How NOT to Respond to a Christian Missionary – part 1

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145 Responses to How NOT to Respond to a Christian Missionary – part 1

  1. Jim says:

    Rabbi,

    This is terrific.

    Jim

  2. Yehuda says:

    Hi Rabbi Blumenthal (and everyone else)

    Long time no post.

    Had a little time and thought I’d check in.

    Great post as usual. I especially liked the part about Christian missionaries not even realizing that Judaism has affirmative biblical arguments for its positions and isn’t just preoccupied deflecting Christian proof texts. I see this this as an extension of the broader confusion that Christians have with the role they perceive Christianity as having in the Jewish psyche (immense) and the actual role it has in the Jewish psyche (almost non-existent when they aren’t bothering us).

    Hatzlacha

    Y.

  3. Anna Taylor says:

    There are some really helpful thoughts here. I especially find the one about reframing the conversation to be meaningful and important.

    Sometimes people get past a lot of the biases and stereotypes and yet still have a lot of attachment to Jesus, so that they think that there’s enough evidence based on their subjective feeling about it.

    At that point, I guess all we can do is respect each other as seekers of truth, and answer any questions they may have about why the evidence isn’t enough for us. It’s too easy to make people feel attacked if we think our job is to change their minds. But mutual respect for each others’ intentions, even if we don’t accept each others’ conclusions, can highlight our deepest values in a positive way.

  4. Concerned Reader says:

    “Sometimes people get past a lot of the biases and stereotypes and yet still have a lot of attachment to Jesus, so that they think that there’s enough evidence based on their subjective feeling about it.

    At that point, I guess all we can do is respect each other as seekers of truth, and answer any questions they may have about why the evidence isn’t enough for us.”

    Anna Taylor, that is a great perspective to have. It is possible to get past some Bias and stereotype and to still find something meaningful. I have written before that people are more likely to trust their own lived experience, and to latch on to what they know, then to listen to someone else’s experience. This is even true within our own families, how much more when dealing with people you don’t know?

    • Anna Taylor says:

      True. It sounds similar to the anchoring effect in decision making- https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-anchoring-bias-2795029

      • Sharon S says:

        Just to share my two cents .

        I was expecting that this will be another video dedicated to solely addressing proof texts by Christian missionaries (a defensive approach). However I was wrong. The approach here is radically different and the first that I have heard from the Jewish countermissionary.

        I agree that the discussion should be centered on seeking truth and to learn the totality of the message of these religious beliefs -from the adherents of those beliefs. Another very important component is to interact and observe the lives of the adherents to the faith because the best way to learn about a particular faith is to see how it is lived out. The opportunity to observe a particular religious community may not be so readily available to the seeker . However there are many videos or articles online which may give a glimpse of this, though not in full.

        I have learnt , read and listened to religious polemics for most of my youth -Islam vs Christianity for the most part and Judaism vs Christianity more recently. I have come across various attacks and polemics on Christianity -the faith I was born into -from both the Muslim side and the Jewish side. The Muslim apologist claimed that Islam is better . I am now hearing from the Jewish side that Judaism is better. I have tried my best to remove biases and studied these two faiths to the best of my ability. I admit that I have more resources where Islam is concerned, but my resources are somewhat limited when it comes to Judaism-however I am still able to get the gist of its message despite the limited resources.

        In Islam , I come to know of a Universal Creator who is transcendent and aloof from humanity .

        In Judaism , something else-Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks describes Judaism as having a tension between the universal and particular. He further wrote ‘’ So there are the universals of Judaism – creation, humanity as God’s image, and the covenant with Noah. There are also its particularities – revelation, Israel as God’s “firstborn child,” and the covenants with Abraham and the Jewish people at Sinai. The first represents the face of God accessible to all humankind; the second, that special, intimate and personal relationship He has with the people He holds close, as disclosed in the Torah (revelation) and Jewish history (redemption).” https://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/501731461.html. In short , there are two ways /methods as to how God relates to the world. One -special , intimate and personal , the other-universal ,God as how He is found in creation.

        Through Christianity , I find that God is not aloof , but is involved in our broken world and have taken steps to provide a remedy for our sin and brokenness 2000 years ago. I find that God is interested to have a special , intimate and personal relationship with all of humanity and not only for a people, though they still remain the first. Jesus said in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…”.

        Anna wrote “Sometimes people get past a lot of the biases and stereotypes and yet still have a lot of attachment to Jesus”. I am not sure about other Christians , but for me it is not so much about Jesus as compared to how he represented the God of Israel. Thanks to Islam and especially Judaism , I come to appreciate even more the severity of sin and the significance of the cross in affirming my personal worth.

        The involvement of God in the affairs of humanity as defined and demonstrated through Jesus is my anchoring bias , my frame of reference , the bottom line. Perhaps it is far removed from reality but I am not able to lower the bar for any belief which advocates something less , even though the other belief may be true.

        • Sharon S Thank you for your thoughtful and honest comment. I would ask the following question – is that “lesser” relationship that Judaism describes between God and the Gentiles actually smaller/lesser/farther than what Christianity describes between those two parties? Judaism speaks of a relationship that is intimate, loving and personal – compared to parent-child – and does not require the heart to engender another attraction in order to “deserve” the relationship with God. Christianity describes a relationship that requires devotion to another entity. That is not a closer relationship.

          1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Sharon S says:

            Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

            Good day.

            If I understand you correctly , you are asking me if the relationship that God has with gentiles are smaller/ lesser/farther in Judaism as compared to Christianity . The relationship man , or Gentiles , have with God is lesser in Christianity (as compared to Judaism) as it involves devotion to another entity.

            My answer is yes-the relationship that God has with Gentiles is far lesser in Judaism as compared to Christianity.

            I would like to ask the following questions in return. I request that you put aside any bias you may have in answering these questions:
            a.Is there a possibility that the relationship that God has with man , or in this case , Gentiles may be limited by factors beyond man’s control , even though there is no intermediary involved?
            b.If your answer in (a) is a yes, then are these factors significant enough that it can affect the quality of God’s relationship with man , or in this case, Gentiles?
            c.In your assessment of other beliefs-especially in man’s relationship with God , does devotion to another entity trump all other factors identified in (a) ?

            Do inform if any of my questions are unclear. Thank you.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Sharon,

            Christianity has some unpalatable ideas too, like the idea of eternal punishment for human error, the idea that God would make Jews ‘spiritually blind’… and also the things that seem awful in the Hebrew scriptures (which form the Christian Old Testament), such as the instruction to wipe out Canaanite nations, the fact that animals are to be killed for meat, and the problem of why suffering must exist at all if God is all powerful and not forced by anything in how to create things.

            I think it’s impossible to even consider Christianity, Islam, or Judaism as being true without being willing to accept what appears to be truth, even if it doesn’t appear to be beautiful.

            And within all three of these religions is also the affirmation that God’s truth is good and compassionate, even when it doesn’t seem so to us.

            So to separate the acceptance of seeming-truth from the central value of seeking a beautiful and comforting philosophy may not actually work in the framework of either of these religions.

        • moses20222 says:

          Sharon, this is not really a response to you but to others who may see how you misrepresent the Islamic teachings. I am part of an Islamic discussion group and the following was asked by an ex-christian

          Asalamu Aleikum

          Question:
          As a former Christian myself, I often heard some say that the relationship that God has with us as a father with his son/daughter surpasses the Islamic concept of us being slaves of Allah. What would you respond to the Christian that presents this argument to you?

          I ask this out of sincerity, because I realize that I still have much learning to do. Having been Christian for my entire life, there are still traces of Christian ideology in my thinking and I don’t want it to lead me astray and corrupt my understanding of this beautiful deen

          here are the responses :

          The very first problem is identifying a son/daughter relationship with God…in Islam we do not have that since God has no partners in any shape or form…Surah 112:3 explains further…what I mean is that analogy causes issues
          Rather we have something better, a relationship with Allah as we are known as his servants (Abdullah) like every Prophet and Sahaba beforehand…we are known as many other phrases within our deen such as God conscious which is mentioned in Surah Al Baqarah verse 2

          the exact Hadith says Allah loves us and is more merciful to us, 70 times more, than a mother to its own child.

          That’s true indeed. I have come across such Christians before, they compare Islam and Christianity on that basis, arguing that Jesus and the Father loves you and that the love of a father with his child is stronger. However this is like a child’s argument based solely on emotion with barely any rationality and thought given to the evidences and claims of the Qur’an.
          And if only they understood that the Ilah of Isa is the same Ilah of Islam, so practically in that sense there is no difference. As Muslims we acknowledge the Christian faith formerly of the true Abrahamic faith but rather they do not acknowledge Islam which they consider to be something new.

          The name Rahman replaces the title of father in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
          Rahman comes from the root R-h-m in Arabic which means “womb” and the name implies that God is tenderly loving, merciful, compassionate etc. in fact there are ahadith in which the prophet ‎ﷺ says that Allah loves us more than a mother loves her child.
          Umar ibn al-Khattab reported: Some prisoners of war were brought to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and a breast-feeding woman was among them. Whenever she found a child among the prisoners, she would take it to her chest and nurse it. The Prophet said to us, “Do you think this woman would throw her child in the fire?” We said, “No, not if she was able to stop it.” The Prophet said, “Allah is more merciful to his servants than a mother is to her child.”
          (Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5653, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2754)
          The Arabic word for “mercy” used in the Quran is rahma whose meaning is often lost in translation. Rahma is equivalent to the word “agape” in the New Testament which greek translators translate as “love”
          It may seem that Christian “love” in the Bible – agapē – could actually be more similar to rahmah and not other Arabic words like hubb. By contrast, hubb may correspond more to the Greek philia. Though no two languages can ever match perfectly, both rahmah and agapē are non-desirous, nurturing forms of love that God expresses universally.
          In the Prophet’s many sayings about rahmah on earth, the central theme of nurturing, parental love clearly stands out. Allah’s rahmah, according to the Messenger, is the sole source of all earthly rahmah, such that all creatures show “love and kindness to one another, and even a beast treats her young with affection.” Rahmah thus finds its most natural expression in the love of a mother as alluded to in the hadith I quoted above.
          In fact the name Ar-Rahman appears more times in the surah of Mary than in any other surah, the Quran, while vehemently rejecting the notion that God has any need for a son, using this repetition of the name Rahman to remind Christians that He remains the source of universal tender love, compassion, and mercy.
          A more correct translation of the word Abd is not slave in this context but rather servant, and Allah loves his servants than a mother loves her child. Allah says in the Quran:
          ‎إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّٰلِحَٰتِ سَيَجۡعَلُ لَهُمُ ٱلرَّحۡمَٰنُ وُدّٗا
          As for those who believe and do good, the Most Compassionate will ˹certainly˺ bless them with ˹genuine˺ love.
          (Mary 19:96)

          https://muslimmatters.org/2012/12/03/rahmah-not-just-mercy/?fbclid=IwAR106VUWMDsRMHmBLvdp7sR6TZYJEQo6VICFPwQqRAOUZ_I0I5-hJmxh2a4

          You must first understand one essential point before considering anything and it is this:
          A father with his son or daughter are both from the same genus. That is, they are both created beings, which inherently means that any relationship one creation has with another creation will always be different to the relationship one has with God. This is why and where Islam differs with others.
          If God was a created being (which is impossible and not the point of discussion here), then you could have such a relationship. If God was a created being, then, a) He would not be God and b) no thing would exist.

          A father’s or a mother’s love for their children is one of the strongest and purest forms that love can be expressed. Those of us with children will understand this wholeheartedly. However, a father and mother are still susceptible and have the potential to make mistakes, and in fact, they do! So to say that Allah is our father, I might believe, would be like saying that He has the potential to be flawed and unjust. I think it limits His essence. He would then not be able to present Himself as the Most Merciful and the Most Compassionate (SWT)

          1. Let us avoid emotional arguments by using terms like “father/son” etc. These only confuse the issue, and distract from the real argument.

          2. The opposite is in fact, the reality. Meaning, Muslims have a much closer relationship to ALLAH, than Christians do, for the obvious reason being that we do not need an intercessor in order to reach ALLAH. Our du’a is our immediate, and direct link to ALLAH. Christianity clearly makes the distinction that we simply are too sinful to reach ALLAH (a’udhubILLAH), and thus we need to go “through” the blood of ‘Isa AS. A’udhubILLAH. Yes, as sinful as we are, in spite of how low we are, ALLAH Is so Merciful, and Loving, that ALLAH STILL ALLOWS us to make du’a directly to HIM.

          3. Christian theology rests on the foundational concept of “original sin”. In other words, the entire reason why ‘Isa AS was sent was to be the sacrificial lamb for humanity as a result of sin being introduced to humanity in the first place by Adam AS disobedience to ALLAH in Jannah, which led to him, and Hawa being sent to the dunya. Our narrative of the story of Adam AS is one of hope, and redemption. Why? Let’s look at it:

          a. Adam AS, and Hawa indeed sinned by disobeying ALLAH’S Command. Yet, both made du’a to ALLAH, and ALLAH Forgave them. Adam AS and Hawa lost Jannah, the greatest loss imaginable to humanity. Yet, rather than despair of ALLAH’S Mercy, they were taught by ALLAH To Make du’a, they made du’a, and ALLAH Accepted their tawbah. Yes, they lost Jannah, but they also regained it, subhanALLAH.

          b. Like Adam AS, iblis also disobeyed ALLAH. Yet unlike Adam AS, instead of making du’a to ALLAH seeking istighfar for his sin, Iblis asked for life in the dunya till the Day of Judgment. What truly is amazing here is that i. the devil himself made du’a directly to ALLAH without an intercessor and ii. ALLAH Accepted the du’a of the devil, and that in a sinful state I might add. This shows just how Merciful ALLAH is. ALLAH Answered the du’a of the devil who was in a state of sin. Moreover, what the devil asked for wasn’t small. He asked for life until the Day of Judgment. This shows us, that if ALLAH Accepted the du’a of the devil in a sinful state for something so huge, then what about the rest of us? This is TRUE LOVE, TRUE MERCY. This is NOT the ALLAH of Christianity.

          4. The fact that ALLAH Legislated a shari’ah for us also shows HIS Love for us. The fact that we have been guided to live our daily lives so much so that we even are taught how to use the toilet shows to what degree, length, and completeness is our shari’ah. Indeed we thank ALLAH for Giving us a shari’ah to live our lives by, and not leave us to our own judgment, a’udhubILLAH.

          Case closed. I feel sorry for Christians honestly. How deluded, and misguided they are. Just sad, and disgusting.

          • mr.heathcliff says:

            here is a muslim philosopher addressing william lane craigs :

            “(5) the Islamic concept of God is morally deficient; (6) the Islamic concept of God is less plausible than a Trinitarian concept of God; and (7) the Muslim doctrine of salvation compromises God’s holiness and proves to be unattainable. I contend that Craig’s arguments, when examined closely, do not undermine the rationality of Islamic theism.”

            https://philpapers.org/go.pl?id=ALISRO&proxyId=&u=http%3A%2F%2Fdx.doi.org%2F10.1111%2Fheyj.13182

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi moses20222,

            Nice to see a comment from a muslim in this blog .

            I do appreciate your comments. You seem to have a deep passion and fervor in the Islamic faith .

            You have put forth many points on how Muslims have a much closer relationship to Allah than Christians do. I will not argue on the facts you have raised in your comment. However ,I would like to bring to your attention the question raised by the ex-Christian .

            Why did the ex-Christian raise this question when this person should have had a deep and fulfilling relationship with Allah? The ex-Christian claims to have “traces of Christian ideology” in his/her thinking. Has the Islamic discussion group made efforts to find out why this is so instead of bombarding this person with facts?

            I can understand the ex-Christian’s concern , because I have been there before. I was looking for evidence of Allah’s care and concern with humanity in the Quran by referring to the model of God’s involvement in Christianity as my frame of reference. I read the Quran cover to cover in order to find verses on Allah’s concern, which mimics the verses I frequently see in the Jewish Bible and Christian Scriptures (which makes up the Christian bible). The only verse from the Quran that resonates with me is “Verily in hardship , there is ease’’. I watched Nouman Ali Khan’s video on the definition of Rahman and Raheem , terminologies frequently found in the Quran (by the way his videos are excellent). However the fact that a muslim is regarded as a slave to Allah bothered me. I have almost never come across a muslim claiming that he/she has a relationship with Allah , until your comment comes along.

            Nevertheless , I am inspired by the religious piety and devotion the Muslim has towards Allah. I am inspired to see muslim colleagues making time to perform salat during a busy work day , or fasting from dawn to dusk during Ramadan. I am amazed at their patience ,trust and their attitude of surrender to Allah’s will in the face of extreme difficulty. I first learnt to appreciate absolute monotheism and see God as the Master to whom we are all accountable to thanks to Islam.

            I have admitted in my previous comment that I do have a strong bias which prevents me from embracing the truth . Looks like I am not alone as the ex-Christian could be struggling with this as well. I would advise you to consider removing the stereotype that you have of Christians as “deluded , and misguided”. You will be able to reach out more effectively to this struggling ex-Christian and to have a more meaningful dialogue with other Christians which comes your way.

            Thank you.

    • bible819 says:

      Concerned Reader,

      Christian received (Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters (Genesis 1:2) (that was given by (before Abraham was, I am (John 8:57). We received: (The angel of the LORD) who appeared to Moses, I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob(Exodus 3:5).

      We received the Righteous Branch

      Jeremiah 23:6
      I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, And this is His name by which He will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.

      We received the name Yahushua
      Zechariah 6:11
      Speak to him, saying, Thus speaketh Yahweh of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name [is] The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of Yahweh:

      Zechariah 3:8
      WE received Yahushua and the Removal of SIns:

      I will engrave an inscription on it, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, and I will remove the sins of this land in a single day.

      Declares the Lord Almighty,

      Jesus is Lord, King of Kings, the Son of God and to glorify His Father.

      Yes, the True Experience.with our Father and his Son the Redeemer and commander of the His Army.

      • Anna Taylor says:

        Christians sometimes see Jesus in any verses of the Hebrew scriptures that say anything about forgiveness of sins, God being with us, or other things. The question is… what evidence is there that these verses refer to Jesus? Just because Christians use similar language about him, and feel that he embodies these things, doesn’t mean that all the verses are shadows of him. It could just mean that the Christian ideas were later invented using imagery based on the earlier concepts.

        • bible819 says:

          Exile is evidence of God’s Judgement.

          • Concerned Reader says:

            Bible819, OK, but exile is not evidence that worshiping God in the form of a human being from Nazareth is now permitted, or that God recommends this action. Deuteronomy 4 suggests very strongly that God does not desire humans to do this, and in plain language at that.

            You need more evidence than some verses that you could plug several people into. Did you ever consider that the angel of the lord does not have a name in the Hebrew Bible precisely because God says not to worship “the whole host of heaven?” No alters were ever built to the angel, he doesn’t have a birthday, etc.

            The New Testament itself acknowledges that people can be wrongly plugged into these verses. You have an entire tradition devoted to avoiding antichrist figures.

            Since Jesus has not returned as yet, since Christians sin like everyone else, since there is no peace, no temple, and since even you have agreed in the past that hucksters exist, please consider that the Jewish people have solid biblical reasons to doubt Jesus’ claims respectfully.

            They also have generations of very wicked behavior perpetrated against them in the name of Jesus. The Jewish people did not have a positive historical experience of Jesus in the way that European gentiles had when their cultures abandoned their old deities for Christianity.

            You need to ponder that long and hard. There is no solid reason why a Jew becoming a Christian would make them objectively better as humans. Jews and Christians have the same ethical code. Be glad of that much at least.

            When Pharoah sought worship, Israel said no. When the Caesars sought worship, both Jews and Christians together said NO! Name a Jewish messiah claimant whose followers have made too much of them after they passed on, and both Jews and Christians have said no to venerating them.

            We don’t know where Moses is buried so that we don’t turn him into an object of worship.

            We have biblical precedent for not worshiping or venerating people who appear as human as we do.

            If you want to live out the ethical code that Yeshua taught, then that is great. However, the second you demand that someone pray to this man, or that they require him to have communion with God, you have stepped outside of the norms of the Hebrew Bible, the standard that you claim to represent.

  5. mr.heathcliff says:

    “However the fact that a muslim is regarded as a slave to Allah bothered me. ”

    Hello Sharon, but lets be honest, christians are doulos

    https://old.reddit.com/r/AcademicBiblical/comments/e34hs4/does_the_greek_word_for_slave_in_the_nt_doulos/

    i think we need academic honesty.

  6. Sharon S
    To respond to your question –
    a.Is there a possibility that the relationship that God has with man , or in this case , Gentiles may be limited by factors beyond man’s control , even though there is no intermediary involved?
    b.If your answer in (a) is a yes, then are these factors significant enough that it can affect the quality of God’s relationship with man , or in this case, Gentiles?
    c.In your assessment of other beliefs-especially in man’s relationship with God , does devotion to another entity trump all other factors identified in (a) ?
    My response follows
    If I believe that Jews and Gentiles have different tracks of relationship than it follows that I believe that factors beyond our control affect the relationship because we do not control if we are born Jew or Gentile – my point is that in this “not as close relationship” of the Gentile – that is still closer than what Christianity offers.
    The way I see it is that the relationship with the Gentiles is something that is the normal order of things – the relationship that God forged with Abraham and his children is something that goes beyond the general order. In other words the Gentile relationship is not less than what we deserve – it is the Jewish relationship that is beyond what humans could naturally expect. To explain this from another angle – by virtue of having created us – God is the Father of all of us – personally and constantly. However he didn’t need to also enter into a marriage-like relationship with any nation – but He did. This doesn’t diminish the parent-child relationship.

    • Sharon S says:

      Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

      Good day. Thank you for your reply despite your busy schedule.

