Community Alert: Christian Evangelicals Offering Shabbat Retreat for Har Nof Orphans

The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) , whose core mission is to tell the world that jesus is coming back and to spread that word from Jerusalem, has launched a widely publicized online/email campaign to comfort and support the bereaved families of the Har Nof massacre.

“This very weekend, the ICEJ is sponsoring a ‘Shabbat retreat’ for the 24 children who lost their fathers in that attack. They will stay in guest houses in the Galilee and receive special counseling from experts trained to deal with terror victims. They will also be offered therapeutic activities as well as Bible lessons before re-joining their families early next week.”

ICEJ states that they are “determined to be a source of comfort and healing” for the traumatized families. The Jewish communities in Israel and throughout the Diaspora should know that ICEJ is equally determined to bring the “good news” of jesus to the Jews.

For example, just last month, Jewish IDF soldiers were commanded to march on stage before a Christian crowd at ICEJ’s  Feast of the Tabernacles,  and were subjected to a public sermon, given by missionary Robert Stearns, about the Jewishness of Jesus.  They were told  by ICEJ’s David Parsons that the prayers from churches and saints were behind them.

In addition, the Jewish community should know that ICEJ actively promotes the messianic missionary community in Israel.

It goes without saying that any well-intentioned Jewish activists who are coordinating activities and fundraising efforts with the ICEJ should be aware that such efforts empower Christian outreach to Jews in Israel.


GPS for the Jewish Soul – Oct. 5, 2014

In this episode of GPS for the Jewish Soul, Ruth is joined by Rabbi Shalom Zirkind for a discussion on moving from the Intensity of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur to the Joy of Sukkot.


Messianic and Kiruv missionaries to rumble in Brooklyn

With one in four residents in the borough identifying as Jewish, competing religious institutions are setting up shop

NEW YORK — A mezuzah hangs on the doorframe of a certain three-story gray building in Midwood, a heavily Orthodox section of Brooklyn.

The structure is neither a synagogue, nor a traditional Jewish center. This mezuzah is affixed to the newly opened headquarters of the Chosen People’s Ministry, a missionary organization that persuades Jews to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

Chosen People purchased and renovated a former Jewish funeral home and renamed it the Brooklyn Messianic Center and the Charles Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish studies. The recently opened 14,000-square foot, $5 million center has classrooms, a library and offices. Those who train here will become missionaries and proselytize in the Jewish community.

And therein lies the rub for Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer, director of the Brooklyn Jewish Experience, BJX, a local kiruv organization whose mission is to bring Jews back to Judaism.

“They want to deceive and trick as many people as possible. They tell people it’s possible to be Jewish and still believe in Jesus. They are trying to cut people off from their heritage and that’s painful,” Fingerer said.

About one in four residents in Brooklyn identify as Jewish, according to the UJA-Federation New York. More than half of those living in neighborhoods such as Borough Park, Williamsburg and Flatbush are Jewish.

This demographic has attracted both Chosen People and BJX.

Chosen People was founded by Leopold Cohn, a Hungarian rabbi, in Brooklyn in 1894. It’s one of the oldest Messianic Jewish organizations.

“It is the perfect location for Jewish evangelism,” according to the Chosen People website. “There are almost one million Jewish people in Brooklyn, and less than a half of one percent of them believes in Jesus. There are more religious Jewish people in Brooklyn than anywhere else in the world outside of Israel. Brooklyn is ‘Orthodox Central.’”

BJX, on the other hand, was founded by Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer in 2005. Its new, brightly lit two-room center in Flatbush has a 5-year lease, and is located across from the Kings Highway subway station. The space will hold social gatherings, Shabbat services and, for young Jewish professionals, it offers classes on Jewish philosophy and law.

Fingerer works closely with his brother Moshe Fingerer and other staff to reach secular Jews or those who “left the fold for different reasons and abandoned their heritage,” Moshe Fingerer said. “We want everybody to have a positive Jewish experience, to have a cozy warm feeling.”

Lurking danger in Brooklyn?
The concentration of Jews isn’t the only reason Chosen People picked the Coney Island Avenue location, said Dr. Mitch Glaser, Chosen People’s president.

