Oh Baby!Why?

To be honest, I’m not sure – but the idea puts my Jewish brain in a pretzel.

CK and I have chatted with a few Christians over the past week ( 2 very nice, one skeevy) and I realized that I have to bone-up on my natural aversion to this idea. So, I’ll be spending Shabbos with Aryeh Kaplan’s “The Real Messiah?: A Jewish Response to Missionaries” and a bag of Cashews.


(ed. note: Mother and baby pictured here are located on the same street as creepy dope smokin’ missionary dude’s street. Coincidentally, this is the same street that Ariela lives on.)

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  • For easy access info there’re a lot of great counter missionary sites on the net. Some do side by side comparisons between Tanach and various Christian bibles with detailed explanations. Others have less detailed breakdowns but focus on more reader friendly explanations.

    Jews for Judaism, Messiah Truth, Outread Judaism, etc. Check them out, some even have some pretty good forums. 🙂

    P.S. If you want to have fun with a missionary who’s a trinitarian, ask them why they refer to the Spirit of HaShem as father when the name in hebrew is feminine. 😀

  • Dvorah, unfortunately, the most common missionaries I come across are Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Neither are trinitarians, although Mormons appear to be polytheists, which is almost as interesting.

  • “The Real Messiah?: A Jewish Response to Missionaries” is a good read, but to use it properly, I recommend verifying the belief of the missionary before presuming (and responding to) his position. Some of the arguments from the book only work with certain people. In any event, I recommend framing the debate as one of whether the missionaries’ beliefs are valid. By making that the subject of discussion, you never get to the critical issue that the missionary must address of whether your beliefs are valid. Whenever the subject moves to the Jewish view, I usually say something like, “well that’s just not a Jewish way of looking at it,” and then return back to the missionary’s views. Even if the missionary is able to defend his beliefs, that is an acceptable result, because we each walk away with our respective faith. While that may not be an acceptable result for the missionary, it is an acceptable result for a Jew.

  • I don’t get it, why debate these folks?

    “I respect your belief in Jesus as the messiah, and I respect your right to that belief. I believe what I believe and am quite content. Buh bye.”

  • Yisrael,

    The last time I had a JW knock on my door it was a Saturday afternoon. I pointed to the mezuzah and explained they were at a Jewish house and not only is it rude to try and missionize but it was doubly so because it was Shabbat. They aplogized and left. No need to answer the door nekkid holding a black candle or anything 😀

    As for dealing with other missionaries, I usually try the nice approach by telling them that I understand they have their beliefs but that I have mine so their message isn’t welcome. If they’re really really pushy, I have fun with them.

  • Why debate these folks? I’m glad you asked!

    I think having a dialogue is crucial so that we don’t presume what anybody is “about” just because they come from a particular background or espouse certain ideological views.

    I hope that all Jews and Christians, even when they may be on completely opposite sides of a topic, still enjoy the debate, learn a great deal, sharpen their arguments, and “grow” as a result of their Discussion.

    Couldn’t resist….

  • I agree, T M., the debates can certainly be interesting, but you’re not going to change their beliefs any more then they will change your’s. I enjoy discussing different faiths with people, but not under the guise of “I’m trying to save you from eternal damnation.”

    Some of the most interesting debates I’ve had are with “secular missionaries” — the athiests/agnostics who think religion is the cause of every bad thing in the world.

  • Neocon, fair enough. Perhaps I’ve had one too many painful conversations with friends who nicely ask me how I can go on not believing in Jesus as Christ. It is always awkward and a conversation I avoid because then I have to make them question their beliefs. It’s a matter of faith, not rational debate, so I find that it leads nowhere and tends to damage relationships.

    I avoid it.

  • Muffti recommends hitting on any missionaries that come by. Say things like ‘I am interested in Jesus, baby. Why don’t you come in and we’ll talk over a couple of drinks. Are all missionaries as sexy as you are?’ You can’t really lose that way. Generally they will run off in fear.

  • TM,

    Growing up, the majority of my friends have been Christians. Whenever they’ve asked me questions as to what I believe or why don’t I believe (fill in the blank) I make it very clear that what I’m saying applies to me as a Jew. When there is respect on both sides it can usually be a cool learning experience.

    Then there was a friend who EVERY holiday would say: “This is the one where you don’t eat any meat, right?”


  • Oh, Dvorah, we maintain respect for each other. However, I’ve had it happen to me where the other person is visibly disappointed that I’m not “getting it.” How can I not “see” the obvious. They still respect me and I respect them, but it created a barrier between us that I would rather not have exist with friends. So I find it easier to avoid this particular discussion. We’ll discuss customs, our respective religions, etc., but discussing the status of Jesus is something I avoid.

  • My policy was always, if they’re truly interested in having a conversation about the topic, sure I’ll try. But if they’re just going to spew stuf about how Jesus is the Messiah and “our part” of the Bible supports that, I excuse myself. Once I did get rather blunt and say, “Well, then I guess I’m going to Hell. Some all-loving God you folks have.” They promptly left.