      You wrote that the Jew and Gentile have different tracks of relationships hence there are factors beyond man’s control. God’s relationship with the Gentile is based on the normal order of things and the Jewish relationship is something beyond what humans can expect.

      I do not intend to compare , however I need to bring up Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sack’s article again here https://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/501731461.html . Rabbi Sacks wrote “God as we encounter Him in creation is universal. God as we hear Him in revelation is particular’’. Two ways/methods on how God relates to the world. Is this similar to the two tracks of relationship you described in your reply?

      Rabbi Sacks also made a distinction between how the Jewish nation address God- “Hashem” (God as we encounter Him in personal relationships-revelation) and how the rest of humanity addresses God -“Elokim” (God as He is found in creation).

      I asked a question at the comments section of that article. How does a non Jew ,especially one who has left her religion to follow the God of Abraham ,Isaac and Jacob , address Him-Hashem or Elokim? Unfortunately my comment was not published.

      What are your thoughts about this? If the two tracks of relationship you wrote about is similar to what Rabbi Sacks describe in his article , then should I , a Gentile relate to God as how He reveals Himself in creation and thereby address Him as ‘’Elokim’’ ?

      If I go by Rabbi Sacks’s analysis , then how is it ever possible that the “not as close relationship” of the Gentile in Judaism is still closer than what Christianity offers?

      Thank you for your patience 😊

      • Sharon S To be honest with you – I never heard this idea before (that Gentiles can only relate to E-lohim) – The verses in Psalm which speak of the universal relationship use Y-H-V-H such as Psalms 145 and 148

        1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

        • Sharon S says:

          Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

          Good day.

          Thank you for your reply. I understand from your reply that the Gentile can also relate to Hashem.

          I came across this article by a non Jew , a young woman name Bernice from the Phillipines here https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Judaism-in-the-Eyes-of-a-Non-Jew.html .She wrote about her journey in learning about Judaism and Torah. She devoted her energy in learning and trying out Jewish practices such as saying the blessings, giving tzedakah ,dressing modestly and having her own “pseudo shabbos’’. She wrote of how Judaism changed her life for the better.

          I thought about her article deeply . Bernice and I are both non Jews who have encountered Judaism but we used our energies in exploring it in different directions -she took the positive approach and I took a not so positive approach. She grew in her devotion to Hashem and I -well , you can see the results from my comments in your blog and in our emails.

          I decided to follow Bernice’s method and take up one practice -saying blessings or brachos . I received an email at the time of the American Thanksgiving from a Jewish organization where they shared the Jewish way of giving thanks. There is a link to the ‘’Siddur Ashkenaz’’. I scrolled to the list of prayers and came across the ‘’Weekday , Shacharit, Preparatory Prayers, Morning Blessings’’ , where there are a few blessings .One of the set of blessings I came across as follows:
          Blessed are you, Hashem…….who did not make me a gentile
          Blessed are you, Hashem…..who did not make me a slave
          Blessed are you , Hashem……who did not make me a woman
          (Or Blessed are you , Hashem…who made me according to his will)

          I checked with another Rabbi to confirm which of the prayers of the siddur can be recited by the non Jew. I also asked him about the above blessing. I asked if I can recite the alternative prayer for the Jewish woman -Blessed are you Hashem….who made me according to his will in my capacity as a non Jewish woman and he said yes.

          I practice saying the blessings such as the Modeh Ani and others which are applicable , but I pause whenever it comes to this blessing before saying it. In a sense , saying thank you to Hashem for creating me according to His will brought me a sense of peace. The fact that He created me and planted me is His right alone.It is beyond my control. On the other hand , this blessing is a reminder of where I actually stand.

          I appreciate this conversation and respect your position that the “not as close relationship” of the Gentile in Judaism is still closer than what Christianity offers. However I don’t see it the same way as you do. I will end the conversation on this topic here.

          Thank you.

  7. Dina says:

    A Parable

    Bob and Jill live in a charming little town on the Eastern coast of the United States. Next door resides their eldest son Charlie with his wife Jane and their five children. The grandchildren are in and out of their grandparents’ house; Bob and Jill often babysit the kids to give their son and daughter-in-law a break; and often, after the kids are asleep, they come over to Charlie’s for a nice cuppa and good conversation. Charlie and Jane and their kids enjoy a deeply warm and close relationship with Bob and Jill; their kids even see Bob and Jill as a second set of parents.

    Bob and Jill’s remaining two sons have moved to Melbourne, Australia, on the other side of the world. Despite the time difference, John and his wife Rita have found a time to call John’s parents every day and to FaceTime with the kids so they grow up knowing their grandparents. Inevitably, John’s and Rita’s relationship with their parents, and their grandchildren’s relationship with their grandparents, is not quite as close as Charlie’s and his family’s. They all love each other dearly, and the phone calls and Face Time help keep them connected–but there is no substitute for practically living in each other’s houses and weekend picnics and family trips.

    Now Pete has had a strange idea. He feels that his parents really live too far away to contact them himself. His high school teacher, Joe, who happens to be his father’s first cousin, has also moved to Melbourne, so he writes letters to his high school teacher instead, figuring that Joe makes a good stand-in for dad. He and his kids write letters to Joe frequently, not realizing that Joe is blind and has never read a single letter. Nor is Joe in touch with Bob and Jill to deliver to them news of their son Pete and his family. Sadly, the relationship grows cold and distant, as Bob and Jill do try to reach out to Pete, but because of the time zones he usually misses their calls.

    Of all three sons, Charlie enjoys the closest and deepest relationship with his parents. Through no fault of his own, John’s relationship is still great but not as deep. Circumstances have forced this to happen, but Bob and Jill do not love him less because of it.

    And Pete? Well, he never writes, he never calls…

    Charlie is the Jew, John is the gentile, Pete is the Christian. The blind high school teacher is the false god: “They have a mouth but they do not speak; they have eyes but they do not see. They have ears but they do not hear; they have a nose but they do not smell” (Psalm 115:5-6).

    I hope this parable clearly explains how Christianity further distances gentiles from God, while the “lesser” relationship that gentiles can have with God according to the Jewish tradition is so much closer and more fulfilling, if they will only grab the opportunity.

    • Annelise says:

      Very interesting parable. Perhaps there’s a fourth son, who has been led to believe that another human is the second incarnation of his dad. So he writes letters to both, and receives letters from both. This is the situation of most Christians, I think, who sincerely pray with the intention of their prayer being to the Creator alone, and surely God would accept relationship with them… but there is, nonetheless, something else in the mix.

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Dina & Annelise,

      Nice to interact with you both .It’s been quite a while. I hope all is well .

      I also hope you would not mind if I put in another situation to the Dina’s parable.

      Pete misses his parents, Bob and Jill terribly. Bob and Jill are not able to experience the birth and christening ceremony of Pete’s children due to the long distance . Pete and his wife are not able get the kind of support that Charlie and Jane has when it comes to their children. Pete may call on John and Rita to babysit the kids once in a while . They may go to church together. They may even visit and stay in each other’s homes during Christmas /Easter .They may carry out family traditions learnt from their parents while growing up in order to keep the family bond . However that cannot compare to the parental support that Charlie and Jane enjoy thanks to Bob and Jill living so close to them.

      Pete met Joe while he was at the park with his kids. Joe had the almost the same temperament and personality as his father, Bob. Pete’s children warmed up to Joe as how they would have warmed up to Bob, he thought . It is one thing for the kids to chat with Bob on Face time , it is certainly different having his father around and interacting with his grandchildren in the flesh.

      Pete develop a very close relationship with Joe. He would seek Joe’s advice on almost everything . Pete sees Joe as a father figure , though Joe can never replace his own father, Bob. They are two different individuals.Despite all this, Pete did not feel any lack in the quality of his relationship with Bob and Jill despite the distance. Pete’s children are able to relate even better to Bob and Jill during their Face time sessions , because they experience the same level of warmth and energy interacting with them as how they do with Joe.

      If we assess the quality of Charlie, John and Pete’s relationship with their parents based on the above , Charlie ( the Jew) will still come up tops. However Pete (the Christian) will still have a closer relationship with his parents as compared to John ( the Gentile).

      • Annelise says:

        Hi Sharon,

        I think this is a fair parable, for people who accept a teacher (whether living or historical) as a mentor, and have a positive relationship with them.

        So I feel your parable could be true of a Christian (or any follower of a teacher) who doesn’t believe in either the trinity or incarnation, but simply values their teacher in the role of mentor and takes the good from his/her teachings.

        But for Christians who think Jesus is literally God, then there is a tainting of the concept of the identity of God in the relationship.

        What do you think?

        Also, there are some questions remaining about whether Jesus’ recorded teachings can serve as a purely positive rolemodel. He apparently said that no one can get to God except through him. He was also recorded as being vague (yet suggestive) when asked about his identity as the messiah and the connection of his identity with that of God. He supposedly got angry with people who questioned his authority and accused them of connection with evil spirits. So he had many positive teachings about holiness, compassion, and social justice, but he can’t be portrayed as a perfect reflection of God, nor can his leadership be portrayed as perfectly healthy.

        • Annelise says:

          Another, more important thing, may be that the parable is flawed (as all metaphors are) in the portrayal of actual distance between the father and his children.

          In reality, if God created the universe then everything is utterly close to God… He is our source and continues to sustain our existence. Monotheistic religions teach that the core of our existence is resting directly on Him and His will to continually hold us in being.

          Also, the biblical tradition portrays relationship closeness to God as something that can be attained through righteousness. Deuteronomy 30 says, “For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” It’s worth noticing that this describes obedience to the Torah as having the very same value as the obedience of those who previously didn’t receive the Torah. This implies that gentiles can attain it without following the commandments directed towards Jews, just as Abraham was already able to attain it by following God’s commands towards him and His expectations of humanity in general.

          These verses also equate turning wholeheartedly to obedience and turning wholeheartedly to God as being the same thing, meaning that when it is said that the commandment is “very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” this also applies to true closeness and immediacy in the relationship with God.

          So, simply by existing as part of creation, and then again also by turning the heart towards God, the Hebrew scriptures teach that any person at all can be in close contact with Him. None of us lives ‘overseas’ in this sense… though the parable of skype vs zero contact is helpful in explaining to whom communication is directed in a relationship.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Annelise,

            Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

            If you don’t mind , I would like for you to also consider the questions which I asked Rabbi Blumenthal earlier in this discussion thread:

            a. Is there a possibility that the relationship that God has with man , or in this case , Gentiles may be limited by factors beyond man’s control , even though there is no intermediary involved?

            b. If your answer in (a) is a yes, then are these factors significant enough that it can affect the quality of God’s relationship with man , or in this case, Gentiles?

            c. In your assessment of other beliefs-especially in man’s relationship with God , does devotion to another entity trump all other factors identified in (a) ?

            I apologize if the discussions initiated by me seems to go around the same theme. However it is heartening to note, in this conversation that there is acknowledgement of factors beyond man’s control (other than idolatry) which can limit our relationship with God.

            Unfortunately , it seems that most comments I have read , yours included , does not see these factors as significant enough to affect the quality of the relationship , as compared to impact the devotion to another entity has on the relationship. I can see most clearly , from the response of absolute monotheists (Jew and Muslim) , that devotion to another entity is still seen as a significant factor which affects the quality of man’s relationship with God.

            I take the position that man , or in this case , the Gentile’s relationship with God can be significantly limited due to factors beyond the his/her control-such as being born Gentile . These factors should be seen as having the same , or even more significance as compared to devotion to another entity.

            I noticed that there is a very negative view of idolatry. It is seen as rebellion and turning away from God. Idolatry is seen as solely worshipping statues made of wood and stone .Idolatry is also seen as promoting competition between two or more objects of devotion . Increased devotion to one will reduce/diminish devotion to another (skype/Face time vs zero contact)

            There is no effort made to understand why idolatry occur in the first place and how it works-from the mouths of those deemed to be idolaters . Perhaps idolatry is not so much about man’s turning away from God , but rather it is a tool man employ to connect with the Creator. Devotion to one entity may not necessarily diminish/reduce devotion to another. In fact , Christians see no conflict in their devotion to the Father, Son and Spirit. We see devotion to the Son as necessary to glorify the Father. The conflict arise when the Christian becomes aware on the laws of idolatry .

            Hence , I am taking the position that devotion to another entity (idolatry) may improve the Gentile’s perception of God thereby improving the quality of the relationship which is already being limited simply due to the fact that one is born Gentile.

            On the other hand ,I do acknowledge that devotion to another entity may affect the quality of the relationship significantly, if the Gentile persist in carrying on that devotion despite knowing God’s law on idolatry from the Torah (which can be argued as not directly addressed to Gentiles ).

            I hope that we will see the situation as it is and remove all biases . Then we can all come closer to the truth.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Sharon,

            As you know, I’m unclear on theism, but I’ll write this comment as if I had clarity about it… so I can speak within the conversation, and not double the length of it with “If” statements. It makes sense to me that this could be how things are, and I think that it is how the Jewish tradition sees it.

            About whether the Gentile relationship with God is pre-limited, I don’t think we could measure God’s closeness with a finite measure. How much of God fits into a box? A room? The universe? Is there more of Him in a larger place than in a smaller one?

            Is He closer in a clear miracle than He is in a confusing circumstance?

            The type of relationship that someone has with God, either Jew or Gentile, is in a way a description of a finite role or an experience within the created world. But I think that He can exist *infinitely* within one and the other.

            I also don’t think we can treat Him as a commodity to seek more of, nor do we need to be jealous of each other, as if His love and care could reach an end. In the biblical understanding, His love isn’t something that we earn of our own volition, but it’s a gift we are taught to pursue after it is given, and it reaches to the heavens.

            So no matter what size or shape container we are given, the contents can be utterly precious.

            About idolatry, I think that it gets in the way. We want to see clearly in our relationship with God. We don’t need anything blocking our line of sight.

            But what you say makes some sense, because we have finite eyes, and we can only speak of God through metaphors. Our senses, emotions, and intellects can only perceive Him through His interactions with the physical world. So isn’t it justifiable for us to worship Him through these finite things? Can we actually do anything different, since all our words and all our thoughts are mundane?

            I think that the first part of the answer is that we need to worship Him in whatever way He reveals. He knows better than we do what the relationship should look like.

            The second part is that worship is a separate class of experience. We can experience God through the world. But worship is direct contact between our heart and the Creator. It comes from the core of our being, deeper than senses and thoughts. We can bring our experiences to shed light on that, somehow, but they are reflections. Idolatry would (at best) be like taking a picture of our friend to a café to spend time together. Having a picture of a friend is great, but it isn’t something we direct our actual person-to-person relationship with them towards. If we did, that fictional imagination would get in the way of the actual friendship.

            As another example, the first part of Psalm 19 describes the heavens as telling God’s glory. The psalmist imagines them ‘speaking’ as a person, because they silently give an image of God’s interaction with the world. The sun seems like a symbol of strength, joy, and triumph, and that shows us something about God’s glory:
            “In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
            which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
            and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
            Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
            and its circuit to the end of them;
            and nothing is hid from its heat.”

            Imagine if someone took this to mean that the sun actually is their own husband, and they poured out their marital affection for their husband toward the sun as well? Wouldn’t that distract them from their actual husband?

            What if we jumped straight onto a map and tried to walk on it, just because it is an expression of the path we’re meant to be taking? We’d be wasting time.

            And I think the third thing is that there’s little difference between idolising and idealising… putting something or someone on a pedestal and admiring their beauty, without perceiving their flaws so much. We want to feel beautiful/strong by association, or we want to (or feel we should) be part of a community that believes this way. But idealising something distorts reality. That, in turn, affects our ability to perceive God through creation, because if we aren’t perceiving creation properly then it’s like we’re seeing Him through a blurry window. So it’s counter-productive to the intention you stated.

            Enjoying created beings in their right way allows us to experience God through them. But worshiping them as God may not be what He asked; it may distract us from the unique relationship with our Creator; and it may stop us from even enjoying creation in the way it was intended to let us experience Him through it.

          • LarryB says:

            Sharon
            Biases
            a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned:
            unreasonably hostile feelings or opinions about a social group; prejudice:

            The Torah defines idolatry.
            Is it unreasoned, prejudiced or any of the above to teach against idolatry, in its many forms, to one another? To anyone? To answer A. People in general have limits to learning, and many are taught wrong things from birth. Some are greatly limited in their learning abilities, some seem to hardly have any. B. Can this affect the quality of relationship with god? Of course. Take an angry person as example. His anger will affect his relationship with everyone. C. Especially in relationship with god, does devotion to another entity trump all other factors. It has been said here so many times. Man is judged individually. Not by what you think or anyone else thinks.

            Is it biased to teach any of gods laws?

          • Annelise says:

            Also, Deuteronomy 6 has the Shema-
            “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today…”

            This doesn’t start with the specific commands. It starts with the wholehearted commitment. That’s what the marriage is based on. That’s what the commandments exist within. And perhaps this means that there is no reason why any gentile should be excluded from a relationship styled in the exact same way, as a marriage. Only, for us, it’s an individual commitment, rather than also being a national one.(?)

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Annelise & Larry,

            Thank you for sharing your thoughts .

            Let me state my objective -which is to highlight the importance of stepping back and analyzing our beliefs (and biases) ,especially when it comes to religious polemics.

            Annelise , I do appreciate your explanation idolatry and how it distracts our relationship with the Creator.

            LarryB , I can see that you have a deep fervor for God’s laws . However have you made any effort to understand why it occur and how does it work? Is the description of idolatry in the Scriptures consistent with reality ? Is the picture of idolatry described by the prophets an accurate picture of how you perceive and interact with God when you were Christian?

            I am not whitewashing idolatry. My objective is to highlight that there are other factors , just as significant as idolatry which can limit man’s relationship with God.

            It can also be argued that the Torah is not directly addressed to the non Jew. Annelise , you quoted the Shema- a command directed to Israel alone in the context of her marriage to the Creator. Is the Shema applicable to you and me? I think we should pause and consider.

            I admit that I may have my own biases too , or if I have somehow compromised the convictions I used to have about idolatry in light of what I have learnt from Judaism.

            Let me illustrate my position by sharing this scenario. Imagine a young woman who is raised in a stable home . Her parents works very hard to provide for all her needs (shelter , food, clothing , education). Unfortunately , her parents neglected to provide for her emotional and psychological needs. This woman frequently suffered verbal abuse from her mother . Her father is too focused in his career and is emotionally distant.

            This young woman has , on many occasions ,heard her mother telling her ‘’Your father and I would have had a better life had you not been born’’. She finds that her mother values the opinions of others more highly than her own. As a result , this young woman suffered from low self esteem due to her perceived lack of worth. The verbal abuse suffered has slowly caused her to be distant from her parents.

            This woman is raised in a culture which values filial piety (respect of parents) above all others. She tries her best to honor her parents and not to answer back whenever her mother verbally abuse her. However it became too much to bear. Her attempts to gently rebuke her parents are met with statements like ‘’ You rude , ungrateful child . The clothes on your back , the food on the table , your education , where does it come from ?…”

            Should this woman put her own well being first , which may require her to be disobedient to her parents ? Or should she sacrifice her own well being by keeping quiet for the sake of upholding the command to honor her parents?

          • LarryB says:

            SharonS
            “However have you made any effort to understand why it occur and how does it work? Is the description of idolatry in the Scriptures consistent with reality ?”

            Of course. I actually spend a lot of time on it. Fortunately since leaving Christianity my understanding of idolatry has grown significantly. In trying to understand I do my best to take “me” out of the equation. The basic understanding of idolatry most here would agree to be the same thing. For other things, It can be difficult because everyone does not believe the same thing nor teach the same thing. There can be times when two opinions can be right. But there are people I have come to trust. Like the many here who try to help you.
            Can I use stealing as a tool to get close to god? If I stole a cross or religious items, maybe some priestly clothes, while surrounding my self with religious items may make me feel close to god it wouldn’t make me close to god. Learning that stealing is wrong is only a beginning.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi LarryB,

            Thank you for your answer.

            You still have not answered one question.Is the picture of idolatry described by the prophets an accurate picture of how you perceive and interact with God when you were Christian?

            If you don’t mind , I would like to ask another two questions . Do you see yourself having a closer relationship with God when you were Christian or after you left Christianity?

            What are your thoughts on blessings Jewish men recite where they bless God for not being born Gentile? Does being aware that there is such a blessing in Jewish liturgy affect your convictions and the relationship you have with God ? If no why?

            Thank you

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Sharon,

            The point with the Shema isn’t to say that the Torah covenant belongs to non-Jews. But to say that if a gentile is wholehearted with God in the same way, then they can have a relationship that reflects similar intimacy.

            The marriage metaphor probably doesn’t apply to gentiles, because there’s a lot to its significance on a national level. So I probably wasn’t right to suggest that.

            But a personal relationship that God has with someone can be whatever He wants it to be. It doesn’t matter what metaphor it’s called by. If God wants to relate with someone then that is infinitely everything for that person, no matter what outward form the relationship takes.

            And choosing to have no other idols produces intimacy with Him for Jews, not just because it is part of the commanded covenant (that is part of it), but also because of how it brings the general human relationship to a level of commitment, focus, and openness to Him. That second thing is what we have access to.

            I think in the end it has to come down to surrender to God’s choice in the matter, and appreciation for what the gift of closeness with us actually is. None of us will ever find the end of that love. This means His love isn’t limited, so we don’t need to compare how much of it we get. We can just keep finding more and more of it.

            I guess it’s like how we can have a beautiful and very meaningful relationship with a friend without marrying them. We don’t have to be jealous of our friends’ spouses. And the fact that we aren’t married to our friend doesn’t need to stop the depth of the friendship from developing limitlessly in non-marital ways. Nor does the fact that someone has friends other than us need to put limits on their friendship with us. Since God isn’t bound by time or place, He is entirely undistracted from us, no matter how many others He also loves. I think this means that if God is real, then He is the end of all our struggles to be perfectly loved. Whatever form that takes, it’s worth focusing on the infinite love that is there, rather than focusing on the finite things we don’t have, no matter how genuinely meaningful they are for those who have them.

