Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld at Jewish Journal in “Invite a Muslim for Shabbat”:
It will be a very long time before I forget the news I heard this week of a 5-year-old Muslim child handcuffed at Dulles Airport on Saturday because he was deemed a security threat. … This past Monday night my wife came home and told me that a Muslim acquaintance of hers who she knows through work told her that his child is very scared and is crying non-stop since Saturday. We started talking about what we could do to help this child.
Every Friday night we host lively Shabbat dinners in which we usually entertain members of our congregation. But after hearing that story, my wife and I decided that we should invite this Muslim family for Shabbat dinner. A Shabbat dinner is a powerful opportunity to connect while breaking bread together.
I have reprinted this story not to discuss the police’s action – I assume the police may have their own legal reasons to do this. I have reprinted this story to discuss the decision of this rabbi – to invite this Muslim family to a Shabbat dinner.
Should we invite the non-Jews and possibly anti-Semitic non-Jews to our Jewish Shabbats? I believe it depends on the reason for invitation and the way of celebrating Shabbat.
If we celebrate Shabbat as a commemoration of God’s creation of the humans as equals in His likeness and image and therefore we invite the non-Jews to validate our belief in it before the invitees, such invitation is a spiritually noble one and a way of dispelling the anti-Semitic feelings toward the Jews.
If we celebrate Shabbat as a commemoration of our freedom from slavery in Egypt and as our spiritual duty as the Chosen to help everybody else to obtain the freedom from any oppressive force such as dictatorship, racism, slavery, anti-Semitism, etc., such invitation is a spiritually noble one and a way of dispelling the anti-Semitic feelings toward the Jews.
However, if we celebrate Shabbat just with an expensive family dinner and traditional Shabbat rituals (when we equate the commemorative discussions in the above to the work prohibited on Shabbat), the invitation of non-Jews to this Shabbat may enhance their anti-Semitic feelings about the Jews having luxury lives at the expense of the others.
From the news media:
The Kushners hosted Shabbat dinner for Trump Cabinet members. The gathering is the first indication of how the Kushner-Trump power couple will combine their White House roles with the demands of Shabbat.
The Trump Cabinet members are mostly Christians, and this Kushners’ Shabbat with Christian invitees I believe should be imitated by other Jewish families who celebrate Shabbat. “Invite a Christian for Shabbat” may be much better to fight anti-Semitism than to “Invite a Muslim for Shabbat”.
There is no spiritual way to change the principle Islamic division of the world in two parts – the already Islamic one and the “to become Islamic” one. Of course, there are good Muslims who do not believe in this division of the world but they are a small minority unable to change the fundamental traditional spirituality of the entire Muslim world. There is no equal Jewish and Christian citizens in the perfect Islamic world. Therefore, “Invite a Muslim for Shabbat” may be a “good-feeling” initiative unable to find the common spiritual roots in Judaism and Islam and to dispel anti-Semitic beliefs in the Islamic world.
The majority in the Christian world has no spiritual objections against other religions and it acknowledges the Jewish fundamental roots in Christianity. Therefore, “Invite a Christian for Shabbat” may be a truly spiritual move able to strengthen Judeo-Christian foundation of the US and of the Western countries in general and dispel the anti-Semitic beliefs.
We are sure Vladimir Putin’s roots as a KGB man and his upbringing in a corrupt post-Soviet Russian system define his governance – what is Good for him, what is Bad for him, and how to apply force to enhance Good and suppress Bad. We may not like all that but at least we believe we know why it is so – we believe it so because of Putin’s roots and upbringing.
However, in our own American politics we measure a potential candidate for presidency by his politically correct statements – not by his spiritual roots and upbringing, and the governance of our outgoing president Barak Obama is a perfect example.
When we compare his politically correct governing promises with the results, it looks like an almost complete failure. However, when we compare what his roots and upbringing encourage him to do, it may look like a great success – not for the country and its people but rather for Obama’s personal ambitions coming from his roots and upbringing.
Obama’s politically correct governing promises were very attractive:
- A diverse family with American White-race mother and Kenyan African-race father that assured many he understands the people of different races and therefore is prepared to bring them together.
