HELL!

Last week, the White House hosted its 19th official Chanukah party. I was not invited. But a Southern Baptist Minister who preaches not far from Tiferet was. And predictably, a good many Jews were in an uproar. As far as they are concerned, a Chanukah party is no place for a  man of the cloth, who has in the past preached that those who do not accept Jesus into their lives will end up in hell.

Hell! If clergy were able to decide who ends up in Hell, there would be a waiting list from here to eternity. Countless are the number of times clergy have flippantly muttered  “go to hell” to drivers who cut them off in traffic or to drivers who won’t let them into another lane of traffic. Why, there is a place reserved in hell for all who are employed at the DMV in this city because of clergy who, along with others, have had to wait for hours to renew their drivers’ licenses. (Believe it or not, clergy are right up there with the best of them when it comes to cussing.) Regardless of the Theological Seminary this Southern Minister White House invitee attended it is my belief, that it is the Creator of the World, together with His heavenly tribunal, and not religious leaders, who will decide whether heaven or hell is the ultimate destination for any soul who has departed this world. Can it be that this Southern Baptist Minister along with others like him have some inside line when they so confidently spout the “final destination” of those who do not accept Jesus into their lives?


Hell! Most Jews don’t believe in Hell anyway. According to a Pew report conducted five years ago, a paltry 22% of Jews believe in Hell. While I have no evidence to support this, I cannot help but feel that more Jews believe in Santa Claus than Hell. Why then the ire over a guest at an annual White House Chanukah party, who tells those who do not accept Jesus into their lives that they are destined for a place that most Jews maintain does not exist? As a rabbi, I am indignant. More Jews care what a Southern Baptist Minister has to say about their ultimate destiny, than care what I, a rabbi,  have to say about their current status in this world. Publicly, I try very hard not to take fellow Jews to task, especially those who are at services. And that includes those who fall asleep during my Shabbat morning Torah talk! Hell has no fury like indignant Jews for a man of the cloth who, on the one hand, intimates that as rejectors of Jesus we are headed for Hell, yet on the other hand, has the chutzpah to show up at a White House party celebrating a Jewish festival.

Hell! This cleric has his head in the clouds. Clearly, he has no understanding whatsoever of the meaning of Chanukah story! Does he not appreciate the message of the Maccabean victory? Over two thousand years ago, a band of our coreligionists took up arms to protest a culture, as well a religion, that flew in the face of Judaism. Two thousand years ago, a band of coreligionists went to fight for religious freedom and religious tolerance. Because this ancient band of coreligionists respected, yet rejected, an ancient belief system and culture that was not theirs, the very message of Chanukah is the right, nay the duty, of contemporary Jews to respect, yet reject a contemporary belief system and culture that is not theirs, as well. Other than opportunism, it is therefore beyond me why this man of the cloth who espouses credentials for entrance into Heaven, would accept an invitation to attend a celebration that rejects deities (including Jesus)  that are contrary to Judaism.

Personally, it matters not one iota to me whether this Dallas preacher attends a Chanukah celebration at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in this nation’s capital. He does, however, make himself look ridiculous by doing so. By joining a group of people who not only reject Jesus as the savior but the very existence of Hell, as well. Similarly, it is beyond my understanding, why so many are up in arms for his showing “his face in the place.”

As I extend my heartfelt and sincere wishes for a Merry Christmas to my fellow man of the cloth, as well as to all those of the Christian faith, may I be so bold as to remind them that if “peace on earth” is to have any real meaning, then instead of espousing necessary credentials for entry into heaven,  perhaps our primary focus ought to making our society just that much more heavenly.

GET A LIFE

The other week, Karen and Mike, known to some of us as Vice President and Mrs. Pence were in Israel. During their relatively brief stay, they visited Yad VaShem, Israel’s memorial to the six million whose lives were snuffed out by the Nazis and their henchmen. It was there in front of the eternal flame, that Mr. Pence inflamed more than a few of our people. While paying his respects to the six million, he remarked: “…three years after walking beneath the shadow of death (they) rose up from the ashes to resurrect themselves to reclaim a Jewish future.” Faster than you could say “shalom aleichem” Mr. Pence was being excoriated for introducing Christian terminology into his metaphor.

Is it such a sin to take Mr. Pence’s remarks at face value? Personally speaking, I’m amazed that the very same Jews who in all probability never heard of Rashi, much less have ever looked into even one of Rashi’s commentaries are so quick to offer commentary on the remarks of an American leader. I shudder to think how these same individuals would have reacted, had Mr. Pence remarked: “As a non-Israeli and a non-Jew, I cannot help but feel the holy spirit of the six million throughout this edifice that memorializes them.” Any number of Jewish and/or Israeli publications would have accused him of sullying the souls of the six million by invoking the trinity!

There is a disease rampant among our people. Unlike other diseases, it does not distinguish between Ashkenazic and Sefardic Jews. That disease is ignorance. As a people, we are woefully ignorant of our tradition. Jews, who have no trouble providing the name of the mother of Jesus, are completely stumped when it comes to providing the name of the mother of Moses. Mention “resurrection” and immediately Jews associate it with an event that purportedly occurred three days after the crucifixion. Yet, the very same individuals do not realize that resurrection is a concept that it is profoundly Jewish. There is a discussion in the Talmud, not whether we Jews believe in resurrection – that ought to be a foregone conclusion- but whether the source for resurrection is biblical or rabbinic. Surprise! Surprise! Resurrection of the dead is found in our prayers minimally three times a day virtually every day of the year. Why then the uproar?

Last but not least, a big “al chet” (for the sin that I have committed- part of the Yom Kippur confessional) is in order on the part of all the accusers. For argument’s sake, suppose for a moment, that Mr. Pence did in fact have Jesus in mind. If so, then I caution his accusers to think carefully before they use phrases such as: “wash one’s hands of the matter”, “blind leading the blind”, and “go the extra mile” in their daily parlance. All three expressions come from the Book of Matthew! Why then is it kosher for the same Jews who take Mr. Pence to task for using a term that is inferred being connected with Jesus, to use phrases that are unmistakably Christian in origin in their everyday speech?

Within a short time period of his Yad VaShem visit, Mr. Pence addressed the Knesset. In addition to his adulatory remarks for the Jewish State, Mr. Pence invoked the following five words: “Shehechiyanu, V’kiyimanu, V’higiyanu lazaman hazeh” (who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this moment in time). Instead of a slap in the face for a questionable reference at best, perhaps Mr. Pence deserves a slap on the back for his successful and some would dare say beautiful gesture of quoting a Hebrew prayer in its original.