            About the woman who is in tension about honouring her parents, I think that the rabbinic opinion in this does recognise cases of abuse. And honour can take greater or lesser forms, depending on what personal boundaries (physical and emotional) are needed.

          • Annelise says:

            PS This isn’t to say that finite blessings are irrelevant, nor to diminish the value of the Torah covenant. But just to say that
            1. On an ever deeper level, there are no limits, and
            2. Whatever path belongs to us is the one where we will find that blessing.

            Also have a look at Job 38-9. Job wrestles with the way in which revealed blessing isn’t equally experienced by all people who live righteously. In the end, God asks him if he knows all the ins and outs of creation. Job realises that it’s a mystery he can’t really delve into. “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” (We all do this.) How can we know exactly how God’s fairness really plays out, in the intricacy of all things?

          • LarryB says:

            SharonS
            Since I do not know exactly what your asking in the first question I will not answer the second.
            “What are your thoughts on blessings Jewish men recite where they bless God for not being born Gentile? Does being aware that there is such a blessing in Jewish liturgy affect your convictions and the relationship you have with God ? If no why?”

            I have not heard this blessing but I heard a blessing once where Jewish men thank god he wasn’t made a woman. The answer absolutely made sense. So no, this does not bother me.

          • Dina says:

            Hi Sharon,

            It’s nice to talk to you too! I have a lot to say but very little time, so I will quickly address the morning blessings, and then I hope to have more time perhaps next week to talk about our relationship to God.

            Traditional Jews are profoundly grateful to our Creator for gifting us with His commandments. Every opportunity to serve God gives us great joy, so the more commandments one is responsible to fulfill, the greater the gratitude. Jews are responsible for more commandments than gentiles and slaves, which is why we thank God for not making us gentiles and slaves. We are merely expressing our gratitude for being given more opportunities to serve God. Similarly, women are exempt from nearly all time-bound commandments, due to the nature of motherhood. The demands of child rearing, including pregancies and births, render the task of fulfilling all the commandments too difficult and burdensome. Men therefore carry many more obligations than women. In the blessing for not making them a woman, men are thanking God for these extra opportunities to serve Him.

            Jewish tradition holds that men are closer to the animal nature than women (e.g., they have a stronger sexual urge). Therefore, women are created closer to God’s will. Women don’t need the extra commandments given to men in order to foster greater closeness with God, because they are already closer.That is why women thank God “for having made me according to His will.”

            I hope this clarifies.

            If it does clarify, then I hope it helps you to exercise caution in judging what you read in Jewish traditional books, like prayerbooks and Talmudic quotes. Instead, please ask us!

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,

            Thank you for explaining the proper meaning of the blessings.

            To clarify , I did mention about these blessings in my conversation with Rabbi Blumenthal on this very thread last week. I brought it up again in my conversation with LarryB. Just want to make it clear since you just join the conversation.

            I have always make it a point to ask about quotes I found in the Talmud or other Jewish sources , be it in this blog or through emails with Rabbis. If you may recall , I have discussed with you on quotes which I find problematic on more than one occasion here .

            Your explanation of the blessings make sense . However I am concerned as to why the appreciation to God for being able to serve him as a Jew is not expressed differently. I have come across terms such as thanking God for setting the Jewish people apart as a nation for serving Him , or for the gift of the Torah. That would have been more reasonable compared to thanking God for not being born a Gentile, Jew or slave. Certainly food for thought.

            Thank you.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi LarryB,

            Thank you for your replies to my questions , though you did not answer all of them.

            My apologies if my questions make you uncomfortable or offends your sensitivities. It seems almost every non Jew that is pursuing Judaism whom I have interacted with , including you seem to have a positive experience except for me. I thought you must have asked these questions at a certain point. It seems you are not affected by the quotes / blessings which seems to potray Gentiles unfavorably. I could something from you.

            I am quite surprised that you see some sense behind the blessings for not being created woman . I don’t see how this blessing makes sense, perhaps because it implies that a woman is a creature of lesser value. Perhaps I am a woman so I can’t help but being oversensitive about these things. It could have been more reasonable to reframe the blessing to sound like ” Blessed are you God for creating me as a man, so I can learn your Torah”.

            Why does this blessings make sense to you?

          • Annelise says:

            With that blessing, and the entire idea of a unique Jewish covenant, they either come from a false sense of being superior or else they come from a different and more humility-invoking source.

            When someone is concerned about them, it’s because they feel it may be the first option. And when people accept them, it’s because they believe it’s the second.

          • Sharon S says:

            I would appreciate is someone can provide a knowledgeable and honest response to the following questions:

            a.Are the Three Blessings as per the Siddur (the blessings for not being born a Gentile , slave or a woman) consistent with the Torah where it is stated that God created mankind in His own Image (Genesis 1:27)?

            b.Rabbi Blumenthal explained here https://judaismresources.net/2019/12/22/how-not-to-respond-to-a-christian-missionary-part-1/#comment-80819 that God’s relationship with Gentiles is within the normal order , but His relationship with Abraham and his children is something that goes beyond the general order.
            1.It seems from the above explanation , that the Gentile , slave , woman and the Jewish man are all created in the image of God . The position of the Jewish nation is made higher due to the marital covenant the nation has with God.
            2.If based on the above logic , position of the Gentile , slave and woman should remain the same before or after the election of the Jewish nation. The position of the Jewish nation has been elevated due to the nature of relationship which goes beyond the general order.
            3.It seems that the Three blessings imply that the Gentile , slave and woman’s position have been made lower or inferior upon the election of the Jewish nation at a certain point in history.

            c.Is Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 25:21 – that “there is no comparison between the prayer of a righteous person who is the son of a righteous person and the prayer of a righteous person the child of a wicked person” consistent with Ezekiel 18 and Psalm 145:18?

            Thank you. Shabbat Shalom😊

          • Annelise says:

            A&B. I’m not sure if it necessarily means that everyone else became lower with the advent of Torah. I do agree with you that this blessing could be worded better.

            Regarding the way gentiles are sometimes spoken about, the Jewish community is only just starting to have more connection with righteous gentiles. It’s taking time for inclusive attitudes and language to catch up with that fact.

            C. I think this is referring solely to the concept of God accepting prayer because of the merit of one’s ancestors. The emphasis isn’t on any lack in Rebecca, but rather the emphasis is on the extra blessing Isaac had. Rebecca is elsewhere described very highly for her righteousness in an unrighteous setting, and the merits of both a baal teshuvah and a righteous gentile are also spoken about very highly.

            In any case, this description isn’t prophecy or law…it’s not necessarily considered 100% infallible, it’s an authoritative opinion.

            Also, as it’s a teaching designed to portray a certain emphasis… unfortunately, it can be written in a kind of short form understandable to the original audience, and there isn’t always immediate clarity in that for later readers. Jewish interpretation is a lot about considering wider context.

          • Annelise says:

            Also, the Talmud elsewhere has a high view of women, which means that the three blessings can’t merely imply spiritual inferiority.

          • Annelise says:

            By “I’m not sure if it means…”, I was trying to say I’m not so sure that it necessarily means that everyone else became lowered. It could possibly just mean thankfulness for the extra mitzvot.

            For a Jewish man attending prayers every day, it can seem like a burden. Perhaps this prayer is intended as an encouragement to value the responsibility. The wording is unfortunate, but the community has a tradition about the meaning.

          • Annelise says:

            I’ve just read that many people think that these three blessings are more about being thankful for privilege in the sense of being immune from certain difficulties in the ancient world in which Jews were living. Being a woman or a slave meant really having less rights, and more risks, in life. Being a gentile (apart from a convert) usually meant living in a far more violent and immoral culture. I can see how this would make being male and Jewish seem like as much of a blessing as being free from slavery. So that’s another possibility, and it’s one that some people keep in mind while praying it.

          • LarryB says:

            SharonS
            I’ve read different reasons why men thank god for not being made a woman but Dina gave one right after my comment that’s makes as much sense to me. Hope I did this right.
            https://judaismresources.net/2019/12/22/how-not-to-respond-to-a-christian-missionary-part-1/#comment-82103

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Annelise,

            Thank you for your reply to my questions. I have some understanding on the intent that the Jewish community have when reciting these blessings. It seems from your explanation that there is no intention by the reciters of this blessing to marginalize Gentiles , slaves and women. Unfortunately the wording of these blessings can be misleading to one who is not familiar with Jewish practices.

            If the issue is just in how the blessing is worded then there should be no reason for concern. However the Jewish community should consider to reword this blessing , especially in the age where there is a movement of righteous Gentiles.

            Nevertheless , I just can’t help but wonder why this blessing is not worded in a more positive manner from the start, since the Torah clearly states that God created man in His image.

            I do appreciate your explanation on Rashi’s commentary . I too have heard of that opinion before. Exodus 20:6 and Deuteronomy 7:9 describes God as keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations so it seems quite reasonable. Again , this means that there is a certain advantage in having righteous ancestors -which is beyond anyone’s control. I also have concern on whether this contradicts Ezekiel 18 .

            This commentary also affects the confidence I have in the power of prayer. If there is some sort of distinction due to factors beyond my control , how can I be confident to approach God and believe that He listens to our prayers? The Jew may invoke the merits of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob but the Gentile has no merit to fall back on.

            In addition , I have known of people who are deemed wicked by society whose children turn out to be decent people . These children grew up watching the behavior of the wicked parent but they chose not to do the same. Does God see their efforts as less worthy just because of their wicked parents?

            Again , thank you so much for your response.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Sharon,

            I guess there are at least two different historical moments involved here: when those blessings were composed, and when they were officially accepted into the daily prayers. As well as the process in between. We can’t know exactly what the originator of the blessings had in mind. They may have simply been subverting a similar Greek expression of gratitude for not being a woman, a slave, or a barbarian… and changing it into an expression of gratitude for npt being a pagan (which the word gentile implied). But if that’s the case, it seems to have lacked some sensitivity, I agree.

            By the time it was accepted by the Sages, I read (but didn’t see a source for this) that they actually discussed whether it may seem demeaning to women. But they decided to word it in the negative formulation because to them it seemed more humble (and by extension, less chauvinist). We can’t exactly know their reasons for valuing these blessings and wording them that way, or choosing not to add any explanation to the text itself, but they may have felt that the oral tradition around it was enough (since oral tradition was the primary mode of communicating Jewish teaching at the time; writing was very secondary and full of omissions, almost as if it were just a set of notes to help jog the memory. If the source I read is right, then we do know that they were troubled by it too, and discussed it.

            A difficulty of exile is that since the Sanhedrin accepted it, it can only be changed now by another Sanhedrin.

            About prayer, I actually find it difficult to understand it much. Why would God help someone who knew how to pray more than someone who didn’t know how to pray? Doesn’t his compassion extend to both equally?

            Im any case, the teaching about Isaac and Rebecca’s prayers may or may not be accurate. It’s just an opinion. The main point is that it highlights the idea of generational blessing. But there are so many other types of blessing in the scriptures, too. The Talmud itself is full of disagreements, and its main authority lies in halacha, not the accurate telling of history. There’s room for Orrhodox Jews to respectfully and carefully question some of the attitudes expressed in it, as long as they stay within the parameters of the Talmud as a whole.

          • Annelise says:

            PS I realised I didn’t reply to the question about Ezekiel 18 and whether it contradicts other biblical verses. I agree that these verses are difficult to compare-

            “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5-6)

            “The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:1-4)

            Either they contradict, or they complement each other somehow. It’s historically possible that Ezekiel wasn’t aware of the other verse, if Exodus was completed late. From the way Ezekiel has written it, that does look likely. But it’s also still possible that he was talking about something slightly different, and complementing or qualifying the idea in Exodus.

            If Exodus and Ezekiel are both truly prophetic then they are somehow both true. Exodus 20:5 is a very difficult verse. But Ezekiel offers hope.

            So the question is whether both Exodus and Ezekiel are divinely inspired.

          • Annelise says:

            And the same with the concept of Isaac and Rebecca’s prayers being answered at different levels… if that is true, then it still doesn’t contradict Ezekiel 18, Psalm 145, etc. They remain valid, and if all of these verses and interpretations are true then they simply shed light on each other.

            But the idea you quoted about Isaac and Rebecca holds less authority than the biblical texts, as it isn’t prophecy and it isn’t specifically halacha… so it may potentially just be an opinion, intended to emphasise the generational blessing concept, but not contradicting the many other circumstances in which blessing can exist. I just don’t think we can read too much into it, and certainly not in a way that contradicts scriptures.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Annelise,

            Thank you for your effort in providing an honest and knowledgeable response. I learnt a lot from them.

            Ezekiel 18 is consistent with Deuteronomy 24:16 -Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.

            I did put up a question on Exodus 20:5-6 in this blog before , unfortunately I can’t remember the discussion thread. If I’m not mistaken , you responded to the question. I understand from the commentaries that God delays the punishment of those who hate Him for up to 3 or 4 generations in order for them to repent. He will punish the fourth generation if they, like their ancestor continue to hate Him. This is so that God will not be viewed as “forgetting” the original sin (Chizkuni).

            If based on the above, then Ezekiel 18, Exodus 20:5-6 and Deuteronomy 24:16 are consistent.

            I agree with you that the commentary by Rashi (on Genesis 25:21) is an opinion, but it is a very influential opinion due to his stature and position in Jewish thought. Rashi’s opinion could have very well reflected how the Jewish community understood the scope and impact of inter generational blessing. Hence it has a lot of weight.

            If the above verses are considered, along with Rashi’s opinion on Genesis 25:21, then the message seem to be as follows:

            a.God blesses the descendant of those who
            love Him and keeps His commands

            b. God punishes the third or fourth generation of those who hate Him if they do not repent.

            c. Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.

            *However I don’t understand why did God kill the firstborns of the Egyptians , including that of animals during the last plague . At first glance it does not jive with Exodus 20:5

            d. However there is a distinction between the prayers of those who have enjoy the merits of righteous ancestors and those who do not.

            Your responses really help me to see the situation more objectively . Thank you.

          • Dina says:

            Hi Sharon,

            I will attempt to answer your questions, and then I will explain why I believe you are missing the forest for the trees.

            I answered your question about the morning blessings. Although I explained that according to our tradition, we understand these blessings to mean that women are actually spiritually superior to men (meaning, they are naturally closer to God and therefore require fewer commandments to bring them that closeness), you still seem to think that the blessings imply spiritual inferiority. I may have misunderstood you, in which case, please disregard this. But if I understand you correctly, the blessings seem insensitive to you. It’s important to note that the Jewish prayers were composed for a strictly Jewish audience who understood the prayers in the context of the Jewish tradition. Jews themselves are not offended by the wording because we understand the context. The rabbis who composed these prayers two thousand or so years ago did not consider that millennia later, the Internet would allow gentiles access to these prayers, and that, among the very few who will become aware of them, still fewer might be offended. Once the prayers were set by the Sanhedrin, no one afterward had the authority to change the prayers anyway.

            You asked about the prayer of the righteous whose parents are righteous compared with those whose parents are wicked. You asked if “wicked” refers to gentiles, and the answer is no. This statement of Rashi’s is a general one and does not refer to Jews or gentiles. In addition, the whole notion bothered you. Allow me to explain this with an analogy.

            Suppose Mr. Smith is a very wealthy man. When he dies, he bequeaths his wealth to his son, Mr. Smith Junior. Mr. Smith Junior is a hardworking entrepreneur in his own right, and he goes on to amass great wealth in addition to his inheritance from his father.

            Then we have Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones is a homeless drug addict. He mostly neglected Mr. Jones Junior, who grew up on the streets. But Mr. Jones Junior discovered the world of books at a young age. He would sneak into the library and read for hours. Because of this, he did so well in school that he won a scholarship to a prestigious college. He became a famous surgeon and extremely wealthy. He made as much money as Mr. Smith Junior.

            But who has more money? Mr. Smith Junior has more money because he has not only the money he earned but also the accumulated wealth from his father.

            Does this make Mr. Smith Junior a better person? Of course not. In fact, we admire Mr. Jones Junior more, because while Mr. Smith Junior was lucky to be born into wealth and privilege and his path to success was assured as long as he followed his father’s work ethic, Mr. Jones Junior had to pull himself up strenuously by his bootstraps in order to succeed.

            The righteous son of a righteous man has his own merits plus the accumulated merits of his father. This does not make him a better person, just luckier. But the righteous son of a wicked man has to work so much harder to get there. That is why the Talmud teaches that righteous people are not worthy to stand in the presence of those who had to do the hard work of returning to God.

            However, I think you are missing the forest for the trees. By trying to learn the weekly Torah portion, which is intended for a learned Jewish audience who understand it in a context which is completely unknown to you, and reading Jewish liturgy whose context is also unfamiliar, you are agonizing over minute details that are, I believe, irrelevant to figuring out the larger truths, such as which religion is the true religion.

            My advice (which you are free to do with whatever you like), is to forget the trees for a moment and focus on the forest. Is the Torah true? And if so, was it superseded by the Christian scriptures? I think those are the main questions.

            One thing baffles me. I am impressed with your honesty in admitting that you are willing to reject uncomfortable truths and follow a theology that resonates with you even if it isn’t true. On the other hand, how are we supposed to approach dialogue honestly? Are you seeking the truth, or are you seeking comfort? If the truth doesn’t really matter because you are looking to justify continuing to believe in what feels good, is there a point to carrying on this dialogue? Please know that I am not, God forbid, trying to put you down or judge you. I am earnestly trying to understand you.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Dina,

            I think the forest and trees imagery is helpful. I can see two sides of it.

            I do agree that the question is whether Judaism is true, and if we know it is, then we can much more easily answer the questions being posed here.

            On the other hand, maybe consideration of the trees is one way to try and understand the forest. There’s no sure way to utterly prove that divine revelation happened at Sinai. So we’re left with a balancing scale for our credulity. Potential contradictions are on one side, and perceived reasons for belief are on the other side. Perhaps Sharon was troubled here by a potential contradiction, and part of her reason for asking was about trying to see how much it draws the scale to the side of doubt.

            I think Sharon’s decision to go with Christianity, while doubting it, because it resonated with her, could have been someone more than just willing acceptance of falsehood. She wrote about how she felt idolatry could bring someone closer to God. Perhaps this reflects a valuing of ‘poetic truth’; expecting that something that isn’t literally true, but has resonances of truth, might bring her close to the deeper truth in that way. I wrote why I think this doesn’t work in this instance, and I also think that the method of seeking an emotional resonance with something doesn’t guarantee its level of truth. But there is something in it, still. Poetic truths can sometimes be real, and while ever we’re lacking a foundation, they can often also be reassuring as a starting point.

            To Sharon- about the Genesis 25 interpretation, there’s a note in the version I read saying that it’s from Yevamot 64a. Here’s the set of sayings it’s in-
            R. Isaac stated: Our father Isaac was barren; for it is said, And Isaac entreated the Lord opposite his wife. It does not say ‘for his wife’ but opposite. This teaches that both were barren. If so, And the Lord let Himself be entreated of him should have read, And the Lord let Himself be entreated of them! — Because the prayer of a righteous man the son of a righteous man is not like the prayer of a righteous man the son of a wicked man.
            R. Isaac stated: Why were our ancestors barren? — Because the Holy One, blessed be He, longs to hear the prayer of the righteous.
            R. Isaac further stated: Why is the prayer of the righteous compared to a pitchfork? As a pitchfork turns the sheaves of grain from one position to another, so does the prayer of the righteous turn the dispensations of the Holy One, blessed be He, from the attribute of anger to the attribute of mercy.

            So it definitely is an influential opinion, and as you said it might rest on the concept in Torah as well. But not necessarily… it’s still possible according to Torah that Isaac and Rebecca’s prayers were equal.

            In any case, this cluster of teachings from the Talmud, at the same time as raising such a big question, also still very much affirms the high value in the prayer of any righteous person. I think this teaches that no matter what the answer is here, we don’t need to carefully compare how much merit we all have.

          • Annelise says:

            I didn’t mean credulity, I just looked up the meaning of it and it isn’t what I meant. I just meant ability to believe

          • Annelise says:

            And I meant, ” something more than just willing acceptance of falsehood” (not “someone more”)

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,

            I thought that this conversation I started would have come to an end, which is why I was surprised to see your comment. Anyway , thank you for your effort to respond, despite the busy schedule.

            I would like to request for you to watch again Rabbi Blumenthal’s video “Timeless Teaching” and his article titled “Do not do unto others” . Both is on Hillel’s teaching to the Gentile who came to him for conversion-“Do not do unto others that which you hate done unto yourself – that is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary, go and study it.”

            Let me clarify my concerns on the Three Blessings .I asked you why the appreciation to God for being able to serve him as a Jew is not expressed differently –such as “Blessed are you for creating me with better opportunities to learn the Torah”. I asked how are the Three blessings consistent with Genesis 1:27 and why this blessing is not worded in a more positive manner from the start, since the Torah clearly states that God created man in His image.

            In addition , I also sense a contradiction between what Hillel teaches the Gentiles and the formulation of these blessings by the Rabbis of the Sanhedrin . Imagine if the Gentile whom Hillel taught happen to go to the Temple and saw a Jewish man reciting the three blessings , what would he have thought? The point that these prayers are specifically intended for a Jewish audience is irrelevant. If the Torah teaches that man is created in God’s image , then shouldn’t there be some consideration to how the blessing is formulated in the first place, even if it is intended for the Jewish community? Why teach one and do another?

