Thursday, January 19, 2012

On the original "Kosher Jesus" by R. Chaim Volozhiner's grandson, Universalist Dreamer.

Kosher Jesus, Shmuely Boteach, etc.

As already noted by Dr. Marc Shapiro, Rabbi Elias Soloweyczk (Soloveitchik) wrote a sort rabbinic commentary on the Book of Matthew [and also Mark]. Although it was written in Hebrew (titled Kol Kore), I haven't seen it. However, I have seen the French and German translations. (An earlier, anonymously published version exists, but it is different in content.)

I thought it would be worthwhile to print the substance of his introduction to the French edition (Kol Kore La Bible, le Talmud et l'Évangile, tr. par L. Wogue. Évangile de Marc. Évangile de Matthieu Paris 1875). Note that his purpose is to show that the New Testament and the Talmud do not oppose each other.

But before I do, here are some worthwhile images. This is the "haskamah" to his edition of the Mishne Torah printed in England in in 1863, collected in 1857, signed by various rabbis, and written by R. Jacob Oettinger of Berlin. As you can see, it makes mention of his grandfather, "Rabbi Chajim Wolozin."

Here is our author, who was blind and very poor in the period under question:

Here is the substance of his forward to Mark (from the French translation).
In the preface to my first volume of Kol Koreh I promised to show that the New Testament, contrary to popular belief, is neither in disagreement with the Old or even with the Talmud. I fulfilled my commitment regarding the first Gospel, and now I work on the second.

A few words of explanation. Many people of high intelligence of rank applauded my work, either because they agreed with me in advance or were persuaded after having read them. This encourages me.

But what a pity, there are extremists, and also those who laugh at what they think is an attempt to reconcile opposing views. Aside for the positive feedback, I was also assailed by Jews and Christians, and I think it is useful to answer their objections.

My fellow Jews said "To mention the Gospel and the Talmud together? What brazeness this author has! Doubtlessly there are good things in the former, but we do not know its source, or what the authority for such things are. By contrast, in the Talmud nothing is anonymous, everything is stated by name and by tradition, going back to Moses, from God - or else it contains the views of individuals who are known to us, respected rabbis, and tradition tells us their names and [scholarly] lineage, often going back to a very remote period. "All their words are like fiery coals" (Avoth 2:15) and this author is not afraid to destroy it! His book is an attack on the holiness of the Talmud, to blend it with the New Testament; it is sacrilege.

In parallel, my fellow Christians say the same thing. The New Testament is the Word of God, the Talmud is a human work. Not only human, but full of contradictions and inconsistencies. What one doctor disputes, another defends. One says with, the other says black. The New Testament is very different, a single doctrine, very beautful, holy and so beneficial to man that it could only come from God.

This is what they say, and here is what I answer. Jewish Brothers, I know the sanctity of the Talmud, like you. It's value is high. I have been raised on a diet of Talmud since childhood, and I learned to revere it. But believe me, these arguments do not glorify it, and our doctors would disavow them, were they alive. Those men were fair and impartial, they rarely condemned either a man or a book, and even to that which they comdemned, they knew how to do it in a just way. Look at what they say about Ben Sira (Sanhedrin 100b) "It is (generally) not permitted to read books of heretics. Rab Joseph said, this refers to Ben Sira" (Ecclesiasticus, because, Rashi said, foolish and exaggerated things are in it). However, says R. Joseph, the good things in [Ben Sira] may be read and expounded. So a book which the Talmud forbids reading, yet it does not reject that which is good in it, and it even approvingly cites it a number of times, which is evidence that it accepts the good and true whenever it encounters it. Doesn't this [approach] bring peace and harmony between people? The same Talmud which you think is a cause for discord, doesn't it contain the most beautiful sentiments? To cite but one example, we read in Sukkah 53b that ""If, for the purpose of establishing harmony between man and wife, the Torah said, Let My name that was written insanctity be blotted out by the water, how much more so may it be done in order to establish peace in the world!" This is precisely my goal, the goal that all friends of the Torah should aspire, to, every Jew and every man worthy of the name, and you my brothers, you condemn me for my effort? I say, this is not the talk of the wise.

