What Jerry Falwell said about Jerusalem

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Jerry Falwell died yesterday, and today is Yom Yerushalayim — the day that Jerusalem was reunified in 1967. We Jews live in a dangerous world, beset by enemies, and it behooves us to be grateful to our friends. I have a fascinating and moving book in my library, Jerry Falwell and the Jews — in which a Jew interviews Jerry Falwell. It was published in 1984. Falwell does not hide the fact that he does actually consider his own religion to be true. (Liberals consider all truth-claims to be ipso-facto signs of bigotry and hatred, but that is obviously not a prejudice shared by Orthodox Jews!) At the same time, he speaks very warmly of Jews and of G-d’s special relationship with the Jews. R’ Emanuel Rackman, in a forward to the book, writes, “It is in the interest of the Jews to know precisely where we stand with our friends as with our enemies…..I find his views far from disturbing; indeed, I find them reassuring.” Now, here are some questions of relevance to today’s date, Yom Yerushalayim:

Q. Are the Jews still the chosen people? Jerry Falwell: Yes, very definitely. Israel is yet to play a vital role among the nations. Israel is moving to the front and center of God’s prophetic stage. I believe the times of the Gentiles either ended with the taking of old Jerusalem in 1967, or will end in the not too distant future. Q. What duty does the Christian have? JF: Christians need to show genuine love and concern for Jewish people just as God bids. God says He will bless those who bless the Jew, and He will curse those who curse the Jew.

The proper response to such a person is a combination of wariness and friendliness. Sincere friendship is to be welcomed, proselytizing to be resisted. And remember, we Orthodox Jews who have decent relations with religious Christians — it is not our children who are converting to Christianity. Rather, those liberal Jews who hate and fear devout Christians — but who go to the wedding when their children marry out — they are the ones whose grandchildren end up in church. And why not? They grew up seeing Xmas trees and crosses in the homes of the mechutanim.

I honor Jerry Falwell for forthrightly repudiating anti-Semitism, for teaching his legions of followers to love and respect the Jews and Israel, and for trying to make a more moral America. Tzadikei umos ha-olam yesh lahem chelek be’olam haba. May G-d rest his soul. Here are a few more passages from the amazing book:

Q. Do you acknowledge the part that Christianity has played in the persecution of the Jews? JF: With great sorrow and shame, I do. Q. Do you accept the Christian doctrine that the Church has come to replace the Jews? JF: God has a separate, but mutually compatible, plan and purpose for both Israel and the Church. God has outlined a vast and glorious future for Israel. Israel will yet play a key role in the future events of this world.

Over the centuries, the Catholic Church has shown itself a bitter enemy — we well remember the Inquisition — and Martin Luther, father of the Protestant Reformation, also wrote viciously anti-Semitic screeds. Yet Protestants in America have, since its founding, inclined towards philo-Semitism. Today, by far the greatest source of anti-Semitism in America is the pro-Arab secular elite of the MSM and faculty lounge, while our greatest friends are Evangelical Christians.

Now, make no mistake. Falwell openly says that he wants to persuade Jews to accept his messiah. But that does not make him a Jew hater. This is an extremely important point. I know that when I try to persuade my fellow-Jews to abandon their faith — secularism — and embrace mine — the Torah — it is not because I hate them. In the same vein, it is morally wrong to accuse Christians of Jew-hatred merely because they believe their own religion is true and want to persuade us, too. Evangelizing is NOT the moral equivalent of torturing Jews in the Inquisition, Falwell was NOT Torquemada, and the failure to make necessary distinctions results in a completely unfair and false stigmatizing of very good and decent people who mean us well.

Today Jerry Falwell is in a good place, finding out that his messiah is no messiah but that he has been blessed for blessing G-d’s people. RIP

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44 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    Noam-FWIW, with respect to R M Shapiro’s works, I think that the reviews by R Y Blau and R J Wollf demonstrate that his works and articles are meant to advance an agenda-namely that the “good old days” of minimal observance and a weak Orthodoxy that was scared of CJ were somehow better than today’s Orthodoxy. In fact, a recent interview in the Jewish Press more than convinced me of that fact. That causes me no small amount of concern as to his hashkafa towards sources.It reminds me of those who advocate for the “lost causes” of the Confederacy and Communism. WADR, I view his works as equally flawed as ArtScroll hagiographies-they are designed to advance an agenda, as opposed to tell us the truth either about Hashkafa, Halacha and Mesorah.

    In all seriousness, I also share R Y Blau’s concerns about an approach that essentially pokes holes in the Ikarim without offering an alternative set of ikarim and the over generous use of manuscript evidence from unknown scholars despite their having rabbinical approval to their works.One cannot use unheard of and unvetted sources to construct an attack on the Ikarim and offer nothing as a set of Ikarim in the alternative. IMO, that is what R D D Berger and others call Orthoprax-and I find it intellectually dishonest-regardless of whether it is offered by an author with a Charedi, RZ or MO approach. (Similarly, one cannot set up the SE as a model for MO when in fact, his influence was confined to pre WW2 Europe and the aftermath of the Shoah. IMO, R Shapiro’s bio shows us that the SE had relatively little influence among American MO, which was lead and dominated by RYBS. The bio also neglects to tell the reader that the SE was offered and rejected an appointment in RIETS and YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School. I would suggest that the interested reader read both R Shapiro’s bio of the SE and the very valuable insights in MOAG.) I find it curious that you would mention R Albo-one can argue very well that his triad of ikarim is based on the Nusach of the Musaf of RH.