            You wrote that I am missing the forest for the trees. I should be focusing on the truth of Torah versus the Christian scriptures. In my opinion ,the trees are as important as the forest. It is not enough to see the beauty in the forest of Judaism from afar (helicopter view) without walking in and looking at the trees. It also does not mean that I should make a negative assessment of the forest just because I find not so beautiful trees . I don’t find any reason to withhold my tongue and not speak about these trees –such as the tree of the Three blessings , Zechus Avos (merits of one’s ancestor) , anti-Gentile elements in Jewish law and God forbid , whatever else (good or bad) I may discover as I walk in the forest of Judaism. This is so that we can discuss these trees and that misconceptions can be clarified. It is possible as can be seen from my conversation with Annelise.

            I appreciate your effort in reaching out , however I don’t think this dialogue can continue . You stated that the trees in the forest of Judaism I highlighted as irrelevant but I see it as important . It seems you are not sensitive enough to “Do not do unto others that which you hate done unto yourself” , which can be seen from the tone of your comment . In addition , it seems you have not read the conversation arising from this video “How NOT to respond to a Christian Missionary” (all 61 of them at the time of writing) to get a better picture of where I am coming from.

            All the best. Take care.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, I thought I would give a dialogue with you another shot, but apparently I am unworthy. I’m sorry I don’t meet your standards of kindness and sensitivity. Perhaps there are others here with more patience and humility and sensitivity who are willing to take over. Good luck, and I wish you well.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,

            I am not sure if you will read this comment or your reaction after reading this , but I need to share .

            Christian antisemitism was the very first dish which was served to me after I started to follow the blog and from our earliest conversations here . You frequently write about Christian antisemitism in your comments to Christians who come your way , including me , for us to be aware and to have a meaningful dialogue on this subject.

            I come away with the impression that Christian antisemitism and the evils of the Church as being the strongest polemics this blog is bringing up against Christianity. I was strongly influenced by the articles written by Rabbi Blumenthal , Jim and read a lot of your comments to Christian commenters on this subject.

            I decided to take the path of having a meaningful dialogue with you . You have recommended a few books on Christian antisemitism to me , which I promptly purchased all but one. I read William Nicholls’s Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate .That was a very hard book which brought me to tears and made me realise that I will never look at the Gospels the same way again. I come to realise that I may harbor attitudes towards the Jewish people I never thought I had and repented of them publicly in this very blog.

            I spent my resources to understand about this ugly blot in history , unfortunately still ongoing till today. I joined Jewish heritage tours to learn more about the Spanish inquisition when I had the opportunity to visit Europe. I was concerned each time I hear news of antisemitic attacks here and there. I donate to a Jewish organization dedicated to a Torah study on a regular basis. I did not expect anything in return, but I know I have been blessed through this.

            I come across many difficulties in exploring Judaism , which I have shared extensively here. I did not intend to find fault with Judaism, in fact I was hoping for the best. Unfortunately I come across one obstacle after another, each one more difficult than the one before.

            I did not intend to learn about the Jewish Siddur. I received an email from a Jewish organization which has the link to an online Siddur. I did not pay attention to it until recently , when I decided to recite the Jewish blessings to be closer to God. I was stunned when I come across the blessings for not being created a Gentile, woman and a slave. This is the hardest obstacle for me.

            I cannot imagine why the most persecuted people in all of history come out with a set of prayer that has the potential to marginalize almost all of humanity . I thought that your people, of all people should have known better. I read writings of Jews where the sanctity of life and concept of “b’tzelem elohim” (in God’s Image) is frequently spoken of. How can these sort of blessing , even though a mere three lines of it ever appear in your liturgy?

            I highlighted about these blessings with the hope that these concerns will be addressed. Unfortunately your response dissapointed me deeply. I had let go of my “vested interest” in Christianity – my cherished beliefs with the conviction that these same beliefs caused the misery of the Jewish people. It seems, to me that you are not willing to do the same.

            I’m sorry Dina if what I wrote in my previous comment and this offends you. I cherish all those whom I have known in this blog . I have learnt so much from you personally. I hope you will consider this with an open heart. We can continue if you still want to, provided if you are prepared open yourself as how I once did .

            Take care.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, I am deeply humbled that you took my recommendation for books seriously enough to read them, and that they changed your outlook.

            Perhaps you don’t mean to come across this way, but your comments feel like criticism. It seems like every issue you have with Judaism turns out the same way: to discuss the bigotry of Judaism. And it also seems like every answer given disappoints you. I appreciate that you’re trying so hard. I tried so hard as well, and yet I feel like I can never say the right thing. It seems like you have an impossible standard and harsh attitude to Judaism and an extremely low standard and forgiving attitude to everyone else. It’s hard to hear it. It’s discouraging.

            I don’t know why you are always so disappointed with my responses. I thought my response to your question on the morning blessings was a good one and a fair one. But I feel like no matter how careful I am to be sensitive, I end up saying something that makes you decide to end the conversation.

            Everyone has to take their own journey in his or her own way. You are on your journey, and you have to do it in your own way. I’m confused about where I stand with you, and I’m confused about where you stand with the truth. So I don’t really know what to say.

          • LarryB says:

            SharonS
            Here is a link to a video you might like, about the blessing of not being a woman.

          • LarryB says:

            Oops
            alephbeta.org/playlist/thank-god-for-not-being-a-jewish-woman
            Just add the https://www.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,

            I would like to respond to your post here https://judaismresources.net/2019/12/22/how-not-to-respond-to-a-christian-missionary-part-1/#comment-82599 by requesting you to consider this scenario. You may ask your husband or the men in your family for their opinion:

            Let’s imagine that you and your family are visiting the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem. It was in the morning. Both you and your husband decide to perform the morning prayers .You went over to the women’s section of the Kotel and your husband to the men’s section.

            There were a mixture of Jewish and non Jewish crowds at the Kotel and anyone can go to the wall to pray. Your husband is getting ready to say the blessings. Suddenly an Asian looking man just stood beside your husband. This man seemed to be well versed in Hebrew as he was seen praising to God aloud using Hebrew terms. There were no other Jewish men around and both your husband and this man are standing side by side ( I am not sure if a minyan is required for the morning blessings- let’s assume it is not).

            Would your husband recite the three blessings ( blessing God for not being born Gentile, woman or slave) confidently even in the presence of this non Jew? If yes, why?

          • Dina says:

            I actually asked my husband, and he said yes. He said that if the man would ask him about it, he would explain.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Dina (and Sharon),

            I’ve also had the feeling that even if I give an answer that seems to answer some or all of Sharon’s concerns, the question just comes back to the same place. I can see how this feels like an anti-Semitic bias, and it may be, because anti-Semitism has saturated many places in the world so much.

            The other side of it, though, is that maybe Sharon is questioning Judaism more thoroughly because it’s the religion she really wants to be able to accept. If she were trying to accept another religion, she might be asking similarly hard questions.

            The main thing is to try to focus on the issues, rather than getting personal. But that’s always a challenge if we try to highlight what we see as a problem in someone’s entire approach. It can feel like a personal attack to them, when it’s actually on point with the discussion. So that’s really difficult.

          • Annelise says:

            Dina, with the three blessings seeming insensitive, is there any connection with marit ayin- in the outward appearance of an attitude that isn’t right?

            But maybe the Sages felt that onlookers would ask if needed.

          • Dina says:

            I don’t think so, Annelise. We are so much more sensitive today. Back then, there was no PC culture, women had no rights, slavery was commonplace, xenophobia was normal…I don’t think it ever even occurred to them that anyone would take offense. I think historical context is so important when we examine the particular wording of such things. Does that make sense?

          • Annelise says:

            I think they were aware of the fact that gentiles may hear them, though, and they knew the community could be threatened with hostility if they were perceived to see gentiles as inferior. This is why it’s permitted to break Shabbat laws to save a gentile, and I think I remember a reference to something like that the gentiles would attack them if they heard what had been said (I just can’t remember the details of that one).

            I think Jesus may have been criticising these (or similar) blessings in Luke 18:11.

            Maybe the Sanhedrin chose to leave the blessings as they were, mainly so as not to accomodate the criticisms of their opponents… because they wanted to keep a clear division between the Jewish and gentile societies, and avoid seeming to allow general intermingling in a way that could have negative influence? Just a suggestion, I don’t know.

          • Annelise says:

            I think it may be wise after all to consider closing this question if it doesn’t resolve soon. The reason is that in an environment of conversation that keeps getting heated and interpersonally divided, something as historically sensitive as the integrity of rabbinic Judaism might not be able to be discussed so well.

            I guess debate is one of the most emotionally triggering forms of communication, because unlike friendship (which just needs healthy boundaries), debate can inherently appear to set people against each other. It isn’t always easy to keep it relaxed, unless there’s a secure foundation to build it on. So I deeply respect Sharon’s feeling of wanting to step back from it, and agree that it may be a good idea at some point soon.

          • Dina says:

            Annelise, I so admire your sensitivity and empathy in the conversation. What you say is very wise. I will try only to answer questions as long as they are asked and will pull back as soon as I sense that Sharon wants me to. I hope I will have the sense to sense that!

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,
            Thank you for your prompt reply , and for your patience.

            Annelise have explained my intent well-I would like to understand Judaism , hence the many comments and questions. However , I may have taken on the wrong approach . I focus a bit too much on the bigotry in Judaism without making an effort to understand your point of view.

            That is why I decided to change approach and to put in a scenario in order to understand the Jewish perspective on the Three Blessing.
            I am surprised by your husband’s reply. If you don’t mind , I would like to ask two more questions:

            a. What explanation would your husband give to the Asian onlooker ?
            b. How does your children , in particular your sons regard Gentiles and women?
            Does reciting this prayer on a daily basis have an impact on their perception of
            these groups?

            You don’t have to answer these questions if it is too intrusive . I will understand.
            Its probably late where you are. Do take your time.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, to answer your questions:

            1. My husband would give the same response I gave you.

            2. My children regard gentiles and women the same way I do, as people who are created in the image of God and deserving of respect and kindness just the same as anyone else.

            3. Reciting these prayers on a daily basis has not had a negative impact on their perception of these groups, because of their understanding of the context.

  8. Dina says:

    Rabbi B., I just watched the video and it’s brilliant!

  9. Sharon S says:

    Hi Annelise,

    I am responding to your comments here https://judaismresources.net/2019/12/22/how-not-to-respond-to-a-christian-missionary-part-1/#comment-82080

    Thank you for the time and effort you have put in to share your thoughts on how one can achieve a close relationship with God , as well as how idolatry can hinder that relationship. You have written a lot about this , in our conversations here and in other threads . My apologies if my comments do not seem to reply directly to your or if I seem unappreciative of the points you raised in them.

    You wrote that we need to worship God in whatever way that He reveals , and that He knows better than we do on what the relationship should look like. There are no limits when it comes to relating to God in a deeper level , and the path we are lead to is the one we will find blessings. There is no competition and thereby no need for jealousy for God’s love is infinite within the paths He has assigned for us.

    We also discussed about the Torah and that it is revealed in the context of a marriage relationship between God and the Jewish people. You acknowledge that the marriage metaphor does not apply to the gentile. However the command against idolatry, though addressed to the Jewish nation , brings the human relationship with God to deeper level-something that Gentiles have an access to as well.

    You wrote of how we can have a beautiful relationship with a friend without marrying them and I completely agree. I have come to accept , despite initial difficulties that the relationship that the Jewish nation has with God is intimate and special . I acknowledge that there may be a certain limitation in how I can relate to God as compared to a Jewish person. Perhaps there is a certain depth or an added dimension, similar to a marriage relationship that I can never reach and which I fully accept . I know that my relationship with God would never reach the depth of faith , trust and closeness achieved when I was a Christian. This assessment is not based on feelings. The New Testament teaches us that Gentiles are able to share in the covenant that Israel has with God thanks to what Jesus achieved on the Cross.

    I follow Torah portions every week by listening to commentaries by Rabbis and other learned Jews , to bring myself closer to God. I have always tried my best to relate to lessons from these portions . I believe there a great lessons to be learned , but it is frequently overshadowed by the manner in which these lessons are presented . The lessons from the Torah which seems to be universal , is presented as though it is only applicable to the Jewish nation alone.

    Perhaps these commentaries are meant for a Jewish audience and I should not take the manner it is presented too seriously. Fortunately or unfortunately , I have stumbled across certain concepts and commentaries which seems to imply that the marriage relationship between God and the Jewish nation brings a greater distinction between the Jew and Gentile when it comes to our standing with God , than what is seen at face value when one read the Torah.

    I have come across two of these distinctions , one of which highlighted here , which seems to imply that being born out of the covenant relationship reduces one’s value in the eyes of the Creator. On one occasion, while looking up sources for a Torah portion , I come across a commentary by Rashi on Genesis 25:21 which stated that “there is no comparison between the prayer of a righteous person who is the son of a righteous person and the prayer of a righteous person the child of a wicked person”. Hence I learnt that there is a distinction between the prayers of a Jew , by virtue of being the righteous person who is son of a righteous person and a righteous Gentile –a righteous person the child of a wicked person. This distinction , if I am not mistaken is at an individual and not at a national level. This distinction has to do with the merits of our ancestors –something that both the Jew and Gentile have no control of.

    I also find Dina’s parable as a further confirmation to the greater distinction that the Jew has over the non-Jew when it comes to our standing with God. That is why I needed to respond to her parable by putting in additional scenarios in order to illuminate this distinction more clearly.

    My parable of the woman who is in tension about honoring our parents reflects the tension that I feel when I learnt of these “further distinctions” , which in my opinion is beyond the “marriage versus friendship” the Jew and Gentile has with God. These distinctions has created walls in my relationship with God –walls which are impenetrable and hard to break . I have made some effort , but I learnt of another further distinctions in the process-one more damaging to me personally , details of which have been shared in this thread.

    I do not mean to put the Jewish people in a bad light , and I apologize if my comments made it seem that way. My intent has always been to highlight what I have found in the pursuit of truth . I believe that one should not give up pursuing the truth even though one has found a belief, which satisfies the criterion for truth. However that does not mean that it is wrong for one to admit having struggles with difficult truths irrespective of whether the belief is true or otherwise. These difficult truths are significant in itself and should be discussed rather than shoved aside just because the belief in which these truths are found is true.

    I am grateful for the opportunity to be on “speaking terms” with you again . However I am sensing that this conversation may be futile in the long run. We have had similar conversations in the past where it ended badly between us , of which I accept full responsibility. As such , I think it best to end the conversation here . Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I hope you will consider my comment with an open heart. Take care.

    • Annelise says:

      Hi Sharon,

      Thanks for your comment. It seems that we’re hearing each other more now. We both brought our insecurities to the conversation, before. I felt I needed space from it because when I was younger, I had a painful and confusing mentoring relationship with a leader who has many great qualities and teachings (which I still value), but who could also be reactive, socially divisive, and deeply concerned about not being rejected or seen as having less status. I don’t blame her at all, I know this came from her own pain and she meant only well. But I may have projected emotions from that experience into our conversation.

      For me, and maybe for us both, the conflict felt threatening because of long-past experiences. Maybe we both unintentionally reopened past wounds, and that’s one of the difficult things in the human experience… a lot of trauma from long before our births keeps being passed on, till we find healing for parts of it.

      I think some of the points I made about not dividing people from each other were probably valid and important. But I might have also been unconsciously pushing you to see if you would react in the same way as the mentor from my teens, not giving you enough affirmation, and trying to defend myself. I should have stepped back from overly-heated conflict sooner, focused more on communication and on your sense of safety/belonging, which I owed to you as a fellow person and fellow traveller on the same path. We have a lot of values and interests in common, too. I’m really sorry for the painful experience this brought you.

      I’m ok with either continuing or closing the discussion. I don’t have a lot of time still, as I’m juggling a lot with family, but I value the conversation and learn from it. I share your feeling of not wanting to get to the point of interpersonal conflict again, even though calmer disagreement and discussion can be really beneficial. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if I can handle it better a second time, and I do find it hard to make the boundaries I need in a way that doesn’t have any hint of personal criticism or bluntness. But I’m open to trying, if you think there’s anything more to talk through.

      One thing I think is important is to frame this conversation in a way that doesn’t polarise the perspectives on the Jewish marriage covenant with God, into being either overly exaggerated or overly diminished. What a few of us have been saying is that you’re overstating the difference between the Jewish closeness with God and the gentile experience of relationship with Him. The natural main argument of disagreement with that involves showing the similarities. But that shouldn’t involve implying that the national marriage involved in the Torah covenant is any less than the deeply meaningful gift the scriptures portray it to be for those who inherit it or choose to join it. If this marriage with Israel was placed in the world as a light, then one element of its purpose is to elevate the world to the same level eventually (part by part). So bringing it down is like covering its light and losing it. Instead, we can all share in each other’s unique joys, and this truly uplifts us all. A lot of your last comment reflects this kind of mutually respecting and non-polarising dynamic. This is what the discussion needs to keep as a foundation.

      *

      One thought I want to add is that we all face immense limits in our relationship with God.

      Some people are unaware of monotheism. According to the Jewish understanding, they can relate with God only through ways that are less verbal, and less clear.

      Some humans have less mitzvot than others. (No one living today has as many mitzvot as those living in Temple times.)

      Some are living in doubt and uncertainty, and don’t know why Hashem isn’t revealing to us more clarity about His existence or His words.

      Some have faith in Torah, but yearn very much for the restoration of the kingdom after thousands of years waiting in exile.

      Some are going through hard suffering, and God’s helping, nurturing hand feels very distant.

      Even the high priest when entering the most holy place, and the prophets when experiencing visions, were very keenly aware of these limits. God is more than we could possibly know in our senses or our mental understanding, and many of His commandments and decisions go beyond our comprehension. His glory and majesty are impossible for a finite person to fully bear.

      So everything in our relationship with Him has to come through the channel of His interactions with us. That’s in a finite sense that does hold both freedom and limits.

      What this experience brings is the necessity of surrender to whatever God’s will is in the situation. That pain helps us to more deeply feel our finiteness. It brings us to have a clearer sense of what is beyond the horizon of our perceptions… and a closer relationship… because we lean onto Him when we have little else to stand on. This is painful, and also very precious. It somehow transcends some of the limits, turning them inside-out.

      The mitzvot tend to fall into the same category, because they can be difficult.

      Our various feelings of agnosticism, of being given a lesser form of intimacy, and anything else that leaves us feeling the distance between creation and our Creator, are a chance to surrender. And surrendering to the way we need Him to sustain us brings our senses close to truth, and to Him.

      • Annelise says:

        PS Christianity isn’t the only one to believe that the messianic era takes away the separations between Jew and gentile, and the separation between holiness and the everyday world. Judaism teaches that too. Christians think it has already happened through Jesus. But many traditional Jews think that it’s happening gradually, through the healing of the world. In a communal sense, we can all take part in it.

        • Annelise says:

          I don’t mean the messianic era entirely takes away the distinctions… even Christianity doesn’t teach that… but it immerses the world in the knowledge of God.

  10. Dina says:

    Hi Folks,

    I am writing a general response to comments made here and elsewhere.

    Some people comb through Jewish writings to find negative ideas about gentiles and use those finds to criticize Jews and Judaism. They then contrast these ideas and teachings with the universal message of love and salvation spread by Christianity.

    This method falls apart under scrutiny.

    Two important problems plague this investigation into Judaism. One is historical context. Two is a shocking double standard.

    Let us examine the historical context first. For nearly all of Jewish history, Jews were surrounded by people who dismissed the sanctity of human life and who oppressed the Jewish people time and time again. For all of the Jewish suffering endured, you could fairly expect a lot of bitterness toward their gentile neighbors in Jewish writings. And yet, there is none. You can find a few, a very few, mild statements where Jews seem to perhaps express their superiority. But I say that it would be unfair to blame them for feeling superior. They were highly educated and literate, even the poorest among them, they were gentle, they spent their lives looking out for each other–while surrounded by mostly illiterate barbarians who took every opportunity to hurt them. The people they were surrounded by were people they could have looked upon with contempt, and yet they did not. In contrast with the few negative things gentiles could find written about themselves, they rarely if ever quote the following teachings:

    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).

    To any reasonable person, the fact that this is what Jews said about their barbaric oppressors should be mind blowing. One cannot escape the conclusion that Jews are the ones who followed Jesus’s teachings to love your enemies and to turn the other cheek.

    That’s the historical context.

    It’s hard for me to write about the double standard because it is so upsetting. While Jews were busy with their lives, mostly not paying attention to the surrounding people and not being bitter about their lot, Christians were OBSESSED with the Jewish people. Can you imagine early Christians (and even later Christians into the first half of the twentieth century) writing anything about Jews that compares with the above teachings about gentiles? Instead, Christians poured rivers of ink expressing their contempt and hatred for Jews and Judaism. Don’t take my word for it. Google early church fathers and anti-semitism and see what you get. Read Martin Luther’s novel-length work, “On the Jews and Their Lies.” Read Augustine. These are all people, by the way, who are still studied and admired today in Christendom.

    Worst of all is the “New Testament.” That is the root from which Christian Jew hatred sprouted.

    It is a strange double standard to complain about the morning blessings while holding up the “New Testament”–the “New Testament,” for crying out loud!–as the message of universal love.

    Now, I need to say this, because someone out there will accuse me of hating Christians. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today especially, many Christians love Jews and support Israel, and no one is more grateful for that than I. Throughout Christianity’s dark history of persecution, there were individuals who bucked the trend and made it their mission to help the beleaguered Jews. Often, this was done at great personal risk, such as Christians who risked their lives to save Jewish ones during the Holocaust. It must be pointed out that these were the ones who were generally the exception.

    That said, it is tiresome to hear about the good Christianity has done in the world while ignoring the evil.

    Much has been said about Christian persecution of the Jews. I will not trod that ground again here. Instead, let us focus on how Christians treated each other.

