Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Fundamental Misunderstandings

Rav Shlomo Riskin, he of the crying Torah, has found himself in hot water again.  It seems a recent video interview he gave has landed him in hot water for expressing frankly heretical views.  Having watched part of the video, I disagree.  The troublesome views weren't heretical, they were just stupid.
All of this tends to revolve around an uncomfortable question for Jews.  Who exactly was the Chrisian false god?  Was he really a prophet?  Was he really a rabbi?  Was he really from the House of David?  The Chrisian answer to all those questions is "yes and he was more".  However, the Jewish approach has always been quite different.  It seems recently that profound misunderstands have crept even into the Orthodox community, or at least its left feel-good fringe:
. The video was clearly posted for a Christian audience but it has caused shock waves among Orthodox Jews and especially the Charedi community. Rabbi Riskin stated on the video that Jesus was a model rabbi who “lived the life of a Jewish rabbi in Israel”.
Anyone who has learned the Jewish version of the history of that time, as opposed to the Church's, knows that Rav Riskin is completely incorrect.  What we know about J.C. comes from censored sections of the Talmud.  A character named Yeshu HaNotzri appears in a handful of places and in one he is listed as being a student of Yehoshua ben Perachya.  This clearly contradicts the Church's version of history as it means he lived 200 years before the so-called Common Era as opposed to heralding its beginning with  his birth.
Further, in his various appearances in the gemara it is quite clear that Yeshu was not a rabbi.  Remember that in those days the term was reserved for someone who received official semicha from another rabbi.  One didn't just go and do a degree program like JTU and HUC offer to get the title.  If Yeshu couldn't get his teacher to give him semicha then he couldn't become a rabbi and the gemara makes it clear that this process never happened.  Instead he was tossed out of class for inappropriate comments and lustful thoughts, hardly a fitting start for a putative messiah.
Surely, at a minimum, Jewish education today should include learning that Jesus and his family would have been Torah observant, kept Shabbat, circumcised their males, attended synagogue, observed purity laws in relation to childbirth and menstruation, kept kosher, and so on. While the Gospels record disputes about Jesus’s interpretation of a few of these, the notion of a Christian Jesus, who did not live by Torah or only by its ethical values, does not fit historical reality.
Let's look at another annoying historical fact.  Josephus Flavius wrote extensively about the period of time in which Yeshu supposedly lived but never mentioned him.  Yet we know that Josephus was fanatical about details big and small.  This bothered the later Church so much that they altered the text of his books to include a record of Yeshua.  Thus even if a Yeshu had been around at that point he was clearly an insignificant figure, possibly a forgetable rabble rouser, who should have disappeared from history.
Except that not much later after his death Saul of Tarsus decided to change history.  Taking Yeshu's name, he created a new religion, one with much more mass appeal than Judaism, and spread it across the Roman Empire.  Yeshua, either Yehoshua ben Perachya's student or some other, really gave nothing to this new religion other than his name.  He was never a rabbi, or a prophet, or a potential messiah.  And Rav Riskin should know that.
Yes, it is uncomfortable for Chrisians to read that this is the Jewish understanding of their so-called saviour.  However, they must also recognize that their entire religion, including the whole abolition of "the law", the appropriation of the "Chosen people" moniker from us and 1900 years of relentless persecution in the name of Yeshu have been uncomfortable for us.  We should not seek strife with them but we should also not alter our understanding of our history to accomodate them either.
Coincidentally, another Jewish leader is mentioned in the article making another, similar mistake:
However, they have caused as much outrage as the publication in 2002 of Chief Rabbi Sacks’s book, Dignity of Difference, which had to be quickly revised to avoid accusations of heresy.

Sacks was criticised for suggesting that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were equal on theological grounds, which led him to rephrase some statements. For example, in the second edition he removed the statement that “God has spoken to mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians, Islam to Muslims”, which became “As Jews we believe that God has made a covenant with the singular people, but [this] does not exclude the possibility of other peoples, cultures and faith finding their own relationship with God within the shared frame of the Noahide laws.”
I hadn't heard this and was shocked to discover that Rav Sacks, a well-known Talmid Chacham had said this.  His "God has spoken to mankind in many languages" would be explicable if each of the three religions mentioned didn't all contain mutually-exclusive clauses.  The Navi tells us that "You alone have I known of all the peoples in the world".  Chrisianity claims that with the rise of Yeshu the old convenant with the Jews is abrogated and transferred to the Church.  And Islam claims, of course, that Moe spoke with God and became the last prophet, superceding and replacing all previous prophets and laws. 
Does Rav Sacks think that God is a practical joker saying to himself in Heaven "I'll tell each of them that they're the chosen one and watch them fight it out for millenia!"?  If we are right, then they are wrong and vice versa.  Once again, this is an uncomfortable concept for the "can't we all get along" crowd but discomfort does not alter its validity.
Others are entitled to believe and practise as they see fit, of course.  But that right does not also demand that accept their validity.  Rav Riskin should have known better.


