"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

Moshe Ben-Chaim


 

Reader: Dear Mesora, I have now accessed the text I mentioned by Maimonides:

Laws of Kings, Laws 11:10-12 (Capach Edition): “[10] …Can there be a greater stumbling block than this (Christianity)? That all the prophets spoke that the Messiah will redeem Israel and save them, and gather their dispersed and strengthen their Mitzvot, and this (one, i.e., Jesus) caused the Jews to be destroyed by the sword, and scattered their remnants and humbled them, and exchanged the Torah, and caused the majority of the world to err to serve a god other than the Lord. [11] Nevertheless, the thoughts of the Creator of the world are not within the power of man to reach them, ‘for our ways are not His ways, nor are our thoughts His thoughts.’ And all these matters of Jesus of Nazareth and that of the Ishmaelite who arose after him are only to straighten the way of the king Messiah and to fix the entire world, to serve God as one, as it is stated (Zephaniah 3:9), “For then I will turn to the peoples (into) clear speech, to all call in the name of G-d and serve Him unanimously. [12] How (will this come about)? The entire world has already become filled with the mention of the Messiah, with words of Torah and words of mitzvos and these matters have spread to the furthermost isles, to many nations of uncircumcised hearts, and they discuss these matters and the mitzvot of the Torah. Some say: “These mitzvoth are true, but were already nullified in the present age and are not applicable for all time.” Others say: “Hidden matters are in them (mitzvos) and they are not to be taken literally, and the messiah has already come and revealed their hidden (meanings). And when the true Messiah stands, and he is successful and is raised and exalted, immediately they all will retract and will know that fallacy they inherited from their fathers, and that their prophets and fathers caused them to err.”

With respect, the point is, I think, that although Christianity and Islam are not true, they have played a part in the Divine scheme for the redemption of the whole of humanity by spreading some sort of ethical monotheism involving an albeit incorrect idea of Messiah, Torah and Mitzvot. Although Islam and Christianity are part of the overall process leading to the redemption their imperfect ethical monotheism will be rectified through the adoption of the seven laws.

Mesora: We cannot suggest that G-d desired Christianity to arise. G-d desires no other religion than Judaism. G-d knew the future, and foresaw all future religions, that would arise. Nonetheless, He publicly instructed man in only one religion – Judaism.

Maimonides does not indicate that G-d desired Christianity’s existence. This is clearly in direct opposition to G-d’s Torah. All Maimonides says is that G-d’s plan will not be altered by the rise of other religions. The fact that Christianity spread the Mitzvos, is not equivalent to saying G-d desires Christianity from the outset. The spread of Christianity may have brought about awareness, but a false one at that, and one that all nations will ultimately see as false, as the quote says, “…immediately they all will retract and will know that fallacy they inherited from their fathers, and that their prophets and fathers caused them to err.” Look at Maimonides’ opening words: “…Can there be a greater stumbling block than this (Christianity)? Also, “and this (one, i.e., Jesus) caused the Jews to be destroyed by the sword, and scattered their remnants and humbled them, and exchanged the Torah, and caused the majority of the world to err to serve a god other than the Lord.   Christianity was pure evil.

What is preferable; that Christianity would never had existed, or actual history? G-d’s will is the former, and your quote states this openly.

However, now that Christianity exists, Maimonides indicates it cannot compromise G-d’s plan: “Nevertheless, the thoughts of the Creator of the world are not within the power of man to reach them, ‘for our ways are not His ways, nor are our thoughts His thoughts.”  We cannot fathom G-d’s plan. Maimonides admits he fails to comprehend a positive goal in the spread of Christianity, but it can in no way compromise G-d’s ultimate plan, as these events were not thwarted by G-d. A negative may be utilized for a positive. But Christianity remains a negative.

To say that “Christianity contributes” to G-d’s plan, is much different than saying it “does not compromise” G-d’s plan. The former suggest it is an inherent good, while the latter retains its true status as one of the worst evils in world history. Maimonides does not say it contributes to G-d’s plan. He writes: “And all these matters of Jesus of Nazareth and that of the Ishmaelite who arose after him are only to straighten the way of the king Messiah and to fix the entire world, to serve God as one.  After he openly states that Christianity is the “greatest stumbling block”, Maimonides cannot turn 180°, suggesting in the same breath that it is a good. Keep all of the author’s words in front of your eyes.

