Zvi Sep/Oct 2009
Now we are approaching the most important holidays of the year: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Many people in Jerusalem where I live are going to the rabbis asking for help to have their sins forgiven. But how do they go?With chickens!
They believe in an old ceremony called kapparot, or kappores, where a chicken is swung over their heads while they pray, “This is my exchange. This is my substitute. This is my atonement. This chicken will die, but I will have a long life and peace.” Then the chicken is slaughtered.
We have neighbors who believe this way. One day one asked me, “Do you have a rooster for these great high holy days?”
“I do not need to buy a rooster to have my sins forgiven,” I said. “There is one in whom I have put my trust. And through Him, my sins are forgiven.”
They looked at me with great surprise. “Are you dreaming?” one asked. “What you say is not possible.”
“I believe what is written in the Holy Bible,” I replied.
“So show us in the Bible where it is written about this one who takes away sins. If we see you are right, we will do as you do. But if we see you are wrong, you will do as we do.”
“I am ready!” I said. But first I took my Bible, which I always carry, and showed it to them. “Have a good look,” I said. “Is this the Holy Bible?”
So they took my Bible and examined it page by page and agreed it was the true Bible. “So,” one asked, “what do you want to show us? In whom have you put your trust?”
They were anxious to know what I would say because they put their trust in their rabbis, not in God. They worship God the way they are told, based on the commandments of men rather than on the Bible. Although they are sincere, they are going down the wrong road, full of confidence that they are right and I am wrong.
So I looked at the one who was the most certain he was right––who was so full of confidence that by the death of a poor chicken he could be forgiven of all his sins––and I gave him my Bible.
“Where should I begin to read?” he asked.
“At the beginning of this chapter,” I said, opening my Bible to Isaiah 53.
When he came to verse 5, he became extremely serious. There 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 (vv. 5–6).
“About whom is this written?” he asked.
“How is it,” I replied, “that you, who are so religious and go so often to the synagogue and listen to the rabbis preach, have never read this passage and do not know about something that is so important to our faith?”
Everyone became silent and puzzled until one asked, “Who was this one who was pierced for our transgressions? How did you come to know the answer to this question? Who is he?”
First I told them that I came to know the truth because I do not trust in men but in God. They listened with great attention as I explained how I read the Bible only, not books written about the Bible.
“There is something true about what you say,” one replied. “We must think about this and what the rabbi says when he gives his sermon. We must ask him to tell us about this one on whom He has laid the iniquity of us all.”
While we were speaking, an ultra-Orthodox man who had been listening approached us. “Be very careful! This one with whom you speak will try to take you out of the true faith! He will try to make you believe in This Man. [The ultra-Orthodox will not utter the name Jesus]. You know of whom I speak,” he said.
They then turned to me, and one asked, “What do you say about this?Have you an answer for him?”
“Of course!” I said. “You go every day to the synagogue to pray. Every day you read Deuteronomy 6:4–5: ‘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.’ But you go before the world with a big stack of books written by men, rather than with the Bible written by the Holy Spirit of God.”
I was so sure this man would be against me. But to my surprise, he, too, began asking questions. We had a good conversation, and I told him to think about what he reads in the Holy Bible and not to depend on stories written by men.