All the Nations

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

All the Nations

“For then I will change the nations [to speak] a pure language so that they will all proclaim in the Name of the Lord to worship Him with a united resolve.” (Zephaniah 3:9)

The prophets looked forward to a time when all the nations of the world serve the Creator of the universe shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel. This does not mean that the nations will convert to Judaism. The prophets made it clear that the various nations will maintain their own identity and they will be serving God as gentiles; not as Jews (as an example see Zachariah 14:16).

The picture that emerges from various historical texts is that during the Second Temple Era there were many gentiles who joined the Jewish people in their worship of God but did not join the covenant community through a complete conversion. The Ibn Ezra explains…

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Justice and Charity – excerpt from Christianity Unmasked

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

The Universal Principles of Justice and Charity

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3 – 7:27) is perhaps one of the most famous teachings of Christianity. In this Sermon, Jesus presents some basic and beautiful truths. The basic principles of morality, justice and kindness are articulated in this teaching clearly and concisely. But if you step back and look at the literary structure of the book of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount takes on a different character entirely.

The underlying theme of the book of Matthew (and Christianity as a whole) is the exaltation of Jesus and the emphasis of humanity’s “need” for Jesus. The author of the book of Matthew presents the Sermon on the Mount not so much as a teaching on how to live a moral life but as an argument for the superiority of Jesus. Immediately after the Sermon (Matthew7:28,29) the author tells us how…

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Pillars of Faith

Pillars of Faith

The Scripture uses various words to speak of the commandments of the Torah. One of the terms that is used to refer to the commandments is the word: “edut” = testimony. In a certain sense all of the commandments can be referred to as “edut” because they all testify to the basic truth that God is our Father and King and that we are His children and servants who received His Law through Moses. But certain specific commandments stand out in that they are witnesses to specific truths that serve as the bedrock of our faith.

The concept of an observance serving as a witness goes to the heart of the commandments. One of the underlying themes of the commandments is the sanctity that they infuse into our lives, and through us, into the world around us. Thinking of the concept that the commandment represents, or even speaking about the concept that the commandment represents does not have the same impact as the practical observance of the commandment. Take the Sabbath as an example. Thinking of the truth that God created the world in six days and rested on the Sabbath or speaking and studying about this concept can never touch the actual observance of the Sabbath.
If you think about it or talk about it, the concept may penetrate to your head and perhaps even to your heart, but you will not have lived it. Practical observance of the Sabbath makes this truth a living reality that becomes intertwined into the very fabric of your being.
The Three Festivals; Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks), and Sukkot (Tabernacles) testify to the three pillars of the Jewish faith. These are; the truth that God is Master of all (Pesach), the truth that Moses is His prophet (Shavuot) and the truth that we are His witnesses to carry the first two truths through the corridors of time (Sukkot). On Pesach we focus on the complete Mastery of nature that was displayed through the miracles of the exodus, on Shavuot we emphasize the Torah that we received through Moses and on Sukkot we relive God’s unique embrace that our nation experienced in the journey through the wilderness.

These truths were established in our midst by God Himself (Psalm 78:5). It was He who showed us that there is no power beside Him (Deuteronomy 4:35), it was He who demonstrated that Moses is for real (Exodus 19:9), and it was His embrace that set us apart from the nations of the world, confirming our appointment as His witnesses (Isaiah 43:12).
The ramification of these truths is that Israel’s testimony is true; the God who we serve is the true God and the Torah of Moses that we follow is God’s will. There are those who claim to believe in the exodus from Egypt, they claim to believe in the prophecy of Moses and they even claim to believe in Isaiah, who identifies Israel as God’s witness, yet they reject the obvious ramification of these truths and they claim that a god who Israel never
knew is a real god and they claim that it is they, and not Israel, who possess the
exclusive knowledge of God’s will.

These people, while claiming to believe in the foundational truths, never encountered these truths in the setting that God intended that they be learned. These people did not observe the festivals of God that are designed by God to teach these truths to the future generations. The truths of the exodus, Sinai and our journey in the wilderness are to them theoretical abstracts. Since they did not encounter these truths in the context that God designed to preserve these truths, they never lived these truths.

