by Israel Yaoz (Jew, Herzeliya-IL, born 1928 in Gelsenkirchen / Germany, surviver of concentration camp Bergen-Belsen, Tourist Guide in Israel)
Most of your comments you get from devout Christians, from reborn Christians or from reborn messianic Jews; I myself am an average Jew, a son of the tribe of Levi; Priests and Levites were always kept in high esteem by the Jewish community; so that for ages this “caste” was proud to keep alive the memory of their noble descend. Being a tourist – guide in Israel, I have the honor to accompany many Christian groups; I came to the conclusion, that Christianity and Judaism proclaim the same message. For 2000 years Christians and Jews alike – for whatever reason – accentuated the differences of their convictions, “proving” their point of view, but nobody underlined what we have in common , which is actually much more than what is dividing us. There were too often destructive forces which got the upper hand and spread the fire of hatred, which eventually culminated in the Holocaust. It needed this terrible tragedy to open minds and look for answers to the question: “How and why did it happen?”
In the twelfth century the famous Rabbi Jehude Halevi wrote: “Christianity and Islam are a preparation for the final messianic days, offspring of the tree, which they eventually must recognize as their roots, although for the moment, they ignore it.
In the thirteenth century the French Rabbi Menachem Me`iri declared: Those who respect the seven laws of Noach, i.e. no idolatry, not cursing the Holy Name, not stealing, no incest, not being cruel to animals, and those who have a juridical system, achieve the same eternal life as we Jews who are obliged to the 613 commands, which Moses transmitted to us.
An often discussed issue in Christian circles is whether, within the framework of a dialog with Jews, mission is allowed or even imperative; the word “dialog” implicates that an issue is discussed between two equal partners; as soon as mission is introduced, there are no equal partners; may be it is a discussion but not a dialog.
If we go back to the earliest stages of Christianity, we discover that Jesus and his teachings were welcomed by countless Jews; when we read the story of the feeding of the 5000, we learn that they came to listen to his words; not to be fed. Actually those thousands (not including women and children) did not yet know when they came in the early morning, that Jesus would feed them that very evening!
Who were they? Canaanites? Gentiles? Philistines? Romans? Greek? No, Jews, devout Jews, who went twice a day to their synagogues! Who were the crowds who were listening to the Sermon on the Mount? Was Pontius Pilate among them? No! Jews, and only Jews. Who were the crowds which welcomed Him, when entering the Holy City on His triumphal entry to Jerusalem? Who were the sick on the stretchers which were brought to him at Genesareth; and who were the people who brought them? Jews and only Jews! Who were the men who invited Him, urged Him to come to their synagogues in order to preach to their attendants? Who were the daughters of Jerusalem who bewailed Him on his way to Golgotha? Who cared for his burial? A devout Jew! Who were the apostles? Who were the first people who believed in his resurrection? (I am talking before the centurion Cornelius was baptized) What religion had his brothers and sisters?
How do these numbers compare with a handful of politicians and priests, who out of fear before the Romans, or in order to satisfy them, surrendered him to the mercy of a bloodthirsty and absolute ruler like Pontius Pilate?
Finally I wonder about whom Jesus was talking when He said: “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to Me!”
So let us turn now to the “least of his brothers”, and ask how “Christian” is Rabbinical Judaism?
I am referring to Judaism of the last 2000 years. Judaism of the last 2000 years is “Old Testament” plus Talmud; without the teachings of the Talmud, Judaism is an antiquated religion, which centers around sacrificing in the temple of Jerusalem hundreds of thousands animals a year; for the sake of serving God; 70 bulls were slaughtered on the feast of Tabernacles; but when the Talmud teaches us, that these bulls were offered by Israel, in order to achieve atonement for the 70 peoples of the world, (friend or foe, neighbor or unknown peoples) than a twist is given to this ritual, with a moral message, unheard of before. The Talmud discusses on many pages the passage: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”; a discussion participated by many sages, but not one of them suggests a literal execution of this law; according to the Talmud it is only a question of financial compensation. (“if that person would have been a slave, how much less he would be worth, how much for his medical treatment, how much for loss of working days, etc. , add this together, and insist for this sum”)
Probably also Jesus in the sermon of the Mount, citing this passage, understood its proper meaning in this way, and pleaded with his listeners, even not to insist on financial compensation, in order to prevent a never ending circle of quarrel…
The only ones who gave this text a twisted meaning, were those who wanted to defile the people of “the Old Testament”, and distance themselves from this people and their Old Testament, although it is part of their own Bible.
