abraham have responsibility to flow the blessing into the families of the world (gentiles).

            They translated “all the families on the earth will be blessed THROUGH you.”
            As if the covenant people must bless gentiles, teach them the Torah, and serve the nations.
            They preach that since the Jews failed this task, God had transferred it to the church???
            Wrong @@@@

            It should be translated as “all the families on the earth will be blessed IN you” That is why the New Testament is obsessed heavily with the phrase “IN Christ” not “THROUGH Christ.”

            The Israel’s Messiah, the King of the Jews, THE SEED of Abraham and David, is the source of blessing. Gentiles must come to and learn from him- the word of God, the Torah, the Covenant.

            Church must plant blessing in Israel and the Jewish people, not expect them to come to us and bless us or teach us the Torah. If anyone blame Jews not to teach gentiles the Torah, he or she blame Yeshua also because he was not sent to the gentiles but only to the lost house of Israel.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,

            There is a difference between teaching and proselytizing . I don’t recall stating that Jews are supposed to proselytize to other nations. However please highlight if any of my comments hint of that.

            I took offense of your statement ” Yet in this whole book of instruction, God did not see fit to command us to teach the gentiles. Why do you suppose that is? And should we simply ignore that glaring omission? Should we assume this was an oversight on God’s part?” That statement gives me the impression that G-d is for the Jews only and that is why I would like to clarify if this is true .

            I am glad that you have torn my assertions to shreds .

            I am aware that there is an belief among Jews that as long as your community fulfills the 613 commands , the world will be taken care of . I come to know about this through reading ““Ten from the Nations-Torah Awakening Among Non Jews” . I believe that you and Rabbi Blumenthal subscribe to this belief . However I am also aware that many Jews see Abraham’s example as a teacher as relevant to their role as Jews . These Jews see themselves as active witnesses .They believe that being “Light to the Nations” include teaching Torah truths relevant to gentiles apart from fulfilling the commands .

            You have put forth valid points , so I rest my case . However I am encouraged by the fact that there are Jews out there who see themselves called to a teaching role despite not being commanded to do so-following in the steps of Abraham . I hope they will continue their noble effort.

            I admit to misunderstanding your comments at times . My apologies for that and also if at any point my statements offends your Jewish sensitivities.

            Thank you.

        • Shalom sister Dina,
          “And should we simply ignore that glaring omission? Should we assume this was an oversight on God’s part?” I have pondered your questions and was led to the Garden of Eden where God has given instruction about the tree of knowledge of good and evil only given to Adam before he made a woman out of the man. Do you think Adam wasn’t responsible to share the knowledge of God’s commandment with his wife? I see that there is glaring omission for the Jews to teach gentiles; however, the husband Israel isn’t responsible to teach his wife the church? (i hope my calling of the Jews as husband and Christians as wife don’t offend you; i say this out of the N.T. theology)

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Sharon,

            The Torah principle of compassion for foreigners suggest that anyone desperate to learn should be taught. And the book of Jonah suggests symbolically that the role of the Jewish nation in exile (personified in ‘Jonah’) is to actively and vocally declare righteousness.

            However, this would look different depending on the context, and each individual person has their own abilities and responsibilities. For many, living their lives in society as people who are visibly Jewish is a strong way to be an ambassador, and questions or conversations can arise from that. Others are taking on more of a role of teaching non-Jews, as you know.

            Don’t be dismayed by the slow pace of change in Orthodox Jewish perspectives. It’s a very large, worldwide community, and there is a sense of being extremely tentative when adding to or amending the interpretations passed down from the past… so as not to lose anything important due to haste. There are also other politics involved. But it can and does happen that some old interpretations become seen as incomplete.

            As to whether the God of the Bible sees anyone as being more important that you or I…I’m not sure that this is something we can measure from an individual perspective. If the infinite one and creator of my innermost being cares about me and reaches out to have a relationship with me, then that is absolutely everything I could want…the nature of someone else’s relationship with Him doesn’t impact on that reality for us.

            Noachides often struggle with the lack of customs and ritual involved in being a non-Jewish follower of Torah. They let go of so many of the cultural customs, celebrations, and stories that they grew up with, and lose their religious communities…yet they don’t find that Judaism answers the yearning of non-Jews to have religious customs, celebrations, and belonging-identity stories of their own. In my experience, this feeling is strongest during the crisis of identity and sense of a loss of part of the self that comes when letting go of the beliefs and social circles that we were once anchored in. Yet when the turmoil settles, in the quietness of simply living compassionately and humbly in the world, there are rhythms, celebrations, paths of wisdom, creative expressions that reflect our heart, and a place of belonging…these are found and formed along the simple road of valuing friendship, compassion, mental health, and hope in God.

            Rabbi Blumenthal has written about valuing the anchors we have up until this point. There may be a lot of insecurity, confusion, and loss of direction and foundation…yet what can we hold onto now and rest upon? The remembrance of gratitude for those anchors we do already have brings a meaningful measure of peace.

          • Annelise says:

            PS Notice the theme in the book of Jonah that God is everywhere, not just in Israel. From the ends of the earth to the depths of the ocean. Many other prophets give comparable imagery, that God is the God of the whole world and that by turning from idolatry there is a rightful connection with Him that is intrinsic in all creation.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts. You have such great insight!

          • With Sister Dina’s silence and conversation with brother Sharon, i think i come closer to the truth. NOt so much Adam is responsible to teach his wife as Eve should have come to her husband and asked the truth about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. “Hold on Serpent, let me come back to you. I need to ask my husband about the tree.”
            NOw i know why the Pharisee Paul ascribe the Fall to eve rather than Adam. NOw i can see more clearly why Yeshua and James urged hearers and recipients to ASK, ASK wisdom, and ASK.

  28. Eleazar says:

    Gean, why is it that every time someone makes a clear JEWISH point using Torah, you take that same text or point and say how it has illuminated the “truth” of the New Testament even more, when it obviously hasn’t? You will never be able harmonize Torah and Christianity the way you deceive yourself into thinking you will or have. Those places where you believe you have done this always requires a leap of logic or the redefining of obvious terms.Or in this case, you are backward of what Paul taught.New Testament theology teaches that Adam was responsible because he was not deceived, but made a clear choice. Nowhere in the NT is the fall attributed to Eve. Paul said Jesus was “the 2nd Adam”, not the “2nd Eve”, and that Jesus passed the test that Adam failed (which of course is untrue because Jesus sinned more than Adam did). Paul’s other point was that women are easy to deceive, so they should not be leaders in the church as in the text below.

    1Timothy 2:12 “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; she is to remain quiet. 13For Adam was formed first, and then Eve. 14And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman who was deceived and fell into transgression.…”

    I have an Adventist friend who does the very same thing, only he is honest enough to admit he is TRYING to read Christianity into the Torah. He calls it “putting on his Jesus glasses”. He makes no pretense of objectivity and feels entirely justified in his bias because “holy spirit”. He STARTS with the premise that Christianity is true and that Torah MUST be consistent with his own beliefs. Thus, he is able to read Christian doctrine into anything if he just finds a “root” of word, or an out of context sentence, or a person who has one quality that reminds him of a NT character.

    All I can do is shake my head.

    • Shalom Shalom brother Eleazar! Thanks for challenging.
      When i find the ‘truth’ of N.T. illuminated by the Jewish points, i find the ignorance of majority of Christians influenced by replacement theology and the mysterious wisdom of God who has concealed the truth about Israel and the Jews before the eyes of church. Also i am not advocating the Christianity (in fact, brother, my heart loves the Jews more than Christians, i don’t know why), rather interpreting the N.T. as it is, not biased by any Christian doctrines or traditions but as it is in literary, grammatical, and historical context of the text as far as i know.

      Now, your understanding of Pauline theology about the relationship between Adam and Jesus is very intriguing, and i will come back to you soon since i have been studying it for a couple of days. Thank you brother.

      • Annelise says:

        Hi Gean Guk Jeon,

        You wrote about how you believe it to be a mystery that the church has been grossly unaware of the importance of the biological nation of Israel. And I think you would consider it a mystery, too, that almost all of the righteous and Go-fearing Jews of history have not been able to recognise Jesus as their messiah.

        These are two huge issues that would shed doubt on the Christian claims.

        I believe that every claim to authority and wisdom should be allowed to be tested. Even Jesus’ claims, and the claims of the church about him, should be rigorously questioned, because it’s so serious if these claims are false. There is not necessarily any pride or wrongdoing in seeking proof that Jesus really is the one he has been said to be..and that has to be done with an openness to discovering that he may not have authority at all.

        I personally don’t feel that the Christian miracle claims, or the feelings of people in Christian communities, are enough proof to cause me to accept the above ideas as mysterious truths.

        • Yes brother Annelise, “Christian miracle claims and feelings of Christians ” are not enough proof to give anyone credibility of Christianity. The N.T. does not teach it either. The credibility of Christianity will be recognized when the church unveils its eyes to see Israel as the kingdom of God and the Jews as the eternal covenant people and when it witness

          • dovid says:

            Gean Guk Jeon,
            If i understand you correctly you are saying that the world will recognize that Christianity is credible after the church will see Israel as the Kingdom of G-d. My question for you is how do you know this to be so? Would you accept such a theory proposed by, say, a Buddhist or Muslim? What if they were to say that their religion is true, and even though there’s no way to see demonstrate it currently, one day it will be visible. Would you accept that?
            Any proposal beyond the observable must be questioned WHY we should take it as truth. So what would be your premises to believe that Christianity is true, based on the Old Testament that we both agree is the Word of G-d?

        • and when it witness to the world through their godly lives and good works as the Messiah has taught. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2 Timothy 3:5)

    • Brother Eleazar, you asserted that the NT theology, especially Pauline, teaches that Adam is responsible for the Fall. Your assertion seems to derive from confused interpretations of Romans 5:12-19 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-47.
      Let me share how I understand Romans first. We should not quickly assume that ‘One Man’ is ‘Adam.’ If Paul wanted to mean the “one man” as Adam, he would definitely have said “by ADAM sin entered!” Yet Paul did not say such,. Paul’s comparison between “One Man” and “Many” is all about how one man’s acts of transgression or righteousness make a great impact on the entire humanity (Paul calls the humanity “all men” or “many”). Through (by) One man, sin entered the world and by sin, death entered also; this made sinning more accessible to humanity. So, Paul’s ‘One man’ is the one who is responsible for breaching the Garden of Eden. Then who is it? EVE!! –> 1 Timothy 2:12 is clear enough. Just as one man brought sin which impacted entire humanity in bad way, one man brought righteousness which will impact entire humanity in good way. That is the whole point of Romans.

      Romans 5:14 is very intriguing verse!- “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.” Now, when Paul used the term “transgression” in every verse of 15-20, he used paraptoma. Whereas the same word “transgression” in verse 14, he used parabasis!! Paul here suggests two kinds of transgression; Paraptoma means more offensive, willful, acts of transgression whereas parabasis means unknown or accidental acts of transgression. Leviticus 5:17 tells us about committing sin without knowing, and David prayed for not committing presumptuous sin (Ps.19:13). I don’t know how Judaism teaches and I guess that Adam probably was not there when Eve was deceived and picked up and ate the fruit; so she picked another one and gave her husband without telling him where it came from. Adam might have eaten the fruit without knowing because they did not put a sticker on every fruit like “made in Eden, picked from the tree on the center of the garden”.
      So, from Adam to Moses, there are those who had not sinned willfully, and they are similar to Adam’s transgression. Nevertheless, they are COUNTED as transgressor. Isaiah 53:12 says “…because he poured out his soul to death, and with transgressors he was counted; and he bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors”
      1 Corinthians 15:21 “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” I think this verse means that Man was the agent or method of bringing death and resurrection to humanity.
      Verse 22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” In Adam means in the creature who was made from earth. Those from earth return to the earth (die into sheol). However, those in Christ, who is from heaven, return to heaven. He talks about resurrection.
      I Corinthians 15:45 & 47 explains further on that.
      45. “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” Christ is the last Adam because he was the only one whose word was the incarnated word of God (John 6:63).
      47. “first man is of the earth, the second earthy man (Paul didn’t say Jesus was the SECOND ADAM) the lord from heaven.” Christ is the second earthy man because after him there will be third, fourth, and Many many more will follow his resurrection to get inheritance in the world to come!
      Brother Eleazar, i confess that this is hard N.T. verses to understand to me; nevertheless, i wanted to share to help your understanding of N.T. theology. Thanks.

  29. Jim says:

    Sharon,

    I again apologize for the lengthy gaps between your comments and mine. I can only say that my life has been quite busy and that, just when I think it is about to become a little less so, my schedule continues to remain quite full. I appreciate your patience.

    I proposed that the private revelations of various prophets, gurus, and preachers need some method whereby they can be verified; otherwise, one will have no grounds to accept one over another. Even if only one such prophet existed, one would have insufficient reason to accept his message. In order to accept a prophet, then, a people needs verification that this person is indeed a prophet, such as public revelation. Because this is a high level of evidence, most religions do not propose any such test, but they rely upon subjective tests of the prophet, tests that rely upon the receptivity of the hearer: whether the words have some effect upon the hearer’s soul, whether or not they sound divine, etc. Only the Torah tradition appeals to an objective test, the shared prophetic experience of the people, to establish its primary prophet.

    As a part of your response to this, you raised a different test. You wrote that the Torah should have a universal message, but in your understanding, it does not. Therefore, it is unlikely to be true. On the other hand, Christianity and Islam both give universal messages, so that either one of them—or perhaps both of them—are more likely to be true. If we accept this second test, the universality of the message, we certainly run into a problem. Now we have two tests, public verification and universality of message, and when we apply these two tests, we come to two different conclusions regarding the Torah, Christianity, and Islam. This suggests that at least one of these tests is unreliable, since, if they were both reliable tests, they should produce the same results. Assuming that one of these tests is reliable and the other not (which may not be a valid assumption), how shall we determine which of these tests is the reliable one?

    To begin with, Christians by-and-large acknowledge that it is desirable for a prophet to be verified by witnesses. This is why apologists claim that the gospels were written by witnesses: “They were there; they saw it!” This is why they appeal to the women that saw the risen Jesus: “No one would make up a story where women, who could not give testimony, were witnesses!” (They attempt to establish the credibility of the witnesses through the impermissibility of their testimony.) This is why Paul claims that 500 (unnamed people far away) saw the risen Jesus. And it is why Matthew invents a story about the Jewish leadership knowing about the resurrection, as he attempts to draft them as witnesses to the resurrection. It is implicitly accepted by Christians that independent verification of a prophet by witnesses is desirable to establish his credentials.

    Even the Gospel of John, which praises those that have unsubstantiated faith, appeals to witnesses. In the fifth chapter, Jesus appeals to his cousin John as a witness, and to God, and finally, to the Torah and the Prophets. Of course, the Church has long attempted to establish the credentials of Jesus through the Hebrew Scriptures, even before the time of the Gospel of John, and it will continue to do so. The claim of the resurrection, as a private event, does not stand on its own. This is why Christianity has such a need to distort the Torah and the Prophets. It seeks a way to establish Jesus’ credentials. I think it is fair to say that public revelation is a pretty good test of a prophet, since Christianity seeks to make up for this loss through its witness inflation program.

    What about the test of universality? This test runs into numerous problems. The first is that it restricts God to making only universal statements, for which I can think of no justification. In fact, it presents us with an absurdity. Let us accept for the sake of argument that Abraham really was a prophet as in Genesis. He knows he is a prophet, because he receives the prophecy directly. (Others will not necessarily know he is a prophet, but that is a separate question.) Let us imagine that when God tells Abraham to go to land that he will be shown, Abraham says to God, “No, I am sorry. It is impossible that you are God, because God would not give a commandment only to an individual. God’s commandments must be universal. So, I conclude that you are not God.” This strikes me as more than a little odd.

    But, we have much better reason to reject universality of message as a criterion for accepting a prophet than this. You could not have chosen a much better pair of religions than the ones you have chosen to show why this could not be the test of a prophet. Both Christianity and Islam claim to be the one truth, while the other is false. Yet, their claims on humanity are universal. Since it is clear that at least one of them must be false, neither can appeal to their universality in order to establish themselves as true. And, since they both accept the prophecy of Moses, they both accept that a particularist message was the only known true prophecy for more than a millennium. A universal message, then, is no more likely to be true than false, and the claims of a prophet cannot be tested by its universalism or particularism.

    Because they both acknowledge the prophecy of Moses, they run into another problem. They fail to meet the criteria set up in the Torah for establishing prophets according to the laws of Torah. In acknowledging the truth of Torah and then setting up their systems against Torah, they have proven themselves to be false prophets. Indeed, both religions attempt to establish themselves on the Torah but then misrepresent and alter it, which goes to show their falsity. The universal nature of their claims does nothing to mitigate this fact.

    Until this point, I have accepted your treatment of Torah as particularist. In a sense, this is right. The Torah was given to a particular people to give them a particular mission. However, this does not mean that God concerns Himself only with the Jewish people. Torah does not teach that only the Jew can be close to God. The different commandments between the Jew and the non-Jew does not mean salvation for the one and nothing for the former. A non-Jew that studies and keeps the Seven Laws is considered like a high priest. The Jewish people are God’s first born and have a special status, but the rest of humanity are like his children as well.

    Jim

    • Sharon S says:

      Dear Jim,

      Dear Jim,

      Good day.

      I hope you and your family have settled down comfortably in your new home and environment.

      Thank you for responding to my comment here
      https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-42911
      I appreciate the fact that you are looking into it despite your busy schedule .

      You have put in very strong arguments on why universality is not a valid criterion to assess a prophet or his message.A true prophet is one who is publicly appointed by G-d and this is witnessed by a nation who shared or continue to share in the prophetic experience.The Jewish people alone can claim this experience as their own. The particularity of this experience is irrelevant.

      You have also acknowledged that the Torah is given to a particular people for a particular mission. What exactly is the nature and scope of this particular mission?I have discussed it at length here . I learnt that this mission is confined to the Jewish nation and their duties before G-d . The Jewish nation is an indirect witness to the world through the fulfilment of the commands.

      So now we have established that G-d, the supreme creator of all, revealed a particular message to a particular people for a particular mission. This mission is confined to the covenant relationship between G-d and the Jewish people .The fulfilment of terms set in this relationship will indirectly influence the world for the better.

      So how do you and I fit in this picture? What can we possibly learn from listening to this conversation?I hope you can shed some light into this.

      I have also raised a question on the 7 laws and how six of them are derived by the Talmudic Rabbis from Genesis 2:16 in my previous comment. There is no known source in the Mishna for these laws .Hence I am not really convinced that these laws are divinely revealed for us gentiles .These are probably formulated to govern the conduct of non Jews in their dealings with Jews.

      Is it reasonable then to condemn Paul’s interpretation of the Jewish scriptures in light of this? What about the multiple verses in the Jewish scriptures that suggest plurality within the Godhead?Is the Church any worse for coming out with the Doctrine of the Trinity from interpretating these verses in light of Jesus’s supposed resurrection?

      To me this is no better than the Council of Nicea and the doctrine of the Trinity that came out from it.If I can put my faith that the 7 laws are divinely revealed ,then there is no reason not to place my faith in the doctrine of the Trinity.I hope you can respond to this too.

      Thank you once again for your patience and thoughtfulness in replying to my comments.Please take this response as something to think about.Your response will be greatly appreciated.

      • dovid says:

        Hi Sharon,
        Allow me to comment on one point of yours. You ask about the Rabbinic derivation of the six Noahide Laws from Genesis 2:16 and indeed it’s a very fair question. There is a interpretation method the Rabbis would use that wasn’t the source of the thing being learned out of it. I like to call it non-literal interpretations (or in Jewish lingo it is known as Asmachta). It happens all the times throughout Talmud. Additionally, it can be argued that the New Testament had such a practice as well when interpreting verses such as Psalms 40:7 and Isaiah 7:14 (but of course this is a whole other discussion). The reason they would make these non-literal interpretations is a discussion beyond the issue at hand.

