Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Origins of the Most Populous of the Reform Jewish Religions

The Torah says we are not allowed to learn about other religions to do them.  Rashi comments that it is forbidden to learn about foreign religions to do them, but you are allowed to learn about them just to know their history and development.  So I asked R' Fuerst if that was l'ma'aseh; he responded, "Yes, as soon as you've mastered Shas and poskim."  Ah.  As it turns out, though, that's not the end of the story for me; R' Yisroel Belsky (who has mastered Shas and poskim, as well as almost everything else as far as I can tell) has some very interesting insights on the development of the most successful (in terms of membership, at the very least) of the Reform Jewish religions: Christianity.  Three points in particular I found interesting: origin of the person around whom the religion is built, how did he get rocketed to infamy, and why does the mother occupy such a central role (at least in the original Roman version).

First there is the conception, rise, and tragic downfall of the central character.  There are various renderings of the story of his ignominious conception; the details are interesting, but not germane.  However, this mamzer (the child born of the union of a married woman and anyone other than her husband) had a good head on his shoulders and was very likely a talmid of R' Yehushua ben P'rachya.  On of the hallmarks of our Chazal was there outstanding moral character; this talmid once made a very low remark about a waitress and was rejected by his rebbie.  R' Yehushua ben P'rachya tried to m'karev him, but to no avail.  That man was eloquent, knew some Torah, felt rejected as a mamzer and now as a talmid, so went preaching his own version of religion and was eventually killed by the Romans.  Oh... by the way, that all occurred almost 200 years before his religion got started.

To spin this story into a religion, you need a master marketer on a mission.  Enter Saul the Moches -- tax collector.  In those days a tax collector was a person who bought the right to collect taxes by paying the king/lord/whatnot up front and then squeezing whatever he could out of the masses.  Some mochsim were very good, but the office lent it self to abuse; our Saul was not one of the good ones.  Apparently he felt that he could get better traction being a man of the cloth; so he wove himself a new one.  He had a vision of our mamzer from 200 years earlier and began selling his new religion to the Jews.  They weren't buying, so he went to the goyim and changed the first letter of his name to 'P'.  Still... he needed something to punch up the message... a symbol that was recognizable, familiar, and easily co-opted to a new meaning.

By that time in Roman history, the old avoda zara's were quite passe.  The gods had more or less the status of Santa Claus (though warped, of course).  However, there was a very comforting theme that ran through them... a mother nursing her baby.  The mother represented the earth (our word "matter" comes from the same root as "mother") and the baby represented mankind.  To turn the earth into the loving mother nourishing her beloved child from her own bosom was the goal of most of the old avoda zara's.

There you have it: rejected underdog, master marketing, and a symbol of loving warmth and nourishment.  Brings a tear to your eye, no?  Who wouldn't buy that package?  Unless, of course, you prefer Truth and a real relationship with the Creator; the ultimate source of all Good.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…