  2. Noam says:

    Steve- I have seen the Rambam. Please explain how that Rambam supports the idea that it is better for non-believing Jews to convert to Christianity, rather than remain athiest Jews, which is the topic of discussion, and the position that Tal is holding. And, please show someone somewhere who actually holds this opinion and has put it in writing.

    By the way, just because an opinion is cited by R. Shapiro or Professor Kellner doesn’t make it traif. I happened across those opinions when I was reviewing Nechama Leibowitz on parshat Yitro(and she also brought the Rambam inter alia). If this is going to be the arguement against any sources I bring, please provide me a list of the Brizel approved sources, and also a reason why Abravanel and Crescas are not approved. Otherwise you have to accept that these are certainly part of mesora, although you may not hold by them. Rav Blau is certainly entitled to his opinion, but I dont think that he should be allowed to eliminate mainstream sources from the Mesorah. There are plenty of alternatives in the Mesorah to the Ikkarim, from Saadia Gaon, to Albo and others(including opinions that there really aren’t Ikkarim).

  3. Steve Brizel says:

    Noam-Take a look at Rambam at the beginning of Hilcos Yesodei HaTorah and Ramban on “Anochi” . Again, I would caution interested readers from quoting sources set forth either in R D Shapiro’s or R Kellner’s works as setting forth the the dispositive point of view on the issue. WADR, while one can point out that some contemporaries disagree with Rambam on this issue, as R Y Blau pointed out, one cannot and should not poke intellectual holes in the Ikarim without setting forth an alternative set of beliefs.

  4. Noam says:

    For Steve and Tal- The Abravanel and Hasdai Crescas both note that Anochi(at the begining of the 10 commandments) is a declarative sentence and not a commandment. In fact, one of them(I forgot which) laments that it is misinterpreted as a commandment.

    If you(Tal) have any sources to back up your contention, I would be very interested in knowing. thanks

  5. Anton says:

    “the times of the Gentiles either ended with the taking of old Jerusalem in 1967, or will end in the not too distant future”.
    This is really interesting because everything that started from all the Bible’ story should finish in the same place where it started.
    But will the people who live there understand what is coming and how important is the present time for them?
    It doesn’t not look that people are looking to that centre yet,to the New Light. The whole is blind now. So how will they be able to see the LIGHT?

  6. Ben Ami says:

    When the Torah relates that Esav kissed Yaakov, there are dots above the word. The root of the word, N-Sh-K, could mean bite as well as kiss.

    There is a disagreement among our sages as to the meaning of the dots.
    Did Esav kiss him with all his heart, were his tears tears of longing?
    -0r

    Did Esav bite him, and were his tears tears of pain as Yaakov’s neck turned to stone.

    Yaakov rejected walking along with him. It’s a danger to the children he said.

    What is the message for us? Neither your honey nor your sting! The kiss and the bite are both dangerous.

    It is not so important whether JF loved us or hated us. What is important is that we take the lesson from Yaakov Avinu, and for our sake, and for the sake of our children, that we keep our distance.

    Chag Sameach

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    Noam-WADR, Neither Marc Shapiro nor Menachem Kellener’s books are the definitive works on the issue of the positive requirements for Jewish belief. Take a look at R Yitzchak BLau’s review article in the TuM Journal for the particular problems with Marc Shapiro’s book, namely that it is easy to poke holes in the Ikarim but dangerous to do so without offering an alternative set of beliefs and by citing sources that were unknown, notwithstanding haskamos.

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    I enjoyed Mr. Hitchens’ book on Orwell and it would be unfair to post without noting the change in his POV on many issues post 9-11. However, one can clearly state that he dislikes all religions equally. I did find it amusing, that he particularly dislikes Channukah, because the Chashmonaim “erred” in not fighting the influx of Hellenistic culture in EY. That being the case, I think Mr. Hitchens could at least tell us whether he has ever studied Tanach with the classical commentaries or learned Talmud at all. If the answer is negative, it should serve as proof that his knowledge of Judaism is nowhere as great as he seemingly represents in his books. While Mr. Hitchens has blogged here on this issue, I think that the same comment can and should be addressed to the likes of Dawkins, etc who are also peddling atheist screeds.

  9. bag says:

    “Tal- I am sure I dont have to tell you that a Jew converting to Christianity violates the prohibition of ‘Lo yihiye l’cha elokim acherim’, (do not have other gods).”

    There are probably variants of Xianity that don’t violate avoda zara (for anyone, including Rambam), possibly even to this day.