“For anyone saying we are targeting the Orthodox Jews, I hate to burst their bubble. We found a great property at a great price,” Glaser said.

Born in East Flatbush, Brooklyn to a Modern Orthodox family, Glaser grew up in Queens. He and his family returned to Brooklyn several years ago. That’s also why he chose the borough for the new center.

Chosen People received a fair amount of criticism when it first decided to open its doors, Glaser said.

“I’m a Messianic Jew and I have been for 40 years. I’m well aware of how my fellow Jews feel about me and Jesus,” Glaser said. “I understand the criticism and where they’re coming from.”

Glaser said he sent a letter to BJX asking for a chance to meet, but no one responded.

For its part, BJX said they decided not to meet with representatives from Chosen People or with Glaser. Instead it produced a video, “Danger Lurking in Brooklyn” and posted it on Vimeo. The five-minute film set to sinister music warns viewers to be wary of Chosen People’s attempts to use Jewish symbols and tradition to evangelize unaffiliated and vulnerable Jews.

The video’s narrator tells viewers they can challenge Chosen People by getting involved in BJX, which seeks to reconnect those Jews who felt abandoned by Judaism growing up, or who aren’t very observant, Fingerer said.


Rabbi Yossef Blau, spiritual advisor at Yeshiva University, said it’s difficult to measure the true impact of a group such as Chosen People. However, he said missionary groups do threaten Judaism.

“They are selling Christianity as a form of Judaism and in that sense it’s deceptive,” Blau said. “They are going after people with limited Jewish knowledge, trying to sell them on the notion that they can still be Jewish if they accept Jesus. They are telling them they can be a part of American society which is a Christian world – and that is appealing to some.”

On the other hand, Blau said in its own way BJX is also a missionary group, trying to make Jews more Jewish. Through special dinners, social events and services they reach out to Jews with little knowledge of the religion, or those who are disillusioned with the religion.

“He [Fingerer] does outreach and is anti-Footsteps, an organization that helps people from the Chasidic world who want to get out. He is trying to preserve people who are Orthodox stay in that world,” Blau said.

The difference between the two groups is that BJX is actively seeking to spread knowledge about Judaism to Jews, Blau said. Chosen People is telling Jews they don’t have to renounce Judaism to believe in Jesus.

Glaser said he understands why some criticize his ministry, however he takes issue with the idea that he or the ministry is trying to deceive people.

“Are we guilty as charged? Of course not,” Glaser said. “There always needs to be truth in advertising, otherwise it is unethical. So we bend over backwards not to be deceptive.”

Indeed, the ministry’s website clearly states it’s intention to actively proselytize in Orthodox communities because “religious Jewish people rarely travel outside of their communities, so it would be impossible to reach them without living and ministering among them.”

Nevertheless, the presence of missionaries on the streets of his Flatbush neighborhood upsets Phillip Ort, a real estate developer.

“There are always missionaries in the area, but it’s more aggressive with this group and they seem highly active and they’ve got much more money,” Ort said.

For now BJX plans to use its video to make its point.

“Awareness is building,” Fingerer said of the video, which has had some 27,000 views on Vimeo. “My problem with these people is they are intent on misleading others. People are free to do what they want, but don’t deceive. Don’t prey upon those who are vulnerable. Leave the Jewish community alone. There are enough gentiles who need outreach.”


Christian Missionary Joel Rosenberg and Family Make Aliyah

“First, we are moving to Israel as a family. For the last several years, we have sensed God calling us to immigrate to the land of Israel (to “make Aliyah”) and follow the path of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Based on my Jewish roots on my father’s side, the State of Israel has granted us citizenship. We are now dual citizens of the United States and Israel, and are deeply grateful to the Lord for making this possible in His timing and by His grace.” —- Joel Rosenberg, August 13, 2014

Joel Rosenberg, a renowned “end-times” author and missionary, who promotes proselytizing the Jewish people and dedicates resources to targeting Israelis for conversion, has managed to make Aliyah with his family.