    It is amazing to me that Christians can complain about the wording “Who has not made me a woman” and not be horrified by the book Malleus Maleficarum. This fifteenth-century treatise, which was written by two Catholic priests (or monks, or something like that) and endorsed by the pope, not only screamed misogyny in passages such as these:

    What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colours!…The many lusts of men lead them into one sin, but the lust of women leads them into all sins; for the root of all woman’s vices is avarice…And the tears of woman are a deception, for they may spring from true grief, or they may be a snare. When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil…

    The third reason is that they have slippery tongues, and are unable to conceal from the fellow-women those things which by evil arts they know; and, since they are weak, they find an easy and secret manner of vindicating themselves by witchcraft…

    But the natural reason is that she is more carnal than a man, as is clear from her many carnal abominations. And it should be noted that there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is, a rib of the breast, which is bent as it were in a contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives…

    It would be nice if it just ended there, but this book became the backbone of the three-centuries-long hysteria that swept Europe, taking the lives of countless victims. While some of the victims were men and even children as young as three, the overwhelming majority were women, thanks at least in part to the Malleus Maleficarum. Historians don’t have an exact number of the victims; estimates range from 500,000 to nine million. From my readings on the subject, I would say that the true number is somewhere in between. This is all without going into detail on how evidence was obtained (it wasn’t), how confessions were extracted (through horrific torture), the cruel ways of execution. If someone was accused, she was killed. No one was ever proved innocent, or if they were, they died from the proofs.

    On the other hand, how many people died because of that “insensitive” blessing in the Jewish liturgy? Answer: zero.

    I have described one event that spanned three centuries of Christianity. I have not delved into the cruel and unusual punishments Christian courts dealt their citizens for petty crimes and based on poor evidence. It is well known that hanging people for theft was common and that careful investigations were not done even for death penalty cases.

    Torture and gruesome executions were common in the Middle Ages. This link gives a partial description:

    https://www.history.co.uk/shows/britains-bloodiest-dynasty/articles/execution-in-the-middle-ages

    The Thirty Years’ War, a war that resulted from tensions between Catholics and Protestants, took millions of lives. Millions!

    The peasants’ revolt, during the Protestant Reformation, was opposed by Martin Luther, who encouraged its brutal repression, which took up to 100,000 lives.

    Please notice that I have not touched upon the persecutions of non-Christians, the Crusades, and the Inquistion.

    How were the followers of Jesus led so astray? How can Christians ignore their bloody legacy, while condemning Judaism for some “insensitive” statements?

  11. Jim says:

    To one who comes to the Torah from outside the tradition and who approaches the writings of the rabbis without the prerequisite knowledge, a great deal of patience is required. The non-Jew will come across passages that, when taken alone and without the necessary background, appear to denigrate the non-Jew or put forth an idea of Jewish superiority. Such passages are alienating to the non-Jew when they are not understood. One such text is the Jewish prayer: “Blessed be You, God, our God, King of the universe, Who has not made me a non-Jew.” On first blush, one might take this to mean that being non-Jewish is undesirable in some way, that his existence is inferior to that of the Jewish people, or perhaps, that all non-Jewish people are corrupt. If the former is the meaning of the prayer, it would seem to violate the fundamental doctrine that all human beings are made in the image of God and would suggest that the Jews consider themselves superior to all other peoples. However, this does not appear to be the correct understanding of the prayer, and I believe what follows is a much better explanation of the prayer.

    Before proceeding, however, I offer the following disclaimer: I am not a rabbi. I am not even Jewish. I claim no special expertise in these matters. Like my fellow Noahides (by which I mean non-Jews who acknowledge the truth of the Torah and their responsibility to keep the Seven Laws), I am a neophyte when it comes to Torah matters, and having been once a Christian, I have had a great many misconceptions that I have had to correct. However, what I offer here I base on my admittedly limited understanding of the works of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.

    In order to understand the blessing under discussion, one must first understand what a blessing is. To bless someone is to promote his well-being. Or, when one declares that someone should be blessed, he wishes for that other’s continued well-being. Because God cannot receive any benefit, it would seem to be ridiculous to bless him. At best, one could acknowledge the good that God has done him, but he could not hope for God’s continued well-being or for improvement in God’s well-being. However, God has made His expressed will contingent upon human action. In this way, the human being can bless God: he can undertake to fulfill God’s expressed will through his actions. In blessing God, one states his intention follow the commandments of God, abstaining from what is forbidden and performing what is commanded. (This much I get from R’ Hirsch.)

    When one, for example, blesses God for the meal he has eaten, he goes beyond acknowledging God as the source of the food. He is not merely expressing gratitude for the pleasure of the meal and its power to continue his existence. Rather, one who blesses God for his food states his intention to use that which his body assimilates for godly purpose. He reminds himself that God did not provide for him merely so that he has another day on earth or that he might enjoy the momentary sensual pleasure, but so that the strength he receives from that food would be used to promote justice and kindness.

    With this in mind, one may ask why the Jew makes a blessing over having not been made a non-Jew. This is not an expression of mere gratitude. Those that grew up with the New Testament might believe that this is a self-congratulatory prayer as in the parable of Luke 18:9-14. There, Jesus speaks of two men who went to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee pompously prays, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector…” (v. 12). The pomposity of the Pharisee is contrasted to the humility of the tax collector who beats his breast and pleads for mercy. Such texts have unfortunately shaped the image of the Jew in the non-Jewish mind. And so, the non-Jew, hearing a blessing on not being made a non-Jew reads it within the context of his New Testament understanding, not from the context of Judaism.

    When read as a blessing, an act of renewed devotion to fulfill God’s will, one gets a much different understanding. Within the Torah worldview, the non-Jew is not deprived of a relationship to God. Indeed, he can be quite close to God. The Talmud says that a non-Jew that studies the Seven Laws and keeps them assiduously is like a high priest. Because he does not have the same mission as a Jew, however, he does not have to keep certain commandments that are incumbent upon a Jew. He is permitted to eat pork and lobster. He need not be circumcised, and so on. Nevertheless, he can serve God and be close to God. It might be said that the non-Jew has a greater degree of freedom than the Jew.

    Yet, the Jew may not renounce his mission. Once a Jew, either by birth or conversion, one is unable to take up the path of the non-Jew, keeping only those Seven Laws enjoined upon all humanity. He has his commandments, and he must keep them. The non-Jew may become a Jew, but the Jew may never renounce his Jewishness or the Jewish mission. If he could, he might be content to serve God through the Seven Laws and enjoying those freedoms allowed the non-Jew, but it is not permitted him.

    So, every day, he says a blessing committing himself once again to the mission. In blessing God for not making him a non-Jew, he reaffirms his commitment to fulfill those commandments incumbent upon him as Jew. The prayer acknowledges the other possible path, while accepting the greater responsibility placed upon his shoulders as a member of the priestly nation. It in no way denigrates the non-Jew. It does not really relate to the non-Jew at all.

    Although, a non-Jew could probably make for himself a prayer that would have a similar purpose. He might pray something like: Blessed be you, HaShem, God of the universe who has given me Seven Commandments.” In so doing, he would remind himself of his duty to his Creator and express his intention to fulfill that duty. This seems reasonable to me, but I remind the reader that I am not a rabbi nor any kind of expert in Torah.

    Assuredly, the blessing that a Jew was not made a non-Jew is not a statement of bigotry. Because a blessing is a statement of intention to fulfill God’s will, the blessing in question likely relates to the difference between the commandments enjoined upon the Jew and those upon the non-Jew. The Jew reiterates his commitment to God, Who has shown His great commitment to the Jewish people. The blessing is not an indication, then, of Jewish superiority. The non-Jew must not leap to conclusions when learning Torah and the Jewish tradition, knowing that his views have been shaped by texts and faiths hostile to the Torah and the Jewish people. Rather, he must be patient to learn, particularly, that Torah which pertains to him rather than that which does not.

    Jim

    • Dina says:

      Jim, I hadn’t heard this perspective before, but it really speaks to me. Thanks for putting it out there.

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Jim,

      Nice to hear from you again.

      Thank you for taking the time to explain the meaning of the Jewish blessings, in particular for the blessings for not being made a Gentile.

      I would like to ask you the questions which I have asked about this blessing, as I do not see it being addressed in your post .

      a. Why is the appreciation to God for being able to serve him is not expressed in more positive terms –such as “Blessed are you for creating me with better opportunities to learn the Torah”? After all most blessings I come across in the Morning blessings are on positive terms – except for the three ( for not being made a Gentile, slave and a woman)

      b. How are the Three blessings consistent with Genesis 1:27 ?

      Also , just to clarify ,I have never once brought up Luke chapter 18 . Perhaps you might have got it from Annelise’s comment .

      I am not bringing up the Three Blessings to score a brownie point for Christianity. I brought it up because of my sensitivity to the dignity and worth that every man and woman have in Hashem’s sight- which also championed in this blog as well. I am sure , as a student of the Torah , that you uphold the concept of “b’tzelem elohim” (in God’s Image).

      I don’t know about you , but I live in a multicultural society. I see beauty and worth the people that I interact with. Every human being is precious and fragile . If a non Jew, who is not Christian and does not even know about the Gospel comes across these blessings ( it is very likely in this age of the internet) , will this person not be concerned as I do? Are you going to assume this individual is influenced by faiths hostile to the Torah and the Jewish people, as how you are implying in your post here? Or are you going to respond differently?

      The tagline of this blog clearly states “Judaism Resources- Tap into the strengths of Judaism”. I am trying to discuss Judaism on its own merit in most of my conversations here but I notice that you and Dina almost always want to drag Christianity into the conversation . Why?

      I am sorry for being blunt, but are you trying to deflect the conversation by bringing in Christianity rather than telling the truth? Do you prefer debating someone like Bible819 because you can bring up your arsenal on Christianity rather than engaging in a discussion purely on the strengths of Judaism with me?

      I hope you can consider what I have written with an open heart. I would like to request, as someone struggling with Judaism as a non Jew , if you can look into my question in https://judaismresources.net/2019/03/28/the-oral-law-in-judaism-and-christianity-by-jim/#comment-64000. I was quite concerned about the interpretation of Leviticus 19:18 and was hoping that as an ex-Christian and a Noahide, you would give an informative reply . This is not a challenge, this is a humble request from one ex-Christian to another.

      Thank you.

      • LarryB says:

        SharonS
        When I google your questions about the blessings I find so many great answers as to why the blessings are said the way they are, my only conclusion to your question is maybe like you said you are over sensitive sometimes. Here are a couple more links.

        https://www.jweekly.com/2016/07/21/the-advice-mensch-mens-daily-prayer-insults-women-whats-up-with-that/

        http://www.jewishanswers.org/ask-the-rabbi-3716/jewish-prayer-and-freuds-views-on-women/

      • Dina says:

        Sharon, I think we may have reached the point where there isn’t any more to say and we are rehashing the same points. To my mind, the responses given answer your questions satisfactorily, but you are still bothered. I would like to leave it at that, but I do have one question for you. What would be an answer that you find rings true? If I could wave a magic wand and give you the perfect answer, what would it be?

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Dina ,

          Dina, thank you for your reply to my question here https://judaismresources.net/2019/12/22/how-not-to-respond-to-a-christian-missionary-part-1/#comment-82859. To be honest , I thought you would not have answered at all . However I am glad that you did.

          You asked what kind of answer am I looking for in these conversations. First , an answer to the following contradiction:

          a. Your message , or rather the message of this blog to the Christian-that the false/anti-Jewish narratives they see in the New Testament have an impact on how they see Jews and is the main reason behind the persecution of the Jewish people

          b. The elements which I see in Judaism which seemed to be unfriendly to the non Jew in the Jewish law/tradition , and more recently in liturgy . I wonder if these elements have an impact on how Jews sees non Jews , slaves and women. Is there possibility that the Jew may unconsciously harbor certain attitudes towards these groups ?

          You confirmed that reciting the Jewish prayer blessing God for not being created Gentile, woman (in recited by the men) and slave does not have an impact on how you and your family see these groups. Thank you for the confirmation. However I am not sure if other Jews see the same way as you (and your family) do . After all we are all human. This is just my personal opinion and you do not have to reply on that.

          Secondly , I have concern if the elements in (b) is a reflection of how Hashem , the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob , the Master of all Creation sees the rest of humanity . This is a very important point to me personally .

          Let’s take the example of the Jewish prayers .You wrote that these prayers were composed for a strictly Jewish audience who understood the prayers in the context of the Jewish tradition. If it were just that then I would have closed this conversation already. It is none of my business.

          However the Jewish scriptures tells me , the non Jew that the Jewish people are God’s witnesses (Isaiah 43:10). Deuteronomy 4:6 tells me , a non Jew that the observance to the Torah will show the wisdom and understanding of the Jewish people to the nations. As such , I am to look to your nation as role models.

          Hence , when I come across Genesis 1:27 which tells me that God creates man in His image and at the same time I learnt that the Jewish people recite blessings for not being born a Gentile , then there are two possibilities which come to mind:

          a.Is Genesis 1:27 really true? Can I take this Torah statement at its face value (pshat) or is there any underlying tradition, which should be considered as well?
          For example: Man is created in God’s image , but………

          b.Are the Jewish people truly God’s witnesses? Why they say one thing and do something else?

          I hope that you can briefly stand in my shoes and assess Judaism from the perspective of a non Jew . May I add , a non Jew who is not a Christian and who has not heard of the Gospel.

          Thank you.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, you misunderstand. I did not ask you what questions you would like answered. Your list of questions here is the same as the ones you’ve asked before. As I said, we have answered those questions, satisfactorily in my opinion. It seems at this point that there isn’t any answer that you will appreciate. So, to clarify, my question to you is, what is the answer that you wish to receive? What is the answer, not the question, that would ring true to you? If you could hear the perfect answer, what would that answer be? (If you can’t think of anything, that’s okay.)

            I hope that is more clear.

            I will not comment on your assumption of how Jews view the other groups except to say that it is outrageous.

          • Annelise says:

            The question of what answer someone would be satisfied with is a tricky one. I’ve been asked it by Christians… the only answer that might satisfy me regarding Christianity would be the Tanach itself actually saying different things. (I heard that answer from a counter-missionary, and agree with it.)

            Sharon may possibly also feel that the only answers that would satisfy her would be if these three blessings had never been phrased the way they were, and also if there were no difference in Judaism between the experience of being gentile and that of being gentile

            In my mind, the issue isn’t about the time when the blessings were first composed and prayed. At that time, it would have been unlikely for a gentile to hear them (it would also have been in a specific context known to all who heard it). The question, to me, is solely about why the sages who prescribed it for the whole Jewish population chose to state it in the negative formulation, and without any further explanation in the text of the blessings themselves.

            I think it’s potentially reasonable to accept these answers to that part of the question-

            1. They expected the oral tradition to travel with the prayers, so didn’t find it necessary to any explanation within the blessings. It’s quite possible that one, or more, of the explanations we have today actually travelled down in history from that period.

            2. They composed it in the negative because in their way of using language, that denoted humility.

            3. Maybe they didn’t want to change the text of the blessings to make it more sensitive because in the historical context, that might have seemed like a concession to their opponents, who were possibly complaining that these blessings were haughty or non-inclusive. If so, then the sages didn’t want to accept that accusation against their community and approach to halacha and prayer as a whole. They also didn’t want to take on the type of inclusivity that some people were wanting, which essentially eroded any difference (not regarding personal status, but difference nonetheless) between Jew and gentile.
            I do think it’s unfortunate that the blessings appear, in any other cultural context, to be about the superiority of free Jewish men. Yet this isn’t a reason to judge them by any cultural context apart from the one in which they were accepted.
            The sages may have considered the way that they could be misunderstood, and yet felt that the cultural significance of changing the blessings would have been a compromise with certain Jewish sects whose views they didn’t want to uphold. If so, they relied on the oral tradition for clarification, which at the time was stronger than the written.

            I wonder, though, if this question is less about the three blessings, and more just about dissatisfaction with the idea that Judaism teaches a difference between the Jewish and gentile experiences in life. I’ve heard a Muslim friend citing this as a reason why Judaism is less desirable/true.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina,

            I don’t have any answer that I wish to receive , which rings true to me . I just want to know the truth .

            I do acknowledge you effort in taking time to engage with me in this dialogue , which started from 2018 till today. I understand that you may be tired (as do I) and wish that I would get over it. I have the same wishes as you.

            The answer I request is your confirmation on the following:

            # 1 Your strongly assert that the Christian Scriptures have anti Jewish narratives which cause Christians to see Jews in a negative light.

            However you also strongly assert that the Jew does not harbour any prejudicial attitudes towards other people groups despite having elements which seem unfriendly to these groups in Jewish tradition and liturgy( which is recited daily).

            This means , unlike others (Christians , Muslims), the Jews are “immune” from having prejudicial attitudes towards other people groups, despite having unfriendly elements in your traditions and liturgy. So the Jew should not be judged on the same standards as Christians and Muslims.

            Please confirm yes or no.

            # 2 Kindly confirm if the elements unfriendly to non Jews and other groups , as found in Jewish tradition and liturgy is a reflection of how Hashem , the God of Abraham, Isaac and Master of all creation sees the rest of humanity. If no, please explain why.

            # 3 Please answer if the two possibilities are reasonable , and if no, why;

            a.That the Torah cannot be taken at its face value as its message may be limited by Jewish tradition and liturgy. We can see from the example of Genesis 1:27 .

            b. The Jewish people say one thing and do another thing . I have pointed out the contradiction between Hillel’s teaching to the Gentile and the formulation of the Jewish prayer by the Sanhedrin which you have not answered at all . On this basis , I am doubtful on the credibility of the Jewish nation as God’s witnesses

            These are the answers that I seek. I will end my dialogue on this note.

            Thank you.

          • Annelise says:

            I think your intentions are sincere and value the conversation with you, yet at the same time, that comes across as a set of targetted attacks on the integrity of the Jewish tradition.

            A few people here have been trying for so long to explain how the tradition doesn’t have to be seen as going against the Torah value of human worth and dignity. Instead of counterarguments to many of those suggestions, what you’re saying keeps being whittled back to a reiteration of the same accusations.

            I think that the conversation can work in a meaningful sequence if you reply with logical responses to the suggestions that are given.

          • Annelise says:

            I think your intentions are sincere and I value the conversation with you. At the same time, that comes across as just a set of attacks on the integrity of the Jewish tradition.

            A few people here have been trying to explain how the tradition doesn’t have to be seen as going against the Torah value of human worth and dignity. Instead of counterarguments to many of those suggestions, what you’re saying keeps being whittled back to a reiteration of the same accusations.

            I think that the conversation can only work in a rational sequence if you reply to the suggestions that are given.

          • Annelise says:

            Sorry for the double post, my phone battery ran out as I was posting it and I thought it hadn’t gone through.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Annelise,

            I work as an auditor. If what I see in paper is not the same as practice then it is a contradiction. I apply the same principles in work and life. I don’t see why I should bend this criterion when it comes to Judaism.

            I stay in a country with hardly any Jews. As such I am not able to appreciate rabbinic tradition as you do.

            If you see my comment as an attack on Rabbinic integrity then I have nothing to say. Feel free to think whatever you want to think of me.

            Anyway, nice knowing you and take care

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Sharon,

            We aren’t on exactly the same page about some of these things, but I think it’s good for people from all walks of life to be able to discuss different perspectives. No one is impartial, and the discussion teaches us all a lot.

            We’re all often just guessing when it comes to each other’s intentions and experiences, too. That’s difficult. But it’s good to know we’re all on a common path in many ways.

            All the best to you too.

          • Sharon S says:

            Annelise, Dina, Jim, LarryB and all who are following this conversation,

            I am tired of being attacked for putting forth my views. It seems my comments are seen as anti Jewish or I have crossed an invisible line that should not be crossed.

            It seems that there should not be any excessive criticism where Judaism is concerned. I would understand if the criticisms comes from a mindset hostile towards Jews . However I find these “restrictions” even extends to criticisms arising from purely logical reasoning .

            Can’t anyone raise an honest question around here?

            I do acknowledge the replies receive but some questions still remain unanswered , which is why I have to ask over and over again .

            Anyway, I’m done. I’m putting all this behind me . This whole journey has altered my perception of God completely . I took on the journey to understand Jews and Judaism in order to be close to God . I have never imagined that it has distanced me from God completely.

            I am planning to go back to Church , to reconnect back to God , to rebuild my sense of worth already battered by the negative elements I find in Judaism. It may not be the right move , but this is what I really need right now.

            I would like to thank Rabbi Blumenthal for giving me the space to share my views here. I hope he will consider what I wrote here with an open heart.

          • Annelise Taylor says:

            Hi Sharon,

            Thanks for letting me know that feeling.

            Any questions are ok. I just meant that before going back to the initial questions, I feel it’s important to respond to the answers that have been given.

            Your reply reflected some elements of historical antisemitism. Without acknowledging the ideas that were given to address the same concerns already, it sounded like you were attached to those questions.

            I’m sorry for any misunderstandings.

            It’s getting really heated again and the conversation is more likely to be defensive than theoretical. But ending a debate/discussion doesn’t need to be the end of hoping well for each other, a form of friendship, even if the relationship is based on the discussion, like in this case.

          • Annelise says:

            Also, I *can* see how some of these examples seem to mean that Jews claim higher status than everyone else. I think this is why they have been historically targetted by those who don’t want to be called lower than anyone else. And there’s an aspect of justice in that, as long as the foundation is a desire for equality.

            This sole central issue, though, is a consideration of what meaning these examples actually have to the people who brought them down through history.

