R’ Avi Weiss has clearly been emboldened by the recent decision of the Chief Rabbinate to accept his testimony regarding personal status. While this might not be as big a deal as one might think, the fact that he has yet to be rejected formally by the Chief Rabbinate and some American Orthodox institutions has been cause for his celebration. This had meant that he may proceed ahead with attempting to redefine Judaism in his own image through the mechanisms of his own learning institutions as well as through the media, Jewish and general. Then he decided to spike the football.
His recent decision to invite a Baptist choir into the sanctuary of Hebrew Institute of Riverdale crossed a line beyond anything anyone could have imaged. I understand that his main message has been putting social action and tolerance above the strictures of the law. I know he wants to build bridges rather than put up fences (a euphemism for rabbinic stringencies), not just between denominations but between religious movements. However, there’s a difference between building bridges and undermining your foundations, something R’ Weiss doesn’t appreciate.
One of the most fundamental pillars of Judaism is we do not acknowledge other gods. We certainly don’t allow others to sing their praises in our houses of worship, and it is unthinkable to join in with the choir. Christianity is unquestionably idolatry by Jewish standards. The only question that has been raised by our medieval authorities is whether this particular version of idolatry is permissible for non-Jews, a very difficult concept called shituf (lit. partnership). There’s absolutely no way to sanction this behavior within the context of Jewish tradition. None.
If you didn’t think it could get worse, it does. What R’ Weiss doesn’t acknowledge is that his motives and Christian motives for joint services are quite different. His motivation is clearly to build tolerance and understanding between the Christian and Jewish communities. The Christian motivation is quite different. Evangelical Protestantism, the form of Christianity that is spreading so rapidly all over the world and is likely the driving ideology behind the Green Pasture Baptist Church, believes very much in sharing the Gospel. The ultimate end is to convert the world, and particularly the Jews because of the fact that we are the Chosen People of the Bible and we are all considered to sinners due to our role in the death of Jesus. Jewish evangelism is so important to them that Christians have even invented ministries such as Jews4Jesus and Chosen People’s Ministries to target and convert Jews. That would make R’ Weiss an enabler, giving this church a way to preach to the Jews in a way they couldn’t have hoped for in their wildest dreams.
I don’t want anyone to think I’m declaring Christians a hostile enemy. They have the best and noblest intentions. However, their intentions are to put Jews away of the G-d of Israel, and the fact he decided to bring these people in to sign the Gospel makes him an enabler. It undermines everything he claims he has been working for his entire life, and puts the Jews in a precarious situation to either invite missionary activity into our backyards or look like bigots.