Off the Deep End: Boteach’s Latest Book is Apikorsus


rabbi-yitzchok-wolfBy Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf

With utter contempt, I have read the title of Shmuel Boteach’s new book. His prior books certainly hadn’t made me anticipate this latest with excitement, yet perhaps it was naiveté on my part not to see this one coming. I hadn’t read the book since the book’s title already lends itself to apikorsus, and I am not the consumer that seeks to consume such writings.

I am no spokesman for Orthodox Jewry or for Chabad. In this instance, it is certainly no quantum leap to speak in the their name:

Boteach’s latest book is apikorsus and must be treated as such. If Boteach had any decency, he would disavow himself from kehillas Chabad as well as from Yiddishkeit in general. When one writes claiming to pen his writings as an Orthodox Rabbi, and it can mislead the ignorant and the vulnerable, heaven forbid, he must be ostracized for their sake alone. It’s not the derech of Chabad to eject their fellow jew, yet there are those rare times when it appears as an obligation to do just that.

Please G-d, protect Klal Yisroel from the dangers that stem from the outside as well as those that stem from people claiming to be from within.

Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf
SJ Abrams Cheder Lubavitch Hebrew Day School
5201 Howard Street, Skokie, Illinois 60077

{Rabbi Yitzchok Newscenter}


  1. Sad! He has such potential! He must AS WE ALL MUST have a mentor and Yiddishkite guide! He has such a broad audience he must be overcautious that his hashkafos don’t astray!

  2. MI kaAmcha Yisrael!!

    What other website would provide a forum to a Rav who bases his entire book review on the cover…

    (there’s a cliche hiding here, I just can’t put my finger on it.)

  3. To state that someone is an Apikorus is not a small matter.

    See netziv hakdoma to emek dovor bereshis
    ???? ???? ??? ????? ?? ?? ??
    ???? ?? ?? ???? ????? ??? ????? ????? ?’ ???? ????? ????????

  4. Wait – did anyone read the book yet? NO, it doesn’t release until February 1. Why condemn it out of hand without reading it?
    Yes, the title is sensationalist. As were his previous titles. But his previous works actually had a lot of interesting things to say, when one moved beyond the title…

  5. This is frightful to think that a jew is going to acnowledge the kosher status of a man who was in my view never a man and always a child. Maybe that means hes really not a ‘kosher jew’. Just a thought for the day.

  6. Please G-d, protect Klal Yisroel from the dangers that stem from people who condemns books and their authors without having read the books!

  7. Rabbi Wolf is a respected figure,not only in the Chabad community in Chicago, but in the broader Frum community as well, who is not prone to public statements of condemnation. For him to publicly condemn such a book, he must sincerely believe the verocity of his statement.

  8. “Rabbi Wolf is a respected figure,not only in the Chabad community in Chicago, but in the broader Frum community as well, who is not prone to public statements of condemnation. For him to publicly condemn such a book, he must sincerely believe the verocity of his statement.”

    That may well be so, but if it is, then he failed miserably at the task of telling us *why* he feels that way.

    For anyone who doesn’t know Rabbi Wolf, it basically boils down to “The title smells fishy, so it must be apikorsus.” If he wants to convince others that he’s not just making this statement based on the title alone, then he must provide reasons *why* he feels it’s apikorsus — something he utterly failed to do.

    The Wolf

  9. All this will accomplish is free publicity. When I read a blank condemnation with no concrete reasons given, I want to research it on mmy own. I am not given to blind faith very much. So now I, and probably countless others, are going to read that book, or at least check it out. So what good has been done here today?

  10. To #5 . We have all seen that Netziv. However you forget the Netziv agreed that the misyavnim were deserving of their fate at the hands of the Chashmonaim. There are lines which are not to be crosses & Rabbi Wolf is accurate in his judgement. Rav Hirsch ZT”L was at the forefront of combating Graetz SR”Y(see Yoma 38b) & this is no different.

  11. I havn’t read the book, but I just read his response to R’ Wolf’s attack. He’s very clear that he wants Jews to emrace the true Yoshka who preached to his followers to keep the words of the Torah, as aposed to the Christian lies that were invented way after his death.

