Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


Klinghoffer’s Law Confirmed?

posted by David Klinghoffer
461px-StPaul_ElGreco.jpg
“Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge” (Isaiah 3:13).
In a comments thread we’ve been having a sad but fascinating conversation with a well meaning Jew who seems on the verge of conversion to Catholicism. He wrote an initial comment claiming to be that person who I said doesn’t exist: The well seasoned, fully cooked Orthodox Jew who in our day — when Christian anti-Jewish persecution and intimidation don’t exist anymore, when Christians are in fact increasingly philo-Semitic — nevertheless decides to become a Christian. The reader, Range Rover, presented himself as the disproof of this particular Klinghoffer’s Law.
So I read his subsequent comments in the thread with care and interest. But he doesn’t disprove the rule, unless I’m very much mistaken. I asked him about his background in Orthodox Judaism. How far did he get in yeshiva? How many years?
He didn’t answer that question but he did write movingly about his father’s religiosity — put on tefillin twice daily — and about his devotion to his dad — when his father died, he said Kaddish for six months. His described his family’s Jewish background as being “very religious in the Mitnagdim tradition.” By that he perhaps meant to say “Misnagdic” (the adjectival form). He perhaps meant to say his father put on tefillin once daily — no one does so twice. (Chassidim, not Misnagdim, may don Rabbeinu Tam tefillin but immediately after the morning service not at some other time of day.) By six months, he perhaps meant eleven months, which would be the standard length of time.

Sound like trivia to you, more harping on “the Law”? Why does any of it matter? Because perhaps when he says he was raised as an Orthodox Jew, he really means that he received part of a Jewish education but not the whole thing. Why do I bring this to center stage? Partly because I’m pretty sure that Klinghoffer’s Law hasn’t been violated at all but instead confirmed. Once you’ve been fully cooked as a Jew, and barring a persecutory culture, then atheism may be a possibility but not Christianity. Understandably, we tend not to know what we don’t know. The apostle Paul also thought he was well steeped in the Orthodox Judaism of his time but couldn’t understand the Hebrew Bible well enough in Hebrew to cite it in his letters and had to rely on the faulty Greek Septuagint instead. So Range Rover, who also like Paul writes in distinctly non-Jewish language (“the Law”), is in honored company.
Partly, too, my purpose is to emphasize the centrality of education in the Torah worldview. When it comes to Jewish faith, anyway, you can’t really “get it” without having been steeped in it for a while, as an adult. The message, the perspective, isn’t simple. I’m still trying to clarify it for myself so that I can pass it on to my kids. One thinks of a born Jew like atheist Sam Harris who mocks the Hebrew Bible in cartoon form, clearly from total ignorance. 
In short, don’t think you know enough about Torah to reject Torah until you’ve studied it and lived it as a mature person.


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Hi.

posted September 1, 2009 at 8:52 am


I had to do a google search on “Klinghoffer’s Law” to make sure it was something you made up because I just couldn’t believe someone would come up with something so pretentious and egotistical, but it does appear that you have renamed a very common psychological phenomenon after yourself. Even Nero would have been embarrassed by such superficial arrogance.



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Turmarion

posted September 1, 2009 at 9:34 am


I would only point out this, from one of David’s remarks in the earlier thread: “The mere fact that Christianity is a mass religion, unlike Judaism, indicates there’s something more readily graspable there.”
Christianity as spiritual Big Mac, as opposed to Jewish haute cuisine!
I don’t actually think David intended an insult, but I think it’s clear how it comes off this way. In a similar vein, the whole concept of the Jews as a “kingdom of priests” whose mission is to bring knowledge of God to the nations could be read as a rather arrogant assertion that they are the elite few charged to enlighten the savage masses. Once again, probably not the intention, but it could be read that way.
Of course, similar criticisms could be and have been made about Christianity’s claims of uniqueness, so I’m not picking on any one faith, as such.



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Mergatroid

posted September 1, 2009 at 9:56 am


“In a similar vein, the whole concept of the Jews as a “kingdom of priests” whose mission is to bring knowledge of God to the nations could be read as a rather arrogant assertion that they are the elite few charged to enlighten the savage masses. Once again, probably not the intention, but it could be read that way.”
Yeah, “probably” not the intention of Exodus 19:6.



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Mergatroid

posted September 1, 2009 at 10:02 am


Would “Acher” be a good example of the exception that proves the rule? Or, are you /not/ referring to Jews who leave and become Jews-for-Nothing, but only Jews who become Christians?



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Range Rover

posted September 1, 2009 at 10:17 am


David
Just to add a few things so you can decide whether your “Law” applies:
1. I went to Yeshiva for twelve years.
2. I only said Kaddish for six months. I stopped after that. With the death of my father, we moved to Arizona and there was no shul in walking distance.
3. My father put on tefillin twice a day. In the morning and just before dinner. So perhaps he was somehow not attuned to one of your “Laws”. There is a book — I believe it is called “There Once Was A World” – in which this practice is described among religious Jews living in Radomsko, Poland, once a center of Jewish culture in Eastern Europe before it was destroyed by the Nazi murderers.
4. I think you and some of your cohorts on your blog have a circular argument going, to the effect that no well-educated Jew who “lives the Torah” will convert to Christianity, and if a Jew does convert, than he or she must not have been so educated. That is not a law of any kind, it is simply an artifice to support a preconceived idea.
5. It does not appear to me that you are interested in having an honest dialogue about anything; rather, you have an axe to grind, so grind away.
6. Since Mr.Novak has passed away and is therefore not around to defend himself, you may want to (out of common courtesy) refrain from characterizations that you have insufficient information to support.



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thurgood

posted September 1, 2009 at 10:25 am


David,
Here’s an excerpt from a lecture by your fellow DI member Fritz Schaefer
[[Allan Sandage
The world’s greatest observational cosmologist, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution, was called the Grand Old Man of cosmology by The New York Times when he won a $1 million prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He said:
The nature of God is not to be found within any part of the findings of science. For that, one must turn to the Scriptures.
In one book, Sandage was asked the classic question, “Can one be a scientist and a Christian?” and he replied, “Yes, I am.” Ethnically Jewish, Sandage became a Christian at the age of fifty—if that doesn’t prove that it’s never too late, I don’t know what does!]]
Interesting what he thinks of non-Christians!



