Jews for Jesus and the Gospel Blimp

Why the Jewish community is right to reject Jews for Jesus.

by Walter Lieber

The Gospel Blimp is a story from a book and movie by Joseph Bayly in the 1960’s that relates the desire of a group of Christians to evangelize their neighbors. How to reach their town for Jesus is the concern of the group. Then one day the Christian group sees a blimp floating above and believes they have found the answer. One thing leads to another and soon they have formed a non profit, bought a blimp, hired a pilot and begun operations.

Their blimp drags banners with Christian messages through the sky. They bombard their neighbors with gospel tracts from above. They use loud speakers to make sure everyone hears the gospel message. Then they begin to wonder why so many of the townspeople are upset with them. After prayer and discussion they conclude that the message is being rejected, not their tactics. Therefore they decide to increase their efforts.

However, they try to sweeten the message. Instead of just dumping gospel tracts from above, they enclose candy with them, thinking a sweet gift will make the message more digestible. Of course, the candy falls in pools, bonks people on the head and gums up the lawnmowers of the poor homeowners trying to maintain their property.

The movie was a funny, satirical look at poor methodology run amok, though offensive methodology wasn’t the movie’s only point. The movie’s conclusion was also finally centered on the real, relational values that should underlie sharing the good news with one’s neighbors.

This essay also touches on deeper values that go beyond methodology. Yet, it should not be overlooked that method matters. The way we as Jews present claims that Yeshua is our Messiah is important. Since people tend to think that they will take on the behavior of those from whom they hear the good news, the act of handing out gospel tracts on street corners, a typical Jews for Jesus (JFJ) activity, is about as winsome as firing up the old blimp and cruising the skies for Jesus.

Boldness can be a desirable quality but falls short of justifying every bold action promoting the gospel. I say this as one who has, in the past, donned a Jews for Jesus t-shirt and eagerly handed out gospel broadsides on street corners. Maybe there was a time for that in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but as a way to relate and be relevant to Jewish people today, the clash could hardly be more glaring.

Going beyond methodology, it should be apparent that actions and activities that seem alien to the Jewish community are not necessarily so only because of differences in theology. There are different streams of Judaism and many ideologies among the Jewish people that manage to coexist with reasonable harmony, while still recognizing one another as Jews.

However, when JFJ says in their own literature that they are an arm of the Christian church to reach Jewish people, they declare in their own words that they embrace alien status in relationship to the Jewish community. They self identify as agents of one community attempting to pick off members of another. It should go without saying that you can’t complain of an alien status, or rejection on that basis, if you have adopted such a status by your own free will.

Since most JFJ converts end up in Christian churches, this is not simply a theoretical issue. Their slogan, “Be more Jewish, believe in Jesus” is so naively simplistic as to require a massive dose of credulity to embrace it. The fact that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah does not necessarily make one “more” Jewish simply through believing in him. Just ask converts of previous generations where their Jewish grandchildren are. The few exceptions that escape assimilation fail to counter the overwhelming evidence that embracing Yeshua as Messiah in a church context greases the skids to Jewish assimilation and the obliteration of Jewish identity in succeeding generations. The sad reality is that most JFJ converts will end up less Jewish in any meaningful way. Personally I prefer the philosophy of the famous “Rabbi” Gump, “Jewish is as Jewish does.”

One might say at this point that at least JFJ wins some converts and some are better than none. A couple of points could be made here. First, give me one or two hundred million dollars and a few converts should be expected. Second, even if we leave aside the ongoing life of their Jewish converts, shouldn’t the overall net effect be considered? Let me explain.

To go back to the blimp analogy, how many Christians in that example who had spent countless hours sharing their lives with their unchurched neighbors were negating their own effectiveness through their insensitive, dissonant gospel campaign. I’ve traveled fairly widely, in the U. S., Israel, South America, Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. The almost universal story I hear is of people who have spent many hours lovingly cultivating relationships with Jewish friends only to have JFJ come into their city with a noisy campaign, leaving behind burnt ground in terms of those who remain behind being able to speak about Yeshua with Jewish friends.

