I am writing to you from JFK airport in New York (10 days ago) as Rosh Hashanah comes to a close. I was supposed to fly to San Diego and give one message and get home to Israel before Rosh Hashanah, but then I was invited to Orlando to promote our new show on God.tv, “Out of Zion.” I really didn’t want to go, but Elana said, “If you go, you can fly through Richmond on the way back and spend Rosh Hashanah with the girls.”
And that is what I did. What a great day it was to be with my parents, my sister and my daughters. We went to the Orthodox Jewish synagogue with my parents. This was not the Conservative synagogue in which I grew up, but the far stricter, “Chabad” stream. And this synagogue has a special place in my heart. The rabbi’s father was the rabbi when I was a kid. After I came to faith in Yeshua, my parents asked me to meet with him, and we did, weekly. His goal was to convince me that Yeshua was not the Messiah and that I should simply become an Orthodox Jew.
Yankl Kranz (in the picture) was a dear, sweet man with good hopes for Richmond. He used to drive a huge ‘bookmobile’ trying to get Jewish kids to read Jewish books. It was a library on wheels. We really enjoyed each other. He died young and his son, Yossel, took over for him. Yossel and I have a bit in common. We are both American Jews, rabbis of sort, and we both married beautiful Israelis. He is a fantastic communicator and unlike in Orthodox Judaism in Israel, he doesn’t put guilt trips on the more secular Jews, but seeks to draw them in at whatever level they are willing to enter.
However, despite the similarities there is a great theological divide. Though his sermon was well written and quite humorous, his basic point, as we were beginning the High Holy days—days where our sin is highlighted and we seek forgiveness—was not “Repent”. But the opposite. “You are far more righteous than you think. Don’t say I don’t keep kosher, say, I keep kosher most of the time. Don’t say, I don’t keep the Sabbath, but say, I keep the Sabbath most of the day.” He does not see us as sinners.
He characterized Jeremiah as depressed, not understanding that he was broken over the sinful state of the Jewish people as he saw prophetically that they were about to be conquered by the Babylonians and their Temple destroyed (586 BCE).
“If only my head were a pool of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for all my people who have been slaughtered.” (Jeremiah 9:1)
Orthodox Judaism fails to understand that the Torah is not a set of rules to please God, but that our inability to keep the Torah revealed to us that we are sinners in need for forgiveness (Gal. 3, Rom. 7). While we should strive to keep the Ten Commandments, each time we read them we realize how far we fall short. Isaiah said that “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Is. 64:6) To be clear, the analogy is referring to a woman’s monthly cycle.
Both Daniel and Isaiah cried out, “We have sinned” but modern Judaism (really post 2nd Temple Judaism created by Yochanan Ben Zakkai [read this about that guy!!] after the 2nd Temple was destroyed) says, we can earn forgiveness through:
It is during this season however—the Ten Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—that we sing Avinu Malkenu, Our Father and King. The very second line is:
Avinu malkeinu chatanu l’faneycha
אבינו מלכנו חתנו לפניך
And no, it does not mean, “Our father in heaven, we tried really hard.” It means, “Our father in heaven, we have sinned before you.” This cry is the cry of the Hebrew prophets. And God answered by sending us a Moshia (Savior) who was qualified to take the punishment we deserve, as Isaiah said, “So the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53:6)
In the same way that a judge doesn’t reward a murderer for the people he didn’t kill or the thief for how much he didn’t steal, God will not turn a blind eye to our sin just because we do some good things. But Yeshua came, and according to Isaiah, He took our punishment.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Yeshua came to make us holy, not through our keeping most of the Sabbath, but through His death and resurrection. Here is a video I made related to this.
May this be the Yom Kippur season that the we see the words of Zechariah come to pass:
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
Please consider a special gift this Yom Kippur to help us reach Israelis with the message of the Messiah. Thank you!
I am really grateful for social media. When President Obama uttered these ridiculous and historically inaccurate words, I was able to quickly go to Facebook and challenge them. By morning the video had been seen over 2,600 times and shared over 100 times. Still, that is nowhere near the reach that the President has, but we do what we can.
I have studied the Israeli Palestinian conflict intensely since 1989 and the fact is that there is no such thing as Palestinian lands. Secondly, the only reason Israel controls the West Bank is because of the aggressive and belligerent actions of the surrounding nations. Had Jordan not attacked Israel during the Six-Day-War, we would never have taken the Old City of Jerusalem or the West Bank. And now that we have it as a buffer zone against our enemies why in the world would we give it back?
Watch the video.
I have heard several times, even from the US president, that we can’t be too hard on Radical Islam because Christians are guilty of the same thing. Indeed, there is a bloody history of so-called Christians carrying out the most heinous acts against, not only Jews, but Muslims as well.
One can argue whether or not the Crusades were justified, as Islamic forces were moving west. But no one can argue about the fact that the Crusaders were vicious in every way, committing rape and murder on their way to the Holy Land—wiping out entire Jewish communities—and then once there, committing every kind of atrocity one can imagine, all in the symbol of the cross.
Now, you may have noticed that I referred to the Crusaders as so-called Christians. But I don’t refer to ISIS fighters or Al Qaeda as so-called Muslims. And that is the main point here—this is where President Obama and others bypass the main difference.
You see, in nearly every religion—even Judaism—there is always a radical element that develops. The question is what did the religion teach in its original context. If anyone chooses to kill in the name of Jesus, using the symbol of the cross, he is doing exactly what Jesus taught us NOT to do. When an ISIS fighter rapes and kills in the name of Islam, he is doing exactly as Mohamed did. I know that is not politically correct, but it is true.
Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice, Mohamed took other’s lives to expand his power. Yeshua said if you look at a woman and lust, you are guilty of adultery, whereas Mohamed had sex slaves, married a six year old and consummated that marriage when she was nine. Yeshua told us to love our enemies and even serve them (Matt. 6) Beyond what they demand. Mohamed enslaved, raped and murdered his enemies.
No one could ever come away from reading the New Testament thinking that Jesus was teaching us to take over the world by force in his name. In fact, this is exactly what he didn’t do against the Romans, when many of his followers, even his disciples expected him to. However, no one could come away from reading the Koran and not think that a forceful worldwide takeover is the goal. Islam means surrender.
So, to be clear, the big difference between the Crusaders and radical Islamists is this: The Crusaders claimed Jesus, but did not do as he taught. Based on the fruit of their lives, they were not genuine born again believers. However, ISIS and Al Qaeda are doing exactly what is taught in the Koran and was practiced by Mohamed and by all accounts are good Muslims—meaning they are evil imperialists. It is the moderates, one could argue, that are backslidden.