Zvi Mar/Apr 2009
Not long ago I met a group of ultra-Orthodox men in our neighborhood in Jerusalem. They have not caused any trouble lately. It has been quiet for two years. But now, as we say, the bear has awakened from his sleep. Some of the ultra-Orthodox want to show their rabbis how well they can argue with those who do not believe as they do. So they were looking for someone to challenge. And who did they find? Me!
As I walked down the street, the men were handing out flyers telling people that, if they served the rabbis well, they, too, would become holy and go to heaven. As I passed, they handed me one. The headline—in big letters—read, “Warning! Beware of those who sow poison! They are very dangerous!” The men looked at me intently as I read their leaflet. Then one asked, “What have you to say about what is written here?”
“It is a great pity,” I replied. “It is as King Solomon wrote: ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’” (Eccl. 1:2). Their faces showed their displeasure, and they wanted to know why I said such a thing. “Because I believe in Almighty God,” I said. “You worship your rabbis. You accept what they say over what God Himself says in His Holy Bible. I believe in one mighty God. You believe in your teachers.”
“We teach about the true faith!” one replied. They were surprised to see someone like me speak of faith. They dress in special clothes and keep their heads covered, thinking these outward things make them holy and closer to God. I do not do these things, so they do not consider me a person of faith.
“How can you speak against the faith?” one asked. “In which God do you believe?”
“How can you ask such a question?” I replied. “It is clearly written in Deuteronomy 6:4, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lᴏʀᴅ our God, the Lᴏʀᴅ is one!’ There is only one God. In which God have you believed? You follow your teachers and bow down before them.”
Now they began to “suspect” me, as they say here. “Are you not from those who speak about This Man?” one asked. By “This Man” they meant Jesus.
“I am not like you,” I said. “I do not read big stacks of fictional stories. You spend your life studying rabbinic commentaries. I read the Bible. In there, we learn about the one mighty God in whom I have believed. He is the strong and living God.”
We spoke for more than an hour. They were surprised that I told them they were not following the right path. “How can you say that we are not following God?” one asked. “You can see for yourself that we are very active for Him. How can you say that we worship other gods? We want to know in whom you have believed. Who is your God?”
“There is only one God,” I declared. “About Him it is clearly written in the Bible.” They asked which chapters spoke of God. I replied, “Every chapter! The Bible was written by the Holy Spirit of God.”
I told them that they have been taught wrong because they do not concentrate on learning God’s Word but on studying what the rabbis say. Rather than focusing on the Bible, they focus on rabbinic commentaries. And what is worse, they want to teach others to do the same. “You are like wolves in sheep’s clothing,” I said, “because you lead people into darkness rather than light.”
“How can you say such a thing?” one asked. “Are you not ashamed?Shame on you!”
“Okay,” I replied. “We will approach this another way. Please show me what you read—what you spend your time with.” So they showed me a mighty stack of books written by rabbis. Sadly, they believe that all the words the rabbis write are holy. “Is this not enough for you?” one asked.
I answered, “As it is written in Ecclesiastes 1:2: ‘Vanity!’”
Again they asked, “How can you say such things about our holy ones?”
“I believe according to the Bible,” I explained. Then I showed them Isaiah 53, where it is written,
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lᴏʀᴅ has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. For the transgressions of My people He was stricken….When You make His soul an offering for sin,…Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (vv. 5–6, 8, 10, 12).
“What?” they all asked. “We have never read this!”
“This is part of the Holy Bible,” I said. “All those many chapters in the Bible were written by the Holy Spirit, as was this chapter. But for you it has been forbidden to know the full truth about the Lord.”
“Show us,” one said. They read and read and looked at each other with such surprise. “We have learned much from you,” they said.
And so we finished our long and friendly conversation. They need our prayers. Through prayer we can see God’s mighty power. And through prayer, perhaps someday they will see it, too.