Zvi Jul/Aug 2007
Where had they gone? For many months I had not seen the ultra-Orthodox from the Chabad-Lubavitch movement who were trying so hard to convince people that their late leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson from New York, was the messiah. They always came with brochures and much literature.
I was wondering if they had left for good when I heard a knock on my door. Who, of all people, should be standing there but several ultra-Orthodox men. And who was with them? One of their well-known rabbis, a man who had argued with me and shouted at me concerning my faith while I was on a crowded bus with my wife a few years earlier. I will never forget how he treated me. He did not know upon whose door he had knocked and was greatly surprised when I answered.
“You see,” he said, trying to appear in control, “we have come to visit you.” With him were two young assistants whom he was instructing in how to witness to people concerning their belief that Rabbi Schneerson, who died in 1994, is the messiah.
So I asked them, “What news do you bring?”
“Important news,” said one of the young men. The rabbi remained silent, waiting to see how his pupils would do. They began to speak about their “messiah,” Rabbi Schneerson, whom many people in Israel no longer want to hear about. “Do you believe he is the true messiah?” one asked me.
“You have believed a lie,” I replied. “You do not know the truth about God, so you have fallen into deep sin and believe a great falsehood.”
Nervously, the men looked at their rabbi. “Did you hear what he said about our holy messiah?” they asked him. Then they asked me, “Why do you speak against such a holy one?”
“You are worshiping blindness,” I said. “And you will become spiritually blind, as your teacher has become.”
“How do you know that you follow after the truth?” one asked.
“Because I follow only the Bible,” I replied. “I believe only in Almighty God, as is written in the Bible. Is the Bible not holy enough for you that you spend so much time reading books rabbis have written instead of reading the Bible? I am certain that you go to the synagogue three times each day to pray, do you not?”
“Yes,” they replied. “This is an important obligation for us.”
“And do you pray from the depths of your heart or from prayer books that rabbis have written?”
“Of course, we pray from prayer books. Is this not good enough for you? How do you know how to pray without a prayer book?” one asked.
“I pray before the Lord, from my heart; and I am sure my prayer is received in heaven.” I showed them the important chapter of Deuteronomy 6, where it is written,
Hear, O Israel: The Lᴏʀᴅ our God, the Lᴏʀᴅ is one! You shall love the Lᴏʀᴅ your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart (Dt. 6:4–6).
They recite these verses many times each day. But in fact, they do not understand what they say because they read so quickly.
We had a nice conversation. I gave them each a piece of cake and a cup of coffee, and we sat and talked. This hospitality apparently surprised them greatly. One young man remarked, “We know you are against us. Yet you receive us warmly, as friends. How can this be?”
“I believe in Almighty God,” I said. “With Him there is no hatred, only love.”
Now the rabbi stirred, emerging from his calmness. “Do you know with whom you speak?” he asked his pupils. “Do you know in whom he has believed?”
When they said no, he declared, “This Man! He believes in This Man!” meaning Jesus.
Then the students wanted to know how I came to believe in Jesus. So I told them! It was a great opportunity for me to explain the true way of salvation. I opened my Bible and began reading to them all that is written about the Lord Jesus in the Old Testament, particularly Isaiah 53. They listened, reading along with me while glancing at the rabbi, waiting to see what he would do. But he did nothing. Then he said, “It would be better if we left.”
“Why?” they asked. “We are reading the Bible. Is it forbidden to read the Bible?” But they went, telling me, “We want to see you again.” Please pray they return and that we can have another long conversation about the Lord.