        Having established that the source of the Seven Noahide Laws are NOT from Genesis 2:16, the question becomes what is the source? Jewish tradition says that it’s part of the Oral Traditions that were passed from Sinai. But even leaving that aside, i think it is rational to assume that G-d wants a civil and moralized world in which people don’t kill and steal from one another, in which healthy marriages are dignified, in which Court Houses are established and in which belief and respect for G-d (including not swearing His Name) is widespread.

        As for your question of why the Mishnah doesn’t mention the Seven Noahide Laws, I don’t think it is such a fundamental issue. There are some basics that are missing from the Mishnah for whatever reason. An example for such would be the laws of Chanukah which are only mentioned in contemporary rabbinic works such as Beraitha. Similarly, the Seven Noahide Laws are mentioned in the Beraitha.

        You asked “So how do you and I fit in this picture? What can we possibly learn from listening to this conversation?”
        Well step one was already done – listening to the conversation. Unfortunately, much of the world is too busy with entertainment and physical pleasures that they forget to seek meaning in life and seek what their purpose of creation was. It’s good that people like you find meaning and purpose.

        Step two would would be doing what G-d wants from us. He wants us to have faith in Him, love Him, and pray to Him (which are by the way branches of the Seven Noahide Laws). He wants us to treat our needy and poor with compassion and care. Charity is a great deed that both helps the needy and demonstrates our devotion to G-d.

        Although I didn’t have a chance to read it myself yet, I was told that the following book is a worthwhile read.
        The Theory and Practice of Universal Ethics – The Noahide Laws

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Dovid,

          Is there a possibility that the 7 laws is just a rabbinic decree similar to Chanukah ? Is the Beraitha available today or is it just a source mentioned in Sanhedrin 56b? To me all this are indicators that these laws might be man made and is not a direct command from the Divine.

          It is rational to assume that G-d wants mankind to refrain from murdering , stealing , raping etc and punished nations/peoples that indulge in these sins. However I learnt that G-d will never punish nations /peoples without commanding mankind to refrain from these acts in the first place . Could it be that these commands were given but its transmission ceased due to man’s wicked ways (Avoda Zara 2b)?

          Is it fair then to punish the descendants of the wicked for the sins of their ancestors by cutting off the transmission of these laws? Could it be that the remedy for this is found in the particular mission of the Jewish people? It seems that the answer is no.

          A substantial population of the world -followers of Christianity and Islam are aware of this conversation – but they repackaged it to bring out its universal elements .I used to be inspired listening to the conversation in its repackaged , universal form . It inspired me to have more faith, to pray and to love the G-d of Israel . It is funny that I am not as inspired when listening to this conversation from the very nation who is a party to this conversation. Perhaps particularity could be a factor?

          In addition I come to realize that Judaism places a lot of emphasis of man’s efforts to reach G-d . For a belief system and people established through supernatural intervention of G-d over nature , its practice and method is devoid of supernatural elements.

          Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Happy Hanukkah.

          • dovid says:

            “Is there a possibility that the 7 laws is just a rabbinic decree similar to Chanukah ?”

            There is that possibility but it seems very unlikely. It seems unlikely that G-d would have created human beings who have the conscious to strive for meaning – yet there is no meaning for them. As you briefly mention, the Sodom and Gomorrah account and the Great Flood, among others, demonstrate that the world does hold accountability for basic moral and civil structure.

            “Is the Beraitha available today or is it just a source mentioned in Sanhedrin 56b?”

            Like ALL Beraithas, it is only available from the Talmud.

            “…However I learnt that G-d will never punish nations /peoples without commanding mankind to refrain from these acts in the first place.”

            Basic morals are inherent in our DNA. We all know it’s wrong to kill, steal, or rape etc, which explains why even atheists keep these morals. Therefore I see no reason that one must be warned before getting punished for such behavior. In regard to the other Seven Laws, like respecting G-d and the sanctity of His Name are indeed not something that we are born with (e.g. we can be born into pagan beliefs) – that is exactly the mission of the Jewish People to teach the world these morals as well.

            “I used to be inspired listening to the conversation in its repackaged , universal form . It inspired me to have more faith, to pray and to love the G-d of Israel .”

            Why does it not inspire you anymore?

            “It is funny that I am not as inspired when listening to this conversation from the very nation who is a party to this conversation. Perhaps particularity could be a factor?”

            Healthy real foods don’t taste as good as sugar-coated candies. But it’s real – not artificial. It is important to recognize the truth and learn to take inspiration from it.

            “In addition I come to realize that Judaism places a lot of emphasis of man’s efforts to reach G-d . For a belief system and people established through supernatural intervention of G-d over nature , its practice and method is devoid of supernatural elements.”

            Not sure what you mean. I’d be happy if you can clarify.

            Happy Chanukah to you to!

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dovid,

            I am responding to your comment here https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43665

            I would like to ask you a question. As a parent do you actively guide your child to exercise the G-d given basic morals inherent in their DNA? Or do you stand back and trust that your child will do the right thing based on the basic morals they are born with?

            Likewise, do you think G-d will just stand back and trust that the rest of humanity to exercise these basic morals without some sort of revelation?

            Through Islam ,I learnt that man is born with a certain disposition , or “fitra” in Arabic. This enables man to discern right from wrong , but more importantly to also recognize the true nature of G-d . According to Islamic thought , every child is born a Muslim (i.e in a pure state) . It is the parents who shaped the child based on their beliefs , so their G-d given fitra may be corrupted (such as being born in a pagan society). However exercising fitra on its own is incomplete without revelation . That is why G-d , according to Islamic teachings sent prophets to every nation , Moses being one of them.

            Abraham , I believed exercised this “fitra” in the sense that he questioned his pagan beliefs and seek the truth about G-d . However I don’t think he will go that far without G-d’s personal revelation.

            I am trying to explore if there is something similar in Judaism . That is why I ask these questions.

            Why am I not inspired when listening Torah narratives from the Jewish people (so far)?

            I have just started following the Torah portions and read articles written by Jews on them. I have also read articles on other portions in the Tanach as well . It is a very detailed analysis – every plot , sub plot and placing of verses –why this comes before and not after , why is this word mentioned and not that is discussed ,supported with sources from the Sages . It is interesting . However I come away with the impression that these commentaries are focusing on the trees , animals, rivers , etc -not at the whole forest . At the end of the day I do not know what is lesson to be learnt from the portion in question. Hence I am not inspired as much.

            You have asked me to clarify the following:

            “In addition I come to realize that Judaism places a lot of emphasis of man’s efforts to reach G-d . For a belief system and people established through supernatural intervention of G-d over nature , its practice and method is devoid of supernatural elements.”

            The nation of Israel is established through supernatural intervention –the 10 plagues , the parting of the Red sea and is sustained in the desert through supernatural intervention –manna and the quails, water from the rock. However I find from the commentaries and overall writings of Jews that the outlook is very much “in the world”. Man is supposed to learn G-d’s will through intellectual reasoning and to perform mitzvas as a means to be closer to G-d. It is all about man’s effort to reach G-d. There is no engagement with the Divine through the spirit. That is the meaning of the above comment .

            By the way , I find your comment about healthy foods versus sugar coated candies interesting . I never thought about it that way before .

            Thank you for sharing your thoughts .

      • Jim says:

        Sharon,

        I have a longer response in mind regarding Paul’s abuse of scriptures, how that differs from locating the Seven Laws in Genesis 2, the authority of the rabbis and the authority of the Nicean Council, but I expect it will take me some time, and I do not want to leave you nothing while you wait. (If things go well, I will begin it next week sometime, but it may be the week after.) In the meantime, I wish to discuss the particularity of Torah.

        Of course, it is undeniable that the Torah was given a to a particular people with a particular mission. However, this fact does not mean that Torah does not have any universalist messages or any universal application. It would be a jump in logic to say that because Torah was given to the Jews, it is impossible that it contains a universal message as well. That would be one possibility, but it is not necessarily so. And in fact, one can see that it is not so.

        Let us consider first that Torah contains laws for particular groups within the Jewish people. The priests have laws that apply to them and to no one else within the nation. We could not categorize the Torah as applying only to priests and to no other Jew from this. The more general category of Levites also has laws that apply only to it, but again, it would be a mistake to say that the Torah is for Levites only and not for Israel. Torah has laws that apply only to men and others that apply only to women, and this does not imply that Torah is particular to one sex or the other. Thus, that the Torah does apply to particular groups does not at all mean that it cannot apply universally, just as the Torah applies universally to the Jewish nation and particularly to this group or that within the nation.

        So, the question is whether or not it has any universal application. We know that at least some of the laws are not of a universal nature: they relate to the unique mission of the Jew. For example, Sabbath is given only to the Jewish people. But, we also see that some of the Torah applies to humanity in general. For example, two of the Seven Laws are mentioned in Genesis 9, the prohibition to murder and the prohibition to eat from the limb of a living animal. These laws are binding upon non-Jews. The prohibition to murder, in fact, contains a universal statement about humanity, that every human being is made in the image of God.

        Moreover, we see Tanach is concerned with humanity generally in other places. Perhaps the most obvious is Jonah. It could have been that God destroyed Nineveh without warning, but he did not. He gave them a chance to repent, and they did and were spared. We see in Isaiah that the temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. And, when Solomon dedicates the first temple, he prays that when the non-Jew comes to recognize that HaShem is God, and he prays, that God will hear the prayer of the non-Jew. So, while it is true that the Torah was given to one people, it is evident that it has universal concerns as well as the particular, just as it has universal laws and principles as well as particular.

        It is a mistake, then, for us to say that Torah is solely particularist. Being given to a particular people, a nation of priests, does not mean that the Torah has no universal applicability, that it is wholly unconcerned with the non-Jew. On the contrary, we see that it has passages that apply to the non-Jew, and which the non-Jew should contemplate and take to heart that he might know his duties and become close to God. Solomon concluded in Ecclesiastes: “The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man.” He does not write that this is the fulfillment of the Jew, but of the human being. The non-Jew may not be commanded to do all that the Jew is, because he does not have the special mission of the Jew, but he is still fulfilled by keeping those commandments that God has given him. In fulfilling those commandments, precisely because they were commanded by God, the non-Jew can express his devotion and gratitude to God, and enact God’s purposes in the world.

        Jim

      • Dina says:

        Hi Sharon,

        I’m confused about what you mean when you say the messages of Christianity and Islam are universal. I don’t know much about Muslim theology, but the message of Christianity is: Accept Jesus as your lord and savior in order for your sins to be forgiven and to enjoy your afterlife in heaven.

        The fact that no matter how you live your life, no matter how well you love your neighbor and turn the other cheek and follow all of Jesus’s teachings (which he lifted right out of the Torah and rabbinic teachings) if you don’t accept Jesus as your lord and savior you are condemned to eternal damnation is a message that sounds extremely particularistic and exclusivist.

        The Jewish heaven, on the other hand, as I have shown you a while ago, is large enough to accommodate people of all faiths and no faith who live a moral life, and the Jewish God Who is merciful as well as just will not punish people for what they don’t know.

        Christian scripture itself testifies to its own message that the gate is narrow and the way is hard and few will be able to find it (Matthew 7:14).

        Contrast with the Psalmist’s words: God is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely (145:18).

        Contrast with Duetronomy: For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?” Rather,[this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it (30: 11-14).

        I try to the best of my ability to follow the Torah and be a good person, a good wife, mother, daughter, neighbor, community member. But Christianity would condemn me to hell nevertheless because I refuse to accept Jesus.

        So can you clarify what you mean when you say Christianity has a universal message?

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Dina,

          It is a pleasure to interact with you again.

          You asked me to clarify what do I mean by Christianity having a universal message . In response I will put in my thoughts from both Christianity and Islam. So here goes:

          Christianity demands acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior in order to enjoy eternal life. Islam demands acceptance of Muhammad (PBUH) as prophet and Islam as the final revelation from G-d in order to achieve happiness in this world and the world to come . Both religions have exclusivist terms and conditions for salvation.

          However , these two faiths shows a Universal Creator that has a universal approach for guiding mankind.

          Through Christianity , I learnt that G-d created the world to commune with man , or in Catholic terms “to share in his own divine life” . However this communion was marred by sin by the first man , Adam. As a result , G-d worked out a plan of salvation from Abraham through the Jewish people to his seed , Jesus . Salvation is achieved through faith in Jesus .Through this man is able to commune with G-d as like it was in Eden before the fall.

          Through Islam , I learnt that G-d created man in a pure state with the goal of submission to Him (Islam). However man tends to forget and slip into idolatry and wickedness . Hence G-d sends prophets and messengers to continually warn and guide mankind to return to the original path . This includes the Patriarchs , Moses , David and all the other prophets including Jesus . However these revelations are confined to the nations in which they are revealed . The Quran is the final and universal revelation to all mankind.

          If G-d actively guides mankind through a universal approach , then its message will be universal and efforts will be made to spread it to all people. Hence those who reject it will be held accountable , for they have heard the message but do not believe in it.

          Isn’t it fair then that the exclusivist terms that you see in Christianity and Islam a natural outcome of this approach?

          What I learn of Judaism thus far , reveals a Universal Creator that has a particular approach in guiding mankind.

          I learnt that G-d created the world and put us in existence out of His Kindness . G-d gave man the intellect in order to discern the Divine Will . G-d gave man free will and the ability to choose . However the first man , Adam and the subsequent generations of the flood, Tower of Babel , etc have sinned and fallen short of what G-d intends for man . This changed when Abraham came to the scene, followed by Isaac and Jacob (the Torah narratives also zoomed into Abraham and his family from this point). Eventually G-d revealed a particular message , to a particular people (Jacob’s descendants) for a particular mission.

          Hence it is fair , in your own words to say that “the Jewish God Who is merciful as well as just will not punish people for what they don’t know.”

          In conclusion ,you can’t just judge a belief system for being universal or particularistic from its message , but also the Divine purpose behind the message .

          G-d’s ways are not our ways and His Thoughts are not our thoughts . If the ultimate truth rests in Judaism , then I have to accept that G-d operates and work out His plan of salvation through particularistic means .However in my opinion I don’t think that this is a 100% particularistic approach . To say this as 100% particularistic would imply a Creator that does not care for the rest of His creation. I have mentioned a few sources from the Tanakh which to my understanding shows that the Jewish people are to play a more universal role , in keeping with G-d who is a Universal Creator of all. Refer my comment here https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-42993.

          You have responded that G-d did not command the Jewish people to teach other peoples. Your role as a light to the nations is a “description of what happens when the Jewish people follow the Torah and live by its teachings”.

          I have mentioned previously that I would like for matters to rest . However I have to bring this out again in response to the latest comments . Hope you understand where I’m coming from.

          Thank you.

          • Dina says:

            Hi Sharon,

            Thank you for clarifying what you meant. This is so important, because it really does help me to see where you are coming from–as far as that goes, considering our very different background and upbringing.

            It makes sense from your perspective to see the messages of Christianity and Islam as both universal and exclusivist. And I agree that Christianity has certainly done some good in this world. In my opinion, it’s a mixed bag, with the most good done in the last half a century.

            To me the universal message of Christianity (accept Jesus as your lord and savior or else!) and the universal message of Islam (accept Mohammed as the true prophet or else!) are not inspiring or uplifting. They are coercive, using guilt and fear to compel acceptance of their doctrine. They are limiting, reducing the ultimate measure of a man’s worth by his belief or non-belief in a particular human being. They are empty, teaching us nothing about how to connect with God and interact morally and ethically with our fellows.

            But to me, this is all beside the point. It matters not if the message is universal or particular. It only matters if the message is true. The universal messages of Christianity and Islam contradict each other, so they cannot both be true. They both contradict the Torah, so either one of the three is true, or all of them are false.

            As I said before–and as you so eloquently expressed as well–the only thing that matters is which message is true whether we like it or not.

            But I don’t think you need to despair on that count. The message of Judaism is the most universal one there is. In the Torah, all of mankind is explicitly given some of the Seven Laws; the rest are derived through our traditional understanding of the Torah. Thus, although you have different criteria for revelation, traditional Judaism holds that all humans are created in God’s image, the Seven Laws are binding on all humans, all humans no matter who they are have a share in the afterlife if they are basically good.

            Talk about feelings! I think that is a beautiful, inspiring, uplifting message.

      • Dina says:

        Sharon, two more points.

        Point number one. The question we should be asking ourselves is this: is the message true? Not, is the message universal?

        We must put aside our negative feelings toward particularistic messages and positive feelings for universalistic messages because feelings are irrelevant to the pursuit of truth. The truth is the truth whether we like it or not.

        Christianity appeals to the Torah for its authority, and yet its basic message–“Jesus died for your sins! But only if you accept him as your lord and savior!”–contradicts the Torah on every level.

        Thus, if the Torah is false, Christianity is false, because it relies on the Torah for its authority and credibility.

        And if the Torah is true, then Christianity is false, because it contradicts the Torah in its foundational beliefs.

        Point number two. It is fair to assess the general behavior of the adherents of a religion over the course of its history. How well have Christians followed the teachings of Jesus compared to Jews?

        As your own investigations have shown, it was the Jews who loved their neighbor, turned the other cheek, and took the high moral road. While Christianity promised her followers a path of morality superior to that of Judaism, instead her followers splashed the pages of her history with the blood of millions of people (the overwhelming majority being fellow Christians!).

        So another question we can ask ourselves is: how well does the message work? If it’s universal and it fails, it is worthless.

        You might argue that countless lives have been positively changed by the message of Christianity. But that is only since, say, the 1960s. A little over half a century measured against two millennia is a blip.

        And the surviving contempt of Christians for Jews does not portend well.

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Dina,

          I would like to respond to Point #2.

          I agree with your assessment on the ill treatment of Jews by Christians in the past . I have personally read up and researched on it . It is indeed shocking but it is a reality.

          However in spite of that I find the message of Christianity working throughout the world. Christianity produces missionaries who spreads the gospel message to distant nations for the past 2 millennia . They not only spread the good news but also initiated better infrastructure and creation of schools , especially in Asia . It brings out emancipation of women in traditional Asian societies , giving them room to break out from the traditional roles expected of them .

          I am a product of a convent education . I had the privilege of being educated by nuns and priests . At the same time had the privilege of studying with other students of various religions-muslim, Hindu , Buddhist , Taoists-the convent accommodates students of all ethnicities and faiths . The nuns never pressure the non Christian students to convert to catholiscism . Instead it gave non Christian students opportunities to organize their own cultural and religious celebrations in school and where other students can celebrate with them. I learnt to appreciate other cultures and faiths thanks to my convent education.

          Without a solid convent education , I would not be writing to you today. I will be in the category of someone living in a third world country , with limited access to an education and better life , more so that I am a woman . Christianity has left a very important legacy . My life and the life of millions of others , especially in Asia are much better because of it.

          I’m sorry that Christianity has brought a very negative impact to the Jewish people. However that does not mean its message has not worked elsewhere.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, I hear what you are saying. If I understood you correctly–and please correct me if I am wrong–you acknowledge that Christianity has committed great evils in the past. (Please know that it was not limited to the Jewish people. Over the course of 2000 years, Christians killed and/or mistreated many more millions of their own brethren and non-Christian gentiles than Jews during the Crusades, Inquisitions, holy wars, and other conflicts.)

            That said, you still see the message of Christianity working in the world today and it has enabled you to become who you are.