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, you ran away before I had a chance to respond to your last comment. You are being so unfair. You freely criticize everyone here who answers your questions, accusing them of bias and questioning their sincerity and honesty (myself included). Yet even the gentlest pointing to unfairness in your argument provokes an over-the-top, angry response. You would be well served to wait until the negative emotion passes and coolly assessing what a measured response would be before firing off your comments. The fact is, no one attacked you here. We have all been very respectful and very patient, even though we disagree with you and feel that we have answered all your questions thoroughly and satisfactorily.

            With that out of the way, I would like to address your last comment to me. Your questions are based on a false premise, that there are unfriendly elements toward others within Judaism. Because I have explained the context, both historical and religious, we don’t view them as unfriendly and don’t find, therefore, that they affect our attitude. The proof is in the pudding. How have Jews historically related to their gentile neighbors? Included in that question is present day relations as well.

            I think comparing the “unfriendly elements” within Judaism to the “unfriendly elements” within Christianity and Islam is outrageous. The “unfriendly elements” within those two religions led to centuries of horrific persecution, as you now know, whereas the “unfriendly elements” within Judaism led Jews to be respectful and kind to their neighbors. Could you consider that I might be right to say that those “unfriendly elements” truly don’t negatively impact the way we view other groups? What greater proof could you ask for in the real world?

            You dismissed the credibility of the Jewish witness because of those three blessings you find so troublesome. If your criterion for credibility is what appear to be negative statements about other groups, why search for obscure and mild passages in Jewish liturgy when you can find much harsher verses in the most sacred Jewish text, the Hebrew Bible?

            About women: “To your husband will by your desire, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). Exodus 7-8, about a man selling his daughter as a slave. There is no outright prohibition against raping an unmarried woman. Men could take as many wives as they wanted. A man could divorce his wife but not vice versa. A woman could offer her maidservant to her husband (as Sarah, Rachel, and Leah did)–no one asked their consent. In Leviticus 27, females are worth fewer shekels than males. Women were not counted in the census. Women could not inherit. I could go on and on. But here’s a really strong statement: “And I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, her hands are bonds; whoever is good in God’s sight will escape from her, and a sinner will be taken by her…Which my soul sought yet, but I did not find; one man out of a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I did not find” (Ecclesiastes 7).

            About gentiles and Jewish choseness: all the commandments for genocide (Amalek and Canaan). God separating the Jewish people from all the nations for a special mission (“You shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”). Also, “He tells His words to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. He did not do so to any nation, and they did not know the judgments. Hallelujah!” (Psalm 147)

            There is more, but you get the picture. These are all much stronger, much harsher, than the three blessings. So what gives? If the Torah is true, how do you accept this? If the Torah is true, how do you dismiss the Jewish witness who was appointed as such by God? You question the credibility of this witness, so do you think God messed up with His choice and chose an unreliable witness? Did God lie when He said, “And I, this is My covenant, the word of the Lord: My spirit which I have placed upon you and My words which I have placed in your mouth will not veer away from your mouth, nor from your offspring’s mouth, nor from your offspring’s offspring’s mouth, from now and until forever.” (Isaiah 59)

            I don’t think you are done yet, Sharon.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Dina ,

            You have repeatedly emphasise that reciting the Jewish blessings does not have any impact on how you and your family regard non Jews and women. Jim wrote that in reciting these blessings ,Jews reaffirm their commitment to fulfill those commandments incumbent upon them. This blessings does not denigrate the non Jew.

            You have shown the Jewish texts having harsher texts compared to the blessings. This goes to show that all Scriptures have harsh texts . It is how the adherents respond to these texts that made all the difference. The Jewish nation stand head and shoulder above the rest by relating well with their neighbors and not harming other groups despite the harshness of its texts. Seen in this perspective then the blessings are inconsequential and should not be a concern.

            I’m would like to request that you briefly put aside the “Jewish” glasses that you have and to understand my concerns on the Jewish blessings from a human perspective.

            The Jewish nation has endured intense persecution . Being at the receiving end of hate and bigotry would surely cause your people to emphathise with other people who are going through similar situation. I read of how Jewish communities stand up for the plight of migrant refugees and other marginalized communities . It is to be admired.

            Imagine being aware that a group of people reciting blessings to God for not being born as members of your people or being born a woman. The first question that comes to mind is what is wrong with my race? What is wrong with being born a woman? What did God find so repugnant in my race and gender that a group of people find it fit to bless Him daily for not being born in the same manner?

            If indeed these blessings are formulated from a position of humility , why then were those who formulated it unable to word it in a more positive manner? As a people who are given revelation , one of which is that man ( and woman) is created in His Image , then the wise of the people should be more sensitive to formulate the blessings in a way which honours that revelation.

            This is why, despite all your explanation (Annelise, Jim and yourself) , I still find the three blessings as discriminatory and has the potential to marginalize a large section of humanity. The fact that it is recited daily makes me even more concerned on whether the reciters of these blessings have harboured prejudicial attitudes towards these groups. You have assured me that it is not the case . Sorry to say this , but I am still doubtful about this.

            I would like to share a video which is shows a glimpse of Chinese culture, its people and their values. My hope is that you will be able to appreciate other cultures not of your own ,thereby you will understand where I am coming from.

            Shabbat Shalom

          • Dina says:

            Sharon, in your comment you seem to say that because the Jewish sages 2000 years ago did not take into account the modern gentile sensibilities of a handful of people (and I say handful because very, very, very few non-Jews have ever been aware of this and really don’t care about the Jewish prayers), that invalidates all of Judaism. It proves the Jewish people as a whole are bigoted, their behavior notwithstanding, and therefore you will return to the Church whose teachings and record of treatment are vastly worse. I don’t understand how that makes sense to you.

            You further argue that if the Jews were chosen by God, they would really be more sensitive. Are you arguing that therefore they were not chosen by God? Are you arguing that they should be more sensitive than God, who filled the Torah with commandments and statements that are so much harsher and which you should find more objectionable?

            Of course I understand how a non-Jew would feel upon hearing those blessings. If I were not Jewish, my reaction would be, “wait, what?!” But upon being given the historical context and the traditional explanation, I would be satisfied to understand that the blessings are not what they appear to be at first. I would not worry that it would cause Jews to harbor prejudicial attitudes because I would now know that Jews do not understand the blessings in a prejudicial way, and furthermore, because I would not have seen any evidence in real life to support that idea.

            You seem to want to believe that Jews harbor prejudicial attitudes (of course some do, as being human, there are imperfect Jews out there, each with his or her own set of virtues and faults—I will not argue that every single Jew loves and respects all peoples). You seem to want to believe this despite the fact that religious Jews do not perceive the prayers the way you do. And you seem to want to believe this despite zero evidence that this plays out in real life and despite loads of evidence to the contrary.

            The question is, why do persist in this belief despite contrary evidence? And despite no supporting evidence?

            I’d like to return to the Sages for a moment. I do not know why they used this exact formulation, but I can tell you why they were not worried about offending gentiles. For this, some more historical context is necessary.

            Number one, the only people who spoke and understood Hebrew were non-Jews. Number two, they kept to themselves and did not mingle with non-Jews, except for the God fearers who anyway viewed them favorably. In fact, non-Jews knew so little of Jewish belief and practice that we find in Roman writings speculation that Jews refrained from eating pork because the pig was sacred in their religion. It likely never occurred to the Sages that non-Jews would ever hear of anything so obscure as the Jewish liturgy, let alone understand it.

            I am taking you to task for saying something else. This will be painful to hear, and you may be very angry with me. But I am going to tell the truth, and let the chips fall where they may.

            You asked why on this blog you can’t take the same critical approach to Judaism as you take to Christianity and Islam. Why should Judaism be above criticism? That would be a fine question if it were true, but it contains two falsehoods. I will address the second one first. It is simply not true that you can’t criticize Judaism here. This blog tolerates a lot of dissenting opinions. Receiving push back on your criticism, I think you well know, is in no way intended to silence you. If that were the case, you would not keep coming back here. I think you know it’s not true and I think you need to apologize for this dishonest accusation.

            The first falsehood is that you do not use the same critical approach toward Judaism that you use toward Christianity and Islam. You employ one standard for Judaism and a different one for the others. Minor problems with Judaism seem to bother you a whole lot more than major issues in Christianity and Islam. I have given many examples of this, including in my previous comment to you.

            You have set an impossible standard for Judaism. Your attitude toward Judaism is harsh and unforgiving.

            You have set a low standard for Christianity and Islam. Your attitude to these religions is benign and forgiving.

            This is exactly how you come across in all of your comments.

            There is no gentle way to say this. There is a word for the double standard people use to judge Jews and Judaism. You live in one of the most anti-Semitic countries in the world. While you have made great strides, perhaps there are some vestiges left that must be uprooted.

            No matter which angle you take in your examination of Judaism, you see prejudice and bigotry. Could it be because of the prejudice in your heart?

          • Annelise says:

            The prayers aren’t targetted at one particular race. It isn’t like thanking God for not being born Chinese. It’s more similar to a Muslim thanking God that they weren’t born a non-Muslim.

          • Annelise says:

            And something else to consider is that although questioning and disagreeing with Judaism is considered harmless, there’s a difference between that and heavily criticising Jewish integrity without entering into a debate about the answers that Jews are giving but instead disregarding the Jewish answers as not worth replying to. With the latter, it doesn’t take long for someone who hears it to turn it into active hatred and persecution. This is a reality that everyone in the debate should be careful with.

          • Annelise says:

            Something else is that there may be a common pattern to how people adopt a harsher attitude towards Judaism than they do towards Islam, Christianity, etc. I think the process may go like this
            1. Feeling sensitive about social status
            2. Hearing that Jews claim to have been given something superior
            3. Interpreting that as thinking that Jews believe they are personally superior
            4. Responding by trying to put Judaism down
            5. Seeing any rebuttal as a retaliative attack
            6. Perceiving this, again, as an attack on status, which can feel like an existential attack

            I do agree with Dina that Christianity and Islam both have had similar (or harsher) views regarding both women and people who aren’t within their own faith. So if the same criticisms aren’t being made of those two religions, then there is a double standard here, which is anti-Semitism by name.

          • LarryB says:

            SharonS
            It’s not a very inclusive video. What country is setia located in and are the only people there Chinese? If they made a commercial video here in America and only showed one race of people it would be considered racist.

          • LarryB says:

            Maybe it’s just me but some of this conversation smacks of intolerance.
            Religious Tolerance
            Acknowledging and supporting that individuals have the right and freedom to their own beliefs and related legitimate practices, without necessarily validating those beliefs or practices.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi LarryB,

            I would like to respond to your query on the video I posted.

            This video is produced by a SP Setia , a Malaysian company. Setia is a Malay word which means ‘’loyal’’.

            This video shows the different ways Chinese communities celebrate their lunar new year. The Chinese lunar new year fell on January 25 .

            I understand that you regard this video as racist as it only shows one race of people. However , there are universal themes which we can identify , if we care to look deeper.

            The first theme I come across is the adherence to tradition and passing down of tradition , irrespective of how one celebrates the festival . Second ,there’s a strong sense of family and filial piety (respect for one’s elders). Third , a sense of joy and togetherness. These elements are found in every community celebrating all festivals under the sun. I am sure you will see this whenever your family/extended family celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas.

            There is rising Sinophobia around the world due to the impact of the novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). People with Asian features being ostracized for somehow being associated with the virus . I hope that those watching will appreciate their culture and be more mindful of people who are of Asian ancestry living among them.

            The main reason I put up the video is to emphasize that all human beings are created in the image of God. We all have goodness inside of us . Being born into what seems to be a pagan culture does not diminish that goodness inside of us. That is why I find the blessings as very problematic-despite what its reciters may explain in its defense.

          • LarryB says:

            SharonS
            It’s a commercial. Nothing else. A talented group of marketers could make a positive commercial about the third Reich. It wouldn’t be true but it could be done.
            “I would like to share a video which is shows a glimpse of Chinese culture, its people and their values. My hope is that you will be able to appreciate other cultures not of your own ,thereby you will understand where I am coming from.”
            Commercials only show the positive. Pictures and nice words. It’s not even a glimpse of their culture in my opinion. I do not watch TV and do not trust advertising at all.

          • Sharon S says:

            LarryB,

            My country is home to a large Chinese community. I have a Chinese neighbour and colleagues whom I am quite close to. I have chinese relatives in my extended family via marriage.

            As such I am quite familiar with their culture. This video is not a marketing gimmick.

          • LarryB says:

            Sharon
            This video was submitted into a marketing competition and did not take first place. It’s on the internet. One of my best friends from San Jose is an attorney from Vietnam. One of My renters in one of my houses was from Vietnam. Great people. In our extended family through marriage, we have people from many countries. My mother’s parents and I think my wifes grand parents came from Poland. Asians are included here n our families. I lived in the Bay Area for over 30 years. Talk about a melting pot. I have close friends from many different races. One great chinese friend of my fathers owned five very successful restaurants. He asked my dad to pick his first 3 locations when he first started into business. My dad was the only non Chinese and president of a stock club he belonged to. So yes I to am quite familiar with their culture.

            The video of is just a commercial. Commercials are nothing more than nice pictures and nice words. Fantasy.

          • Dina says:

            Hi Larry,

            I think people who don’t live in America can’t appreciate the cultural diversity and tolerance that we experience. On my block alone, there are families that represent five races (if you include Jewish as a race; otherwise it’s four). No one even thinks about it. We see our Hispanic, black, Asian, and white neighbors and don’t even mentally register their race.

            I live in the fourth most segregated large city in the US. These are the demographics: 44.1% black, 35.8% white, 13.6% Latino, and 7.2% Asian. Whites are actually a minority in Philadelphia.

            One of the unique things about this country is that whoever lives here is part of the melting pot and considered authentically American no matter what they look like or where they come from. E pluribus unum!

            Don’t you think it’s bizarre for people from racist countries to try to school us on other cultures and try to show us that people from other races are just like us? These people haven’t even met Jews in real life! And I wonder how much contact with Latinos and blacks they ever even have.

            You know, it’s pretty insulting, actually. Like we need lessons in racial tolerance. Don’t you agree?

          • LarryB says:

            Dina
            I do agree. I was a designer/draftsman at IBM and we had engineers from all over the world working on the sutter HD/drive. I never had so much fun in my life than working with all those people. Go to any resturant in San Jose, Japanese, Chinese, included and their playing Hispanic music for the employees in the back. In my old neighborhood like yours, there were multiple races all just wanting the best for each other. Frankly it’s hard to tell what nationality someone was because there is so much intermarrying between everyone. I’m not only half polish but also American Indian, black, European, Irish, etc. nobody knows for sure in our family.

          • Sharon S says:

            LarryB,

            I am quite surprised that you come from a racially diverse background.

            The video is showcasing the local chinese culture in my country.There are chinese communities all over the world. However these does not mean that there are absolute similarities between the American chinese community that you are familiar with and this community . There are also certain elements such as food , etc in the Chinese diaspora which are not found in China.

            So, I don’t see why the video should be dismissed as just a marketing campaign. However if you choose to see it that way then suit yourself.

            Also, we should clearly define what makes a country rascist. Closing one’s borders to refugees, erecting walls with the intent to prevent migration ,incidents of hate crimes along ethnic lines, the existence of segregated communities-that to me is rascist.

          • LarryB says:

            SharonS
            If you wish to watch commercials as reality then suit yourself please. Since you don’t mention what country your talking about I’ll not comment and as you know very well racist crimes happen in all races. As for walls they also help keep the drugs out that are killing thousands here. Like commercials if you get your information from ththe mainstream media, it’s all for ratings. Similar to the commercial you posted. Of course there are worse sites also.

          • Sharon S says:

            LarryB ,

            I understand your point that one should not believe everything that one sees in commercials and media.

            Just so you know-there are no rascist hate crimes in my country in the manner of what is happening in other countries. It is illegal to hold guns here.

            Secondly, my country has very harsh anti narcotics laws in which the harshest punishment is the death penalty. Hence there is no need to put up walls.

            Feel free to visit and see for yourself.

  12. Annelise says:

    *between the experience of being gentile and that of being Jewish (second paragraph)

    Also, I think it’s important to consider the idea that was raised earlier about an additional experience being added for Jews doesn’t diminish the existing experience already existing for all humans. Nor does it preclude the possibility of unique experiences for every person.

  13. Sharon S says:

    Hi Dina,

    Responding to your comment here https://judaismresources.net/2019/12/22/how-not-to-respond-to-a-christian-missionary-part-1/#comment-83133

    Thank you for sharing your honest opinion on the approach of my conversation.
    I really appreciate it.

    There is a lot of arguments which you have brought out , which you in the end stated that I , a citizen of a country deemed anti-semitic do indeed have some vestiges of anti-semitism left which must be uprooted.

    You also pointed out that I have made a dishonest accusation for stating that there are restrictions when it comes to criticisms about Judaism .

    These are very strong accusations which I find baseless and unfair. I do not have any reason to apologize for anything that I have written in this conversation thus far.

    I will address the dishonest accusation that you brought against me. You stated that “this blog’’ tolerates a lot of dissenting opinions. I am not sure what you mean by “the blog’’-is it the blog itself or the regular commenters of the blog. If it is the blog itself -as in the administration of the blog then I wholly agree with you. If you do notice , I did thank Rabbi Blumenthal , the owner of the blog for allowing me to share my views here.

    If you were to read my previous comment carefully , I wrote that I was tired for being attacked for putting forth my views by those who respond to my comments. I will take the time to explain the chronology of the conversation for better understanding.

    I started my conversation with Rabbi Blumenthal and then with Annelise .I thought I was making progress in my earlier conversations with Annelise before you came along . She understood my concerns and I understand where she was coming from .I realized I had made mistakes in our previous conversation in another thread and I was trying to make amends. I was reasonable and even corrected her on some misconceptions that she may have on Exodus 20:5 . I thought we were going somewhere. There were some conversations with LarryB too. I do appreciate his points.

    You entered the conversation at a certain point by putting a parable which I find very insensitive . I sensed your initial replies does not address my questions. I brought out contradiction between Hillel’s teaching versus the formulation of the prayers by the Sanhedrin (which Hillel might be a member) .I thought you would let go of your “vested interest’’ in Judaism and look into this matter objectively , just as how I let go of my “vested interest’’ in Christianity and look seriously into anti Jewish elements in Christian scriptures seriously. Clearly you are not willing to do that so I had to change my approach. Then Jim came in with his explanation and though it is informative , that too did not answer my questions. Jim introduced the “Christian mentality’’ to the whole argument . You brought in Christianity to your own arguments as well. Naturally I got upset-why is Christianity being dragged into this discussion again?

    The whole argument then degenerated into what we are seeing today. I have taken steps to change my approach in my conversations by cutting back and listening more to the other party . I have tried to make my arguments more clear and putting forth main questions/points for consideration . I am satisfied that my arguments come from a logical approach and is not influenced by the vestiges of anti Semitism that you accuse me of. However there is an invisible line -not erected by the blog , but by the people that I am interacting with here. I am not sure where the line stands.

    You claimed that I employ one standard for Judaism and a different one for Christianity and Islam. In response , I would like for you to clarify what standard should I use for Judaism. Should I judge Jews or Judaism with the same standards that I use when it comes to Christianity and Islam? Let me remind you that this is not the first time that I have asked this question to you. In one of our conversations on the Palestinian situation (in another thread), you wrote that Jews (and thereby Judaism) should not be judged differently compared to other nations who have done worse things. However, in this conversation , I understand from you that the Jewish nation stand head and shoulders above other religious groups when it comes to interaction with their neighbors , despite the harsh texts in the Jewish Scriptures. Naturally , the message that I got is that I should see Judaism as being on a higher standard as compared to Christianity and Islam-hence I find it is reasonable to question the formulation of the prayer by the Sages . In response, you wrote that I have set an impossible standard for Judaism and my attitude towards it is harsh and unforgiving .

    My question is who is setting the standard now , you or me? There should be only one standard. This is the criterion I use in work and in life. I don’t believe in employing different standards for different situations. So , please clarify what standards that you want non Jews to assess Judaism . Please clarify what “’unwritten’’ criterion you employ when you judge a comment/opinion as reeking of anti Semitism or otherwise for better understanding.

    Final points . Please don’t assume that I have not judged Islam and Christianity critically . I do. If I had not performed any critical assessment of Christianity , then I would not have purchased the books you recommended on Christian antisemitism. I would not have thrown away the statues and crucifixes which are treasured items in every Catholic home. I would not have abandon my belief in a Triune God and to follow the God of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob.

    I have done a lot of critical assessment of Islam . I have consulted Muslims on concerns that I have on the treatment of women in Islam , of non Muslims in Islam , of the conduct of Muslim leaders according to the Quran and what I see in practice. I have argued with Muslims on the subject of terrorism and Islam . I have critically assessed Islam for around three years before calling it quits. So , once again , don’t assume.

    Another point – you don’t know what it’s like for someone who chose to believe in the Jewish God yet living in a country hostile to Jews (and Judaism). I don’t enjoy the freedom and facilities as non Jews in other countries have to further learn about your people . There are no Jewish communities in my country , so all I have is the internet and the conversations , be it via this blog or email to Rabbis that I know. The best form of interaction I have is through video calls to a Rabbi in New York on a regular basis. There is a 12 to 13 hour difference due to different time zones but it did not matter to me. I cherish the internet facilities and freedom that I enjoy right now and hope that it will continue . That is my only life line.

    In conclusion , I find your accusations unjust and unfair . I will not apologize for what I have written here. Please clarify your standards and criterion that non Jews should be aware of when we assess non Jews and Judaism.

    Thank you.

    • Sharon S says:

      Dina,

      I would also like to respond to your comment on my decision to return to the Church because of what the Jewish sages did.

      If you look into my comment carefully , I did not state anywhere that the formulation of the blessings as the main reason behind my plan to return to the Church. I wrote that the whole journey of Judaism has altered my perception of God . I admit that the formulation of the blessings is the straw that broke the camel’s back , however there were many other concerns which are important , some highlighted here which has brought me to this point.