    But, Hellow Shmuli, we all know that although they claim to officially keep the Mitzvos, they were far from Kosher. Come on, they were a ???? ?????, preached against the ?????, how exactly is that ‘Kosher’? How is that something Jews should learn to embrace???

  12. Okay, I have done a small amount of research. The entire problem with his book is the title. The title of his new book is “Kosher Jesus,” and the author contends that christians should understand that the historical yoshke was really shomer Torah uMitzvos, and later christians rewrote him into a different type of person. While I (with about 36 years of anti-missionary experience) completely disagree with this theory, it has long been considered by many to be a valid theory of history. I don’t think the content is apikorsus, just wrong. (And I see no way to reconcile it with Chazal.) That title is a total turn off, and I consider it stupid at best, ill-advised at worst.

  13. To the smart people insinuating that the book is not available yet and could not have been analyzed – previews of the book are available online.

  14. To #22: Yes, that is horroffying and apikorsus, as far as I can tell. But it is totally unrelated to Boteach’s book or Rabbi Wolf’s response to it. Why do you bring it up here?

  15. From my experience in Kiruv, many non-frum yidden believe that Yiddishkeit views JC as a prophet. A book educating the masses against this myth will go a long way..

  16. Boteach has been “off the deep end” regarding yoshke for a LONG time. Note this article he wrote all the way back in 2004!

    This guy thinks yoshke is GREAT and his goal is NOT just for goyim to get to know the “jewish” yoshke, but for JEWS to get to know the yoshke he so greatly admires. One quote says it all: “But that does not mean that Jews cannot look at J- as I have come to, as a wise and learned rabbi, immensely devoted to the welfare of his people”

    He aslo states: “I believe in the authenticity and integrity of both faiths (i.e. Jewish and christian), as they worship God in their own way.”

    Sorry, Boteach should be in cherem

  17. After watching the clip in #22 I feel it’s a mitzvah for everyone to watch it and reveal the extent of someone in such a crazy state. Obviously the truth comes out, when under stress. What a huge apikorus always in the media, at the forefront of his organization, blatantly denying Hashem’s sovereignty. Tizku L’mitzvos #22

  18. Some people here are unbelievable. If you read his response how then can you say there’s nothing wrong with it? He basicaly saying very clearly that J- himself was a great Jew! an ?????? ???!! and only his followers messed up..

    and all you guys are ok with that???!!!



    “Rabbi Wolf should let up on his vicious attacks and incendiary rhetoric and read the book or at the very least call me to discuss the source materials. He should tell his inflamed masses that there is no place for hatemongering in Judaism. To bring an end to this madness, I am prepared to meet him in public debate on this subject at any reasonable time and place of his choosing — at his first convenience to end this madness. It is a serious offer and I await his response. Rather than fight this out in the pages of websites with attacks against me becoming more and more extreme, let’s have a scholarly and civilized discourse.”

  20. Based on the description on Amazon, the book is *claiming* that he was not any of the things that the Christian religion claimed for him; he instead was a religious Jew who did not claim divinity. The book, and more so the author, may not be apikorsim, *if* this is what the book is about, *and* it has no apikorsus. If this is the case, it is the biggest attack on their theology possible.

  21. The whole thing is puzzling. I skimmed the Huff Post link. It’s odd for a Jew to be telling someone of another religion how to best act according to his religious teachings.

    More disconcerting is that it’s presupposing a lot, a historical JC, who actually said all this. There’s a lot of gray area and I don’t know how Boteach can finesse it in his book.

    Leaving aside the whole machlokes, and as I’m not Lubavitch I don’t have to get to the bottom of this (though apparently people who are widely respected enough are taking a stand, which does seem to say something) well, I won’t say something’s not exactly glatt about all this but it’s got to be somewhat messy.

  22. The FIRST problem with the book IS THE TITLE!!!!
    That is what Rabbi Wolf is protesting. It makes NO DIFFERENCE what he writes inside. When a less learned Jew will see the title whether advertised or in a store, he will say “hmmm, according to Shmuley, J is OK. Maybe I should check it out….”
    So , YES the title will mislead and perhaps encourage something very bad. So we must protest BEFORE it is published that THIS IS APIKORSUS and it should be shunned and, unfortunately, so should Shmuely.

  23. Oy Vey! What’s gonna be with us Yidden? “HOW” can Mashiach come/ To whom/ Will we accept him or marginalize him! Vey is to us!