            If we are to measure the truth of a message by its effectiveness, then Judaism wins hands down. Since our exile from our Land, though we have not been perfect, we have been exemplary citizens of every host country we have lived in. We modeled all the good values Christianity teaches, practicing charity, love of our fellow, turning the other cheek. History has made little–if any–note of massacres committed by Jews, brawling in taverns, murders, and such vices.

            The effectiveness of Christianity is very mixed, as you can see over the course of its history. So I agree with you that a degree of effectiveness exists, but it is dangerously mixed with the legacy of its past as well as contemporary problems. You have yourself observed, for example, the contempt for Jews and Judaism within your own ranks, a poison that still trickles through the veins of Christianity.

            However, we should not measure the truth of a message by its effectiveness, though I agree that it is entirely fair to do so. The most important measure of the truth of a message is simply the truth. It is true or is it false? That is the question.

  30. dovid says:

    Hi Sharon,
    I’m responding to your comment here: https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43726

    “I would like to ask you a question. As a parent do you actively guide your child to exercise the G-d given basic morals inherent in their DNA? Or do you stand back and trust that your child will do the right thing based on the basic morals they are born with?”

    Being that I’m 21 years old and not married, I cannot answer from experience. I plan on educating my children to follow the morals laid out in the Torah which just so happen to coincide with society’s morality. I will do so in order to cement their future as good decent human beings and faithful to G-d.

    “Likewise, do you think G-d will just stand back and trust that the rest of humanity to exercise these basic morals without some sort of revelation?”

    Depends what you mean by Revelation. The facts are, irrespective of one’s belief, that G-d hasn’t revealed Himself to mankind entirely. Even on an individual nation basis He hasn’t revealed Himself to prophets. The proof? Well, the prophets of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism etc. all contradict each other, leading to the conclusion that all of these prophets (to the exception of perhaps one religion) are lying.

    As a believer in Torah and the Jewish tradition, I believe that it is part of the Jewish mission to teach the Seven Noahide Laws to mankind. In this regard, it may be called “revelation” to the extent that that’s how G-d intends to communicate His will to the nations of the world.

    However, whether or not the message reaches an individual, everyone is responsible and accountable for going against the basic morals planted in our DNA. The concept of punishing can range from justice, deterrence, or simply a means to keep dangerous individuals away from society. Which one is G-d’s reason when He punishes a nation for immorality? I’ll assume it’s up for discussion.

    “…However exercising fitra on its own is incomplete without revelation . That is why G-d , according to Islamic teachings sent prophets to every nation , Moses being one of them.”

    As mentioned earlier, all of these “prophets” contradict each other in belief and message leading to the conclusion that they don’t all share the same messenger – G-d Almighty.

    “I am trying to explore if there is something similar in Judaism . That is why I ask these questions”.

    I am not aware of a similar concept in Judaism.

    “Why am I not inspired when listening Torah narratives from the Jewish people (so far)? At the end of the day I do not know what is lesson to be learnt from the portion in question… Hence I am not inspired as much.”

    I usually do draw much inspiration from the weekly lessons of the Torah portion. I think its a matter of getting a hold of the right material. The actual biblical narratives don’t inspire me too much. It is mainly the Oral Torah, including Kabbalah, Chassidus, and Mussar that intended and do inspire those who learn them.

    “The nation of Israel is established through supernatural intervention –the 10 plagues , the parting of the Red sea and is sustained in the desert through supernatural intervention –manna and the quails, water from the rock. However I find from the commentaries and overall writings of Jews that the outlook is very much “in the world”. Man is supposed to learn G-d’s will through intellectual reasoning and to perform mitzvas as a means to be closer to G-d. It is all about man’s effort to reach G-d. There is no engagement with the Divine through the spirit. That is the meaning of the above comment .”

    I’m not sure what you mean by “engagement with the divine through the spirit”. Here’s what Judaism teaches: Man was created in the Image of G-d. That means that we all have a Divine aspect within us that is here on a mission to make this world a better place. G-d created the world because He wanted a Resting Place in this world, the lowest of the lowest of places. This is done primarily through our humility before G-d and love for Him. Judaism is not (only) about being self-centered and connecting ourselves to G-d – it is about simply doing what G-d wants from us!

    It should be noted that G-d gave the Torah to us humans and not angels. The reason He did so was because He wanted that precisely us – with our self-centered motives – should go out of ourselves, at least somewhat, and connect to Him through humility and performing the Mitzvos (perhaps identical to the “Spirit” you have in mind).

    As Dina pointed out, I think it is important that you look for what the truth and the facts are instead of looking for what suits your feelings better or from what you draw most inspiration from. Inspiration is only a means to be motivated to do the right thing. What the right thing is – is something we must search for.

    Looking forward to hear from you

    • Dina says:

      Dovid, I am very impressed. Judging from the maturity of your thought and writing I would never have guessed you were half my age! Kol hakavod!

      I want to talk about inspiration. What we find inspiring is not necessarily what is the truth.

      A real life analogy. Someone posted a video of a tearful mother explaining how her precious 17-month-old daughter died. Her caretaker left her sleeping in her car seat, and her head slumped forward, causing her to die of asphyxiation. The grief-stricken mother is on a campaign to raise awareness that sleeping infants should be moved out of their car seats and into their cribs, no matter how great the temptation to let them keep sleeping.

      It’s a heartbreaking video, and the immediate reaction of my friends was fear and panic. I latched on to one fact, though, that was made in the video. Over the course of four years, thirty-one children died in this way. I did a little research, and I don’t recall the numbers, but the risk of being struck by lighting or drowning are many times higher. The risk of death every time you drive your baby in the car or cross the street with her is many times higher. Of course, if you can bring the risk to zero you definitely should. But the feelings elicited by this inspiring and heartbreaking video were well out of proportion to the actual risk.

      Another real life analogy is all the inspiring parenting books that swept me off my feet with their ideologies and which turned out to be terrible advice. (Pity my poor children!)

      So being inspired is nice but you gotta be careful!

      That said, I do find inspiration from even just the Biblical narratives. I am always moved by the story of Joseph’s sale and the ultimate redemption of the brothers. There are passages that move me almost to tears (like David’s grief over the death of his rebellious son Absalom–how far a father’s love goes, even for a son who wanted to kill him and take over the throne!). There are passages in the Torah and prophets that make my heart soar with their encouragement of repentance and promises of redemption (such as Deuteronomy 30 and Ezekiel 18 and 33).

      But the process of Biblical exegesis is different. You are accustomed to drawing inspiration out of the Bible. But in traditional Judaism, the Bible also serves the purpose of providing knowledge and intellectual stimulation. The complex explanations you’ve been reading are the process of deriving new ideas and gaining new insights through critical analysis that is intellectually stimulating and exciting. Because you have never seen the Bible studied this way, it must seem strange to you.

      Sometimes this type of Biblical exegesis is both intellectually pleasing and emotionally inspiring. I actually just saw a video clip today that embodies both but I don’t know how to post it here!

      So I think, Sharon, it might require a bit of a mental shift to see the Torah the way we do.

      • Sharon S says:

        Hi Dina and Dovid,

        I am responding to your comments here:
        https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43748
        https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43777
        https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43778

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Dovid,like Dina I too am surprised at your breadth of knowledge and maturity despite your age. You are nearly half my age too.Guess Dina and I are roughly the same age then.

        Dina ,I truly appreciate that you understand where I’m coming from. Looking back I probably should have explained this at the start. Perhaps our conversation would turn out differently.

        Also ,I agree with you that we both have very different upbringing.The circumstances of our upbringing affects our worldview and more importantly ,our perception of G-d. I can see that in our conversation as well.

        I gather from both your inputs that the following does not determine if a message is true:
        a.Feelings or where one draw inspiration from
        b.Universality or particularity of a message
        c.Effectiveness of a message

        The universality or particularity of a message is an important criterion for me.

        I live in a multiracial and multi-religious country. I am raised in a multiracial religious community. I take pride in being the citizen of a nation that values racial and religious diversity . I am of mixed parentage,100% Asian with a western sounding name and surname .Hence my outlook has always been universal and inclusive.

        Naturally I have a strong belief that G-d act in universal ways.After all He is our universal Creator.To me universality is equal to inclusiveness. A universal message is naturally inspiring and effective because it benefits all people.

        I hate particularity for it is equal to exclusiveness. I have seen displays of particularity in the form of religious bigotry displayed by one group over others .Their actions are condemned in the mainstream and social media .Particularity breeds extremism and a sense of superiority of one group against all others.How can one find inspiration in such a message?

        Exploring Judaism is an uncomfortable and troubling experience for me.I am forced to face the fact that G-d uses particular means to achieve His purposes. As a result ,I am not sure if the purpose is universal at all .The Universal ,inclusive Creator I am familiar with is actually particular and exclusive.

        It is hard to see the inclusive message of Judaism when it drastically changed my perception of G-d.

        I have never thought that my search for the truth will lead me here.The truth is indeed hard to bear. I fear of turning away from G-d completely should I continue in this path.

        The most sensible option is to stop my search here and to ignore the truths I learnt along the way.Go back to ignorance ,for ignorance is bliss.

        I see people around me ,worshipping and serving G-d as how they understand Him.Their beliefs may be faulty but they are living moral,happy lives . It is possible to worship and serve G-d in ignorance.After all the Jewish G-d does not punish us for what we don’t know.

        My question ,will the Jewish G-d condemn me if I knowingly choose to go back to ignorance ? Which is better ,to turn away from Him completely or to knowingly embrace falsehood?

        Appreciate if you can share your thoughts.

        Thank you

        • Dina says:

          Sharon, this is very heavy stuff. Your post is so full of pain, I can only feel sympathy for your struggle.

          Your question at the end is so sad. Will God condemn you, you ask, if you knowingly choose the path that is false but gives you peace?

          I am going to ask you to pretend that God is your Dad. We believe God is our Father but often have a hard time actually internalizing the concept. I am a parent. What do I most want for my children? Sure, I want them to be happy, but most of all, I want them to be good–because not only is that most important but also because cannot truly find happiness if you aren’t good. That is what God wants for us. He wants us to be happy, and He knows we will not be truly happy unless we choose the good, which is life itself. God is not looking for ways to condemn anyone; He is holding out His hand and waiting for us to grab hold. God loves you more than any human being in the world, more than it is humanly possible to imagine. So don’t be afraid. Keep searching and don’t give up until you are satisfied that you have discovered the truth. He’s your Dad!

          God told us, “I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil…I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live” (Deuteronomy 30).

          This is what God our Father wants for us.

          Now that you know that things are not as simple as they once seemed, you cannot un-know it. You will never regain your blissful ignorance because you are no longer ignorant. I suspect that you will not attain happiness if you know you are living a lie. God wants you to be happy.

          If I can offer some consolation. Universality is important to you because to you it automatically implies inclusiveness. Yet the universal messages of both Christianity and Islam are both highly exclusive. You must accept their message, which is belief in a human being, in order to be saved. And because not everyone does, according to Christianity, the 5 billion non-Christians on this planet, two-thirds of the word’s population, are condemned to eternal damnation no matter how morally upright and upstanding they are. According to Islam, the number is even larger. This should trouble you deeply.

          According to Judaism, only the truly evil people are condemned. That means the vast, overwhelming majority of the world’s population are going to be okay. Because you don’t have to become Jewish in order to be saved.

          This should make you feel really good about the whole thing!

          I want to go back to another point you made earlier in the same post. You succinctly summarized the main points of what doesn’t make a message true. You included the effectiveness of the message. I do think the effectiveness of the message is useful to a certain degree in determining its truth. However, you and I define effectiveness differently. You define it as reaching the maximum number of people possible. I define it as the kind of societies it creates over a long historical period. That is why effectiveness of the Jewish message according to my definition supports its truth and undermines the credibility of the other competing messages.

          Another point. You wrote that you “take pride in being the citizen of a nation that values racial and religious diversity.” If I remember correctly, you live in Indonesia. Perhaps you have moved since then, but Indonesia is one of the most anti-Semitic countries in the world. There are about 200 Jews in the country of 264 million. Judaism has not made the list of six official religions. So multiethnic and multiracial are not accurate descriptions Indonesian society.

          It is greatly to your credit that you have been able to disavow the anti-Semitism you grew up with, but I think that is more due to your searching, sensitive nature than to the environment you grew up in.

          The reason I bring this up is just to say: perhaps you can let go of the society you hold so dear a little bit.

          And one last point. The election of Israel is very uncomfortable not only for gentiles but also for some Jews, who also question why God chose one tiny people to impart His truth to and decided to keep it from the rest of the world. This hardly seems fair! And the philosopher Michael Wischogrod rightly notes that herein lies a trap for both Jew and gentile: for the Jew, the trap of developing a superiority complex; and for the gentile, the trap of falling into jealousy and trying to steal the election for themselves.

          So when it comes to your discomfort with the notion of the election of Israel, I completely understand where you are coming from.

          I hope this helps! Please don’t give up, please keep asking!

          • Annelise says:

            Sharon, I think we live in a world where the particular and the universal are deeply intertwined. Tiny local events may or may not have a chain of effects that changes the course of world history. But for an infinite Creator, it would be possible to set all these countless interelations into being in a way that cares for the needs of everyone. What He gives to one nation may at the same time be what He gives to everyone.

            We can’t truly compare our life to someone else’s life, because so much is unseen.

            Judaism does have a very universal value, as well, in the concept of tikkun olam, healing the world.

            We can’t speculate at all about why God would create limitations in the world, alongside the kindness. There are no limitations on Him, so we can’t talk meaningfully about ‘reasons why’ that precede creation. But post-creation, we could look at how He brings kindness about within the limitations that exist. And if such kindness does exist, then even if we can’t understand the bigger picture or the baffling limitations that kindness seems to be working around. The kindness is still infinitely meaningful, because it is a gift from the Creator of our hearts and a connection with our Source. In Judaism, this isn’t just about one select group; it’s about everyone who has breath given to them.

            Also, the acceptance and experience of Torah is secondary to the basic human relationship with Hashem. No one, neither an individual Jew nor the nation as a whole at Sinai, would accept Torah on a heart level unless they already had that connection with Him.

          • Annelise says:

            PS I think that shock, grief, anxiety, and disillusionment are all natural experiences for us when we question and change our beliefs. There is always a level of peace to be found in focusing on our anchors, the things and values that remain steady.

            Sometimes it helps to keep a loose hold on our questioning process…to step back a bit when it gets frustrating and simply let it rest a while until new inspiration appears. To stay in touch with our senses so that we recognise calm elements in the world around us, which allows our fight-or-flight response to settle during moments when we don’t need to be feeling it…which makes room for joy, for being present in the reality that is given to us.

            Accepting those emotions of shock and grief is painful, but it’s good to allow those feelings to sit with us. The pain of loss and disappointment doesn’t necessarily go away…but it can become calm, in time, and find its place amidst the bigger picture, if we bring it with us into places of love and peace.

        • dovid says:

          Hi Sharon,
          I appreciated reading your comment that was written straight from the heart. Dina and Annelise brought great points that I %100 agree with. As Dina pointed out it is certainly very important to keep on asking and keep on researching. Yet on a practical level, as Annelise pointed out, it would make sense to take a short brake, sleep on it, and don’t jump to conclusions too fast without first digesting the ideas that might seem contrary to deeply embedded premises that your life experience has influenced.

          I’d like to wish you a happy chanukah and that also entails the message of Chanukah. The message of Chanukah – the holiday of lights – is that all it takes is even just one small candle to light up a dark full of darkness. That’s why the victory against the occupying Greeks was achieved by a small bandit of determined Jewish fighters who were gonna fight for truth and religious freedom! Every good deed, even the seemingly insignificant adds tremendous light to this world. Happy Chanukah!

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,Annelise and Dovid,

            Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Each of you share a different and interesting perspective on this situation.I truly appreciate it.

            Dina ,reading your posts made me realise that there is another side to every situation .I see a situation from one angle and you see it from another. You see the messages of Christianity and Islam as truly exclusivist as it denies salvation to those who are morally upright but does not believe in certain individuals . It must have been uncomfortable for you as how confronting the truths of Judaism is to me.

            I take pride that my nation values diversity and is hospitable to everyone.Well almost everyone..except for Jews.I overlooked this point completely.My apologies for that.I once watched a video by an Israeli.He was looking across the border at my country from where he was in Singapore .He described my country as a “forbidden land” .Those with Israeli passports are not allowed to enter the country. It must have been very uncomfortable for him.

            Annelise, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.You have an open mind ,very knowledgeable and can see the good in all situations . I find inspiration from your comments and posts here.

            Your advice that it is best to step back when the questioning gets frustrating-to let it rest until new inspiration appears.I do agree with you if this situation is anything but spiritual. Letting spiritual issues rest does not mean that it will go away. In my case it is always lurking somewhere at the back of my mind ,consciously or subconsciously .It is best to do something and tackle it head on. I was initially reluctant to write this post .However writing it helps me to identify the root cause of the issue I have with Judaism.Reading all your feedback provides more clarity.I don’t think this will be possible if I continue to think about it on my own.

            I do agree with you that we need to embrace the not so pleasant feelings that come with the change of our beliefs. I used to think that it is not right to have these sort of feelings- perhaps it may be due to the influence of Christian thought on these things.

            Dovid, thank you for your brilliant input .I do learn a lot from you in our conversations and your comments in this blog .Thank you for the Chanukah wishes and explaining the meaning of this festival to me.

            I can’t help but saying this (and I hope it is not unkosher for you) ,there is another Festival of Lights and it is known as Diwali .This is a major Hindu festival celebrated just a few months back .It is a similar theme of light overcoming the darkness -good versus evil.Thought you might want to know. Happy Chanukah !

  31. Jim says:

    Sharon,

    (In response to your comment here: https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43617 )

    You see no difference between the Pauline interpretation and that of the rabbis. If one will accept the opinion of R’ Yochanan that the Seven Laws can be found in Genesis 2:16, then he will not be able to object to the teachings of Paul, which, however far-fetched they might seem, are no more fanciful than those of the rabbis. This seems to show that in rejecting Paul, one is only exercising his bias against Christianity. You go so far as to suggest that the rabbinic invention of the Seven Laws is “no better than the Council of Nicea and the doctrine of the Trinity that came out from it,” and that if one is entitled accept the divine authority of the Seven Laws, he is equally entitled to accept the doctrine of the Trinity. So, this is all just a matter of interpretation, no one interpretation being better than another, and one may choose to accept this view or that as suits him.

    This response will be of some length, for which I apologize in advance. I will first discuss the difference between the Seven Laws and the three persons of the Christian god as interpretations of Torah. Next, I will contrast the authority of the rabbis to the authority of the Nicean Council. After that, I will discuss whether or not interpretation is a matter of “free play” and whether or not every interpretation is equally valid. Finally, I will contrast Paul’s interpretations of Torah as interpolation and the R’ Yochanan’s interpretation of Genesis 2:16, and show why the former is illegitimate and the latter legitimate. Hopefully, this will bring some clarity to the topic.

    You are under the impression that the Seven Laws and the Trinity stand on similar footing as interpretations of Torah. Perhaps you even mean to suggest that the Trinity has more secure footing when you argue that certain verses in Tanach imply a multiplicity of persons within the Godhead. However, when one interprets a text, it is vital that his interpretation is not contradicted by the text. This is one way that he can rule out some possible interpretations. On this ground, I believe we can begin a comparison of the Seven Laws and the Three Persons as a preliminary step to determine if they are on equal ground. We will ask of both the Seven Laws and the Three Persons, whether or not they contradict the Torah. This will not establish either one of these doctrines, but it may rule one out.