      There are two reasons which I can think of to explain the motivation behind my decision to return.

      I do acknowledge that what the Church did was way worse . However , please understand that my very first perception of God is formed through the teachings of the Church. It was through the Church that I first learn about the God of Israel. The very first hymn my Sunday school teachers taught me was as follows:

      “Praise Him , Praise Him ,
      Praise Him in the morning , Praise Him in the noon time
      Praise Him, Praise Him,
      Praise Him till the sun goes down’’

      By Him , my six year old self has always thought of God in His absolute Unity , nothing more.

      The ground which Catholicism provided and which I have been standing on has been pulled away , bit by bit as I was exposed to the falsehoods of Christianity , first through Muslim polemics and then through Jewish polemics which was far more worse. I lost my footing completely . I thought that I can regain my footing on a much more better and solid ground through Judaism, unfortunately I am not able to find it.

      If I can’t find that new ,better and solid ground in Judaism then I have to return back to the original ground / place which I have been standing on.

      Secondly I notice , through my interactions with Muslims and now with all of you here , that there is a certain barrier towards truth that we can never break. I can confidently say that I am willing to break those barriers. There is nothing to lose . I have lost my footing thanks to their polemics and I am willing to explore. Unfortunately the Muslims and Jews I have come across are not willing to do the same.

      When I highlight the problems I have with Islamic teachings and practices , there is tendency for me to be labelled as anti-Muslim . When I highlight problems I have with Judaism , there is a tendency for me to labelled as anti-semitic. Again , perhaps these two groups have too much vested interest in their beliefs -pushing these problems further will cause a backlash , hence those labels.

      If the people I am interacting with are the people who are selling me the truth but are unwilling themselves to break the barriers to truth then there is no point for me to pursue truth. It is better for me to go back to the falsehood I already know.

      I hope that what I have explained makes sense to you.

      • Annelise says:

        Hi Sharon, I think that Dina brought some helpful points to the discussion, many of which I agree with. I’ve been uncomfortable both times when you spoke as if the conversation with me was ideal and her input ruined it. That’s divisive, in my perspective. It feels like this time you’re picking on her, the way I felt I was picked on last time. I’m feeling a bit more emotionally secure at this point of the discussion, and consequently find myself being put on the higher side of the pecking order. But I don’t want there to be a pecking order.

        I want to be supportive of everyone’s journey, and can definitely see a lot of good in your approach. At the same time, anti-Semitism is a serious reality, even more than individual put downs.

        Ad it isn’t just about disagreeing with Judaism. I’m unwillingly agnostic myself, and really doubt the Torah tradition in my comprehension of things. I’ve never been told that this may be anti-Semitic.

        But I think it’s fair and right to speak out against some of the way you’ve approached things. I don’t want to stir the embers, but I don’t think it’s right to just ignore the pain inflicted by them. I’ve already explained why I think some parts of your approach are part of a dangerous and unjust phenomenon.

        Our ideas (and the things we say and write) are not ourselves, no matter how much we do usually imagine our identities to be defined by them. So I hope that somehow, a criticism of part of your approach in this debate doesn’t come across as a personal attack.

        It’s admirable that you’ve been open to consider the flaws in the tradition you were raised in, especially as you’ve described how deeply the Catholic imagery speaks to you. I can relate to that, too, and I wish there were easier answers.

        When I agree with Dina’s suggestion of a double standard, I think it isn’t to say you never seriously questioned Islam or Christianity. But with this question of these three blessings, there seems to be a double standard if you’re saying Christianity provides a haven for you, and Judaism is such an inhospitable landscape, even though Christianity has serious issues in similar areas- such as teaching that non-Christians have no acess to God (that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus), and having an Old Testament that contains the same issues, too.

        Coming to conclusions that describe Jewish dishonesty without really discussing the Jewish perspectives is not going to be an accepted approach, here. It wouldn’t be ok to do that to Muslims or Christians or anyone else, either. But in the spirit of “Never again” and all the living trauma attached to it, yes, there is something different about doing it to Jews. They shouldn’t have to relive a type of debate that has essentially the same shape as earlier debates filled with more overtly hateful speech.

        I don’t think you really want to speak like that, either. It seems like you just want a solid place to rest your feet.

      • Annelise says:

        Also, my belief is that going back to falsehood is never better than waiting for clarity.

        It can be lonely, but differences in religion also don’t need to separate us too much.

        And people will disappoint us sometimes anywhere we go, especially if we want them to be perfect, or imagined that they were. But the imperfection of people doesn’t take away from the value of truth, nor from the value of those people.

      • Dina says:

        Sharon, I’m not going to get into a “Yes, I did; no, you didn’t” type of argument with you. In your comment, you implied that in all your interactions with Jews and Muslims, you found that you were the only intellectually honest one with the moral courage to let go of your vested interest in your faith. It must be a lonely burden, to find yourself the only honest person around. But it’s not my job to prove who is more honest and more sincere, whose motives are pure and whose aren’t. That’s God’s job. The only thing I can do is tell the truth as I see it.

        I objected to your complaints that you were being attacked for criticizing Judaism and for being made to feel that you cannot fairly criticize Judaism. I thought that was untrue (and, may I add, ungrateful), considering the hours of time that commenters here have taken to compose respectful and sincere answers to your questions to the best of our ability. Disagreement with your conclusions, not sharing your subjective sensitivities, or raising issues you find irrelevant but we don’t do not constitute personal attacks or the refusal to consider your point of view or the attempt to silence criticism. I stand by my rebuke, but if you feel you have nothing to apologize for, I am content to let the matter rest.

        You asked what standard you should use when judging Judaism. You said that you use one standard for all. But you also said that you judge Judaism by a higher standard because of our higher standard of behavior. Thus, you contradicted yourself and revealed that you do, indeed, judge Judaism by a different standard. This is apparent at any rate from the harshness of your judgment, as I have previously explained.

        The only standards by which you should judge Judaism are the standard of fairness and the standard of honesty. If you seek a perfect religion in which all your questions are answered and all your sensitivities mollified, you seek in vain. If for you that is the measure of truth, then none of the world religions are true, and thus, your only option is to reject all religion. I have observed people leave Christianity, examine Judaism, and reject that as well. They had sought the truth, and for them Judaism did not ring true. While I disagree with their conclusion, I respect the process of truth seeking and the consistency they tried to apply to it, and I make no judgment about where that took them.

        When you judge Judaism by a different standard, whether you intend to or not, you engage in an anti-Semitic practice. The only One who may judge us by a higher standard is the One who appointed us to a higher calling. God sent a clear message to non-Jews about how to perceive Jews in the story of Balaam. I will, with God’s help and as time permits, write another comment explaining this lesson.

        You asked me to let go of my vested interest in Judaism, by which I think you mean rejecting the elements that you find unfriendly. However, I disagree with your assessment. I honestly disagree with you, and I have explained why. You have not engaged with my answers, nor have you answered my questions; you have only repeated your original complaints about the blessings.

        Since other non-Jewish, former Christians such as Jim and LarryB are satisfied with those explanations as well, I am content to believe that those explanations are fair. You cannot accuse either of them of holding onto their vested interests. They left the beloved religion of their youth. They have tremendous honesty and great courage.

        I am open to the possibility that I am wrong. But so far, I have not heard any compelling arguments.

        I will close by reiterating that I do admire your courage to search for the truth and to keep on searching, refusing to give up. I am humbled that you took my book recommendations seriously and changed your outlook on the Jewish people. I encourage you to keep on searching and keep on asking, bearing in mind that disagreement does not automatically mean dishonesty or personal attacks.

    • Dina says:

      Sharon, luckily, I found the lesson of Balaam in my notes, so all I have to do is copy and paste it here.

      The Lesson of Balaam

      The king of Moab, Balak, wants to destroy the Children of Israel, so he sends a request to the gentile prophet Balaam to curse Israel for him in the hope that a curse will weaken Israel sufficiently to facilitate its destruction.

      Three times, Balaam tries to curse Israel, and three times God places a blessing in his mouth.

      Despite the persistent attempts of Balak and Balaam, God allows Balaam only to praise Israel.

      This is mystifying if only because the story comes smack in the middle of multiple accounts of Israel’s wrongdoings. Preceding this incident, the people complain bitterly of the lack of water, leading Moses to label them rebels. Shortly thereafter, God strikes the people with fiery serpents for speaking out against God and Moses. Following this incident, the people intermingle with the Moabites, worshiping their gods and having relations with their women.

      Yet God forces Balaam to say, “He [God] perceived no iniquity in Jacob, and saw no perversity in Israel. The Lord, his God, is with him, and the friendship of the King is in him” (Numbers 23:21).

      This is remarkable!

      Why would God have Balaam say this? There is a lesson here, folks, and it is a lesson for gentiles. Balaam teaches us the lesson in his forced acknowledgment: “Those who bless you are blessed and those who curse you are accursed” (Numbers 24:9).

      God has not given permission to the gentiles and to those who stand outside the community of Israel to criticize His firstborn son Israel. Those who do so, do so at their own peril. That is the lesson of Balaam.

      • Sharon S says:

        Hi Dina,

        Thank you for your answering my question on the standards you want non Jews to assess the Jewish nation.

        You answered the only standards by which non Jews should judge Judaism are the standard of fairness and the standard of honesty. 

        However , you brought up the story of Balaam yet again-exactly what I predicted your response would be. You did share this story in our conversations with me and others before. You wrote that God has not given permission to the gentiles and to those who stand outside the community of Israel to criticize His firstborn son Israel.

        I am confused here. On one hand you stated that I should judge Judaism by the standard of fairness and honesty.

        On the other hand , from the story of Balaam , I understand that God does not give me any permission to judge at all. Hence I am not able to question the contradictions I see between what is taught to me and what is in practice- the same standards that I use to judge Christianity & Islam.

        You have also confirmed that elements unfriendly to non Jews and other groups , as found in Jewish tradition and liturgy is a reflection of how Hashem , the God of Abraham, Isaac and Master of all creation sees the rest of humanity.Judaism is beyond reproach and a non Jew has no say. The non Jew is inconsequential in His eyes .

        So which is which Dina? I am using the standards of fairness and honesty – the same standards I use to judge Christianity and Islam when I assess Judaism. So , should I obey the Almighty and shut up?

        Thank you.

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Dina,

          Just to inform you that the response that I hear from you today reminds me of the how certain Muslim would respond to the non Muslim when faced with a criticism of Islam.

          To these people, the non Muslim is inconsequential, pagan , “kafir” etc thereby they do not deserve any hearing- even though the non Muslim may mean well and that these criticisms arise when there is injustice being done.

          To these Muslims, they are enlightened due to the fact that they receive revelation and worship the One God. The non Muslim does not have that knowledge. Hence their reasoning is flawed in a certain sense and could not be accepted on the same merit as that of a Muslim.

          I thought that Jews and Judaism are above all that. Your comment prove me wrong.

          Food for thought.

        • Dina says:

          Was Balaam asking questions and trying to understand the truth? No, he was trying to curse the Jewish people, to see the bad in them. The lesson here for non-Jews is not to curse (i.e., purposely try to see the bad in) the Jewish people. God reminds Balaam that He, God, is the friend of the Jewish people. When non-Jews are angry, resentful, and jealous of this fact, they tend to try to judge the Jewish people in the harshest possible light, which is what I see you doing. That is not the standard of fairness and honesty. And no, I did not cite the story to tell you to shut up.

          There is a difference between asking questions and evaluating truth and between harsh judgment and double standards. You have been using harsh judgment and double standards. I am asking that you use fairness and honesty. You said you judge Judaism by the same standard as all religions. I showed why this is not true. I am not repeating that argument.

          You did not engage with my response but fired off an angry response without giving yourself time to absorb what I wrote and craft a measured response, and this holds true for much of my previous posts. I am no longer going to defend myself against accusations that I am trying to shut you up. Nor will I continue to engage with your tirades that contain more emotion than substance.

          When you are ready to pay attention to my arguments, take them at face value, and engage with the arguments themselves, and when you are ready to take all of this up in a respectful and dispassionate manner, let me know, and I will be happy to continue our dialogue. Until then, I am signing off.

          • Sharon S says:

            Dina,

            I not judging you. I am just asking a question -what standards do you want non Jews to assess Judaism?

            If I compare Judaism with Islam , you accuse me of judging Judaism by the same standard as other religions.

            If I judge Judaism using a higher standard than Islam and Christianity combined, you accuse me of being anti-Semitic.

            Please make your position clear. If you want me to judge Judaism the same way as other religions , please tell me clearly . If you do not want me to see Judaism in the same light as other religions , please tell me clearly.

            You are shifting the goal post and accusing me for what you have shifted. That is not fair.

            Somehow , I am sensing that you are just evading my question -which comes from an honest place and is hiding behind the cloak of anti-Semitism , Christianity , the story of Balaam and God knows what else . That is dishonest to me.

            Just admit that the Rabbis may have considered Gentiles to be inconsequential , hence they sense no reason to formulate the blessings in that manner.

            Just admit that the God of Israel sees Gentiles differently from Jews .

            I need that confirmation and honesty from you , a Jew so that I can know where I stand as a non Jew in the eyes of your God (and mine).

            That is all I ask. Evading will not help , sugar coating will not help. I just want to know the truth.

            Anyway , thank you for the conversation that we had these few years. It is challenging , but I learnt a lot from it.

            Take care.

            Sharon

            .

          • Annelise says:

            I don’t remember Dina having a problem with you judging Judaism and Islam by the same standards.

            The boundary she’s making is that before continuing with new points, she first wants to talk about the points she raised earlier that weren’t discussed yet.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Annelise,

            I will just put in my assessment of the whole situation .

            First of all , I think Dina is upset because I kept on asking why the Rabbis formulated the blessings in such a manner . I asked if this is consistent with Genesis 1:27 . I doubted the credibility of the Jewish people as God’s witnesses based on the above.

            In her opinion , she find that argument as harsh and that I employed double standards. You wrote that my arguments comes across as a set of targeted attacks on the integrity of the Jewish tradition.

            I requested her to consider my arguments from a human perspective , so that she will understand what it feels like for someone who is not a Jew coming to know of these blessings. In my opinion , if a group of people receive revelation , one of whom which states that man is created in God’s image , then they should be more cognizant on the wording of the blessings-regardless of whether is there any likelihood that a Gentile would hear of it , or the historical circumstances surrounding the formulation of the prayer.

            This is my opinion and I don’t see why is this deemed harsh . If I study another religion whose adherents assert that they are God’s witnesses but their practice seemed to contradict what their Scriptures claimed then I would argue in the same manner. I use the same standard of assessment when I assess Islam , whose adherents , like the Jewish people claim to receive revelation from God. I highlighted the same concerns when I see Muslims behaving in a way that does not follow the Quran , or if there are questionable practices in the treatment of non Muslims ,women, etc –which doesn’t seem to accord with Islamic values .

            One mistake that I admit , is that I overlook the fact that the Jewish people has endured extreme and biased scrutiny , hence they may see these questions as harsh , reeking of double standards and are intrusive at first glance. Perhaps Dina too may have seen my questions in the same light and she reacted the way she did. I apologize if the manner in which I ask these questions is not right.

            However , how do you draw the line between respecting the sensitivities of the adherents of the religion and asking necessary but seemingly “harsh” and intrusive questions in order to come to the truth? Should I stop asking questions such as why the Rabbis formulate the blessings in such a manner , or whether is it consistent with Genesis 1:27? I find these as reasonable ,fair and logical questions. Dina too admitted that she doesn’t know why the Sages formulated it in that manner. Should I stop asking questions when it seems that it is attacking the integrity of the Jewish tradition?

            It seems that there is an invisible line being drawn by the people that I am conversing with- let me reiterate again that it is not the blog , but the people that I am conversing with.

            I view this also as an attempt to evade these questions and to cloak it behind the veneer of “Christian mentality” , or accusing me of employing harsh or double standards –thereby I am being perceived as anti-semitic.

            In conclusion , I would like to apologize if the way I persisted in asking these questions seem to give an impression that I judge Judaism harshly . However, please clarify your standards and criterion that ignorant , unenlightened non Jew like me , unlike Jim ,LarryB or yourself should be aware of when we assess non Jews and Judaism. Is a non Jew even worthy to assess Judaism at all? I am getting mixed messages here.

            If Dina is reading this , I hope that she will point out where exactly am I being harsh or employ double standards where Judaism is concerned. I hope that she will point out specific examples so that I can address it .

            I don’t think I can continue with the dialogue either if standards and criterion are not specifically clarified . I want to engage in an honest , no holds barred discussion and not having to tread on sea shells for fear of being labelled negatively.

            I do appreciate all of your comments and suggestions . However I hope that we can move beyond the superficiality of Jewish-Christian polemics –merely addressing proof texts and move on to debating Judaism –not only looking at the forest but to also to see the trees. Again , this depends on whether those involved are willing to break the “ultimate” barriers to truth -questioning integrity of religious establishment , religious tradition , anti-Semitism and other deep rooted fears -while achieving deep understanding and respect for the other in the process.

            I will end here.

            Thank you.

          • Annelise says:

            Hi Sharon, it seemed targeted and like accusations because you were drawing conclusions without actually engaging in discussion of the rebuttals.

            It seemed like double standards because you are having such polar emotional responses to Judaism and to Christianity.

            Jews are often idealised as an almost super-human race, or hated to the same extent. It’s too black and white and it may have more to do with how Christianity and Islam form their own identities in context of the Hebrew scriptures (as a model) and in contrast to Jewish tradition (as an ‘other’). This idealising/anti-idealising approach is different from the Jewish appreciation of their heritage, and serves solely to compose the identity of the Christian/Muslim, although it may appear similar on the surface.

  14. Dovid says:

    Sharon,
    I’ve been following this discussion and would like to put in my two cents. I am getting the impression that this discussion was prolonged and you may not be interested in it anymore. So I’d understand if you don’t wish to continue this discussion. But if you do, here is my honest opinion on the matter.
    I think that the standards to which you should scrutinize Judaism is the standards of logic. I don’t know what standards you use for Islam and Christianity, although I do get the impression that you are emotionally attached to Christianity since it shaped your monotheistic belief as a child. But this is irrelevant since the same may be said about me and my Jewish upbringing. What is relevant is the question you asked and it must be addressed honestly.
    You ask about the formation of the blessing in which Jews thank G-d for not creating us a non-Jew. I understand how this may be offensive but perhaps some understanding of the blessing may help in answering your question.
    Judaism teaches that “the righteous among the gentiles have a share in the World to Come.” Similarly, “the Lord does not withhold the reward for the Mitzvos of gentiles.” Judaism certainly does believe that Jews have some sort of “advantage” over non-Jews (we can discuss this more if you wish to do so), and anyone who tells you otherwise is hiding the truth for you. As discussed many times throughout this blog, both Jew and non-Jew play a role in G-d’s purpose of Creation, yet the Jew has a more direct role.
    The formulation of the blessing was inspired by the BIBLICAL concept of the Israelites being the Chosen Nation. It was also influenced by the historical reality of the time. The Gentile nations were morally corrupt and Jews were thanking G-d for not being a part of the moral corruption that surrounded them.
    If the prayers were composed today, I doubt this blessing would be a part of it since the moral standards of the gentiles have changed. However, Judaism doesn’t like to change the status-quo of things and tends to preserve its tradition. It is for this same reason that the blessing thanking G-d for the rooster that wakes us in the morning is still said as well. Even though the vast majority of Jews in this day and age are urbanites who almost never hear the sound of a rooster, they still recite this blessing in keeping of tradition of old. [It is for this same reason that Jewish men still say the blessing thanking G-d for not creating us a women even though the social standards of women have changed…]
    We especially won’t change the blessing since it holds true today as well in light of the Chosen Nation discussed in the Torah.
    Being that you’d probably agree with these two concepts, i.e. that the Jews are the Chosen Nation and that the Gentiles were extremely morally corrupt – what issue do you have with this blessing?

    • Annelise says:

      Hi Dovid, it’s good to hear from you… I hope you’ve been well.

      I’m going to step back from the discussion as I think it’s simpler with less people, and I don’t really have more to add anyway.

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Dovid,

      Thank you for putting in your opinion. I truly appreciate it.

      You have confirmed that the blessings are formulated with the concept of the Israelites as a Chosen nation. It provide a lot of clarity to me.

      Both chosenness and the concept of man being created in God’s Image are in the Torah. Do you find these concepts complement or contradict each other?

      Also , did the status of Gentile nations in God’s eyes deteriorate upon the election of the Jewish nation ? Or is the status of the Gentile nations remain the same as before election but the position of the Jewish nation is elevated?

      Once again , thank you for your honest , uncomplicated reply. This is what I truly hope to have in my conversation here.

      • Annelise says:

        Hi Sharon,

        I’m going to leave the conversation here, so it doesn’t get so much more complicated.

        Just wanted to note that considering whether the Torah contains contradictions can potentially be a fine and honest conversation, no matter what someone concludes. But keep in mind that that conversation
        1. Only relates to the honesty and/or understanding of certain ancient people who composed and accepted the texts. It has no bearing at all on the integrity of religious Jews (and Christians) after that period who believe in the Hebrew scriptures for many various reasons.
        2. Any negative conclusions about the reality of Torah has equal ramifications for Judaism and Christianity.

        All the best.

  15. Dovid says:

    Hi Sharon,

    I thought I’d be a bother as an intruder into the conversation so I’m glad my input ended up helping in the discussion. Anyways, you ask how I view the biblical concept that all humans were created in the Image of G-d in light of the Jewish People being the Chosen Nation.

