Saturday, August 30, 2008

The King is in the Field!

The shofar blast after prayers tomorrow will herald the opening of the heavenly gates of mercy. The sharp call of the shofar arouses us to put away whatever things have been distracting us from HaShem and to return to Him. We are awakened to rise from our spiritual slumber. We begin the 40 day period of soul-searching and self-improvement which culminates in Yom Kippur. During these yamim noraim we must take an honest look at our conduct in the past year, examine our failings and seek to raise ourselves up.

During the yamim hanoraim, the King is in the field. During the rest of the year, the King sits in His palace and only His servants, ministers and courtiers have access to the inner sanctum. It is extremely difficult to get an audience with the King. But with the blast of the shofar on Rosh Chodesh Elul, the King will leave His palace to sit in the field. During this time, all of the King's subjects can go before Him, petition to Him, speak to Him and have their requests granted. Here's how Chassidic master Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), describes the month of Elul - the month that precedes the divine coronation on Rosh Hashanah:

"It is like a king who, before he enters the city, the people of the city go out to greet him in the field. There, everyone who so desires is permitted to meet him; he receives them all with a cheerful countenance and shows a smiling face to them all. And when he goes to the city, they follow him there. Later, however, after he enters his royal palace, none can enter into his presence except by appointment, and only special people and select individuals. So, too, by analogy, the month of Elul is when we meet G-d in the field..."
(Likkutei Torah, Re'ei 32b; see also Likkutei Sichot, vol II p. 632 ff.)

The astrological sign of Elul is Virgo, the Virgin. Elul is an acronym for Ani leDodi ve'Dodi Li', I am for my Beloved as my Beloved is to me. In this month, we are reunited with our Beloved, HaShem. He is accessible to every single one of us. The gates of mercy are opened and HaShem has compassion on each one of us. Whatever sins have cut us off from Him throughout the year are forgotten and we once again become pure and sinless.

We add Psalm 27 to the end of our morning and evening services.

1. By David. The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life-whom shall I dread? 2. When evildoers approached me to devour my flesh, my oppressors and my foes, they stumbled and fell. 3. If an army were to beleaguer me, my heart would not fear; if war were to arise against me, in this I trust 1 4. One thing I have asked of the Lord, this I seek: that I may dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of the Lord, and to visit His Sanctuary. 5. For He will hide me in His tabernacle on a day of adversity; He will conceal me in the hidden places of His tent; He will lift me upon a rock. 6. And then my head will be raised above my enemies around me, and I will offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of jubilation; I will sing and chant to the Lord. 7. Lord, hear my voice as I call; be gracious to me and answer me. 8. In Your behalf my heart says, "Seek My countenance"; Your countenance, Lord, I seek. 9. Do not conceal Your countenance from me; do not cast aside Your servant in wrath. You have been my help; do not abandon me nor forsake me, God of my deliverance. 10. Though my father and mother have forsaken me, the Lord has taken me in. 11. Lord, teach me Your way and lead me in the path of righteousness, because of my watchful enemies. 12. Do not give me over to the will of my oppressors, for there have risen against me false witnesses, and they speak evil. 13. [They would have crushed me] had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14. Hope in the Lord, be strong and let your heart be valiant, and hope in the Lord.

Ketivah v'chatima tovah. May we all be written and inscribed in the Book of Life.

Cross-posted from the For Zion's Sake

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Prince of Darkness Exposed

Since the beginning of time, mankind has grappled universally with theodicy, the question of why bad things happen to good people. To solve this dilemma, the philosophers of idolatry reasoned that there must be two gods, a good god and an evil god. This dualism held that the good god was the god of light, life and kindness and was thwarted by the evil god who ruled death and darkness. This dualism, evident in the Persian Zoroastrian faith, held that the god of good was locked in a cosmic struggle against his evil adversary. When Christianity spread and many pagans came into the faith, aspects of this dualism was absorbed. Christianity holds that G-d created mankind sinful and weak, in an evil world so corrupt and full of sin that man cannot be good in G-d's sight on his own. Man is not free to choose good over evil but rather needs the sacrifice of Jesus to atone for him. This doctrine holds that G-d is the author of righteousness and perfection and never created evil. Evil is the domain of Satan, who was created by G-d as a good angel yet rebelled against Him and fights Him constantly. Satan is the embodiment of evil, the Adversary and Prince of Darkness who rules the Underworld and the souls of those who do not gain salvation.