  10. bag says:

    “This point is disputed among the acharonim. It is not at all clear that Xtianity is not Avoda Zara. The simple reading of the Tosafos at issue is that there is no issur of shevua be shittuf. The Rambam and many other authorities indeed hold that it is AZ. It certainly is AZ for Jews.”

    As you say, whether Tosfos (and Rema, who follows Tosfos) accept that shituf is mutar for bnei noach is a machlokes; pischei teshuva YD 147 brings many shitas in both directions. I saw an article from R Bliech in which this issue comes up, and he says there are probably more who hold that shituf is mutar for bnei noach than not.

    “Not at all. The Rambam gives as an example of an apikorus as one who believes Hashem can change his Will, and specifically names “those Xtians and Moslems.” Furthermore, the Rambam states that a non-Jew who keeps the 7 mitzvos simply because he believes them to be moral and ethical is NOT one of the Chassidei Umos ha Olam. Rather, he must keep them because Hashem commanded them to Moseh Rabbenu, just as Jews keep the 613 mitzvos for that reason.”

    It’s commonly understood that Rambam intends to say that these are examples of beliefs that are apikorus for Jews, not that this category of apikorsus defines which gentiles lose olam haba; at any rate, one can’t determine what he held for goyim from what he writes here. Many also assume that Xians do meet the Rambam’s standard of keeping 7 mitzvos because they were commanded by Moshe, since they don’t believe they were rescinded (though they do believe other mitzvos were rescinded). It’s debatable, but it’s quite common to assume that the requirements are not to believe in a'”z (from the 7 mitzvos) and that 7 mitzvos are mandatory because they were given by Moshe (and do not derive from shikul hadaas), but not that gentiles must accept that in principle no navi can override Moshe. This would leave Muslims as potential bnei olam haba for Rambam, and if one accepts that shutfus is mutar for bnei noach, but otherwise works with the Rambam’s system, that would apply to Xians too. (None of this indicates the religions are considered legitimate; it means that they are not so forbidden as to render their practioners not bnei olam haba.)

  11. David Alt says:

    Are we all aware that “Christopher” Hitchens is halachically Jewish, as if we did not already know that his “thoughts” are just the desperate wrestling within his own confused soul? If this BBC article is correct, Hitchens is more walking proof for the inadvisability of intermarriage.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/profile/christopher_hitchens.shtml

  12. Noam says:

    Tal- I am sure I dont have to tell you that a Jew converting to Christianity violates the prohibition of ‘Lo yihiye l’cha elokim acherim’, (do not have other gods). Please see Marc Shapiro’s volume on the 13 principles, and Menachem Kellner(Must a Jew Believe Anything) for the discussion on what(if any) are the positive requirements for Jewish belief. A violation of a lav(prohibition) is worse than failure to perform an aseh(positive commandment). It doesn’t matter that the Rambam assigns the same punishments to them. According to the Ibn Ezra in fact, there are only two mitzvot aseh that the failure to do so earns you karet, failure to perform circumcision, and failure to bring korban Pesach. To be honest, it seems so clear cut that I cant imagine a cogent arguement on your side. Just ask your posek if he thinks that atheist Jews would be better off coverting to Christianity and see what he says.

  13. bag says:

    “How do you know what he is finding out aharei mos? I can’t think of a single source in the Talmud, Rishonim or Acharonim or among any of the ba’alei machshava that asserts that after death B’nai Noach are to be “told” that their religion was not revealed.”

    The first issue is the trinity and it’s hard to reconcile such concepts as “nehenin miziv hashechina” with what you write.

    “Says who? Many Orthodox Jews believe that Christianity can and often does conform with the brit of Bnei Noah.”

    That doesn’t mean they accept Christianity is legitimate, only that the beliefs are not forbidden as a form of avoda zara to bnei noach. (Actually, eyn meynichin oso lechadash das applies even before we get to theological/ideological issues specific to Xianity or for that matter Islam.)

    7 mitzvos are not “Brit of bnei noach”

  14. David N. Friedman says:

    Well, well. It is surely a treat to share blog space with the renowned author of “God is NOT Great” and his bottomless pit of venom, Christopher Hitchens. I have tried to imagine how I might react when someone I consider deplorable passes from this earth. I cannot bring myself to anticipate that I could publicly ridicule such a person with Mr. Hitchens’ style of contempt since, as Fox News contributor Sean Hannity observed, such a stand at the time of someone’s death lacks decency. And this might assume that Falwell has lived a deplorable life by at least some standard and even that point is not at all in evidence.

    The bottom line for C. Hitchens is the meaning behind his tirades and for someone supposedly unmoved by the reality of God, he exhibits startling anger and endless emotion concerning Mother Teresa, Jerry Falwell and the fact that most Americans believe and pray to God. It is my belief that those who are sincere and stable in their non-belief manage much more of a live and let live attitude but I am not a psychiatrist.