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Mergatroid

posted September 1, 2009 at 10:59 am


David, it would behoove you to clarify what you mean by “rule.” In one place, you wrote “R.R. wrote an initial comment claiming to be that person who I said DOESN’T EXIST” and in another place you wrote: “They convert from ignorance, from innocence. This wasn’t always true — it used to be that Jewishly educated Jews not infrequently converted whether from fear or ambition. But today, in the absence of such motives, it ALMOST NEVER happens. (emphasis added)
And another thing, please clarify that when you say, “they convert from ignorance,” what you really mean is that “they convert partially from ignorance, but predominantly from not experiencing joy (or finding significant fault in their Jewish surroundings) in their Judaism.” Am I right?
@Range Rover: “So perhaps he was somehow not attuned to one of your “Laws”. ”
There was a stray “y” in that sentence. They’re ours. We’re not writing you off, please don’t do so yourself.



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Turmarion

posted September 1, 2009 at 11:41 am


Mergatroid, I’m quite familiar with the Bible and am quite aware that the name of this blog comes from Scripture.
If you notice here, David says:
Notice that the content of Jewish teaching is supposed to be ethical (God’s “demands”) but also broadly philosophical (“the relationship of Man to God”). The latter would include working in the world to clarify among other men and women how exactly God relates to man — as creator and source of day-to-day providential care. (emphasis added)
Maybe others’ religions already tell them “how exactly God relates to man”?
Anyway, it’s a matter of what the verses in Exodus mean. It has often been interpreted as meaning that the Jews are to serve as an example for other nations, not necessarily as having a mission to those nations. David himself has noted more than once, with dismay, that most modern Jews do not have the latter view of this matter.
The “active mission” concept is perhaps most overt in some strains of the Noachide movement. The broadest reading of the Noachide concept is that anyone following the minimal standards of decency put forth in the Tanakh is doing God’s will and is basically OK. The narrower version, which is evident in some parts of the Noachide movement of today, implicitly has an ideal of bringing all humanity into a Noachide practice explicitly based on Jewish observance. That is, it’s not enough to be a good Christian or Muslim–one must repudiate the (from the Jewish perspective) false parts of those religions and follow the Torah to the extent that a Gentile can.
I’m not saying David promotes this idea, but in the sense that he thinks Jews have a mission to tell other religions and peoples the “right” way to relate to God, it could be construed that Jews are being seen as theological nudges whose job is to “straighten out” the more egregious aspects of Gentile culture. This could indeed be seen as “arrogant”.
If you paid attention to my post, btw, I said “Of course, similar criticisms could be and have been made about Christianity’s claims of uniqueness.” Christianity has often been seen as a religion of worse-than-nudges. Instead of saying, “This is how, in light of our Scriptures, you ought to relate to God,” Christians have tended to say, “Convert or burn in Hell!” which is of course far worse.
The way I look at it is this: If God really intended to eternally punish anyone not belonging to the right faith or practicing the right faith correctly, He should have done a better job of making it clear to humanity which that right faith and practice is. The existence of both good and holy and vile and evil people in all religions, the ambiguity of the signs God has given of His own presence, and the mixture of gold and dross in all known religions all make the question of which religion is “right” a tricky one. They are evidence of the truth of Isaiah 45:15, “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel.”
As a Christian, I think that Christianity is the best expression of God’s will for us (but then, I would, wouldn’t I?). I expect that anyone else thinks the same about his religion. I think that Christianity, as well as all other religions, has a right to promote itself in the sense of saying, “Hey, this is really neat, a great way to come to God. Check it out,” not in a sense of coercion or “you’re gonna burn if you don’t join us” or anything like that. People should be free to join or leave any faith (or none) that they choose. I think in the end that God judges not on creedal affiliation but on our actions and our hearts. Not all my Christian co-religionists wold agree with me on this, but I think it is amply supported in Christian tradition.
I keep coming back to the Koran, which I think says it excellently in Sura 5:48 ff.: “Had He pleased, God could have made of you one nation
; but it is His wish to prove you by what He has bestowed on you. Vie with each other in good works, for to God you shall all return and He will resolve for you your differences.” (Dawood translation)
In short, live and let live.



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Mergatroid

posted September 1, 2009 at 12:25 pm


@Turmarion,
Perhaps you should reread my post, this time emphasizing a few words:
YOU: “In a similar vein, the whole concept of the Jews as a “kingdom of priests” whose mission is to bring knowledge of God to the nations could be read as A RATHER ARROGANT ASSERTION that they are the elite few charged to enlighten the SAVAGE MASSES. Once again, PROBABLY NOT THE INTENTION, but it could be read that way.”
ME: Yeah, “probably” not the intention of Exodus 19:6. ” —
Reading it this way makes the first half of your last post irrelevant to my comment. I was just taking your words as you wrote them.
“I think that Christianity, as well as all other religions, has a right to promote itself in the sense of saying, “Hey, this is really neat, a great way to come to God. Check it out,” not in a sense of coercion or “you’re gonna burn if you don’t join us” or anything like that.”
I surely agree they have the right. Too bad /you/ weren’t around when the writers of the New Testament were putting their words in the book.
“Maybe others’ religions already /tell/ them “how exactly God relates to man”?”
Well, when the words in Exodus were written, I don’t think there WERE any other religions that had one God. (I also don’t take the word “exactly” in the literal sense.)



