Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Rabbi Riskin Jumps the Shark
Who exactly is Rabbi Riskin attempting to flatter with this twaddle? The history is bad, the message banal, and the theology appears to be something of his own invention. Also, this video post seems suspiciously like a blog and his rabbinical superiors are emphatically opposed to all religious and social commentary which takes that form. Shame, shame.
The rabbi's video was brought to my attention on Twitter by good old Rafi: "Rabbi Jesus? Has Rabbi Riskin lost his mind?" he asked.
"Yes," I had to reply. At that time, and in that place, a Rabbi was something specific, something Jesus assuredly was not. Being a Rabbi in those days was something like being a Jedi Master. You had to be formally ordained by the Council of Sages, and the title gave you the authority to judge certain types of cases. The idea that Jesus had earned this certification and become a Rabbi in that original sense is suggested by the New Testament. In three books, he is called by that title, but the New Testament is fallible history, written decades after the events it describes, by men who had no first hand knowledge of those events, and a clear interest in embellishing the details, and aggrandizing their subject. To the best of my knowledge, there's no other evidence that Jesus was a qualified Rabbi.
Rabbi Riskin's uncritical willingness to accept the New Testament's history blemishes his commentary in other places, but the worst sin he commits is the claim that between Jews and Christians there is but one significant difference (paraphrased): We say messiah hasn't yet come; they say he has already arrived; the rest is commentary. This is worse than false, and an insult to both faiths. [here too]
One ironic concluding note: Listening to Rabbi Riskin preach about how the two religions share a common view of history, the view the history is moving toward the perfection of society, toward a time in the future when there will be peace, redemption and good will, I found myself thinking, you Sir, are not an Orthodox Rabbi. You are a liberal. You don't say that things were better once; that civilization is decaying; that morals have become corrupt; and that we humans have become coarser and stupider as we move further from Sinai. Instead you say that we are an improvement on what came before us; that each generation brings us closer to a time of ultimate good; that a better future lies ahead. When r. Riskin said, "the idea of the perfectibility of human nature and human society is one of the important links that we Jews and Christians share in common," I laughed out loud. This was originally a Jewish view, certainly, that was taken and deisseminated by Christians, but today the view that our best days lie ahead, and that the world can be perfected and improved is most often associated with Liberals.
Were Rabbi Riskin interested in making friends with progressives, too, he might have spoken of a link that is shared with Liberals as well. But he didn't. Why? Perhaps we'll talk about it some other time.
(1) What happened nearly 100 years ago when Rabbi Stephen Wise said Jews should accept Jesus as a teacher? Find out here.
(2) According to some Haredi Rabbis blogging is a horrible awful thing, especially when the posts attack Rabbis; other Haredi Rabbis (e.g. Yakov Menken! Here too!) on the other hand think its perfectly appropriate to bash the hell out of liberal Rabbis. So is this post kosher or treif?
(3) Et maasai ani mazkir hayom: In 2006 I, too, said a nice word about Jesus. I regret none of it.
(4) Finally, something smart about Jesus and the Talmud from TNR
Search for more information about Jesus loving Jews at 4torah.com.
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