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CONVERTING THE JEWS

Rabbi Rafi RankBy the CyberRav—Rabbi Rafi Rank

Shabbat Shalom, Everyone.  CyberRav here with a bit of Aural Torah for you!

The pope is coming to town and will even be going to shul.  Word has it that he will be visiting the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan on April 18, the first such visit of a pope to a synagogue in the United States.  I hope he receives a warm welcome.  The efforts of the Catholic Church to repair the relationship between Catholics and Jews are much to be commended.  Nevertheless, there’s what to talk about with the pope.

Pope Benedict XVI has reauthorized use of an Old Latin rite for Good Friday which includes a prayer that the Jews convert.  The liturgy reads, “Let us pray also for the Jews that Our Lord and God enlighten their hearts, that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ as the savior of all men…”  Reauthorization of this rite runs counter to the much welcomed revisions of Vatican II which promoted an alternative prayer that the Jews “arrive at the fullness of redemption.”  There’s nothing wrong with those words—we could all use a little redemption, and that doesn’t mean converting to Catholocism.

I sympathize with the pope’s affection for the old prayers, the ones that challenge and even provoke us.  But the word of God wasn’t delivered two millennia ago; it is delivered each and ever day, and a responsible religious leadership is sensitive to hearing that divine direction. To suggest in liturgy, in the 21st century, that Jews require enlightenment, as if they presently live in darkness, or to pray that they eventually acknowledge Jesus as the savior of humankind, is to suggest deficiency and imperfection and inferiority, all of which can be rationalizations for irrational hatreds and jealousies, which in turn can evolve into the very antisemitic violence that the Church, admirably, has sought to eradicate from the religious consciousness.

I would hope, when it comes to the Church, or when it comes to the synagogue, the two institutions representing the best of what God is directing us to do would recognize the multiple legitimate paths to God and godliness, and that far from praying for the other's conversion, pray for the strengthening of each group’s religious convictions and that all people come to recognize God each in their own specific and particular way.

May the pope and the rabbis he meets with drink a lehayim to a future of respectful relations between Catholics and Jews, but better they address the serious issues now over a cup of red wine, then wait until they discuss them over regrettable instances of spilt blood.

This is Rafi Rank, the CyberRav, wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and encouraging you to spread a little aural Torah around your Cyber community!


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