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Turmarion

posted September 1, 2009 at 1:35 pm


Mergatroid: Perhaps I should have put it this way: “Given that David on this blog argues that Jews have a mission s to bring knowledge of God to the nations and given his frequently hectoring tone, it makes it sound as if the concept is a rather arrogant assertion that they are the elite few charged to enlighten the savage masses. It may not be correct to read him in that way, but at times one almost gets that impression.” Please note also that this was in the context about David’s comment about Christianity being a “mass” religion, as opposed to Judaism. I thought this made it clear that I was referring to implications (intended or not) that David was making, not to the content of Exodus. I guess I was wrong.
Better?
I would also assert that some forms of Noachidism, especially that associated with the attempt to revive the Sanhedrin, can sometimes sound as vigorously and aggressively conversion-oriented Evangelical Christians (and note, even though I am a Christian myself, I find the aggressive, proselytism-oriented focus of many Evangelicals offensive).
Too bad /you/ weren’t around when the writers of the New Testament were putting their words in the book.
Snark aside, I don’t read the NT as pushing an Evangelical-style “join us or burn” message, and in fact Jesus, in Luke 9:50 and Mark 9:40, in the parable of the goats and sheep (Matthew 25:31-46), and in John 12:32, and Paul in Romans 5:18 certainly imply that being a Christian is not a prerequisite for salvation. Many of the Church Fathers, such as Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, as well as the earlier theological schools of Alexandria, Antioch, Cesarea, and Edessa or Nisibis, were universalist and thus didn’t read the NT in a “convert or be damned” mode, either. I assume they, being much closer in time to the NT, had a somewhat better idea of its correct interpretation than we in the 21st Century.
Well, when the words in Exodus were written, I don’t think there WERE any other religions that had one God.
1. I was speaking in terms of the present day, not of the 12th Century B.C.
2. Akhenaten, the Egyptian pharaoh, was a monotheist at about this time; and recent scholarship would put Zoroastrianism, which is arguably monotheistic, as being at least this old. While Hinduism was not and is not monotheistic as such, certain monistic tendencies in it probably go back at least this far.
3. In fairness to the polytheists, they had ideas about how the gods related to man and how man should reciprocate, and may have been quite happy as they were. Would you want someone telling you how you ought to relate to Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva?



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David Klinghoffer

posted September 1, 2009 at 2:11 pm


Let’s leave it at this, Range Rover. I’m curious about that twice-daily tefillin practice and will try to look it up in the book you suggest. Quite surprising, but who knows? If I erred, then I apologize. But the point is this. As others have noted, I’ve stated Klinghoffer’s Law in a couple of different ways. The issue I’m trying to get at is really not a matter of education in the sense of book learning, but rather full adult Jewish immersion as a prophylactic against an attraction to Christianity. That’s why I keep coming back to metaphors like “fully cooked.” Judaism isn’t simply a set of facts or beliefs. It’s a religious culture in which the faith is conveyed. Factual knowledge is a sign of that, not the essence of it. It’s like the story of “Shibboleth” in Judges 12. The men of Gilead could identify the men of Ephraim by the way they pronounced the word, whether with a “shin” or “sin.” From this blog I’ve been reminded how much a person’s choice of words can tell you about him, especially when you’re trying to read behind an alias or Web name. (This comes in handy for recognizing sock puppets even without the help of an IP address.) Your whole way of expressing yourself indicates to me someone who was not “fully cooked.” I could give more examples — like calling the Maharal “Rabbi Loew,” or calling Torah “the Law.” Each in its different way a Shibboleth. Even if not inaccurate, you’ve got the idiom all wrong. More fundamentally, you’ve adopted a range of old Christian prejudices against Jews, embodied in habits of expression, prejudices from an earlier generation. You didn’t pick them up recently, because Christians don’t tend to talk that way anymore. So where did they come from? The Bronx? Arizona? Enough.
Your basic problem, as I said before, lies in extending charity to the Catholic Church but not to the people into whom God caused you to be born. There’s something wrong about that. I wish you well.



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Josh

posted September 1, 2009 at 2:50 pm


Just a factual correction. Paul was writing to a mixed Jewish (ethnically speaking)/gentile church spread across the eastern Roman empire. He quoted the Septuagint because it is what his readers could understand. By the same token, I don’t assume you can’t read proper Hebrew because you blog about Judaism in English.



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David Klinghoffer

posted September 1, 2009 at 2:57 pm


Josh, when Paul cites Scripture he quotes the Septuagint along with its errors, unaware of the Hebrew original. That suggests either he didn’t have access to the Hebrew or he didn’t care to consult it.



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pk

posted September 1, 2009 at 2:58 pm


All too often, the Christian message wasn’t simply join us or burn, it was join us or we’ll set you on fire.



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Mergatroid

posted September 1, 2009 at 3:08 pm


@Turmarion: “Akhenaten, the Egyptian pharaoh, was a monotheist at about this time;”
I wonder who influenced him…
“and recent scholarship would put Zoroastrianism, which is arguably monotheistic,”
Christianity is also arguably monotheistic.



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Turmarion

posted September 1, 2009 at 3:20 pm


David: Josh, when Paul cites Scripture he quotes the Septuagint along with its errors, unaware of the Hebrew original. That suggests either he didn’t have access to the Hebrew or he didn’t care to consult it.
1. For many Jews of the time, the only form in which they had access to Scripture was the Septuagint (LXX). There’s no evidence that Greek-speaking Jews even thought there was a problem with the different canon of books in the Septuagint. It wasn’t until after the destruction of the Second Temple that it was made definitive that the Tanakh was to be preserved and studied only in Hebrew.
2. The LXX was translated by Jews, for Jews, over two centuries before Christianity, so any deficiencies it has can’t be blamed on Christians.
3. There is a certain amount of dispute as to whether all of the so-called “errors” of the LXX are actually errors, or earlier versions of the Hebrew from which the Masoretic text later deviated (this is especially pertinent in cases of different vocalizations of the consonantal text).
4. Not presuming to read Paul’s mind, but since the only version of the Tanakh with which his Gentile audience (and much of his Jewish audience) would have been familiar was the LXX, he may have found it more convenient to use it as a reference when writing than re-translating the Hebrew every time. It’s just as I often quote the King James Version since it is the best known English version of the Bible, despite the fact that it does contain errors that have been corrected in more modern translations. As long as the errors in question aren’t severe, or I point them out when needed, it sometimes is better to use the tried-and-true, even if it’s not perfect.