    Beginning with the Seven Laws, let us ask: Are the Seven Laws contradicted by Torah? The answer is obvious: no. Each of the Seven accords with a principle of Torah. Even those that assert that the Seven are an invention of the rabbis do not claim that the laws are in contradiction to the Torah. They will even say that the laws are good, just not divinely commanded upon the non-Jewish world. That one should not worship false gods or blaspheme God—these are Torah principles. The same is true of laws against murder, theft, and sexual impurity. All these principles are found in the Torah. That courts should be set up is also a principle that one can find in the Torah. The remaining law sometimes strikes people as strange, that one should not eat from the limb of a living animal is explicitly stated in the Torah. None of the Seven Laws, then, violates a principle of the Torah. None is contradicted by the Torah.

    But, with the Three Persons of Christianity, this question must be answered in the opposite manner: the Trinity is directly contradicted by the Torah. While the Church maintains the certain passages indicate a plurality in the godhead, at most one could say that these passages require interpretation. They present a question. In searching for an answer, however, the Torah has ruled out the possibility of a trinity or any multiplicity in the godhead whatsoever. In Deuteronomy 4 Moses impresses upon the Jewish people what they are to understand from the Sinai revelation. In v. 35 and again in v. 39, it says that no one is with God. And in chapter 6, of course, we have the Shema which emphasizes that God is one. This is a fundamental principle of the Torah, that God is alone. Any interpretation of Torah which affirms the doctrine of Three Persons is in direct contradiction to this fundament of the Torah and must be rejected. It is not, therefore, on equal footing with the Seven Laws. The Seven Laws do not contradict Torah and are, therefore, a possibility, while the Three Persons are an impossibility, an interpretation that does not accord with Torah.

    The significance of Deuteronomy 4 must not be overlooked in regard to this question, because the declaration that God is alone is not the only item of relevance in the passage. The passage also sets up the authority of the Jewish people as God’s witnesses. It is they who are given the correct conception of God. When the Church appeals to the Nicean Council, you and I are perfectly within our rights to ask: From where the members of the Nicean Council get their authority? This book that they are interpreting was not given to those at this Council; they were not entrusted with its message. They are not the descendants of those that experienced the revelation at Sinai. They do not even speak the language of the book they have taken it upon themselves to interpret. The Torah sets up judges to interpret the law. At what point did the authority pass from those judges to this Council? Who ordained them? Who declared them competent to rule upon matters of the Torah? The questions answer themselves. We know that they were not ordained by anyone. They have usurped an authority that did not belong to them, have stolen a book that did not belong to them, and have corrupted a message that was not entrusted to them. This council’s authority rests upon nothing.

    On the other side of the interpretive coin, the Jewish people have been entrusted with the message of the Torah. The Torah sets up a system of judges to interpret and preserve the message of Torah along with the priests and Levites. They have the qualifications to do the job that the Nicean Council does not.

    So, these two doctrines do not stand on equal footing. The Three Persons of the Christian godhead is a teaching that violates one of the major principles of the Torah and is directly contradicted by the text, while the Seven Laws accord with the major principles of the Torah. And the Three Persons is a doctrine that comes out of an unqualified body, ruling upon a Torah that they could not read, did not have the background to understand, and which was not given to them, while the Seven Laws are taught by the people who understand both the language and background of the Torah, who operate within the system of judgement and interpretation prescribed by the Torah, and to whom the Torah was entrusted. One cannot conclude, therefore, that accepting the Seven Laws is no different than accepting the Three Persons of the Christian godhead.

    But, I can already hear the Christian objecting: What about Paul? One might object to the non-Jewish Nicean Council issuing its pronouncement on the Torah, but one certainly cannot object to Saul of Tarsus—Rabbi Paul! After all, he was a Jew, a Pharisee of Pharisees, and a student of R’ Gamliel. He must certainly be a qualified interpreter of the Torah.

    Well, no.

    Leaving aside whether or not Paul’s claims about being a Pharisee are true or not (and they are certainly dubious), one must examine the interpretations of Paul. Just because a Jew somewhere said something, that does not make it true, even if he is speaking about the Torah. One does not go to Karl Marx, for example, to gain an understanding of the Torah. Being Jewish is not enough to make one expert in Torah, a trustworthy expositor of its teachings.

    And here, I must urge upon us the greatest caution. Too often, people treat the act of interpreting Torah nothing more than “free play.” Sharon, your comments suggest that this is what you think is happening with both the interpretations of Paul and those of R’ Yochanan. And, since it is all a matter of “free play,” then one can choose to follow any interpretation. Since both of these men are only using the Torah as tools to support their own ideas, neither can condemn the teaching of the other; nor can the students of one object to the teachings of the other. But, if we accept that one may use the scripture in whatever manner he wishes to support some doctrine of his own invention, then we strip the Torah of its meaning. We no longer seek to fulfill the will of God. Rather, we turn the Torah into a puppet into the mouth of which we put our own words. The text will cease to have any meaning whatsoever. In fact, if these men are practicing “free play” in their interpretations, one is not entitled to choose either. He must reject both. Neither teaching would have enough substance behind it. They would not be interpretations at all.

    My next task will be to show that Paul is not interpreting scripture. He is abusing it, making it dance to his own tune. And then I will show that this is not what R’ Yochanan is doing. R’ Yochanan’s task is something quite different from Paul’s and so is his methodology. But, because this comment is quite long already, and I am not certain how many words WordPress will tolerate in a comment, I will break this comment here and continue it in a second comment, which I hope to complete in the next day or two.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Jim

  32. Jim says:

    Sharon,

    The turmoil that you feel—I want you to know that you are not alone in how you feel. Virtually every former Christian goes through a period of emotional upheaval. Because the love one feels for Jesus can be so intense, acknowledging that he is not god, not a prophet, not the Messiah, can be quite painful. It is quite like a divorce. Even when one knows that he is doing the right thing, it is difficult to leave one’s past behind.

    A friend of mine after years of struggling with his faith, decided last year that he must finally admit that his devotion did not belong to Jesus. I had no idea at the time that he was actually considering that Christianity might be false. He had always so staunchly defended it that it did not occur to me that he might be weighing it. But he told me later that he had been for years in a state of turmoil. All the time, he felt uncomfortable with himself, never at peace. He said that it had affected his marriage and all his relationships, because he was wound so tight. One day, he was thinking and he realized that he knew that the distortions of Christianity were just that and that he did not believe it any longer. And he said that all of a sudden, it was like he just put down a sixty-pound backpack with which he had been hiking for mile upon mile. A sense of relief and peace came over him. He now feels closer to his wife than he had in years. He is no longer eaten up inside. He is happy.

    That process was not an easy one. And I do not mean to suggest that leaving Christianity automatically grants one serenity. I just wanted you to know that others have been where you are and survived. As I likened this to a divorce, for many people it begins as more of a trial separation. For a long time, it appears that a reconciliation is possible. And all during that time of separation, a great sense of pain and unease permeates a great many people that go through this. They are hoping that things can work out, that they can reconcile their Christianity with the objections they have begun to raise. It is a time of great struggle. But many have been through it. You are not alone.

    I do not know if you can take comfort from knowing that many of us have been through the turmoil through which you now pass. I cannot promise that it will go quickly. For some people, this can last for a long time. For my friend, it was years and years.

    On the other hand, I do not know if denying what you have learned will offer you any peace. Once you know something, it is hard to pretend that you do not. It tends to remain in the back of your mind. For many what happens is that they try to reconcile themselves to the faith they know to be false by addressing other problems within it. They become like the sailors with whom Jonah sailed. They are beset by an emotional tempest, and they know what must be done. But, they do not want to throw over Jesus. So, they throw over the baggage. It might be Christmas: “Where in the Bible does it say to observe Christmas?” It might be the Trinity; they trade in a trinitarian model of the godhead for a modalist model, hoping to reconcile the divinity of Jesus with the oneness of God. Over the side of the ship goes the Trinity, but still the storm rages. So, they consider the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, and they throw over Sunday church services. Then goes Easter. But still the storm rages. Still they are in turmoil. The fact is that the real problem is devotion to Jesus rather than God, and on some level, they know it. Only when they finally throw him over the side do they find equanimity. I fear that you will find yourself in this boat if you attempt to pretend ignorance: the peace you seek will not be found this way.

    I am a long way from you, and I do not know you; but, I care about you. And, I know that I am not the only one. You are not alone.

    Jim

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Jim,

      Thank you for your concern on my situation. Thank you for responding to my comments patiently and with great detail these past few months , despite your move. It is a benefit not only to me but to many others who may be following this conversation as well. May G-d reward you for your efforts.

      I am born and raised Catholic . However Jesus has always been the key to G-d , never an object of my worship . I was confronted with questions on his divinity and the Trinity through exploring Islam , a radically monotheistic faith for many years . It was not difficult for me to accept these truths as it is completely in harmony with what I have always believe in my heart –that G-d is One.

      What was difficult is to live up to these truths . I went through the struggles that you speak of while exploring Islam for many years. It is hard to live a double life-inwardly believing G-d is one yet continually attending the weekly Mass –where Jesus’s name is invoked throughout the whole liturgy. It is hard to ignore my conscience whenever I participate in prayer services to Mary , saints, etc. I was too comfortable where I was at the time to sacrifice it all for truth.

      Somehow I was led to Judaism and had to face the fact that Jesus may not be the Messiah , let alone a prophet . I admit it bothered me . Accepting these truths and letting go of Jesus in the process is like a divorce . It was hard initially to deny him as a Messiah , a prophet and the key to G-d. In addition I was baptized as an infant in his name . That baptism is sacred to me. I struggled with the divorce for a few months but it was not as bad.

      I believed at the time that the lessons and struggles I faced through exploring the religion of Islam prepared me for what I would encounter in Judaism. Both faiths seemed similar .I was wrong.

      Judaism challenge all assumptions I have about G-d. This is not limited to His nature but everything I thought I knew about Him. It also challenge my perception of what He requires from us.

      As an example , I was informed here that Judaism is the most inclusive of the three faiths . Man is only required to live a moral life –not to steal , kill, commit adultery, rape, etc. Based on this , it seems that a pagan who lives a highly moral life although he engages in idolatry (as that is how he understands G-d) will not be condemned . G-d will not punish man for what he does not know.

      This is problematic to me . First it implies that G-d does not require man to search for the truth . It is absolutely fine to be content with the beliefs one is born into and not to question these beliefs . Secondly ,I see it as a slap to the face for people like us who have questioned , searched and let go of our false beliefs –only to realize that it is not necessary for us to take on this journey in the first place. Is our journey futile then ? Is this what G-d expects of us? Thirdly , it implies a Deity that could not care less what creation thinks of Him , only that we toe the line , or else..

      On the flip side , it is also argued that the messages of Islam and Christianity are exclusivist . However as I argued , these messages arise out of Divine purpose that intends to guide all of creation . It is unfair , however it compels man to search for the truth in order to obtain G-d’s favour. I would not be where I am today if not for the conviction that it is wrong to ascribe partners to G-d as what Islam teaches. I would have head back to straight to Christianity if I encountered Judaism first instead of Islam!

      I fear of coming to a point of turning away from G-d entirely should I continue down this road. That is why I am considering to ignore all the truths I have learnt for a path of ignorance . However this path does not bring peace , only turmoil –based on my experience and from what you and Dina had pointed out in your comments.

      There is another solution – to reconsider my personal decision on Jesus again . Islam convicted me to deny his divinity . Judaism convicted me to deny his prophetic credentials and messiahship . To be honest this is not a path I am keen to explore . The whole journey has destroyed whatever good view I have of Jesus . Perhaps I should consider this path in order to keep my relationship with G-d. Perhaps it is not sufficient to have a relationship with G-d without Jesus .

      You argued consistently of why Jesus does not have prophetic credentials . You mentioned of a witness inflation programme by his followers . However to me there is one truth that I have never seen being refuted before-that Jesus rose from the dead .That is the foundation of Christianity –kill that and you kill Christianity. No one has come forth claiming they found Jesus’s bones. I have heard the finding of a piece of bone belonging to a man crucified around the same era as Jesus , which means there might be a possibility that his bones could be located , assuming the resurrection is a big lie. To date there is none. Perhaps I will slowly build my appreciation of him from that fact.

      Thank you for your concern and reassurances.

      • Annelise says:

        Hi Sharon,

        I think you’re right that spiritual matters are so important, and feel so important, that we can’t just switch off the concerns we have. But there is a difference between purposeful enquiry that might be getting somewhere, and on the other hand, anxious rumination that is tearing at our mental health. It’s hard to differentiate the two! And they can be at the same time together. Yet we need our mental health in order to seek truth, serve and love God, and connect and care for people.

        Purposeful things like thinking or writing are definitely good to keep doing, if we feel we have some leads to follow. Yet whenever it interrupts other responsibilities and rest that are important in our days, then I think it helps to remember that if God is real, then we don’t have to make the answers come to us. All we need is an open heart and a willingness to follow any good path that opens before us. Just like on Shabbat, observant Jews acknowledge that God doesn’t need us to do the work of creation…the process, and utterly everything, depend on Him at heart. That same spirit can meet us whenever we feel like we don’t know what to do next in the journey, and also whenever practical responsibilities need our focus.

        About Diwali, I knew of it because almost everyone in my neighbourhood is Indian. I could hear the celebrations from my home. Hindu religion and culture definitely bear some similarity with Jewish values, rituals, and way of community. And it isn’t in the strictest sense idolatry, because they don’t believe that the spiritual entities they honour are the same as the ultimate Creator. Yet the Torah/monotheistic value of leaving aside all communication with spiritual beings apart from God is definitely an intimately focused way of seeking our Creator.

        I think that even if people aren’t punished for ignorance, that doesn’t diminish the fact that there is great treasure to be found when we seek wisdom. Also, the existence of mercy isn’t intended to stop us from trying our best. That effort is relational, rather than being only about fear or reward.

        I believe that Jesus had as much worth as any other human being, which is to say that he had great innate worth, but not that we should diminish our worth in comparison to his.

        I don’t think he was God either, mostly because for a Torah follower to worship a human there would need to be no doubt as to him being God incarnate…and that absolute proof can’t be provided. It’s not even at all clear that the earliest churches worshiped him. As for whether or not he might have been just a human messiah, I find it impossible to think that the person presented to Israel only as an object of idolatry for all these centuries was in fact the promised king whom they must accept, even though accepting Christianity in the form it has usually been preached was completely unacceptable.I don’t think God would put that kind of barrier between Israel and redemption. They didn’t accept him because they were being loyal to worshiping God only according to Torah, so how could accepting him be what God wanted?

        That said, there has been so much beauty and wisdom within some (many) of the individual lives, words, and actions Christian history. We can honour that, accept it as deeply good, and continue to associate ourselves with that legacy.

      • LarryB says:

        Sharon
        From wiki “The name Jesus is a modern-day descendant of the Hebrew name Yeshua, which is based on the Semitic root y-š-ʕ (Hebrew: ישע‎), meaning “to deliver; to rescue.”[3][4][5] Yeshua, and its longer form, Yehoshua, were both in common use by Jews during the Second Temple period and many Jewish religious figures bear the name, notably Jesus in the New Testament, and Joshua in the Hebrew Bible.[2][1]”
        If this is true, how would you ever determine if it was him, “Jesus” ?

      • Jim says:

        Sharon,

        You ask: if God will forgive a person’s sins that are performed out of ignorance, is it not better to remain ignorant? In this way, one can avoid becoming accountable for wrongdoing. What, then, is the relevance of truth?

        Let me begin to formulate an answer with a parable:

        Bob and Lydia are a newly married couple, and Lydia’s birthday comes shortly after their marriage. Bob decides to buy Lydia a marvelous bouquet of flowers, not knowing that Lydia does not like flowers. Upon receipt of the flowers, Lydia appreciates Bob’s effort. Although she does not like the flowers, she hides her displeasure to spare his feelings. A couple weeks later, Bob hears in the course of conversation with Lydia’s mother that Lydia does not like flowers. What should Bob’s response be? Should he say to himself: “I wish I had not heard that? I could have continued to buy flowers for my wife, and she would never have gotten angry with me, since it was not my fault that I did not know. Now what will I buy her?” That does not seem correct, does it? We would expect that Bob would learn what his wife does like, so that he can please Lydia.

        I hope this parable illustrates a couple of points. One is that even though ignorance is a legitimate excuse, it is only a legitimate excuse up to a point. If Bob was still buying his wife flowers twenty years into the marriage, his ignorance would indicate neglect. If that were the circumstance, I think Lydia would become angry with Bob at a certain point. Once he has had a chance to get to know her, little excuse can be given why he does not know her likes and dislikes. Ignorance is no longer an excuse when one has an opportunity to know the truth.

        But, a deeper point waits to be considered. Bob’s vision is unbelievably limited. He gives a gift to his wife in order to avoid negative consequences. It is not that he wishes to please his wife. His gifts are not an expression of his love. He just does not want to displease his wife. He does not want to provoke nagging or receive a cold shoulder. In striking this attitude, Bob is missing an opportunity to show Lydia his love and appreciation of her. He is missing an opportunity to create some intimacy between them. It is a paltry goal that he seeks.

        One that denies himself the truth in order to avoid being held accountable by God denies himself something of the greatest value, intimacy with his Creator. It is doubtful that he will be excused if he does have the means of finding the truth. But, even if he were excused, even if he were to avoid punishment, he will not have gained that which he could have done. He will have nothing—nothing negative, sure, but nothing positive either.

        Sometimes, people express a dissatisfaction with keeping the commandments. This does not seem to them to be much in the way of divine service: “That’s it? That’s all God wants from me?” These people are denying themselves a wonderful opportunity to become close to HaShem. Every act of obedience to HaShem’s Torah can be an act of devotion. Even a prohibition, when obeyed, if done out of love, creates closeness to HaShem.

        Imagine the following scenario: Eve is in the Garden. The snake approaches, and he makes his case for eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But, instead of eating, Eve articulates the following points. First, she says, it is doubtful that the fruit will be of true benefit to her, despite its appeal, because her trust is in God and she finds it unlikely that He would deny her and Adam something that would benefit them so greatly. Second, it would be ingratitude for her to take what HaShem denied her when He has given her so much. Third, even if the fruit were actually to carry the benefits she imagines it to have, her love of HaShem is so great that she would gladly deny herself the fruit in order to show her love for him. In obeying HaShem, then, Eve would be displaying her trust in, gratitude toward, and devotion to HaShem. Denying her desire would then become an expression of love.

        And the same goes for one that has the opportunity to steal something he wants. When he refrains from taking what is not his, because he wishes to please HaShem, then the inactivity becomes an act of devotion. It is not merely toeing the line to such a person. It is an expression of trust, of gratitude, and of love. Such a person will find great satisfaction in obedience to the Torah.

        But he will not remain satisfied in having a general knowledge of HaShem’s Torah. He will want to study laws of theft carefully in order to bring all his actions in line with HaShem’s expressed will. He will study the other laws that pertain to him as well. If he is a ben Noach, then he will study the laws regarding the prohibition of murder and prohibited sexual relations. And, of course, he will study laws the laws pertaining to the prohibition of idolatry. He studies these, not merely to avoid punishment. He seeks to know what HaShem wants of him, so that he can express his love.

        In studying these laws and putting them into practice, he puts his whole life at the disposal of his God. His every action becomes an act of obedience and devotion to God. His every act promotes intimacy between him and HaShem. And he does not rest there. He looks at the underlying philosophy of the laws. He sees that HaShem values every human being, has made every human being in the image of God. So, he does not merely refrain from murder. Rather, he upholds the dignity of others. He does not subject them to scorn or mockery. He promotes their well-being, speaks kindly to them, aids them when in need. He uses the strength that HaShem has given him to promote His purposes in the world. He uses the time HaShem has granted him, not in the pursuit of empty pleasures, but learning and practicing that Torah that applies to him. Over time, he attunes his whole life to HaShem’s will.

