Zvi Apr/May 2000
Here in Israel, many people believe that if they perform good deeds (mitzvot), heaven will be opened to them. They say that repentance and good deeds will shield them from retribution. So they are very busy trying to be righteous. How do they do this? They go to men and put phylacteries on their heads.
You can see these “righteous ones,” as they call themselves, doing these things in the marketplace. After they put phylacteries on the heads of men, they declare the men righteous and tell them that they have now repented.
One morning I was standing near a table in the marketplace, and they asked me, “Have you prayed this morning?” They were referring to the liturgical Shacharit morning prayer.
I said, “I pray every day. This is my first obligation before the Lord, to give Him thanks for this new day.”
They looked at me and answered, “You say you pray every day. How can this be? You do not look like one who prays even one time in a year.”
“Why do you say this?” I asked.
The man replied, “Where is your cap? How can you pray without a covering on your head?”
Now we were coming to the right conversation. I asked them if they read the book of Psalms. They said, “Yes.”
“This is very important for every Jew,” I said, “and for anyone who comes before the Lord. In Psalm 139:23, it is very clearly written, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart.’ It is not written ‘know my cap’! And in Psalm 40:8, it is written, ‘thy law is within my heart.’ Nowhere does it say to put a cap on your head; but in many places it is written, as in Jeremiah 4:14, ‘O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved.’
“You are so sure you are following God’s commands, but you are so deep in darkness. It was the will of the Lord that I come here today to tell you the truth. As it is written in Ezekiel 33:7, ‘I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel…warn them from me.’
“It is my duty to come to people like you and, as the Bible says, to warn you. Even if you put on your head not only one phylactery, but ten, they will help you as much as glasses help a blind horse. You do not come to God with all your heart, as it is written in the most important prayer of Deuteronomy 6:5: ‘And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.’”
Then they began to show me many small books that they considered important. But I showed them only one, the Bible. And there it is written to hear the Lord, your God, and “fear the LORD thy God, and serve him” (Dt. 6:13).
Then they said to me, “Our rabbi said that when we will meet a person like you, we should not speak to him.”
I told them that their rabbis fear the truth, and they do not give people the right answers. Although they see themselves as heroes, they are heroes only to the weak. “You have even boycotted a full chapter of the Bible,“ I said, “where it clearly speaks about our Savior, Yeshua Hamashiah.“
They said it is forbidden to remove even one letter from what is written in the Bible. I told them I would show them what their rabbis have omitted. I asked them, “You do not mind that I read this to you?”
“If this is really from the Bible and not from paganism,” they said, “you may read it.”
So I opened my Bible to chapter 53 of Isaiah and told them to read it for themselves. Then I said I would give them the correct explanation of the passage. So they began to read. Soon one of them said, “But we have never read this chapter before.” I asked them why not. They did not know what to say. So I said, “How many years have you served your rabbi?”
One of them said, “You know, many Christians are using this chapter.”
I told them that those who believe the Lord according to the Law never boycott what is written here. They believe with all their heart and soul. “You,” I told them, “read this important verse from Deuteronomy 6:4— Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echad—‘Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One’ (Masoretic Text), and you read with your lips only. But we, whom you call ‘those pagans,’ read with our hearts. We never run away from the truth, but receive it as it is written. The Lord is our God! The Lord is One!”
Then I looked around the marketplace and there were people standing behind me, listening. When I was through speaking, some even replied, “You are right! We have learned much here.” Even at the marketplace, the truth can come out.