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Your Name

posted September 1, 2009 at 3:23 pm


David
Wow. You have gone from saying:
“I will say this, however, to Range Rover. I know what you mean — most of the complaints about Jewish life that you mention are valid and are things I’ve thought and written about myself. Or rather, there are threads in Jewish life about which they are valid.”
to
“you’ve adopted a range of old Christian prejudices against Jews, embodied in habits of expression, prejudices from an earlier generation”
I guess, also, in addition to setting forth “Laws” of your own, you are the arbiter of proper Jewish idiom, whatever that is. It is perfectly acceptable to talk about “The Law”, as Maimonades did, just FYI. And there is nothing wrong with calling the Maharal by his family name.
My friend, I am as “fully cooked as one can be” (odd figure of speech). My parents bore on their arms the tatooed numbers of the Nazi killers. If fact, so many of my parent’s friends had these numbers that when I was a child I thought all adults got them at a certain point.
My love for my people runs deep and is profound, and if I choose another religion to fulfill the longings of my soul, it is not for want of anything in my education or heritage. You opened our first exchange by acknowledging that these are matters of the heart. I think you were right to say that.
I suggest you drop the arrogance and respect people for their views, instead of judging them sanctimoniously.
But I agree – Genug! I think that should apply to your “law-giving” as well.



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Turmarion

posted September 1, 2009 at 3:25 pm


David: Josh, when Paul cites Scripture he quotes the Septuagint along with its errors, unaware of the Hebrew original. That suggests either he didn’t have access to the Hebrew or he didn’t care to consult it.
1. For many Jews of the time, the only form in which they had access to Scripture was the Septuagint (LXX). There’s no evidence that Greek-speaking Jews even thought there was a problem with the different canon of books in the Septuagint. It wasn’t until after the destruction of the Second Temple that it was made definitive that the Tanakh was to be preserved and studied only in Hebrewe.
2. The LXX was translated by Jews, for Jews, over two centuries before Christianity, so any deficiencies it has can’t be blamed on Christians.
3. There is a certain amount of dispute as to whether all of the so-called “errors” of the LXX are actually errors, or earlier versions of the Hebrew from which the Masoretic text later deviated (this is especially pertinent in cases of different vocalizations of the consonantal text).
4. Not presuming to read Paul’s mind, but since the only version of the Tanakh with which his Gentile audience (and much of his Jewish audience) would have been familiar was the LXX, he may have found it more convenient to use it as a reference when writing than re-translating the Hebrew every time. It’s just as I often quote the King James Version since it is the best known English version of the Bible, despite the fact that it does contain errors that have been corrected in more modern translations. As long as the errors in question aren’t severe, or I point them out when needed, it sometimes is better to use the tried-and-true, even if it’s not perfect.
Mergatroid: “Akhenaten, the Egyptian pharaoh, was a monotheist at about this time;” I wonder who influenced him…
Depends on whether you date the Exodus before or after Akhenaten–and dating the Exodus is a contentious matter.
Christianity is also arguably monotheistic.
I assume this is a catty dig at the doctrine of the Trinity. What I meant about Zoroastrianism is that it’s commonly held to be dualistic, but it is probably more accurate to consider it monotheistic.
Really going for the snark trophy, aren’t you?



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Turmarion

posted September 1, 2009 at 3:28 pm


Preemptively, before someone else points it out, point 3 above should read: “There is a certain amount of dispute as to whether all of the so-called “errors” of the LXX are actually errors, or a result of translations of earlier versions of the Hebrew from which the Masoretic text later deviated.” Sorry about that.



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LazerA

posted September 1, 2009 at 5:44 pm


Wow, a lot has gone on in the half day I was away from the computer! I’m not sure where to start.
A few comments:
1. I basically agree with David here, that Range Rover, despite his assertions, is far from a truly knowledgeable Jew. As I said once earlier, it is clear that his sense of Jewish involvement comes from cultural connections and not from a substantive knowledge of traditional Jewish teachings. The mere fact that he, in a previous thread, stated that he has “enough Jewish education to have led minyans” (a skill mastered by the normal Orthodox thirteen-year-old) is indicative of the level of knowledge he considers to be significant. Nothing in Range Rover’s comments has indicated any serious knowledge of Judaism.
2. While I doubt David would approve of such a bald statement, I have no problem asserting that Judaism certainly does teach that all other belief systems are fundamentally erroneous (even if, at times, they may carry elements of truth). Christianity, to the degree that it differs with Judaism (which is substantially), is false. Period. In reference to a discussion that took place on a previous thread, Judaism also teaches that it is is, absolutely, possible to objectively know the truth in these matters. I firmly believe that in any objective analysis, the self-contradictory nature of Christianity is very clear. The idea that matters of religion cannot be logically discussed and proven is, for obvious reasons, deeply attractive to those who adhere to religions that are logically incoherent. Judaism does not support this idea. On the contrary, Judaism teaches that the lack of a rational basis for one’s beliefs is a serious spiritual flaw.
3. As such, yes, part of the role of the Jewish people is – ultimately – to show the world the falsehood of their current beliefs and to bring them to the true service of God. Yes, this will involve the abandonment of Chrisitianity and all other such religions.
4. There is no question that the Septuagint is a translation of a Hebrew original. It is true that some communities were so ignorant that the Greek translation became their primary text. Paul’s reliance on a translation (regardless of its accuracy) is strong evidence that he was far from a truly knowledgeable Jew.
5. The mere fact that Paul is called a Pharisee (even if true) does not automatically make him a rabbi or even a knowledgeable Jew; it is merely a statement of affiliation. (Josephus is another self-described Pharisee who was not a rabbi and only moderately knowledgeable as a Jew.)
6. Akhenaten’s exclusive worship of the sun would not qualify as monotheism by the standards of the Jewish Scriptures. Akhenaten did not deny the existence of other gods, he merely prefered the worship of his favorite god (and sought to impose his preference on the people of his kingdom).
7. Zoroastrian tradition puts Zoroaster himself only about two and a half centuries before Alexander. This is long, long after the time of Moses. No one knows exactly what the pre-Zoroastrian Iranians believed, and it is more than stretching it to ascribe the – itself questionable – monotheism of Zoroastrianism to that earlier period (which is still quite late in Jewish history).
8. The halachic authorities do mention a practice of donning tefilin by both Shacharis and Mincha (which is probably what Range Rover’s father was doing). It is a very rare practice.
9. Which brings me to my final point (I think), and that is the tragedy I have already pointed out in the previous thread. While Range Rover appears to have deep respect and affection for his parents, he is choosing a path that will cause them the deepest anguish in the next world and that they would certainly strongly object to if they were still alive. When a son says kaddish, he demonstrates through his actions that his parents succeeded in educating him to join the Jewish people in their mission of making God’s name “great and sanctified” in the world. What is Range Rover saying about his parents if he, God forbid, becomes an apostate?