        For this, he must pursue truth. But the source of that truth is not the empty speculations of the metaphysicians. It is not the false prophets, whose lies only divert one from HaShem. Rather, it is the Torah, which tells him, not what God is, but what humanity is to be. It tells him not of the essence of God, but the will of God for humanity. It tells him, not of the heavenly realm, but of the earthly realm and how he is to act within it. These truths are of the greatest relevance to him, and he devotes himself to their study.

        And on the other hand, this man will wish to avoid any falsity. He will not wish to be deceived about what HaShem wants of him. Any such deception denies him the proper means to please God. Certainly, he knows that God will forgive his errors, if they are sincerely made. But he does not just seek to avoid punishment. He seeks to perform HaShem’s will. To do that, he must know it, just as a man must know what pleases his wife. The effort he puts into learning what pleases HaSHem is itself an expression of his devotion.

        The truth is of the utmost importance, then, for any who wish to become close to HaShem. Only through a devotion to truth will one be able to please HaShem. One can understand, of course, why avoiding punishment is desirable, but life is much richer for the one that does not seek only that. One will have a much fuller life by devoting himself to the truth, devoting himself to HaShem and his Torah. As his mind becomes saturated with the truth, his entire life becomes an expression of that truth and he becomes closer to HaShem.

        Jim

        • Annelise says:

          I’ve also been thinking about the question of God using one particular nation as the historical bearer of the testimony about Him. If God could use an individual person as a prophet or priest for other individuals…then is that less problematic than the idea od God using one nation in a role like that towards other nations?

          Muslims seem to often be the ones to point out that in Islam all nations are equally involved, whereas in Judaism one nation has a different responsibility and status. And the general persecution of Jews might be linked to disdain about that idea as well.

          But even if we can’t understand why God might choose a prophetic human, or a prophetic nation, to share His message…could we accept it if He did? Could universal good still come of it? Could other individuals and nations still have a special role to play?

          And keep in mind that conversion to being part of Israel is an option for people who might want to be part of the covenant community. Some people are in circumstances where they can’t convert, for example being married to someone who doesn’t want to, or being unable to move close to the Jewish community. But for most people it is an option; the Jewish community is not exclusive and it has an open door to let people of any nation join if that’s what they desire to do.

          The claim of a mass revelation to Israel exists…and although it could be explained away…I think it is at least strong enough to deserve real attention.

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Jim,

          Thanks for your parable and advice.

          You state at the end of your previous comment that you are a long way from me. Your recent response shows how far we are in terms of spiritual maturity and devotion to G-d. You are standing at a much higher level –a level I can never reach .

          I approached Judaism through a “zero based” or “back to basics “ approach . I discarded existing knowledge and ideas of G-d and started to learn about Him from scratch through the worldview of Judaism. As a result I threw away concepts such as G-d being our Father , G-d is love or that we as His creatures are to love Him –because these are concepts I learnt from Christianity.

          I learnt that G-d demands obedience . We as gentiles are required to obey the 7 laws which are prohibitive in nature . Gentiles are not obligated to pray . There are laws such as loving G-d , meant to bring one to perfection . However these laws are specifically commanded to the Jewish nation.I come away thinking that G-d only requires me to do the bare minimum . We are not commanded to do more. I do feel sad about it because I used to do more before –Christianity demands us to do more, to act beyond what the Torah spells out .

          If one is commanded to perfection , the response will out of on trust , love, gratitude etc. If the commands is prohibitive in nature , the response will out of fear of punishment and expectation of a reward . I admit my attitude towards G-d is based on fear and reward , similar to your parable of Bob and his attitude towards Lydia. I find it hard to relate to the concept of G-d as a Father or relating to G-d in love .

          I don’t see myself of having a “relationship” with G-d. I do feel sad about it. Why has it come to this?

          • Annelise says:

            Dear Sharon,

            What you describe is such a difficult and painful place to be in.

            I don’t believe that anything we can offer to God comes innately from us. We come before Him with empty hands, like a newborn who just needs their needs met. If we are ever able to love God from the heart, then that is because He creates the ability within us.

            We are empty vessels, but we can be filled. Waiting on God and hoping that He will give us peace is the deepest thing that our hearts experience. I hope and pray that peace meets us, gradually in and through the moments of our days.

            Judaism does speak of God as loving, and it speaks of us clinging to Him…from wherever we are at, simply clinging to Him. The answers come slowly, almost unobservably, like the growth of plants. That’s why mindfulness can help as well, being in the present (especially outdoors, in peaceful places away from traffic)…wherever peace can reach our bodies and minds, our hearts are also comforted.

          • Dovid says:

            Hi sharon,

            “As a result I threw away concepts such as G-d being our Father , G-d is love or that we as His creatures are to love Him –because these are concepts I learnt from Christianity.”

            There’s no reason to throw away these concepts. These concepts are basics of scripture, which is where christianity adapted it from. Even if these concepts weren’t in scripture, how can one not love g-d?! The very understanding of g-d as our creator automatically dictates that we should love him.

            “I learnt that G-d demands obedience . We as gentiles are required to obey the 7 laws which are prohibitive in nature.”

            The truest test of love is obedience. Judaism emphasizes on loving g-d much like christianity does. However it takes it a step further and says that loving might be easy, but actually doing something about that love is another story.

            “Gentiles are not obligated to pray . There are laws such as loving G-d , meant to bring one to perfection . However these laws are specifically commanded to the Jewish nation.”

            Prayer and love of g-d are from the branches of the law of believing in g-d. This is mainstream rabbinic view (I don’t have a source off hand). Job, who according to many wasn’t Jewish, is recorded to have prayed to g-d multiple times.

            “I come away thinking that G-d only requires me to do the bare minimum . We are not commanded to do more. I do feel sad about it because I used to do more before –Christianity demands us to do more, to act beyond what the Torah spells out .”

            There’s many branches to the seven laws. For example, branches of the civil part of the seven laws would include giving charity and helping the needy. Unfortunately this task cannot be described as the bare minimum in the world we live in. There’s the technical seven laws, but then there’s the spirit.

            The seven laws are layed out as seven basic no-no’s because they are intended to be a criteria for a gentile to be considered a Ger Toshav (a gentile legal citizen of ancient Israel) of the bible. They weren’t formally documented in rabbinic law as a guide to gentiles. Only more recent works on the subject have layed out a moral guide, not just prohibitions, in the format of instructions for gentiles for a moral life in a formal manner.

            Honestly, I always viewed the Torah’s demand of gentiles to be very similar to that of christianity. They both encourage basic civil and moral conduct. A faithful Christian (who doesn’t believe in a complete trinity) is pretty much already keeping the seven noahide laws. The key difference would be much of a historical one – is jesus the messiah. To me the question is what DOES make him the messiah more than any other of the dozens of claimed messiahs throughout history. I haven’t found any answer to that yet, which leaves him at a 0.01% chance of being the messiah.

            “I don’t see myself of having a “relationship” with G-d. I do feel sad about it. Why has it come to this?”

            It hasn’t come to this, you were born like that. In fact, we were all born like that. Anyone who says it’s easy to love g-d with your whole heart is either fooling themselves or they have no concept of love.
            I always tell people that my hardest Mitzvah to keep is to love g-d with your heart. Is it hard? Well if it was easy, he might as well have commanded angels to love him, they would have done a far better job loving g-d than we’d do. Rather the point was exactly that – g-d wants us – with our hardships – to work on ourselves, to grow day by day, fight day by day and aim for that goal of loving our creator with all our heart and with all our soul.

            In my opinion, the biggest issue with embracing the seven noahide laws and leaving, say, christianity is the feeling of loneliness. People find comfort in religion a lot because they want to feel part of a special club, joined by others who unite for prayer and services. The practical issue with the seven noahide laws faith is that there’s no community for it (yet) or places of study and worship. I don’t know the solution, I just think that this is something that might make someone hesitant in accepting the seven laws. I’m hoping that in the near future it becomes more like a “movement” that people will feel comfortable joining and being a part of that larger crowd.

            In the meantime, Sharon, don’t let anything stop you in your pursuance of truth and it’s your job to inspire as many people as you know about the moral conduct g-d wants from us all. We all have the responsibility to teach those around us the importance of helping each other and of moral conduct.

            Dovid

      • Dina says:

        Hi Sharon,

        I am responding to your comment here: https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43821.

        I am having a hard time relating to and understanding your conception of God. You write that it’s unfair that God would not require everyone to search for the truth, and therefore not condemn those for being born into a religion and not questioning their beliefs. You write that the God of Judaism just expects everyone to toe the line or else.

        This is very strange to me, since I see God as a Father who loves us more than it is humanly possible to love. He is not looking for ways to condemn us. As a parent, what brings me the most joy is when my children get along and treat each other well. What brings me the most sorrow is when my children fight and are mean to each other. What God our Heavenly Parent cares about most is how we treat each other, His children. When you love God’s children and treat them with dignity and respect, you are connecting to God in the most important way. Four of the Seven Laws are concerned with how we treat each other. It is not a coincidence that they are the majority.

        Jim’s parable also clearly illustrates that in our relationship with our Father, our goal is to please Him, not see how much we can get away with without being punished. The child who is obedient and aims to please is much, much happier than the child that is constantly pushing boundaries and trying to get away with as much as possible. God wants us to be happy.

        I disagree with your assessment that Judaism holds that God does not require all people to seek out the truth. I believe He does require it. But most people are so deeply indoctrinated in the beliefs they were raised with that they don’t even know that there is anything to question.

        This brings me back to Jim’s analogy. Imagine that Bill remains totally clueless about Lisa’s gift preferences. He continues to buy her flowers without it ever occurring to him to find out if that is what she actually likes. In fact, Lisa hates that he buys flowers; she would far rather have chocolate (maybe I’m projecting a bit here). But otherwise he treats her well. Never an unkind word. Takes out the garbage every day. Even closes the cap on the toothpaste and puts the toilet seat down! And is a wonderful father to their children. Should Lisa divorce him because of his cluelessness regarding his gift getting?

        There are billions of people in the world who spend their lives trying to be a good sibling, parent, spouse, neighbor, employee, community member, and what have you. Should God throw them into hell because it didn’t occur to them to question their religious or atheist beliefs? Sharon, the kind of God you seem to want to believe in is a psychopath! Please forgive my bluntness, I couldn’t think of a nice way to say that (I’m sure Annelise and Jim could do a lot better!).

        You wrote that although the nature of the messages of Islam and Christianity are exclusivist and unfair, yet they compel man to search for the truth. I could not disagree more. Both religions use fear and guilt to compel obedience to their doctrines and thus discourage truth seeking. Many Jews who converted to Christianity and then later returned to Judaism document the experience that when they started expressing doubts and asking questions, they were warned that those doubts and questions were coming from Satan.

        This is beside the point that both messages are inherently false since they both contradict the Torah. So it is irrelevant how lovely they might seem, although I already explained that they are empty (they teach nothing about developing relationships with God and man), limiting (they reduce the ultimate measure of a man to his belief or non-belief in a particular human), and coercive (they compel obedience through guilt and fear).

        You wrote that your only holdout is the resurrection. Please know that it cannot be proved whether an event happened or didn’t happen based on missing archaeological evidence or other missing evidence. For example, we do not have any physical evidence of the Exodus, the trek through the desert, the revelation at Mount Sinai, and many other events that Christians accept as true. It is ridiculous to say, produce the bones of Jesus and then I’ll believe the resurrection never happened! How would anyone know they were the bones of Jesus anyway? By doing a DNA test?

        That said, the event of the resurrection, even if it took place exactly as described, proves nothing because the Hebrew Bible itself says so. I point your attention to Deuteronomy 13:

        If there will arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of a dream, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you happens, [and he] says, “Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us worship them,” you shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the Lord, your God, is testing you, to know whether you really love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord, your God, fear Him, keep His commandments, heed His voice, worship Him, and cleave to Him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death; because he spoke falsehood about the Lord, your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeemed you from the house of bondage, to lead you astray from the way in which the Lord, your God, commanded you to go; so shall you clear away the evil from your midst (2-6).

        Here the Torah explicitly says that God will send false prophets who will give signs that come to pass, and how will we know they are false? If they try to turn our hearts in worship to gods “which you have not known.” This is to test the steadfastness of our faith.

        Jesus gave a sign that you believe came to pass. He also taught a type of worship, a worship of other gods, which up to that point we had not known. Therefore, by the Torah’s standard, he is a false prophet who must be put to death.

        There is another problem with the resurrection. According to Christian scripture, the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign. He grew angry with them, although according to Deuteronomy 18:21-22 they are supposed to ask for one! Nevertheless, grudgingly, angrily, reluctantly, he tells them he will give them the sign of Jonah. He will lie in the belly of the earth for three days and on the third day he will rise.

        If this sign is to be fulfilled, Jesus must appear to the very people who asked for it. But fascinatingly enough, Christian scripture does not record that Jesus appeared to the Pharisees who asked for the sign. Instead, he appears to those who are already devoted to him and are predisposed to believe they have seen him.

        According to the standard the Hebrew Bible sets in Deuteronomy 18:21-22 to weed out false prophets, Jesus fails the prophet test here too.

        Because performing signs are not a proof if the prophet teaches idol worship, and because in fact Jesus did not fulfill the sign as he said he would, the resurrection is no reason to cling to Jesus.

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Dina,

          I mentioned before that there is another side to every situation . You find the exclusive messages of Islam and Christianity as unfair as it marginalizes or condemns groups of people who do not believe in Jesus/Muhammad. I find issue with the fact that the Jewish G-d only requires man to live a moral life in ignorance and does not punish man for what he does not know.

          An example –every child have to sit for exams in their schooling years . Imagine if the federal/state education authority comes out with a ruling that students need not sit for any exams at all. This means all students –the good (the diligent ones who study and do their homework) and the not so good ones (those who do not study) are able to progress to the next level of education without much effort . The good students will feel that all their efforts are in vain .This may affect their enthusiasm and commitment to their education. The bad students will not put in any effort to improve themselves as they feel they can get away with it. This is also a sign that the educational authority is not concerned with standard of educational excellence in the state. That is my point.

          You may argue that the purpose of education is to provide means for the child to learn and to be able to survive in the world. Examination should be treated means to achieve this purpose and not an end by itself. What is important is that the child learn and develop a thirst for knowledge .The system should not marginalize slow learners. Examination culture kills the joy of learning and produces students who get by through rote learning and not by appreciating knowledge. You too have a point.

          One man’s meat is another man’s poison. What is good to you may not be good for me. You may see things in one way and I see it the other way. I do understand where you coming from. My only request is that you try to do the same. Please let me know if you are still unclear about this.

          I disagree with you that the teachings of these two faiths are empty . These faiths did teach one how to develop relationship with G-d and one another . Jesus said that we are to love G-d with our heart , soul and mind and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). The Quran teaches on the true nature of G-d . Sura 112 states
          “ Say , He is God , the One and Only ; God the eternal , Absolute;He begetteth not , nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him”.

          Please refer my comment to Jim here https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43852. Christianity and Islam teaches me to act beyond the Torah in my relationship with G-d and others . Through Judaism , I am expected to do the bare minimum . I am not commanded to do what would have been required of me in Islam and Christianity . I have been “downgraded” and expected to act in a basic mode, because as a non-Jew I perceived as not being able to do more.

          As to my holdout , I admit you have strong points . However I am curious. You mentioned a few times that G-d did not command Jews to teach Torah to the non jew . So why are you explaining Deuteronomy 13 and 18 to me? These are only commanded to the your nation . How is it applicable to a non jew like me?

          Shabbat Shalom

          • Annelise says:

            It’s a bit like how in the Christian scriptures, Paul discusses the concept of grace and forgiveness. Should we deliberately sin because God gives us grace? Or should our gratitude for His grace compel us to want to do what He asks of us and come closer to Him? In the same way, He may not punish us for what we don’t know, but a deliberate attitude of not bothering to try isn’t in the same category. And gaining wisdom is a treasure with so many benefits.

            When it comes to education, I think that a strict approach isn’t necessarily the most effective. Finland has few exams, and students learn largely by completing projects driven by their own curiosity and interests, while by the teachers help them expand on those interests by flexibly weaving curriculum around them. Yet they have a highly successful school system. The emphasis on preserving joy, curiosity, and intrinsic motivation allows students of all levels to desire to engage and keep progressing with learning. And that’s the goal.

            Fear based discipline tends to inhibit us and make us behave (or hide our behaviour) just to stay out of trouble. When we feel safe relationally, we can get past that to a place of creativity, compassion, and mutual giving. Of course there are natural consequences to doing the wrong thing, but a teacher or parent who cares about a child’s development can mentor a child through those decisions without punishing them for not yet being at a level that they don’t comprehend yet.

            I really love a parenting book called ‘The Whole-Brain Child’, by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. It is based on neuroscience and is a very nurturing approach to helping children thrive. It speaks about cognitive and physical ways to help them mature their self-regulation, which helps behaviour, learning, relationships, and wellbeing. I find that the insights in the book have helped me to gently ‘parent’ myself as well! There is a sequel called ‘No-Drama Discipline’ as well, which describes how we can set behavioural limits via relational connection, and how the brain is wired to learn best in that connected relational state. It’s counter-cultural, yet it’s grounded in the most current psychological research.

            Judaism says that although we non-Jews aren’t bound to as many ritual laws, there are many aspects of Torah values that are universal and apply to all humans. They say it’s good for us to learn about all aspects of Torah that reflect on our responsibilities as humans. These may not be ritual responsibilites, but ethics and compassion take just as much commitment and learning, and can be continually explored in just as much complexity.

            Israelite priests are bound by some laws that other Jews are not, yet that doesn’t mean they are more capable than non-priestly Jews. They just have a different job to do. Just because someone has less ritual laws to follow, that doesn’t mean that God thinks they are unable to do more. And non-Jews can become Jewish if they want to join in with the particular task of the Jewish nation. But non-Jews are also tasked with bringing healing to the world in whatever ways we are able to.

            The written Torah actually gives decision-making authority to the judges (the Sanhedrin). So according to the written Torah, we should accept what the sages of Israel said about the moral responsibilities of all humans. There is also no other reason to accept the written Torah as important, apart from in the context of the ongoing traditions of Judaism. There are undoubtedly some human-made elements among the teachings and customs, but the halachic process is considered valid and binding according to the written scriptures. There isn’t one without the other.

          • Annelise says:

            PS Sometimes a relationship with God isn’t full of positive feelings and clear words. Sometimes, even for long periods of time, all we can offer Him is simply an ongoing attitude of yearning and hoping and keeping the door to our heart unlocked for Him. I think that still counts as a relationship, no matter how silent or distant we feel… because what it really means on an even deeper level is that we’re reaching out to Him and holding onto Him.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Annelise,

            Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this discussion . You provide an alternative perspective to this discussion . You share your thoughts in a peaceful , gentle manner and that at times made me reconsider my position .

            This post is in response to a few of your recent comments .

            Your latest comment shows that difference in culture and upbringing will affect our perception of the world around us ..and of G-d as well. I am a product of an education system that has a strong exam culture . In addition my society sees education as a passport to a better life . Every student in my country will have to sit for a few public examinations in their schooling years. In addition, most schools stream students based on academic performance. Parents see these examinations as a means to assess their children’s performance. Society rewards top performers with coverage in the local media .
            A strong exam culture can lead to unnecessary pressure on the child from a young age. There has been more awareness on this and the educational authority have made certain changes so that the education system will be less exam oriented.

            I see the world and of G-d as well from the lens of reward and punishment .I thought the message of Christianity (from evangelical Christians) as too good to be true , the first time it was preached to me. The encounter with Christianity changed my perception of G-d but it does not remove that lens completely.