  24. Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf responds to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s response to Rabbi Wolf’s condemnation of Rabbi Boteach’s book:

    Rabbi Shmuley’s response to my criticism of his book says much about everything other than the quotes of his book published in the January 8th Haaretz article.

    Yet, he appears quite upset that I am relying on Haaretz and on the book’s title without reading the book. One may argue, must a Jew read the New Testament to reject Christianity? After all there are several other books of his with the title Kosher. Kosher means just that, it is Kosher and acceptable.

    For those who are not convinced that Shmueli wants to embrace J, here are some actual quotes of his book and you be the judge.

    “J was a man who worked to rekindle Jewish ritual observance of every aspect of the Torah and to counter the brutal Roman occupation of his people’s land. He never wavered in this mission even when he realized the consequences would be fatal.”

    “All Jews can embrace J as part of a grand tradition of heroic leaders who fought to free Israel from tyranny. Looked at from this angle, J was a great, world-changing patriot for Judaism.”

    “Once we strip his life story of its patina of paganism and the supernatural, Jews will see they need no longer reject the beautiful ethical teachings of J, which find their source in Hebrew scripture and the teachings of the rabbis among whom he counted himself.”

    “Fundamentally, Jews have the duty to ask themselves: Do we really profit by shunning a Jewish patriot who fought and died for our freedom? J certainly was one of the most famous Jews that ever lived. Should he be forever lost to his people?”

    “Once we see J outside the anti-Jewish textual additions of the Gospels’ redactors, Jews can finally re-embrace him as a fallen patriot and beloved son.”

    I can go on and on with Rabbi Shmuley’s embrace of J…. but do I have to bring the words of this new modern day Gospel to Jewish readers?

    I urge you dear readers to decide if Rabbi Shmuley’s embrace of his newly found true J… is part of Jewish tradition or is it the good old fashioned Christian attempt to proselytize Jews with new wrappings?

    Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf

  25. to all those who clain that rabbi wof never raid the book, he actually (he must have goten hold on some pre edition)did, as we see from a response of his. rather he wants to bring out that even the title is treif possul for any yid that has any shaichus to how tiden felt all the the years of our history.

  26. Dear Rabbi Shmuely wrote:

    With respect to you I’d like to ask you a few questions. But first let me say that I enjoy a lot of your books, articles, talks, etc. And as a Shliach they have been of great help. Thank you.

    1. You say that Rabbi wolf wrote a “vicious attack” against you. But what you wrote in response hardly seems to be any kinder. Moreover, I have found that you have been “viciously attacking” so many other with whom you disagree, e.g., Chief Rabbi J Sacks, Dr Laura and many others. Do they not deserve the same respect?

    2. You want us to read the book and not judge it by its cover. Fair enough. But Im sure if your young child asked you to rent a movie that clearly was unkosher in the jacket cover you wouldn’t even bother to open it and se any further. So no, this book I have not read (not sure if I will at some later stage). But from the newspapers you seem to have already made statements about J that are unkosher. You say he has “beautiful teachings”. Surely you have learned a great deal of Gemorrah and you know the story in Avoda Zara (16b-17a) about a Tana that was punished for only have agreed to a (seemingly harmless) teaching of J. How then can you explain this Gemorah? There are many others that we can discuss, but I think this passage explains my point.

    3. And this question is the crux of the matter. We all know about perceptions. We know how we can do the right thing and still be concerned about how others will view it. (E.g., Chullel Hashem, maares ayin, etc.) Perhaps someone wouldn’t read the book properly, or at all, or maybe just the cover, and then have a completely different idea than what you were hoping for.
    Certainly you know that the Rebbe would advise someone to consult with a Rav before making such a drastic move. I am wondering if you have?

    With much love

  27. To klal Yisroel. We are in times where our people are being threatened daily and we are still in exile. There are currently billions of people talking about the ‘House of David’, that have nothing to do with us. Shouldn’t we at least try and channel their energy towards honoring and protecting us, Malchus Yehudah! When the moshaich comes there will be billions of people already informed of the legend and prepared to accept his Malchus. Any Chacham would see today’s times and say, someone should utalize all this house of David talk an channel it towards supporting klal Yisroel! Praiseworthy is the man that makes an ‘Agudah Achas’. We should be zocheh

  28. Since when was he someone I’d trust to read? Any ‘rabbi’ who focuses his kiruv on__________________ and the like, is someone I’d be surprised to find anything ‘kosher’ in his writings. Am I wrong?
    #33, pray tell, what good are you talking about?