    If Hitchens wishes to point the finger of blame, I do not know why he wastes so many words, endlessly repeated, on Rev. Falwell and Mother Theresa when he can get right to the point and blame the Jews instead. After all, we are the ones who have insisted on the reality of one God, the value of life and of individual responsibility, the belief in a soul and a human conscience and so many other concepts adopted by the Christian world. Hitler had it right, sir, the Jews are the “stain” on humanity and I ask you to stop beating around the bush and picking on Jew wannabees instead of the Jews themselves.

    While the Jews are the ones to initially declare the greatness of God–it seems that others want to be God. Perhaps this is the conflict, am I correct?

  15. Jordan says:

    Falwell had different voices for different audiences. He seems to have respected Jews and the Jewish religion, but also clearly believed that there would be a time in the not-too-distant future when Orthodox Jews would be burned in an eternal fire for not accepting Jesus. How do you reconcile these beliefs?

  16. Chris Hitch says:

    EDITOR’S NOTE: It seems unlikely that the comment previously found in this space came from Christopher Hitchens. It is a copy of his intemperate article on Slate.

    I’m thinking of a response… send your ideas and thoughts to talkback at our domain, and you might be featured! — YM

  17. Lumpy Rutherford says:

    I know that when I try to persuade my fellow-Jews to abandon their faith—secularism—and embrace mine—the Torah—it is not because I hate them.

    I’m sorry, but your faith sounds more like “Torah cum Conservative Talk Radio” to me.

  18. Lumpy Rutherford says:

    Falwell was vile person who supported racial segregation. He was also against interracial marriage.

  19. Tal Benschar says:

    Now, as for which authorities, the answer is that in theory most poskim held and hold that Christianity is not avoda zara for non-Jews.

    This point is disputed among the acharonim. It is not at all clear that Xtianity is not Avoda Zara. The simple reading of the Tosafos at issue is that there is no issur of shevua be shittuf. The Rambam and many other authorities indeed hold that it is AZ. It certainly is AZ for Jews.

    Of those who did (or do), such as the Rambam, there is a specific heter to teach Torah she-be-chtav to Christians (but not Muslims! davka because they respect the Torah (the Rambam said it, not I)—and he held they are ovdei avoda zara.

    The issue is not whether one may teach them Torah. It is whether the Torah views it as a “legitimate” — by which I understand it to mean halakhically permissible — option. As to that the Rambam holds the answer is clear: NO.

    Minus? What does minus have to do with anything? Are Bnai Noach obligated in the yud gimmel ikkarim too? A chiddush!

    Not at all. The Rambam gives as an example of an apikorus as one who believes Hashem can change his Will, and specifically names “those Xtians and Moslems.”

    Furthermore, the Rambam states that a non-Jew who keeps the 7 mitzvos simply because he believes them to be moral and ethical is NOT one of the Chassidei Umos ha Olam. Rather, he must keep them because Hashem commanded them to Moseh Rabbenu, just as Jews keep the 613 mitzvos for that reason.

    In any event, Minus is a far more fundamental problem than other ikkrei emunah, it is a rejection of the very first ikkar — belief in One God. That is binding on Non-Jews as much as Jews simply by its fundamental nature.

    (There is even an halakhic ramification. The view of the Rambam (opposed by the Rosh) is that a non-Jew who is not an idolator has, min ha Torah, kosher shechita. Miderabbanan, however, even a perfectly frum ben-Noach has possul shechita. On a deoraysa level, only idolators and minim have possul shechita. This covers both Jews and Bnei Noach. So that, mideoraysa, a Ben-Noach who becomes a min thereby possuls his own shechita.)

  20. David N. Friedman says:

    Well this thread is a bit of a revelation since I believed that anti-Christian bigotry was a liberal Jewish thing and not something common among the Orthodox world. I am pleased to agree with Toby Katz and it is tragic if American Jews fail to understand the opportunity we have to live in a Christian country like America, with its unique founding of Bible-based precepts from a Colonial people so significantly inspired by our Torah.

    There could be no greater contrast between the world Avraham avinu experienced as he lamented, to paraphrase, this is a land where God is not known–to a Jewish experience in a land such as America. Jerry Falwell consciously saw himself as easily in the traditon of those men who founded this nation, the nation which has been so open and friendly to the Jewish people escaping European persecution and having such freedoms and opportunities never before even imagined. Indeed, Jewish Americans have been the proudest and most grateful Americans.

    I fear this has changed and it is truly disturbing to hear liberal Jewish voices complain so loudly against the very freedoms that are part of the traditional American experience. For the Jewish people, one might imagine that choosing sides would be very easy. Yet, far too many in our community outwardly and openly now are betting on the wrong side, using the courts to inflict greater control and fewer freedoms and siding with the secularists against out natural allies.