            The responses that I get shows that all of you are coming from a different worldview altogether . It is also surprising that I’m hearing from Dina and Dovid , Jews of all people that G-d is our Father and that He is loving and wants us to be happy –words I thought only Jesus would say. I am shocked for the NT shows a completely different picture of Jews from what I’m listening here. Islam too.

            I hope that Jews in general would share this message . The world need to hear this message from authentic sources –the Jewish people-G-d’s ambassadors.

            I accept wholeheartedly that the Jewish people have a special role to play –that G-d is directing you and I to look to a particular people to whom He has bequeath His message . I believe G-d created and placed us where we are .We can come to Him from wherever we are . I don’t see the need to join the covenant people. Both Jew and non Jew can serve Him in our own unique ways. However I am confused as to His purpose, what He requires of mankind in general and the role of the Jewish people in the whole process.

            Legacies -Do we let go the legacies we held so dear because it comes from a faulty worldview? Do we let go because it caused groups of people to suffer ? Christianity has left a very positive legacy to me and many others but has left a negative legacy to Jews . I have personally seen its negative effects . Must I conclude then that the message of Christianity is not working ? I think it is not fair to deny what is good in Christianity . It is also not fair if I do not acknowledge the suffering it has caused to Jews and other groups of people , such as victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.

            I pride in being a citizen of a multiracial and multi-religious nation . This hospitality extends to all who visits my country and interact with my people-except for Jews. Must I let go of the society I hold dear a little bit?

            In my opinion we should wisely discern –take in what is good and avoid what is evil. I made a mistake in discarding some good elements in Christianity that brings me in a closer relationship with G-d. Should I reconsider?

            Your advice that we should hold on to G-d even though it feels distant helped me a lot . Right now I do feel somewhat distant . However I am aware and am thankful for His kindness , especially in allowing us to live another day . That thought alone sustains me at this time.

            Thank you for sharing your thoughts

          • Annelise says:

            Dear Sharon,

            I was raised in an Evangelical Christian environment where Jews (and Catholics, and Muslims) are perceived to be legalistic. I now know that this isn’t true…of course some people are legalistic, and everyone in every community has areas of weakness where we need to grow and learn…but the generalisation isn’t right. The commandment to love God with the whole heart comes straight from the Torah. And Jews speak of God as their father not only because of their national experience of Him, but also in the sense of Creation. He is the giver of life to everyone, and justice and kindness are considered strong attributes in that. We can’t put Jews up on a pedestal because they are as human as we are, however we can find that a lot of our previous prejudices aren’t accurate.

            I totally agree with you about keeping the aspects of other legacies that are positive. If we throw out the good with the bad, then how will the contrast between the two be visible at all? Christian and Islamic communities have held so many deeply sincere people, who have done very beautiful things, and shared elements of wisdom in particularly clear ways. I think we can continue to love and associate ourselves with these. To take it even further, there are many aspects of our home cultures that aren’t innately harmful at all, and it’s good for our sense of belonging that we should stay connected with those.

            Personally, I have shifted my interests somewhat since leaving Christianity. I studied a lot of medieval literature (mostly Christian) as an undergraduate student, and my imagination was really defined by it. Now, I continue to value and learn from some parts, but I’ve definitely stepped back from it…I feel that this has broadened my field of view, not narrowed or emptied it, though. I think I learnt not to rely on culture and the arts quite so much to define myself by.

            Perhaps this is also the result of going from my early to late 20s and becoming a parent…as well as just over time becoming used to being uprooted from my previous community, and not becoming really part of another. But I also think that engaging with the Jewish heritage also simply taught me more about what is most foundational. Christianity does teach us to find our identities most deeply in God, and it teaches that God is present everywhere…but I always had the impression that God was present in Jesus in a way that He never had been anywhere else in the earth. When I stopped believing in the ‘incarnation’ idea, I realised in a much more tangible way that God could be just as deeply present in all things; utterly present in all existence, by sustaining every part of the world continually. Totally close to the present moment because of the invitation for us to walk in His paths. This is something I already believed as a Christian, yet the incarnation idea was distracting me from feeling it. When I realised I could no longer stay fully within the Christian legacy, this ability of God to hold pervasive and totally intimate presence within creation was the first thing I felt. I felt that my feet were on much more solid ground. Even despite the distress and panic that I felt from the questions I still have. I started to really know where my heart’s foundation is, and external cultural things are still important parts of who I am…but less so. The point is that the concept of a deeply personal relationship with God is found very much in Jewish history and the Hebrew scriptures.

            I think of an old Christian Christmas carol, saying- “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I think that this was written innocently and with both the intention and experience of deep devotion to God. Yet it suggests that the heavens were silent for the Jews of Jesus’ time, that their hearts were heavily asleep, and that without connection to Jesus there is neither light nor hope. This is a great loss to Christians of the deep, light-filled heritage beyond their own community.

            Christianity, and even more so Islam, does definitelt hold some of these beliefs about close relationship with God…which they learnt from the Jewish heritage. Some of the emphases, imagery, and historical examples that are found in other religions are wisdom well worth learning from. The cultures of the world contain many gifts to each other. In that process, though, it’s worth trying to keep our eyes open to areas where certain beliefs may have limited the expression of certain ideas.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, these are beautiful sentiments beautifully expressed. Kudos!

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Dina, thanks. Very much of it I learnt from the Jewish community, including Rabbi Blumenthal’s perspective on questions.

            I can understand why Sharon is troubled by the idea that not doing as much could be considered equal to doing more. But I guess each person’s journey is unique, and we can only be on the right path id we are open and willing both to learn and to live out what we learn. And gaining wisdom, bevoming closer to what is real and good, has such benefits.

            In Judaism, a Jew who is born/raised away from the Jewish community is not punished for failing to follow Torah laws that they know nothing about. I think some say that this may even extend to mean that Jews raised away from a clear portrayal of Torah, and who have rejected it for that reason, aren’t at fault for that decision of non-observance. Yet that is still considered a deep loss of their heritage.

          • Dina says:

            Hi Sharon,

            I am responding your comment here: https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43858.

            I will start with your last question. You asked why I am answering your questions if I already said that Jews are not commanded to teach Torah to non-Jews. To clarify: You had asked why we don’t follow Abraham’s example and be a light to the world by teaching the nations the truth about God. At the time, I explained that I understood this to mean active proselytizing. I explained the dangers of that as well as pointing out that if God wanted us to actively proselytize, He would have commanded it.

            Thus, there is a big difference between actively seeking out gentiles to convert to our worldview and answering questions that a non-Jew presents to me directly. The Torah dictates that we treat others well, and it would be unkind to blow you off. Furthermore, I personally believe that if a non-Jew approaches me to ask questions about God, I have a moral duty to tell the truth. I see nothing wrong with bringing non-Jews closer to God when they sincerely want to and are the ones stretching out their hands rather than me shoving truth down their throats.

            And if I must be honest, I follow this blog and I can’t keep my mouth shut :).

            I hope that clarifies my position, but please let me know if I haven’t been clear or you have further questions on this topic.

            Your two main points in this comment are as follows:

            1. You are not as bothered by the consigning of billions of people to hell as much as you are bothered that God requires so little from non-Jews. (Please correct me if I have misunderstood you.) To illustrate this point you presented an analogy of passing school exams.

            2. You disagree that the universal messages of Christianity and Islam (which contradict each other!) are empty because they also teach how to develop a relationship with God, etc.

            To address the first point, I disagree that God requires so little from non-Jews. As Jim pointed out, Israelites aren’t lesser than Levites who aren’t lesser than Cohanim although each group is charged with progressively more tasks than the previous one. As he also pointed out, the Seven Laws are not simply laws but categories of law. Each one contains numerous laws which non-Jews are indeed obligated to study.

            I also do believe that God requires everyone–both Jew and non-Jew–to search for the truth. However, to that I add that God is merciful as well as just and that He won’t punish people for what they don’t know. You find this unfair. I’m really sorry, but I can’t see where you’re coming from on this particular point. I am trying! But I don’t see it! That would be like Lisa divorcing Bill in my analogy because although he is a very good husband to her, he doesn’t realize that he ought to try to figure out what kind of gifts she likes. It’s a pretty dumb reason to get divorced, in my opinion.

            I also don’t relate so well to your analogy of school exams–although in this analogy I do see what you’re saying. But I don’t relate because I don’t see the relationship with God as being in any way similar. It is much more similar to a marriage, or to the relationship between a parent and child.

            Yes, God does require much from all people. But He also doesn’t want to throw good people into hell for the crime of not knowing. Why should Hitler get the same punishment as my nice neighbor who takes such wonderful care of her family, who is so cheery and friendly, and who is just not intellectually inclined (I’m not sure she ever read a book in her life)? How is that fair, Sharon?

            To your second point, the secondary messages of Christianity and Islam are meaningless, because they are only worth something if you accept their guy as your hero. They are also exactly the same message as Judaism–love God and love your neighbor and pure monotheism are Jewish messages that these other religions adopted into their own.

            Hillel the Elder, who predated Jesus, taught that the Torah is, on one foot, love your neighbor, which he explained as “what is hateful to you do not do to others.” He taught that the rest of the Torah is commentary on this one verse!

            Jewish children imbibe these concepts with their mothers’ milk (or formula).

            So you really don’t need Christianity and Islam to teach you this. Especially since their version comes with a hefty price tag.

      • Jim says:

        Sharon,

        Many Christians are impressed by the significance of the resurrection. This event alone seems to prove that Jesus is the most important figure in human history. You wrote that maybe you should also consider the deep significance of the resurrection and hang your beliefs upon it. You write that to date, no one has produced the bones of Jesus, which lends credibility to the resurrection. This argument has been that of the Church for a long time. The Church has asked: If Jesus was still dead and buried, why did no one display the body, an easy disproof of the resurrection? This argument of the Church is deceptive and has led many people astray for 2,000 years.

        In this comment, I will focus on the credibility of the resurrection story. I will not have disproven the event, but I will have shown the Church has constructed a false argument in order to support the resurrection. Also, it has shifted the burden of proof from itself where it belonged. And, I will present a thought experiment that I hope will show that the claim that Jesus rose from the dead is not credible.

        But first, I must point out that Dina’s treatment of this question is more essential than what I will write here, so please carefully consider what she wrote. She discussed the resurrection in terms of Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18. If Jesus did rise from the dead, this will not have proven himself to be prophet or messiah and certainly not divine. Assuming he rose from the dead, if he claimed to be part of the godhead, then he must not be heeded. And again, assuming he rose from the dead, inasmuch as he did not show himself to be risen, he failed the test of a prophet. What I will write here will only supplement these more important points.

        One thing that these two tests show, however, is that the resurrection is not so significant as one might think. The idea of someone rising from the dead is quite powerful. People tend to get caught up in the just the idea of it. Christians will say that the whole world revolves around this empty grave. It is in their minds the most significant event in human history. But, when one reviews that it must stand up against these other passages, one sees that its significance is not nearly as great as one thinks.

        But, because the Church hinges its teaching on the resurrection, it maintains that it is the most significant event in human history. But of course, if it did not happen, it loses all significance. Therefore, the Church must find support for the resurrection as a historical event. This itself presents a problem. How can one prove a private event happened? Last night, I did any number of things by myself, but I could not prove that I did them. I could only tell you that I did or did not do something in private, and you could believe me or not. Because the resurrection must be believed, it will not do for it to be left without support, however.

        So, the Church brings as a support of the resurrection the “fact” of an empty grave. And they say that if the grave is empty, then it is only because Jesus was resurrected. This argument is fallacious, however, which can be seen from putting it into argument form:

        If Jesus rose from the dead, then the tomb will be empty.
        The tomb is empty.
        Therefore, Jesus rose from the dead.

        This is the essence of the argument, and it corresponds to an invalid argument form, “affirming the consequent.” That form, without content looks like this:

        If p, then q.
        q.
        Therefore, p.

        The mistake is that when one argues the antecedent from the consequent, he overlooks that the consequent may be a result of other causes, and the antecedent is not proven as the cause. For example, it is true that when it rains my lawn gets wet. However, if I find that my lawn is wet, it is not necessarily true that it rained. It may be a hot, dry summer day, and my wife has watered the lawn. It would only follow from a consequent that a particular antecedent were true under the condition that such-and-such a consequent is caused only by one particular antecedent. But this is not the case with empty graves. The Greek Testament itself suggests a possible explanation for an empty grave—someone might have stolen the body. An empty grave does not necessitate a resurrection.

        The invalidity of the argument can be demonstrated in another way. Imagine a scenario like this:

        Spaulding claims that his father had been turned into a zombie. We probably find this rather unlikely. But then he gives us some rather unsettling evidence. He says that his father’s body has gone missing, that his grave is empty. This can only mean that his father is a zombie. Are we to be convinced by this argument? Certainly not.

        But this is the same argument—not in content but in form—as that the Church has brought:

        If a zombie rises, then its grave is left empty.
        Spaulding’s father’s grave is empty.
        Therefore, Spaulding’s father is a zombie.

        This is clearly an error. What we can see from examining the form of the argument is that it is invalid. We can see that, if we assume that Jesus’ tomb is empty, this does mean that he was resurrected. This might be a possibility, but it is not a necessity. The significance of the empty tomb is then quite diminished.

        The next step of the Church is to remove from itself the burden of proof and put it on the unbeliever. This is an illegal move in an argument. The Church demands proof that Jesus did not raise from the dead. “Produce a body,” it says. The implication is that, if one cannot produce a body, then one must accept the resurrection as a fact. But this is incorrect. For one thing, if the disciples had stolen the body—and I do not mean to say that they did—then no body would be found. The fact that one could not be produced would not be any more compelling than an empty grave. Still, something much more significant is at play here. The Church has made a claim. It is up to them to offer evidence of the claim, not for the doubter to offer counter evidence. The burden of proof is on the Church. The Church is divesting itself of this burden and trying to shift it upon the critic’s shoulders. But, the critic does not have to assert that Jesus did not rise from the dead. The critic can just say that insufficient evidence has been provided to accept that the resurrection did happen. He can say that he has not been given a reason to believe.

        Consider this:

        Spaulding claims to have walked upon water this morning when no one was around, which proves that you should believe him to be a prophet of God. If you say that you need proof that he walked on water, he turns around and says: “Prove I didn’t.” Here, he has made an illegal move. He expects you to accept his claim. It is up to him to offer evidence. Because you were not there, you cannot prove that he did not, but it is not up to you to prove that. It is up to him to prove that he did. He is offering a positive claim; it is up to him to provide evidence. If he does not, you are right to doubt the claim. You can say that you do not know that he did not walk on water, but you also do not have sufficient reason to believe that he did. Until he can furnish such proof, you will not acknowledge him as a prophet.

        The same goes for the resurrection. It is not up to anyone to prove that it did not happen. It is up to the Church to believe that it did. The demand they make that someone should produce a corpse should be turned around on the Church. The Church should furnish a living, breathing Jesus. It is up to the Church to produce a body, not the critic.

        And on a side note, the idea that one would exhume the body to prove that Jesus was not resurrected is a little disingenuous on the Church’s part. By the time the disciples publicized the resurrection claim, the body would not have been easily identified as Jesus’. No one had Jesus’ dental records. Identifying the body would not have been an easy task.

        Now, I cannot prove that the resurrection did not happen, just as you cannot prove that Spaulding did not walk on water. But, we can consider whether or not the claim of the resurrection is credible. In order to test it, I propose the following thought experiment:

        Let us imagine that we live in Judea at the time of Jesus. We are not a part of his inner circle, not disciples, but we are highly interested. We have heard him speak. We have seen a small movement grow up around him. We have felt the hopeful expectation rising around him as people wondered if he might be the Messiah.

        That hope seems to be dashed at the time of his crucifixion. But, it is not altogether dashed. He had said to the Pharisees that he would only be in the grave for three days. Then, he would rise again. This comment of his has the Jewish leaders worried that his disciples will perpetrate a fraud, that they will steal the body and claim that he rose from the dead. They are so worried about this that they are putting guards around the tomb.

        We wait to see what will happen.

        On the third day, we wait to see if Jerusalem is abuzz with his resurrection. We have a nervous energy about us. Is it possible? Is he back? But, no. We hear nothing. Our expectation is disappointed.

        A week passes. We have heard nothing. Life is beginning to return to normal. A second week passes. A third. We have no indication that Jesus is alive. The world has moved on. A fourth week passes and a fifth, but we are not counting them. Six. Seven.

        It is after seven weeks passes that suddenly Peter is making a major announcement. Jesus did come back from the dead, just as he said he would. Now this is exciting news! Jesus is back. He is a little late, but coming back from the dead cannot be easy. I imagine that we would be excited to see him. Our hopes might revive a little.

        But it turns out, that we cannot see him. Peter tells us that ten days ago, Jesus went to heaven, rose into the clouds and out of sight—

        Think about that.

        Really, think about it.

        This claim is not credible. The idea is that Jesus really did rise from the dead on the third day, just like he said he would. Only, he did it in secret. And, you cannot see him now, because he is gone. But, trust us. It happened. Really. It did.

        This is not credible.

        Have I proven that the resurrection did not happen? No. A private event cannot be disproven. But the Church has claimed that we must believe in a super-secret event for which it can furnish no evidence. We have no good reason to believe it. When considered this way, I believe that we can see that the resurrection is not a significant event, not at all.

        One final illustration:

        Mr. Gillis was running errands one day in his car. He was stopped at a red light when a man ran up to the car, opened the door, and demanded that Mr. Gillis turn the car over to him. He claimed to be a police officer in need of the car to aid some people in a hostage situation. Mr. Gillis asked why the officer was not in uniform, and the man said that he was a plain clothes policeman. Mr. Gillis asked to see the badge, but the man refused, saying he was in too much of a hurry. He said that he would take Mr. Gillis to jail, if he did not let him take the car. Not wanting to be arrested, Mr. Gillis turned the car over to the man. A few days later, when it was not returned, Mr. Gillis called the police station to ask about his vehicle. They knew nothing of the incident. Mr. Gillis had given his car to a thief. He was outraged to be taken advantage of. The officer on the line asked why Mr. Gillis had not asked to see the man’s badge. Mr. Gillis explained the threat of being arrested and that he did not want to complicate a hostage situation. The officer understood, but there was little to be done. They would look for the impostor, but they had little hope that they would find him.

        The point of this story is that the Church’s claims are like those of the robber. The resurrection is a badge that is never seen. One just has to believe that the badge is there. He has to take on faith that the resurrection happened. If he does not, he is told that he will go to jail—he will burn in hell eternally. This puts pressure on someone to believe that for which they have had insufficient evidence. They never saw the “badge.”

        This is not the only emotional tool of the Church, by the way, and I do not mean to imply that it is. The story of an innocent man, who taught people that they should be kind, but was rejected by his own people—this is a powerful story. That power lies in the effect upon the emotions, however. Its power does not inhere in its truth.

        The Church would have us believe that the most significant event in history is the resurrection. Dina’s previous comment showed why it was not nearly as significant as the Church believed it to be. I hope that I have shown that its significance has been greatly exaggerated by the Church in other ways. I hope that I have shown that the argument from a consequent is invalid, that the argument from an empty tomb is invalid. I hope I have shown that the demand to produce counter-evidence, the bones of Jesus, is illegitimate, an attempt to move the burden of proof from the shoulders of the believer to the shoulders of the unbeliever. And I hope that I have shown that the claim that a resurrection took place is not a credible claim. But, these arguments are really secondary. Dina’s arguments are the primary arguments. My secondary arguments are meant only to show that the resurrection is an event with no substantiation and not the most significant event in human history.

