Shmuley Boteach’s ecumenical spirit

Shmuley Boteach (pronounced Botech – “ch” as in Scotttish “loch”) in his “For a confederation of Noachides” (Jerusalem Post, see also RoshPinaProject) says that Christianity, like Judaism, is a godly religion:

“Judaism and Christianity, Boteach says, both Godly religions, simply have vastly different appeals, even as they share a great deal in common. Christianity will always appeal to those who prefer a more corporeal religion, where God is incarnate in human form, just as Judaism will always appeal to those attracted to a more subtle and intangible God, and those who wish to approach God without intermediaries.”

First, it is very unusual for an Orthodox Jew to say that Christianity is a godly religion, where the main difference between the God of Judaism and the God of Christianity is that in Judaism it is only mind that matters, whereas in Christianity,  matter also matters – a lot. The Jewish God is “subtle” and “intangible” whereas the Christian God is “corporeal.”

Boteach is only being logical in that he is thinking like any human being would think. The Christian Bible would add “fallen” human being. What clever human being – Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Maimonides – would stoop so intellectually low as to embody God in flesh? That’s all primitive, pagan stuff. And then there comes this man who claims to be God (He sure did). I read in Paul’s letter to Boteach’s kinsmen:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews, 2:9-10).

What! God – the Son  of God at that, suffering for me, to save me. What kind of salvation is that? In the Jewish Bible, isn’t “salvation”all about saving my corporeality from suffering and from others who wish to turn me into a corpse? That’s not only a Jewish idea; it’s a universal idea. It’s clear to me that Jews are masters at being human; humanism in their hands has become a fine art. Nowhere more so than in commendable good works. Deeds, not creeds, is the name of the Jewish game. A prime example is Joshua Loth Liebman, who, in his bestseller,  speaks of people who “nurse an inadequate notion of Divinity” (“Peace of mind,”Cedar Books, 1957, p. 144). One of these inadequate notions would be any kind of revealed religion including Judaism, Christianity, as well as Noachidism (the seven laws of Noah), which Boteach is rooting for in his article. Most “thinking” Jews (Jewish psychologists lead the way, for example, Victor Frankl, Eric Fromm, Gerald Jampolsky) are in the Josh Liebman mold. But let me return to the ecumenical Boteach.

To reiterate, Boteach said:

“Christianity will always appeal to those who prefer a more corporeal religion, where God is incarnate in human form, just as Judaism will always appeal to those attracted to a more subtle and intangible God, and those who wish to approach God without intermediaries.”

Boteach shows us that one of the fundamental differences between the Christian and the Jewish God is that while Christianity eschews dualism, Judaism makes a meal of it. God in Judaism  equals Jualism – where matter and spirit can never meet. Rightly so, and should have rightly continued to be so if something corporeally subtle hadn’t occurred: “The Word was made flesh” (John 1).

I suppose,though, gnosticism is better than agnosticism. Boteach, therefore is right – I think: Christians and Jews have much in common – the spiritual. But from a Christian point of view, it’s not pure, subtle spirituality that can save us from sin and reconcile us to God. The Jew counters that the Christian has little idea of what’s what.  Mitzvot without question – but only  a simple 7 for the Noa(c)hide. So now, anyone can be godly, and purely spiritual to boot.

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