Passover is the celebration of commemorating the liberation of Israel from the bondage of slavery of Egypt; Easter is for Christianity the celebration of the liberation from the bondage of sin. When on the Seder-evening, the most festive evening-meal of the Jewish year, the father of the family is reciting the ten plagues which befell the Egyptians, each one of the family, even the smallest child will dip his little finger in the glass of wine, which stands before him, and spill a drop of wine; ten times a drop of wine is spilled, so as to express in a symbolic way, that one should not enjoy the suffering of someone, even if he is your biggest foe. (I can assure you that nobody in Israel is happy when Palestinians are killed in Gaza, or for that sake, at other frontlines.)
The Talmud tells, that the angels in heaven wanted to start singing a hymn to God for having caused the drowning of the wicked Egyptians in the Read Sea; but God scolded the angels, exclaiming: “My creations are dying, and you want to sing?” (The evil Egyptians…”my Creations!”) Such Midrashim, moral tales, are expressing the soul of a people, more even than tales of the Bible.
The Bible tells us that the Egyptians drowned until the last man; like in English, also in the Hebrew language it leaves open the question, whether also the last man drowned; the Talmud tells us, that the last man was Pharao; he survived, he became aware who is the true God, he repented and became a God-fearing man. The Jewish tradition puts in the mouth of Pharao the words: “Who is like You among the Gods” (Ex. 15 vers 11) This Midrash solves also a problem for a Jew: How could any Jew, be it Moses or Mirjam dare to consider that there are “Gods”!
No, it was the surviving Pharao who exclaimed these words.
All this was a long time ago; so let us get to more recent days; let us read a letter, which Pappa Joseph, a simple, old, Jewish woodcutter in Poland wrote to his children, a few days before he was murdered by the Nazis.
I must inform you that I decided with a heavy heart to explain my situation, i.e. the people of Isterich were deported yesterday morning. Today it is our turn to leave just like the people of Isterich, men, women and children. We are going not far from here to a village near Linsk. There our Shmuel Leb is working for the time being, and it is rumored that 3000 capable men will remain working, while the rest will be molten down. From the whole area of Sanik about 15000 souls are deported.
Now you will understand my situation and of all the Jews. It seems to me that since the destruction of Jerusalem there has been nothing similar. Therefore, my beloved children, as we see with our own eyes, it seems that I am writing to you a farewell letter, a farewell to you and a farewell to this world; because (old) people like me have nothing to expect. But in our Torah (Talmud) it says: “Even when a sharp sword is put on the nape of your neck, you may count on divine intervention.”
The Holy Name, may He be blessed, might still save us. He might save me and all of Israel. But you children might still pray to Him, in case this letter reaches you in time. As we see with our human eyes, all this is a divine decision, and if this is a heavenly verdict, each Jew should accept it with love, and be aware that he is a sacrifice on the altar for atonement of himself and of all Israel. If thus is the will of the Creator, nothing can be done. But you children do not think that I am completely desperate; as long as ones eyes are open, there is hope. The Creator of the universe might still save us. But you children, if the Holy Name, may He be blessed, will save you, – with His help – do not forget me, and remember that you have had a father in this world. And you Moshe should deliver a “Zettel” in my name to a Zaddik from the Riesener dynasty; and if Shlomoh will be in good health and stays alive, tell him all this, then he will know what to do.