- A street organizer that assured many he understands the life of poor people and therefore knows how to deliver them a better life conditions.
- A Nobel Peace laureate that assured many he knows how to make peace domestically and internationally.
- An Ivy-League college graduate that put him in one group with many other distinguished political leaders.
- A person who made political journeys into many countries of the world where he was treated as a dignitary who may deliver almost everything.
- A church-service participant that assured many he has good morals.
All of the above were false assurances constructed based on the artificially created politically correct morals – not on the true Judeo-Christian morality of our country.
The people with Judeo-Christian morality of our country assessed the roots and upbringing of Obama and came down to completely different conclusions, namely:
- Since in the Islamic universe Obama is considered to be a Muslim (in Islam, religion of children is defined by father’s religion), and leaving Islam in this universe is punishable by death, there is a good probability his governance would be marked by anti-Israel, anti-Christian and anti-Judeo-Christian actions in favor of the Islamic universe. Now we see this assessment was correct – it looks like Obama’s actions have advanced the ideas of Muslim Brotherhood.
- Since the chief goal of street organizers is not to improve the life of the organized but rather to demonstrate their leadership capabilities for future career advances, no improvements of life of the poor should be expected. Now we see this assessment was correct – the number of poor people now are greater that was eight years ago.
- Since the Nobel Peace Awards have become purely politically correct awards, which do not require any real peace achievements, no peace achievements should be expected from a person with this award. Now we see this assessment was correct – the world now is a more dangerous place than it was eight years ago.
- Belonging to the Ivy League makes you a part of the politically correct establishment, encouraging you to do everything to please this establishment, not to make the life of the ordinary citizens spiritually and materially better – now we see this assessment was correct as the victory of Donald Trump proved it.
- Being treated as a dignitary in foreign countries might be an indication that those countries expect a future US president to favor them in international agreements. Now we see this assessment was correct as the economic harm in our trade relations with China and Mexico show.
- Being a church-service participant is a negative characteristic if you go to the church which is hating the American traditional values and traditional Judeo-Christian morality of our country proclaiming from the pulpit “God damn America”. Now we see this assessment was correct as the Obama-guided retreat of the US from almost all world areas of American strategic interest demonstrates.
Indeed, the roots and upbringing of Barak Hussein Obama have defined his governance – to the detriment of our own material and spiritual wellbeing.
From the news media:
The Jerusalem rabbinate has called on hotels in the city not to erect Christmas trees or host New Year’s Eve parties, according to a letter addressed to hotel managers and signed by the two chief rabbis of Jerusalem. The letter stated: “As the secular year ends we want to remind you that erecting a Christmas tree in a hotel contravenes halacha [Jewish law] and that therefore it is clear that one should not erect [a tree] in a hotel.
I am not an expert on Halacha and therefore cannot dispute this verdict of the Jerusalem rabbinate. However, I am an expert on Jewish common sense that tells me the rabbinate is wrong. The Jews should celebrate Christmas but in a completely different way – not as the Christians do.
The Jews should celebrate Christmas not as the birthday of Son of God or as the arrival of the anticipated Messiah.
The Jews should celebrate Christmas not as the missioners or Jews for Jesus are doing – we are not going to give up our God’s mission of the Chosen.
The Jews should celebrate Christmas not as the atheists are doing – we are not betraying Judaism and its unique moral way of life.
The Jews should celebrate Christmas as the Chosen by God with the mission of helping the others, who at the times of Rabbi Joshua who became Jesus Christ in the minds of that time pagans, fulfilling their mission by converting the pagans to the Torah-guided Christians. Because it is forbidden for the Jews to convert to Judaism those who genetically are outside the Jewish tribe, the only way to make the non-Jews to follow the Torah was the creation of another Torah-guided religion.
And Rabbi Joshua, who became Jesus Christ in the minds of that time pagans, had done it, and we the Jews have to be thankful for his efforts to fulfill the Jewish mission of the Chosen.
From a Christian sermon:
Mark 9:5 (NASB) And Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Peter calls Jesus “Rabbi” because He was a Jewish Rabbi. Many Christians do not understand this. Have you ever seen the bumper sticker, “My boss is a Jewish Carpenter”? How accurate is that?
