By Jacob Neusner
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So I am told to expect to hear something fresh, original, and superior to anything that has gone before - and yet, torah in conformity with the Torah revealed by God to Moses at Sinai. So the sage sets for himself a worthy challenge, one that every sage in every generation does well to meet: receive a tradition whole and perfect, hand it on never intact but always unimpaired, so taking a rightful place in the chain of tradition from Sinai. For it is the task of each generation both to receive and to hand on, in the language of the opening sentence of Mishnah-tractate Abot, sayings of the Founders of Judaism.
But if the negative contains a powerful affirmation, as it does, still, there is more to Judaism in its meeting with Christianity than a mere no. There is a no, because ... And in that "because" dwells a mighty debate between us both. So in these pages I propose to show how Israel, the people of God, would appear if a reasoned argument between things Jesus taught and teachings of the Torah could be conceived. What I mean is an argument on the substance of things, as though all that mattered were what is true by the criterion accepted by both parties: the Torah.
The Torah calls eternal Israel always to struggle for God's purpose; the Torah sanctions warfare and recognizes legitimate power. So I find amazing Jesus' statement that it is a religious duty to fold before evil. True, Proverbs teaches, "A soft answer turns away wrath" (Prov 15:1). Anyone who knew that verse will have identified with Jesus' expansion of it. Nor should we ignore, "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you" (Prov 25:21-22).
A Rabbi Talks with Jesus by Jacob Neusner