Last month, CJCUC published on its website, a groundbreaking statement on Christianity by Orthodox rabbis. Most reactions to the statement were positive and welcoming, yet some agenda-driven persons have distorted the meaning of our statement to advance their agenda.
Breaking Israel News has covered the controversy and allowed CJCUC officers to put the statement in perspective. The statement rests on the firm foundation of Halakhah (Orthodox Jewish law) and precedent. The statement was made by Orthodox scholars, all of whom are fully committed to obeying all norms, statutes, and principles of Halakhah. Jewish law prohibits “Eidut Sheker”—bearing false witness against another. It forbids maliciously imputing incorrect agendas as well as condemning others without first approaching each person honestly and asking, “What did you say and why did you do that”?
When the statement was released, Rabbi Riskin stated that “the real importance of this Orthodox statement is that it calls for fraternal partnership between Jewish and Christian religious leaders, while also acknowledging the positive theological status of the Christian faith. Jews and Christians must be in the forefront of teaching basic moral values to the world.”
What began as a draft by 5 Orthodox Rabbis from Israel, Europe and the United States, now has more than 60 Orthodox rabbinic signatories! We anticipate that more rabbis will either sign the statement or release alternative statements on the undeniable constructive developments in Jewish-Christian relations in the last 50 years. While these rabbis understand that they speak only for themselves and not the larger Orthodox community, they are rabbis who took the time and effort to study Christianity and, by dint of their expertise, are qualified to offer informed judgments on Jewish-Christian relations today. Because divine truths cannot be reduced to a simple formula in human language, Orthodox Judaism celebrates sincerely held diverse Halakhic opinions. And because Halakhah is committed to discovering truth, it sanctifies the dialectic of informed, learned rabbinic debate.
Engaging in Orthodox-Christian theological conversation is rightly undertaken only by believers from both faiths with requisite scholarly credentials, in the shared pursuit of religious authenticity. Recognizing believers of another faith is not a concession to syncretism. It is an act of appreciating God’s greatness, goodness, and glory that can touch all people in their diverse culture contexts. Our dialogue is not a dilution of faith; it recognizes that the Divine word is able to speak in different ways to different peoples.
Just as modern nation states have foreign ministries that interact with other nations, the Torah makes clear that Judaism must be invested in the universal call to refined faith, good works, and the mission to sanctify the not yet sacred. While many important Jewish organizations engage in interfaith dialogue, CJCUC’S calling is specifically within Jewish-Christian relations (a glimpse into the reason can be seen in the following link).
Other rabbis who disagree with CJCUC have every right to argue their case. But according to Jewish law they must strive for truth by getting the facts right, speak to us directly, and attempt to demonstrate our error with honest arguments. False name calling and sarcastic, disrespectful ridicule is not the way of any sincerely religious person. Such tactics demean those dissenters and violate the Torah prohibition of slander. The use of satire and falsehoods as a substitute for substance reveals a profound religious blemish.
Every Shabbat before we recite Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals), we joyously sing Psalm 126. Responding to the in-gathering of the exiles, the psalmist declares that nations will say – “The L-rd has done great things for them [Israel].” The gentile nations are involved in Israel’s intimate collective moment celebrating our return home. While the author of this Psalm was addressing the Jewish return home from the Babylonian Exile, Psalm 126 carries a providential message for our own times. Many Christians from nations all around the world have recognized that “The L-rd has done great things for them.” Some are unaware of the negative history between the Synagogue and Church and are simply following their G-d calling in life to “stand in the breach” for Israel. Christians have worked to overcome 2,000 years of Replacement Theology and many now advocate on behalf of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. CJCUC offers one institutional response to this historic process. The recent Orthodox Rabbis Statement on Christianity supports this sacred mission.
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