        Jim

        • Annelise says:

          When I look at the Christian scriptures, I actually do find it amazing that their movement turned out as it did. Some the the writings hold the stories of a community living just a small few decades after Jesus’ life, including original followers, having obvious values of honesty and sincerity. They had their lives changed by the belief that Jesus worked miracles and was resurrected, and that the apostles were working miracles too. Many struggled intensely in their missioanry efforts and gave up their lives for their beliefs.

          A lot of the stories could have been exaggerated or invented. But there are still strong links in many stories to the geography and society of Jesus’ time…and I think it’s likely that Jesus and the apostles really were publicly believed to be miracle workers in at least some sense. I think the apostles really believed that he had appeared in some way (physical or spiritual) to at least some of them. The sincerity of the early church and the early dating of some of the gospels (despite being written some geographical and cultural distance away) indicates that there must be some real events and experiences behind what became the gospel narratives… and I don’t find it at all likely that any of the main disciples stole the body or knew about such a thing occuring.

          I do find Jim’s argument very compelling about how nothing was publicised widely until Shavuot at the earliest. It reminds me of the Christian scriptures’ claim that Gamaliel was aware of the Christian movement, and that he stated that their beliefs were an unconfirmed possibility (in order to quell the demand that they sould be executed). If this story is basically true, then it shows that even an open-minded, interested onlooker with all the resources to look into the claim, and all the willingness to follow it if true, was not able to find clear evidence at the time. (Some people have said that Gamaliel was a secret Christian, but that is not so believable because it implies that he willingly kept secret from his followers something that he thought was the path to salvation.)

          For me, the history of the church just disqualifies the possibility and it overrides the miracle claims of the church, amazing as they are. The vast majority of Jews since Jesus’ day have only heard about Christianity in the context of abandoning the halacha and/or worshiping Jesus. The church can’t provide enough evidence to show that either of these decisions are acceptable to a Torah observant Jew. And since Christianity was presented to almost all the Jews of the last 1,500 years only in a form that they had to reject core aspects of…then I don’t believe that God could have wanted Israel to accept Jesus as messiah. The origins of the church are mysterious, but not compelling enough to negate this problem practically.

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Jim,

          Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the credibility of the resurrection .You argued on the credibility of the resurrection based on the following:

          a.The Church claimed that an empty grave is the
          proof of the resurrection which is a fallacious
          argument
          b.That the Church removes itself from the burden of
          proof (of the resurrection) and place it on the
          unbeliever
          c.You have proposed a thought experiment in order
          to argue that the resurrection is not credible

          However you have also mentioned the following:
          1.You cannot prove the resurrection did not happen
          2.Dina’s arguments on Deuteronomy 13 and 18 are
          primary arguments.

          I would like to respond to your arguments on the credibility of the resurrection.

          You argued that the Church brings as support to the resurrection the fact of an empty grave . I don’t think this is true as in this is not a primary argument . The earliest creed of Christianity is found in 1st Corinthians 15: 1-8 ,which states:

          “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
          For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas,and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

          Paul did not mention of an empty tomb to support his beliefs . The apostles and disciples of Jesus did not hinge their belief of the resurrection based on an empty tomb .I was mistaken in thinking the fact that no one produces Jesus’s bones at this time as a proof of the resurrection.

          The apostles did not see the empty tomb as proof of Jesus’s resurrection .They did not believe when the women told them that the tomb is empty (Luke 24:11). Peter saw the strips of linen of the tomb and wondered what happened (Luke 24:12). Thomas , an apostle doubted that Jesus rose from the dead , saying “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”(John 20:25). It was only made clear when Jesus appeared personally to them .

          The Church based its teachings on the testimony of the Apostles and disciples of Jesus-those who saw his resurrected form in their lifetime .I find it hard to believe that the Church just hinges its doctrine of the resurrection just by the fact of an empty grave.

          I would like to go back to the thought experiment in order to respond to your burden of proof argument .

          You argued that the burden of proof on the resurrection lies with the Church ,not with unbelievers . Let us then go back to the event of Peter’s declaration in Acts 2 which forms the basis of your thought experiment . Should Peter be responsible to prove that Jesus has risen from the dead ? Or is it the responsibility of the Roman and Jewish authorities at the time to disprove the resurrection by producing the body? Peter can claim whatever he wants . You and I , spectators of his speech can conclude that he is a madman -yet many believers were added to their number that day .Peter and John were subsequently arrested and brought to Sanhedrin for preaching the resurrection of Jesus at the Temple . Why is that so when these statements can be viewed as ramblings of mad men ? The authorities could have produced the body of Jesus to disprove that fact and stop the mission of the Apostles. Who should bear the burden of proof in this scenario?

          I need to emphasise again that the Church based its teachings on the testimony of the Apostles and disciples of Jesus-those who saw his resurrected form in their lifetime .I find it hard to believe that the Church would ask sceptics to produce the body in order to prove the resurrection. This would mean that the Church did not believe in their testimony!

          In addition many Christian scholars -the likes such as Michael Licona , Gary Habermas and NT Wright argued that the apostles would never have gone through persecution and being martyred for their beliefs had the resurrection been a lie.

          I agree with you that Dina’s argument overrides all our arguments on this matter for it establishes Jesus’s credibility as a prophet and Messiah . However we should know what are the actual teachings of the Church and their sources . Jesus and the Church that bears his teachings deserve a fair hearing.

          Thank you.

          • Annelise says:

            1 Corinthians 15 is an interesting example. The creed, at least verses 3-5, probably dates to the 30s of the first century…within a few years of Jesus’ death. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in the 50s and he mentions that he passed on this creed to them on an earlier visit to Corinth, in the early 50s. And he mentions that he received the tradition, probably from the apostles when he spent time with them years earlier. It appears to have come to its current form in the context of a Greek-speaking synagogue-style setting, but it also has Semitic features that could suggest a very early Aramaic version.

            In any case, all that we learn from it is that the disciples believed from the start that Jesus appeared to them, and that this was the foundational experience for everything after that. We don’t know the exact details…and the detailed resurrection accounts in the Christian scriptures are difficult to harmonise and were compiled decades later. Even though many real events and sayings were certainly preserved in the Christian gospels and Acts, there was also ample opportunity for traditions to evolve before being compiled at some distance from the Jerusalem church. The reference to 500 witnesses may be Paul’s comment, and we don’t know from this whether he had met them, where he got that number, or what they claimed to have witnessed.

            That said, there is a sense of honest belief in the Christian scriptures, which doesn’t denote truth or accuracy in itself, but I agree that it does mean their stories should be given real consideration and that their process of transmission shouldn’t be dismissed on first glance.

          • Annelise says:

            PS Something I haven’t looked into enough yet is the accuracy of Luke’s accounts in the books of Luke and Acts. He did some very careful research as is seen in things like his perfectly accurate use of local rulers’ titles and dates, from dozens of different areas. However, he did borrow heavily from the account found in Mark and from other collected traditions…I need to look into whether he may, or may not, have checked all of that with eyewitnesses.

  33. Sharon S says:

    Hi Dina,

    I have mentioned in previous comments that we should look not only to the messages of Judaism , Christianity and Islam –“ believe in Jesus/Muhammad and you will be saved” versus “ Jewish God Who is merciful as well as just will not punish people for what they don’t know” –but also to the Divine purpose behind these messages as well.

    The teachings of Islam & Christianity shows the Deity as actively reaching out and guiding all humanity to achieve His purposes –by way of an intermediary or prophet . Efforts will be made to convey the message to all –either through active proselytization or by force . Those who reject it will be held accountable, for they have heard the message but do not believe in it.

    To me Judaism is a totally different belief system altogether. Its purposes seem to be very particular in nature –a nation in a covenantal relationship with the Creator . The Divine requirements are only within the context of this relationship. Rabbi Blumenthal mentioned in the video he just posted that the Jewish scripture primarily addresses the national relationship between the Jewish G-d and the Jewish people . There are minimal references to the nations in terms of requirements in the Jewish Scriptures. It is natural then that the Jewish G-d will not punish people for what they don’t know.

    Yes , I am bothered that those who do not believe may be condemned. However I am also bothered by the fact that man is allowed to live in ignorance, provided they toe the line (i.e not to misbehave) . To me it is an indicator that the existence of those beyond the pale of the covenant relationship is futile. To my understanding there is no concept of hell in Judaism . There is no focus on the afterlife in Judaism. The focus is on this life-the here and now. Which is why I am bothered that the Jewish G-d requires so little from the non Jews.

    I believe that the Creator has a purpose and requirement for everyone –including your cheerful , friendly but less intellectually inclined neighbor. She may have asked questions such as “Is there a G-d?” , “Why do I exist?”, “What am I here for” at certain points in her life . You should know this better than I do since you are in this covenantal relationship. Does it not bother you that she is living in ignorance?

    Once again , I strongly disagree with you that the messages of Islam and Christianity is meaningless. I do agree with you that these messages are adapted from Judaism . As I mentioned , the messages of loving G-d and of neighbor is limited to the covenantal relationship between the Jewish G-d and the Jewish people. If I ask you “Who is my neighbor”, what will your answer be? Is it only limited to the Jewish community or does it extend to the world at large? Islam and Christianity , as I mentioned , repackages these commands so that it will be applicable to all of humanity .

    As an example , I have access to opt for interest free loans , thanks to the Islamic banking mechanism in my country. Islam forbids usury , however this benefit is extended to all –Muslims and non-Muslims alike . The financing cost charged is based on a concept of “profit sharing” and the sources of funding for the loan is from “halal” (equivalent to kosher) sources .I have enjoyed some cash back from my personal loans . Islamic banking is now available globally and is open to everyone.

    I understand that the Torah also forbids usury . However this prohibition applies to loans given within the Jewish community only. Do correct me if I’m wrong.
    You mentioned of Hillel the elder and his teaching on the golden rule. Are you aware that this is a teaching of other religions and philosophies , including Confucianism , Buddhism and Taoism as well?

    A gentle reminder , appreciate if Rabbi Blumenthal would respond to my comment that I raised earlier here (I cannot link to that comment at this time). I hope this response would shed some light on the following:
    a. The purpose of the Jewish G-d for mankind as per Judaism
    b. What the Jewish G-d requires of mankind in general
    c. The role of the Jewish people in the whole process

    Thank you if you have already looked into this.

    • Annelise says:

      Hi Sharon,

      I feel like the morals that are said to be expected of all humans are so important and meaningful, and so much…so much to learn and grow in. The ritual expectations for Jews are a great commitment and can be complex, but that takes nothing away from the value and magnitude of what it means for any human to live with compassion, faithfulness, wisdom, honesty, and things like that.

      I think that in the case of Judaism, the nation serves the function of the prophet. And by existing visibly, as they do, within the community, Orthodox Jews are able to be ambassadors for their values and to answer questions of anyone who asks. But the issue of giving unsolicited advice is always difficult. And I think that the cautious approach is because of all the persecution experienced by Jews within their various societies. They are able to be an example and answer questions, but pushing unwanted ideas in a very public way can cause a backlash. So they do what they can. And there are many Jews who are happy to be visibly Jewish in the hope that they can bring a positive influence.

      Judaism has already brought so much to the world, including via its influence on Christianity and Islam… and the ongoing historical conversations between theologians and everyday people of the three religions. So Torah hasn’t been hidden from the world.

    • Dina says:

      Hi Sharon,

      Responding to your comment here: https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43987.

      Allow me to explain again why the messages of Christianity and Islam are worthless:

      1. They are worthless because whatever wonderful notions they spread are not considered meaningful unless you embrace their intermediary.
      2. They are meaningless because they contradict God’s will for how He desires to be worshipped.

      In Christianity and Islam, the foremost idea, the foundation of the religion, is accepting their mediator. Thus, if you accept the ethical and moral messages of these religions but not their mediator, you will be condemned anyway. This is what, to me, makes the messages meaningless. Furthermore, these universal messages become no longer universal but particular–particular only to those who are willing to accept belief in a human mediator.

      The concept of God as Father in Christianity is strange and oxymoronic. Since when do you need an intermediary to talk to your dad? If you see God as your Father, then the concept of needing an intermediary becomes absurd. In fact, in Christianity, God the Father is seen as a remote, angry sort of God, while Jesus is the god of love. This isn’t stated outright, but Christians act and talk as if this is what they ultimately believe.

      God is our Father. Thus we can talk to Him directly. It is the Jewish Bible which declares, after all, that “God is close to all who call upon Him.”

      The biggest problem with the notion of an intermediary is that it contradicts the way God taught us to worship Him in the Hebrew Bible, a scripture that Christians, at least, accept as truth (Muslims accept it as well but claim the Jews corrupted it–a convenient argument!).

      Why would you want to worship God in a way that is contrary to His command? Why would you want to defend a religion that promulgates this type of worship?

      You wrote that you are bothered by the fact that man is allowed to live in ignorance. As I explained earlier, I disagree with that statement. All of us are required to search for the truth. But not everyone will have the intellectual inclination to do so. Many will be too indoctrinated to do so as well. Therefore, God will not toss into hell good people who simply don’t know better. On the other hand, in Christianity and Islam, I get the same punishment as Hitler.

      The Hebrew prophets foretell that the truth of God will only be known to all of mankind at the end of days (during the messianic era), when the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the water covers the sea (Isaiah 11:9; Habakuk 2:14). I can’t answer the question of why God chose it to be this way, but I also cannot change it.

      Nevertheless, that shouldn’t stop individuals like you from seeking and finding the truth. There is no requirement to wait till the end of days :).

      I don’t know where you got the idea that Judaism has no concept of reward and punishment in the afterlife. Perhaps I misunderstood what you are saying? While the Hebrew Bible alludes to an afterlife (Genesis 25:8, which is one of numerous examples; 1 Samuel 28:11-12, 19; Psalm 16:10 among others), it is not discussed outright because we are supposed to focus on serving God here. That said, the Jewish oral tradition absolutely discusses an afterlife where people are rewarded for their good deeds and punished for their crimes.

      That said, in traditional Judaism it is considered petty to serve God out of desire for reward and fear of punishment, rather than out of love and gratitude to the One Who gave us life and Who loves us so dearly.

      Here’s a very interesting perspective on usury. In medieval Christian Europe, Jews were forced out of all professions, trades, and crafts except for moneylending. Had they been forbidden to practice usury, I would not be sitting here tapping at my keyboard. My kind would have all died out long ago from poverty and starvation.

      The Islamic model is very nice…for people who aren’t being persecuted.

      It seems wrong to me to cherrypick the nice things about each religion. That brings me to my final point: that all these arguments are distractions from the main point. Either one of the three religions is true, or all of them are false.

      It is irrelevant if a particular message appeals to you or not. The only thing that is relevant is if it is true or false. It is pointless for me to try to show you the beauty of Judaism’s message if you are emotionally not ready to hear it–which is fine! No judgment here! I respect your sincerity and the process of truth seeking too much to try to rush things along. Wherever your journey leads you, I can only admire the fact that you’ve undertaken it all. That said, I encourage you to try to figure out which, if any, of the messages is true, not which is the most appealing.

      Please let me know if you have more questions.

    • Dina says:

      Sharon, another point on loving your fellow.

      You asked me who the fellow refers to–fellow Jews, or fellow man? The Bible doesn’t say, but the Talmud is full of teachings on how to treat our fellow man:

      “Greet every person with a pleasant countenance.”

      “Who is honorable? One who honors his fellow men.

      “Judge every person in the scale of merit [i.e., give them the benefit of the doubt.]”

      In practice, Christians and Muslims did not extend the love of fellow man to Jews for most of their history (many, though by no means all, Muslims till today).

      In fact, Jews were the ones who practiced what Jesus preached, throughout Jewish history. Today, you will find Jewish-run soup kitchens that serve people of all races and faiths and no faith. You will find that the Israeli Magen David Adom are often first on the scene of natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti. When I give money to a homeless person, it doesn’t occur to me to even wonder if he or she is Jewish or not.

      • Sharon S says:

        Hi Dina,

        My apologies for the delay in responding to your comment. I need to think it through.Initially I thought there was no need for me to reply. However since you asked ,I see no harm in sharing my response.

        Your position are as follows:
        a. The universal messages of Islam and Christianity becomes particular as its followers are required to believe in an intermediary and that this contradicts G-d’s will on how He should be worshipped .
        b. G-d does require man to search the truth , however man will not be punished for what they don’t know .
        c.Not everyone has the intellectual inclination and some may be too indoctrinated to search the truth.G-d will not toss these people to hell for not knowing better.

        I do agree with your position . It is pointless to teach someone if they do not see the need for guidance.However I am discouraged by this .What is the point of searching for the truth when G-d allows man to live in ignorance ?

        Jim explained that the truth is of the utmost importance for anyone who wishes to be close to G-d. That made me realise that I have been approaching this the wrong way .

        To clarify – I mentioned that “There is no focus on the afterlife in Judaism. “. I am aware that there is an afterlife ,but it seems that the focus is more on this life. As per Isaiah 38:18-19 ;
        “For the grave cannot praise you ,death cannot sing your praise, those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.
        The living , the living -they praise you,as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness”
        I once listened to a Rabbi who taught the Torah as teaching man to face reality .G-d wants man to live in reality and not to escape but to live life according to divine elements G-d has inplanted in the soul. That is how I come to an impression that Judaism’s focus is more on this life .

        I do agree with you and Dovid that the one should seek the truth rather than the appeal of a message . It seems that the truth is found in Judaism as Moses is a prophet publicly endorsed by G-d ,which Jim have explained in depth.Jim also argued that the resurrection is a private event. Jesus did not pass the test of prophecy in Deuteronomy 13 & 18 as you pointed out.Muhammad , as a descendant of Ishmael did not receive the spiritual legacy of Abraham .He too did not pass the test of prophecy .

        However I find the worldview of Judaism as being totally different and challenging. The onus is on man to search the truth in order to be closer to G-d, not the other way round . That requires a total mental shift on my part. Coincidently I found an article on Judaism -that it is the path of the most resistance .Refer link
        http://www.aish.com/tp/b/st/48930002.html?mobile=yes

        I don’t know what I have gotten myself into .Honestly I don’t know if I I’ll survive this or go back to what’s convenient . Just taking each day as it comes.

        Thanks for your comments.They are full of logic ,but very hard for me to swallow,most of the time .However I know these responses come from an honest and sincere heart.

        • Annelise says:

          Dear Sharon,

          I’m not sure that we can compare one person’s journey with someone else’s. If Judaism is true, then for some reason, we know that there are some people who never heard of Judaism or even of any kind of monotheism. There are other people who have encountered Torah very closely. If God is the Creator of both one and the other and He cares about both, then we can only understand that He has a different path for each of them to walk with Him on. The responsiveness to Him of a human who never knew about Judaism may be quite unarticulated, but on a heart level it may be very similar. Language and ideas about religiom help us to access truth, but even without them, we could still experience God in the world and as the one holding our hearts. However, the key to being in a relationship seems to be simply our willingness to respond to whatever joourney He wants to lead us on. The specifics of the journey are up to Him and differ for each person.

          The other thing is that you said the journey is overwhelming and you may just go back to where you were. It really is a hard path you’ve been walking. I just wonder what specifically you want to go back to.

          Is it that you miss feeling completely part of the religious community, or communities, you were in before discovering Judaism? If you particularly want to, you could technically still attend other religions’ services, have those friends, share many of their values and beliefs, and disclose only what you want to of your journey. You wouldn’t want to sing parts of song lyrics that specifially involve worship of Jesus, but it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that you would continue to worship God in the context of your local religious congregations if you really want to do that. Simply being present in a church (if you really wanted to) doesn’t imply affirming all their doctrines. You could take whatever there is of value from their sermons/insights. If that’s what you want to do then you could make it fit with integrity, while keeping your search into Judaism.

          Or you may not want to step into a church service, but you can still have very meaningful friendships with people of any faith. My closest friends who have simply encouraged me in seeking God throughout my encounter with Judaism are Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. We have a lot of overlap in what we understand and care about.

