When the Pope said in a recent sermon that “the Torah cannot give life,” the rabbis would not let it go. The Pope, the rabbis demand, will not determine what Judaism can or cannot do.
Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, Chairman of the Interfaith Dialogue Committee on behalf of the Chief Rabbinate told Ynet that the rabbis were livid when they learned that Pope Francis sermonized that “Christianity replaces the Torah which cannot give life” and “the commandments have expired and are void of meaning.”
Is the Pope ignorant of the central place of the Mitzvot in Judaism? The battle between “works and faith” has been raging since the Apostle Paul penned his letters, and James, the brother of Jesus, took an uncompromising stand on the essential place of commandments as opposed to just faith. According to James, it is faith that is dead without works. For a pope to conclude that keeping God’s commandments in the Torah is passé, would be like the Chief Rabbi saying faith and grace are irrelevant.
The lack of appreciation the Pope displayed for the world of Judaism into which Paul, James and the Lord Yeshua were born and raised, signaled a regression back to the dark ages in Christian-Jewish relations, and the rabbis were having none of it.
“This is part of the contemptuous teachings of the Church towards Jews and Judaism. Retract it or we’ll cut ties,” Rabbi Arusi warned. “The Catholic Church must not return to the ancestors of antisemitism towards the Jewish people.”
The Chief Rabbinate now wonders what happened to the changing attitudes of the Catholic Church that had come to recognize the Jewish people as “firstborn son” from whom the Messiah came. Not a dead, out-of-date religion.
“In the interfaith dialogues we have held, we have always presented the position that the Torah gives life,” Arusi said. “Now suddenly to say these things is extremely dangerous. That’s why we demand clarification. Everything we’ve built is supposed to remove antisemitism from the Catholic Church. We cannot continue to have interfaith dialogues with the Pope as long as there is no clarification and withdrawal from these things.”
“We are embarrassed,” Arusi admits. Against the background of increased antisemitism around the world he added, “this is dangerous.”