Reply to Shmuley Boteach After
Sandy Hook Shootings

On December 19th, 2012, Shmuley Boteach, an orthodox rabbi, advocated challenging God following the Sandy Hook school shootings. This is my reply.

Today, as I was watching CNN, there was an interview of an author named "Rabbi Shmuley Boteach" by CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield. Here is that interview:

Before replying to this interview, there are a few things that I want to mention.

First, I want to say that I am very, very sad about the shootings. I seldom say much when things like this happen, because I always feel my words are not enough. I hope the readers of this page will understand my feelings.

Second, I am not writing this reply to fight with anyone. Also, I realize that God does not need me to defend Him. Rather, I feel a need to clearly show my support for God.

Finally, although I know that Shmuley Boteach is commonly known as "Rabbi Shmuley", I will refer to him simply as "Shmuley". This has nothing to do with Shmuley; rather, it is because of Matthew 23:7-8, where Christians are instructed to only refer to Jesus as "Rabbi".

With these prefacing remarks made, I will now proceed to my reply to Shmuley.

The interview actually began by showing a video of the former Presidential candidate and Christian minister (Southern Baptist denomination) Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was also Governor of Arkansas in 1998 when the school shootings occurred in Jonesboro.  In the video, Huckabee addressed the question of why God didn't prevent killings such as those at Sandy Hook and Jonesboro.

You can watch that video here; and there is a follow-up video here, which I think may make Huckabee's opinion clearer (both links are on, and will open in new windows). In the second video (time index 1:51), Huckabee states:

"Then, we're asked, 'Well, where was God?' And I respond that, as I see it, we've escorted Him right out of our culture and we've marched Him off the public square; and then we express our surprise that a culture without Him actually reflects what it's become."

For many people, I suppose Huckabee's words may sound a lot like an "I-told-you-so!", coming at a totally inappropriate time. However, I believe Huckabee is motivated by a sincere desire to prevent any more shootings. I think he is actually trying to encourage America to once again embrace Christianity, with the hope that a more Christian society would be less likely to have similar attacks in the future.

In truth, there is some Biblical backing for Huckabee's position. For example, the Book of Isaiah begins with a similar notion (Isaiah 1:15-21). Jeremiah 14:7-12 also comes to mind. Isaiah chapter 59 begins with:

Isaiah 59:1-2

“1 Behold, the Hand of Yehovah [God] is not short to save, and His Ear is not heavy to hear;

2 but rather, your depravities became the ones separating between you and your Elohim [God]; and your sins, they hide the Face to hear from you.”

Whatever the truth may be regarding Huckabee, the interview with Shmuley began by showing the Huckabee video.

At time index 0:33, Shmuley says "I believe in a theology of defiance". However, in the Book of Numbers, we find:

Numbers 15:30-31

"30 But the soul of a native, or a foreigner, that acts with a high hand [defiantly], it blasphemes Yehovah [God]; and that soul is to be cut off from amongst its people.

31 The Word of Yehovah [God] it despised, and broke His Commandment; that soul shall be completely cut off in its depravity."

God says that "defiance" is "blasphemy".

This passage is followed immediately in the Bible by the story of the execution of a man for defiantly collecting wood on the Sabbath, in violation of the commandment to rest on that day. Immediately after that is the famous story of the defiance of Korah et al. in the Korah Rebellion.

At time index 0:43 of the video, Shmuley says "No doubt He [God] is bound by the same rules and laws that He gives us." However, Isaiah wrote this:

Isaiah 55:8-9

"8 'They [are] not My plans, [which are] your plans; and not your ways, [which are] My ways' declares Yehovah [God].

9 'As Heavens are high above the Earth, so are My ways high above your ways, and My plans above your plans.'"

God's "rules and laws" are NOT the same as ours. The commandments that govern our lives take into account our human limitations. However, God has no limitations: He can repay any debt, heal any harm, and even resurrect the dead.

The day will come when even the wrongs done in Sandy Hook will be righted. It may seem that the dead are beyond hope; but with God, there is always hope.

At time index 1:16, Ms. Banfield says "how can we question God?" Shmuley gives an answer which includes the statement that "the single greatest act of faith is to challenge God and to make demands of God" (time index 1:24).

