Bible Commentator


Rabbi Moshe Reiss

My colleague Spengler noted in his May 10 column The pope, the musicians and the Jews that Benedict XVI might be the most innovative pope in many a year by looking backward. [He called him] "a preserver in a dark age"; an intriguing definition of "innovative". I have, on the other hand, written my concern that the pope may become an inquisitor. One of the first announcements made after his installation was his firing of the editor-in-chief of the Jesuit magazine America, Father Thomas Reese (I wonder if we are related?). He apparently wrote or approved some articles not too favorable to [Benedict's] Church. That is not a good sign.

Spengler also noted that Pope Pius XII was a "captive" of Hitler, a well known fact. Does Benedict intend to follow on making him Saint Pius XII so that good Catholics can pray for his intervention?

Spengler's joke about the Jews and the musicians causing world problems was wonderful - "Why the musicians?" ask the storm troopers. The Jew asks, "Why the Jews?" Benedict, in 1985, finally allowed Mozart to be played in the Vatican; so he finally got the Joke. Was Mozart removed from the index of forbidden works at the same time? Mozart is as immoral as the Song of Songs; if it were not canonized it would surely be forbidden.

Spengler noted, "If the Vatican addressed large communities of observant Jews in Poland, for example, its message would resonate with the heavens." Since, as the pope, Benedict can speak infallibly - like God - can he raise the 6 million dead Jews, and then we can hear his message here on Earth? I would just as soon wait for my home in heaven, if that is where I go. But then as Spengler notes, "Benedict XVI will find exegesis of the Hebrew Bible less challenging than dealing with a people that actually speaks biblical Hebrew." His predecessors, John XXIII and John Paul II, accepted some responsibility for Jewish deaths.

Do you, Spengler, believe this celibate pope who fosters celibacy can repopulate Europe? If he worried less about cohabitation and celibacy and not at all about forbidding condoms he might do some good. But then in this area he has no experience. Perhaps if priests were not celibate they would understand something about cohabitation and the repopulation of Europe.

Do you believe he can convert the Muslims in Europe - according to Bernard Lewis they are likely to be a majority in Europe by the end of this century? I recently lectured a group of English and American Evangelical Christian Zionists in Jerusalem. The leader of this group wrote a book about the "fact" that Muslims world wide "will" soon convert to Christianity (Christine Darg, Signs and Wonders in the Muslim World), she was kind enough to give me an autographed copy. It is possible that my history of the Holy Inquisition [The pope or the inquisitor? May 6] makes me worry more about inquisitors?

Rabbi Moshe Reiss (May 12, '05)

VE [Victory in Europe] Day 60 years later: I remember being at my grandmother's and grandfather's on the East side of Manhattan, New York, full of Jews, most escaped from Europe. There was a huge Nazi flag in the street and people were jumping on it, spitting on it. The happiness was amazing to a six-year-old child. A month ago I was on Normandy, Utah, Omaha, Juno, Sword and Gold beaches [in France]. General [Dwight D] Eisenhower named them - despite French fussiness about their language, they are still called by those names. My Uncle Mikey was on Omaha Beach, where 10,000 American soldiers died in several days. He is still alive today at 94 years of age. I was with my grandson Benjamin; he had a granduncle on Sword Beach [who] also survived. They still have, as monuments, the German bunkers, monstrous guns and traps on the beaches.

Seeing the beaches and the arms, you understand why so many Allied troops died. There is a mountain with a steep, almost vertical-degree hill where 250 American Rangers climbed. Almost 200 died. The Rangers took the mountain. These young men knew they were going to die. The French gave this hill to the Americans forever. It is quite different than seeing Saving Private Ryan the movie. Despite the death and gore in the movie, this was real. You can see how many miles the Germans could see - all they needed was ammunition, it was like shooting in a barrel. It was a warm spring day; some people where swimming. I could not stop being cold.

Fifty million of God's children died of all religions and all ethnic groups; not including its prologue World War I. Can we all pray, never again.

Rabbi Moshe Reiss (May 11, '05)