Apples of Gold Sep/Oct 2018

Recently in Israel, we celebrated the holiday of Simchat Torah, which means “Rejoicing of the Law.” God gave the Law to Moses to give to Israel.

It was a good thing that we received the Law, but it was not a good thing that we failed to obey it. In Leviticus 26:3–13, God gave us certain blessings that were contingent on our obedience. But Israel chose to disobey and look for a “better” law. In doing so, the people created another golden calf.

I had a conversation on Simchat Torah with people who were celebrating the holiday. Though they rejoiced, I wanted to weep. “Come and dance with us!” one yelled.

“You are dancing around the golden calf!” I replied. My comment made them angry, so they circled around me and looked as if they wanted to eat me alive.

“How can you say this?” one demanded.

“Tell me,” I asked, “do any of you keep the Law?”

“Of course! You see we are celebrating it right now,” one answered.

“You hold the Torah in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other,” I said.

“But vodka gives us joy,” one replied. And so began an interesting conversation. The Scriptures tell us to warn those who are far from the truth (cf. Ezek. 33:7–11).

You hold the Torah in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other.

“How can you be happy on this great day without even enjoying the aroma from this bottle?” one asked me.

I replied, “What will you say when this bottle that has such a great aroma brings you to kill your brother or commit other sins? Will you take responsibility or blame it on the vodka?”

“Would you rather we mourn on this great day of joy?” he responded.

So I read for them Isaiah 25:9: “And it will be said in that day: ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.’” I explained to them we can rejoice in Him without the bottle.

“Do you believe what is written in the book of Psalms?” I asked.

“Yes, that is the most important book in the Bible, and it encourages us the most in the faith,” one answered.

So I told him to read Psalm 105:3: “Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!” Then I told them about the story of Hannah—how she prayed fervently to the Lord for a son, and how she rejoiced when God answered her prayer (1 Sam. 1:8—2:10).

“She did not rejoice in a bottle of vodka, but in the Lord,” I told them. They began to look at me with much suspicion. Some even seemed as though they were afraid to speak with me.

“I have not come here to compete with you,” I told them. “I came here only to tell you the truth about the Law.”

“If you are so smart, we will call for our rabbi to come here,” one said.

“I have not come here to compete with you,” I told them. “I came here only to tell you the truth about the Law. You should not dance around the golden calf as our fathers did.”

“We came here to be happy and celebrate, and you have come to make us unhappy. Our rabbi is coming. We will see what he has to say,” one said.

When the rabbi came, we recognized each other. “What do you have to say now?” he asked me. “Are you talking about This Man [Jesus] again? The thought of that makes me very unhappy on this holiday,” he said.

“That is because you are so far away from keeping the Law,” I said. “You are following other gods. And what does the Lord say? ‘You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’” Then I read for them Isaiah 49:3–6.

Afterward, they began to talk to me like we were best friends. Our conversation brought great fruit. I pray they will come to know the One about whom I spoke.

The Friends of Israel Archives,
November 2003

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