Zvi Aug/Sep 1991
We are approaching the two greatest holy days on the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashana (New Year) and Yom Kippur, which is the most solemn day of the year. It has a special meaning because on that day the Jewish people confess to God that they cannot keep the vows they have sworn to Him. For that reason it is called the Day of Atonement, because God provides atonement for them, since they cannot provide it for themselves. And who is our atonement, if not the Lord Jesus Christ? Through His shed blood He made us acceptable to God the Father and has become our atonement. But His atonement is only for those who accept Him as their Savior.
Unfortunately, that is not the case with my dear brethren according to the flesh. When you walk along the streets of Jerusalem in the days prior to Yom Kippur, you see multitudes of people buying chickens, and they sacrifice those poor birds for their sins. When I see this, it makes me shudder. These people are in a centuries-long rut. And, what’s more, they go from house to house encouraging one another to make a Kapporot (the sacrificing of a chicken) so that their sins will be forgiven during the coming year. As one who believes in Jesus, I cannot watch such a scene without telling these people the error of their ways. Of course, this often creates problems for me, but I feel obligated to go to them with the truth.
I told one man, “You speak to your neighbors with such assurance about things that are not true. You are blindly following tradition and have no concept of the real meaning of faith in God. These poor chickens cannot save you from your sins. That is just an old superstition. On the day that Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins, all other sacrifices became bankrupt.” He was shocked that I had spoken such sinful words! But I went on, “Do you really believe that by killing and eating a chicken and praying, ‘Our Father, our King, forgive the burden of our iniquities,’ God will forgive your sins? From which planet did you come? You know as well as I do that this is not true. You are doing it only because it is a tradition passed down through the generations from father to son, and they were no better than we are.
“You must not wait any longer. Now is the time to learn the truth, especially if you are a father and have the great responsibility of raising children to be faithful to God.” “Yes,” he responded, “I do have an awesome responsibility to my children, and so I take them to the synagogue each sabbath day and on every holiday. Do your children also go to the synagogue?” I replied, “Going to the synagogue will not bring you salvation or forgiveness of your sins if you go there only so people will see you. The hearts of my children are open before the Lord, and that is more important than all the synagogues in the world. They have not, received atonement by sacrificing chickens but through the one who came to be the perfect sacrifice for us all.” He asked, “And who is this one about whom you speak?”
His question opened the door for me, and I told him about Jesus—about who He is and what He did to save us. And what better source from which to show him the facts about Jesus than the Bible, especially Isaiah 53, verses 6 and 7, “the Lᴏʀᴅ hath laid on him the iniquity of us all … he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter.” I then asked, “For whom did He do all these things, if not for us? Do you think Jesus submitted to death by crucifixion because it was His habit or because He liked to suffer? And did anyone ever do such a thing before or after Jesus? These facts about Him are not written in the newspaper but in the Holy Scriptures, which we, as the people of the book, should know and share with others. We must not run away from the truth.”
This man could not tolerate my telling him that the Lord Jesus Christ is written of in the Jewish Scriptures, and he became very angry—he seemed as hot as fire! “How can you say such a thing?” he shouted. “That never was, and it can never be! You have taken the holy Scriptures and twisted them into a big lie. You are talking from the New Testament, which is not part of our Scriptures.”
I was not surprised by this attack. Such incidents are part of my daily life, and I do not worry. I remained very calm, and in time he regained his composure. Then I had the opportunity to give him living facts, and not from the books of commentary but from the Jewish Scriptures. I read Psalm 22:16, “For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet,” and followed with chapter after chapter, verse after verse, proving that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel, and our Savior. And I did not once turn to the New Testament.
This encounter took place in the ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. When you begin to speak with one person there, you may be sure that very soon there will be many others standing around listening to the conversation, as was the case in this instance. This is done so that there will be a crowd of people to band together and attack anyone they do not like. Long ago God told Moses that they are a stiff-necked people but that they must be told about the Lord. I thank Him for the opportunities He gives me to witness to them so that some now know about Him and will not be able to say that they never heard the truth when they stand before Him. Please pray with me that they will accept that truth and receive the Lord Jesus as their Savior and Messiah.