E7Lploring 'The Passion'
Rabbi Irons explains how Jesus did not fulfill Jewish Messiah role.
Special to the Jewish News
egardle-ss of the claims Christianity or
Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the
Christ make about the figure they rec-
ognize as their savior, from the tradi-
tional Jewish viewpoint, Yeshu, identified by the
Hebrew name similar to Jesus, did not fulfill the
role of the Messiah, Rabbi Shmuel Irons told an
audience of 100 people on March 14.
According to the biblical prophesies, the Messi-
ah is to bring about a new spiritual age and the age
of prosperity — a king who ushers in the inde-
pendence of the Jewish people — and Yeshu did
not, said Rabbi Irons, dean of the Oak Park-based
Kollel Institute of Greater Detroit.
Also, the idea that Yeshu could be the son of
God or a deity also is very foreign to Jewish tradi-
tion, Rabbi Irons told the diverse group of Jews
and other faiths assembled in the Pendleton Room
of the University of Michigan Union. For these
and other reasons, he explained, Jews have refused
for almost 2,000 years to accept Yeshu as the Mes-
siah, despite intense pressure and persecution by
Rabbi Irons was asked to speak because of his
Talmudic background and historical knowledge,
said Rabbi Aaron Eisemann, director of the Jewish
Resource Center, a project of Machon L'Torah, the
Jewish Learning Network of Michigan.
"A lot of students had lots of questions and con-
cerns about the movie ... and we thought Rabbi
Irons would be the ideal person to set the record
straight on Jewish tradition's opinion of the story
of the crucifixion," Rabbi Eisemann said.
But the talk wasn't as much about the movie as
what was behind it — the background of the his-
tory the movie was supposed to portray, Rabbi
Rabbi Irons also stressed that few people realize
that the Jews who were involved, according to the
story, in Yeshu's crucifixion were very secularized
Jews and collaborators with the Romans.
"They didn't believe in life after death or divine
providence; they were much more similar in their
outlook to secular Romans than to religious Jews,
and these were the ones involved," he said. "This
was a political group that had him killed."
He added that the kind of pain involved in the
procedure "runs counter to anything Jewish," and
that consequently the mob of Jews portrayed in the
movie clamoring for Yeshu's crucifixion was either
myth or collaborators.
Rabbi Shmuel Irons: "Ultimately, people have to think this through themselves."
Rabbi Irons added that he hoped people left
with another perspective on the movie and "food
for thought" to encourage their own thinking
"Ultimately, people have to think this through
themselves; I was just there to give them more
material with which to deal with these issues," he
Emily Kramer, 22, a U-M senior from
Baltimore, said, "I thought one of the main take-
aways is that American. Jews are very lucky and
very comfortable and we need to learn more about
our heritage and our history because, if something
were to happen, I don't know if we're in the posi-
tion intellectually, politically or physically to fight
for ourselves," she said.
Alan Sheyman, -19, a sophomore from Troy, said
Rabbi Irons' speech added another perspective to
his collection as he tries to make sense of the
movie. He said he hasn't.seen it yet, but when he
does, he will now be able to include the Jewish
perspective in his critique.
Sheyman said he took away from the event a
deeper understanding of why Judaism and
Christianity conflict religiously and added that
Rabbi Irons' words are likely to be in the back of
his mind when he finally does watch the film.
"Maybe I'll go see it or rent it and simply be
thinking about what he said when I see the
movie," he said. "It's one way to view the issue." ❑