Sincere Advice from Martin Luther

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Tomorrow is the 498th anniversary of Martin Luther hammering his Ninety-Five Thesis on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany kicking off not the reformation of the Catholic Church as he intended, but the Reformation that resulted in decades of war between Sunni and Shia—no, no, my mistake—between Protestants and Catholics.

As we approach the 500th anniversary there will no doubt be a grand and romanticized celebration of all things Martin Luther, and I thought I’d get a jump start on the process by sharing my favorite Martin Luther sermon with you.

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“What then shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:

“First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly—and I myself was unaware of it—will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.

“Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

“Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them . . . .

“Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor Jews captive with the saying of Moses (Deuteronomy 17:10 ff.) in which he commands them to obey their teachers on penalty of death, although Moses clearly adds: “what they teach you in accord with the Law of the Lord.” Those villains ignore that. They wantonly employ the poor people’s obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy. In the same way the pope also held us captive with the declaration in Matthew (16:18), “You are Peter,” etc, inducing us to believe all the lies and deceptions that issued from his devilish mind. He did not teach in accord with the Word of God, and therefore he forfeited the right to teach.

“Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let them stay at home . . . If you princes and nobles do not close the road legally to such exploiters, then some troop ought to ride against them, for they will learn from this pamphlet what the Jews are and how to handle them and that they ought not to be protected. You ought not, you cannot, protect them, unless in the eyes of God you want to share all their abomination.

“Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God’s blessing in a good and worthy cause.

“Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen 3:19). For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.”

Happy anniversary to all my Lutheran friends.

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2 Responses to Sincere Advice from Martin Luther

  1. David Costa October 30, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

    Rabbi Rami,
    The history of Christianity is littered with so much hateful anti-Jewish invective like this. Unfortunately, as a Catholic, the counter-Reformers were no less hateful. The horrible way in which Spain banished the Jews and then Portugal by coercion followed suit is only too well documented. All we can do now is totally disavow this kind of behavior and act in accord with what we say we believe: love your neighbor as yourself. May it be so.
    David Costa

  2. Agnes Dippner October 31, 2015 at 8:31 am #

    Rabbi Rami, what will your Lutheran friends say to this anniversary gift ? And what will those say who don’t know that Luther was a Catholic monk who hates the pope and married Katharina of Bora ?
    After I read your book “Accidantal Grace” even this text tastes for me like a special chocolate cake. It seems to me that even hatred is love. A part of me seems to love to eat this cake because a Psalm says something like this : Where God is even darkness is Light. Maybe the way you present this text is adding the light. Another part of me feels deep pain and guilt and asks for something unspeakable.
    Rabbi Rami, I followed your blog posts in every darkness you wrote about. I was looking to find the Love of God even in the darkest places.
    By the way the baby I was has been baptized in the Lutheran Church.

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