And you, my Christian brothers, who claim that it is an offense to put the Gospel on the same footing as the Talmud, do you not know that the Talmud has a right for your gratitude, and that without if the name of your Christ may have fallen into oblivion? Many famous writers have denied the existence of Jesus Christ, and many deny it today, lacking knowledge of the Talmud which, as we shall say, excplicitly affirms his existence. . .

As for your disdain of comparing the Talmud and the Gospels, you should know that the Talmud is a unique monument of jurisprudence, deep legal reasoning and wisdom? Allow me to explain . . . (He goes on to describe Maimonides and the Mishne Torah - noting that he published the first five sections with a Hebrew commentary and German and English translation [although he doesn't note that the English translation was by Hermann Hedwig Bernard]). He suggests that he is willing to supply a French translation of any part of the Mishne Torah that one would like. One could compare those Talmudic laws with the laws of any European nation on the same subject, and see if the Jewish laws do not fare well by comparison. They will be amazed at what was produced nearly 2000 years ago, by the sheer force of the intelligence of these doctors, so abused by [these] Christians!

He ends his introduction by repeating that the Jews and Christians are unfounded in their attacks upon him. He refers to Ex. 16:8 "(your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord") saying that he is no one, and they are not complaining against him, but against truth and peace, his only goals! He cites David in Psalms "Ani shalom vekha adabber hemmah lammilchama", which he explains as "All my desire is for peace, and even when I make war" it is only for peace. The same with me, he says, if I have come to do battle with the ancient interpreters of the New Testament, it is to bring peace and understanding between people, for false doctrines have long divided them.

He prays that he succeeds in his holy enterprise, that the favor of the Lord descend upon his work, that that it produces much and wholesome fruit in the heart of readers, and that with one spirit they embrace the worship of one God, and that it could help accomplish the words of the Prophet (Zephania 3:9) "For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent."

Rabbi Elias Soloweyczsk
A few years later he printed a German translation, with another preface. In this one, he again addresses critics, but this time he includes a translation of a source which evidently he had discovered, and he feels will adequately answer them. He quotes R. Yaakov Emden ("foremost authority," "known for his tremendous piety and learning") in his edition of Seder Olam (Hamburg 1757):
"For thirty [sic] years the abominable sect of Shabbetai Zevi has newly arisen, and caused more evil than the Flood. God forbid that this accursed sect should ever mix with our Christian brethren. The principles of the Christian religion is a strict morality, even stricter than ours, for it prohibits things allowed by Mosaic law, e.g., marriage among cousins. These principles drive them from excess, self-denial and forgiveness for wrong, and their true saints are characterized by their exemplary virtues. We would be glad if Christians would, as we would, scrupulously observe their own law, if they (as we) would follow the good examples of their virtuous kings and saints and all their ways. People know that I flatter no one, have never lied, and that my zeal for the Jewish religion has never hindered me from acting justly. I will repeat what I have said often, that Jesus has done a double act for manking. On the one hand he has confirmed all the teachings of Moses, he explained that he did not come to abolish them or to change one iota, he claimed with equal vigor that the law is eternal and unchanging."
Although Soloweyczk does not quote the other hand, and I do not have the time to look it up now (but it is on this page, I imagine it says something positive about what Jesus's teachings did for Christians. He continues that he has just developed this idea further, and once again, that his purpose is to effect a reconciliation of the two Testaments, and two peoples, and that we should see the joyful day when Jews and Christians will shake hands and fulfill the words of the prophet, "On that day the Lord and his name will be one."

There may be a part II to this post, where I discuss the content of his work.


  1. While the Nightingale family spelled (transliterated) their Russian name in many ways, there are some limits. R' Elya Hirsh spelled it Soloweyczyk. Sometimes it was written Soloweyczik. You have: Soloweyczk and Soloweyczsk...

  2. S.,
    Is this a proto-Flusser?

  3. BTW did you find any biographical info, such as date and place of birth, date and place of death, where buried or something about his children/descendants?

  4. I have some biographical info, but I figured I'd save that for the follow up post. Got to strike while the Rabbi Boteach hype is hot.

    He was born around 1802 and was from, or lived in, Slutsk. He had at least one son, named Simcha, who ended up in England (and, allegedly, was known as Simcha Londoner). Although he outlived his son, the son did have a son, named Zalman Yosef who, allegedly, wound up in Meah Shearim and died in 1942 (I have his picture). Nice, Litvish looking frum guy. So, presumably, or possibly, he had children, and therefore descendants in Israel.

