Zvi Nov/Dec 1999/2000
Since the recent election here, the ultra-Orthodox have been devoting much energy going from house to house, talking about repentance and telling people that good deeds are a shield against retribution. They make a big noise, but all they really want to do is persuade more people to vote for them in the next election because they see an opportunity to make one of their own the next prime minister.
And where do they go? They go particularly to the areas where many new and impressionable immigrants live. Some of the ultra-Orthodox even speak Russian, the native language of 25 percent of our new immigrants. In Jerusalem, where I live, we see many ultra-Orthodox faces each day. They are coming like the locust. Usually I am the one who goes to their neighborhoods and synagogues to speak with them. As it is written in Luke 10:3: “Go your ways; behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.” But it is much better that they come to my home, where we can speak freely without being troubled by their people. So I waited for them to come, and I was not disappointed.
The first thing they asked when they arrived at my door was, “Do you speak Hebrew or another language?”
I answered them, “I will speak whatever language you like.”
Then they began to tell me, “Now is the time of repentance” and asked, “Do you know what repentance is? Repentance effects atonement for lesser transgressions.”
“Who sent you?” I asked them.
“Our rabbis sent us. Are they not good enough for you? Are you more holy than they are?” they asked me.
So I answered them that I do not go to people to tell them what the rabbis say or to strengthen my political party’s representation in parliament. I go to people with the Bible, which is the full truth and not propaganda. As it is written in Ezekiel 33:10–11:
Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel. Thus speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?
Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord Gᴏᴅ, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
The Bible, I told them, is clearly written in black and white, so everyone can understand it. It says, “Turn from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
“This is not some special saying fabricated by your rabbis,” I said. Then they began to look at me cautiously. Most Orthodox live by the motto “respect him and suspect him.” So they looked at me suspiciously and asked, “Are you a rabbi?”
I told them that I belong to those people who are not running after emptiness, but who believe in the Lord our God who said, “Turn from your evil ways.” With this message I go to people and show them what the Lord wants from us and how we can be clean before Him.
I read to them from Ezekiel 36:24–29, where it is written in part, “For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you” (vv. 24–25).
“We are already clean,” they said, “because we wash ourselves every day.”
I replied that the people in prisons are also clean because they wash; but this is written about our spirit, not our bodies. The Lord said He will save us from our filthiness, “And I will put my Spirit within you” (v. 27).
Then the eldest among them started to read the verses and said, “You know, we must think about this and read the commentaries to see what the real meaning is.”
“You play with the words and their meanings,” I told them.
Then they said, “Usually when we come, people listen so carefully. But you are so obstinate. Who are you?”
I said, “I am not from those blind people who believe every fictitious story. I believe in the Living God and not in the idols and false teachers that you believe in and worship without knowing the truth. As it is written in Psalm 94, ‘how long shall the wicked triumph? How long shall they utter and speak hard things, and all the workers of iniquity boast themselves?’” (vv. 3–4).
Then they became even more suspicious and asked, “Are you not from those who call themselves Messianic Jews? We have met others who always speak to us quoting the Bible, just as you do.”
“Call me what you like,” I said, “but I belong to those who worship the Lord according to the Bible, and I never dodge His words, as you are doing.” Here in Israel one must go very slowly. You cannot be quick to preach the gospel of Christ, especially with such stiff-necked people as these. But as we say, “where there is a will, there is a way.”
After a long discussion, I opened the “forbidden chapter”—the one that is not read in the synagogues, Isaiah 53—and they began to read. Then I asked them to comment on it. “Is this truth or, as you say, half truth? If you like,” I said, “I will give you a correct explanation of this chapter.”
“We will study it ourselves,” they said. I told them I would like them to come back.
“Why?” they asked. “We know who you are.”
I told them to read Isaiah 9:2, where it is written: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
“Read these words,” I told them. “Then you will know who you are.”