Like messianic attorney Jamie Cowen, Rosenberg is an influential evangelical leader who hails from the Washington DC area and who apparently immigrated to Israel as a believing Christian via a loophole in Israel’s Law of Return – a law which was ripped open in 2008 by Evangelical/messianic attorney Calev Myers of Israel’s Yehuda Raveh law offices and the Jersusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ). Rosenberg’s testimony of his family background can be read here.

Like evangelist Mike Evans, Rosenberg is a best-selling author who writes biblical prophecy fulfillment novels which tie in to current news events, usually from a “pro-Israel” perspective. Like Evans, Rosenberg is involved in a number of “charitable outreach” missions in Israel. Also like Evans, Rosenberg flaunts the endorsements he has received from high-ranking Israeli diplomats and politicians.

Rosenberg has been transparent about his missionary activities in Israel. As far back as 2007 he posted about his involvement with the messianic organization Shemen Sasson, founded by the parents of attorney Calev Myers. At the time, Rosenberg boasted about the numbers of Jews coming to a belief in Jesus and the missionary targeting of young people at New Age Festivals in Israel. In the spring of 2014, Rosenberg was featured in video clips endorsing the proselytizing of Jews. Rosenberg was prophesizing on Jews accepting Jesus for Chosen People’s Ministries (CPM), an organization whose mission is to target the Jewish people for conversion. While this week saw headlines on the Brooklyn Jewish community’s battle with CPM, that very same organization is already active in Israel and has their sights set on Jewish children. In July 2014, Rosenberg, founder of the Joshua Fund, ran headlines of his partnership for the development of a website which will spread the gospel message to Israelis in Hebrew, Russian, English and Arabic.

Rosenberg boasts that several years ago his partners “provided leather-bound copies of the Bible, including the New Testament, to each member of the Israeli Knesset.” JewishIsrael staff members were present at a Jerusalem Municipality meeting at the time when a member of the city council showed us the leather bound Christian missionary scriptures, written in Hebrew, which had been “gifted” to each Knesset member. At the time JewishIsrael was told that some religious members of the Knesset were burning those missionary texts as prescribed by Halacha.

Terrible Irony

Years ago when missionary bibles were distributed into everybody’s mailbox in Efrat, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Shlomo Riskin, ruled that the bibles which included both the Hebrew and New Testament scriptures should be burnt, as a bible which is written on a heretical basis is sacrilegious.

So it is both terribly ironic and unfortunate that a mere five months ago on April 1, 2014, Rabbi Riskin granted legitimacy to Joel Rosenberg by sharing the podium with him at New York’s West Side Lincoln Square Synagogue in an interfaith theological exchange sponsored by Ohr Torah Stone’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC). A leading missionary leader in attendance clearly saw this as a victory, declaring, “I never thought I would hear a clear testimony for Jesus in a modern Orthodox synagogue (the type of synagogue in which I was raised!). Joel did a wonderful job of explaining the Gospel and was winsome and generous in his approach.”

Rosenberg claims to have worked with a number of Israeli political personalities, including Prime Minister Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky. Indeed, in 2010 JewishIsrael reported when then Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon participated in Rosenberg’s endtimes Epicenter Conference focused on blessing Israel in the name of jesus.

It should be noted that just last week, Joel Rosenberg reported on a quiet breakfast he had with Mike Huckabee and a meeting with Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women of America, a Christian activist group. Rosenberg has reportedly been asked to assist Huckabee and Nance in their upcoming Stand for Israel Rally scheduled for October 5, 2014.


A Ray of Light for the New Year

This past year, JewishIsrael’s reports focused on Jewish leadership’s continued cooperation with missionary entities and the costs involved in pursuing such interfaith relationships sans appropriate borders and guidelines. With Christian aliyah apparently on the rise and the criteria for Jewish conversion being hotly debated, there is much to be concerned about.

However we were pleased to see the results of a new poll published last week by BINA, the Center for Jewish Identity & Hebrew Culture, which seemed to indicate that younger Israelis are increasingly more faithful to Jewish tradition and Halachic criterion when it comes to the question of “who is a Jew”. According to the poll’s results, when compared with the adult participants, “the younger respondents chose less ‘civilian’ characteristics such as IDF military service, speaking Hebrew and living in Israel as elements of their Jewish identity. They gave more weight to the Jewish mitzvoth, culture and tradition.”