Such a theology is completely absent in Judaism. According to the Torah, a man cannot gain salvation through the sacrifice of another but rather through choosing virtue over vice, good over evil. Deuteronomy 30:15 states, "See, I [God] have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil." G-d created free will that man should be able to choose good over evil. G-d bids us to choose life, yet gave us the ability to sin and to do wrong. It is in this context that G-d created the evil inclination, or the yezter harah. Also known as HaSatan (Satan), the yetzer was created by G-d to tempt us and distract us from His service. Satan was created by G-d to serve a specific purpose, of leading people astray that they should overcome it and come closer to G-d, and is His loyal servant. Satan has no power independent of G-d and does not contradict or fight against Him.

In Isaiah 45:7, the prophet describes God's creation plan when he reports that,

I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I the Lord do all these things.

Good and evil, harsh and cruel are in the hands of G-d and G-d alone. The translators of the Christian New International Version (NIV) Bible recognized that this verse is contradictory to the Church's teachings and translated the Hebrew word 'rah' (evil) as disaster. This is meant to make the point less easily understood. It is not just hurricanes or disease that G-d creates, but sin and immorality were created by Him so that we should reject them and gain salvation. Satan can be compared to a court prosecutor. He has an unpleasant job but rather than being wicked himself, he wants the good of the court system.

Satan is one of many malachim mentionned in the Bible. The Hebrew word for angel, malach, means messenger, and that is precisely what Satan is. Never once in the entire Torah is there an example of an angel rebelling against G-d or refusing to carry out His commands, especially not Satan. That Satan is not an enemy of G-d is shown many times over in the Torah. When the snake (representing mankind's evil inclination) was punished by G-d, never once did it object to its sentence. Nowhere is this more evident than in the book of Job. In the first chapter of Job, Satan appears with other angels before God and argues that Job's righteousness would quickly disappear upon torment and loss. Satan then requests from God the chance to test Job's virtue. The Almighty grants this request, but He meticulously outlines for Satan what he may and may not do when putting Job to the test. Satan obediently follows G-d's commands. Job is immediately put to the test and, by the third chapter, begins to struggle. He questions his Maker as to why he was created and, in a moment of despair, wishes aloud that he had perished in his mother's womb. Still, by the end of this unparalleled biblical narrative, Job's virtue prevails over Satan's unyielding torment. Satan had to be given G-d's permission before beginning his persecution of Job.

To state that there exists some sort of Adversary, a god of evil, independent of HaShem is to flirt with idolatry and pagan ideas. There is no power besides G-d. This argument cuts to the heart of Christianity. Mankind need not be condemned to sin and punishment. Rather, G-d gave us the ability for personal triumph over evil. By keeping the Torah, man receives salvation from G-d. As our great sage Maimonides taught: "One should see the world, and see himself as a scale with an equal balance of good and evil. When he does one good deed the scale is tipped to the good - he and the world is saved. When he does one evil deed the scale is tipped to the bad - he and the world is destroyed." A person cannot rely on the sacrifice of others as it has no effect on his atonement. Only by rejecting evil in favour of G-d's path can a person achieve righteousness. Choose life.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Disputation at the Dave Glover Show

Watch a debate between Jhan Moskowitz, head of Jews for J, and Rabbi Tovia Singer, founder of Outreach Judaism. Let the truth prevail. Notice how Moskowitz constantly quotes out of context and interrupts Rabbi Singer. No wonder Jews have been beating Christians in debate for over two thousand years.

Visit Rabbi Singer's site Outreach Judaism.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ha'Mevin Yavin --- Where to start

I am an amateur compared to the great counter-missionaries out there, protecting the Jewish people from spiritual assimilation. For anyone interested in knowing why Jews correctly reject Jesus, here are some good essays.

An answer from Rabbi Shraga Simmons.

An answer from Rabbi Stuart Federow.

An answer from Ohr Somayach.

An answer from Rabbi Tovia Singer.

I would ask anyone who wishes to continue this debate to please read and digest these materials so as to provide a basis on which to speak. The only thing stopping you is fear.