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Range Rover

posted September 1, 2009 at 6:20 pm


LazerA
I would appreciate it if you left my parents out of your diatribes against me, which are motivated (apparently) by a combination of monumental arrogance and condescension. (Leavened, perhaps by a bit of insecurity, as well). You have no concept of my parents’ lives, who they were, and have no right to imply anything about what my choice of religion would “say” about my parents. None. May I also remind you that it is a dangerous thing to presume to speak for G-d.
The question originally posed was whether Jews who convert do so because they are ignorant of their own faith. I simply stated that there might be other reasons, and that I am not ignorant. I have not claimed to be a scholar or expert of any kind. However, I have studied more Torah than many other Jews I know. Despite all of this, your criteria for being one sufficiently qualified to have an opinion on anything seems to differ from David’s (which itself appears to keep shifting).
If the mission of the Jewish people is to make G-d’s name “great and sanctified” in the world, then I suggest your methodology may need an overhaul, or else you might want to excuse yourself from participation in that mission.
Name-calling, insults, condescension, and presumptuous assertions about people you know nothing about will hardly get you there.



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Mergatroid

posted September 1, 2009 at 7:18 pm


“If the mission of the Jewish people is to make G-d’s name “great and sanctified” in the world, then I suggest your methodology may need an overhaul, or else you might want to excuse yourself from participation in that mission.”
I will accept that advice personally. Thanks for the reminder. Honest.



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Turmarion

posted September 1, 2009 at 7:29 pm


LazarA, regarding points two and three in your most recent post, while I obviously disagree, I must compliment you for your refreshing honesty and forthrightness in stating the same point that I, as a Gentile, felt the need to express in a more circumspect manner.
Beyond that, we disagree, and that’s OK. As the Koran says, one day God will “resolve our disagreements for us.”



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leora

posted September 1, 2009 at 9:02 pm


I know it’s none of my business, but Range Rover, since you are the man of the hour (and the day, and the week), and an eloquent and sincere one at that–and I don’t doubt your Jewish bona fides– can I ask you–why convert to Christianity? Do you really believe in its truth? I don’t mean in some literary, aesthetic way–sure, it’s easy to be moved by the great writing and scholarship and music and art and poetry done in its name and under its banner (just listen to Handel’s Messiah and you’ll be Christian for 2 hours), but–do you really believe it? I’ve been there, done that, and I have to say, it’s not easy for a Jew to convince himself it’s true, or, if he does, to keep on convincing himself. It’s like some other commenter said: sometimes you might wish it to be true, and at a certain point in my life, I did, and it *did* do it for me emotionally for a while. But it won’t “work” long-term. An interesting book for you might be “Coming Back to Earth” by Gil Locks–certainly appreciates the centrality of spirituality and a direct connection to God. But it’s your life to live… :-)



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Your Name

posted September 1, 2009 at 9:30 pm


Leora
My reason is that as I get older I feel a strong desire to know G-d and have a relationship with G-d, as well as a desire to know that my sins are forgiven. I have spent a great portion of my life preoccupied by material things and the material world. And I want to believe in something beyond that.
Judaism seems to me (and this is my own feeling; I don’t say this is true of Judaism in and of itself) very preoccupied with rituals that to me have no meaning. And the Jewish concept of G-d emphasizes how non-human He is; how unlike humanity He is.
Catholicism has its own rituals, it is true. And it’s own rigid dogmans as well. But the central concept is that G-d became human to save mankind and to offer everyone (not just those who are “chosen”) a close relationshiop with G-d. Catholicism does not demand that one observe hundreds of commandments; it demands love and charity and goodness. It emphasizes what is in one’s heart.
Can I really believe it? It is hard for me to accept the trinity; very hard. But I no longer think it is incompatible with monotheism. The best expanation I have recently read is one written by the Catholic writer C.S. Lewis.
I am also repelled by the absence of moral discourse in the Jewish community, and its preoccupation with material things. I just don’t relate to Judaism anymore. It does not appeal to me; I feel very little connection to it. But am I sure I can become a Christian. No.
But I do feel that it is possible, and I feel as well it would bring me closer to G-d.
By the way, I don’t really think that the Master of the Universe will be in any way, shape or form, angry with me if I become a Christian. I don’t believe in a vengeful, vindictive G-d, and if such were the Divine nature, I would rather be an atheist.



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Yirmi

posted September 1, 2009 at 11:13 pm


Why does humankind need saving? Only if you accept the false Christian premise that we’re doomed to hell for sinning (and, necessarily, that tshuvah alone cannot bring forgiveness). Judaism does not offer only Jews a way to be close to G-d; in fact, Noahidism is a fast-growing religion based on the universally-applicable mitzvot. Judaism gave the world a powerful thing that can be adopted by anyone — faith in one God, that everything He does is for the best, and that we should pray to Him at length in our own words in our own language to come close to Him and increase our spiritual level until we have achieved our spiritual mission on this earth, our soul correction.
Please, before saying again that Judaism does not offer a personal relationship with Hashem, read a book (which is just out today) about hitbodedut (personal prayer) — like this one, or any other book by the same author:
http://www.breslev.co.il/store/books/spirituality_and_faith/in_forest_fields_the_garden_of_prayer_and_hisbodedus.aspx?id=9818&language=english
Another idea — try Yitzhak Buxbaum’s Jewish Spiritual Practices, or any other book by him.
This topic has been brought up before, but God created the Jewish people. Do you think he wants the Jewish people to continue, or to convert to Christianity and become extinct? The Jews for Jesus crowd says this is the real way to be a Jew, but in practice Jews who become Christians do not marry Jews, and their children are not Jewish. How could this be what God wants?
God created the Jewish people for a reason — to have a wonderful life of faith and love for God, and to spread this fulfilling and effective path to the world. When Judaism does not do that, we need people who are willing to revive the faith by emphasizing what’s important. Some Jewish groups and sources already do this — search for them and you’ll find something that inspires you.



