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A Jew Went Off The Derech And - Unhappy Ending

Anyone who is part of the western world will, in all likelihood, be under the influence of Christian ideas and behaviors. For a Jew this is a very serious problem as idolatry a cardinal sin. One example is Sunday. Most of us are used to the idea that Sunday is a day off. Saturday is the correct day but in our Christian culture Sunday is considered the Sabbath. In fact, there are authorities [such as Rav Moshe Feinstein] who maintain that it is forbidden to give students off on Sunday.

Rav Kook writes with uncharacteristic harshness when critiquing Christianity in many places throughout his writings. It is important to know where we differ so here are a few of Rav Kook's theological and philosophical critiques:

1] They try to perceive of G-d with human understanding which led to a mistaken perception about His nature. According to Jewish tradition G-d is beyond anything we can imagine [eeloo yadatieev hayateev - "If I would know Him I would be Him"] while Christianity cut Him down to size and made a human being out of Him.

2] They stole some of our Holy Sparks and distorted them to create an unclean [the original Hebrew reads "tzinor malei refesh [!!!] shel hanotzriyus shenitlachlicha bi'goyut] religion. What gives it life is its seeming proximity to certain Jewish ideals. From a certain perspective paganism is better because the pagans didn't borrow from the Torah.

3] A misunderstanding of the holiness of the Jewish people. G-d promised that He will never fully reject us as we are His beloved first born son. Nothing - not even sin - can change that.

4] They believe that the physical world is impure and unclean. If you are holy you take an oath of celibacy [called by Rav Shachter a "shvuas sheker"] and become an ascetic. In contrast we believe that our job is to elevate the physical world. If you are really holy you get married and live with your spouse, have a job, fully engage in this world - and everything in holiness.

5] Practical mitzvos: Their "mitzva" is faith while we [li'havdil] have thousands of physical concrete actions that we do in order to connect to G-d. [Similar to #5]

6] Historically, Christianity has been guilty of rabid Anti-Semitism and have spilled oceans of Jewish blood.

7] Repentance: For them it is easy. Confess and you are forgiven. This leads to continued evil behavior. [A Christian woman was once explaining to a friend of mine that when she is intimate with her husband she must go to church the next day to confess her sin - knowing full well that she is going to do it again]. For us repentance means a deep and intense metamorphosis.

8] They believe that man is inherently evil and doomed. They despair of man's ability to perfect himself. We have great faith in man.

These are just some of the points. For more sources see the Tzohar journal teves 5768 page 81. Of course this is not an attack on individual Christians who should be treated with dignity but on the religion from which we must distance ourselves.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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