Many, if not most believers in Messianic Jewish congregations worldwide, at least those I have come into contact with, wish JFJ would just go away over such concerns. A few good conversion stories make great fund raising lines for newsletters but at what overall cost? If the net effect is negative, why continue? The effect is so deleterious that the number one obstacle to overcome when sharing Yeshua with Jewish people today is explaining that “No, we are not Jews for Jesus.”

Another crucial question is how one can say that God continues his covenantal relationship with the Jewish people while ignoring the practical implications of living out that relationship. Ignorance, laziness, willfulness, hypocrisy, or all of the above could be some answers. Of course, one might also hold a theology that teaches ongoing Jewish obligations don’t matter. Some hold that philosophy in a good conscience. We might then have to ask about the origin of such a theology. Most current scholarship understands that such posturing comes from early church leaders who rejected, not only the unique calling of the Jews, but also the continuing validity of a Jewish lifestyle of obedience.

Think of it in another way. Presumably JFJ people speak of the necessity of repentance to Jewish people. What is it that we are to repent for? The Torah and the prophets clearly teach that we are to repent of our violation of the Torah. Even the New Testament agrees with this when it speaks of sin as the transgression of the law in I John 3:4. The teaching of Yeshua agrees with this point also. So JFJ tells a Jewish person that they need to repent from their failure to obey God’s Torah and accept Jesus as their personal savior. Then, once they have done that, they tell them that they can now remain unconcerned with Jewish obedience to Torah. Does anyone besides me see a problem there?

It seems this Jews for Jesus approach stems from a catastrophic failure to understand the ongoing covenantal relationship and thus specific obligations that God requires of the Jewish people. It is easy to say that the New Testament affirms the ongoing Jewishness of Jewish believers, as JFJ affirms. It is altogether another thing to see how clearly the New Testament affirms ongoing Jewishness as a Torah oriented lifestyle that of necessity is lived out as a Jew with other Jews. I’m sure that there are some Jews involved in Christian churches that are able to maintain a Jewish lifestyle of obedience and involvement with the Jewish community. Yet, if the church does not expect it of their Jewish believers the future will most likely be like the past: the nullification of Jewish life, and the obliteration of Jewish identity and community.

Please don’t think I am against the Christian church. I just don’t think the church recognizes the necessity of ongoing covenantal obligations for Jews that require them to embrace a different, Torah oriented lifestyle, and to be, to the extent possible, loyal members of their Jewish community. And if the church doesn’t see the necessity, it certainly won’t teach its Jewish members to affirm it. And the Jews in their midst will not likely find it on their own.

To continue, if we were to examine the JFJ mission statement that their goal is to make the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide, wouldn’t a better platform for that be for them to live as real Jews, grappling with Jewish issues? Contrast that with making Jesus an issue as an arm of the Christian church. The Jewish community rightly points out that JFJ acts on behalf of and is essentially paid for by the Christian church. Since the Jewish people highly value community loyalty, doesn’t that disconnect with Jewish life and community modeled and supported by JFJ virtually guarantee that the Messiahship of Jesus won’t be the ultimate issue?

In light of these considerations, even the term Jews for Jesus could be considered suspect. Yes, we could say that according to Jewish legal understanding, a Jew remains a Jew regardless of his faith. But that only says that any Jew remains a Jew no matter what he does, even if he were to commit the most heinous crime. But if your organization’s goals are to make Christians out of Jews and then, for the most part, to see that they become members of Christian churches, what is Jewish about the organization, except for the bare fact that its workers were born Jews? So even the term Jews for Jesus could be considered correct only in the most attenuated way.

I write these brief thoughts from the perspective of being involved in the Messianic Jewish congregational movement for over 30 years. We certainly know that we haven’t found all the right answers. We know that the level of maturity isn’t where it should be. And exactly how to apply Torah in the Messianic Age isn’t unanimously agreed upon either. However, we also know that we are not thus excused from wrestling with the issues that are literally life and death for Jewish souls and the survival of the Jewish people.

