A friend just back from New York says it’s beginning to look a lot like Xmas everywhere you go. Xmas trees, manger scenes, Salvation Army Santas, stockings and candy canes in window displays along Fifth Avenue, Jingle Bells tinkling in the stores…. Frankly, I don’t understand how any self-respecting Jew can live in a Christian country like America when he could live in Israel instead. It baffles me.
Here, in Yerushalayim, our pleasant Hanukah menorah decorations are lit up over our streets. There’s absolutely no sign of Xmas at all. In fact, if you didn’t get lost on the way to Rachel’s Tomb and end up in Bethlehem on Xmas day itself, you’d never know that such a pagan holiday existed. Thank the good Lord that my kids don’t have to walk the streets of America at this time of year and feel like second-class citizens amongst the idol worshippers. I challenge someone to disagree with me if I’m wrong.
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:
“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 the true ladder to God. 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, and instant salvation for belief in its virgin-born messiah, 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, know 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, it severed mankind from the one and only path to God and true morality. It left man simmering in darkness in 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 down-to-earth 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,” whereby 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 union 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 the Divine moral framework to the world. Cut off from the true word of God, mankind remains in its barbaric state. The Divine moral message of Israel is received as an obligation and burden. Mankind wants to wallow in an uninhibited sensual and material lifestyle. The Jewish People get in the way by reminding the world of God and the allegiance due Him. 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 God:
“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 God’” (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 true enlightenment and joy is not in Santas and fairy tales from Bethlehem, but in the Torah of Israel, and then they will rush gladly to the Lord’s House in Jerusalem to learn the ways of Jacob, 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).
May it be soon. Amen.