  • I spoke with Christian friends for about an entire evening on this and related subjects last week. I told them flat out that after ‘the’ messiah comes, life on planet earth will be dramatically changed for the better (not instant though). After their messiah came (the first time), nothing changed EXCEPT that he apparently died for the sake of future individuals, not mankind.

  • Went to a shabbaton in Victoria BC last weekend and saw this guy: Tovia Singer. (site seems temporarily down – see this one instead.

    Rabbi Singer rocks my socks! (And ladies, I hear he’s single.)

    I could go on and on about him, but his website says it better than I could.

  • Can’t we have more than one messiah? Haven’t there been many messiah’s over recorded history, extraordinarily humane and brave individuals that brought more heaven on earth for us all with the power of their message and the bravery under which it had to be given? World changing messages that they not only preached for others but demonstrated at the constant risk of their own lives.

    You can name them as well as I. Instead of ‘waiting’ for ‘the’ messiah, they became one.

  • Hmmm. Well Jim, according to Jewish tradition, to every generation a messiah is born. Said messiah is not revealed to us unless we are ready or deserving. Thats the Jewish tradition …

  • well, he may not be your meshiach, but for anyone who was introduced to the ideas of God and redemption through r’ Yashke, he’d probably be one of their meshiachs, no? Ahl tigu bmshichui, implies that it’s anyone who annoints you with knowledge, no?

  • In my opinion:
    ck–Everyone’s born with the potential to be mashiach. However, most people are not inclined to develop that potential.
    Jim–The reason the world will be different (although not very, if you follow what the Rambam says on the matter) after Mashiach comes is because when one does something spiritual it effects the physical world. Well, here: In Beresheit, it says that God created man b’tzelem Elokim. The Nefesh haChaim explains that tzelem Elokim is the ability to create and destroy–meaning that what we do spiritually changes the physical world. For example, when we neglect the laws of Shmitta the physical land will kick us out…when Adam and Chava sinned in Gan Eden, man became dependent on nature for food (rain, working the land) and woman started feeling pain with birth. Everyone who was created b’tzelem Elokim has the ability to change the world for better or for worse–the time of Mashiach will not come about when we aren’t ready for it because we are the ones who need to bring it about. We need to change the world into dor Mashiach through goodness and kedushah.
    Back to my original thought, everyone is born with the potential to do that. However, most people do not develop themselves to the point where they could. Looking at a couple of great leaders in the Torah, we are told that Moshe was chosen by HaShem to redeem the Jewish people, but the only things we really know about Moshe at that point was that he was raised in Paraoh’s palace, killed an Egyptian who was beating a Jew, tried to stop a Jew from beating another Jew, and then saved a non-Jew (Tziporah, his wife) from being beat upon by other non-Jews. Three time’s a chazakah, so we can figure that this sense of moral duty must have been a characteristic of Moshe. When HaShem was planning to destroy Sodom and Amorah, He went down to Avraham to “think out loud” to him…in hopes that Avraham would stand up for the people of Sodom and defend them. Jewish leaders, as the above examples illustrate (because I won’t waste more time on examples), are chosen not for their de’ah (is that Hebrew grammatically correct?), but for their middot because it’s middot that change the world.
    While there were many people through out history who helped change the world, we are not yet at the level of dor Mashiach. Rambam says, “One should not entertain the notion that the King Mashiach must work miracles and wonders, bring about new phenomena within the world, resurrect the dead, or perform other similar deeds. This is [definitely] not true.” The difference with The Mashiach and influential people in our history, however, is that (Rambam again,) “Our Sages taught: [Berachos 34b] ‘There will be no difference between the current age and the Era of Mashiach except [our emancipation from] subjugation to the [gentile] kingdoms.'” That is still no different.

    I think I rambled a little much there. Hope my point wasn’t lost.

  • Don’t call it a comeback.

    The book served its purpose and there are Kaplan’s main 3 points:

    1. “The prophets predicted a world of peace and love after the Messiah’s coming, and this certainly does not exist today. Furthermore, any talk of the Messiah as being the ‘son of Gd’ is totally unacceptable. In no place to the prophets say he will be anything more than a remarkable teacher.”

    2. “Although tht torah does speak of Adam’s sin, it teaches us that man can rise above it…In no place does Judaism teach that one can me saved from damnation by mere belief. Any true belief in Gd must lead a person to also follow His commandments.”

    3. “It is impossible to imagine that Gd would ever reject the Jewish people. In many places, the Bible clearly states that His covenant with them will be forever. In many places the Boblw says that the Torah was given forever. It is therefore impossible to say that it has been replaced by a new law or testament.”

    And anyway, the Jewish Moshiach is to be a human being – a great leader and teacher, not a god born by supernatural means. He was to be a king of the Jews, not a wandering misfit preacher.
    Too, the Jerusalem Talmud clearly states, “If a man claims to be Gd, he is a liar!”

    And we all know the story of the yeshiva boy who gets up in the heder ohel and proclaims to his fellow students, “I am the Moshiach!” – to which the room goes up in a clamor until another boy approaches the first and proclaims, “You can’t be the Moshiach!” The first one, confused, squeaks, “Why not?” – and the second one replies, “Because I am the Moshiach!”