It is our responsibility as God’s witnesses to immerse ourselves into the observance of the festivals of our God in a way that that the spirit of each of these festivals penetrates into the very core of our beings. We can then hope to merit the day when the light of God will illuminate the universe – as it shines through us (Isaiah 60:3).

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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Yom Kippur 5773 – Isaiah 58

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Yom Kippur 5773 – Isaiah 58

Man has an amazing capacity for self-deception. People could sometimes define their efforts as reaching out to God when in fact they have done no such thing. They see their activities as the holiest and as the most high when they have not yet moved out of the mud.

God does not give up hope on the self-deceived; He talks to us through His prophets – and if He is talking – then we can be sure that He believes that we are capable of hearing.

Isaiah describes the confused question of the self-deceived. They challenge God: “Why do we fast but You have not seen, we afflict our souls and You don’t seem to know?” (Isaiah 58:3). These people are fasting and praying, seeking God and searching for righteousness, yet they have completely “missed the boat”.

Approaching God is all about recognizing God’s…

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Judgment Day

Judgment Day

Rosh Hashana, the first day of the seventh month, is known as “Yom HaDin” – “The Day of Judgment”. We have received that on this day God sits on the throne of judgment and judges all the inhabitants of the earth.

One would expect that the prayers of this day would emphasize a plea for mercy in this judgment. After all, so much depends on this judgment and what else can we rely on but upon God’s mercy? Yet, surprisingly, not only do the prayers of Rosh Hashana not emphasize a request for mercy, the concept of a plea for mercy is almost completely absent from the prayers that we pray on this day. Instead the emphasis is on our desire to see the kingdom of God established here on earth. Throughout the machzor (the traditional
prayer book) we find the entreaty for God to establish His kingdom on earth
repeated again and again.

There is no question that our desire to see God’s kingdom established is an important part of our relationship with God, but why is it emphasized on this day? And why do we not appeal to God’s mercy on this day?

In our search for an answer to these questions we will first ask another question; What is the nature of the judgment that takes place on Rosh Hashana and how does it differ from the judgment that takes place after death, or on the great Day of Judgment (Isaiah 66:16, Joel 4:2)?

Rabbi Chaim Freidlander explains that the judgment of Rosh Hashana differs from the judgment that takes place after death. The judgment that takes place after death would be compared to a final score-card, where God judges every deed, both good and bad (Ecclesiastes 12:14). It is a judgment of the past. The judgment of Rosh Hashana on the other hand is a judgment of the future. This judgment could be compared to a CEO reviewing the various departments of his company to see how they contribute to the overall performance of the company. God is judging each one of us and considering our place in His future plan for the world. The question that God asks about each of us is; what role could this particular individual play in My plan for the world?

What is God’s plan for the world? The Scriptures teach that God’s ultimate plan is that His kingdom be established here on earth openly and unequivocally (Deuteronomy 32:39, Zechariah 14:9). This is God’s plan and God is moving all of history towards this ultimate goal.

As God’s children, we identify with God’s plan. Our deepest yearning is that our Father’s purpose be accomplished as He desires.
The entire purpose of this judgment is for us. So that we should bring our lives into focus and realign ourselves with our true inner yearning, as Jews and as God’s children. Putting in requests for my own self as an individual would not be appropriate on a day where the focus of God is on His purpose. On the day of Rosh Hashana we are called upon to align ourselves with God’s judgment, with His purpose here on earth. On this day we renew our
commitment as God’s children to establishing God’s kingdom here on earth; this
is our true desire and we move our focus away from our own personal desires.

To the degree that we are capable of sincerely identifying with God’s plan, and removing the distractions of our personal wishes, to that same degree will we merit a favorable judgment.

As God’s children, we want Him to see in our hearts, to hear in our prayers and in the blast of our shofar; one thing and one thing only – the yearning and the longing for God’s kingdom to be established here on earth to the eyes of all flesh.

May it happen speedily in our days.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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The Good News

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Direct Relationship

You can enter into a deep, joyful and fulfilling relationship with the One Creator of heaven and earth without having anyone else involved in that relationship aside from the two of you: G-d and yourself.

