BS”D Parashat Behar 5776
Rabbi Nachman Kahana
The Parsha and Current Events: Disputes Between Jews & Gentiles
Religious disputations between Jews and gentiles have a long and mostly tragic history for the Jewish side, especially when we came out victorious in the debates.
The first religious disputation is recorded in the book of Shemot, when Moshe in the name of HaShem demanded that Paro permit the Jews to worship HaShem in the desert (Shemot 5,1-2):
(א) ואחר באו משה ואהרן ויאמרו אל פרעה כה אמר ה’ אלהי ישראל שלח את עמי ויחגו לי במדבר:
(ב) ויאמר פרעה מי ה’ אשר אשמע בקלו לשלח את ישראל לא ידעתי את ה’ וגם את ישראל לא אשלח:
Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”
Another early recorded disputation took place at Alexandria about 150 B.C.E., under Ptolemy Philometor, between Andronicus ben Meshullam and the Samaritans Sabbeus and Dositheus.
The Byzantine empire, Basil I (9th century) disputations, usually resulted in expulsion and persecution of the Jews.
Pope Innocent III initiated the Inquisition into Christendom, and the Dominicans began their war against dissenters, the disputations became associated with persecution of the Jews.
The most famous disputation took place at Barcelona on July 20, 1263, in the presence of James I of Aragon and his court, between the Ramban and Pablo Christiani.
Rabbi Judah ha-Levi’s “Cuzari” is based on the religious disputation between Bulan, the king of the Chazars and the rabbi.
Our responsibility in this world
Whether one wishes to admit it or not, in the eyes of the world the State of Israel is the acknowledged representative of world Jewry. Those anti-Semites who are reluctant to “come out of the closet” with virulent anti-Jewish sentiments redirect their antagonism from Jews to the Jewish State, and the code words are understood by their fellow anti-Semites.
As the recognized representative of the Jewish nation, the Medina’s present interaction with the gentile world is political and financial. The action is being played out in political arenas, i.e. the United Nations, Washington, the EU and in the political mass media.
They judge us by our conduct in the liberated areas of Judea, Samaria and the Golan, as viewed according to their interpretation of International law and agreements.
The Medina’s present political and financial interaction with the gentile world is a total distortion of why HaShem has placed us in this world!
Our fathers: Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov were not the Creator’s ambassadors to function under the jurisdiction of man-made international rules. Our fathers were spiritual individuals whose roles in history, and thereafter to their descendants, was to meet the gentile not in the political arena but on the spiritual platform of monotheistic thought and morality. It is the Jewish mission to forge humanity into one-world of מלכות שדי – under the Kingdom of Heaven.
How are we to achieve our stated goal of מלכות שדי when HaShem is not part of the discourse between the Jewish State and the world’s nations?
If we are to advance to a one-world under the rule of HaShem we must wean away our orientation to the gentile world from political and economics to a meeting ground based on spirituality.
To this end, I suggest that the Chief Rabbinate gather our renowned scholars, well versed in Torah and in the classic sources and philosophies of Christianity and Islam, and invite the leading gentile religious leaders to religious disputations in the holy city of Yerushalayim. To which they would be hard pressed to refuse, especially when we promise that in contrast to our past history, no harm will come to them.
This would be a reversal of the religious disputations initiated and forced upon us by the gentiles throughout the ages.
We would invite the Papal representatives in Israel and beyond as well as Islamic scholars, to open public discussion on the validity of their beliefs. While keeping in mind the prophetic words of Yirmiyahu chapter 16,19-20:
(יט) ה’ עזי ומעזי ומנוסי ביום צרה אליך גוים יבאו מאפסי ארץ ויאמרו אך שקר נחלו אבותינו הבל ואין בם מועיל:
(כ) היעשה לו אדם אלהים והמה לא אלהים:
19) Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress,
to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say,
“Our ancestors possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good.
20) Shall man contrive his own gods – which are not gods?
Our side would be able to point out the many idolatrous features contained in the basic tenets of Christianity and Islam. The trinity is a renunciation of monotheism, and the many religious rites practiced in Moslem Mecca have been adopted from known idolatrous practices.
Copyright © 5776/2016 Nachman Kahana