I once heard a highly placed JFJ leader glibly state at a conference that since we can’t all agree on what exactly we should do in relationship to Jewish living, let’s just not be too concerned about it. It was a clever way of avoiding the issue, but it seemed to me to be the equivalent of saying, “Let’s not be too concerned about being Jews.” How does a Jew live out his ongoing covenant obligations with God’s Torah among like-minded Jews in an authentically Jewish way, in light of Yeshua being our Messiah? That is what we Jewish followers of Yeshua ought to be pursuing. And isn’t an authentic Jewish life lived in light of our covenant responsibility before God as Jews something all Jews are always called to pursue? Faith in Yeshua impacts the pursuit but doesn’t remove the obligation.

Are the only options limited to pursuing Jewish life in faithfulness to God or going on being the gospel blimp? Perhaps this is too stark a contrast? And, maybe JFJ won’t even be able to contemplate the idea that their net effect worldwide may be negative for the gospel. But maybe it would be a healthy contemplation. Maybe they can’t even conceive of a world without JFJ and they will never willingly fade away or change. But is it too much to ask that they consider becoming a real Jewish organization?

—Walter Lieber has been married to Linda for almost 44 years. They have four grown children and six grandchildren. They became believers in Yeshua as the Messiah in 1970. In his early days as a believer he happily donned a Jews for Jesus tee shirt and went broadsiding. He was the congregational leader of Tikvat Yisrael Messianic Congregation in Cleveland for 20+ years and now resides in Miami, FL where he is president of a charitable foundation. He has traveled internationally extensively to teach and preach, with 15 trips to the Former Soviet Union.

This entry was posted in Jewish Missions, Jews for Jesus, Mission Agencies to Jewish People. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Jews for Jesus and the Gospel Blimp

  1. Messianic Judaism Media says:

    The Messianic Judaism Media blog invites polite discussion. Our first piece is going to be controversial, commenting on problems with a major organization. We welcome dissent just as we welcome agreement. A good comment is brief, polite, to-the-point, and gives some support for whatever position the commenter takes. We will post only occasionally, sometimes writing as an organization and sometimes featuring guest writers from within Messianic Judaism (and perhaps from beyond our narrow borders).

    Controversy here is not for controversy’s sake, but to publicly dialogue about issues dear to our commitments to our people, Messiah, and the world to come.

    Derek Leman
    Publications Director, Messianic Judaism Media
    (Note: I am not the author of the above essay)

  2. CybrSage says:

    Very well written article, I am glad you reposted it.

    ” How does a Jew live out his ongoing covenant obligations with God’s Torah among like-minded Jews in an authentically Jewish way, in light of Yeshua being our Messiah? That is what we Jewish followers of Yeshua ought to be pursuing.”

    I grapple with this every day.

  3. Sean Emslie says:

    Well written article. Simply states the facts in a clear way. I really appreciate the part about repentance, what are Jews to repent from but Torah unfaithfulness and true repentance requires turning back to Torah living, something that is “evangelistic shtick”, meaningless or an enathema. Jewish people are not going to be drawn to the non-Jewish, Torah rejecting Jesus that they have been offered and given this distorted Yeshua, we can see where R. Kendall Soulen was coming from when he said that the Jewish people’s NO to Jesus, was a YES to the God of Israel.

    • Believer says:

      Thank you for saying this!
      I work in a business run by Orthodox Jews. They don’t understand “Messianics” and what you say about trying to offer them a Torah-less “Jesus” is so true. So many are clueless about what we believe. We are in agreement more than dis-agreement (with the exception of course of Yeshua as Messiah). I have put myself in their place, and agree: if I were a Jew, and presented the “Torah-less Jesus” I too would reject “Him”. They generally tend to lump all “Christians” into one folder: evangelicals, Catholics, etc- it’s all the same to them. I’m not speaking for all of non Messianic Jews- Just the ones I work with. Can’t blame them. These people KNOW Torah, they are not ignorant. To expect them to toss out Torah and their Jewish way of life, is ludicrous. I believe, if presented with the Torah-keeping Jewish YESHUA, they’d be more open to receiving Him as their personal Messiah. Just my thoughts….

  4. David Cook says:

    Walter I saw the movie the “Gospel Blimp” in the 70’s. I agree with you giving an account of the hope within us in a relational way in love is a better way to spread the good news of God’s love and forgiveness revealed to us through our Moshiach.