Don’t let anyone tell you that your Creator is “unapproachable”. You don’t need anyone to stand between you and Him.

He is close to all who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18).
Forgiveness

You are NOT damned to hell forever and ever. The One who created you knows your weaknesses; He doesn’t expect you to be more than human.

When you do wrong, you don’t need a blood offering to get your Creator to forgive you.

G-d gave us His word that He will freely forgive all who turn to Him in sincere repentance (Isaiah 55:7).
No Purchase Necessary

You don’t need to “purchase” G-d’s favor. You don’t need to “pay” for…

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The People and the Book – excerpt from The Council of My Nation

The Role of the Nation
The role of the nation in relation to the Law is complex and multifaceted. It is the role of the nation to preserve the Law and her spirit for future generations. It is the role of the nation to recognize the judges, the people who embody the spirit of the Law. The nation with her leaders must apply the Law to daily life. By living the Law the nation renders the Law a living entity. As significant as all of these responsibilities are, the nation still plays a more foundational role. All of these imperatives are subsumed and included in the most basic responsibility of the nation.

The most important role the nation performs in relation to the Law is the preservation of her own identity. After God, the most important entity of scripture is the entity called the nation of Israel. This entity spans the generations and its continuous existence is as essential as the fundamental laws of nature (Jeremiah 31:35, 33:25). When scripture speaks of eternal reward it speaks of those “of your nation that are found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1), or those “written for life in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 4:3). Conversely when the scriptures threaten eternal punishment it speaks of being “cut off from the midst of the nation” (Numbers 15:30), or “in the council of My nation they shall not be present, and in the writ of the house of Israel they shall not be written” (Ezekiel 13:9). [In the book of Ezra it becomes apparent that the leaders of the nation possess the prerogative of determining that a given individual be separated from the body of the nation (Ezra 9:8).] In the mind of the Divine Author of scripture, and in the mind of scripture’s intended audience, the worst punishment for the Jew is the threat of being cut off from his nation.

Eternal Israel is God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:8). Of all creation God only desired the patriarchs (Deuteronomy 10:14,15), and the love He bears towards their children is eternal (Jeremiah 31:2). God’s residence on earth was with Israel (1Kings 8:13), is with Israel (Ezekiel 11:16) and will forever be with Israel (Ezekiel 37:28). The entire focus of scripture is God’s relationship with His covenant nation and the promise for the Messianic future is centered on Israel. The nation of Israel is God’s sanctuary (Leviticus 20:3), and is compared to the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:12). God declares Israel to be His witnesses (Isaiah 43:10, 44:8) and He entrusted them with preservation of His Law (Psalm 78:5). Each of these points standing alone testifies to the pivotal role Israel plays in God’s plan. Yet all of these points together still do not do justice in describing the centrality of Israel to the scriptural narrative.

We must realize that the activities of talking or writing are meaningless when they stand alone. The act of putting forth words only takes on meaning when there is a party on the receiving end to comprehend and absorb the words. The processes of speaking or writing are only complete when the listener or reader understands the message. A wise speaker or writer will focus on the end-result of his efforts – he will look to the comprehension of the recipient of his message. He will take into account the mind-set of his intended audience and their thought process and the effect these will have on the processing of his message, and his message will be crafted accordingly.

In the case of scripture we have the verdict of history. Many societies possessed the scriptures and the messages they comprehended were very different. Some societies who possessed the Jewish scriptures read them as a directive to despise the Jewish nation. Others read them as a directive to love the Jewish nation. Some communities see the deification of a human as the most important teaching of the scripture while others recognize that this act is prohibited in the plainest terms. Some see the scripture as an imperative to obey the Law of Moses, while others understand the scriptures as teaching that the Law of Moses is no longer relevant.

Each of these societies is reading scripture from within a different social context. The fact that some people consider the Christian scriptures to be just as authoritative as the Jewish scriptures will radically impact the way they read the Jewish scriptures. Any given society has its own definition of concepts such as God, holiness, covenant, and atonement, and these different definitions will necessarily shape that society’s understanding of scripture. Every community will undoubtedly read scripture on its own terms.

