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Lamrot Hakol (Despite Everything)

Musings and kvetchings and Torah thoughts from an unconventional Orthodox Jew.

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"I blog, therefore I am". Clearly not true, or I wouldn't exist except every now and then.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Morality of Flattery and Christian Zionists

There's a troubling phenomenon in the Israeli national camp, as well as among American Zionists. It's done, in most cases, I'm sure, for purely pragmatic reasons. But it is fundamentally an issue of flattery, or חניפה, which is prohibited in Judaism.

Flattery, in the halakhic sense, isn't simply a matter of telling a white lie to make someone feel good. Telling someone with an ugly hat that the hat is lovely has its place, if you're doing so with the intention of not wanting to hurt the person's feelings. But when you lie so that people will like you or do you favors, that becomes problematic.

Christian Zionists are a growing problem. Not because of themselves. They do what they do for a variety of reasons. Some because they want to convert us, some because they have faith that we will wind up converting even without them "helping" in that process, and some because they understand that we are God's people, and they want to be on the side of right.

Often, the question of whether to associate ourselves with Christian Zionist groups devolves into an argument around a false dichotomy. Those who think Christian Zionists are out to snatch Jewish souls want to stay away from them, and those who think Christian Zionists are sincere in just wanting to help eagerly join with them. But the fact is, both types of Christian Zionist exist, and it doesn't matter what their reasons are for wanting to help us. Doing the right thing is a good thing for them to do. Our responsibility is doing what we are supposed to do.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that we have a special task with regards to the nations of the world. He says, in God's name, that we are to be a light of the nations. Not a light among the nations, as some people mistranslate it, nor even a light unto the nations. The Hebrew term is not אור לגוים, but rather לאור גוים. This appears in Isaiah 49:6 as well as 42:6. And in Isaiah 60:3, he explains this by saying that nations will go to our light. We are supposed to be separate, and the light of the Torah is supposed to be something that the nations come towards.

How can this happen when we deliberately lie to them about Judaism's view on Christianity? Christianity is, at best, a serious error. And according to the majority of Jewish sources over the past 2000 years, it is idolatry. Yes, there are apologists who maintain that the Talmudic category of shituf means that Christianity is only idolatry for Jews. That non-Jews may practice it without violating the laws of God. But this is quite simply not the case. At the end of this post, I'll explain what shituf is, and how it is so often misunderstood.

We should never allow Christian Zionists to think that we accept them as they are. Those who wish to support us in full knowledge that Judaism places their Christian worship outside the pale should be praised for that support. But only as individuals. To form any sort of bond with an organization that supports Christian worship is a grievous sin.

There are individuals who are religious Jews, but have invested themselves heavily in support of Christian groups. Knesset member
Danny Danon and the Likud's Sagiv Assulin are two such. Gidon Ariel, founder of the Holy City Prayer Society and Root-Source, as well as the Facebook groups "Jews Who Love Christians Who Love Jews (And The Christians Who Love Them)" and "I Belong to a Pro-Israel Church" is another. All three appear to be sincere in the believe that flattering Christian Zionists in return for their support of Israel is justifiable. And none of them seem to be concerned that idolatry, which Christian worship certain is, is the very antithesis of Judaism and of everything the Jewish people have stood for since we stood at Mount Sinai.

I suspect that the reason pressure isn't put on these three to stop their courting of Christian Zionists is a purely pragmatic one. If it doesn't work, nothing has been lost, and if it does work, well then, we have more support for Israel. But that sort of pragmatism is not the Jewish way.

I hope that everyone reading this article will take some time to write to Danon, Assulin and Ariel, and tell them that we do not want support at this price.

MK Danny Danon

Gidon Ariel

I haven't been able to find contact information for Assulin, but if someone reading this has it, I'd appreciate you passing it on.

Now to the issue of shituf. In the middle ages, a question arose about making partnerships with Christians. See, very often, when you entered into a partnership, it required oaths to be taken. And even though the standard phrasing referred to God, if the person saying God has Baal or Marduk in mind, then just making the oath is an act of idolatry. The question was, since Christianity is idolatry as well, how can a Jew enter into a partnership with a Christian, thus causing the Christian to commit an act of idolatry when making an oath.

The Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin 63b says:

It is forbidden to make a partnership with an idolator, lest he be required to take an oath and swear by the subject of his idolatry.

Tosfot there says:
In these days [Christian Europe], they all swear by their saints without considering them deities. And even though when they swear in God's name their intent is for something else (the Christian deity), nevertheless, they are not using the name of a subject of idolatry. Also, their intent is to the Creator of heaven, and even though they combine God's name with something else (the Christian deity), we do not find that it is forbidden to cause someone else to combine (God's name and an idolatry deity's name), and there is no prohibition of causing a non-Jew to violate the law.

In other words, when a Christian swears in God's name, even though we know that he is including JC in that oath, so long as he uses the name God and not the name JC, it's okay. But this is a far cry from the fringe minority view that suggests non-Jews are actually permitted to worship other deities so long as they do so only in association with God.

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Blogger Ben-Yehudah said...


Excellent post!

Don't forget this horrid video of the Likud MK's at the dedication of "Christian Zionist" center (2008),...in Sha'ar Binyamin of all places.

This Joel Bell guy is bad news, to say the least. Are these Likudniks really that stupid?

P. S. Never did get a chance to cancel my Likud membership. ;-)

8:24 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

There are Likudniks and there are Likudniks. Moshe has no tolerance for these types.

Should I submit this article for the next HH, or do you think it'd piss too many people off?

8:59 AM  
Blogger Ben-Yehudah said...

Definitely submit it.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Conan776 said...

Interesting post. It's nice to see someone out there sticking to their theological guns.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Luana Fabri Goriss said...

Great article. We don't need this support. There is always an agenda, hidden or obvious or even well-intended.

1:11 AM  

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