Jesus was not a carpenter, but He did work with His father as a stonemason. But what I want us to understand is that Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi. He did not spend His adult life building houses but building kingdom citizens. Jesus functioned in first century Israel as a man who was a Jewish Rabbi. If you want to understand Jesus and His teaching, you need to understand something of the Jewish Rabbis.
If some Christian preachers recognize the historic role of Jesus as a Jewish Rabbi who helped the pagans to be converted to the morality of the Torah and One God, why we the Jews cannot celebrate Christmas precisely for this? We the Jews should celebrate Christmas – not as Christians do but rather in our own unique Jewish way to strengthen our Jewishness as our spiritual foundation in the contemporary Judeo-Christian civilization created with the Torah/Bible morality.
From the news media:
In his annual Christmas message, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted the common bonds that Jews and Christians share, as well as the thriving Christian community in Israel.
“To all of our Christian friends around the world, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” Netanyahu said in a video message on Thursday from the courtyard of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), one of the world’s largest pro-Israel Christian ministries with branches in over 85 nations and supporters in 160 countries worldwide.
Netanyahu added that he is “proud” of Israel’s relationship with the Christian community and “the bond with you because we all know that this land of Israel is the land of our common heritage. It changed the story of humanity, it changed civilization.”
Over three millenniums ago, we the Jews began celebrating the holiday of Passover on the first anniversary of our freedom from Egypt. The spiritual essence of this celebration is clear – the victory of Freedom over Slavery.
We did not left Egypt because we were starving and were homeless – we had all that enough for physical survival. What we were lacking was our own spiritual destiny. Moses had helped us recognize this and help us organize the Exodus – from the spiritual slavery imposed on us in Egypt by the Egyptian “Big Government” (the Pharaoh and his ministers) to the opportunity to shape up our own spiritual destiny in the yet undefined Promised Land under the guidance of the yet undefined Spiritual Supreme Power.
Two crucial things were needed to make all that happened – the urge to have your own spiritual life and the leader to convince us it could be done and how it could be done. The urge we had since about three hundred years ago we had our own spiritual life as the descendants of Abraham until we entered the Egypt to avoid the hunger. This story is detailed in the Torah and – for people who do not study the Torah – in “Joseph and his brothers”. And the leader was God-guided Moses.
That is what happened about three millenniums ago and why we the Jews celebrate Passover every year since then – to be on guard against all who may want to spiritually enslave us again.
This year we the Jews should celebrate two Passovers – one is our own timeless Passover and the other one is our first American Passover.
The history of the American Passover is still being written but the essence of it is clear.
We the Americans left Europe about four hundred years ago, then left the England Kingdom over two hundred years ago, and then again were leaving Europe about one hundred years ago (mostly the Christians and Jews) not because we were starving and were homeless – we had all that enough for physical survival. What we were lacking was our own spiritual destiny. Our spiritual leaders – all with the Judeo-Christian morality – had helped us recognize this and helped us organize an Exodus – from the spiritual slavery imposed on us by various “Big Governments” of Europe to the opportunity to shape up our own spiritual destiny in the New World under the guidance of the already well-known Spiritual Supreme Power called God.
By the time of our Exodus from Europe, we had the true urge for spiritual freedoms since we already knew we were created in the image and likeness of God the Creator and the Unique Individual. We wanted to follow His Image but the Big Governments of Europe were forcing us to be in the image of the Big Government commands. Fortunately, we had our true spiritual leaders – at the beginning the Protestants and then the Founding Fathers – who led us out of a European Egypt of the time.
However for the last about fifty years, a new US Big Government has been created, slowly step-by-step, that again forces us to be not in the Image of God that is to be unique shapers of our individual lives. A US Big Government forces us to be in the image of this Big Government commands (in the contemporary language, to be politically correct and live along the lines of the government-created human rights and social justice concepts).
We have been searching for a spiritual leader who understands how we have turned up again in spiritual slavery of the Big Government and is able to lead us in our contemporary Exodus from the spiritual slavery to spiritual freedom. This leader is Donald Trump.
