For the week ending 12 March 2005 / 1 Adar II 5765

Jesus, Jr. and Disjoining the Bishop

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Several Readers

Dear Rabbi,

Why dont Jews refer to Jesus by the term "Christ"? Why are some Jews named Jr. if its not a Jewish custom? Why do some Jews break off parts of chess pieces?

Dear Several Readers,

Judaism accepts that a man named Yeshu Jesus lived, that he was Jewish, and that he rejected Judaism. It is primarily for this reason that he was not accepted as the Messiah and therefore not referred to by Jews as "Christ" a term derived from the ancient Greek for anointed or savior. According to Judaism, from which the Christian concept of Christ was conceived, the Messiah is a descendent of David, excels in Torah, teaches it and encourages others to uphold it, will be a king who ingathers the exiles, establishes peace and builds the Temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus was none of the above. His purported link to the tribe of Judah was not patrilineal, he was no scholar and he even discouraged Jews from keeping the Torah. He was not a king who ruled a nation and army; on the contrary, after Jesus' appearance, the Temple was destroyed, the Jews were exiled all over the world and we have not had one day of peace in the past 2,000 years. While it is not our intention to offend anyones beliefs, it is clear that Jesus did not qualify as Messiah according to Jewish standards. For a more in depth discussion see "Why Jews Don't Believe in Jesus" on Ohr Somayachs website.

Re: Jewish Jrs, it has never been a Jewish custom to name a child after a parent. Sephardi Jews name children after living relatives such as aunts and uncles, grandparents or great-grandparents. Sometimes they even name children after living rabbis who are close to the family. In all cases, this is considered a gesture of great respect for, and received as a great honor by, the bearer of the name. There is a source for this in Talmud as well (Shabbat 134a).

Ashkenazi Jews have the custom of naming children only after relatives or rabbis who have passed away. This perpetuates the memory of the deceased, which is itself a great honor for the loved and revered of past generations. It also creates a type of metaphysical bond between the person and his or her namesake. What this means is that the person who receives the name is inspired to emulate and perpetuate the good deeds and traits of the deceased, while those very same good deeds and traits are simultaneously connected to and benefit the one who he or she is named after.

According to the above, Jews named Sr., Jr. or III are simply not named according to the Jewish custom, but rather according to the assimilated, non-Jewish practice.

Regarding disjoining chess pieces, the reason why some Jews do this is quite simple: It became customary since medieval times to incorporate Christian religious symbols such as the cross on some of the chess pieces such as the bishop and king. In view of the fact that the cross is not a Jewish symbol, and in addition, considering the affliction suffered by Jews on account of the fiction of Jewish guilt in crucifixion, many remove the cross from its location.

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