Zvi Jul/Aug 2006
I have lived in Israel 58 years now. And in Jerusalem, particularly in the ultra-Orthodox quarter, men do not speak with women or girls. Men must speak with men, and women with women, especially when it comes to faith. But times are changing.
Today Orthodox women stop other women on the street, particularly on Fridays, to give them candles for the Sabbath that begins that evening. They stress that Sabbath candles must be kosher, suitable and approved by the rabbis. And they teach other women how to use the candles to usher in the Sabbath.
Recently several women stopped my wife and me as we walked down the street. “Do you keep the Sabbath?” one asked.
I told her I keep most of what is written in the Bible, but I do not follow the rabbinical commentaries because I do not believe in them, as they do. They looked at me with surprise. “How can you say that what the important rabbis wrote is not kosher?” one woman asked.
“Tell me,” I began, “what is more important: to worship God according to those thousands of rabbinical traditions or to worship Him according to the Bible? If we follow the traditions of rabbis, each of whom has his own interpretation of things, we will be like the people of India who have thousands of different faiths.”
They did not know what to say. Finally one woman asked, “Do you come to synagogue every morning to pray the morning prayers?”
“I pray at home every morning before our Lord,” I replied. Again they were surprised.
“But how can you pray when there is no one to listen to you and no one to say amen?”
“I open my heart before our Lord,” I told her. “I am not interested in having people listen to me, as you are. I come and pray before my Lord. He hears my prayers. And this is enough for me.”
“We do not understand,” she said. So I explained: “When Hannah went to the house of prayer in Shiloh to beg God to give her a son, did she pray in a loud, high voice? Or did she pray from the depths of her heart?”
This time the women remained quiet. So I continued: “Of course, we know she prayed silently, from the depths of her soul [1 Sam. 1:13]. Yet what did the high priest tell her afterward? ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him’ [v. 17]. And so it was that later she gave birth to a son and named him Samuel, which means ‘God has heard.’
“So you see, if all you do is cry out in a loud voice so that all can hear, but you do not pray from the depths of your soul, your prayers are of no value. They will help you no more than glasses would help a blind horse.”
“You are becoming interesting to us,” said another woman. “Where did you learn all this?”
“Surely not from your rabbis,” I replied. “I have received all this by faith through reading the Bible and by praying from my heart before the living God—not by looking to see if people hear my prayers.”
Now they began to ask questions. They had never heard anyone say such things. “Tell me who you are,” they said. “You are one of those who believe in the New Testament, are you not?”
I told them, “My duty as an Israeli, whom the Lord has chosen, is to proclaim His truth.”
One woman then said, “Of course, what you are telling us is written in the New Testament.”
“You see how blind you are?” I replied. “You do not even know these important verses from the Bible. So how can you go to people and speak to them of faith?” They wanted to know where all this was written. This was their first question about the Bible. So quickly I showed them.
“Read!” I said. I opened my Bible to Isaiah 49:3: “And He said to me, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’” I had them read through verse 6, where it is written, “I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Since we live in Jerusalem, I also asked them to read 2:3, where it says, “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lᴏʀᴅ from Jerusalem.”
“This is what is written in God’s holy Word,” I said. “And I do my best to work for His glory and not to be a false teacher who leads people astray, as your teachers do. You are so confident that you are serving God. But think about what you are doing.”
Then one asked, “Did you serve in the army when you were young?” The ultra-Orthodox do not serve in the army.
“This is my land,” I said. “I fought in every war from 1948 through 1973. Now our sons serve. And we have 15 grandchildren, and they are beginning to serve. They do not hide behind long beards and black clothing, while refusing to serve in the army. The Lord commands us, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’” (Mt. 22:21).
We left on friendly terms and pray that God used us as His servants to help open their eyes to the truth.