Shmuley Boteach’s "Kosher Jesus" (Jerusalem and New York: Gefen, 2011) is a bold attempt by a person of great ability with no formal training in New Testament studies or the study of Second Temple Judaism to present a Jewish treatment of the founder of Christianity, his relationship to the Jewish people, and the narrative of his life in the Gospels. Beyond that, Boteach sets forth an entirely new and controversial paradigm for Jewish understanding of Jesus and for Jewish-Christian relations.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has been accused of nothing less than apostasy by at least one of his fellow rabbis, all thanks to his newly published book, “Kosher Jesus” (Gefen Publishing House: $26). And I am confident some Evangelical Christians will reach the same conclusion if only because Boteach insists that Jesus was not “holier than any other human being and certainly not divine.”
When Rabbi Shmuley Boteach approached me to read the manuscript of his newly published book Kosher Jesus, I was reticent and even a bit cautious given the massive and diverse audience of people that would likely be affected by his unique perspective on the subject of Jesus. Upon completion of the book, however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that his approach had resolved many outstanding questions that I myself have struggled with in my religious studies, particularly as they relate to Christianity and its impact on Judaism throughout history.
The patriarch Jacob, my namesake (Jacob Shmuel) of whom we have read the past few weeks in the Bible, is the most maligned of all the patriarchs.
The number of public men destroyed of late through sexual scandals is simply staggering. Within 48 hours of each other we heard that IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who many believed would be the next President of France, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger, until a few weeks ago the Governor of the most populous state in the Union, self-destructed with sex scandals.
The New York Times article last week about the explosion of anorexia and eating disorders in the orthodox community highlights a tragedy that has long been buried. About four years ago I published a column about an eighteen-year-old girl my daughter knew at seminary in Jerusalem who died of anorexia. The seminary denied it was the cause and cited some other illness, even though the girls at the seminary watched her wasting away with the administration seemingly oblivious.
The past few weeks I have seen a revolution. On a lecture tour that took me to Sydney, Australia and Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, I hardly found a major mainstream synagogue without a Chabad Rabbi. Shules that once swore they would not invite in Chabad are now attracting large numbers of new members under the helm of young and charismatic Chabad Rabbis. Many are the biggest Shules in their respective countries. In Sydney, Australia I spoke at Central Synagogue, where Rabbi Levi Wolf has transformed a synagogue on the decline into a renowned powerhouse; for Rabbi Benzion Milecki whose years at Southhead Synagogue have made it one of the most vibrant in the Southern Hemisphere; and for Rabbi Motti Feldman, creator of the vibrant Dover Heights community.
Hearing about a bomb going off in Jerusalem is entirely different when you have two daughters living there. You scramble for your phone. You search out your kids. Any potential delay in their answering their cells is painful. You finally get through. Thank God, they’re all right. But what of those who aren’t? Those maimed and killed who were also someone’s daughters, sons, mothers and fathers?