Don't Let Santa Fool You!
Tzvi FishmanBefore making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter....
A friend in New York says it’s beginning to look a lot like Xmas. Just so the jolly little elves and white-bearded Santas don’t fool you, it pays to recall the truth about Christianity.
During the midst of World War 1, Rabbi Kook understood that Christianity was to blame for all the slaughter. He writes:
“The moral repression found in the profane culture which exerted vast dominion over the nations, brought oppression to their hearts, and caused evil traits, diseases, and anger to multiply and be pent up in the depths of their souls. And now these are erupting their fetters through the horrendously bloody and awesomely cruel wars, which are more in keeping with their still unrefined natures” (Orot, 2:4).
Rabbi Kook comes to explain how an enlightened, industrialized, and cultured Europe could unleash such destructive barbaric forces that brought the world to war. What went wrong?
The “profane culture” he writes about which has come to dominate Western civilization is the outgrowth of Christianity, whose doctrines of repression have now burst through Christianity’s outer guise of gentility and brotherhood in a monstrous storm of violence and hate. This is because, in denying the Torah and its commandments, Christianity separated mankind from G-d. Unlike the constant self-correction and moral improvement demanded by the Torah, through the hard work of perfecting character traits, Christianity’s false show of morals proved impotent in uplifting man’s baser traits. Only the Torah has the unique power to refine man’s nature. All other disciplines, whether religious, secular, or philosophical, can add to man’s quantitative knowledge, but they cannot effect any inner change.
Christian civilization, and the profane secular culture which grew out from it, knows what is evil, but does not know how to correct it. It learned about morals from the Hebrew Bible, but in cutting itself off from Israel and the commandments of the Torah, requiring only a statement of belief in their false messiah, it separated mankind from the one and only path to G-d and true morality. It left man simmering with a cauldron of unrefined passions and lusts which finally exploded in the devastating world wars of the previous century.
Judaism, in contrast, presents a practical path and guidance to character perfection. Our Sages teach us how to actualize the proper midot (character traits) in our lives, defining the measure of each and every trait, and their proper time and place. For example, in his “Introduction to the Mishna,” the Rambam presents his famous doctrine of “the Middle Path,” until man reaches a balance between the extremes, not repressing his baser emotions like lust and cruelty, but learning to give each emotion its proper expression in the proper time and place, so that sexuality becomes a holy blessing between man and wife, and cruelty is called upon when uprooting the wicked from the world.
“L’havdil” a thousand thousands of differences, Christianity, under a guise of holiness, condemns man’s natural passions from birth. But mankind cannot adhere to the repression of character traits that Christianity imposes, because it does not provide man with a true means to holiness and moral refinement. Cut off from the Torah, Christianity breeds a culture which dooms man to guilt, aggression, and a festering rage which explodes in violence and war.
Inevitably, the target of the world’s murderous rage turns against the Jews. Behind the hatred for Israel lies the recognition that it was the Jewish People who introduced a moral framework to the world. Cut off from the true word of G-d, mankind remains in its barbaric state. The Divine moral message of Israel is received as an obligation and burden. Mankind wants to wallow in its sensual material life. The Jewish People get in the way by reminding the world of G-d. Unable to kill the beasts within themselves, the gentiles resort to killing the Jews.
Although Rabbi Kook was unequivocal in his condemnation of Christianity, it is important to note that he never encouraged open conflict with its doctrines. He advocated that other religions be enlisted in the universal task of leading the world to G-d:
“As to alien faiths, I will tell you my opinion, that it is not the goal of Israel to uproot and destroy them, just as we do not aim for the general destructions of the nations, but rather for their correction and elevation, the removal of their dross, that they will link themselves with the source of Israel, where dew drops of light and blessing will fall over them, as it says, ‘I will take away the blood form out of his mouth, and his detestable things from between his teeth, and he too shall remain for our G-d’” (Zechariah, 9:7. See “Letters of Rabbi Kook” 112).
Only in the near future, when Israel’s light shines in its full glory from the Land of Israel, will the nations realize that the only true enlightenment is not in Santas and snow-flaked fairy tales from Bethlehem, but in the truth of Israel, and then they will rush gladly to the L-rd’s House in Jerusalem to learn the ways of Yaacov, and “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah, 2:2-4).