Izgad said...

Explain to me why I must except Toldot Yeshu as an article of faith or any aggadic material regarding Jesus. I follow Nachmonides at the debate on this.

Jesus was certainly a historical figure who lived in the first century. While there is some debate whether Josephus called Jesus "Christos" or if this was just a Christian addition, most scholars today accept that the passage about Jesus as a whole is genuine. Take a look at the work of Dr. Louis Feldman of Yeshiva University or get in contact with him directly.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it wise to discuss the issue in detail. I would recommend the revised edition of Meshichei Sheker Umisnagdahem which has a full discussion of the various - 4 I believe - classic Jewish opinions on the historic personage and when and if he lived.You might want to look at an uncensored version of Hilchos Milochim such as Frankel as well.


Off the Derech said...

You're crazier than they are.

JewishGuy said...

Garnel, I've recently had the displeasure of commenting on OTD's blog and undergoing some fun tirades (obviously, they include the "accusation" that I am, in fact, you). Have it yet been figured out what, exactly, his problem is?

JewishGuy said...

"Has", sorry.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Hi JewishGuy and welcome out,

Way early on in his career OTD made some claims which I rebutted. Some of them he took personally even though no insult was involved. It seems to have triggered a latent obsessiveness with him and I've become the obsession. He sees me everywhere and has decided that anyone religious who dares question the new orthodoxy of atheism must be me acting under a pseudonym. Sometimes it's funny, like when he goes to blogs I've never visited and starts accusing people of being me, but usually he doesn't leave my blog address so I don't get extra visits from it.
Other times it's just sad because everyone else has figured out that I always blog under my name which means people are being accused falsely.
It's best to just ignore him. Trying to reason with him when you don't agree with him 100% is a waste of time.

JewishGuy said...

Yeah, I've realized that now.

Izgad said...

I am reminded about the time my ex-girlfriend falsely accused me of harassing her by calling her on a line besides for my regular cell phone. Give it a break OTD. If the man says he does not have other covers take him at his word. There is nothing hanging on it.

Off the Derech said...

Izgad: I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Garnel regularly uses several names. The question is not whether he uses other accounts; the question is only whether he uses 5, 50, or 500!

Letting the most powerful and dangerous troll in the history of the Internet off the hook because his friend Izgad wants me to doesn't appeal to me too much.

Izgad said...

So I am Garnel’s friend and not just another cover. What makes you so certain I am not really him? I am not sure if I can be described as his friend. I have never met any of his five hundred aliases in person and I often think his arguments go just a bit over the top. To me saying that you know that he uses other aliases sounds like an argument from faith. Saying that he is the most dangerous troll on the internet in a universe that has Authentic Judaism and Frum Teens seems to be giving Garnel Protocols of the Elders of Zion levels of power. I will grant you that Dr. Mike sounds as if it could be Garnel. But again if Garnel denies that it is him I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Off the Derech said...

Izgad: Garnel has been deleting most of my comments on this post (as well as others) and you may have missed my last comment. Feel free to email me: offthed at gmail dot com if you want to discuss this further.

JewishGuy said...

Judging by OTD's so-called "proof" of Garnel's numerous identities, the fact that he claims he "knows beyond a shadow of a doubt" is very, very funny; there is more proof to G-d's existence than there is proof to Garnel posting under other names.

Anders Branderud said...

It is important to differ the historical Torah-teacher Ribi Yehoshua, and the arch-antithesis, the anti-Torah Christian J*sus. The above blog post mixes the two.

A logical analysis (found here: of the earliest manusscripts (including the logical implications of the research by Ben-Gurion Univ. Prof. of Linguistics Elisha Qimron of Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT) of “Matthew”, implies that the historical Ribi Yehoshua was a Perushi (Pharisee). Ribi Yehoshua from Nazareth was called a Ribi and only the Perushim had Ribis.

Paqid Yirmeyahu Ben Dawid have reconstructed the teachings of Ribi Yehoshua using a logical and scientific methodology, excluding everything Ribi Yehoshua impossibly could have said being a Perushi.

If Ribi Yehoshua would have taught against Torah he would have lost his semikhah immediately. There are no proofs that he taught against Torah (the so-called “gospels” are not a valid source since it contains redactions, since those contains redactions (read more in the above link; Glossaries; “NT”)).
This distinction is crucial: “Two polar-opposites: he authentic, historical, PRO-Torah 1st-century Ribi from Nazareth and the 4th-century (post-135 C.E.), arch-antithesis ANTI-Torah apostasy [Jesus (Yesh’’u)] developed by the Hellenists (namely the Sadducees and Roman pagans who conspired to kill Ribi Yehoshua, displaced his original followers and redacted the NT).” [quote:The above website]

Talmud writes about Yehs’’u, not about the historical Ribi Yehoshua.