    Jerry Falwell very quickly and easily lauded the virtues of the Jewish people, our Torah and Biblical precepts, the state of Israel and the legitimacy of fighting for its defense and protection. He told me to my face that he has zero problem accepting the Jewish terms for abortion and zero problem of accepting any prayer favored by a kosher Rabbi in a public setting. Of course, Jews are not about to return the compliment and we would never stand for any prayer that appears to be even vaguely Christian and we would never stand for abortion restrictions that went beyond what we felt is correct. We take the support of Israel with far less than open arms and gratitude–instead, we tend to take the money and look frantically for anything that seems suspicious.

    While it seems that Christians are big supporters and admirers of Jewish websites, Jewish products from Israel and books touting Jewish wisdom–Jews cannot and will not reciprocate on any level. I do not object to the fact that Jews consume nothing Christian. I recently asked the people responsible for creating a very popular Jewish website if they objected to the fact that many of the hits to the site come from Christians. The reply:” Of course not.” I ask: how can the consumers of Jewish wisdom possibly be our enemies or a problem?

    Christians like Falwell represent a significant part of the reason why Jews need to act in gratitude for life in this country. It is therefore disturbing when any Jew, much less an observant one, takes shots at the passing of Rev. Falwell.

  21. S. says:

    >“Many Orthodox Jews” believe alot of odd things. What authority holds this?

    That’s a good question, but before we get to that discussion, you said what Orthodox Jews believed, and I qualified that because “many Orthodox Jews” believe otherwise.

    Now, as for which authorities, the answer is that in theory most poskim held and hold that Christianity is not avoda zara for non-Jews. Of those who did (or do), such as the Rambam, there is a specific heter to teach Torah she-be-chtav to Christians (but not Muslims! davka because they respect the Torah (the Rambam said it, not I)–and he held they *are* ovdei avoda zara.

    Minus? What does minus have to do with anything? Are Bnai Noach obligated in the yud gimmel ikkarim too? A chiddush!

  22. Tal Benschar says:

    Says who? Many Orthodox Jews believe that Christianity can and often does conform with the brit of Bnei Noah

    “Many Orthodox Jews” believe alot of odd things. What authority holds this? None that I know of. Xitanity rejects the eternality of Torah, it is Minus, so I cannot see how it could possibly be reconciled with the obligations of Bnei Noach.

  23. SM says:

    Bizzarely I agree with Mrs Katz on this one – certainly regarding Christians (why the X people – it’s not as if we should have a problem writing that particular name…). How on earth could we have a dialogue with a Christian who DOESN’T believe in the tennets of their own religion? And how would we measure such a person – presumably as a hypocrite and dishonest.

    Plainly, we must resist conversion. But we can adopt a position that the effort to convert us (any of us) is wrong whilst still accepting that the person making the effort is motivated by what he believes to be true. The test of whether that person is wicked doesn’t arise then, but at the stage where the putative convertor uses force to achieve his aims, or characterises those who refuse to see his ‘light’ as evil. And Falwell did neither.

    Moreover, according to his ghost autobiographer (BBC Radio 4 – Wed night) Falwell also practised what he precahed in terms of loving the sin and hating the sinner. The writer is homosexual and said that Falwell knew that and was wholly pleasant to him, whilst making it clear that he didn’t like or approve of the homosexuality. When he asked Falwell why the denunications after 9/11, Falwell replied that he was issuing statements for public consumption and believed that the view needed expressing in harsh terms.

    Now, I don’t agree with Falwell’s views on this, or with public pronouncements in such incendiary terms at such dreadful times, but the story demonstrates both a certain degree of principle and an ability to realise that public and private are different. Hardly a Rasha…

    On the other hand – of course it’s possible to be liberal and orthodox. Only in the US is ‘liberal’ an insult. And it shouldn’t be – being willing to seriously examine the views of others and change your mind if appropriate is not equivalent to being evil or stupid. The characterisation of liberal Jews as hating Christians is unfair and incorrect – it is simply a way to have a crack at ‘liberals’ rather than a serious contribution to this discussion.

    In the end, you either preserve your views at all costs or you test them in the crucible of conflicting opinion. Either way is acceptable providing the answers are honest and it’s about time we stopped expressing our frustration that someone has the wrong answer in terms of their moral character. Save that for the truly wicked – into which category neither liberals nor Falwell falls. And I agree – RIP.

  24. Ori Pomerantz says:

    May I rephrase Tam Benschar’s question? Orthodox Jews do not believe that Christianity is a “legitimate” religion. Are they considered enemies of Christians?

    If anybody says yes, remember that Orthodox Jews do not believe that Reform Judaism is a “legitimate” religion. However, Orthodox Jews are not enemies of Reform Jews.

  25. S. says:

    >Nor do Orthodox Jews believe that Xtianity is a “legitimate” religion.

    Says who? Many Orthodox Jews believe that Christianity can and often does conform with the brit of Bnei Noah.

  26. Tal Benschar says:

    Rev. Falwell obviously did not think that Judaism was a legitimate religion. There is no question about that.

    Nor do Orthodox Jews believe that Xtianity is a “legitimate” religion. So are we to be considered enemies of Xtianity?

  27. Tal Benschar says:

    I think it is very clear from the sources that if one is Jewish, it is much better not to believe in God, than to convert to Christianity.