          Or is it more that the search is becoming too confusing in terms of who God is and how you picture Him? If that’s the main thing then it can really help to focus on the verses in the Hebrew scriptures that describe His love and care and guidance. Maybe even start to write them down ina book. There is so much that’s overwhelming, but there is also comfort and reassurance as an anchor in Judaism.

          Or is it something else that you feel you really want to go back to?

          With blessings and friendship.

          • Annelise says:

            PS Regarding the possibility of going to church services…I still wouldn’t take part in Communion/Eucharist.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Annelise,

            My encounter with Islam convicted me that Trinitarian beliefs are false. Jesus is a prophet and Messiah but he is not God. That did not stop me from attending Catholic mass from time to time. I did what you suggested for a long time-skip all the liturgical words and rituals which involve the worship of Jesus . I did not partake of the Eucharist as Catholics regard it as the actual flesh of Jesus.

            My encounter with Judaism convicted me that Jesus is not the prophet or Messiah . This encounter also made me realize for the first time what the Catholic Mass actually means. The mass , as described in an article I read is “ a privileged encounter with the living Christ” , a union between Christ and His body , the Church. I cannot sit in an participate on the certain parts of the liturgy where only G-d’s name is mentioned-the whole liturgy draws one in communion with Christ! There is no other option but to not attend at all.

            I can choose to attend a non-denominational church . Skip the parts which involve worship of Jesus . I don’t see the point of attending because Jesus is still being worshipped, though not as obvious as what happens in the Catholic Mass.

            My encounter with Judaism lead me on a very lonely road. I cannot share my struggles as the environment where I’m at is not particularly friendly to Jews or Judaism . I fear of being misunderstood if I share this –even with friends and family . It is best to be discreet and keep things to myself .

            My encounter with Judaism also made me realize that the Jewish Scriptures is primarily a conversation between G-d and His covenant nation . As a result I come to view all narratives, including verses that describes G-d’s love and care as exclusive between G-d and His nation. There are a few verses, which seems to describe G-d as loving and caring for all creation but they are rare.

            I would like to go back to the faith of my people-Catholicism. I did made an effort to go back in the past after my encounter with Islam and came with a deeper appreciation of Jesus and the Church-that is until I encountered Judaism . It is impossible for me to go back now . To do so I need to ignore the truths I have learnt ,in Islam and more so in Judaism . These truths are impossible to ignore.

            I do agree with you that we need to respond to whatever journey G-d leads us. To me it seems that going back is not an option. I also learnt that G-d defines Himself by His covenant with Israel . You mentioned that other people who have encountered Torah very closely –however they may very well be the ones that deny G-d’s covenant relationship with Israel. It seems that I have to acknowledge and accept this truth since this knowledge has come to me. I just don’t know how to respond any further than that.

            Annelise , I am grateful for our conversations here . I have learnt a lot from you .You are a very knowledgeable person .Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your concern , despite your challenging circumstances . I truly appreciate them.

          • Annelise says:

            Dear Sharon,

            I feel similarly…I also don’t want to go to church services, not even in a Protestant church. Some of my best friends, the most caring people with whom I have the most in common, go to my parents’ church, and they are really busy during the week…so it’s a shame to miss that time with them. But going to the services isn’t an option that I want to take up, and going after the services would be fine for me but not the best idea for my daughter.

            Even though a lot of the Christians where I live are very ‘pro-Israel’ and ‘have a heart for the Jews’ etc., they also are not sympathetic towards the idea of ‘Judaising’. They see Judaism as legalistic and they see the rejection of Jesus as God to be terrible. Even though my reasoning seems sound to me, I have yet to see any of my friends agree with it. And my secular friends aren’t favourable towards the Torah in general.

            Like you say, it is lonely and isolating. I sometimes feel trapped by the logic. But this is also one of the most meaningful things I’ve encountered in my life. I don’t know how that can be, because I don’t even have any conviction that Judaism is true or that Hashem exists and I have so many doubts about the Torah, I haven’t spent much time at all with the Jewish community since I had my child a few years ago (it’s a couple of hours away from my home by train and bus…doesn’t work around her sleep) and yet the legacy of this nation has changed my mind and my life so much. It has given me stability and opened my eyes to a lot. That’s the case even though I know that other religions also contain great beauty and insights. The inheritance that has been shared with me from the Jews I know is one of the most valuable things to me. I don’t regret listening.

            I’ve started to find that I can build real connections with people based on shared life experiences and values that aren’t necessarily centred around religion. New close friendships sometimes take a long time to find and then to develop. But we have so much we can learn from every human, and so much in common with each other. I think that no one will understand us completely, and we won’t understand anyone else completely…but any empathetic and consistently uplifting kind of person can be a friend and share life with us in many aspects. Every human has connections to goodness in the deepest sense. So we aren’t alone in any community, even when it’s difficult that so much of what we value isn’t understood.

            The Torah and prophecies are understood to have been given to Israel, and I agree that it’s incorrect to apply them to humanity in general as if they were specifically spoken to us. Yet since there are parts that describe God’s mercy, care, and closeness towards all humanity and everyone who seeks Him, it’s appropriate to see any expression of those characteristics (even towards Israel) as an encouragement to everyone. And consider the book of Psalms, which is one of the most intimate books and the source of so much comfort from many of its verses. A fair number of these psalms describe the relationship of all creation with Him. I think there’s even a parallel connection between His redemption of Israel and His ongoing redemption of the world.

            If the written scriptures are addressed to Israel, then likewise the testimony of the living Jewish nation is addressed to all humanity. It’s just as meaningful. Consider how the words of Jonah affected the Ninevites…their community was turned completely upside-down in a positive sense. That’s the extent of the path, the ‘halacha’, available to non-Jews.

    • LarryB says:

      Sharon
      In America it may not be all that great. Plus according to wiki Companies wanting to sell sharia compliant loans merely have to bribe the right officials to get their loan packages approved to be called Syria compliant. Here is a link that explains how it is actually more expensive than standard loans in America.
      https://www.brickunderground.com/buy/muslim-friendly-mortgages

      • LarryB says:

        Sorry
        That’s “sharia compliant” not Syria.

      • Sharon S says:

        Hi LarryB,

        I do not intend to divert attention of the discussion to Islamic banking .However I would like to respond to your comment.

        Thank you for sharing the situation of Islamic banking in the US. It is indeed not easy for a Muslim to enjoy shariah compliant financing there.

        I agree that the financing cost for these loans are higher than that of conventional loans .There’s the lack of volume and additional arrangements involved in Islamic financing which is described in the article you referenced in your comment.

        Islamic banking and finance encourage ethical investment in society . It is a form of equity financing -a business partnership between borrower and lender .There is a sharing of risks.It is more easier to find a bank that is willing to lend ,but much harder to find an investor who is willing to invest in your business. Banks play the role of a business partner ,sharing risks and rewards of investments .

        Islamic banking mechanism prohibits investments in industries that are deemed haram such as pornography ,arms or gambling industry ,or industry that produces pork based products.Islamic financing discourage one from investing in risky ventures . You may refer link here for further details.

        https://www.google.com.my/amp/s/www.standard.co.uk/news/islamic-banking-an-ethical-alternative-to-the-conventional-financial-system-a3583031.html%3famp

        I learnt that institutions engaged in Islamic banking stood better than conventional banks during the Western banking crisis in 2008.

        Halal means of financing does not necessarily lead to a good outcome.There are cases where investments or ventures conducted in a shariah compliant manner leads to fraud ,breach of trust or failed financial ventures. It all depends on intent.

        However ,Islamic financing (banking,insurance ,bond markets etc) is a good alternative for those interested in ethical investments -it is open to all.

        • Annelise says:

          Also, it’s possible that there were isolated cases of bribing officials and that these have been generalised, even when bribing may not even be the common practice.

        • LarryB says:

          Sharon
          Do you think it would be good if most people followed sharia law?

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi LarryB,

            “Do you think it would be good if most people followed sharia law?”

            I would like to ask you the following-do you think it would be good if most people follow the Jewish Halacha?

            We need to put things in perspective.

            Islam is a way of life ,similar to Judaism.Shariah law covers all aspects of life -dietary laws , marriage laws ,family laws ,laws on purity and laws governing society. Special courts are established to administer these laws ,similar to the Beth Din in Judaism.There is capital punishment for violation of certain laws ,similar to that of the Halacha .

            I have done some search between Halacha vs Sharia .Some questioned as to why we should condemn Sharia when it is similar to the Halacha. Some see these laws are different in terms of development ,influence and whether it is open to change from when it was first revealed.

            As a non Muslim , I am concerned with the implementation of shariah laws , especially in Muslim majority countries . There are restrictions.The punishment seems harsh for the offences committed . The Halacha seems to be more lenient in terms of frequency of capital punishment by the Sanhedrin.

            I want to bring your attention to the 7 laws. These laws are the minimum requirement for man ,let alone societies to exist.Violation of these laws by the non Jew is punishable by death. A non Jew is executed for theft ,worse than the Sharia law which imposes amputation for theft. The punishment is more lenient for a Jew , for he has the means to repent. Do correct me if I am wrong.

            Another point to consider -the Muslims umma is a society that fears G-d and follow the 7 laws in governing conduct of individual and society as a whole.This is what the Noachide laws require of non Jews. Do correct me if I’m wrong.

            Please refer link for further insights on Halacha vs Sharia law .

            https://www.google.com.my/amp/s/www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/491471/

            Thank you.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, the question comparing governing society by Halacha or Sharia is a comparison of apples and oranges because Judaism was never designed to be a mass religion and its practitioners never desired to impose Jewish Halacha over all of society. Furthermore, the practice of capital punishment while we are in exile is forbidden. Finally, even while capital punishment was practiced, its implementation was almost impossible due to strict rabbinic guidelines. Thus, the Talmud records that if the Beis Din executed one person every 70 years it was considered a particularly harsh court.

            In all of the 3500 years of Jewish history Jews have NEVER EVER executed non-Jews for failing to comply with the Noachide laws.

            There is just no comparison.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, I know you are being bombarded on all sides here, and it must be tricky keeping track of all the threads! So I just want to bring to your attention a comment I wrote a few days ago. You probably haven’t had a chance to read it, but no pressure! Whenever you get to it is fine, and whether you want to respond or not is also fine.

            https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-44005

            Have a great weekend!

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina and LarryB,

            I am responding to your comments on Sharia and the Halacha.

            Dina ,thank you for clarifying the scope of the Halacha and the Jewish position on capital punishment.

            I mentioned in my comment that the Islam is a way of life .Hence the Sharia is similar to the Halacha that it governs all aspects of a Muslim’s life and that of Muslim society -dietary,marriage ,family , purity,conduct,business dealings ,etc. I think most people I.e non Muslims including myself are only familiar with its penal code -the “hudood” laws. That is why I mentioned that we need to put things in perspective.

            The Muslim community have created empires and have governed nation states for most of their history.The Jewish people have been dispersed to all nations and did not have a state of their own up to the 20th century . That factor need to be considered as well.

            I have checked the positions of Muslims with regards to Sharia , in the US and in my country. Most Muslims in the US and in western lands (where the are a religious minority) sees Sharia as only applicable to their lives and that of their communities only.I believe Muslims want the freedom to live accordance to Sharia principles ,just as Jews all over the world want the freedom to live in accordance to the Torah.

            Refer video by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi , a prominent US Islamic scholar on the Sharia and should Americans be afraid of it here:

            However ,Muslims in Muslim majority countries like mine view this differently. They seek to increase the influence of the Sharia beyond the confines of the Muslim community . They see this as enacting Divine laws on the land .One scholar mentioned that the scope of “hudood” punishment should include “kafir” (which I take as those who are not Muslims..I may be wrong here). As a citizen of a muslim majority country , I have been hearing talk of “Sharia” and “ hudood” for a long time -since my childhood to be exact . Frankly speaking these two words do bring chills up my spine..

            I see that the opinions of the followers of Islam and Christianity do differ based on if these followers are a religious minority or a majority . You see how opinions of Muslims on the Sharia differ in the US and in my country. I see this in Christianity as well. Judaism is a class by itself as the Jewish people have been scattered and have no state to call their own the past 2,000 years . The state of Israel is established only in the 20th century. There are possibilities that opinions of Jews in the Diaspora may be different from that of Jews living in Israel when it comes to Halacha and its scope of influence in society. Do correct if I’m wrong.

            Dina, please refer to Maimonide’s Mishnei Torah -Sefer Shoftim ,Kings and Wars , Chapter 9. It is mentioned that “If a non-Jew stole less than the value of a Prutah, and another came and stole from him, both are executed”. I understand that his position that a gentile to be executed for violation of the 7 laws are not widely accepted .Do correct me if I’m wrong.

            Thank you.

        • LarryB says:

          Sharon
          Although you mentioned financing cost you also mentioned interest free loan as examples of certain commands and how Islam and Christianity repackage these commands to include everybody. I only wanted to point out these Interest free loans are not free of cost. Call it profit call it interest. It cost money. Generally all banks are in the business to make profit. And all banks when they loan money are taking risks. The cheapest loan always got mine. Also in America, I’m not sure of other countries, an Islamic bank would be required to offer their loans and services to everyone not just a particular group as a matter of law. Restrictions may apply as to how money is to be spent. After reading the little I have today for the first time about Islam banks I wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot poll. But then I’m also not happy how many US banks operate. 30 percent loans in the US used to be called loan sharking, today its called credit cards.

    • LarryB says:

      Sharon
      “If I ask you “Who is my neighbor”, what will your answer be? Is it only limited to the Jewish community or does it extend to the world at large?”
      Lev 19:34 (NET)
      19:34 The resident foreigner who lives with you must be to you like a native citizen among you; so you must love him as yourself, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
      . When Jesus gave his two greatest commandments he was speaking Torah, with a twist. I don’t know if it is the second greatest commandment but it is surely a great principle.

  34. Jim says:

    Sharon,

    Continuing my comments from here: https://judaismresources.net/2018/07/18/sufficient/#comment-43819

    If interpreting the Torah is not an exercise of “free play,” then it remains to be seen what the difference is between Saul of Tarsus and R’ Yochanan. On the surface, they certainly seem to be doing the same thing. They both appear to be giving forced interpretations of the text. On what basis then, can one reject Paul’s interpretations and accept R’ Yochanan’s? After what I wrote on “free play,” it would seem that both should be rejected, not just the interpretation of Paul. So, let us compare them.

    The difficulties with the writings of Paul have been covered here and elsewhere many times. When he misrepresents Tanach, he often distorts the meaning of the text altogether, making it to say the opposite of what it actually says. He quotes quite a bit of scripture, so it would be a lengthy task for us to examine every employment of Tanach. Therefore, I will only discuss two instances where he discusses Tanach in order to show that his interpretations are really no such thing. He does not look to understand Torah; he looks to overwrite it with his own ideas. The passages I will discuss are Galatians 4:21-26 and Romans 10:5-13.

    Probably Paul’s biggest innovation is his teaching on the Torah itself. According to Paul, the Torah’s function is to spell out the faults of humanity. As you know, Paul’s claim is that no one can be accounted as righteous through keeping the commandments of the Torah. Even the smallest infraction invites upon one death. One commenter on this blog is fond of quoting Paul’s teaching on the good deeds of human beings, that before God they are all like “menstrual cloths.” In contrast to this law that brings death is a faith that brings life. It is through faith and faith alone that one can be counted righteous before God.

    Before showing Paul’s abuse of scripture, it is important that we realize that the concepts with which Paul is playing are not Torah concepts. One small piece of evidence for this is that, if the laws of the Torah only serve as a mirror to reveal to a person his unrighteousness, then the people who should have learned that lesson should have been the people to whom those laws were given. It should have been the Jewish people that recognized the impossibility of keeping Torah, recognized their own insufficiency, and sought refuge in the righteousness of faith. Instead, it was the non-Jewish world that had never attempted to keep the laws of the Torah that came to the conclusion that it was impossible to keep. The Torah could never have served as a mirror to them to reflect their unrighteousness, because it was not given to them, nor did they understand it. This fact alone should make us suspicious of Paul’s teaching.

    However, it is clear from Tanach that it is not as Paul says at all. Torah does not teach that faith is the sole means to be counted righteous. Nor does it teach that the laws of the Torah can lead only to condemnation. No such juxtaposition can be found. On the contrary, Torah contrasts obedience with disobedience:

    “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing His commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord you God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” (Deut. 30:15-20)

    If Paul’s theology were correct, then the above passage should not appear in the Torah. Paul teaching means that God makes vain promises. According to Paul, the promise that keeping the law leads to life is emptiness, because the law is too difficult to keep. God might as well have said that if people were to sprout gills and fins and take to aquatic living, then he would reward them with long life, but if not, he would punish them. The impossibility of the condition for reward and the certainty of the condition for punishment means that God would only ever punish people and the reward offered was merely an illusion.

    Deuteronomy 30 does not contrast faith and law, the one leading to life and the other to death. It contrasts obedience and disobedience. And the calls of repentance by the prophets reinforce this contrast. In Ezekiel 33, the sinner is exhorted to give up his ways, make restitution for his wrongdoing, and return to observance of the divine law. He is promised that if does so, he will be counted as righteous. The chapter makes clear that righteousness is linked to obeying the law and unrighteousness disobeying it. And that one can change his status by changing his actions—in either direction. Moreover, the unrighteous will be punished and the righteous rewarded. This idea is fundamental to the Torah.

    Paul’s innovations are a violation of this fundament. His treatment on Abraham goes to show the lie of his work. Through Abraham, he tries to establish that righteousness comes only through faith. In order to do this, he has to ignore what else is said about Abraham, that his reward came because he kept God’s laws. He also says more that what the text says regarding faith, that it was the only things accounted to Abraham as righteousness. This might have been thought to be nothing but a mistake on Paul’s part, an unwarranted assumption made in part by overlooking other passages in the narrative of Abraham’s life.

    But, what he does to Deuteronomy 30 is positively criminal. In Romans 10:5-9, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30, not the portion quoted above but verses 12-14. In doing so, he misrepresents the passage, deliberately distorts it in order to make it appear to support his own innovated theology juxtaposing law and faith. First, he removes the verses from their context. The point that Moses is making is that the law being given to the Jewish people is not too difficult to be kept, which is the exact opposite argument of Paul. In order to turn the verses on their head, Paul leaves off verse 11 and the end of verse 14, both of which emphasize that keeping the law is not an impossible task. Deuteronomy 30 makes clear also that the punishments imposed for disobeying the law are removed, not by faith, but by repentance, a return to observing the law. Moreover, Paul is not interpreting the text, but interpolating into the text. He inserts his own comments about “Christ” and Paul’s own word of faith. In doing so, he imposes upon the text a meaning foreign to it. This is an act of distortion—a lie. He has misrepresented the passage to his readers, disregarded the Torah of HaShem, and replaced the teaching of the Torah with his own.

    It is in support of this same innovation that Paul makes his argument to the Galatians regarding the child of the slave woman juxtaposed to the child of the free woman. In Galatians 4:21-26, Paul compares those that keep the law to Ishmael and those that live according to faith to Isaac. In support of this, he brings a bizarre allegorical reading of the text, based in part upon the location of Mt. Sinai. The whole argument ignores one of the basic facts, however. The Torah was not given to the son of the slave woman at all. It was given to Isaac, the child of promise, the son of the free woman. He shows again that he is not interpreting the text, but uses it as a pretext for his own inventions. He does not consult the Torah to learn from it. These are not acts of interpretation but interpolation and violation.

    This bears nothing in common with what R’ Yochanan does in relation to Genesis 2:16, even if they appear the same superficially. However, I worry about word count again, so I will need a third comment to complete this topic.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Jim

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