Ikar #3- G-d has no physical form

"I believe with perfect faith that G-d does not have a body and that physical concepts do not apply to Him. There is nothing whatsoever that resembles Him at all."

The third fundamental principle of Judaism is that G-d is non-corporeal. G-d has no form or image. G-d is completely beyond time and space, unfettered by the dimensions which He has created. Since G-d is by definition limitless, He cannot have a physical body which is by nature limited. It is similar to the conundrum if G-d could create a rock which He could not lift. The traditional answer is that such a rock could not be created since G-d cannot be restricted. A paradox? Certainly. Just as paradoxical as saying that G-d cannot have a corporeal form as this would be a limit on Him.

Besides philosophical ruminations, the Torah states emphatically that at Mount Sinai, the Jewish people saw no form. The entire nation, men, women and children, millions who left Egypt, all had G-d manifest Himself to them at Sinai. As the Sages said, a maidservant at the Sea (and by extension at Sinai) saw more of G-d than Ezekiel saw in his heavenly vision. And yet, at this ultimate moment, G-d had no form or image. "And the LORD spoke unto you out of the midst of the fire; ye heard the voice of words, but ye saw no form; only a voice... Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves--for ye saw no manner of form on the day that the LORD spoke unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire-- lest ye deal corruptly, and make you a graven image, even the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female." (Deut. 4:12,15-16) The fear that the nation of Israel would mistakenly assume that since G-d interacted with His world, that He would have a physical body, was ever-present. To prevent this, the Torah warned the Jewish nation sternly that we should not deal corruptly and believe that G-d has a form.

Christianity holds that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine at the same time. In other words, they hold that G-d was incarnated in the flesh as a man (chas v'shalom). Of course, logic and plain reading skills have never been Christianity's strong spot. As the Torah says, G-d was not a man. "God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent." (Num. 23:19) In case anybody missed that verse, the Torah repeats it. "And also the Glory of Israel will not lie nor repent; for He is not a man, that He should repent.'" (I Sam. 15:29) Of course, this shoots Christianity's claims down so expect missionaries to squirm and wiggle this verse into something that it isn't. Did you miss that? Well here it is again. "I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man, the Holy One in the midst of thee; and I will not come in fury." (Hosea 11:9) Hmm... that must mean that G-d is really a first century Jewish preacher. No quite. In Psalm 146:3, we are directed not to put our hope in the "son of man." Interestingly, Jesus is called the "son of man" throughout the Christian Bible. For instance, Jesus calls himself the "son of man" at the Last Supper in Matthew 26:24. He calls himself the "son of man" in many other places, such as in Luke 6:5, when he also declares himself to be a god. Clearly, this does not match G-d's statements in the Jewish Bible that G-d is not a human.

Christians love to point to Genesis 18 as proof that G-d made Himself manifest in the flesh. This obviously misses the point of the story. Leave it to Christians to insert Jesus where he doesn't belong. Of course, a Jew who was raise in Jewish tradition would understand the Torah properly. But certainly goyyim know the Torah better than us. But I digress...

א וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְהוָה, בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא; וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל, כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם.
1 And the LORD appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

What was G-d doing appearing to Abraham? Abraham had circumcised himself 3 days prior at age 99, an obviously painful experience. Here we learn the important of visiting the sick. In the next verse, we see that Abraham saw three men appearing on the horizon. Note that G-d was there prior to the appearance of them. Therefore, G-d could not have been one of the men.

ב וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא, וְהִנֵּה שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים, נִצָּבִים עָלָיו; וַיַּרְא, וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם מִפֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל, וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ, אָרְצָה.
2 and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood over against him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed down to the earth

Our Sages learn from here that it is more important to greet guests and to provide them with good hospitality than to be in the presence of G-d. Abraham, the epitome of Jewish hospitality, ran to greet the three men, angels in disguise that G-d had sent to him. Keep in mind that G-d was already there visiting the sick Abraham before the men appeared. If a person still believes that G-d was one of the men, then the valuable lesson was completely lost.

ג וַיֹּאמַר: אֲדֹנָי, אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ--אַל-נָא תַעֲבֹר, מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ.
3 and said: 'My lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant.