So let us understand Maimonides words: “How (will this come about)? The entire world has already become filled with the mention of the Messiah, with words of Torah and words of mitzvos and these matters have spread to the furthermost isles, to many nations of uncircumcised hearts, and they discuss these matters and the mitzvot of the Torah. Some say: “These mitzvoth are true, but were already nullified in the present age and are not applicable for all time.” Others say: “Hidden matters are in them (mitzvos) and they are not to be taken literally, and the messiah has already come and revealed their hidden (meanings). And when the true Messiah stands, and he is successful and is raised and exalted, immediately they all will retract and will know that fallacy they inherited from their fathers, and that their prophets and fathers caused them to err.”  Maimonides suggests that G-d’s allowance of man’s free will, expressed in the rise of corrupt religions, has a benefit. Not a benefit in their ideas, but in another manner. I will explain.

Again, “immediately they all will retract and will know that fallacy they inherited from their fathers, and that their prophets and fathers caused them to err.”  I believe Maimonides wished to convey the following lesson: a prior fallacy serves to validate a subsequent truth. This is the core idea of the entire quote. Let me explain.

If one errs, believing a fallacy as truth, and subsequently learns the truth, he then dismisses his previous error. Conversely, if the true Messiah arrives, and teaches Torah, others might then develop new, false religions, as was so during the rise of Christianity and all other religions, post Moses. Through their false interpretations of true Torah, Jesus and other false prophets deceived themselves and others, that they correctly interpreted new events as G-d’s fulfillment of His promise of redemption. But, as G-d plans, if their error in determining the Messiah is subsequently met with the arrival of the true Messiah, and they are then shown false by the true interpretation of Torah, then all previous errors are recognized as fallacy, “immediately they all will retract and will know that fallacy they inherited from their fathers, and that their prophets and fathers caused them to err.” This precise scenario prevents any future distortions of Torah and the Messiah, which would not be the case if there were no previous, false religions. The very existence of false religions, subsequently met with the arrival of the true Messiah, will eternally discount all religions, except for Judaism. In this manner, Judaism will forever remain as the true word of G-d.

I will give another example of this method of G-d instructing man, where a prior fallacy serves to validate a subsequent truth: Rashi (Num. 13:2) quotes this Rabbinic statement, “(G-d said) by their lives, I will give them an opportunity to err with the words of the spies so they don’t inherit the land of Israel”. This would seem like a vindictive statement, but as G-d is devoid of emotion, how do we understand it? I believe the meaning is this: Had G-d not permitted the spies to spy out Israel, they would have been harboring an incorrect notion in relation to G-d. That is, their desire to ‘send spies’ displayed their disbelief in G-d’s promise that they will successfully conquer Israel. If this disbelief was not brought into the open, they would remain with this false notion, and this is not tolerable by G-d. What is meant by “G-d gave them an opportunity to err”? It means that G-d gave them an opportunity to act out this notion in reality so it can be dealt with. G-d’s goal was not their loss of Israel. Giving them “a chance not to inherit Israel” is G-d offering those Jews a generous chance to realize their emotional conflict: they were not desirous of inheriting Israel and denied G-d’s promise. In this manner, the Jews are enabled by G-d to face their mistake, and perhaps correct it. I believe this is also the case with G-d allowing false religions to rise prior to His delivering the true Messiah. G-d certainly prefers that the false religions never existed, but He allows man free will, and history to run a course where the truth will ultimately be unopposed. Allowing false religions to rise prior to the Messiah, G-d secures man a future where all arguments against Torah have been addressed.

It is my belief that the Torah institution of a Messiah serves a primary goal: to unite all peoples in G-d’s worship. G-d knew how history would unfold, that Judaism would be fragmented into numerous branches, and deviations in levels of observance would arise. A cure to this problem was necessary. I believe that the Messiah is this cure. Upon his arrival, which is accepted by the many factions within Judaism other than authentic orthodoxy, Judaism will thereby be unified, and be followed in its original form. Since all members of Judaism accept the coming of Messiah, in contrast to all other laws, which are so compromised, the institution of the Messiah is the one institution that all Jews accept. All Jews will follow Messiah’s teachings. Judaism will return to its pure, original form, hopefully soon, to be taught by the Messiah, G-d’s true messenger.

This is not only true regarding various Jewish factions, but also on the world scale of all religions. Messiah has become the center of religious difference. Upon his arrival, not only will all Jews unite in one practice, but all other religions will also abandon their fallacies, accepting Judaism as the one, true word of G-d.

The institution of the Messiah serves to unite all Jews and all nations to serve G-d in one practice. All other religions will be dismissed as complete falsehoods. Such a dismissal of prior fallacy insures that no future deviation from G-d’s word will occur.

G-d preferred that man never deviated from Torah, be he Jew or Gentile. And even though man has deviated by creating false religions, his actions cannot compromise G-d’s plan, but G-d uses man’s error for an ultimate good. Better that man does not err, but thankful are we that G-d utilizes our errors and implements corrective measures for all humanity.

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