    As for Flusser, haven't read him, so I don't know, but judging from the Wikipedia description - maybe.

  5. Excellent, as usually. I didn't have much luck finding personal info about him. Thanks.

  6. here is the Emden quote, from Seder Olam Rabba ve-Zuta:
    על פי הדברים והאמת האלה מרגלא בפומי (לא כמחניף, כי ידוע שאין זו מדתי...) שהנוצרי עשה טובה כפולה בעולם, מצד אחד חזק וקיים תורת משה בכל עוז כנז"ל באר היטב מה שאי אפשר להכחיש. ואין אחד מחכמינו שדיבר יותר מזה בפה מלא בחיוב קיום נצחי לתורה. ומצד אחד לאו"ה היטיב הרבה (אם לא יהפכו כונתו הרצויה להם כדרך שעשו איזה משוגעים שלא ירדו לסוף דעת כותבי א"ג [=אונגליון], ושלמו רעה תחת טובה

  7. And here are the preceding paragraphs (the best part I think):
    ובכאן מקשים על פויל מדידיה אדידיה, כי באקטא אפוסטולורוס פט"ו זכרו שמל את טימוטיאוס תלמידו, וגם נסתבכו בזה מאד כי פעולתו זאת סותרת למאמריו המוכיחים לכאורה שלדעתו המילה היא מצוה זמנית עד ביאת משיחם, והרי זה היה מעשה אחר הנוצרי. אך דע נא וקבל האמת ממי שאמרו, כי מכאן נראה בבירור שהנוצרי ושלוחיו לא באו לבטל תורה מישראל ח"ו שכך כתוב במטיאוש פ"י שאמר הנוצרי לא תחשבו שבאתי לבטל התורה לא באתי כי אם לקיים, אני אומר לכם אע"פ שיבוטלו שמים וארץ, מ"מ אפי' אות א' או נקודה אחת מן התורה לא יבוטל, אלא יקוים. על כן מי שיבטל אפילו מצוה אחת מן הקטנות וילמד לאחרים לעשות כן, הוא יקרא קטן במלכות שמים. אבל מי שיעשה המצות, וילמד לאחרים לעשותן הוא יקרא גדול במ"ש. וכן כתוב בלוקש. א"כ הדבר מבואר מאד שלא עלה על דעת הנוצרי לבטל... לכן תדע דלא קשיא מדי אפויל שמל את טימוטיאוס כנז'. כי הוא היה בן אשה ישראלית מאיש יווני כמ"ש (בפט"ו מאקט"א) , ופויל למדן היה, שמשו של ר"ג הזקן, ובקי בדיני התורה, ידע שנכרי הבא על בת ישראל הולד כשר, ודינו כישראל גמור לכל דבר... לכן כדין וכהלכה עשה זאת שמל את טימוטיאוס. וגם כשטתו שאמר כל אדם ישאר בדתו

  8. Rabbi Yakov Emden was basing himself on Mathew. And whether this is right or not, the fact is Christianity after First Council of Nicaea is based on John.

    1. That's not a fact at all... Christianity would never "base" their beliefs solely on one gospel but on the whole gospels + epistle combo without bias. Christians hold the book of Matthew as sacred and quote from it extensively. It's not true that John is or has been favored more.

  9. And you, my Christian brothers, who claim that it is an offense to put the Gospel on the same footing as the Talmud, do you not know that the Talmud has a right for your gratitude, and that without if the name of your Christ may have fallen into oblivion? Many famous writers have denied the existence of Jesus Christ, and many deny it today, lacking knowledge of the Talmud which, as we shall say, explicitly affirms his existence. . .

    Wow - sounds like he is suggesting that the Ben Stada and other (usually censored) passages in the gemara are referring to Jesus, contrary to the (unconvincing) denials of same by most other Jewish authorities. Why would he write such a thing, unless he figured that Christians would not understand that these passages were so derogatory!?

  10. Remember + re:member = blot out doubt. Thus
    (sayeth I or the L-rd) your choice and note
    not necessary nor determined is the faith a
    law Esau hates Jacob all ways always even I
    odd male upright honest hew close not afar.

    As idolworshippers suffer and prosper both
    sections bisecting for leverage: know what?

  11. Not nearly enough! I don't suppose there is an English translation of his work available? I could muddle through in French, but would certainly miss the subtleties...