Messianics/ Christians love to point out the use of the word "my lord". Too bad that their Hebrew sucks. When G-d is refered to in the Torah by the word "my lord", it is written as the Tetragramatton, G-d's 4 letter name, and pronounced as ADONAI. Here, the word ADONAI is spelled out, making it clear that is referring to somebody other than G-d. Here, Abraham is politely addressing the angels as his lords. It is wrong to assume that Abraham was addressing the men as G-d as we have already stated that G-d was there prior to their arrival. There is further evidence that the word "lords/ ADONAI" can be used to refer to creatures other than G-d. In Genesis 19:1 we read that Lot is visited by two of these three angels, and in verse 19:2 he addresses the angels, saying: "Behold now, my lords..."

The controversy is cleared up when we reach verse 22.

כב וַיִּפְנוּ מִשָּׁם הָאֲנָשִׁים, וַיֵּלְכוּ סְדֹמָה; וְאַבְרָהָם--עוֹדֶנּוּ עֹמֵד, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה.
22 And the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.

Even when the men had left, Abraham was still standing before G-d, whom he had temporaily left to serve his guests.

Missionaries point out that three men came to Abraham and only two visited Lot. In the demented thinking of Christianity, this means that one man had to be G-d. This again misses the point. G-d created many spiritual beings, angels, each with a purpose. No angel is ever assigned to more than one task. In Genesis 18, we had three angels, but they did not have the same job. The first angel's job was to inform Abraham of Sarah's impending pregnancy, while the other two angels' jobs had to do with Lot, Sodom and Gemorrah. After the first angel had informed Abraham of the pregnancy, the angel was done with the job. Hence, only two angels visited with Lot. So, we see that the third man/angel was not G-d, but an angel, who did not go to visit Lot in Genesis 19 because that was not G-d's purpose for the angel.

Judge For Yourself

Let's get to the basics. An excellent resource for those who wish to understand or refute missionary claims and the truth of Judaism is Jews for Judaism. I present their article as it is essential for those who wish to comprehend the truth.

Judge for yourself: Did Jesus fulfill ALL these criteria?

The Jewish tradition of "The Messiah" has its foundation in numerous biblical references, and understands "The Messiah" to be a human being - without any overtone of deity or divinity - who will bring about certain changes in the world and fulfill certain criteria before he can be acknowledged as "The Messiah".

First of all, he must be Jewish - " may appoint a king over you, whom the L-rd your G-d shall choose: one from among your brethren shall you set as king over you." (Deuteronomy 17:15)

He must be a member of the tribe of Judah - "The staff shall not depart from Judah, nor the sceptre from between his feet..." (Genesis 49:10)

To be a member of the tribe of Judah, the person must have a biological father who is a member of the tribe of Judah.

He must be a direct male descendant of King David and King Solomon, his son - "And when your days (David) are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall issue from your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will make firm the throne of his kingdom forever..." (2 Samuel 7:12 - 13)

The genealogy of the New Testament is inconsistent. While it gives two accounts of the genealogy of Joseph, it states clearly that he is not the biological father of Jesus. One of the genealogies is through Nathan and not Solomon altogether!

He must gather the Jewish people from exile and return them to Israel -"And he shall set up a banner for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." (Isaiah 11:12)

Are all Jews living in Israel? Have all Jews EVER lived in Israel since the time of Jesus?

He must rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem - "...and I will set my sanctuary in their midst forever and my tabernacle shall be with them.." (Ezekiel 37:26 - 27)

At last check, there is NO Temple in Jerusalem. And worse, it was shortly after Jesus died that the Temple was DESTROYED! Just the opposite of this prophecy!

He will rule at a time of world-wide peace - "...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." (Micah 4:3)

Have you seen a newspaper lately? Are we living in a state of complete world peace? Has there ever been peace since the time of Jesus?

He will rule at a time when the Jewish people will observe G-d's commandments - "My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow My ordinances and be careful to observe My statutes." (Ezekiel 37:24)

The Torah is the Jewish guide to life, and its commandments are the ones referred to here. Do all Jews observe all the commandments? Christianity, in fact, often discourages observance of the commandments in Torah, in complete opposition to this prophecy.

He will rule at a time when all people will come to acknowledge and serve one G-d - "And it shall come to pass that from one new moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, says the L-rd" (Isaiah 66:23)

There are still millions if not billions of people in the world today who adhere to paganistic and polytheistic religions. It is clear that we have not yet seen this period of human history unfold.