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LazerA

posted September 1, 2009 at 11:59 pm


Should our religious beliefs be based upon what we truly believe to be true, or should they be based upon what we want?
If I don’t like the idea of a God who demands that we remain loyal to Him, does denying His existence make Him disappear? Does it “punish” Him?
Can I come to “know God” if I am only willing to do so on my own terms?
If I decide for myself what is and is not a sin, does the concept of sin still retain any real meaning?
If I really want forgiveness for my sins, does it then make sense to choose the religion that offers the least demanding path to forgiveness?
If I don’t like the idea of God being fundamentally different from humanity, does this mean that He isn’t?
Does the fact that a religion does not conform to my personal preferences (e.g. too many rituals or commandments) have any bearing on its truth or falsehood?
Does truth or falsehood matter when choosing a religion?
Is there a single coherent idea in anything that it is being proposed here?
If I choose a religion based purely on whether it fits with what I want for myself, what religion am I really following?
(BTW, C.S. Lewis was an Anglican, not a Catholic.)



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Range Rover

posted September 2, 2009 at 12:14 am


LazerA
Lewis’s writings — especially in his later years — are considered to espouse Roman Catholic teachings. You can read about that here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._S._Lewis#Conversion_to_Christianity
As for your question:
“Is there a single coherent idea in anything that it is being proposed here?”
I would say No, as it pertains to your posts. Plenty of ego, though.



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Range Rover

posted September 2, 2009 at 12:21 am


Yirmi
Thank you for your post, and I will look up some of the books you recommend.
I am only speaking for myself, and not trying to do anything but that.
I certainly cannot say why G-d would do anything. It does not seem that He would create the Jewish people only to have them disappear as converts to other religions. But it also seems true that he would not allow millions of them to be murdered during the Holocaust.
No one truly knows why G-d does anything. “If I knew Him, I would be Him.”



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David Klinghoffer

posted September 2, 2009 at 12:40 am


LazerA, so it is, or so it was. Menahem Azariah da Fano (16c) gives the ruling about wearing tefillin again at mincha. Well what do you know. Thanks for prompting me to look this up. Makes sense in a way.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menahem_Azariah_da_Fano



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Mergatroid

posted September 2, 2009 at 1:19 am


“I am also repelled by the absence of moral discourse in the Jewish community”
Maybe /your/ community. I can think of so many examples of moral discourse in the Jewish world that I’m forced to believe that you wrote that rashly. (I hope I worded that politely enough.)
“and its preoccupation with material things.”
Maybe it comes with the territory when you’ve got money, which Jews tend to be on the higher end of the $$ scale. Try checking out the run-down shul in the next town (or in some poorer towns in Israel) where the Jews fortunately (so to speak) don’t have such a problem like this.
“And the Jewish concept of G-d emphasizes how non-human He is; how unlike humanity He is.”
If you don’t want a God who is “unlike humanity,” then why be attracted to Jesus, a man who never even had a yetzer hara.
“Judaism seems to me (and this is my own feeling; I don’t say this is true of Judaism in and of itself) very preoccupied with rituals that to me have no meaning.”
Well, I’m sure that if you’d ask Jesus for advice on the matter, he would not say, “These rituals are ancient and outdated”, despite their being over a thousand years old. Rather, he would encourage you to find meaning in them, just as he did when he performed them.



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Alan Stillman

posted September 2, 2009 at 12:44 pm


snark alert:
it seems to me that this blog should undergo a name change from “Kingdom of Priests” to “Kingdom of Judges” for the sheer amount of judgment going on here. in the Hebrew school I went to it was not enough to be one of the “chosen people”. other kids (and I have to take responsibility for doing this myself) would try to prove themselves “more chosen” by documenting that they were better Jews, more strict in their adherence to the rules of Jewish life. it was all kind of Orwellian.
this attitude – one that smacked of arrogance to me – is one reason why I found the religion to be empty. and Lazar A knows how I feel about defining one’s spirituality in terms of “what works”. this does not mean being lazy or refusing to accept challenges. for me a working faith is one that calls me to challenge myself, to work towards bettering myself, to be true to an ideal.
Range, if this new faith tradition, if your spiritual experiment provides you with what you need, then go for it. if it doesn’t, keep exploring. you may find that, like Dorothy, you needed to look in your own backyard. you may find that you are more suited to life in Oz. either way, happy travels.



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Mark

posted September 2, 2009 at 5:11 pm


Mr. Klinghoffer, you’ve done the same thing here as in “Why the Jews Rejected Jesus” – bring in St. Paul to kick around with questionable vitriol. You can argue that Paul was mistaken in his arguments, but labling him essentially an idiot who is beyond the pale is the same thing as Darwinists calling Dr. Behe a creationist.
Tumarion is right in many of his points. In saying Paul quoted the flawed LXX you make huge assumptions that are contradicted by most historians and a basic knowledge of transmission of the texts. One of the big points you have to cross is the fact that the vowel pointed Hebrew text that is taken as standard today dates from the 10th Century A.D compared to the LXX translations with extant copies from the 1st century BC. Paul was quoting (probably from memory) the accepted text of the day to an audience that would have known that text. The standard you are applying to cast out Paul is anachronistic.



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Range Rover

posted September 3, 2009 at 12:45 am


Thank you, Alan Stillman.
I can see now that the only reason David asked me to share details about my background was to use the information to promulgate a bogus “law” about Jews who convert to other faiths at my expense.
I remember, too, Alan, all the one-upsmanship I encountered in Yeshiva. I guess some people never grow up.
The hostility and self-satisfied smugness of most (not all) of the people on this blog is sad, and simply reinforces my desire to find true spirituality.
So Shalom, thou “Kingdom of Pygmies”, and enjoy your little sandbox of self-celebration.
If you are representative of Jews today, I think that the danger posed by conversion is not the real worry at all.