    Regarding “So JFJ tells a Jewish person that they need to repent from their failure to obey God’s Torah and accept Jesus as their personal savior. Then, once they have done that, they tell them that they can now remain unconcerned with Jewish obedience to Torah. Does anyone besides me see a problem there?”

    Is the question you raising have more to do with justification of sanctification?

    As you know Romans chapter four reviews justification by faith, looking at both Abraham and King David.

    1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (NASB)

    St Paul continues;
    13For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.

    Paul speaks more about justification by faith in the book of Galatians chapter 3 and explains the intent of the Law (Torah).

    6Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. 7Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” 9So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. 10For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” 11Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” 12However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”–
    14in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (NASB)

    http://adventofmessiah.com/

  5. Mr. Cook,
    For Jews to walk in obedience to the demands of Torah is neither a matter of justification nor of sanctification: it is a matter of a particular people honoring God in the ways he prescribed for them. (This is not the pathway for ALL Yeshua believers). My favorite passage to drive this home is found in Jeremiah. Read the story of Jonadab and the Rechabites. and see there that the issue from God’s point of view is that his people fail to HONOR Him by walking in these prescribed ways. The usual rhetoric about “is this justification or is it sanctification” is entirely too individualistic, if you don’t mind my two cents. THIS issue is about how a particular people, the Jews, are called to honor the One who redeemed them from Egypt and gave them His Torah.

  6. Bob says:

    If the article was addressed directly to Jews for Jesus, and sent privately to them, I think it would be more helpful. Has there been a concerted effort personally by you at dialogue with them?

    Looking at Jews for Jesus’ web site, I see more of an issue with their embrace of the doctrine of trinity and making it a stumbling block for those they wish to reach. I do not see them blatantly saying to abandon Jewish identity and assimilate into the church, though their actions as individuals and as a collective may speak louder than words to some or many.

    I do see that they indicate the church is composed of Jews and gentiles. To me, that means you can be a Jew in the church with your own identity. However, you are a part of the church in their eyes.

    The real issue is that there is a diverse group of people all with varying backgrounds of education. Jesus spoke of the wedding feast where those invited did not show up, and the organizer invited everyone off the streets, the rejected.

    These rejected folks are the type seeking Jews to get them into relationship with Messiah via the tracts you see as appropriate to the 60s and 70s (when you were doing it and somehow not a hypocrite). They see an urgency. This is in your face evangelism. It is Jewish. It is loving. Daring to take that kind of a risk to reach out is loving, and it can seem particularly so if you are a gentile doing it. If you are Jewish and doing it, it probably comes across poorly. However, didn’t Paul do this type of evangelizing? He got rejected by some in the Jewish community , but some of the Jews who listened believed and became followers. Don’t Jews in this era deserve the same opportunity to hear the message? If someone is hardened instantly by hearing the gospel from an annoying person, will they be less likely to be hardened if hearing it over years and years from someone who is more Torah observant and lovingly cultivating a relationship? Or are they just hardened anyway? How do people know they are really creating burnt ground? Maybe they are only uncovering it.

    Also, Paul had a listening ear with the gentiles. Jews for Jesus also reaches christians in the church, and probably a fair share of unbelieving gentiles. This dialogue inside the church and outside with gentiles is healthy I think, and sadly it is more missing between those who seek to be more covenantly responsible as Torah observant / Torah embracing Messianic Jews.

    The dialogue is also hard work and probably very draining, as is dialogue between ‘weaker’, but more covenantly responsible Messianic Jews and their ‘stronger’ Jews for Jesus brothers.

  7. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Walter,

    Great article!

  8. Derek Leman says:

    Bob:

    Interestingly you used the weaker and stronger language from Romans 14. In your case, you applied the weaker label to Torah-keeping Messianic Jews and the stronger label to assimilated Jewish Christians. In Mark Nanos’ book on Romans, he makes a case that the stronger/weaker language is rhetoric designed to shame the Roman Christians who have been speaking ill of non-Yeshua-believing Jewish people. The weaker are the non-Yeshua-believing Jews and the stronger are the Yeshua-believing non-Jews. The point of the weaker/stronger language is ironic: you say you are stronger because of your faith, so you should look out for the weaker and not do them harm.