We hope our young people will step up and take a stand for Judaism and the Jewish Law, because it is clear that a number of our established leaders are continuing to fail us and our tradition.

Jews for jesus 08.landscape

GPS for the Jewish Soul – Sept. 14, 2014

In this episode of GPS for the Jewish Soul, Ruth Guggenheim is joined by Jews for Judaism Outreach Coordinator, Ira Michaelson. The discussion centers around a lawsuit being brought to trial in Florida where a Jewish woman accuses her step son, a Jews for Jesus employee of printing false information about her in a Jews for Jesus Newsletter


GPS for the Jewish Soul – September 7th, 2014

Join Ruth Guggenheim on GPS for the Jewish Soul as she welcomes William Paikin the developer of J-APP. This mobile app allows the user to access audio, video, and written teachings from Rabbis and Jewish teachers on varying subjects


Why doesn’t G-d take away all the yucky people?

Question of the Week:

(from Zac, aged 4)

Why doesn’t G-d make a flood to take away all the yucky people like He did for Noah?


Zac, I know you are a very good boy. But have you ever been naughty? Did you ever hurt your little brother, or say something rude to your mummy?

G-d wants us to be good all the time. But we don’t always get it right. Even good boys like you can sometimes do the wrong thing.

It is a pity that we are naughty sometimes, but the most important thing is that we stop being naughty and say sorry. Then it’s ok again, and we can start being good and doing what’s right.

If a flood would come every time someone did something bad, then no one would get the chance to say sorry and change. So G-d has patience. He is waiting for the yucky people to realise that they are wrong and to start behaving.

In the times of Noah, G-d waited 120 years before He brought the flood. Only because no one changed their naughty ways in all that time did the flood happen. They even watched Noah building the ark, so they knew the flood was coming, but they still didn’t start behaving themselves. From that story we learn how silly it is to keep on being yucky.

Even if you have been naughty, you can change and say sorry and be good from now on. G-d is waiting for you, because even when you do something bad, He knows how good you can be.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

To subscribe email [email protected]


GPS for the Jewish Soul – August 10, 2014

In this episode of GPS for the Jewish Soul, Ruth is joined by Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro. Ruth and the Rabbi, in Part 1 discuss the Miracles of Summer 2014. Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of GPS for the Jewish Soul, as Ruth is joined by Shalomis Koffler Weinreb of The Daily Miracle.


Atheists, Buddhists, and Jews for Jesus

In this short video titled “Atheists, Buddhists, and Jews for Jesus,” Rabbi Eli Cohen explains why as Jews we renounce the claims of Jews for Jesus more so then, say, a Jew who is an Atheist or a Jew who is a Buddhist.


Isaiah 53 – Verse by Verse

Isaiah 53 – a Verse by Verse Exposition

52:13 Behold, My servant shall succeed; he will be exalted and become high and exceedingly lofty.

The success and exaltation of God’s servant is an event that the prophet sees as futuristic. The immediate context (52:7-12) tells us that this is part of the blessing that Israel will experience at the time of her restoration.

52:14 Just as many were astonished over you, [saying] his appearance is too marred to be that of man and his visage to be human.

The prophet is talking to the servant in the first person, another indication that the servant is Israel. In the previous verses (52:7-12), the prophet speaks to Israel in the first person several times.

The prophet identifies the servant as one who was considered by many to be subhuman. The onlookers judged the servant to be subhuman because of the way he appeared to them.

52:15 So shall he overthrow many nations, kings will shut their mouths, for that which they had never been told they will [now] see and that which they had never heard they will [now] perceive.

The servant is depicted as one who overcomes nations. (It is through the overpowering of nations that the servant “divides spoils” as the prophet foretells in 53:12. See also Micah 4:13; 5:7; Isaiah 41:15,16.) The prophet is telling us that just as many were astonished by the servant’s lowliness so will many witness the servant’s victory and exaltation.

The kings of nations will know the servant and his exaltation will take them by surprise. They had heard various teachings about the servant but they had never been told about the exaltation that they are now witnessing. (See Micah 7:16).

