Comfort and Assurance

Comfort and Assurance

 

“I have said: my strength is lost and my hope from the Lord… “The Lord is my portion”, says my soul, therefore I will hope to Him.” (Lamentations 3:18:24)

 

There are times when all seems lost. Sometimes we wonder; what assurance do we have that we are on a path that ultimately leads to goodness and to light? How can we, the people of Israel, be comforted while we are still in exile from our land and our Temple lies in ruins?

 

The prophet took comfort in the fact that God is his portion, that was his hope and assurance. The comfort and the assurance of the Jewish people is the fact that their portion is God.

 

What does this mean? How is God our “portion” and our “lot”?

 

We tend to think of our faith and belief in God as something that is coming from us towards God. As if, so to speak, we are “doing God a favor” by believing in Him. But the facts are quite the opposite. God went out of His way to bestow upon us the great gift of
faith in Him. He performed all the great miracles of the exodus, He spoke to us
from heaven so that the truth of His reality be seared into the core of our
beings (Deuteronomy 4:35). He sanctified us with His commandments, so that we may remain a unique nation to Him (Leviticus 20:26, Deuteronomy 26:18). It is God who put His faith into our hearts through the miracles of the Exodus and the revelation at Sinai. It is God who preserves this faith in our midst by protecting us both physically and spiritually.

 

When Jeremiah sees the confusion that covers the nations, he exclaims: “This is not the portion of Jacob!” (Jeremiah 10:16). The fact that God grants us the clarity and the truth
to know that all of creation is subject to Him and to Him alone, is the greatest comfort and reassurance. All of the suffering that we endured in this exile are worthwhile if that is the price of being the witness to God’s truth. The faith that God poured into our hearts gave us the strength to look the holocaust in the eye and thank God that we are His people.

 

As King David put it: “Even if I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil because You are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

 

That, is our comfort and our assurance.

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Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal

 

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19 Responses to Comfort and Assurance

  1. Yedidiah says:

    As usual, I am typing this in on a phone and it is hard to spell check, edit, and organize my writing as I would like to. I sometimes copy and paste a sentence incompletely and sometimes I leave out a close parentheses. But, most words I chose carefully, to avoid being misunderstood, but that still I am misunderstood not matter how clear I make my point.
    ———
    eric,
    when you use such extreme, inflammatory words as “outraged”, it is more likely that those feelings are your own, so I apologize if my points have upset you to that degree. Or, it could be that you are a very careless reader, so it may help you if you remain calm and read as if you were not being personally attacked, which you are not, at least not by me. Most people who know me, would say that I am the person who would be one of those least likely to be upset by others and one of the people they know that would be least likely to upset others, even unintentionally. I try to write like I drive, defensively. I try to anticipate how others might act or react and I try to address their possible objections before they can respond to me.

    There is absolutely no reason for me to be outraged. I am not being attacked in front of an audience of 100’s and I am not verbally debating someone in front of 100’s in a situation were I have only seconds to respond. When writing, if I were somehow to be “outraged”, I can step away for a minute or 2 before I respond. Plus, I am not a Jew that I might feel insulted by the many hurtful words that many (or should I say most?) Christians might use in discussing their beliefs (although most sincerely do not intend to hurt another’s feelings). Most of my bible studies was as a Christian hearing what Christians taught or reading what Christian scholars wrote. I think someone posted a list of a number of Christians scholars a few days ago who would disagree with the interpretation of many other Christians who somehow need Isaiah 53. So “they” or “we” might agree with Jewish scholars or ordinary Jews like several who posted comments above.

    I once tried to learn all I could about Jesus and I used to try to “prove Jesus”, but “truth” is hard to find if you are biased and closed minded. To be a good student or a scholar, you need to have a “healthy skepticism”. But, I soon learned why my fellow Christians thought that there was much danger in that. I learned why one should avoid the “OT” or writings by Jews. The more you hear what Jews believe, the harder it is to maintain what Christians believe (no matter what set of beliefs that you call Christian). Many years back a well known pastor of a “mega-church” not too far from where I live, told a small group of Jews that if Jews had a good Jewish education, there would be little concern that they would convert to Christianity. I don’t quite agree with that, because from my observation, a Jew who is “not very religious” is not likely to become a “very religious” Christian (less so than secular-type non-Jews might become radical Christians.) I looked around at a messianic “Jewish” congregation and seen the several different types of “believers” (many of whom were non-Jews who were strong followers of “Yeshua” and almost “despised” calling Jesus by the name, Jesus).