    Care to provide any such sources? Acc. to the Rambam both persons are in the category of a Min and both lose their Olam Ha Ba.

  28. Reb Yudel says:

    I assumed that last May 7 obit was greatly exaggerated.

  29. S. says:

    >The statement that “Every Christian believer is a rasha” is the absolute distillation of bigotry and hatred.

    While true, and while I agree that the statement in question does display hatred, the statement did not say “Every Christian believer is a rasha” but it did say that “a bigger rasha who takes someone’s soul than who takes someone’s life, “and in that vein, according to that person, Falwell was a rasha. S/ he did not say “Every Christian believer is a rasha.”

  30. Noam says:

    “That believing in a mistaken idea of G-d is worse than having no G-d—is at best a disputable statement”

    I think it is very clear from the sources that if one is Jewish, it is much better not to believe in God, than to convert to Christianity. Believing in Christianity violates the prohibition of “Do not have any other God in front of me” I certainly hope that Mrs. Katz did not imply that it would be better for non-Orthodox Jews to follow Rev. Falwell than to remain non-Orthodox.

    Mr. Friedman- Rev. Falwell obviously did not think that Judaism was a legitimate religion. There is no question about that. He lost nothing by saying nice things about jews. By the way, according to my local paper, in 1999 Rev Falwell also said that the Antichrist is a Jewish man who probably is alive today. (of course he later apologized, but anyone who thinks that he didn’t mean it probably thinks that Mel Gibson didn’t mean it either)

    There is no contradiction between being liberal and Orthodox. I am not referring to being liberal in a religious sense, but in the political arena. And Mrs. Katz does herself no favors by making sweeping statements as she did. There are many Orthodox Jews who consider themselves liberal. The real problem is with those who prefer to impose non-halachic morality rather than allow for choice. By the way, Falwell is an evangelical- which Wikipedia defines as “Evangelism, Christian efforts to witness to or proselytize nonbelievers”. Therefore your statement about “holding out a friendly hand to those who mean us no harm” doesn’t include Falwell, unless you think that trying to convert Jews is not harmful to the Jewish community.

    I am not critical of Rev. Falwell for not having the same point of view as the Jews. I am critical of Jewish people who embrace his views and discard or minimize the differences between Falwell’s views and Jewish ones.

    Lets face the facts. Jerry Falwell wanted to advance his agenda of bring his brand of Christianity and spread it as wide as possible. His major innovation was to use political power and join politics and religion. He said some nice things about Jews and Israel, but also wanted to convert Jews. He was in favor of HIS brand of morality, and wanted to impose it by law on the country. We Jews have to be on constant guard against those who want to impose their religion on us and our civil society, even when we agree with some(or even most) of the agenda. Because, those who are doing the imposing are not going to take into account those differences. Jerry Falwell, if he had his way, would make his view of religion(and he said specifically that America was a country of the Old and new Testament) the law of the land. Which, by the way, includes everyone being his brand of Christian. Everyone.

  31. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Joe Fisher, may I tell you a story about my great grandmother (don’t worry, it’s relevant to the discussion). She lived in Germany, and around the time that Röntgen discovered that x-rays could be used for diagnostic purposes she had some kind of medical problem. Her doctor, eager to use the latest technology to heal his patient, had her x-rayed. Unfortunately, back then they didn’t realize that x-rays themselves could be dangerous. They over-radiated her, and she got cancer and died.

    Was her doctor Rasha? No. By modern standards you could say he was negligent because x-rays haven’t been tested on animals yet, but they didn’t know they had to do that back then. The worst thing you can say about him is that he was ignorant.

    Falwell was exactly the same way. He honestly and truly believed that he was saving Jews souls when he was converting them to Christianity. You can’t say he was Rasha, the worst thing you can say is that he was ignorant and his well intentioned meddling did more harm than good.

  32. Bob Miller says:

    By the way, who says triumphalism is such a sin? Are we supposed to be too modest to state the truth? Or is the problem that stating the truth flatly is thought to keep sensitive souls from joining us?

  33. Bob Miller says:

    Even the best of the non-Jewish clergymen want us, G-d forbid, to abandon our religion and accept theirs, regardless of what they may say. Still, we can have reason to work with them on projects for the common good, within guidelines established by our Torah leaders. We have no reason to talk theology with them.

  34. Toby Katz says:

    Falwell wanted to teach people who have no god — secular Jews and gentiles — that there IS a G-d. That his notion of exactly what G-d is is mistaken goes without saying. That believing in a mistaken idea of G-d is worse than having no G-d — is at best a disputable statement. He did not intend to teach Jews or gentiles to worship idols, as did the Baal priests of old.

    The statement that “Every Christian believer is a rasha” is the absolute distillation of bigotry and hatred. Most typically, those who harbor such sweeping intolerance and prejudice against Christians are not the people who are most G-d-fearing and who care the most about Jewish souls, but just the opposite.