We do not know whether we can succeed under his leadership. However, we have a historic chance to become again a spiritually free Judeo-Christian nation that is guided by the Torah/Bible. Let us try, and try hard.
This year, my friends and I are going to celebrate two Passovers – our own Jewish and our own American.
The very essence of any religion is to define moral principles of human existence – what is Good and what is Bad in the human life, and what are acceptable means to strengthen Good and suppress Bad. Judaism defines all that for the Jews as Christianity does it for the Christian and Islam for the Muslims. That is true even if you do not belong to a religious organization and do not have a priest. The same moral principles are binding for ordinary people and for priests in a religion.
Many years ago at the beginning of my spiritual awakening, I believed there was One Judaism for the spiritual Jewish authorities and for the spiritual ordinary Jews, who were trying to live Jewishly that is to strengthen Good and suppress Bad – both defined by Judaism – in all real life situations. I do not believe it anymore.
Nowadays that is not the case anymore. Now we live in a complex non-Jewish world where what is Good and what is Bad is defined not only by the traditional rabbinical cannons, which were created during the times when the Jews were spiritually isolated from the others, but by the non-Jews in a mainly Judeo-Christian environment. It should not be considered bad for the Jews since the Jewish mission of building a better world (Tikkun Olam) for everybody with everybody, Jews and non-Jews, requires mutually accepted definitions of Good and Bad.
This Torah-guided better world is a multi-dimensional one with science and technology, arts and religions, individual freedoms and collective constrains, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, peace and war, more and less able, etc. And this better world is being created by individuals who are making their own decisions on what is Good and what is Bad in their individual creative areas.
I am among those individuals and I have developed my own understanding of what is spiritually Good and Bad in the areas of my life involvements – based on my studies of the Torah. I approached the rabbis (in the US and Israel) asking them for the critique. My encounters with the rabbis confirmed the unhealthy existence of two Jewish spiritual realms.
In the course of my encounters with the rabbis, I discovered that we do not have One Judaism – we have Judaism by spiritual authorities and Judaism by spiritual people. Here is how I have discovered it.
The essence of a typical response of an Orthodox rabbi:
- You cannot study the Torah on your own – the Torah is too complicated for a simple person – only the rabbis can understand the hidden God’s messages in the Torah – you have to obey the rabbi’s instructions since he knows the God’s word – it is not kosher for a rabbi to have a spiritual discussion with the non-ordained.
The essence of a typical response of a Reform rabbi was different:
- We have to follow our Jewish tradition which is helping the disadvantaged – a government is a political tool for helping – therefore, we have to support a liberal/”democratic” government which reflects our Jewish inspirations and fight against any conservative/”republican” government which is against our Jewish inspirations.
The responses of both “typical” orthodox and Reform rabbis confirmed my unhappy conclusion that we do not have One Judaism. We have Judaism by spiritual authorities whose goal is to defend the ordination institution interpretation of the Torah’s guidance. And we have Judaism by spiritual people who are trying to figure out what is Good and Bad in their everyday life challenges in the Gentile spiritual environment.
The Pew poll findings:
Among those who define themselves as Jews by religion, just over half consider Jewish identity a matter of ancestry and culture, with a majority considering belief in God to be unnecessary to be considered a Jew.
Despite changing attitudes toward Jewish identity seen in the shift towards a non- religious Jewish self-definition.
Sixty- nine percent cited living ethically, and over half say that working for justice and equality is essential to what being Jewish means to them.
Despite the fact that the majority of American Jews frame their Jewish identity in religious terms, only 19% of the Jewish adults surveyed say observing Jewish law (Halacha) is essential to what being Jewish means to them.
The Pew poll findings are the best proof of the existence of Judaism by spiritual people, which is different from Judaism by spiritual authorities – the Jews are defining their Jewishness in a non-rabbinical way. The Jews are spiritually responding to their real life challenges – the Torah-defined challenges in building a better world for everybody with everybody in the Judeo-Christian world.
We the Jews as a people may greatly benefit spiritually if our rabbis connect with us.