During my conversion to Judaism, I reflected upon many things. It was a big decision, after all for a good portion of my life I defined myself as a Christian. In the months leading up to my river mikveh, there was one period I remember well. Every time I went out to take photographs, I saw crosses. In my Katrina wrecked world, there was debris everywhere and that was hardly surprising. But the images made me really reflect on my beliefs. I talked to Rabbi Noah Farkas, my guide, about this. He asked what the crosses symbolized to me. I brought up the movie The Life of Brian and even though I hadn't watched the movie in years, the last scene always haunted me. See the focus was always on one person who suffered the cruel death of crucifixion, Brian. All the tens of thousands of others, well they didn't seem to matter so much. The image of the cross had become for the symbol of all the Jews since Roman times who had been murdered just because they were Jews.
Shmuley Boteach in his column Jesus and the Romans states that something I've come to believe for the longest time: Christians aren't Christians, they are Paulists.
He asks many good questions. His summation asks many of them:
The gospels relate that Jesus famously proclaimed, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."
In my view, this is an incredible statement. Would Jesus really endorse the greed of the Roman emperor by endorsing his right to exact cruel and unjust tribute as he enslaved peoples throughout the world? Would Jesus really have made himself party to the Roman occupation by directly endorsing the Romans' right to invade and occupy Judea and mercilessly slaughter the patriotic Jews who battled the occupation?
Surely a man as great as Jesus would be on the side of the victims rather than of their oppressors, and would never have advocated blindly accepting Roman rule.
IT IS for this reason that we have to rethink Jesus' mission and what he was trying to accomplish. I have written many articles arguing that it is time for the world Jewish community to reclaim the Jewish Jesus by understanding his original mission and his great love for his people before his story was later edited by Pauline writers and before he was made into an enemy of the Jews and a friend of the Romans.
Jewish tradition delights in children asking questions. Pesach is a good example of this. The youngest child asks the Four Questions. Each of us is to seek are own answers. The Torah portion B'midbar tells of the start of the 40 years in desert. Why did we have to stay in the desert for 40 years? It was so we could unshackle ourselves from a slave mentality. Slaves do not ask questions. Slaves do not cry out against injustice. Those years in the desert were not a punishment. They were a cleansing time. They got us back to our tradition which Abraham instilled. Abraham sought mercy for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. He argued and pleaded with HaShem. This tradition teaches us not to be blinded but to ask the questions and to fight for justice. This tradition teaches us that we must speak out against brutality in our midst. We cannot be silent when the Romans of our times: the Chavezs, the Mugabes, the Kim Jong Ils, the oppressive Chinese government, Hezbollah, Hamas, and others around the world exist.