On Christmas Eve last year, David Lazarus posted an article at Israel Today regarding a declaration from 25 Orthodox Rabbis “welcoming the carpenter from Nazareth back into the Jewish fold”.
What these esteemed religious teachers had to say is very encouraging. Interestingly, the Pharisees accused Jesus and his disciples of breaking the Law of Moses (specifically, observing the Sabbath). This makes the following statement even more significant:
Jesus brought a double goodness to the world. On the one hand he strengthened the Torah of Moses majestically … and not one of our Sages spoke out more emphatically concerning the immutability of the Torah (and) he removed idols from the nations.
After nearly two millennia of mutual hostility and alienation, we Orthodox Rabbis who lead communities, institutions and seminaries in Israel, the United States and Europe … seek to do the will of our Father in Heaven by accepting the hand offered to us by our Christian brothers and sisters.
As did Maimonides and Yehudah Halevi, we acknowledge that Christianity is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations. In separating Judaism and Christianity, G-d willed a separation between partners with significant theological differences, not a separation between enemies.
What we understand about the complex relationship between Jews and Gentiles with regards to the person of Jesus Christ is that religious Israel never denied Jesus, in the sense of his personage, but only questioned his authority:
After their return to Jerusalem, Jesus was walking in the temple courts, and the chief priests, scribes, and elders came up to Him asking, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You the authority to do them?” Mark 11:27-28
The religious leaders did not even deny the miracles that Jesus performed, but blasphemed the Holy Spirit by saying that it was not by the power of G-d’s spirit that Jesus cast out demons, but by the will of Beelzebul (Matthew 12:23-24).
The most rabid atheists I know do not deny the person of Jesus Christ. Some will even say he was a wise man but, like Israel, they reject any claims of his Divine nature. Oh, how many times have I heard it said that Jesus is the G-d of the Gentiles?
No prophet is accepted in his own country (Luke 4:24).
So, this statement by 25 Orthodox Rabbis is quite revealing of how G-d’s spirit is moving over the land of Israel. In his article, Lazarus quoted Rabbi Eugene Korn ( Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation):
This proclamation’s breakthrough is that influential Orthodox rabbis across all centers of Jewish life have finally acknowledged that … Christianity and Judaism have much in common spiritually and practically. Given our toxic history, this is unprecedented in Orthodoxy.
Last Christmas, Rabbi David Wolpe wrote an article for Time magazine. Titled, A Jewish View of Christmas, Wolpe reminisced about his mentor Elieser Slomovic who lost many family members in the Holocaust.
Slomovic was able to escape the horror of WWII, and made his way to America where he thought he might be killed for being a Jew. Christians need to understand the historical fear and suspicion that the Jewish people feel towards them. It is a difficult hurdle to cross when, for 2000 years, and with the blessing of the Church, Jews have been condemned as being the killers of Jesus.
Who killed Jesus?
No man takes (my life) from me; I am laying it down of my own will, for I am authorized to lay it down, and I am authorized to receive it again; this commandment I have received from my Father (John 10:18).
Rabbi Slomovic, haunted by fear and the horrors of anti-Semitism, was somewhat reluctant to accept an invitation to an inter-faith dinner. When he arrived at the affair, Wolpe recalled that Slomovic tried to keep a low profile, but the Rabbi cried when the host pastor delivered the blessing:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, Hamotzi lechem min haaretz.
Elieser got tears in his eyes. That a Christian would pay tribute to Jesus’ Jewish origins and begin with a Hebrew blessing was something he never thought to hear in his lifetime. America really was different.
In closing, the 25 Rabbis noted the G-d willed separation between Jews and Christians. From Paul’s letter to the Romans we learn there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, but that Israel has been hardened until the fullness of the Gentiles is complete.
The Rabbis’ declaration is a sign from G-d that the Holy Spirit is softening the heart of Israel — that the redemptive hand of the LORD is moving over His people. With regard to the fullness of the Gentiles I would only recite Paul’s warning that you not be conceited for Jesus is the root, Israel is the tree, and you are a grafted branch.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, Hamotzi lechem min haaretz. Blessed are you O Lord our G-d, Sovereign of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
G-d’s will be done until that glorious day when all of Israel shall be saved. That is a joyful message for any season.
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