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Mergatroid

posted September 3, 2009 at 11:38 am


Hi Range Rover,
I think you might enjoy the song “American Lie” at this site:
http://www.jewishjukebox.com/products/jewish_soloists/1364.asp
It’s about (against, actually) our occupation with material things.
It’s only 1:30 of the song, whose full lyrics can be found here:
http://veroba.net/lyrics.html#americanlie
You’ll recognize the tune, but the words are different.
Regards, Merg



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Yirmi

posted September 3, 2009 at 1:07 pm


RR, I haven’t said anything about this yet, but I agree with you that the “law” is bogus; I’m sure anyone of any background could be convinced to convert to any other religion. You just can’t make laws about human behavior (which as a sociologist I know something about). Patterns, tendencies, statistical likelihoods, yes, when there’s evidence to support them, but laws, no.
I don’t think any blog is representative of any human community. Sadly people all over the web (bloggers and commenters alike) react to the anonymity of the web to be really nasty and take unreasonably extreme and harsh positions. And the commenters on this blog are nastier than on any other blog I’ve seen (though up until this point the nastiness has usually been from people who oppose Intelligent Design or David’s political views). I often think that most bloggers and blog-readers would probably be better off spending more time in the normal face-to-face world, and trying out there ideas there, where they can see the looks on people’s faces. That way people would be a little friendlier and more empathetic.



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David Klinghoffer

posted September 3, 2009 at 1:29 pm


Thanks, Yirmi. I’ve of course noticed the nastiness quotient myself and it saddens me. On one hand, I know this is why many other blogs with viewpoints similar to mine block comments altogether. On the other hand, I have to wonder if somehow I’m doing something not quite the right way myself. Religious and political traditionalism, openness to seeing God’s hand in nature and history, these are provocative views in our time. No matter how mildly expressed, they attract hate. But I sincerely would like to know if I’m in any way contributing to the bad atmosphere that too often prevails in threads here. I’d appreciate your view and that of anyone else who’s a well wisher.



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Yirmi

posted September 3, 2009 at 2:31 pm


You’re welcome! One the one hand the nastiness may just be an accident, because of the people who happened to come over to this blog from Charles Johnson or Dan Savage or whatever.
On the other, if I had to find something that could explain the nastiness, I would say this. I think some of the time your posts are written in a mild and gentle way. But there’s also an aspect of the writing style, which I think of as the National Review style shared by many of those associated with NR, which is graceful and charming but also a bit arrogant, stylistically and substantively. Humility and judging others favorably are central Jewish values, so this is something to consider, especially if you believe the karma-like ATFAT (a turn for a turn) principle articulated by R’ Lazer Brody.



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LazerA

posted September 3, 2009 at 10:41 pm


Forgive me if I don’t join the chorus of breast beating here (even if it is Elul).
David asserts (correctly, in my opinion) that nowadays, those Jews who convert to Judaism are “almost without exception” ignorant of Judaism. (This has been my experience as well, over many years of “face-to-face” experience as a Jewish educator working with all age groups.)
Range Rover comments that this is not true. His proof is that he is considering conversion and he is not ignorant. (Note that by using his personal level of knowledge as the (only) proof for his claim, it becomes a valid focus of inquiry in the discussion.)
He is then shocked and insulted when people challenge the validity of his proof, calling the challenges “ad hominem” (which, given the relevance of his personal level of knowledge to his argument, was not a valid complaint). (There was also a reading comprehension problem which led him to find hurtful comments where there were none.)
Moreover, he seems upset that people are willing to unambiguously state that they believe he is doing something which is deeply wrong and based upon false and self-serving reasoning. At no point has responded to the substantive points, except to repeat his assertions of non-ignorance. Instead he has chosen to accuse those who have challenged and disagreed with him of “ego”, “anger and contempt”, and “monumental arrogance and condescension” – among other insults. (All of these, incidentally, are ad hominem attacks.)
Yet, somehow, we are the ones who are supposed to feel guilty of “nastiness”?
Finally, what on earth did he think the reaction would be? When you comment on a Jewish-themed blog that you intend to convert to Christianity in order to find true spirituality, you have to expect a rather strong reaction. Apostasy has never been an uncontroversial choice in the Jewish world. The fact that Range Rover seems surprised by this reaction may say more about his lack of real understanding of Judaism than anything else.



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Mergatroid

posted September 4, 2009 at 12:02 am


Just two verses I hope you’ll appreciate, Range Rover, since they deal with forgiveness and getting close to God, two things you’ve stressed.
1. Micah 7:18-19
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
2. From Psalm 145:
Karov Ad-nai l’chol koraiv, l’chol asher yikra’oohoo v’emet.
Please let me know if you appreciate seeing these, or if you think I should just forget all about it.



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Range Rover

posted September 4, 2009 at 4:16 am


Thank you Mergatroid.
I am done with this blog and won’t be returning, but I appreciate your post.
LaserA
Your response was predictable. For your information, I did not post here in order to argue with anyone, but rather to share feelings that are rather deep. Nor was I interested in being the subject of your “inquiry”.
But you are right about one thing — I should have known what the reaction would be to expressing negative views about Judaism and positive views about Christianity in this venue. A bit naive of me to think that I might find some dialogue on feelings and closeness to G-d, rather than mind games and put downs.
I won’t make that mistake again.
Thinking over what Yirmi said, I would guess you are a person with a rather stunted sense of self-esteem, compensated for by enjoyment in making others feel small and inflicting cruelty.
And being such an All-Knowing Jew, you probably understand that cruelty is a sin that often reaps quite a response from G-d. I wish for you that the Almighty deals with you as you deal with others. Good luck with that.
Goodbye, and I wish Alan, Mergatroid, and Yirmi all the best for the coming New Year.



