Op-Ed: Towards 'Tikkun Olam'
When it comes to relations with Christians, Jewish people tend to be suspicious and a bit paranoid, which is not very surprising when reviewing the mutual history of the two peoples.
Jews have been physically and spiritually targeted by the Christians for the better part of the past 1700 years. Ever since the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine adopted the cross and turned it into a sword, the sword has been at the throats of Jews in the name of the Church.
This grim history has included Crusader soldiers bearing the emblem of the cross on their chests as they rampaged through the cities of Europe rounding up Jewish communities in order to burn them alive in their synagogues along with their Torah scrolls.
Blood libels emerged repeatedly, accusing Jews of murdering Christian children and using their blood to bake their Passover matza.
The terrors of the Inquisition included offering Jews of Spain a choice between accepting the Christian faith and burning at the stake, among other forms of torture.
While many Jews fled Spain, others chose to outwardly convert to Christianity and continue to observe Judaism in hiding. Still others fully embraced the Church as a refuge (which later proved useless as the hatred of Jews followed them, in spite of their having left the Jewish faith).
In the last century, the Pope and the Vatican at best ignored the plight of the Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust.
In the new world, without violence, Christians have gone to great lengths to persuade Jews to leave their ancient faith and embrace Christianity, from Jews for Jesus to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses randomly knocking on doors.
History has left its impression on the collective Jewish memory that we are prime game being hunted down in one way or another.
For ages, Christian replacement theology has taught that Jews have been abandoned and un-chosen by the Creator as punishment for not accepting the Christian Messiah. Pastors and their flocks felt a responsibility to help prove that the Jews would always suffer disgrace and would never rise to greatness again.
In 1948, a turnaround occurred that would literally toss replacement theology out the window of history. The Jewish people came out of exile, returned to their historic homeland and re-established our nation and country. The world witnessed unexplainable victories of the few against the many, as in the days of Yehuda the Maccabee.
1967 saw Israel's heartland, the land of the Bible and the capital city of our King David returned to the People of the Book. The promises of the prophets began coming to life, just as if they were a script for the events taking place.
These realities caused a fundamental crack in a mistaken Christian theology and kicked off a shift towards simple belief in the Bible.
In the Jewish faith as written in Biblical sources, we anticipate the gathering of the Jewish people back to our land, the re-birth of our nation and the blessings of the fruit of the land as signs of the beginning of the promised redemption.
Normally, a Jew would expect that when a non-Jew shows his hand it would be a fist striking him.
What we need to realize is that the redemption of Israel is not detached from the rest of the world. It is actually “Tikkun Olam,” the fixing of the world or putting the world back on its rightful track. The nation of Israel has been given its own commandments, but also a special mission in this world to be a light unto the nations. When the nations recognize that special mission and respect it, that too should be seen as a clear sign that the redemption is on its way.
When nations begin looking to the people and land of Israel as the source of blessing in this world, the fulfillment of Tikkun Olam is at hand.
It is understandable that Jewish people find it strange that non-Jews offer their hands in friendship and wish to assist. We can hardly find such gestures in our collective memory, and it seems so unexpected after centuries of oppression.
Normally, a Jew would expect that when a non-Jew shows his hand it would be a fist striking him. So when that hand is offered in friendship, the Jewish reflex is to question the motive of the gesture. We ask, "What is the Goy trying to achieve? What could be the hidden agenda?”
Yes, there still are Christians who have been trained in an outdated but lingering replacement theology, who think that their responsibility is to convert the Jews. We must check and be sure that those with whom we interact are coming to us because they understand the truth of G-d's word in Bereshit 12:3, "those who bless Israel will be blessed . . . "
Once we confirm that their motives are pure, although that may not be easy to do, we should then accept their offer of friendship. Only on the platform of such friendship can we begin to carry out our G-d-given responsibility to the nations and share with them the light of the Nation of Israel.