    The author of this post has said that the Jews for Jesus method has done more harm than good. You say, “They see urgency; their motive is good.” I think a good response is: good motives are not sufficient. Furthermore, can we really say that the prime motive in highly visible and highly ineffective street campaigns is evangelism? Many suspect otherwise, that the motive is fundraising.

    Derek Leman

    • Bob says:

      Hi Derek,

      Thanks for your reply. I think I understand and appreciate your comment on the weaker vs. stronger. Indeed there is real truth that Jews for Jesus should do no harm, specifically being respectful of the Messianic Jewish community and not putting up stumbling blocks to them or Jews who do not believe in Yeshua.

      Effort to reconcile differences between Jews for Jesus and Messianic Jews seems lacking and public debate seems a bit like sibling rivalry publicly aired. God wants oneness. It is sad that there is a rift, but there must be a good reason for it.

      This attitude is expressed in Philipians 1:

      15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

      Focusing on the positive that Jews for Jesus are preaching Christ does not seem to be part of the dialogue, but Paul might have made it such.

      Is the rift so big that it has to be written about here instead of intimately discussed between the offended parties? It almost seems like a Matthew 18:15 deal where the process of reconciliation has not really been attempted.

      I believe Paul raised money. So do parties in both of these camps. Looking at the speck ones own eye first seems in order.

      • Bob,
        I commend you for your sensitive and articulate posting.
        As for airing things in public, I am reminded of a very public publication Jews for Jesus published a few years ago called “A Field Guide to the Messianic Movement,” or something of that sort. In it, JFJ describes many/most wings and organizations in and around the MJ Movement, often in unflattering terms. When I queried one of their leaders about the propriety of doing so, he responded that this was simply being provided as “a service to the Christian Church.” Hmmm.

        Taking their metaphor as our own then, we Messianic Jews are here providing a service to the Jewish people and to the Christian Church by making explicit how we differ from JFJ, which, if you wish, you may consider as being a reciprocal service responding to that which they offered.

        Because they were behind the scenes, you are apparently unaware of efforts that have been made in the past to improve communications between Jews for Jesus and wider MJ Congregational Movement. That has been done! However, I think you may be misconstruing things here. What is called for and what Walter Lieber is doing is doing is not a matter of reconciliation but of differentiation, something which is sorely needed. It is not a matter of Matthew 18, as if JFJ has sinned against us and there is a need for reconciliation! No, what is needed is differentiation.

        And as in their Field Guide, this differentiating “service” to the Messianic and Christian worlds comes with a critique attached. It could honestly be otherwise.

        As for “rejoicing that Christ being preached.” you have a good point. You use Paul as your example here. But is it not true that Paul was not slow to name ways in which he felt the cause of Christ was being ill-served? And is that not what Mr. Lieber is doing as well?

        • About the critique being offered, I meant to say “It could NOT honestly be otherwise.” Sorry for the gaffe.

          • Bob says:

            I am sure you are right about Paul. Galatians 5:12 comes to mind. Thanks to you and again to Derek for sharing. I was not aware of some of the intricacies, and I do not want to stir up ill feelings.

            It was clear to me that Walter was not trying to escalate anything. I could see his kindness in his words throughout the article. I erred in not mentioning that.

  9. Susan says:

    Walter,
    I knew I liked the way you think! And I am very pleased to read your words that so aptly say what I proclaim. May we make people hungry for the God of creation, so they will search for the whole truth.

  10. J. Stahl says:

    Absolutely awesome article. Thank you for reposting. This is the same argument I have been putting forth about J4J and other similar groups such as Chosen People Ministries. I have *always* asked before I knew about Messianic Judaism, why we tell people not to obey Torah and continue in the covenental things that G-d said we are to do forever. No one had any answers for me until about 11 years ago. I’ll never go back!! I finally am understanding things and living as I’ve been called my entire life.

  11. Well said Walter!!!!!

    Michael

  12. zayin says:

    Is this a case of stolen identity or fraud?

    I know locally in the broader Jewish community, one always finds himself saying, “no, we’re not J4J” and then a huge explanation on the differences has to be stated. In my opinion, if MJ’ism is to fulfill what it is — a part of Judaism, we need to define a clear explanation of the differences.