At 1:43, Shmuley goes on to mention that "the word 'Israel' literally translates as 'he who challenges God'". This is true; and it would also be correct to translate "Israel" as "strives with God". However, this is not a particularly flattering term. Again, from Isaiah, we have this:

Isaiah 45:9-10

"9 Woe, He who strives with the One molding a vessel of  him, with shards of earth! Will clay say to the One molding it 'What are you making?' And to Him, 'Your work has no skill'?

10 Woe, one saying to Father, 'What are you birthing?'! And to woman, 'What are you bringing forth?'!"

The Apostle Paul echoes this sentiment in Romans:

Romans 9:19-20

"19 You will then be protesting to me 'Why is He [God] still blaming? For who could withstand His will?'

20 No but, oh man, who are you to backtalk God?! The molded will not protest to the molder 'why are you making me like this?'!"

We have NO right to question God, nor to protest or strive with Him. God may be merciful to us, just as God was merciful with Jacob when He renamed Jacob with the name "Israel" (Genesis 32:28). However, God is under NO obligation in this matter.

Near the end of the interview (time index 4:06), Shmuley says:

"We have to have a new approach to religion in this country, where we are not just cosmic chaff that always surrender [sic.] in silent submission to God's will. We have a right to challenge God's will."

This "approach to religion" actually existed in the time of Moses. The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible uses the word "stiff-necked" to refer to this "approach". The word "stiff-necked" was created because of the refusal of those who adhere to this "approach" to bow their heads "in silent submission to God's will".

The first occurrence of "stiff-necked" in the KJV is very typical of its use throughout the Bible. That first time was by Yehovah [God] (the "LORD" in the KJV), while the people of Israel were still wandering in the desert, not yet having even reached the land of Israel.

Exodus 32:9-10a (KJV)

"9 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen these people [of Israel], and behold, it is a stiff-necked people:

10a Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them:..."

Apparently, God did not like this "new approach to religion" from the very start: He became so upset that He considered working Himself up into an absolute fit of anger, and then punishing the people.

As Christians, we have the direct command "therefore submit yourselves to God" (James 4:7a).

With regards to the "silent" aspect of Shmuley's comments, I am reminded of another rebellion. It was similar to the Korah Rebellion, in that it concerned priestly issues. However, the only two rebels were two sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Their story, told in chapter 10 of the Book of Leviticus, is commonly referred to as "the Offering of Strange Fire".

The two sons (Nadab and Abihu) decided to offer incense to God in a way which God had not commanded (the "strange fire"). Since God hadn't given the two men permission to do this, a fire came out from God and burned the two men to death.

As one can imagine, this was a painful thing for their father, Aaron, and for their two remaining brothers. Nevertheless, it was necessary for Moses to tell Aaron and his two remaining sons this:

Leviticus 10:6a

"6a And Moses says to Aaron, and to his sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, 'you must not neglect [the grooming of] your heads; and you will not rip your clothes; lest you die, and He becomes wrathful on all of the congregation."

Neglecting one's grooming and ripping one's clothes were signs of mourning among the Israelites. After God had killed two members of Aaron's immediate family, He still did not permit Aaron and his remaining sons to mourn openly, but only to accept what had happened "in silent submission to God's will".

As Christians, we accept that anyone is "accursed" if they attempt to preach some other Gospel to us besides the one we have already received (Galatians 1:6-9). With this in mind, I am concerned by the "new approach to religion" suggested by Shmuley.

Finally, let us back up a little bit in the video, to time index 3:32. After listing a few good things about the United States, Shmuley states that

"We deserve better."

Ezra 9:13

"13 And after everything coming upon us, in our evil deeds and our great guilt; you, Elohim [God], you restrained, to less than our depravity [deserved]; and you gave us this deliverance."

Isaiah 64:6 says our greatest achievements are as good as used toilet paper ("filthy rags" is the KJV translation).

We do NOT deserve ANY good thing; whatever good things we receive come to us because God is kind to the undeserving.

As Christians, we realize that we could never "deserve" to have Jesus die for our sins; and without His death, all we could ever deserve is eternal Hellfire.

Again, allow me to say that I feel very sad for those people who have lost so much. Also, this is not meant to speak ill of anyone; but I do feel that these are things that need to be said.


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