53:1 Who would have believed our report, and upon whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed.

These are the words of the surprised kings described in the previous verse. (The same grammatical pattern is found in Isaiah 14:16 where the verb for “perception” is followed by the words of those “perceiving” without a direct introduction.) These kings have known the servant throughout his period of lowliness and in all of that time they were never told how the servant will one day be exalted by God to the degree that they now witness. The report that they now hear (and perceive) is something that they would have never believed in the time of the servant’s lowliness.

The revelation of the arm of the Lord has already been described in 52:10 where we clearly see how the arm of the Lord is revealed on behalf of Israel. (See Psalm 98:1-3).

53:2 He grew like a sapling before Him and like a root from arid ground, he had neither form nor grandeur; we saw him, but without such visage that we should desire him.

The kings speak of the former state of the servant (before his exaltation). They describe his existence as an impossibility; like a root in an arid and dry land. The kings describe the servant as one who was not attractive or majestic in any way.

53:3 Scorned and isolated from men, a man of pains and accustomed to illness, as one from whom we would hide our faces; he was scorned and we had no regard for him.

The prophet continues with the words of the kings who had shunned the servant throughout his time of lowliness. The general state of the servant throughout this period was that he was separated from the rest of humanity. The kings describe him as a figure that was so visibly stricken by suffering that it was difficult for people to look at him.

53:4 But in truth, it was our ills that he bore and our pains that he carried; but we had regarded him diseased, stricken by God and afflicted.

The kings now realize that their spiritual assessment of the servant was completely backward. During the time of the servant’s lowliness those who knew him believed that his constant affliction proves that he is spiritually deformed. Otherwise, why would this nation be singled out for God’s wrath over any other?

But now, with the servant’s exaltation, they realize that the servant was not more wicked than them but more righteous. Their assessment of the servant is reversed because they come to a true understanding of God’s plan throughout history. With the restoration of Israel and God’s glory coming to dwell in the Jerusalem Temple the nations of the world will experience true sanctity and a real connection to God. They will realize that many of their activities were actively preventing God’s presence from being manifest in this world, even though they had considered many of these activities to be righteous and Godly.

In order for God’s presence to be revealed in this world there needs to be obedience and humility toward God. This obedience does not have to be perfect because God doesn’t demand from His creations that which they cannot deliver, but it needs to be accepting of God’s sovereignty to the degree that humans are capable.

Since all of mankind benefits from God’s presence being manifest in this world it would be appropriate that all of mankind participate in the work of preparing a resting place for God’s presence. The way that this sanctuary for God would be prepared would necessitate that mankind purify its collective heart. In order to build this dwelling place for God mankind would need to strive to achieve humility toward God and to accept God’s sovereignty.

But instead of putting this task on the shoulders of all mankind, God placed this task on the shoulders of His servant. Instead of purifying the collective heart of all mankind, God chose to purify the collective heart of His servant Israel and His servant will then shine the truth toward the rest of mankind. The nations will walk by that light and partake of the goodness of God (Isaiah 60:3). And the way that God chose to purify the heart of His servant is through suffering (Isaiah 48:10).

With the exaltation of the servant the nations will realize that it was through the servant that God was accomplishing His purpose in the world for the benefit of all mankind. The suffering that the servant bore should have been borne by all mankind, and if anything, the nations should have carried the brunt of the suffering, because it was their wickedness that was more directly standing in the way of God’s purpose for the world.

53:5 He was violated because of our sins and crushed because of our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him and with his company, we were healed.

With the servant’s exaltation, the kings will finally realize that the ultimate goal toward which God was leading all of mankind was not the exaltation of the object of their own devotion, but that it was the exaltation of the object of Israel’s devotion that all of history was leading to. They will realize that much of what they considered Godly was directly opposing God’s plan. And they will realize that the servant’s activities were pleasing to God all along. They will recognize that any blessing that they merited was because of their association with the servant. The purification process that the servant had to undergo was more for the general benefit of mankind than for his own benefit.

The last phrase in this verse can also be translated as: “and with his wounds we were healed.” The point remains the same. With the exaltation of the servant the nations realize that the merit of the servant had protected them all along and the servant’s merit and righteousness was achieved through his suffering.

53:6 We have all strayed like sheep, each of us turning his own way, and the Lord inflicted upon him the iniquity of us all.

With the exaltation of the servant the nations come to the realization that while they believed that they were “following God,” in truth they were following their own way because God had never commanded them to walk in those paths. The nations thought that they were achieving atonement for their own sins, each according to their own respective theologies on the subject. But they now see that they were doing nothing to move God’s purpose forward. It was the despised servant who was moving God’s purpose forward. It was in the heart of the servant that God was preparing a corner of humility and obedience that would serve as God’s dwelling place for the benefit of all mankind. And it was in the heart of the servant that the refining process of purging the world of rebellion against God was taking place.

53:7 He was persecuted and afflicted, but he did not open his mouth; like a sheep being led to the slaughter or like a ewe that is silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth.

The prophet continues to describe the suffering of the servant. We are given to understand that the persecutors of the servant saw him as an animal. The attitude of the servant’s enemies was that suffering is the God-ordained lot of the servant just as sheep were put in this world by God to be shorn and slaughtered. And anything that the servant might have said in self-defense was as meaningless to his persecutors as the bleating of sheep before those who sheer them.

The prophet uses the metaphors of slaughtering and sheering to indicate that the servant suffered through his enemies in two different ways. Sometimes his enemies would slaughter him as people would slaughter sheep. And even when his enemies would not kill him they would still fleece him of his possessions just as people shear the wool off their sheep.

53:8 Through government and judgment was he deprived, and who could describe his generation, for he was cut off from the land of the living, it was for the sin of my nation that they were afflicted

The prophet explains that the persecutors of the servant were not criminals and outcasts from society; it was the governments and the court-systems of the nations that persecuted the servant. Persecution of the servant was not only legalized, but was elevated to the status of religious virtue and patriotic duty.

An alternate interpretation of the opening phrase of this verse would have the prophet telling us that the servant had been deprived of his own government and justice system.

The second phrase in this verse teaches us that the suffering of the servant had been so extreme that no one could express it in words.

The third phrase in this verse teaches us that the servant wasn’t simply killed but that he was deemed unworthy to partake of life together with the rest of humanity. The persecutors of the servant saw him as a subhuman creature that has no rightful place in this world.

The fourth phrase in this verse is the expression of each of the gentile kings acknowledging that it was through the guilt of their own respective nations that the servant suffered. The persecution of the servant was directly proportionate to the evil in the hearts of his persecutors. Throughout history, when a society degenerated into cruelty and evil, they persecuted the Jew. The corrupt Catholic Church, the evil Czars and the brutal Nazis all showed their true colors with their treatment of the Jewish people.

53:9 And he placed his grave with the wicked and his deaths were with the rich for no violence that he had done nor for any deception that was in his mouth.

Here the prophet reveals how the persecutors of the servant justified and legalized their persecution. They believed as an article of faith that the servant was a violent criminal and that he had gained wealth through deception and the servant was innocent of both of these charges.

Throughout the history of the world, the enemies of the Jews believed that the Jewish people are murderers and liars. The Gospel of John elevates belief in this accusation to the status of religious dogma (John 8:44), and one of the world’s most popular books, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, ensures that people will still believe these lies until the ultimate exaltation of the servant.

The servant was well aware of these accusations. The servant was also aware of the consequences of these accusations. The righteous of Israel realized that their loyalty to God and their refusal to submit to the idols and ideologies of the nations around them will mean that they will be executed in the most gruesome ways and that their graves will be marked as the graves of criminals. And they willingly accepted this fate.

53:10 And the Lord desired to crush and afflict him; if his soul would acknowledge guilt, he would see offspring and live long days and the purpose of God will succeed through his hand.

At this point, the prophetic narrator moves away from the voices of the shocked onlookers and gives us his own perspective of the suffering of the servant. The emphasis changes according to the spiritual needs of the respective speakers. There isn’t much spiritual benefit to be gained by focusing on the guilt of others. It is for this reason that the kings of nations focus on their own guilt as it relates to the suffering of the servant, and for this same reason, the focus shifts to the guilt of the servant when addressing the servant. After all, the audience of the prophet is the people of Israel.

The prophet tells us that God desired to afflict the servant. The purpose of Israel’s suffering, from Israel’s perspective, is to refine them. As a loving father rebukes his son so does God put Israel through the crucible of exile (Deuteronomy 8:5; Proverbs 3:11,12; Amos 3:2).

In order for the suffering to accomplish its purpose the servant needs to acknowledge and to recognize his own guilt. No created being is free of guilt and by acknowledging guilt we come closer to God’s truth. Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah were all righteous people yet they all acknowledged their own guilt together with the sins of the nation (Isaiah 6:5; Daniel 9:20; Ezra 9:6; Nehemiah 1:6).

The prophet goes on to tell us the reward that the servant will experience as a result of acknowledging his guilt. The servant will see his physical progeny walking in his footsteps and his days will be lengthened. These two blessings are not unrelated. No individual saint is guaranteed long days. But through his progeny the servant perseveres and outlasts his persecutors. The might, the splendor and the power of those who persecuted the Jew have long faded away while the Jew still prays the same prayers and studies the same texts with freshness and vitality. It is the same Jew that stirred the fanatical hatred of the Church fathers, the mobs of Crusaders, the Moslem Almohads, the Inquisitors, the Ukrainian soldiers of Chemilnicki, the Russian Czars, the Communists and the Nazis. These and many like them have come and gone but the Jew is still here.

The greatest gift that God has granted His servant is the promise that God’s own purpose in this world will be accomplished through him. The righteous of Israel are called God’s armor bearers (Isaiah 52:11). God allowed them to join Him in bringing His light to the world.

53:11 From the travail of his soul he will see and be satiated, with his knowledge will My righteous servant render many righteous and he will bear their sins.

The prophet continues to describe the reward that the servant will experience as a recompense for his suffering. The servant will see the good that was achieved through his suffering and he will be satiated with the knowledge that God’s purpose was brought to fruition through his suffering.

The servant will utilize his knowledge to render the many righteous. Israel will teach the truth that they carry in their heart (Isaiah 51:7) to the nations (Zechariah 8:23; Isaiah 42:4). And even after the exaltation will the servant take responsibility for the sins of the nations. Israel is called upon to be God’s priest (Isaiah 61:6). Just as the priests in the Temple bore the responsibility of Israel’s sins so does Israel bear the responsibility of the sins of the nations (Numbers 18:1). It is the priest’s responsibility to teach the people and guide them and if the people fail, the priests are held responsible (Malachi 2:8). In the Messianic age, the responsibility to teach mankind will fall on the shoulders of the righteous of Israel.

53:12 Therefore, I will assign him a portion from the many and he will divide the mighty as spoils, in return for having poured out his soul for death and being counted among the wicked, for he bore the sin of the many, and he will pray for the wicked

This verse continues with the description of the servant’s reward. The servant will be given the wealth of his persecutors. These will be granted to him as spoils of war (Isaiah 33:23; Ezekiel 39:10; Zechariah 14:14).

This reward is due to the servant for his willingness to die for God’s sake and for accepting the scorn of his persecutors who considered his faith to be criminal. The suffering that the righteous of Israel endured, a suffering that included being the outcast of humanity and oftentimes even death, brought all of mankind to experience the light of God (Isaiah 60:3). The men that God chose as His armor bearers fought a difficult battle but their task is never done. Even after their exaltation and vindication, they will still pray on behalf of all mankind.


GPS for the Jewish Soul – August 3, 2014

What would happen if every Jew around the world kept ONE SHABBAT – THE SAME SHABBAT? What would the power of such unity and collective spirituality do not just for the Jewish People, but for the entire world? Join Ruth as she speaks with Rabbi Nitzan Bergman, Executive Director of the Etz Chaim Center in Baltimore, MD, to discuss the “International Shabbat Project”.