    The Torah says that the Jewish Nation is G-d’s firstborn child (Ex. 4:22), a description that denotes a favorite child. All the nations of the world are regarded as G-d’s children and were thus “created in the Image of the Lord;” but the Jewish People are G-d’s favorited. Why the Jewish Nation is His favorite child is unknown but it seems to be merit of their forefathers in whom G-d found favor (see Genesis Ch. 14 and 15. Also see Deut. 7:8).

    Both Jews and non-Jews are part of G-d’s plan in this world, even if one plays a less active role than another. Within the Jewish Nation itself, there are different levels – including the priests of the dynasty of Aaron who devoted their entire day to the service of G-d (as Dina pointed at length in earlier conversations).

    To get a little more detailed, if I may, I’d like to explain my understanding of the Image of the Lord in which humans were created. The reason specifically humans, out of all creations, are credited with containing the Image of the Lord seems to be because of our power of Free Will. The Freedom of Choice that humans have is a divine power in a sense. All of nature runs by a system of “cause and effect”; the only exception would be Free Will that humans have. True we usually have instincts and experiences that influence our decision, but at the end of the day we have some sort of Free Will. This Free Will is not influenced by anything and is not part of a system (i.e. cause and effect). This is a divine power (because only G-d is the first existence without anything preceding Him. So too our Free Will, a G-dly power has nothing preceding it that influences it.) I can elaborate on this more if you’d like.

    Why do humans have Free Will? Because G-d found purpose in humans. G-d found it fruitless to give commandments to angels since they work robotically and there’s no catch in them fulfilling what they were preprogramed to fulfill. It is specifically human beings—with the power of Free Will—in whom G-d found a purpose in Creation. He wants us to overcome the challenges this world has to offer and pursue a relationship with Him. G-d is proud of us when we manage to overcome the obstacles.

    Being that all humans have Free Will and were created in the Image of G-d, comes to tell us that G-d has a mission for each human being. He has different missions for different people but it serves the grand purpose of Creation.

    Did the status of the Gentile diminish when the Israelites were chosen? No. On the contrary it was elevated. Until that time, civilization was in a very dark place morally speaking. The message of Judaism slowly made its way into the world to create the ever-increasing morality of civilization. “And all the nations of the earth shall be blessed through you [i.e. the Jewish Nation]” (Genesis 12:3)

    I wish there wasn’t the sad history and current reality of anti-Semitism that prevents Jews from spreading the message of Judaism that applies to non-Jews as well. At times like this we rely on righteous Gentiles such as yourself to spread the word and to teach other Gentiles about their sacred mission G-d has for them.

    I left many areas vague in this comment so please let me know if I was mistaken anywhere or if I need to give more clarity. Thank you.

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Dovid,

      Thank you so much for your response to my questions. I understand better now.

      You wrote that the Jewish nation is God’s firstborn child due to the merit of your forefathers. I come across a commentary from Rashi on Genesis 25:21 as follows:
      “there is no comparison between the prayer of a righteous person who is the son of a righteous person and the prayer of a righteous person the child of a wicked person”

      I understand that there is distinction between the prayers of one who is blessed with the merits of a righteous ancestor and one who is not . I noticed there is a prayer/blessing (the Akedah) in the Siddur which shows clearly how this concept is applied.

      Is there a distinction between the prayers of a Jew (blessed with the merits of the Patriarchs) and non Jew (deemed to have no righteous ancestors) ? Does God indeed consider merits of a righteous ancestor in order to answer prayer? How is this consistent with Ezekiel 18 and Psalm 145:18?

      Thank you.

  16. Dovid says:

    Hi Sharon,

    Jack is a man who makes his own decisions. He is responsible for his actions and he determines the destiny of his life. However, he does have childhood experiences that influence his path in life. This is the story of every single one of us. We are independent human beings yet we are still shaped, at least partially, by our parents’ decisions.

    Just as it is in physical, so too is the spiritual. It is true that righteous ancestry is considered a merit, especially in prayer. However, the main thing is the person’s action themselves. G-d will not reject the prayer of a person who cries out in sincerity – irrespective of their ancestry (Psalm 145:18). This is because ultimately a person determines their own destiny (Ezekiel 18). However, just as a parent can leave an inheritance for their children, they also can leave over an inheritance of merit (see Rashi on Genesis 25:21). These verses do not contradict each other, rather they each emphasize another side of the coin.

  17. Dovid says:

    Hi Sharon,

    Why do you ask us these questions if you either way reject what we’ll say? We spent hours answering your questions so the least you can do is explain why you object to the explanations given. Pardon me for saying this, but it sounds like you already made up your mind and are merely interested in satisfying your intellectual questions. Do correct me if I’m wrong.

    If you were to feel that Christianity has no place for the Gentile, would you then hop over to Islam? What if you would then find out that Islam has no place for the Gentile, would you then jump to Buddhism? In other words, do you choose a religion because it is the truth or because you feel cozy and a sense of belonging in it?

    I’m sorry that there are very few Noahide synagogues worldwide but that doesn’t mean G-d doesn’t have a mission for you and a way for you to fulfill it.

  18. Sharon S says:

    Hi Dovid,

    I’m confused by your comment.

    I appreciate your explanation. You have answered the questions I have asked .
    Which part of my comment makes you think otherwise? 🤷‍♀️

    Don’t mind my asking , are you influenced my recent conversation I had with others here ?

    Let me ask you a few questions :
    1. What was your first perception of Christianity?
    2. Do you have any preconceived notions/stereotypes of Christianity-such as how it did harm
    to the Jewish people ? What are stereotypes that you have seen/heard that concerns you most?
    3. Did you explore Christianity with this stereotypes in mind and focus your exploration in areas that you hoped could dispel/confirm these notions?
    4. What was the result at the end of your exploration?
    5. Are you satisfied that you have evaluated Christianity fairly by focusing on the areas alone?

    This is the same thought process I employ when I evaluate Islam and Judaism.

    I have this preconceived notion that Judaism does not have a place for non Jews. I approach Judaism with the primary focus area to confirm or dispel these notions. I come to find the Jewish Scriptures as a one huge story of a man and his descendants . It reminds me of those classic US soap operas about family sagas I used to watch such as “‘Dallas”, ”Knots Landing”, etc.

    When you see the Jewish people or Judaism from this perspective , you will wonder what place does this religion have for you , the outsider . This is especially true when the Creator of the Universe , your maker and mine is very much involved in the saga of this family. Perhaps , as a member of this family you may see this is irrelevant , as you are in the inside. It is totally different when you are looking from the outside.

    I need to confirm if Judaism is just a family saga and my role is just a spectator , or is there something beneath its surface which reveals the “‘heart” the Creator of the Universe has for all of humanity. That is why I ask all these questions. I thought , despite my exploration thus far that there is none, but fortunately your answers and the content of this blog seem to indicate otherwise.

    I am just disappointed of being perceived as having some vestiges of anti-semitism , as my methods seem to show that I am employing harsh/double standards when assessing Judaism. I hope that you have not come to the same conclusions as some here have.

    I do not want to be treading on another mine field here , that is why I keep my questions and responses to you to a minimum. However I am open for a dialogue.

    Have a good day.

  19. Dovid says:

    Hi Sharon

    My previous comment was a reaction to this statement of yours “I have a very strong impression that Judaism has no place for the non-Jew.” I also got thrown off by your ending in which you said “All the best in your Yeshiva education” which I perhaps mistook to mean that you are no longer interested in my comments and were brushing me away.

    I like these civil dialogues and would love to discuss these issues more at length. The only minefield I’d be scared of is if you’d simply disregard the answers without explaining why. However your latest comment seems to suggest that you are in fact open for discussion.

    Just so you know, I do not think you have anti-Semitic tendencies and in fact I’d imagine the opposite to be true. My only concern is that you have bias tendencies stemming from the fact that you do not feel a sense of belonging as a Noahide Gentile. It is important that in our discussion we put aside our biases.

    You ask why the Torah speaks almost exclusively about the Jewish nation if Judaism is intended for mankind as a whole?
    I think this is because Judaism is mainly for the Jewish Nation. There is no doubt about that. But that doesn’t come to exclude that non-Jews don’t have a moral code of conduct and a mission from G-d. The Torah is basically the love story between G-d and His Chosen Nation which ultimately leads to the Covenant between them, a Covenant that exceeds the basic moral code for mankind as a whole. Most non-Jews are satisfied with their more passive role and the Noahide code, but for some this will not suffice. They realize the unique relationship between G-d and His Chosen Nation and they have the option to sign up for this unique Covenant and to convert to Judaism.

    You said “Let me ask you a few questions:
    1. What was your first perception of Christianity?
    2. Do you have any preconceived notions/stereotypes of Christianity-such as how it did harm
    to the Jewish people? What are stereotypes that you have seen/heard that concerns you most?
    3. Did you explore Christianity with this stereotypes in mind and focus your exploration in areas that you hoped could dispel/confirm these notions?
    4. What was the result at the end of your exploration?
    5. Are you satisfied that you have evaluated Christianity fairly by focusing on the areas alone?”

    Are you actually asking me these questions or was this just a lead-up to the proceeding statement of yours: “This is the same thought process I employ when I evaluate Islam and Judaism.”
    I don’t mind answering these questions, I’m just not sure what your intention was. So please clarify.
    Thank you.

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Dovid,

      I am sorry if my comments are misleading . The remarks are meant as a compliment on your effort and how your response brought some clarity , as well as dispelling a little of the bias I have towards Judaism. I also wanted to wish you well on your studies. I am glad that we have cleared the matter.

      Thank you for making clear the minefield that I should be aware of. If I may , I would also like to make clear the criterion for a good dialogue as follows:

      1.To evaluate opinions fairly
      2.To uphold basic human courtesy
      3.To put ourselves into the shoes of another for greater understanding.
      -This may mean that I have to understand your position from the perspective of a Jew.
      -This may also mean that you may have to understand my position from the perspective of a non Jew.
      -There are times when we need to understand a certain position from a human perspective
      4.To refrain from accusing the other without reason.

      I will proceed to respond to your points.

      Let me start with the 5 questions. You are right , these questions are meant to explain the thought process I use to evaluate Islam and Judaism. The point is all of us will approach another belief /religion with a certain bias. Jews generally have a certain bias when it comes to Christianity. Non Muslims will have a certain bias when it comes to Islam . Non Jews will have a certain bias when it comes to Jews/Judaism.

      It is difficult to shake of the bias or stereotypes surrounding the religion and to assess it on its own merit . One will naturally focus on the areas of the religion that gives rise to the bias and spend his/her energy to learn more in these areas in order to confirm or dispel it .

      I have a few bias of Jews and Judaism which fortunately was overcome through interaction with Jews like you and through further reading . However one bias that I cannot shake off is the bias that there is no place for the non Jew in Judaism.

      When I mean by no place , it does not mean that non Jews will go to hell and Jews will go to heaven. It is what you wrote-Judaism is mainly for the Jewish nation. Sure , the non Jew have their roles , but there is no indication in the Jewish Scriptures which reveals the “heart’’ that the Creator of the universe has for humanity.

      Judaism , to me falls into the categories of religions/belief systems that falls along ethnic or indigenous to a certain area, the others being Chinese folk religion , Hinduism or Shintoism.The adherents of these belief systems are always of a certain ethnicity . It is rare to find a someone who is not Chinese following Chinese folk religion . It is rare to find someone not Japanese practicing Shintoism. However I am aware that Hinduism has a large following in the Western world .

      There are wonderful truths and sciences which can be learned from these religions , however there is no need for one outside of these religions to abandon his /her beliefs in order to practice these truths. For example , I am not a Chinese , but I am aware of Chinese Geomancy or Feng Shui. I am aware that the knowledge of Feng Shui will help me to purchase property in an “auspicious’’ area , which can usher in financial blessings and prosperity. I don’t need to abandon my religious beliefs and convert to Chinese folk religion to enjoy these benefits.

      Hence , when I consider Judaism from this perspective , I don’t see why there is a need for a Noahide community or “God Fearers’’ in the first place. Yes , God has a basic moral code for mankind , but these codes are already embedded into the teachings of most religions today. Hillel’s teaching to the Gentile-the Golden rule is also a teaching found in the Confucianism and in the Hindu Scriptures.

      Perhaps God just wants us to be moral , ethical beings by just adhering to the teachings of the religious framework where we are born into. If you are born a Jew , then strive to be a good Jew. If I am born into a Catholic community , then I should strive to be a good Catholic. Why must the non Jew abandon his/her faith ?

      Your replies to my earlier questions and Rabbi Blumenthal’s video “Intercession for the wicked’’ seems to somewhat dispel the perception I have of Judaism , but not fully. I don’t think that most Jews are on the same page as you are . I could be wrong , but I guess most Jews want to be left alone . The reason why the world is hearing of Judaism is primarily because of the need to fend of Christian missionaries targeting Jews. If there were no missionaries then perhaps even this blog will not even exist.

      I hope to have answered your questions. Please let me know if I missed out anything.

      Thank you.

  20. Dovid says:

    Hi Sharon,

    Just to put it out there, I don’t think I approached Christianity with a bias. There was a time that I considered Messianic Judaism and it was only after a thorough research that I abandoned such thoughts. We cannot accept and embrace our bias; we must fight it. If we don’t, then I see no purpose in intellectual conversations if we are either way missing the judging skills to find the real truth.

    You ask “Why must the non-Jew abandon his/her faith?” You base this on “Perhaps God just wants us to be moral, ethical beings by just adhering to the teachings of the religious framework where we are born into.”

    I’d agree with you that G-d will probably favorably judge a person who follows morality within the framework of the religion they were born into. This is because G-d wants us to follow our conscience morals and strive to build a relationship with him. However, as someone who cares about truth, I wouldn’t recommend serving a man you know to be a false prophet. Serving Jesus or Muhammad are part of the Abrahamic monotheistic religions, but that doesn’t make it the truth. If you know them to be phonies, why would you let yourself worship them or adhere to their teachings? (and if you are unsure if they are true prophets or not, we can enter that discussion).

    The point is, that although Christianity and Islam contain many moral elements (although people have abused the scriptures to justify their violence), still that doesn’t make it the truth. So as a person who stands for the truth, you should scrutinize Jesus and his authenticity before serving him.

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Dovid,

      You wrote that the Judaism is mainly for the Jewish nation and that the Torah speaks exclusively to the Jewish nation.

      You also acknowledge that God will judge favorably a person who follows morality within the religious framework he/ she is born into- even though most religious framework we see today does not have access to His truths in full.

      Your explanation is consistent with what Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks wrote in his article “The Universal & the Particular” here https://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/501731461.html . Rabbi Sacks describes of Judaism as having a tension between the universal (creation, humanity as God’s image, and the covenant with Noah) and the particular (revelation, Israel as God’s “firstborn child,” and the covenants with Abraham and the Jewish people at Sinai).

      As such , we have to acknowledge that God has different set of expectations for the Jew and the non Jew. The Jewish nation , unlike other nations are given access to God’s truths. Hence God has a higher expectation for the Jew as compared to the non Jew.

      I don’t understand why non Jew who follows morality within his/her religious framework (which is not true) will be judged favorably , but a non Jew who knows these truths are required to abandon his/her religious framework .

      The concern here is not the truths themselves (that there is a God , He has no form , etc) but also what God expects from us. You wrote that the Torah speaks exclusively to the Jewish nation , so I can only conclude that God expects the Jewish nation to follow His truths.

      Perhaps you may think that I am trying to evade or deflect from what truly matters –the ultimate truth. I am not denying the truth . I am just stating that just as there are two modes of how God reveals Himself to humanity , there are also different expectation on how humanity should respond to His truths. The difference in expectations is important and should be considered as well.

      • Dovid says:

        Hi Sharon,

        “I don’t understand why non Jew who follows morality within his/her religious framework (which is not true) will be judged favorably , but a non Jew who knows these truths are required to abandon his/her religious framework .”

        I don’t know how G-d judges or if He judges people who intentionally keep a religion they know to be somewhat based on falsehood. But G-d’s judgment isn’t the question here. You, as a person, how could you follow a religion you know to contain false tenants? (It’s a rhetorical question to bring out a point, I’m not actually asking you to defend yourself.)

        • Sharon S says:

          Hi Dovid,

          You asked , how could I follow a religion that I know to contain false tenants. You asked the question to bring out a point and that you not actually asking me to defend myself. However I think it is best for me to answer the question.

          The answer lies in my first comment on the video “How NOT to Respond to a Christian Missionary” and to which I will repeat here- In Christianity , I find that God is not aloof , but is involved in our broken world and have taken steps to provide a remedy for our sin and brokenness 2000 years ago. I find that God is interested to have a special , intimate and personal relationship with all of humanity and not only for a people, though they still remain the first. Jesus said in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…”.

          I wrote in the same comment that the worldview of Christianity is “my anchoring bias , my frame of reference , the bottom line. Perhaps it is far removed from reality but I am not able to lower the bar for any belief which advocates something less , even though the other belief may be true”

          I come to learn , from studying Judaism , following Torah portions and from interaction with a few Jewish people –in this blog and elsewhere that Judaism is indeed advocating something less from what Christianity has to offer to humanity.

          I believe the Torah is true and those to whom it is revealed have done their best to practice, preserve and impart the knowledge to their descendants. However the revelation is only meant for the Jewish nation. I cannot find a strong indication within the Torah which shows of God having an “agenda” or “heart” for all of humanity. Yes , there are commentaries in Jewish tradition here and there as well as certain articles/videos in this blog which seems to have a more universal/inclusive outlook but it is not as prominent or important as the chosenness of the Jewish nation-the heart of the Torah message.

          There are many other elements in Jewish tradition, which shows me that the Gentile /non Jew have an inconsequential position in Judaism . Inconsequential is defined as “not important or significant”. I have discussed these elements extensively in this blog , one of them –the position of the Gentile in Jewish law with you .

          The element I find most problematic to me personally is the Jewish blessings in which the Jew bless God for not being born a Gentile. The Jew recites this blessing every morning. I have discussed the rationale behind this blessing in the blog-in which the initial answer given was that the formulation comes from a humility-invoking source or that by reciting it Jews reaffirm their commitment to fulfill those commandments incumbent upon them. This blessing does not denigrate the non Jew. I find those responses does not answer why this blessing, unlike all other blessings are formulated in a negative way and asked further-to the extent that I was accused of having some vestiges of antisemitism .

          You provided a very clear answer when you wrote that the “formulation of the blessing was inspired by the BIBLICAL concept of the Israelites being the Chosen Nation” , and that the Jew is thanking God for not being a part of the moral corruption that surrounded them. The conversation would have turned out differently if this answer was given much earlier (please note that I am not blaming you for coming in late into the conversation).

          To recap , I have come to learn that the position of the Gentile /non Jew are not important or significant in Judaism . I am willing to follow a religion which I know contain false tenants because it has a strong message of God’s involvement and love to humanity . I am not able to accept a lower , inconsequential position that Judaism is offering me as a non Jew via the Noahide path just because it is true.

          Before I end , I am aware that as a Jew , you may disagree with me. You may argue that according to Christianity , those who do not believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior may be worse off than the Gentile who is deemed inconsequential in Judaism. That is the response I hear most when I brought out this argument. You may have a point .

          In my opinion , despite all that , Christianity is still offering a much higher position to anyone who chose to believe in its tenets-much more than what Judaism is able to offer to the non Jew who is not considering conversion.

          I am not sure if we can continue the dialogue beyond this point. In my opinion , going beyond it will result in this discussion ended up “being in circles”, or I might be labelled an anti-Semite (perhaps not by you but by others). I appreciate your effort and time to dialogue with me. All the best in your undertakings.

  21. Dovid says:

    Sharon,
    If you wish to end this conversation, that is fine. I will not respond to your previous comment as to not provoke the discussion going in circles that you are afraid of. If you are fine and satisfied with falsehood because it provides you comfort – who am I to interfere. I don’t judge you. I wish your search for truth would have ended differently because based on the amount of effort you put into pursuing the truth you truly deserve more. I hope you find satisfaction in whatever path you decide to take and hope you achieve that connection with our Father in heaven. I hope to have more intriguing conversations with you in the future. In the meantime, all the best!

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Dovid,

      On further thought ,please feel free to respond to the points I have raised in my comment. It will benefit me and more importantly others following this conversation, who may have the same concerns as I do.

      In summary, the questions I raised are as follows:

      a. What is the main message , or the “heart” of the Torah?

      • Is the message of the Torah all about choseness ( The call of Abraham,Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Joseph over his brothers, Jewish people over the nations, the descendants of Aaron and Levites above the Israelites)?

      • If yes, is this concept a tool to achieve a higher purpose or is it an end unto itself?

      b. You once wrote that Judaism certainly does believe that Jews have some sort of “advantage” over non-Jews. You also wrote that both Jew and non-Jew play a role in
      G-d’s purpose of Creation, yet the Jew has a more direct role.

      • Does this means that the non Jew have an inconsequential ( not important or significant position in Judaism? Please explain if the position I described is not accurate and why.

      c. You wrote once that you have considered Messianic Judaism before, hence I assume that you have read and have some knowledge of the New Testament

      • In your opinion , does the non Jew have a better position in Christianity ( if they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior) as compared to Judaism ( Noahide path)? If no why?

      I would like to add a few more questions which arise from my conversations here. You may choose not to respond if you don’t want to.

      a.Should a non Jew take the elements in Jewish tradition which seems unfriendly to them seriously ?

      • The response that I get when these elements are highlighted is that it does not affect how Jews interact with their neighbors . Hence there should be no more questions.

      • So does this mean that the non Jew should not probe further , for we will be seen as unfairly criticizing the Jewish people ?

      b. Does focusing too much on the position of the Jew and Gentile in Judaism cause the non Jew to miss more important truths that Judaism has to offer?

      c. If the answer in (b) is a yes, then what important truths that the non Jew has to focus on?

      Thank you.

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