Zvi Sep/Oct 2006
As we approach the great High Holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, I like to go to the ultra-Orthodox section of Jerusalem to speak to the people there.
As one who believes in the true Day of Atonement—when our God gave His only begotten Son to be the final atonement for our sins—I am obligated to go to my people, who live in such great spiritual darkness, and tell them the truth. They do not understand that the Lord saves us if we receive Him as our Savior.
So what does an ultra-Orthodox person do? He swings a chicken over his head while saying the words, You are my sacrifice, by whom my sins will be forgiven. The ultra-Orthodox men also perform this ritual for people who pass in the street and pay them for this service.
So I asked a gentleman who paid for such a chicken, “What do you think? Do you think that because of this poor chicken, you are now free from your sin?”
“Of course!” he said. “You saw what I did. And I paid money for it!”
So I opened my Bible and showed him the value of his money:
Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt (Gen. 37:28).
The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver (Ps. 119:72).
Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field. He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase (Eccl. 5:9–10).
“Why do you tell me this?” he asked. Since we were in the Old Quarter of the city, many people began to gather around us and listen with great attentiveness. They also began to ask questions.
“It is clearly written in the Bible that neither money nor a poor chicken can save you,” I said. “But there is a way you can be forgiven of your sins.”
Many people began to ask how they could be saved. So I told them about the one who is our atonement. “Only by Him can your sins be forgiven,” I said. “He was our atonement. And if we receive Him, we can be saved. He was the sacrifice for our sins. And all that you are doing—paying money to someone who gives you a chicken to swing over your head—does nothing for you.
“You have a great opportunity now to receive true forgiveness from God. And it will cost you nothing. You do not have to buy it.”
Again and again they wanted to know where all this was written. It was finally time to show them. So I opened my Bible and read Isaiah 53. They had never heard this portion because the rabbis forbid it to be read in the synagogue. I particularly wanted them to hear verses 5–6, where it is written,
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.
Every one of them wanted to read these words for himself. So I let each one read. “Have a good look,” I said. “This is the Bible. Is this not truth?”
After they had read, I asked, “What do you think about this?”
“We have never seen this before,” they all said. “No rabbi has ever spoken to us about it. So now you want us to give our opinions? We cannot do that. We must ask our rabbis.”
I replied, “If you would like to continue our conversation, I will show you what the Bible says about what you think you must do. Do you pray every morning?”
“You see how we are dressed,” one replied. They all wore hats and the long black clothes of the ultra-Orthodox. “We are religious people. We pray every morning and three times a day.”
“Then tell me what is written in Deuteronomy 6.” No one answered. Instead, someone asked me to tell them. So I did.
“The chapter contains the most important words that you pray in your loud, high voices: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lᴏʀᴅ our God, the Lᴏʀᴅ is one!’ [Dt. 6:4]. To whom are you going for forgiveness? Are you going to the Lord our God or to the rabbis, before whom you bow down and whose hands you kiss? And after you do these things, you believe your sins are forgiven. But you are wrong because you do not go to the living God but to men.”
“How do you know all this?” someone asked.
Because it is written,
Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; “For Yᴀʜ, the Lᴏʀᴅ, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.”…Praise the Lᴏʀᴅ, call upon His name; declare His deeds among the peoples, make mention that His name is exalted (Isa. 12:2, 4).
I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lᴏʀᴅ (Ps. 118:17).
I told them, “God does not tell us that we can be saved by chickens. He tells us to come to Him. You obey the laws of men who are blind and do not know the truth. I believe in the living God, not in chickens. Therefore, it is my obligation to come to you.”
And with all the people standing around me, I read Isaiah 9:2: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”
I was certain they would begin to attack me. But they were happy to hear these words and told me that they enjoyed our time together and gained wisdom from it.