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).

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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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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An Open Letter to Dr. Brown

Dear Dr. Brown

I want to thank you for participating in the debate that we had about the Real Jewish Messiah. I feel that it was educational and enlightening. However, I was disappointed in the flippant disregard for truth that you displayed in your presentations. When I asked you how you feel about the truth level of your arguments you responded with: “I actually reviewed mine several times, which I rarely do, and felt very good about the content. I stand behind every word.” This being the case can you please answer the following questions:

1. Why did you put forth arguments that I have already addressed? How could you in good conscience tell the audience that I “ignored” your arguments when you know full well that I have addressed every one of them?

2. You crammed your first presentation with words as if our debate was a pancake eating contest. In your own book (Answering Jewish Objections) the ratio of question to answer is about 1 to 100 with a question consisting of one sentence and the answer taking up pages and pages. How then, for the sake of education do you expect me to answer your questions in the same amount of time that it takes you to ask them? And how in good conscience can you use the fact that it takes more time to articulate an answer than it takes to ask a question as an argument against my position?

3. In your first video you argued that the fact that Isaiah mentions Israel and Jacob fewer times in chapters 49 thru 53 than he does in chapters 40 thru 48 indicates that the focus of the prophet shifted from the nation to an individual. I demonstrated the emptiness of your argument by showing that the prophet actually mentions the nation in the later chapters (49-53) more times (proportionately) than he does in the earlier chapters (40-48). This being the case, according to your own Scriptural standard, the prophet is NOT shifting his focus away from the nation.

You used sleight of the hand/mouth in your third video to hide the fact that your argument was exposed as fallacious. If this is not deception, then what is?

4. You argued that the Messiah must function as a vicarious atonement on the basis of the fact that Scripture calls him a “priest.” Over 10 years ago I pointed out to you that Israel is also called a “priest.” This leads us to one of two conclusions, either Israel as a nation must also function as a vicarious atonement or the designation of priesthood does not necessarily carry the connotation of vicarious atonement. You have not responded to my argument. Instead you keep on repeating your own assertion without acknowledging that it has no foundation in reality. Again, this is not honest.

5. You accuse me of quoting Scripture out of context without substantiating your accusation. At the same time you quote the Scriptures out of context. You quote Isaiah as if he said: “the servant has done no violence,” despite the fact that the prophet is not saying that the servant never committed an act of violence. I pointed out that all the prophet is saying is that the servant is persecuted for no violence that he had done, i.e. he is innocent of the accusations that his persecutors are using to justify their persecution of him. You never refuted or responded to this argument, instead you continue to quote the prophet out of context. How do you justify this?

6. In objection 4.36 (of Answering Jewish Objections) you minimize the association between the Messiah and the Temple. You offer the belief that the Messiah will build a Third Temple as the third of three possibilities. Yet in this debate you declare that you believe that the Messiah will build a Temple just as I do. Did you change your position?

7. You make the claim that I agreed to your argument that Isaiah 53 cannot be talking about the nation as a whole. You give the audience to understand that I accepted your argument, going so far as to complain that I did not acknowledge to the audience that I accepted your argument.

But this is completely false. I never accepted any of your arguments. How do you justify your lying to the audience like this?

8. You build on this lie by telling the audience that the same reason which precludes the nation from being the servant of Isaiah 53 also precludes the righteous of Israel. But in your book and in your video presentation you gave two separate reasons, one reason to explain why you believe the nation is not the servant and another to explain why you believe it cannot refer to the righteous remnant. How do you justify this self-contradiction?

9. You accuse me of introducing a “new subject” into the debate, the adequacy of Israel’s trust. Yet you yourself tell the audience that your belief that Israel will be shamed for rejecting Jesus is part of your Messianic vision. And you describe acceptance of Jesus as “trust in the Messiah.” In your own words you are accusing Israel of a lack of “trust” in the Messiah. How do you justify your accusation that I introduced a new subject into the debate?

Furthermore, you accuse me of encouraging the audience to put their trust in the nation of Israel? When did I say such a thing?

10. I pointed out that your entire theology is built on your filling of various gaps in the Scriptural narrative. You dismissed this argument by asserting that your theology is built on systematic evidence. So please tell us where the Scriptures tell us to trust in the Messiah? Where is it stated that we need to believe in the servant to receive atonement? Where does it say that there is no other valid form of atonement outside of the sacrifice of your Messiah? Why did the prophet not tell us plainly that the servant of Isaiah 53 is the Messiah?

If you could answer these questions with chapter and verse then you could say that your theology is not built on gaps.

11. I provided several textual indicators that show us that the servant is Israel (nation and/or righteous remnant). You argued that the texts that tell us that Israel has sinned are textual indicators which tell us that Israel is not the servant.

Do you not know the difference between a textual indicator and a theological indicator? Don’t you realize that your argument is built on your understanding of the theology of the servant and is not related to the text? Your point is not textual, it is theological.

I look forward to your response.

Yisroel Blumenthal

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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It Was Very Good – by Concerned Reader

Gean, you seem to think (because of the Christian Bible’s interpretations) that G-d somehow requires perfection from humans, and that we have to be saved from sin. Here is the problem with that assesment.

G-d created absolutely everything that exists, and he said it was all very good.
Even the Satan was created by G-d himself. If you read the book of Job, you will notice clearly that Satan works for G-d. He is a servant of G-d who has the job of testing the righteous.

He is not an enemy of G-d who is at war with G-d. Nothing can be at war against G-d, the one who created all things.

G-d created the trees of knowledge and of life, he created the serpent that was in the garden, he created the angels, he gave Adam a commandment. He is the one who sets the standard by which everyone is judged.

Since G-d created everything, there is no need for him to come down and die to save us from something. There is nothing external to G-d to be saved from. Do you see the difference?
If you believe in being saved from “sin” in Jewish terms, its like you are saying “I am being saved from G-d.”

G-d told Cain that if he repents and does what is tight and pleasing to G-d, he will master his sin.”

Sin is missing the mark. Anyone who is born struggles with Sin, but G-d says we can master it.

You seem to believe that the Satan is a fallen angel Lucifer who rebelled against G-d with 1/3 of the angels, and that this rebellion caused Adam’s descendants to ultimately be sunken in sin, which is why you believe Jesus had to save us.

You need to be aware that those beliefs (which are essential to Christianity,) are extra biblical in nature. Christians did not get their notions of a fall, or of Satan as a fallen angel from the Torah, but from apocryphal texts that were extra and widely read by Jews during the second temple era.

Only the 5 books of Moses, the prophets, and writings can establish doctrine in Judaism.
If you read only those books as authoritative, you will not come away thinking that man is sunken in sin the way Christians do.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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