  29. To #22:

    Cunin said that in a sense of tzadik goizer v’hakadosh boruch hu mikayem. I bet you a billion Dollars that he doesn’t think the Rebbe is Hashem. You are immaturely taking an expression way out of context.

  30. Nothing to talk about. How is it possible to praise J- y”s? These are the words of the holy Rambam:

    “J- of Nazareth who aspired to be the Moshiach and was executed by the court was also spoken of in Daniel’s prophecies [Daniel 11:14], “The renegades among your people shall exalt themselves in an attempt to fulfill the vision, but they shall stumble.”

    “Can there be a greater stumbling block than [Christianity]? All the prophets spoke of Moshiach as the redeemer of Israel and their savior, who would gather their dispersed ones and strengthen their [observance of] the mitzvos. In contrast [the founder of Christianity] caused the Jews to be slain by the sword, their remnants to be scattered and humiliated, the Torah to be altered, and the majority of the world to err and serve a god other than the L-rd.”

  31. To 45 (Malchus): perhaps one might want to spend one’s resources instead republishing and distributing Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s book, The Real Messiah?
    Or perhaps not. I’m going to continue with live and let live. I don’t need to convince the gentile world of anything other than the fundamental goodness of Jews, as a result of listening to the devar Hashem.

  32. With all due respect to each of you

    Rabbi Wolf, you cannot have read the book, so you are condemning something based solely on its title. Sorry, that doesn’t make sense.

    Rabbi Boeteach, if I were you, I’d be thanking R. Wolf, controversy will increase sales of your book in the wider book buying public, and that is your goal. “Those people” are also who you are truely trying to reach. The more I read it I realise that was the point of your response.

    I haven’t decided if I will read the book or not, I’m sure my public library will have it.

  33. tzippi – 49 …. I am not suggesting that this book was the best way to channel that energy, kol hakavod to whomever brings Reb Aryeh Kaplans books to the world. Its great that you can sit and enjoy the Avodah, however, someone, somehow, will help create an ‘Aguda Achas’, when that happens we will say thank you, so if thats not for you, thats ok, but its not a klal that we shouldnt go out and try and get support for our people by channeling the billions of people talking about the house of David!

  34. In a just released letter and statement, Rabbi Emanuel Schochet from Toronto writes:
    It is not my intent, nor does it serve any purpose to engage in any polemic. It only
    enhances the sensationalism surrounding the book’s release. However in the 40 years
    I have spent combating missionaries across the globe, I have never read a book, let
    alone one authored by a purported frum Jew, that does more to enhance the
    Evangelical missionary message and agenda than the aforementioned book. The
    grossly distorted message of the hook violates basic premises of original and
    Authentic Jewish tradition, thus unavoidably must be rejected fur being heretical.
    It is my sincerest hope that the author recognizes the error of his ways and looks to
    make amends by retracting the book.

  35. Letter from Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet about ‘Kosher J’

    21 Teves 5772
    Sholom U’Brochoh,

    Regarding the recent controversy surrounding a book released by Shmuley Boteach titled ‘Kosher J’, I am writing this letter to express my authoritative view in response to those who have sought my opinion on the matter.

    While it is not normally my style to write letters of condemnation, having read the book, I feel it poses a tremendous risk to the Jewish community and therefore imperative to state my halachic opinion that it is forbidden for anyone to buy or read this book or give its author a platform in any shape or form to discuss this topic.

    It is not my intent, nor does it serve any purpose to engage in any polemic. It only enhances the sensationalism surrounding the book’s release. However, in the 40 years I have spent combating missionaries across the globe, I have never read a book, let alone one authored by a purported frum Jew, that does more to enhance the evangelical missionary message and agenda than the aforementioned book.

    The grossly distorted message of the book violates basic premises of original and authentic Jewish tradition, thus unavoidabty must be rejected for being heretical.

    It is my sincerest hope that the author recognizes the error of his ways and looks to make amends by retracting the book.

    Rabbi Dr. J. Immanuel Schochet