THE GREATEST CHRISTMAS GIFT OF ALL TIME
Forgive me for my tardiness. I should have written this article well over a millennium ago. Back then however, I could not have foreseen the injustice of it all. For it was a millennium ago, that anti-Semitism began to rear its ugly head within the medieval Christian community with charges and accusations that we Jews were responsible for the death of their savior. Rather than refute such charges, I should like to ask the following, with Christmas mere days away:
If medieval Christians, as well as their descendants, found it within their hearts to damn the Jews for the death of their savior, why wasn’t there room in their hearts to thank the Jews for the birth of their savior?
Granted it is most strange coming from a rabbi, but just as the Torah is patrilineal in nature, so too the Christian bible. The Book of Matthew, showing unbroken lineage, informs us that Jesus was born 40 generations after Abraham. Similarly, the Book of Luke, showing unbroken lineage, shows that Jesus was born 55 generations after Abraham. Either way, Jesus was able to lay claim to something no Jew in the world today is capable of doing! Thanks to expulsions, pogroms and Hitler, precious few Jews of eastern European descent can trace their lineage more than four generations. Yet, nary a word of thanks from Christians to the Jews for Abraham begetting Jesus.
Every self-respecting Jew and Christian should be familiar with the following acronym: INRI. It represents the following four Latin words: Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorumor Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. It is in the book of John, that we learn that this epitaph was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. And this epitaph stands until this very day. I would think that a modicum of gratitude be coming our way from our Christian brethren. After all, Jesus was not referred to as King of the Christians. Put differently, a world devoid of Jews would have resulted in the unthinkable, the unbelievable and the unbearable for those who rightfully celebrate Christmas.
Last week, as part of the Wednesday, Yiddish class, I was extolling the virtues of my favorite Yiddish author, Sholem Asch. What I refrained from telling those who had assembled, is that Sholem Asch became quite controversial in the Jewish world, when he wrote the following trilogy: The Nazarene, The Apostle, and Mary. There were those in the Jewish community, who regarded Sholem Asch with a great deal of scorn, in that they maintained that Jews ought to be writing novels about Jewish themes, not Christian themes. Yet, as far as Sholem Asch was concerned, the trilogy was very much a Jewish theme. Whereas the Book of Matthew records the final four words uttered by Jesus as Eli Eli, Lamah Zavachtani (see Psalms 43:2 Ki Atah Elohei Ma’uzi, Lamah Z’nachtani– for You are G-d of my strength, why have You forsaken me?), Sholem Asch in his novel, reports Jesus as having recited Shma Yisroel as his last words! As one who is far from convinced that there ever was a Jesus, I don’t hesitate for a moment to speculate, that if Jesus did in fact exist, I would be inclined to agree with Sholem Asch. For arguments sake, I am prepared to say that if Jesus did exist, Jesus was born a Jew and Jesus died a Jew. And for this, we Jews deserve undying Christian gratitude, certainly given the suffering and murdering that was so reprehensibly carried out in his name over the ages.
To my Christian friends and neighbors, I extend heartfelt wishes for a Merry Christmas. Similarly, I cannot help but feel, that it would be so befitting to hear a “thank-you” in return for:
Giving the Christian world a savior who was able to trace his genealogy to Abraham,
A savior who is remembered by the acronym INRI
A savior who, as far as Sholem Asch was concerned ,was born a Jew and who died a Jew. Forgive me my pomposity, but it may very well be that the greatest Christmas gift of all time, was given to the Christian world by the Jews.