All of these criteria are best stated in the book of Ezekiel Chapter 37 verses 24-28:

And David my servant shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. they shall also follow My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Yaakov my servant, in which your fathers have dwelt and they shall dwell there, they and their children, and their children's children forever; and my servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover, I will make a covenant of peace with them, it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, which I will give them; and I will multiply them and I will set my sanctuary in the midst of them forevermore. And my tabernacle shall be with them: and I will be their G-d and they will be my people. Then the nations shall know that I am the L-rd who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary will be in the midst of them forevermore.

If an individual fails to fulfill even one of these conditions, then he cannot be "The Messiah." A careful analysis of these criteria shows us that to date, no one has fulfilled every condition.

Certainly NOT Jesus.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Keep Out!

"Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity were building a temple unto the LORD, the God of Israel; then they drew near to Zerubbabel, and to the heads of fathers' houses, and said unto them: 'Let us build with you; for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us up hither.' But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers' houses of Israel, said unto them: 'Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD, the God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.'"(Ezra 4:1-3)

When the Jews returned from their 70 year long Babylonian captivity, they decided that the first aspect in the redemption of Zion was the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans, descendants of the nations brought in by the Assyrian king to replace the exiled Ten Tribes, offered the new olim help in rebuilding the Holy Temple. Zerubbabel, the leader of the returnees, knowing that the Samaritans were idol-worshippers, refused to let them participate in the rebuilding. Although it would have been easier to allow them to help, Zerubabbel knew that idolatrous elements could not be allowed to help build the Holy Temple.

Today, in many Christian Fundamentalist communities, a frightening new movement is arising. Many Fundamentalists Christians seek to be "grafted in" to the Jewish people. Donning tallis and kippot, they claim to be heirs to the spiritual blessings of Avraham Avinu by accepting JC. They quote the words of their bible, Romans 4, as promising them the inheritance of Avraham. "Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring... He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed." Therefore, they are the beneficiaries of G-d's promise of the Land of Israel to Abraham's descendants, the people of Israel. These groups, sometimes known as Efraimites, believe that it is their duty to assist in the return of Israel to its land and in its redemption. By doing so, they will hasten the return of their messiah (of course, all Jews who do not accept him as their saviour will burn in hell for all of eternity). They contribute billions of dollars to building settlements in Israel and provide Israel with a lot of support.

By calling themselves Efraimites, they believe that G-d will reunite them with the house of Judah ie. the Jews. This is yet another attempt by Fundamentalist Christians to merge Judaism and Christianity into one faith. To this extent, these Christians worship in what they call 'synagogue' and imitate Jewish faith and practice. More disturbing than their stealing Jewish rituals is their belief in reclaiming parts of the Land of Israel. Efraimite movements such as the Messianic Israel Alliance declare their goal as "the reunion and full restoration of the two houses: This is the hope that burns in the hearts of those of Messianic Israel..." Christian Zionist is their tool to gain control of parts of the Land. There are currently about 15 000 "faithful" (Messianic) Jews living in Israel and there is an army of missionaries trained to steal Jewish souls prowling the country. These Efraimite groups have called for Christians to make aliyah.

This new movement should scare every self-respecting Jew. By wishing to "graft themselves into the House of Israel", they seek to erode and destroy the unique spiritual heritage of Judaism. G-d chose the Jewish people out of all nations and called upong us to be separate, distinct and different. Chrisitans ("Efraimites") living in Israel would severely de-Judaize the land, robbing it of its distinct Jewish heritage and faith. It would exacerbate Jewish assimilation into the nations and effectively end peacefully what the enemies of the Jewish people have sought to end by auto-da-fés, pogroms and gas chambers. Just as Zerubbabel and the Jews who returned from Babylonia had the courage to tell the Samaritans that they had no share in the Land and the Temple, we must be firm in saying to all Christians that the Land of Israel is the inheritance of every single Jew, and only Jews. We must spurn their gifts and say loud and clear that they have no place in our land and their soul-stealing will not be tolerated.

Only in spiritual isolation, planted in the Land of Israel, can true salvation sprout and we merit the fulfillment of the prophecy "And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a twig shall grow forth out of his roots... for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.." Amen, speedily in our days!