    And those who insist on tarring good people and evil people with the same brush — thus trying to turn society in general against morality and against G-d — will have a lot to answer for. The equation of Falwell with Hitler is defamatory, it is sheker, it is evil. Had Falwell himself not been such a tolerant and forgiving man, he might well have been disgusted by the antics of Jews who looked at a good and decent man and screamed, “Anti-Semite! Rasha!”

    Had he and men like him turned against Jews and against Israel, who knows what this country would be like today, chas vesholom, or whether Israel could have survived, a lamb among wolves, without American support. And do you really think America would support Israel if not for good and decent Christians like Falwell? Or would a secular America be a chickensnot country like France?

  35. mycroft says:

    In the same vein, Mrs. Katz seems to be bordering on triumphalism, when she declares that her children and grandchildren are not the ones who are going to be going to church

    I hope that continues to be true for her and all others-but sadly throughout our history- even children of leading scholars have left the fold and gone elsewhere.

    Mrs. Katz quotes the introduction of Rabbi Emanuel Rackman. Rabbi Rackman’s halachic and hashkafic views have been disparaged and marginalized by most if not all of the Chareidi community(and by a significant segment of the right wing of the Modern Orthodox as well.)

    Rabbi Rackman’s views are not accepted by hardly any Orthodox Jews-even the LW of MO-and maybe precisely the LW because R. Rackman’s views re gittin and agunot are beyond the pale. There is legitimate room for argument in Rabbi E. Berkovitz’s position-but not R. Rackman. I suspect the reason why no formal action has been led against him for his views by MO Rabbinic organizations is that Rabbi Rackman is in his upper 90’s and no one wants to make a martyr out of him.

  36. Joe Fisher says:

    “Falwell openly says that he wants to persuade Jews to accept his messiah.”

    Chazal teach us it’s a bigger rasha who takes someone’s soul than who takes someone’s life. Falwell is a rasha. A big one.

  37. David N. Friedman says:

    Noam, regarding your comments, your first point was answered specifically by Toby Katz. Having met Rev. Falwell, it is clear that he was happy for Jews to be good Jews in the same way a decent Jew might wish a Christian to be a good Christian.

    Your punch line is that you wish to be both liberal and Orthodox without any sense of how you can reconcile the obvious contradiction. Your explanations are even worse that your premises. To repeat your first point, you acknowledge that Falwell’s agenda “jives” with the Orthodox (Jewish) morality but you want to say that “similar” does not imply exactly the same.” Should Rev. Falwell be criticized for having a point of view not exactly the same as a Jewish one?

    Falwell was vital in taking a politically inactive Christian segment of the population and mobilizing them into what became a “moral majority.” It would be gratifying if Orthodox Jews had something more at stake in translating Jewish law and precepts into political principle. At a bare minimum, our community must do a better job identifying our true enemies and holding out a friendly hand to those who mean us no harm and are our allies.

    Further, making alliances for the state of Israel and general moral precepts is not at all the same as accepting or attempting to gloss over theological rifts that cannot be bridged. It is therefore no inconsistency to praise Rev. Falwell for his general moral stands, his philo-semitism and almost all of his political positions–while recognizing the obvious fact that as a non-Jew, he is not at all on the same page.

    David N. Friedman

  38. S. says:

    >Today Jerry Falwell is in a good place, finding out that his messiah is no messiah

    How do you know what he is finding out aharei mos? I can’t think of a single source in the Talmud, Rishonim or Acharonim or among any of the ba’alei machshava that asserts that after death B’nai Noach are to be “told” that their religion was not revealed.

  39. Steve Brizel says:

    Like it or not, evangelical Christians are a huge ally of Israel and a force for a debate on morals, culture and politics in the US. Given the above excerpts from Rev. Falwell, the least that we can say and do is recognize that he was very up front about his mission, that he respected Orthodox Jewry and that he viewed the 1967 war and its results as positive, even if for reasons that we should and must reject. I think that the proper attitude is one of respect and suspicion- as Chazal said “Kabdehu vCHashdehu.”

  40. Yaakov Menken says:

    Larry, I would have expected you, and the rest of us, to be more interested in the last entry for May 7.

    In all seriousness, it is foolish to compare Jerry Falwell with other “recently deceased celebrities,” unless you can find any others who affected the thinking of millions of Americans concerning Jews. Falwell was a televangelist and leader of the “Moral Majority,” so millions respected his views — on all issues, but especially on religious matters. I think it is obvious that Toby Katz made an extremely important point about our relationship with modern Evangelicals. A great deal of America’s backing of Israel — as compared to the barely-concealed anti-Semitism of Europe — can be traced to Falwell and his colleague Pat Robertson.

    Rev. Falwell was invited to speak by a student organization with which I was involved, and on that one occasion I was able to meet him for a brief moment. He was personable and dignified, and as I recall his speech was unremarkable and unoffensive — although several protesters stood and faced the back during his speech, and a bomb threat delayed it by half an hour. I do not remember him addressing any issues regarding the Jews on that occasion, but remember him then and now as one opposed to anti-Semitism in whatever form.