    Eric, (I dislike addressing individuals by name, since often the person takes a rational argument as some sort of personal attack, perhaps so they can dismiss the argument without good cause?), you might not be a very careful reader. I anticipated what one of your objections might be. I tried to point out that it seems you try to read “somebody else” into some particular places where the prophet clearly intended to speak about God or where God is speaking. You seem to put an individual servant or a messiah in places, without any real good reason. The author, first and foremost, was speaking to his intended audience for a good and clear reason. He was speaking about his world and the situation he & his people were in. He was giving himself and his people hope in their time. Not people or situations, 500 or 2500 years later; not to unknown persons in unknown times in unknown situations. Any other interpretation, whether it yours or whether it a common Christian one or a Jewish one is secondary. Isaiah must be read as Isaiah or his neighbor would have read “Isaiah”. Not as Matthew or Luke or the Essenes or Rabbi whoever might read and interpret it. Isaiah did not write a gospel of Jesus. But the NT writers knew about Isaiah and they occasionally used Isaiah and other “OT” writings; not wholesale, but selectively and in some cases, unintentionally or not, incorrectly. NT writers may have Jesus saying unabashedly & unapologetically, that he did some things “to fulfill prophecy”. They say he did things consciously in order to tell “their story, their way”. No messiah needs a narrative story when historical facts tell a better, more believable story. No real messiah or prophet needs someone else’s story to prove and justify their story.

    In your last paragraph, in your last comment eric, you seem to insinuate that I am a “bible illiterate”. I know about Moses, Esther, and numerous other servants. You just haven’t a good case about interjecting your servant, where Isaiah put himself or “his servant” or his God. I was anticipating that you might be a careless reader, so I ended my comment that you replied to, by writing, “God can act through an angel or angels, or through a servant or servants, or alone (whether invisible in the background” or “on the front lines”).

    I believe God can act alone (whether invisible in the background” or “on the front lines”). Do you wish to deny that? God can act through an angel or angels, or through a servant or servants, or alone (whether invisible in the background” or “on the front lines”). But I doubt that God needs a man-god in imitation of the “neighboring pagan gods”.

  2. Sharon S says:

    Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

    I understand that the Jewish community observed a three week period to Tisha B’Av, commemorating the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the 2nd temple .  This is followed by  7 weeks of consolation . Hence, I understand your article is written within this context.

    How can a non Jew reading your article able to draw comfort and assurance in the God of Israel, especially when facing life’s difficulties? What should a non Jew do if his/her prayers to the God of Israel are not answered ?

    You wrote that God grant the Jewish people the gift of faith-whereas the nations are covered in confusion. The non Jew is not granted this gift. As such I conclude that the faith of the believing non Jew is coming from the non Jew towards the God of Israel.Is the non Jew who choose to pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ( the God of Israel) over the god of his/her ancestors engulfed in this confusion as well?

    What should a believing non Jew do when his/her prayers to the God of Israel is not answered, yet the non Jew sees that his/her parents, friends and community seem  more satisfied in their prayers to the god(s) of their ancestors as compared to the believing non Jew?

    I am sorry if the questions posed is out of the context of the article.

    Thank you

    • Sharon S The question is in sync with the point of the article. Anyone who finds themselves directing their hearts to the God of Israel is the recipient of a great blessing from God, if not together with their own nation, but as an individual and as one who stands with all who are blessed with this awareness and understanding.

      1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

      • Sharon S says:

        Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

        Good day.

        My apologies , I would like to believe your words of encouragement .However the reality on the ground is different. I don’t think anyone who finds themselves directing their hearts to the God of Israel actually stands with the Jewish people. The individual who choose this path stands in a ‘no man’s land’ between the Jewish people and the nations. This individual is not on par with the Jewish people as he/she choose not to join the Jewish people through conversion . This individual is not able to engage fully with his/her community either. I can say ,as an individual standing in this ‘no man’s land’ that this is an extremely lonely place.

        In addition, through Jewish tradition , I come to realize that the disparity between Israel and the nations extends to the nature of relationship between these groups and the God of Israel. In addition the God of Israel address humanity as collective units such as nations/peoples rather than as individuals. As such I am not sure if the article-which is addressed to a collective Jewish audience, is actually in sync with my questions.

        Perhaps the level of divine comfort and assurance available to the individual who choose to direct his/her heart to the God of Israel is at a different level as compared to those who are blessed with God’s gift of faith.

        My apologies ,I hope you can respond to my question with these facts in mind. Everyone needs some comfort and assurance that is available to them when things get tough.

        Shabbat Shalom

        • Sharon S The One who created you and who continues to sustain you is always available.

          1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Sharon S says:

            Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

            Good day.Thank you for your reply.

            I regularly come across articles / commentaries on the weekly Torah portion. Recently I came across a commentary on Parsha Va’etchanan . A Rabbi who was commenting on Deut 4:4 ,stated the following

            “Which brings us to “your God” And while God is God to everyone, He is, at the same time, directly available for an intimate relationship with the Jewish People, without any intermediaries. The other nations channel through an angel.”

            https://www.accidentaltalmudist.org/table-for-five/2021/07/21/you-gotta-serve-somebody-vaetchanan/

            My apologies, once again I would like to believe your statement – that The One who created me and who continues to sustain me is always available. However, it seems other Jews may not hold the same view. Which view should I follow? I am confused about this. Appreciate if you can clarify.

            Thank you

          • Sharon The Bible makes it clear that God hears the prayer of all flesh – Psalm 65:3

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Sharon S says:

            Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

            Thank you for your patience. My apologies, but I have to ask the following question:

            How can I hold by the message of  bible verse you quoted  , when the people who were entrusted with this message does not collectively hold by it either?

            I am sorry for dragging on this conversation. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. Also, my apologies if this comment offends.

          • Sharon S Whatever the understanding of those who you quoted – it would have to be understood in context of the straightforward message of the Bible

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Sharon S says:

            Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

            Good day.

            The teaching that God is directly available to the Jewish nation and available through an intermediary ( i.e an angel) to the nations is nothing new for me. I find a similar teaching by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in his work “Derech Hashem”. I have highlighted the teachings of Derech Hashem to you before. You explained at that time that these teachings are about the Jewish people being in a state of relationship with God that is at a higher level than the relationship that man  in general is able to have with God .

            I understand that the Jewish people have a higher and deeper relationship with God.Unfortunately , I am not able to understand or fit in  this particular teaching and your explanation in context of the straightforward message of the Bible. If the bible clearly states that God hears the prayer of all flesh  , then why the need for angels as intermediaries at all?

            Perhaps I am clueless on Jewish theology and mysticism. Appreciate if you can explain how this teaching is to be understood in light of Psalm 65:3. This is so that myself and anyone here following the conversation will still have faith in the message of the  Bible, even as we come across authoritative teachings that may contradict its message.

            Thank you

          • Sharon S Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato is referring to t he flow of blessing that comes from God to man – he quotes Amos 3:2 which speaks of Israel being more quickly punished for its sins. There are teachers that say that anyone outside the land of Israel is under the influence of angels (based on Deuteronomy 11:12) both Jew and Gentile – does this mean that I should not give my heart completely to God because the people in the land of Israel are more directly blessed from Him? David sets an example for both of us – Psalm 73:25 – he has no interest in the angels he gives his heart to God and to Him alone regardless of how the heavenly system of influence

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Sharon S says:

            Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

            Thank you for explaining the teaching on God being directly available or available through an intermediary as well as its biblical source. It seems that there are different interpretations to this teaching.

            I also understand from your comment that one should give one’s heart completely to God without any expectation of blessings/reward in return. Does this mean that the individual should give his/her heart completely to the God of Israel, even though this does not change the fact that this individual may continue to remain under the influence of angels? Does this mean that the individual should give his/her heart completely to the God of Israel, even though this may result in the individual standing in a spiritual/social “no man’s land” ?

            If yes, this is a tall order indeed.

            We can see from the Tanakh examples of individuals who chose to follow God from the nations-such as Abraham, Ruth, Rahab, etc. However these individuals were either ancestors of/ joined the Jewish people. God directly bless them and gave them comfort and assurance in their journey. However there were individuals who believed in the God of Israel but chose not to join the Jewish people. Their stories were not recorded in the Tanakh. We don’t know what become of them.

            Is this what God wants of us? I don’t think I can do that.

          • Sharon S The people that you mentioned (Abraham, Ruth, Rahab) did not know where their trust in God will lead them. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Sharon S says:

            Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

            Perhaps Abraham, Ruth , Rahab  were able to trust God with the unknown, because they knew that God is with them, even when they “walk in the valley of the shadow of death ” (Psalm 23:4)

            I used to love  Psalm 23 . It was one of my favourite psalms .Even as a nominal Catholic , reading/listening to this psalm and other psalms uplifts my spirit and faith in God . I believe firmly that God  is with me . That belief  was the only comfort and assurance I need to get through difficult times.

            I redirected my heart eventually to the true God of Israel.Unfortunately, I have come to believe  that the true God of Israel is aloof and far away from non Jews .As a result, I lost my love for Psalm 23 and psalms in general .More importantly, I lost that precious belief that could have been a comfort and assurance to me in these difficult times.

            I want to recover back the belief that I lost . Every human being yearn for the  assurance that God is with us, even when we are in the valley of the shadow of death. I want to change my perception about the true God of Israel, but it is not an easy task-especially when coming across teachings quoted above.

            Perhaps the Jewish community, blessed with the gift of faith ,can be more mindful to present this faith in a more inclusive way. This will really help non Jews who are redirecting their hearts to the God of Israel.

             

          • Sharon Agreed

            1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Sharon I would add – that although I agree that my community needs to be more sensitive – I would suggest that you see this insensitivity on the part of my community in the same light that Abraham viewed the obstacles that stood in his way on his path to God. 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

          • Sharon S says:

            Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,

            Thank you for your acknowledgement. My apologies- I don’t quite get your suggestion. Are you suggesting that I should  not allow an insensitive teaching/ remark to hinder my path to God?

            If yes, then I agree to your suggestion, with a request if I can check remarks/teachings that I may come across in the future  with you  like how I did on this discussion thread.

            Thank you

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