Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests

The Mission of the Jews

Don’t miss my essay over at First Things on the mission of the Jews to the world. This, I think, the key idea that the Jewish community needs to absorb at this very unusual cultural moment, for the time is so, so right. Non-Jews are waiting for us to fulfill the roll God gave us in the Torah. Please tell me what you think by commenting here, there, or both.


You will often hear Jews say, with pride, that Judaism rejects a missionary or evangelizing stance. This is true in the narrow sense that Jews do not pursue converts to Judaism, but it is deeply misleading in another. The German Orthodox rabbi, polemicist, and scriptural expositor Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888), a towering figure in modern Jewish thought, taught insistently that God brought the “Abrahamitic nation” onto the stage of history for “the salvation of the world through Judaism.” As he wrote in his Torah commentary, this was to be accomplished “by example and admonition,” with the Jews as “God’s messengers on earth” (on Genesis 12:1, 11:8, 18:17-19). In Orthodox Judaism today, Hirsch remains a household name. But the most important aspect of his legacy, which deserves urgent practical consideration by the Jewish community, is insufficiently appreciated.
 A range of Orthodox communities claim Hirsch’s mantle. One often hears the “Hirschean worldview” invoked. Modern Orthodox thinkers cite his philosophy of Torah im Derech Eretz (“Torah with the Way of the World”) as giving a Torah imprimatur to secular education. Hirsch’s pioneering study of the roots of Hebrew words is also well regarded. But Hirsch’s thought extends far beyond his contributions as an educational theorist and etymologist. He illuminated a cultural crisis of which he saw only the beginnings. That crisis, in Hirsch’s own term, is that of the Western world “sunk in materialism” (on Exodus 6:3).

Read the rest at First Things.
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Philip Koplin

posted March 5, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Those who base their moral values on their belief that man is a spiritual being commanded to follow the word of God generally take it for granted that their understanding is objectively and absolutely correct. This implicit claim is the basis for their belief that their values rest on a firmer foundation than the values of those who reject a supernatural basis for morality. However, they overlook the fact that many people with different spiritually based values than theirs also claim to have an objectively and absolutely correct understanding of man’s and God’s nature. So on what basis do we decide who, if anyone, among those claiming to have an absolute and objective understanding really do? Believing that something is objective and absolute doesn’t automatically make it so. It isn’t enough to say that our values are more valid than yours because ours are based on an objective spiritual revelation or tradition and yours are based on a materialist understanding of the world. You have to show why your claims about man and God are objectively true and how you know objectively that those of people making equivalent claims to spiritual insight, as well as those rejecting all claims to spiritual insight, are not.
Elsewhere David has written, “We know what’s right because God or his earthly agents inform us through objective revelation or tradition. … A believer in objective morality accepts the right of established religious tradition—as revealed in a book (the Bible, the Talmud or the Koran) or in the decision of an ordained religious hierarchy—to define right and wrong.”
But what is an “objective” revelation or tradition? Again, it can’t just be one that claims to be. In particular, by what criteria do we judge that a supposed message from God is objective truth rather than fallible private intuition; that someone who claims to be God’s earthly agent and to have received an objective revelation actually is and actually has; or that a tradition that claims to be transmitting objective truth really is?
According to David’s statement, a believer in objective morality would seem to have no choice but to accept as true any definition of right and wrong that issues from any established religious tradition (and not just those based on Bible, Talmud, or Koran). This so relativizes morality that one wonders why he thinks his values have a firmer foundation than those of materialists or followers of spiritual traditions other than his.

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posted March 9, 2010 at 2:16 am

Koplin wrote: “Those who base their moral values on their belief that man is a spiritual being commanded to follow the word of God generally take it for granted that their understanding is objectively and absolutely correct.”
Did you take a survey or something?

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Philip Koplin

posted March 10, 2010 at 2:02 pm

I read a lot.