  41. Reb Yudel says:

    > Today Jerry Falwell is in a good place, finding out that his messiah is no messiah but that he has been blessed for blessing G-d’s people. RIP

    I hope Cross Currents continues to find the space to inform us as to the final status achieved by recently deceased celebrities. I’m particularly interested in Wally Schirra,

  42. Noam says:

    I think Mrs. Katz misses the point in regard to Jerry Falwell. The key is this line: “Falwell openly says that he wants to persuade Jews to accept his messiah.”

    If Jerry Falwell actually repected Jews, respected the Jewish religion, and accepted its legitimacy, he would not want to persuade Jews to accept his messiah. So, for all his nice talk about loving Jews etc., he actually doesn’t want us to be Jews. That is the bottom line. And this underlying truth cannot be outweighed by all the nice talk about blessing the Jews etc. For Jerry Falwell, the greatest blessing he could give a Jew would be for him to wish the Jew to convert. And, the difference between wanting the Jew to convert, and forcing the Jew to convert is not all that great. It is more a matter of circumstance and power, because the philosophy and underlying belief is the same.

    I certainly agree that many of Rev. Falwell’s agenda items jive with the Orthodox view of morality, but I think it is important to remember that similar does not imply exactly the same. And, there are very important differences, especially with regard to abortion and other issues that make the Christian view of society different from the Orthodox Jewish view. The view Mrs. Katz takes is that close is good enough, and that legislated morality, even if it isn’t exactly according to halacha, is better than legislated freedom. The opposing view is that freedom is better, because then those who care about halacha can fulfill every detail of halacha, and not be bound by the Christian view of things. Obviously, some will have a much more loose version of morality, and will push the boundaries. Is it better to have too much freedom, but those who want to follow halacha can, or is it better to have lots of restrictions, knowing that some of those restrictions are not going to be in accordance with halacha? Mrs. Katz votes for the second, I vote for the first. Mandated Christian morality is not good for the Jews.

    I was also bothered by lines like: “Liberals consider all truth-claims to be ipso-facto signs of bigotry and hatred, but that is obviously not a prejudice shared by Orthodox Jews.” I consider myself both a liberal and an Orthodox Jew, and I know many who share these sentiments. I guess we need to decide on the definition of liberal. In the same vein, Mrs. Katz seems to be bordering on triumphalism, when she declares that her children and grandchildren are not the ones who are going to be going to church. While I certainly share her view that the children of Orthodox parents are much less likely to marry out of the faith than those of other denominations, this fact should be noted with sadness, not a sense of superiority.

    Overall, Mrs. Katz lavishes praise on someone who has played a large part in injecting religion into the political sphere, some would say for the better, others would say for the worse. She has only harsh words for the ‘liberal Jews.’ I only wish that Mrs. Katz would speak of her non-Orthodox fellow Jews in such terms of affection as well. After all, those are the ones she has a religious obligation to love.

    Mrs. Katz quotes the introduction of Rabbi Emanuel Rackman. Rabbi Rackman’s halachic and hashkafic views have been disparaged and marginalized by most if not all of the Chareidi community(and by a significant segment of the right wing of the Modern Orthodox as well.) My guess is that Rabbi Rackman would have considered himself both a liberal and an Orthodox Jew. So, his views with regard to Jerry Falwell are considered acceptable to Mrs. Katz, while his halachic and hashkafic pronouncements are not. Whereas Jerry Falwell’s philisophical views are acceptable to and praised by Mrs. Katz. I think there is some irony there.

  43. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I think this piece was exceedingly balanced, rational and most welcome on such an emotionally charged subject. The problem which we, Torah-observant Jews, have with believing Christians is the right weighting of the traditional formula of kabdeihu v’chashdeihu (respect them and suspect them). How much respect and how much suspicion is in order? I believe Toby has it right. On an allied issue, Arutz-7 recently highlighted the opposition of the Chief Rabbinate council to joint activities of Evangelical organizations with Jews because of indirect or direct Evangelical support of missionary action toward Jews. I would like to suggest a different approach which I believe is in harmony with Toby’s general approach. I believe that all friendly outreach events toward Jews should be attended by as many Torah Jews as possible. They should be treated as workshops in preparing our own outreach and counter-missionary activists on the Evangelicals’ nickel. We cannot take them on frontally, nor should we. We must cooperate with them where our tactical goals coincide while developing our abilities to counter their arguments in a friendly and laid-back fashion. We can decrease their confidence in their ability to preach their gospel to Jews and increase their respect for us. Some of them will even be convinced. Our objective should be learn how to use their techniques of outreach and love to reach our fellow Jews. Meanwhile, while they are occupied with us they are not preying on the ignorant and vulnerable Jews.

  44. HILLEL says:

    When asked about proseletyzing Jews, Jerry Falwell said “I can’t convert Orthodox Jews, but secular Jews, who are empty of faith, are a different matter.” (not an exact quote).