A Spiritual Journey – How I Found Out I Was a Jew

Join Ruth and her guest Shoshana Imhof Maust who share her spiritual journey. Shoshana was raised a Christian, and only after being married and having children did she find out that she was in fact Jewish. She shares her story, and how she returned to authentic Judaism


5 Surprising Facts About Judaism

Including you don’t need to be Jewish to get to Heaven.

1. We are meant to savor the pleasures of the world:
The Jerusalem Talmud says that God will take us to task for not partaking in permissible pleasures of this world1. God didn’t put the delights of this world here to tease us. Enjoy that hot fudge sundae, but do it mindfully, like a connoisseur, savoring each mouthful. That way you’re controlling the physical and it’s not controlling you.

Towards the end of his life, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh, the great 19th century German rabbi, asked his students to accompany him to the Swiss Alps. He wanted to make sure that when he goes to the Next World and appears before the Creator and He asks, “Samson did you see My magnificent Alps?” he’d be able to answer in the affirmative.

It is not a Jewish ideal to divorce oneself from the material world. In fact, holiness can be attained only by properly using the physical world. Think of all the Hebrew words related to kedusha, holiness: kiddushin (marriage) that brings a man and woman together, Kiddush over wine, Shabbat Kodesh, the holy Sabbath when it is a mitzvah to eat delicious food and sleep a little extra. They all center around physical activities because according to Judaism, holiness comes through elevating the physical, not denying it.

2. Judaism believes in Heaven and Hell:

But probably not the version you’re imagining.

The Afterlife is an expression of the relationship to God and spirituality that we have nurtured and developed in this world. The way one experiences the Afterlife is totally dependent upon his preparation beforehand. Each choice in this world shapes who we are and creates either connection or disconnection to the Next World.

Imagine two people listening to a concert. One of them studied music composition, read about the composer and is highly attuned to all the details involved in creating this symphony. For him the concert is a rich and deeply fulfilling experience. The other person was dragged along and hates classical music. For him the concert is boring, even painful.

One concert, two very different kinds of experiences.

Our essence does not undergo a major transformation when we leave this world. It’s just the opposite. Our essence is fully expressed in the Next World. The pain of disconnection and the acute awareness of what we could have been if we would have chosen differently is the Jewish view of Hell.

3. You don’t need to be Jewish to get to Heaven:

Contrary to popular belief, a non-Jew can be spiritually fulfilled and even merit a place in the Next World. The obligation to observe the mitzvot of the Torah is upon Jews only. The Torah prescribes seven commandments for non-Jews (click here for the listing) and Maimonides states, “Whoever among the Nations fulfills the seven commandments to serve God belongs to the righteous among the nations, and has his share in the World to Come.”

4. Jewish beliefs have a rational basis.

The first mitzvah of the Ten Commandments is to know there is a God.

Some religions demand a blind leap of faith – assume something is true because emotionally you wish it to be true. The Torah commands us to build a rational basis of belief. Believe in God because you have enough compelling arguments that lead you to conclude that God actually exists. Use your mind, not your heart.

You may have questions and doubts, you may never reach 100% knowledge, the mitzvah “to know there is a God” is telling us don’t be complacent with your belief. Confront your questions, gain clarity and strengthen your basis of belief by getting more information and facts. Know there is a God; don’t just blindly assume it.

5. It is a mitzvah to be healthy:

Mezuzah? Check. Kosher food? Check. Running shoes? Huh?

Living a healthy spiritual life requires living a healthy, robust physical life as well. Maimonides, the great philosopher and physician, wrote in the Mishne Torah, “Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of God – for it is impossible to have any understanding and knowledge of the Creator when one is sick, it is a person’s duty to avoid whatever is injurious to the body and to cultivate habits that promote health and vigor”2.

He is also a strong proponent of exercise: “As long as one exercises, exerts himself greatly, does not eat to the point of satiation… he will not suffer sickness and he will grow in strength… Whoever is idle and does not exercise…even if he eats the proper foods… he will be full of pain for all his days and his strength will fade away”3.

So put down the leftover cholent and go for a run. Your body will thank you. And so will your soul.

  1. Kiddushin, 4:12 

  2. Laws of Character Traits, 4:1 

  3. ibid, 4:14,15