Zvi Sep/Oct 2004
In the book of Isaiah it is written, “for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all peoples” (56:7).
But to my regret, this is not so. From time to time I visit the ultra-Orthodox at their synagogues, which they call “holy of holy.” But when I arrive there, even though I am Jewish, some look at me strangely. Recently one man asked, “Why do you come here? Do you not know that this is a holy place? And we can see plainly that you are not one of us. You are a goy [Gentile]! Do you not know that this synagogue is for us only?”
I replied, “You call this holy? Have a good look around you, so you will see where you are. This place is far from holy.”
The rabbi, too, had been looking at me. When he heard what I said, he asked, “Who are you? You come here from the outside and dare say such things, that this place is not holy! Why do you say this?”
I answered with a question, knowing what their answer would be. “Have you read today from Deuteronomy 6:13–16?”
“This is one of our most important prayers,” the rabbi said. “We pray this three times each day!”
“Well,” I asked, “what did you read? What is really written there?” Again they were surprised by my question. But I know that they read so quickly, like a machine gun, that they do not even know what they are reading. So I said, “I will read this for you myself.”
I reached for my Bible, the one I always bring with me, and read the passage for them: “Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him. . . . Ye shall not go after other gods” (Dt. 6:13–14).
“You do not obey this commandment,” I told them.
“How can you say such a thing?” one asked. “You are a stranger to us, and you want to teach us how to pray? And what is more, you come to us and expect us to be quiet?”
This time I read to them Isaiah 56:7. “It says here ‘mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all peoples,’ yet you make this a private house where only you yourselves are welcome.”
They were not happy with my words. The rabbi was even less happy. “Yes!” he shouted. “Yes! This is a house of prayer, but only for us. People like you have no right to come here! What more have you to say!”
So I continued from Isaiah 56: “The Lord GOD, who gathereth the outcasts of Israel, saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him. His watchmen are blind; they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea,…shepherds that cannot understand” (vv. 8, 10–11).
Then I said, “You call this a house of prayer. But you do not have even one Bible here, only books filled with rabbinical traditions of men. You call this a holy place?”
And so it began. They asked to see my Bible. When I showed it to them they became extremely angry because my Bible is complete. It has both the Old and New Testaments.
“You see this!” one shouted, showing it to the rabbi. “He calls this the Holy Bible!”
“Do you know about whom it is written here?” the rabbi asked me.
“Yes, I know.” “So, you believe in This Man!” “I believe in Jesus,” I said. “I have believed in Him because of what is written here, in the Bible.”
“How can you dare to come here with such a dirty book?” someone shouted at me. “How can you call this the Bible?”
Now we had arrived at the point I was waiting for. However, I was certain they would grab hold of me and throw me out. But they did nothing of the sort. They wanted to know what I had read that caused me to believe in “This Man.”
So I opened the Bible to Isaiah 53 and read the entire chapter.
“What you are afraid of,” I said, “is the truth.”
“Come,” one said to me. “Let us all sit and think about this. How did you come to this conclusion that this one, whose name we are even forbidden to pronounce, is the one written about here?”
We had a nice talk. I explained that they must examine the Bible itself, not the many commentaries written by rabbis. And they must believe the Bible because it is God’s Word.
“Who gives you the right to boycott chapter 53 of Isaiah? God’s Word is eternal. As it is written, ‘Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven’” (Ps. 119:89).
“So, where have you placed your faith?” I asked. That was enough for that day. These pupils were so interested in hearing the truth. They listened carefully, even though their rabbi was not pleased. Now it is up to the Holy Spirit to change their hearts.