Dr. Gerhard Falk

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Apostates - A Never Ending Plague


   The Greek word apostanai means to rebel. It also means traitor and has had a profound meaning in Jewish history. Three examples will illustrate this problem.

   Last week we mentioned the apostate Josephus Flavius, a Jewish general who surrendered the whole of the Galil to the Romans in 67 C.E., adopted a Latin name and betrayed Jerusalem to the enemy.

   Then, in the second century of the common era there lived in Alexandria, Egypt a Jew named Barabas. Having accepted a new religion, Christianity, Barabas became a bitter enemy of his erstwhile co-religionists. Then he launched into Jewish history a form of distortion and hate which has troubled Jews in every century and in all the lands where Jews have lived.

   In The Epistles of Barabas, or letters written by him to his friends in about 100 C.E., Barabas invented all those polemics which radical Jew haters have used ever since. The truth is that a Jew introduced into the Western World a polemic “unique in the literature of the early Church for its anti-Jewish attitude.”

   Barabas claimed,  as do all the enemies of the Jewish people,  that the Torah is no longer incumbent upon Jews because it has been abolished by G’d. He and his millennial followers always claim that Judaism is mere outward exhibitionism while their religion teaches inner dedication, whatever is meant by that.

   Barabas and his followers also knew and know that Jewish fasts are not acceptable to G’d, that Jews have lost the covenant which is no longer Jewish but now Christian, and that Judaism is not a legitimate religion, having been supplanted by Christianity. Nothing is more dangerous to Jewish survival than the view that we are not legitimate. Surely that belief has been the basis for every persecution we have suffered from the days of Hadrian to Hitler.

   It is precisely because Judaism is held a normal and legitimate religion in this country that we have done so well here.  Americans do not delegitimize us or any other religious group.

   There have been innumerable additional apostates after Barabas. We cannot list them here. However, the name of Johann Pfefferkorn stands out among all our apostates. Pfefferkorn lived in the 15th century and made a name for himself when, in 1452, he argued publicly that the Talmud should be destroyed because, he claimed, it contained anti-Christian material. As a Jew he had studied the Talmud. Consequently the Synod of Augsburg decreed the burning of all copies of the Talmud despite the arguments of the Christian Hebraist Johann Reuchlin that the Talmud does not deal with Christianity at all. Here you had a Christian defend what a Jew denounced.

   In the 19th Century we were of course plagued by Karl Marx, the founder of the Communist party. A Jew with two rabbis as his grandfathers, Marx wrote several essays denouncing Jews. His diatribes against Jews were actually used by the Nazi killers in their propaganda. During the 1930’s and 1940’s German cities had banners stretched across main streets with anti-Jewish slogans such as “the Jews are our misfortune.” In addition these banners often carried the words of Marx and were attributed to “the Jew Marx” by the Nazi propagandists.

   In this connection it may be of interest that the newly appointed president gains much of his advice from a professor at the University at Austin. The professor’s name is Marvin Olasky. A fundamentalist Christian, he is the son of Russian Jewish parents. This man rants against minorities of every kind. His book The Tragedy of American Compassion denounces welfare or any other help to the poor. Here we learn that religion should be established as part of government, that the state should be removed from all charitable or welfare support and that churches should use food banks and other supportive work for the poor only among those willing to accept the doctrines of the church. In short, “believe what we preach or don’t eat.” The First Amendment to our Constitution need not be given any consideration, according to Olasky. He doesn’t believe we need the separation of church and state. Evidently, his followers agree with him, as witnessed by the proposal to establish a “faith based office” in the White House.

   Now ask yourself this: We Jews are only 1.8% of the U.S. population. If, as our erstwhile co-religionist Olasky demands, the separation between church and state is eliminated, where does that leave us Jews, Olasky?

Shalom u’vracha.


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