“When you are in distress and all these things have befallen you, at the end of days, you will return to the Lord your God, and hearken to His voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God, He will not abandon you nor destroy you, and He will not forget the covenant of your forefathers that He swore to them. For inquire now regarding the early days that preceded you, from the day that God created man on the earth, and from on end of the heaven to the other end of the heaven: Has there ever been anything like this great thing or has anything like it been heard? Has a people heard the voice of God speaking to them from the midst of the fire as you have, and survived? Or has any god ever miraculously come to take for himself a nation from the midst of a nation, with challenges, with signs, and with wonders, and with war, and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with greatly awesome deeds, such as everything that the Lord your God, did for you in Egypt before your eyes? You have been shown in order to know that the Lord, He is the God, there is none beside Him. From heaven He caused you to hear His voice in order to teach you, and on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.” (Deuteronomy 4:30-36).
The point of this passage is: That the fact that Israel is the only nation that claims to have heard God’s voice from the midst of the fire, and the fact that Israel is the only nation that claims to have experienced anything like the exodus from Egypt, is supposed to encourage the Jew at the end of time that God will not forget the covenant that He made with our forefathers.
Why? How do the unique claims of Judaism reassure us that God’s covenant with us still stands? What is the covenant that we share with God?
The thrust of the covenant that Israel shares with God is that we are called to be His nation and He declares Himself to be our God (Exodus 6:7, Deuteronomy 29:12, 1Chronicles 17:22). This means that God tied up His own identity with that of Israel. The covenant that Israel shares with God denotes that God will be called: “The God of Israel”, and that Israel will be called: “The people of God”. In other words; a covenant is like a marriage. No longer can we look at the two parties of the covenant as separate entities; the destiny of these two parties is bound up with one another and the very identity of these two parties is bound up with one another. The exodus and Sinai sealed the connection between God and Israel. From that point onward, Israel is God’s bride, and God is Israel’s husband and lover.
Israel’s intimacy with God that was displayed by the exodus and the familiarity with God that Israel gained through the Sinai revelation remains unmatched by any other national entity.
In these verses in Deuteronomy, God is reassuring Israel that no nation will ever match Israel’s claim of being married to God.
The perception of God that Israel acquired at the Sinai revelation is not a peripheral aspect of our covenant with God. Neither is this perception something that fades away with the passage of time. God points to this knowledge of God that we acquired at Sinai as the very heart of our relationship with Him, and God speaks to the last generation and points to this knowledge as a unique possession that sets us apart from every other national entity. This knowledge was not acquired through the handing over of a book, nor was it accomplished through the recital of words. God points to a fiery encounter, collectively experienced as the means through which He imparted this knowledge to us (Deuteronomy 4:35). God also tells us how it is that this knowledge will be preserved throughout the generations. Again, it is not through the recital of words or through the reading of a book; but through the channel of love and trust that exists between children and their parents (Deuteronomy 4:9, Psalm 78:5).
Sinai and exodus were fiery experiences that seared the perception of God into the minds and the hearts of the people who experienced it. They were commanded by God to keep this awareness and intimacy with God alive and to pass it on to their children. Each generation of Jews is enjoined by God to absorb the testimony of exodus and Sinai from their parents, to come to know and love the God of their ancestors and to stand together with their parents in a covenantal relationship with God (Deuteronomy 29:13). The power, the reality and the truth of God embodied in the testimony of exodus and Sinai is so weighty that the last generation of Jews can put their full trust in the God of Sinai on the basis of this testimony (Psalm 78:7). A trust in God that will encourage them to give their lives for Him (Psalm 44:17-23). A trust in God and a love for Him that will carry them through the darkest times (Isaiah 26:13, Micha 7:7,8). A trust and a yearning for God so that when God arises to judge the earth, the children of the exodus and Sinai will cry out with joy: “Behold! This is our God! The God that we hoped for! (Isaiah 25:9). And the connection between God and Israel that was forged at exodus and Sinai runs so deep and is so steadfast, that when God alone is exalted on that day (Isaiah 2:17), His bride, Israel, will be vindicated to the eyes of all the nations (Isaiah 49:23, 62:2. Micha 7:10, Psalm 98:2,3).
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Wonderful reflection. Agree with it totally. thanks for sharing.
Hi Brother Gilbert,
You wrote, “Agree with it totally.”
Some quotes from the article:
“In these verses in Deuteronomy, God is reassuring Israel that no nation will ever match Israel’s claim of being married to God.”
“The perception of God that Israel acquired at the Sinai revelation is not a peripheral aspect of our covenant with God…God points to this knowledge of God that we acquired at Sinai as the very heart of our relationship with Him, and…as a unique possession that sets us apart from every other national entity…God points to a fiery encounter, collectively experienced as the means through which He imparted this knowledge to us (Deuteronomy 4:35). God also tells us how it is that this knowledge will be preserved…not through the recital of words or through the reading of a book; but through the channel of love and trust that exists between children and their parents (Deuteronomy 4:9, Psalm 78:5).”
“Sinai and exodus were fiery experiences that seared the perception of God into the minds and the hearts of the people who experienced it. They were commanded by God to…pass it on to their children. Each generation of Jews is enjoined by God to absorb the testimony of exodus and Sinai from their parents, to come to know and love the God of their ancestors and to stand together with their parents in a covenantal relationship with God (Deuteronomy 29:13).”
“And the connection between God and Israel that was forged at exodus and Sinai runs so deep and is so steadfast, that when God alone is exalted on that day (Isaiah 2:17), His bride, Israel, will be vindicated to the eyes of all the nations (Isaiah 49:23, 62:2. Micha 7:10, Psalm 98:2,3).”
These are not pretty sentiments but words that confer upon all Jews, including you, a particular responsibility. If you “agree with it totally,” must you not then rejoin the covenant between God and Israel? I ask this with respect and with concern.
Peace and blessings,
Dear Dinah, Never left it. Please don’t confuse me with those who believe Sinai has been abolished or superceded-I do not nor do I encourage any Jew to forsake Sinai or the Torah and mitzvot that go with it. It is an eternal covenant made with the Jewish people and applies to them for all time.
If one reads Paul there is evidence he taught differently. I believe it is Galatians that essentially teaches the replacement of Israel. He also teaches Torah is old and should be discarded.
Galatians is often misinterpreted. Paul wrote that to Gentile Christians not Jewish ones.
Of course Galatians is addressing the Gentiles, But, Paul speaks of Israel also, and in so doing, misrepresents the truth of Torah.
Also, regarding errors. All one has to do is read Stephens speech and “count the mistakes”. How could a Jew commit so many errors, especially those that are explicit in Torah. So, what we have is a group of people so ignorant of Torah it is unbelievable, yet, these are the ones who defined a religion. And we are suppose to abandon Torah by their words. Even Jsus wasn’t immune to making mistakes. Out of all the many many shiurim I heard by Rabbis I have yet to hear even one of those Rabbis make such glaring errors. So who should I listen to, the Rabbis or the ignorant ones.
It would seem that many are rather narrow and always looking to see division and difference rather than those things that unite and unify. I find this understanding not reflective of the richness of Jewish thought or tradition but turns everything into an apologetic argument for one’s agenda. If that is one’s vision of God and Judaism and hold it sincerely then I leave them to it. I might add that many Catholics also do this with the richness of Catholicism which I also dislike as does Pope Francis. However many other people both Jews and Christians have a different vision which is more openminded and inclusive to others. You may think my worship of God is radically different from that taught to Moses on Sinai but I don’t. Nor do I believe that Israel is replaced or the Torah abolished by the New Covenant- in fact I believe it allows one to enter into the depths of Torah and mitzvot. By focusing on the beatitudes it restores and renews one on the true focus of the Torah given to Moses which is the priority of mercy and kindness which is also stressed by Yeshua in his parables and his discussions with others.
Brother, you attribute motives to me that I do not have. My quest is for the truth. So the question is, is what I have written true? If not, why not? Is what you have written true? If not, why not? The fate of our very souls hinges on these questions. It’s not about inclusion or exclusion. It’s about truth. Do you care about truth?
If you care about truth, then I have two questions:
1. How can it be right for you to accept Jesus and right for me to reject him?
2. You wrote that you totally agree with this article. I challenged you on that. Your belief was not taught at Sinai. You say that it was. How do you support this position (other than with a statement of faith, that is)?
(By the way, you can respect people, love them, and treat them with kindness and dignity and still reject their religious beliefs.)
You said “By the way, you can respect people, love them, and treat them with kindness and dignity and still reject their religious beliefs.” I agree.
For some unknown reason the Xtian has great difficulty in understanding the Jewish position. It really isn’t understood that Jews really don’t want to be involved in Xtainity. Sites such as this, as with many others, are most concerned with missionaries going after Jews. We hear from those Xtian that they are just “sharing their faith”. Has it occurred to anyone that we simply do Not want that sharing. Now, if a Xtian would come up to me and ask me about Jsus and I say “not interested” and they would say pardon me and stop there it would be sufficient. The problem is it seldom ends there. Invariably there is a “yes, but…”. I, for one, do not want to hear yes but. I simply do not want to hear any more. This situation is the most benign. The real issue is the onslaught of Xtian organizations doing everything possible Not to end the conversation. It has even reached the point of some organizations mimicking Judaism so as to confuse a Jew and resorting to nothing less than trickery. When this point has been reached then comes the emotional onslaught to fully snare the Jew.Many of us find this wholly unacceptable. Recently I have been hearing the term “collective salvation” as something that is “anti-Xtian”. Little do those Xtians realize that is precisely the Jewish narrative. We are essentially a “collective”, bound together by Torah. Every single Jew is bound to that collective. For this reason when a single Jew is lost to Xtianity it is a burden on the whole.
So, it’s not that we here are adverse to coexistence but the Jew is separate and unique. There IS a difference and it is codified in Torah and nothing any Jew does today cannot minimize that axiom. If being open minded means a distortion of Torah then sorry, but we simply cannot go down that road. We are obligated by Derech Hashem.
Well said, Sharbano!
Sharbano you might be surprised to know that I agree with much what you wrote especially about the collective vocation of the Jewish people and about using deception. Just as you are not interested in hearing about Jesus i am not interested in others trying to convince me with their apologetical tactics to not believe in Yeshua, Miriam and Yosef. I would rather others would just accept that some Jews do (like some think Rebbe Schneursohn, the Ari or Rebbe Nachman are the Messiah ben Joseph) and move on to more fruitful conversations about the unique vocation and election of Israel and the role of Torah and mitzvot in that calling and how we can reach all the lost Jews with a positive, joyful and life giving message about that which is faithful to the richness and beauty of Jewish tradition. I happily meet with the local orthodox Jewish community and study with the Rabbi when I can without us talking about those things we disagree on all the time. Of course they would be happier if I didn’t believe as I do and wasn’t a Catholic consecrated brother but I do and am and they get on with helping me to be the best Jew I can be while being as I am.
And Dina I respect your search for the truth and encourage you to continue following what you believe is the truth just as I will do and leave the rest to the wisdom and mercy of Hashem.
Brother, I am confused about why you are here. This website is not for people to come together, link arms, and sing “Kumbaya.” Its express purpose is to bring back our brothers and sisters who are considering Christianity or who, like you, have been lost to Christianity.
Why come here if you only want to talk but not to listen?
Dear Dina, I didn’t know that. I first came here because someone who contacted me gave me a link to a discussion he was having and I made a comment and I have been getting post from this site in my email so I have been reading them and replying. But while I am here I do think you have the wrong focus and strategy and you will reach and convince very few by attacking their beliefs in Jesus. If your desire is to return Jews to Torah and mitzvot then emphasising the beauty, freedom and joy of Torah observance will bear much more fruit. A version of Judaism that is closed in on itself and not open to encounter with others like a kind of ‘calvinistic’ Judaism is not attractive to most modern people. Nor is a ‘calvinistic’ Catholicism for that matter’. In a sense this has been my experience as a Catholic Jew to reach out to my fellow Jews in the Church who are assimilated or assimilating to Gentile observance and reconnect them to the beauty and joy Jewish Torah observance and mitzvot which enriches and deepens their spiritual journey which is part of both an individual and collective calling as an Israelite. You may indeed have some success with certain types of Messianic Jews who became Christians through mere emotionalism or bible-verse apologetics with your approach. I will try to ignore any further posts i receive in my email. By the way at the moment I am teaching at a Catholic school a “Religion and Society” class on the topic of Judaism and have invited some Hasidic Jews to come and speak to the class. A bit of na nach nachma nachman meuman joy will attract much more than dry intellectualist arguments.Anyway two Jews three opinions. cheers and may Hashem bless you.
Good luck, Brother, and may God Who is the Father of us all lead us in the light of His truth.
Peace and blessings,
To everyone else who is following this thread,
I am addressing you because, to my sorrow, Brother Gilbert is not interested in hearing what I have to say. I would like to point out something important. Brother Gilbert tells me that if we expose people to the beauty and warmth of Judaism (in other words, to its emotional and spiritual experience) we will get results. (I do in fact agree with this, but in a different context; however that is a discussion for another time.)
My point is that Brother Gilbert has indeed been exposed to all of this and yet he still chooses to remain in Christianity. Why is he avoiding listening to and participating in a reasoned debate?
I don’t know the answer, but I can guess that he knows that his faith will crumble under such scrutiny, so he takes the easy way out by painting us as exclusionist, as legalistic, as dry intellectuals. I doubt the good Brother realizes that these are classic anti-Semitic tropes, and so by his statements he encourages the very type of anti-Semitism he claims to be fighting from within the Church.
Almost every Christian, Jewish or Gentile, that I have encountered, has expressed similar contempt for me and for my positions for some or all of the same reasons that Brother Gilbert has given.
I pray that Brother Gilbert and tragically misguided Jews like him open their minds and their hearts to our words. I pray that they seek the truth with sincerity, and may God lead them right.
Brother, I’m not sure you understood the point of the article, then. The point is that we were taught knowledge of God at Sinai, and we are to worship Him forever only according to that understanding. Your worship of God is radically different from this understanding, since it was certainly not taught at Sinai. So I think that ultimately you don’t “totally agree” with this article. Does that make sense?
Brother Gilbert, here is a comment I left on the Daily Minyan blog, that addresses the unavoidable and in many ways very uncomfortable discussion about why many people can’t be more accomidating to a “you go your way I’ll go mine” perspective.
Concerned Reader PERMALINK
February 25, 2015 3:18 pm
“Yet, today, true Christians love Jews, and stand against anti-Semitism. :)”
Someone called Bography made this statement above on this daily minyan blog in regards to the crimes of historic Christendom against Jews. I said in response
The problem with the “true christian” epithet, is that every historic sect of christianity thinks that this epithet belongs exclusively to them, no offense meant. The Eastern Orthodox say it’s them, Catholics say it’s them, Lutherans say it’s them, baptists say it’s them, Mormons say it’s them, etc. Christians always say “the true christians love and do good and don’t hurt anyone,” but this inadvertently allows christians to explain away the heinous actions done in Christian history. True Christians have killed heretics in the name of Jesus, just as the false ones have. The epithet “true Christian” is meaningless, unless it means to you that a non baptized individual might be loved by G-d.
All Mainline Christian denominations all have major theological and ecclesiology cal differences precisely because they lack a uniform focus on ONLY Jesus’ torah reaching as the only relevant thing.
You have mentioned kabbalistic ideas that have given you an apparent link between Judaism and Catholicism, (scholars see many links between both religions, that’s very true,) but the issue for Judaism is deeper than a question of similar theology, or of the plausibility of Jesus’ miracles, or of the knowledge he spread, or even of his percoeved role as a messianic figure to millions of people.
For Judaism, the relevance of any messiah rests only in his proper adherence to the commandments of Moses to the best of his ability, (like any other Israelite) so, a true messiah doesn’t actually need anyone to have faith directly in him.
Consider Israel’s history for a moment as an example. There was a time when Israel was two kingdoms, with two kings as you know. Which King was the one rightly followed, rightly ordained, and more importantly, how would you correctly discern who G-d chose?
The true messiah was the ruler of Judah, and not ever for his own sake, but solely because of his obedience to Moses’ law, and his influence on others to do likewise. Pious remnants would even come from the northern kingdom, because they knew the law was more relevant, more important to them than their monarch and his mighty deeds. Idolatry is not chiefly a sin of worshiping the wrong G-d, but when people create unneeded differentiation that is not relevant in service of the only G-d. Think of how the Churches would be if different groups weren’t constantly going up to Orthodox, or catholics, and Jess, etc. and asking, “do you believe?” What if people focussed on the ethic and nit the person?
Dear Concerned reader, thanks for your thoughts. I do think it is dangerous when any one or any group starts to claim they have the “totality of truth” rather than the “fullness of truth” and thus justifies their persecution or exclusion of others (see Emmanuel Levinas). This is my last post here so I wish you all the best.
Dina, I think the issue the christians have is that (as I’ve said,) they are examining the relevant questions from the vantage point of spiritual experience, and other data primarily, and not considering Halacha. They see a distinction to the two, (because as non Jews, and a non Jewish movement, that’s their primary scope of knowledge,) jews do not, and that is a huge gulf.
For Jews mitzvot in and of themselves are the spiritual core of the faith. For Christians, the law is a tool connected to spiritual experience. As I’ve said, it’s not meant to be malicious, but they need help to see your perspective. As Abulafia once said, they have the imaginative faculty (spirituality) dictating the premises, rather than the practical commandments.
Con, I do not think it is malicious, but is nevertheless dangerous, as unwittingly so as it is.
I couldn’t agree more.
Just a thought about this accusation of exclusionism. Those who hold us in contempt because we are nation that dwells apart (Numbers 23:9) unwittingly join the Jew haters of history who sought to cast us as misanthropic. As the holiday of Purim approaches, it’s worth noting that Haman used this idea to justify his evil plan of genocide against the Jewish people:
“Then Haman said to the King Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from every other people’s and they do not observe the king’s laws; therefore it is not befitting the king to tolerate them” (Esther 3:8).
Those who I see as being closest to being “narrow-minded” are those who always speak of “unity”, but who are unwilling to allow those others their “richness” and their diverse & different ways. They do not truly respect the beliefs of others; they must carry out their “mission”, they are “commanded” to “evangelize”. The “unifiers” tend to want their ways to be the “one way” (reminiscent of a well known teaching about “the children of God” only being able to get to their own Father by going through -and also worshipping- one particular “son of God”). This “one way” is through this one particular narrow gate or else one is condemned to eternal torture. Thus, inclusion often means exclusion. Or else, they preach a bland, homogenized mixture, but one which has a much greater portion of their “new and improved” brand. They would not “give up” that which others say separates them. For instance, those who say that their worship is not radically different from that taught to Moses on Sinai, would not voluntarily give up all of their style of worship in order to worship as an Orthodox Jew believes Moses taught. There are few Christians who would only read Torah (not the NT) for the next year, in order to show a spirit of unity. There are even fewer who will intentionally refrain from saying the name Jesus or Yeshua even once for 30 days straight. Even if they believe Jesus is God, they will not replace all references to Jesus with the name, God. Even in a public prayer to the Father in “mixed company”, many find it unconscionable to not end their prayer “in the name of Jesus”.
I go to a church that believes that Israel was not “replaced”, nor do they believe that the Torah was abolished by the “New Covenant”. And I know, that by focusing on the “beatitudes” or most of the parables of the NT gospels, one does not “enter into the depths of Torah and mitzvot”. That Christian focus separates one from much of Torah; it adds non-Torah – even anti-Torah- and it subtracts quite a bit from the Torah & Tanach. If it didn’t add nor subtract anthing, what use would those NT teachings be? If A=B, you can either reject all of A or all of B and no one would tell there was any difference. But if you focus on Jesus, you focus on a man, on flesh & blood, And that is idolatry or at least too close to rejecting Torah and the God of the Hebrew Bible. That bible is so filled with examples of Israelites who focused on things other than Torah given at Sinai.
Focus on learning from Jews and don’t rely upon your own understanding. Learn, instead of preach. Maybe instead of the Shema -hear, O Israel- we can say “Hear O Church, the Lord is One, not 3 and not a man”.
Yedidiah you don’t have a synagogue near you?
Sorry for all tge typos, auto correct.