  12. I think there is an English version.

  13. Now there is a controversy going on about a book “Kosher Jesus” written by a Jewish Rabbi. Truth about Jesus is more amazing than “Kosher Jesus” says. Jesus is the most misunderstood person whoever lived on earth. Jews and Christians agree on one thing about Jesus that Jesus claimed he is the messiah. But the most astonishing truth about Jesus is that Jesus didn't claim he is the messiah. Not only that Jesus told the Jews that they should not believe any individual who claim he is the messiah. He told the Jews no individual would come as the messiah, who or what would come is the kingdom of god.

    Jesus told the Jews to always remain as Jews facing all the
    persecutions awaiting them and prepared to accept the Kingdom since it
    is not known when it will come. The contemporary Jews expected Jesus is their messiah but were disappointed that He didn't overthrow the Romans and declare himself King, like the Messiah was supposed to do. So they
    rejected Jesus saying he is a failed messiah and failed to understand his message.

    On the other hand, some the Jews found their messiah in Jesus and interpreted words of Jesus and Bible in such a way to make others also to
    believe Jesus is the messiah and son of God. The Jews who say Jesus is
    the failed messiah and the Jews later became Christians who believe
    and preach Jesus is the Christ and son of God both went wrong in
    understanding the message of Jesus.

    The word messiah has no such meaning as “Savior“. Messiah simply means “anointed one”. But when the Jews started to give a meaning “savior” for the word messiah there they started to give wrong interpretation of Bible words. Yahweh is the only savior of Israel and there is no other savior for Israel according to Bible.

    Jewish belief in a messiah in the sense “savior king” lies in the promise God gave to David. In fact the promise God gave to David is conditional one. And sons of David many times failed to fulfill that condition. so God is not bound to keep his promise. But Jews inadvertently believe that the promise God gave to David is an unconditional one and that belief led the Jews to believe God is bound to provide them a super king “Messiah” from the sons of David. This wrong interpretation of Bible words and belief in a Christ culminated in Christian religion.

    Hence a different interpretation of New Testament is necessary to reveal the real Jesus who questioned the Jewish tradition and who prophesied no individual would come as messiah but who or what would come is the kingdom of God.

    I have written a different interpretation for New Testament titled " Truth Hidden in the Gospels Revealed ". It is not yet published. I would like to present it before Bible scholars for their examination and would like to get their constructive criticism. If anybody is willing to help me please contact me in the Email address:-

  14. Thank you so much for this very informative piece. This kind of stuff is a great delight to my brain and heart. And now I am going to crack a little joke, purely for fun. (No sarcasm intended at all).

    You said:

    "As already noted by Dr. Marc Shapiro, Rabbi Elias Soloweyczk (Soloveitchik) wrote a SORT rabbinic commentary on the Book of Matthew [and also Mark]."

    Did you mean a "sort OF rabbinic commentary."

  15. I am a the great-great granddaughter of Zalman Yosef Soloveitchik from Geula, so I suppose I must be the descendent of the author of Kol Koreh. S., if you have any more information about my family, or that picture of Zalman Yosef, I would love to find out more.

  16. What's up to every body, it�s my first visit of this web site; this web site consists of awesome and in fact good stuff designed for visitors.

  17. He is the great great (I think) grandfather of Peter Salovey, the new President of Yale University.

  18. you are then a cousin of peter salovey the new president of yale who described the family as follows

    First there was Joseph Ha-Levi Soloveitchik of Slobodka and Kovno. He had a son Isaac. Isaac had two sons, Moses and Abraham. Moses had a son, Joseph, who was the rabbi of Kovno and was married to the daughter of Chaim Volozhin. Joseph had two sons, Isaac Zeev and Elijah Zevi. Isaac Zeev was the father to Joseph Ber (Beis Ha-Levi). His son was Chaim Brisker whose sons included Velvele Brisker and Moses. Moses was the father of The Rav, Joseph Dov (Ber) Soloveitchik.

    Meanwhile, back to Elijah Zevi. He had a son Simcha (The Londoner), who had a son Zalman Yosef, who had a son Yitzchak Lev (Isaac Louis, my grandfather, who changed the name from Soloveitchik to Salovey when he immigrated to this country from Jerusalem), who had a son Ronald (Azreal), who fathered three children, one of them me!



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