Zvi Oct/Nov 1995
Often I go out among people in public places. You can usually tell a little something about them by looking at their faces, but only the people themselves know what is in their hearts and minds.
I recently visited a synagogue, where many men, all with beards and side curls, were studying the Talmud and other books of commentary. By Israeli standards, they looked religious—but were they really? Most of these men were young, and many were fairly open and engaged me in a long conversation about faith in God. They were very friendly to me, until I asked them, “Why do you come here day after day and spend your time on nothing but vanity?” Then they became suspicious, and one of them said, “I was a high-ranking officer in the army, but now I am happy to say that I have been here studying for three long years.” I asked, “After those three long years of study, what do you know? Do you feel good about what you are doing?” He replied, “I come here to purify my soul.” I then said, “Take a good look at yourself in the mirror, and then tell me how you feel. Tell me if you truly think you have purified your soul.”
He looked at me rather strangely and asked, “Have you ever served in the army?” “Yes,” I replied. He went on, “I was a fighter pilot, and it was hard, but now I am like a bird with no wings. And do you know why? It is because I have come here to repent. Most of the others here have the same background. They were officers and good fighters, but now they are weak before God.”
“You are all making a great mistake,” I told him. “Why?” he asked. “Because you are like helpless sheep who have gone astray, following false teachers. You are always looking to see who has the longest beard, because he is more righteous than the others. And the one with the longest curls—he too is more righteous.
“But you are all full of bitterness. You have no joy, no life, and, of course, no hope. If you continue to seek such ‘purity’ for yourselves, believe me, you will end up drowning in this cesspool of false teaching. Then it will be too late. Your pious outward appearance is like a costume children wear on Purim. Open your eyes and see how far you have fallen. You are so lost that you will never be purified if you stay here. Your only hope is to turn to God in the way He desires. Think about it.”
As I spoke with this pilot and some of the others, they seemed to be listening intently. Then the chief rabbi of the synagogue came into the room, and he too listened carefully—for a while. I could tell just by looking at him that he was also a member of this despair corps. Finally he spoke up and said, “I am the chief rabbi of this place. You can see the great success we have had. You too may feel free to come here often. Our door is always open.” I replied, “I know where my place is, and it is not here among those who are committing spiritual suicide. It is plain to see that there is no life here. Can you show me even one person here who is happy, who is looking forward to the future? No, you can’t! This place is like an open grave. The people are spending their lives in emptiness and vanity.”
The rabbi heard me out, and then he responded, “I have been listening to you for quite a while now, and I want to know from which books you have taken the stories you are telling these men.” I replied, “Everything I have said is taken from the Bible. It is written in Ezekiel 36:25–27, ‘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. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them.’”
The rabbi took the Bible from me and examined it.
It was then he realized that my Bible continued both the Old and New Testaments. He said, “This is not a surprise to me. As soon as I heard you speak, I knew that you were one of those who believe in that man [Jesus]—you are one of those people whom I do not like. But because you had the great courage to come here and tell us all that you believe, I must admit that I have respect for you. Now I challenge you to show me, from our Hebrew Scriptures only, where I have gone astray. Can you do that?”
I told him, “You are not alone in thinking that that man, as you call Him, is written about only in the New Testament, which you call a Christian book. That is why God has made the truth about Him so plain for us in Isaiah 53, a passage that is well known among Jews around the world, and you cannot deny it. You say that you are waiting for salvation to come through the Messiah, but you are looking to the wrong people, such as the rabbi from New York, whom you all thought was the Messiah. Where is he now? In a grave in New York!”
I was sure that after saying these things, I would not be able to stand on my feet, thinking that these men would become physical with me. Instead, I was surprised to find that after a long discussion, they were still very friendly to me. Even the rabbi said, “Because you have been so open and seem so sure of your beliefs, I would be happy to have you come back for a longer discussion. You are welcome anytime.” This was a real fulfillment of the Lord’s words in Luke 10:3, “behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.” These people need our prayers, and so do I as I plan to visit them again very soon. Thank you for standing with us as we take the message of salvation in the Messiah to His beloved brethren according to the flesh.