During the week covered by this review, we received 3 articles on the following subjects:
HaModia, September 23, 2019; HaMevasser, September 24, 2019
Both articles reported that Yad L’Achim will be sending a crew to the city of Uman, Ukraine, to combat the missionary activity of Messianic Jews. The city draws in thousands of Jewish pilgrims every Jewish Near Year. This is the second year that Yad L’Achim is sending a team to the Ukranian city. They plan to hand out pamphlets and put up posters warning Jewish passersby of the missionary threat. It was reported that Yad L’Achim’s efforts paid off last year, since missionaries were forced to operate covertly instead of by publicly setting up a booth, which had been the original intention of the missionaries.
Haaretz, September 27, 2019
This was a piece about Professor Israel Knohl’s new book, The Messiah Controversy: Who Are the Jews Waiting For? Knohl, who teaches at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, argues in his book that it is wrong to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus, given that most Jews at the time would have held to similar messianic beliefs. The debate over the Messiah runs through the Bible. On the one hand, the human and the divine are considered distinct, with no possibility of bridging the divide. On the other hand, in the prophets, you find a messianic attitude that bestows a godlike status upon the messianic king. “The Messianic idea, the belief in the existence of a king who is an elevated character with godlike qualities, occupies a considerable place in the Tanakh,” said Knohl. The crucifixion of Jesus was the result of the historic clash between those two attitudes: between the messianic and the anti-messianic. Knohl said that Jesus merely continued the tradition of messianic expectation, and bolstered his claim by referencing scripture from the Hebrew Bible. On the face of it, it seems that the notion of a suffering Messiah – which is how Jesus saw himself according to Knohl – is alien to the Hebrew Bible. However, Knohl notes that you find that expectation in Isaiah. The anti-messianic Sadducees, who were in charge of the Sanhedrin at that time, were the ones to condemn Jesus. Knohl therefore noted that the debate about Jesus was an internal Jewish debate. The Sadducees did not represent the beliefs of most Jews at that time, who mostly were in support of the pro-messianic Pharisees, and who thought of the coming Messiah in godlike (or super-human) terms. Even after the death of Jesus and the destruction of the Temple, it was the messianic strand of Judaism that won out, and is with us to this day. There is, argued Knohl, quite a bit of agreement between the messianic beliefs Jesus held to, and ongoing Jewish beliefs. Those who judged Jesus harshly have disappeared from the Jewish map. For this reason, it is wrong to collectively blame Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus. Professor Aviad Kleinberg of the University of Tel Aviv noted that Knohl’s thesis is late in coming, as the Catholic Church already exonerated Jews from all blame in its declaration, Nostra Aetate, 54 years ago.