    There are too many groups with varying degrees of belief, observance, and halachah (or in the majorities case “a lack of”) utilizing one name. That is the confusion.

  13. Ruth Rosen says:

    “There is nothing that pleases Sauron so much as when his enemies quarrel amongst themselves.” –J.R.R. Tolkien (Might be slightly paraphrased)

    You know what’s a really interesting exercise? After writing an article like the above, Walter, try reading it out loud to the Almighty. I often find that if I vocalize my complaints about others directly to Him, they echo back to me a message worth hearing.

    Most sincerely,
    Ruth Rosen

    • Walter says:

      Hi Ruth,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond. I thought it might be helpful to point out some assumptions implicit in your response. There might be more but here is what I see on an initial glance.
      It seems you assume at least the following:
      1. I’m not aware of “Sauron’s” tactics, or at least not aware enough to avoid his trap in this instance.
      2. Scripture has no precedent of open debate.
      3. It is necessarily bad to publicly air an opposing position.
      4. I don’t pray, or don’t know how to pray, or just don’t pray well enough.
      5. If I had just done it your way I would have surely come to your conclusion.

      Now maybe all your assumptions are true. However, I respectfully disagree.

  14. Ruth Rosen says:

    No, I didn’t assume anything on your list of assumptions. 🙂
    I can see why you disagree with what you think I said as per your list. But your list of assumptions does what is natural to do — takes some grain of something real that I said and filters it through the existing beliefs and expectations. I think the closest thing on your list that I can own is “not aware enough to avoid his trap in this instance” but that still doesn’t express what I meant or how I see it. I still think it’s an interesting exercise and haven’t told or suggested anything to you that I don’t keep on my list of things to remind myself. But since we don’t know eachother it was probably not appropriate. I’m sorry to have intruded.

  15. Walter says:

    Hi Ruth,

    No need to apologize for intruding; I thought that’s what this kind of thing was for.
    I would not have insinuated you consciously assumed those things. Rather in almost any statement we make there are implied assumptions. On that basis, I thought that my inferences were valid, to a greater or lesser degree.
    JFJ is a major, public organization with very public positions and I think the issues I touch on have arisen in various public arenas previously, so I didn’t think it was out of bounds to say what I said. Even with that though I thought, and prayed, long and hard about making the article public.

    The content of my article hopefully makes it clear why I felt it important enough to want it to get to a wider audience. Hope that is helpful.

    As an aside, I loved and respected your Dad (I think he liked me too.) and invited him, along with other JFJ representatives, to speak multiple times when I led a congregation in Cleveland years ago. Turns out that he and my wife Linda were probably 5th or 6th cousins and he used to hang out by Linda’s bubbe’s store when he was young.

  16. benkeshet says:

    b”h

    Regrettably, the choice of Tolkien’s “Sauron” as an example to express mussar instead of, say, “The Chofetz Chaim,” proves from the very source the main point of the article.

  17. Derek Leman says:

    benkeshet:

    You wrongly assume that all Jews avoid secular and Christian reading. Perhaps you are from the insular world of a certain kind of Orthodoxy. Lots more Jews have read Tolkien than the good Chofetz Chaim. Lots more Jews understand a cultural reference to Sauron than know the meaning of lashon hara. But, if you are a student of the Chofetz Chaim, does your critique measure up to his standards?

  18. “Lots more Jews have read Tolkien than the good Chofetz Chaim. Lots more Jews understand a cultural reference to Sauron than know the meaning of lashon hara. ”

    Which, of course, doesn’t reflect all too well on those “lots more Jews” at all. Derek, I know that you are a big fan of Tolkien, so you understandably seem to have taken personally benkeshet’s remarks. You shouldn’t have. I believe his or her point was that a J4J rep, with their general veneer or Jewishness, is very unlikely to have resorted to a bit of “man-made” (as they would call it) Jewish wisdom to make a point about say ethics, but would much more readily use secular or Christian works to do so. Which is very true.

    • Derek Leman says:

      Gene:

      You and I see eye to eye (ha, didn’t mean to rhyme). But I think my bigger objection was not to dissing Tolkien, but to the fundamentalist attack on cultural references.

      Derek

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