I give you also the address of our Israel: I. Weiss, Tel Aviv, Ben Jehudastr.161, Palestine.
When you – with the help of God – will stay alive, you should immediately inform him. You should right away contact him, and he should go and pray a Jiskor for me at the Holy Places. The same to the Great Teacher – (may he live long) of Leipzig. And if the Great Teacher of Chernowitz (may he live long) still will be alive, remind him of me, by writing him a letter. And you children should keep to our faith and stay trusting Him. I hope by God, that you young children will be privileged to see also the good (side of life). I pray that you will not forget me and neither our Creator. And that you stay Jewish until the end.
Dear Feitsche, Now I get to understand your situation; but what can I do that you were born in such a sinning generation; you have not started to live from the day you were born until this day; But should God help and you will survive, you shall still enjoy the sunny side of life. May God only beware you from any kind of temptation.
Pray to God that you have not yet sinned, so He may protect you.
So my dear children, I don`t have time left to write you more; stay healthy and strong, and do not forget the Holy Name, may He be blessed, until the very last moment, and neither do forget Me. But should God help us and cause us to meet again, ..??? with God is all glory and light. You should not take your lives, because it is a gift from heaven. I only pray, my children, that He may protect you from any kind of temptation. If you stay alive, you may write to our beloved Samuel in Satlave, district Sanik. I presume that he will remain there working. Stay healthy and strong. I greet you with many kisses. This letter shall remind you forever, that once you have had a Pappa in this world. I wish you a happy New Year and a favorable inscription in the heavenly book of life.
Your Daddy, Joseph
Being a guide in Israel, because of the Intefada, there was no job for me in the years 2001 – 2005, so I traveled twice a week to Jerusalem and followed a biblical seminar. On Holocaust-Memorial-day, our teacher dedicated her lesson to this catastrophe, and read before us the above letter, written in Yiddish with Hebrew writing-letters;
It was the original letter, her grandfather Joseph, had written a few days before he was “liquidated”, along with so many other Jews. I asked her permission to copy the letter, and tried to translate it in proper English. What struck me, was, that every sentence of the Lords prayer was present in this letter in one or other way. This, although that man being a devout Jew, certainly has never heard of this prayer, let alone having read it.
“Our Father in heaven, may your name be hallowed, your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven, give us our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who are in debt to us, and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
I repeat, every word of this prayer is represented in the above letter, even the command of being lenient toward your foe: no word like enemy, no Germans, no Nazis, no revenge, no curse, no blood … just: “what can we do that we are living in such a sinful generation”, which leaves open the question, who is sinful: you? Me?
My granddaughter, when she was six years old, in the first class of public school: a grandfather was invited on Holocaust-day, to tell the kids about his sufferings during those persecutions; at the end he asked the kids whether they had any questions; of course nobody asked … my granddaughter put up her finger! “What is your question”? She said: “When I commit a little sin, I cannot sleep the whole night; how then could the Germans sleep”?
The letter and this question betray the same mentality … like this drop of wine on Passover night, like God scolding his angels … like the “reborn” Pharao…
I must stress again, this simple woodcutter in the forests of Poland was no Rabbi, nor a learned man, just a devout Jew, like there were hundreds of thousands, if not millions who went in the path of the Creator.
Another Midrash. (Yalkut Shim`oni – Emor 23)
Concerning the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Weeks the Bible commends us three times: “Be joyful at your feast” (Deut.16.14: Leviticus 23-40: Deut.16-11) but concerning Passover not once is mentioned: “You shall rejoice”! Why? Because so many Egyptians died. Moreover: during all the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles we pray the Psalms of Praise (Ps. 113-118:): But on Passover we pray it only on the first day and the night before. (see Matth. 26 vers30) Why? Because it is written: “When your enemy falls, do not gloat, and when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice”! (Proverbs 24 – verse 17) Remains the question:
How “Jewish” is the New Testament; How “Christian” is Judaism!!!