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Turmarion

posted September 4, 2009 at 10:34 am


David: Thanks, Yirmi. I’ve of course noticed the nastiness quotient myself and it saddens me.
I don’t really think the “nastiness” here is any worse than at a lot of other blogs I could think of.
On the other hand, I have to wonder if somehow I’m doing something not quite the right way myself.
Well, gee–you call evolutionary biologists “Darwinists”, “Darwin-believers”, and “Darwinist faithful”, as if it was a religion, not science, and proceed to compare them to Hitler, Nazis generically, Stalin, Charles Manson, and the Holocaust Museum shooter. When the offensiveness of this is pointed out time and again, by many posters, you brush it off. You say that any Jew that converts to Christianity is ignorant of his faith, and when someone begs to differ, you participate in a very public and aggressive pile-on against him here rather than discussing it with him in private correspondence. From his latest post, it sure doesn’t seem you’ve brought him any closer to teshuvah by your attitude. When I repeatedly post questions that you haven’t even acknowledged, let alone answered, you get snippy and say, “You’re not my mother!” Hmm–what could you be doing that’s not quite right?
I think I have pretty much avoided nastiness on this blog, although I have been a bit sharper and more frustrated of late, and perhaps a bit intemperate occasionally in the last couple of weeks. To the extent that I may have been out of line or excessive, I apologize for my tone and expression (but not the basic points). As several here have pointed out, you raise questions and call for dialogue then refuse to participate; you make heavy use of ad hominems and name-calling; when you bother to post in the thread comments, it’s usually to gripe at someone or to say thanks for positive remarks, not to really interact; and so on. Is it a surprise that we’re frustrated and irritable a lot of the time? If you look at Rod Dreher’s blog here, or any of the response-oriented blogs over at the Atlantic, you’ll see blog moderators who cultivate a space where discussion and real interaction are promoted. There may be sharp exchanges, and yes, even nastiness at times. Nevertheless, there is no feeling that the blogger is on a soapbox constantly banging the same drum over and over. There are often long and thoughtful exchanges among the blogger and readers in the posts. I think such standards are definitely to be emulated.
A personal story that may clarify a bit. Biology in general is a complex field requiring long training and giving comparatively modest rewards. My sister, who is an evolutionary biologist, exemplifies this. She spent over ten years on post-graduate work for her master’s and PhD, and then did a two-year post-doctorate. She was employed part-time for a year after that while job-hunting. She has just started a position at a small liberal arts college at which she earns less than many skilled blue-collar workers with no college at all.
My point isn’t to denigrate blue-collar workers, but to point out that she’s not in it for the money. She has taken a huge chunk out of her adult life to prepare for a field that is less than rewarding monetarily because she is passionate about it, she can participate through research in advancing human knowledge, and she can hopefully contribute to making the world a better place. Now, how do you think she or anyone else in a similar position would feel reading a blog that essentially paints her profession as the root of all evil in the modern world, compares her and her peers to Nazis, and implies that they are all fools or blackguards or both, plotting to destroy innocent dissenters (never mind if the dissenters are actually right–after all, flat-Earthers dissent, too!).
If you can’t empathize with that, David, try this: You’re a journalist, and I assume you do it because you love it and hope to do good in your chosen field. From what we gather from your statements on the blog, you aren’t in it for the money, either. Now suppose there were a blog that was dedicated to smearing, bashing, and criticizing journalism. Further, suppose it never called journalists “journalists”, but, say, “muckrakers” or “scribblers”. Suppose it blamed journalism for most of the ills of today’s society and routinely compared them to Nazis, Soviet Communists, and mass-murderers. Finally, suppose it implied that most journalists are nasty ideologues bent on bringing society down, and that the vanishingly few “good” journalists were useful fools, deluded dupes. Now, if there were such a blog as that, how do you think it would make you feel, as a journalist? Does that mental exercise help you “get it”?
Finally, I agree with Yirmi, emphasis added: But there’s also an aspect of the writing style, which I think of as the National Review style shared by many of those associated with NR, which is graceful and charming but also a bit arrogant, stylistically and substantively. Humility and judging others favorably are central Jewish values, so this is something to consider…. Humility is never out of order.



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David Klinghoffer

posted September 4, 2009 at 1:58 pm


Yirmi, I appreciate your thoughtful response which undoubtedly contains some truth.



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Mergatroid

posted September 4, 2009 at 5:19 pm


RR wrote: “And being such an All-Knowing Jew, you probably understand that cruelty is a sin that often reaps quite a response from G-d. I wish for you that the Almighty deals with you as you deal with others. Good luck with that.”
On the bright side, LazerA, this concept of midda knegged midda is definitely Jewish! So all’s not lost.



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LazerA

posted September 5, 2009 at 10:22 pm


It is difficult to hear oneself described as cruel. When I read that Range Rover felt that my comments about his plan to leave Judaism were cruel, it certainly did arouse in me some self-doubt (causing me to look over my comments and reassess them).
In the final analysis, though, I don’t think his accusation is justified. Nothing that was said by me – nor, I believe, by anyone else – was cruel, in the sense of intended for the purpose of causing suffering.
My comments to Range Rover were very critical. I believe that he is considering a choice that is both foolish and wrong. I think that he is making this decision based upon a false sense of competence. I believe that ultimately, whether in this world or the next, he will deeply regret this decision. And that is what I told him.
He deeply resented this criticism. He feels that it is my personal flaws that motivate me to tell him why I think he is wrong. I must hate him, and desire to belittle him.
Anyone who has dealt with teenagers (or adults involved in self-destructive behavior) will immediately recognize this pattern. The teenager wants to do something, and a well-meaning adult tells him he should not do it because it is wrong and harmful. To which the teenager responds, “Why do you hate me so much?”
Obviously, I don’t hate him. I am deeply saddened that he has lost touch with his faith to such a degree that he actually thinks he will find more spiritual satisfaction in Christianity than he already has available to him in Judaism, if he only knew how to access it. I hope that he will recognize this himself, before he makes a decision that he will eventually come to regret.
I will return to my original comment I made to Range Rover: Find a truly knowledgeable mentor who can introduce you to the true meaning and beauty of Judaism. The two organizations I mentioned then, Partners-in-Torah and Oorah, can arrange such a partnership for you for free.



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wisconsin lake lots

posted August 8, 2014 at 8:45 pm


With its natural beauty, friendly people and incredible lakefront Castle Rock Lake is Wisconsin’s premier recreational lake.
Nowhere in the Midwest do you have a location that is so convenient to major cities, but still a world apart.
http://www.castlerocklake.com/



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