Zvi Nov/Dec 2013
Editor’s Note: Please continue to pray for Zvi and Naomi Kalisher. Zvi’s health still does not allow him to write his column. So we are sharing with you a column he wrote before he became ill. The Kalishers greatly appreciate you upholding them before the throne of grace.
On Friday nights, when Shabbat begins, many people go into the Old City of Jerusalem to pray at the Kotel, the Western Wall. Some seem to spend most of their lives there because they believe God hears them better when they are close to where the Temple once stood.
Over the years I have spoken to hundreds of people at the Kotel. One day when I was there, I spoke to several Orthodox men, trying to tell them God hears them wherever they pray.
“Of course, you would think that! You are far from God,” one replied. “And you put a big responsibility on those of us who believe in God to pray for you, also.”
I let them speak for a long time. When they were finished, I asked, “May I say something?”
“What can you say to us?” one responded. “You do not even have payis [the long side curls ultra-Orthodox men wear]. So how can you speak about faith! And we are certain you do not even cover your head. What can you possibly say to us that would be of value?”
I told them, “The most important thing is to worship the Lord with your heart. God does not play hide-and-seek. He knows where we are. He knows if we are at home or at the Kotel. And He hears us. Our duty is to come before Him with a clean heart, hiding nothing. We must be fair and honest and do what He tells us, as the people of Israel, His Chosen People.”
“How would you know?” one asked. “These are not my words,” I replied. “I am only telling you what is written in the Holy Bible.”
This time they looked at me with great surprise. “You? You speak about what is written in the Bible and try to teach us?”
“Yes” I said. “Because you believe falsehoods and spend more time listening to men than to God. You revere your teachers and do not revere what is written in God’s Word. I am certain you know this prayer, which you pray every morning: ‘Shema Israel, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echad. 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’ [Dt. 6:4–5]. What you are doing here is against the will of the Lord. I come before the Lord without special clothing, without payis, but with a sincere and open heart, trying to do His will.”
They listened carefully. After a while, one said, “Show us where you have learned all these nice stories.” We finally had come to the point. I opened the Bible and showed them a verse they know well, Isaiah 49:3: “And He said to me, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’”
“We are to do God’s will,” I told them. “We are not to follow people. We are to follow God alone. As it is written in Deuteronomy 6, ‘You shall fear the Lᴏʀᴅ your God and serve Him. . . . You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you’” (vv. 13–14).
I told them, “The Lord has given us a big obligation before the world.” The men then took the Bible from my hands and began to read it. Surprised by what they saw, they wanted to know where I learned so much about the Holy Scriptures.
“I have learned by reading the Holy Scriptures,” I said. “You spend your lives learning from men who teach the stories of ancient rabbis. You study stories instead of God’s Word.”
Then they asked what synagogue I attend every morning to pray. I explained I go before the Lord wherever I am, with a sincere heart. “And He answers my prayers,” I said.
When they wanted to know more about me, I explained I am a Holocaust survivor. “And you speak of faith, after what you went through?” one asked. “How were you able to have faith?”
I told them that one day, an older lady gave me a Bible in Israel. “Read!” she demanded. I did not know anything about the Bible and did not know where to read. I opened the Scriptures and saw Psalm 27: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lᴏʀᴅ will take care of me” (v. 10).
“He has taken care of me all my life,” I said. “I try to be faithful to Him and do what He says, to proclaim His salvation to the ends of the earth.”
This time one replied, “You speak like those who have believed in This Man [Jesus].”
The conversation finally arrived where I had intended. “I believe in what is written in the Bible. This is good, is it not? It is important that you, too, believe what is written here and not put your faith in men.”
Please pray they will see their errors and trust God alone for their salvation.