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posted January 15, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I have read and re-read “Why the Jews Rejected Jesus” with great interest. For a goy raised in a Catholic milieu the book raises potent questions and arguments that Christian apologists don’t often address because they are unaware of them.
It seems to me that the book has two major goals: (1) to (ably) defend Judaism by leveling devastating artillery against Christian truth claims, past, present and to come, and (2) that it is somehow a good thing that Christianity developed and separated from Judaism, because it spread monotheism around the world, led to development of western civ., etc., and, we can add, has created the current opportunity for Judaism to speak up and fulfill it’s historic mission.
However, I wonder if it is possible to succeed in both these goals at the same time. For example, if in defending Judaism, you successfully expose Paul as a fraud and charlatan who lied about his own background, how can a gentile persuaded by this argument continue to see Christianity as good or true? To use the Gospel phrase, how can such a bad tree have borne good fruit?
So the question arises, in being a Light to the Nations, would the Jews need to prosletyze against Christianity? For the Jewish groups most dedicated to promoting the Noahide Laws, like Chabad, the answer is an unequivocal YES. Like many goys disaffected with the religion I was raised in, I had a look at the Noachide movement. I was intrigued at the outset, but having looked closer, I have developed reservations. I can’t go into detail here but one of these is the strong sense that gentiles might have a place in the world to come, but always a distinctly inferior one to Jews. As one example, I have read discussions to effect that gentiles cannot really “repent” as Jews can because God is Father to Jews and King to gentiles. Therefore He can forgive his children but must exact justice from his subjects (up to and including the death penalty for gentiles). This kind of talk makes Noachidism as attractive as a wet rail. Maybe what the world needs is a Noahide movement that is not a fully-owned subsidiary of Chabad or other non-modern Orthodox groups.

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Chase Ray

posted February 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Mr. Klinghoffer, I would simply like to address somethings I just read in “Why the Jews Rejected Jesus.” I am of the “Nazerene” sect you might say. I believe Yeshua when he said, “Don’t even think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill. (and that means to fill full of meaning)” (Matt. 5:17)
“What purpose then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made” (Gal. 3:19). The word added infers there is an antecedent. This “law” cannot mean all the torah, or instructions. We see the commands went forth from Moses and then the people transgressed. It was after this point that the law of sacrifice by the Levitcal priesthood was instituted.
The curse of the law comes when one tries to be justified by works of the Torah. Just read Galatians and see how many times the word “justified” comes up. David says, “none are righteous, no not one.” Isaiah says, “we have all gone astray.” How can we please Yah who judges the intents of the heart? It was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to purge conscience and soul of guilt and sin. “The soul that sins shall perish.” Yes, but if the soul of Messiah was to obey all torah that would mean His soul was worthy of eternal life. And this is why Isaiah says, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt”(Is. 53:10). If His soul is without blemish then he could fulfill the sacrificial order once and for all.
Works of the law never justified men, not even under the old covenant. “Behold, his soul [which] is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4). Justification/ atonement, always came by blood (lev. 17:11). The curse of law is clear in that it comes on the disobedient. We relate ourselves to Messiah who kept it in all points as our mediator if we fall. He is our advocate in the court of the Almighty. Our record of guilt was nailed to the cross. When Yah looks at us we will have been sprinkled with the perfect blood once and for all. In the same way Moses would plead on behalf of the entire people, it is written that Christ: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Heb.7:25).
As for the resurrection, David says, “you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (Ps. 16:10). Saying dietary is gone is a complete misinterpretation of New Testament scripture. (Mind you a “New Covenant” is mentioned in Jeremiah 31:1-3) It is not.
Concerning the exiles returning: God said in Hosea ch. 1 that he would scatter them among the nations. They would be assimilated. Now, you answer me this. If God gathered to himself the Gentiles which by great likely hood had some of that Jewish blood, could that not be him regathering the people to Himself.
Remember Joseph who looked like a Gentile to His brothers…. He was sent there to save many. Know this. That Jesus, Yeshua, is your brother. He has been wearing gentile face paint. But the time will come when he will boot the half hearted heretics out of the room and say come to me, it is me Yeshua, your brother. I was sent to the gentiles to save many and to graft them into the covenant I made with Abraham. The time is now. The fullness of the gentiles is edging the brim. A revival is coming friend. And you will be my brother.
My main issue with your book is a false statement at the top of pg. 97. You say, “It’s interesting to note, then, the admission in the book of Acts itself that the Jews regarded Paul as “uneducated.” The verse says this, friend: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Nowhere in here is Paul mentioned.

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