Friday, June 22, 2007

I Missed It

Turns out that last night Rabbi Shmuely Boteach debated Dr. Michael Brown at the Society for Ethical Culture about, essentially, if Jews should just accept that Jesus died for our sins.

Wish that I had known earlier. Did anyone go?

Also, apparently he debated Christopher Hitchens too. To be honest, I can't think of anyone else that is quite as good of a representative of observant Judaism. He is significantly more cuddly than the average Rabbi; from what I can tell he is very learned, pious, and sincere. If we had to have a re-do of one of those famous debates between a Rabbi and theologists of another religion (like in the Old Country, Ramban did it once and there are a couple other examples) I'd choose Shmuley. Or maybe Adin Steinsaltz. That might be a difficult choice. Still, Shmuely is good PR for the Jews, and we for sure need it.


orieyenta said...

That must have been some debate. You New Yorkers have all the fun.

Good Shabbos!

Anonymous said...

This was a phenomenal, highly animated, inspiring debate--the best I've seen between these two eminent scholars. The topic: is Jesus (Yeshua) the "suffering servant" of Isaiah 52:13-53:12? Dr. Brown (the Messianic apologist) says yes, and that an open-minded, open-hearted reading of the text itself (without reference to either rabbinic or Christian commentary) will point in only one direction: Jesus. Rabbi Boteach favors the common Rabbinic interpretation: that the "suffering servant" and his redemptive suffering is, in fact, a personification or picture of the sufferings of the Jewish people throughout the ages at the hands of the Gentiles.
Both men drew thunderous applause for their powerful, thought provoking arguments. Brown tended to stay closely focused on the text itself while Boteach tended more towards oratory (both men’s methods were very effective).
Rabbi Boteach is a brave man and to be commended for engaging in this ongoing series of debates with Dr. Brown: as I understand it, for a number of years now, he has been the only rabbi willing to debate Brown. Other prominent rabbis, such as Tovia Singer debated Dr. Brown in the past but have apparently called it quits, due to a combination--I think--of criticism from their peers, and the strength of Dr. Brown's presentation (though, I must say, Rabbi Singer was a stronger opponent for Brown than Rabbi Boteach, since he tends to stick to the topic at hand and the actual texts under consideration--whether they be Biblical or Rabbinic--whereas Rabbi Boteach tends more towards a highly emotional rhetorical approach).
I'll post more on this most recent debate soon, with a summary of the arguments of both scholars. For now, I highly recommend that anyone who has never experienced one of these debates go to and listen to a few.

Tamar said...

I have a love/hate relationship with Boteach. Mostly love, but sometimes I want to him to take his touchy feeliness and shove it where the sun don't shine. Wish I would have known about the debate, though. I was busy learning torah, but I would have asked for the night off. Boo.

Anonymous said...

I found these older debates, which will be of interest to anyone who is sorry to have missed this most recent one between Rabbi Boteach and Dr. Brown The first link will take you to a debate between Rabbi David Blumofe and Brown, and the second link will take you to two debates between Boteach and Brown from 2006. If these links don't work, just copy and paste them into your browser. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous: You may be interested to know that there is a Rabbi named Yisroel Blumenthal who has been in communication for many years with Dr. Brown. Rabbi Blumenthal & Brown have communicated by e-mail, and Blumenthal has said he's happy to release the content. Brown will not.

Also, Blumenthal (you can see his work at has said he's happy to debate Brown. Brown, however, is yet to oblige.

Seems Dr. Brown has perhaps met his match?