Zvi Nov/Dec 2005
This time of year Christians think about the birth of the Messiah. We know what the Bible teaches, and we understand who He is. But in Israel there is great confusion about the Messiah. The ultra-Orthodox wait for Him to come as they go from house to house teaching what is not so.
I have lived in Israel almost 60 years, but my neighborhood has many new immigrants from Russia. Recently several men with long beards knocked on my door, thinking I was a new immigrant. Our home is always open. So I welcomed them. But I was not willing to believe their “news.”
“Do you believe in our messiah?” one asked me. “We are waiting for him. Do you believe he will come?”
“Yes,” I said. “I believe the Messiah will come back.”
They were surprised to hear my news that the Messiah was here and will return. “Are you even normal?” one asked me.
“Yes, I am,” I said. “You, on the other hand, do not know for whom you are waiting. I know for whom I wait.”
Of course, they then wanted to know what I meant. So one asked, “Where is it written, what you are telling us? In which book have you read about the Messiah?”
I was happy to hear these questions asked so soon in our conversation. Usually it takes much longer to arrive at the right subject. And here we were!
I quickly opened the Bible and went straight to Isaiah 53. When I started to read, they became quiet. Then I reached verses 5 and 6, which say,
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.
Here is what was most important for them to understand: “The Lᴏʀᴅ has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This time I asked them, “About whom is this written?”
They did not say a word. Then one asked, “About whom do you think it was written?”
This was my best opportunity to explain that they were following false teaching. “Be sure that it is not written about the rabbi from New York, whom you regard as a savior and messiah.” It saddens me to see so many ultra-Orthodox here in Israel praying to the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Brooklyn, New York, calling him king-messiah and addressing him as adoneynu (“our Lord”) and moshiaynu (“our messiah”).
“I believe what is written here, by the Holy Spirit of God. His Word is eternal. It stands firm in the heavens. The truth is written here. And this is what I believe.”
They were surprised when I spoke of the Holy Spirit because they know Christians speak of Him. So one asked, “You are not like those who believe in This Man [Jesus], are you?”
“How did you conclude that I believe in Jesus?”
“Because you speak like them [Christians]—about the Holy Spirit.”
So I asked them, “Do you believe in the Lord according to the Bible or according to fictitious stories and rabbinical traditions? Perhaps you can see how blind you are after so many years of study. You do not know in whom you believe. Who is your God, that you are so afraid of the truth? Do you realize whom you are against? You are against King David, because he spoke of the Holy Spirit.”
They were shocked. So I handed them the Bible and asked them to read Psalm 51:11–12, where it is written, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.”
“Read it again,” I told them. “Now tell me, where is this written? Did it come from a Christian book or from the Holy Bible?”
“But it is only written about the Holy Spirit one time,” one replied.
So I showed them more and told them, “Read this for yourselves.” I opened the Bible to Ezekiel 18:31 and 36:26–27.
“How did you find out all this?” one asked.
“Because I read the Bible, not commentaries, as you do. I do not believe in commentaries, only in what is written here. The Bible is what is holy for me. You see, you do not worship God according to His will. You are like those about whom it is written in Isaiah 1:2–3:
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lᴏʀᴅ has spoken: I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider.
They replied, “We have not read this.”
“That is why you are walking in such great darkness,” I said. “So open your eyes and your hearts, and, as the Lord said, He will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you. And He will do so not because I say so, but because it is written here, in the Word of God.”
They told me they learned more from me in a short time than they had learned in all their years of study. “We will be very happy if you can come to our Yeshiva,” one said.
“Be sure,” I replied. “If you want me to, I will be happy to come.”
Please pray that next year at this time, when we celebrate the birth of the true Messiah, they will celebrate as well because they will finally know for whom they are waiting.