Once one realizes how radically the mind-set of the reader affects the understanding of the book, one can recognize why the most important question one can ask concerning the scriptures is – “who is the Divine author’s intended audience?” This may be a difficult question to ask, but it is not a difficult question to answer. Scripture is most explicit in telling us precisely who God’s intended audience is. Deuteronomy 33:4 tells us that the Torah is an inheritance for the congregation of Jacob. Psalm 147:19,20 teaches us that the scriptures are presented to Israel, to the exclusion of any other national entity. In Deuteronomy 30:1,2 Moses addresses the entity of Eternal Israel in the singular “you”. He speaks to the last generations with the same “you” that he addresses the people standing before him in the Plains of Moab. Identifying the entity of Eternal Israel is of supreme significance in the study of scripture, because it is to this entity, and to this entity alone that God is addressing His words.

We still have not fully presented the inseparability of Israel and scripture. Israel is not only the target audience of scripture – the end of scripture as it were. Israel is also the beginning of scripture. It would be wrong to read scripture as a book with a purpose of its own that happens to be calibrated for a particular target audience. The original purpose of scripture is Israel. Aside from the countless passages which read as a personal conversation between God and His son, even the Law itself is presented as a factor of God’s personal relationship with Israel (Leviticus 26:46). The Law is described as the terms of the covenant between God and Israel (Exodus 34:27). Israel’s observance of the Law is her declaration that God is her personal God. The fact that the Law is presented to Israel is God’s declaration that Israel is His personal nation (Deuteronomy 26:17,18). The relationship that God shares with His covenant nation precedes scripture, and scripture can only be read in the context of that relationship. The correlation of Israel and scripture is integral to the very essence of scripture. If not for Israel, scripture would not be here.

Scripture is a personal letter from God to Eternal Israel. One cannot read a personal letter addressed to someone else and apply it to himself. Neither can one claim an inheritance if their name is not mentioned in the will. Anyone aside from the intended recipient that reads the scriptures must first recognize that they are listening in to a deeply personal conversation before they can hope to understand scripture. Reading scripture without acknowledging the backdrop of Eternal Israel is an exercise in futility. An individual Jew reading scripture can only hear the intended message if he reads it as part of the eternal nation. He must read it together with the Jews that are alive today, and he must read it together with the Jews who walked before him. This does not mean that one must abandon his own individual understanding of scripture. After all, the nation is but a conglomeration of all of her individuals. But the individual’s understanding is only meaningful when there is a clear recognition that this is part of the national endeavor to understand God’s word.

So what is Eternal Israel? Who is Eternal Israel and how does she maintain her identity throughout the realms of time and space? Eternal Israel is the fusion of all of God’s nation – from the Exodus until the end of time. The consciousness of standing before God as one with all the Jews who stood fast in their loyalty to God since Sinai. The national consciousness which feels the impact of the exodus as it reverberates through the hearts of the Jews who walked before. The striving to observe God’s Law together with those who strove before us and will strive after us. The unified effort to understand God’s Law and to make it part of our very beings. Recognizing our duty as an eternal community before God and the endeavor to discharge that duty. To the degree that the individual Jew participates in the national consciousness, to that same degree has the Jew transcended his own individuality to become part of Eternal Israel.

When one reads God’s declaration “This nation I have formed for Myself” (Isaiah 43:21), one must recognize that “this nation” is an entity that includes living Jews of every generation. “The children of Israel shall guard the Sabbath” (Exodus 31:16) refers to an observance that continues to sanctify people that live in your own neighborhood. “The council of My nation” (Ezekiel 13:9) is a council that abides from the times of Moses until this very day. “You are My witnesses” (Isaiah 43:10,11) is God’s declaration, not only to Jews who lived long ago, but to Jews who are alive today. Those who read these words and understand them as a reference to a “new” Israel (i.e. the Christian Church) cannot hope to begin to comprehend scripture. The people who pay lip-service to the concept of the eternal chosen-ness of Israel, but eviscerate the concept of all meaning (i.e. – by believing that the Christian Church is the only witness that can be trusted) are not much nearer to the message of scripture. These can be compared to one who attempts to read a wedding invitation while denying the existence of the bride. Those who reject Israel’s unique standing as God’s firstborn son should not expect to appreciate the words of Israel’s Father.

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