Apples of Gold Nov/Dec 2023

Many immigrants live in the neighborhoods around us. Most of them have come from Russia. When we celebrated the Feast of Hanukkah recently, a group of Russian Jews invited other Russian immigrants to their feast. They know I speak Russian, so I was on their guest list too.

I attended the feast in their synagogue. Many people who came spoke only Russian. The feast began with a praise song to the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson from New York. We all were expected to sing the song enthusiastically.

Everyone was standing except me. When one rabbi saw I was sitting, he became unhappy and started to shout at me. “Why will you not stand like everyone else here? Do you know where you are?”

“Yes, I know,” I answered in Hebrew. “We are in a place where people worship gods.”

Then all the rabbis started to shout; and one said, “Here we speak only Russian! You must leave this place!”

So, I started to speak Russian with them. “I am sure as rabbis you know Deuteronomy 6, where it is clearly written, ‘You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him. You shall not go after other gods’” (vv. 13–14).

People were listening closely to me now. The rabbis asked me who brought me here. I showed them my invitation.

“You cannot say such things,” one rabbi said. “This is against our law.”

Many of the people turned on their rabbis. One person challenged them, saying, “We are not in Russia under Stalin’s rule!”

Others became more hostile, and the rabbis feared the people would blacklist them. So, the rabbis asked me more questions.

‘I read the Bible,’ I said, ‘and I believe all that is written in it.’

“Whom are you representing?” one wanted to know.

“I read the Bible,” I said, “and I believe all that is written in it. So, I ask you: Is this against the Law?” The people were on my side, so the rabbis asked why I came.

“Because I believe what is written in the Bible,” I said. “The Lord said, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified’ [Isa. 49:3]. He also said, ‘I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth’” (v. 6).

But the rabbis did not know these verses because they spent their years reading commentaries, rather than the Holy Bible.

“Show us where this is written,” one of them demanded. “Soon you will say that it is also written about This Man [Jesus] in the Bible.”

Luke 12:11–12 says, “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” With this in mind, I showed them Isaiah 49.

Two rabbis started to holler at me. “Have you come to make us Christians in our own synagogue?” one yelled.

But the people sided with me. “If he says this is so, let him show us from the Bible,” someone said. I had been waiting a long time for this opportunity.

“Who has a Bible?” I asked. No one had one, not even the rabbis, who only had their commentary books. I had brought my small Hebrew Bible, so I showed it to the rabbis and said, “Please read from Isaiah 7:14.”

They were surprised by what they read. Then I took them to Isaiah 53. They had never read this chapter before.

When the rabbis finished reading, I said, “Ask these people about whom this was written.”

“Whom do you think this is written about?” someone asked.

“Read Micah 5:2, and you will come to understand who this is,” I replied.

“We are afraid,” one rabbi said.

“Rabbi, this is the Holy Bible,” one person said. “This is what we should be reading! If this makes you afraid, in whom have you believed?”

“Will you read more to us?” another asked me.

I gladly read to them because I knew about whom these passages were written.

The people agreed: These rabbis need to learn more! Pray God Himself teaches them.

From The Friends of Israel archives

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