Professor David Berger Assesses Problems with "Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity"

Tablet Magazine has a lengthy article by Rabbi Dr. David Berger which assesses the impact of ‘Nostra Aetate’ on Jewish-Christian relations.  Included in the Tablet article, Vatican ll at 50, is a critique of the recently issued "Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity"

The statement, titled “To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven: Toward Partnership between Jews and Christians”, is the "brainchild" of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC).  Last week, JewishIsrael's Rabbinic Director, Rabbi Sholom Gold, issued a highly critical response to the "Orthodox Rabbinic" initiative, drawing upon the long-held positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Z"L.

A true scholar and diplomat, Professor Berger delivers a balanced evaluation of a complex subject. JewishIsrael notes that Dr. Berger continues to uphold and reaffirm Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik's position as outlined in "Confrontation", citing for example Rav Soloveitchik's concerns with regards to expectations to reciprocate or trade favors in theological discussions, something Rabbi Gold also cited in his above-mentioned critical response.

Professor Berger's article should be read in full. Below is a sampling of excerpts, highlighting some of the concerns Dr. Berger cites with regards to the "Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity", of which Dr. Berger summarizes: "…elements of this declaration are decidedly problematic."

  • "Appealing to Maimonides and Yehudah Halevi, it asserts that Christianity 'is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations.' …The authors know very well that Halevi and even more vigorously Maimonides saw the divine plan in the establishment of Christianity (and Islam) as preparation for universal recognition of the truth of Judaism and the rejection of those religions. There is something disingenuous about citing only half the position…"
  • "…the affirmation that Jews and Christians have a 'common covenantal [my emphasis] mission' raises questions for a careful reader… they [i.e., the rabbis who signed the declaration] have, however unintentionally, affirmed the existence of a specific divine covenant with Christians of which Jewish tradition knows nothing and that every authority through the ages to whom Orthodox Jews turn would have rejected out of hand.”
  • "…the assertion that 'differences between … the religions' remain is a rather anemic way of recognizing that Jewish law requires martyrdom rather than conversion to Christianity. Given the critical importance of those differences to the core of the Jewish religion, this paean of praise to Christianity, much of which is deserved, needs to be leavened by a clearer affirmation of the transcendent significance of the theological chasm that remains. The declaration, despite its many merits, demonstrates the prescience exhibited in Rabbi Soloveitchik’s concerns.”

Read the full article at Tablet: Vatican ll at 50

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