Zvi Apr/May 1999
Here in Israel we are facing new elections, and there is great competition among the political parties. Every party and every politician wants to be the greatest, and there is no love or consideration among the candidates. Everyone wants to be the hero and sit on the great chair of the prime minister. In this election, it has even gone so far that the religious parties are invoking the name of God to try to win enough seats to be major players in a coalition government, which is the usual outcome of Israeli elections.
I recently saw a good-sized advertisement in the newspaper from one of the religious parties exclaiming, “Who is on the Lᴏʀᴅ’s side? Let him come unto me.” These words, found in Exodus 32:26, were spoken by Moses to the children of Israel after they had made the golden calf. And who placed this ad? An Ultra-Orthodox group whose members are always shouting, “Keep the Sabbath!” On this occasion, as on many occasions in the past, I went, newspaper in hand, to their headquarters and asked, “How can you use the name of God in vain?” This time they could not say, as such groups have said in the past, that they did not know what I was talking about because I held the newspaper up for all to see. I read to them the Ten Commandments, directly from the Bible. Then I asked again, “How can you use God’s name in vain, when it is clearly written in Exodus 20:7, ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lᴏʀᴅ thy God in vain; for the Lᴏʀᴅ will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.’” I did not address them on the street, but in their yeshiva (religious school), their veritable holy of holies, where they supposedly teach young men to be faithful to God and to obey Him.
One of the rabbis, who is also a teacher, looked at me suspiciously and asked, “From which planet did you fall to this earth? I can see just by your appearance that you are very far from God.” I replied, “None of us is far from God, for it is written in Proverbs 15:3, ‘The eyes of the Lᴏʀᴅ are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.’ Also, as it is written in 1 Samuel 16:7, ‘the Lᴏʀᴅ seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lᴏʀᴅ looketh on the heart.’”
I then asked the rabbi in front of his pupils, “Why do you, a teacher of religion, misuse the name of the Lord just for political gain?” He was not very happy with me and asked, “Why have you come here?” From that point on, all of his pupils became very interested in our conversation. I told the rabbi, “I am here because, as a believer in the living God, it is my obligation to go to people who are walking in darkness and warn them about their wicked ways.”
Then he asked, “Are you so straight in the eyes of God?” I replied, “I am not perfect before God, but I do my best to live as He wants me to live. And what about you? Are you straight before God?” At that all the pupils replied, “Of course we are!” Then I asked, “If you are all so perfect, why have you put this ad in the newspaper? You say, ‘Who is on the Lᴏʀᴅ’s side? Let him come unto me.’ Who are you, that people should blindly follow you?”
The rabbi said, “You are not the kind of person who should be speaking to these young students.” “Why?” I asked. “Because I am trying to show them the right way to follow the Lord, according to the Holy Bible, instead of instructing them to follow the many superstitions handed down through the generations?” Then some of the students asked whom I represented. I told them, “I have not believed or put my faith in a big stack of books written by mere men. Rather, I believe only in this small book that I hold in my hand, the Holy Bible, which was written by the Holy Spirit of God. The Lord said in Isaiah 49:3–6 that the people of Israel are to be His servants. If we obey Him and His Word, He has promised, ‘I will also give thee for a light to the nations, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.’ This is what I am doing. I represent the one true, living God. You are afraid to read the Bible, and yet you spend all of your time pouring over these many commentaries.”
The rabbi then asked, “Are you normal? Or is there something wrong with you? How can you say that we are afraid to read the Bible? How can you tell such a lie to our pupils?” At that, I turned to the class and asked,
“Have any of you ever read Isaiah 53? No one said a word. It was as quiet as a grave. Finally the rabbi said, “You must leave now. You are not the kind of person we want talking to these students. There is nothing more for you to say here.” He then turned to the pupils and asked, “Do you know whom he is speaking about? I have known all along. He speaks about that man, Jesus Christ. And he wants us to believe in him also. Ha! Ha! Ha!”
I told the rabbi, “I did not come here to compete or debate with you in front of your students. Rather, I want to show you what is written in the Bible. You are running away from the truth—you even laugh at it. But, as the old saying goes, he who laughs last laughs best. I pray that one day you will come to your senses, as King David did, and fall on your face before the Lord saying, ‘I am weak, O Lᴏʀᴅ, heal me’ (Ps. 6:2), ‘Teach me thy way, O Lᴏʀᴅ, and lead me’ (Ps. 27:11). You think you are so strong, but it is clearly written, ‘how long shall the wicked triumph?’ (Ps. 94:3).
I looked at the students, who were all listening intently. Meanwhile, the rabbi was desperately seeking a way to gain the victory, but he could not because his pupils had begun to ask me questions, and he could see that he had lost their attention. Finally he shouted, “Quiet!” But they would not stop. They wanted to know more about the Lord, and I was happy to tell them, happy that my time and efforts had not been for naught. I am sure that, for some time to come, they will be asking their rabbi about our long discussion at their yeshiva. It is as Jesus said, “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32).