Make a Fixed Time for Study

עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Fahrenheit 451

Posted by rabbiart on June 1, 2008

Imagine yourself in 13th century Paris.  Say about 1242.  You’re walking along the boulevard and you notice a procession of carts passing you by.  This is not unusual, but each cart is full of books; more books than you have ever seen in your life.  You decide to follow the cart procession.

The procession winds through the streets of Paris collecting books.  Strangely, the books all look very much alike.  By the time you have followed the cart-train to its destination, twenty four carts of books have been colected.  In the Pace de Greve is a large cross and a supply of firewood.  The books are unloaded and heaped all around the wooden cross.  A bonfire is set, and then kindled.  The books go up in smoke.

What were these books? 1200 editions of the Talmud; confiscated from their owners by order of Pope Gregory IX.

You are in Rome in 1553.  On Rosh HaShanah – September 9 – a book burning is held under the orders of the Inquisition. Now it is 1559 and the Catholic church publishes a list of forbidden books.  Prominent on the list is the Talmud.

Now you are in the Israeli town of Or Yehuda.  It is May 20, 2008.  Once again books are collected from their owners, dumped in a pile, and set afire.  Only this time the books are not the Talmud, but the New Testament; distributed in Or Yehuda by proselytizing Messianic Jews.

Burning of Jewish books was accompanied by forced disputations.  Rabbis were made to defend Judaism against charges that it was heretical, denied Christian teachings and insult Jesus Christ.  Participation was not optional.  This was, of course, in the complete absence of any Jewish activity to challenge Church teachings or prosleytize among Christians. The books that were burned had been forcibly confiscated from their owners, who had no desire to see their precious Sifre Kodesh put to the pyre.

The New Testaments burned had been given to their owners by Messianic Jews.  Messianic Jews in Israel number about 10,000.  They are actively engaging in seeking converts, going door-to-door in neighborhoods handing out Christian Bibles and other literature.  The recipients voluntarily gave the Bibles to the yeshiva students who went around collecting them.  Then the Bibles were burnt.

In seeming contrast to the Talmud burnings, there was provocation in the form of active missionizing to a community that viewed it as insulting and hurtful.  No bibles were forcibly taken from their owners.  One could view the incident as simply owners disposing of property they no longer wanted.

Religious Jews in Israel are quite likely to resent Messianic Jews and what they stand for. The latter must know that their proselytizing efforts are like salt in the wounds and bound to cause a reaction.  Anger is likely to have played a large part in what took place.

Still… Is it the same?  Or is it different? You decide.


One Response to “Fahrenheit 451”

  1. Shirley Gould said

    Book burning is to be condemned, no matter who does it or for what reason. Individuals have rights to own and read what they wish. We cannot condemn the early burning of Jewish/Hebrew books and then justify a similar activity in the present age. If the Messianic Jews in Israel were defying others’ beliefs, there could and should have been better ways to interfere; better ways to assert one’s own beliefs, and better ways to combat unwanted proselytizing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: