A Large Crowd Surrounded and Closed in on Me
At a recent Israel Festival, I was standing in front of the Jews for Judaism booth answering people’s questions.
Then it happened. A missionary and his friends challenged my beliefs. They wanted to know how I could get rid of my sins since the Temple was destroyed and we can no longer bring sacrifices.
They believed Leviticus 17:11 says, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no atonement for sin,” and I am condemned to eternal damnation unless I accept Jesus as my savior.
As I started my explanation, I noticed that people were gathering to hear my response. Within a few minutes, a crowd of thirty people had surrounded me and pushed forward to listen.
First, I showed the missionaries that they were misquoting Leviticus, not only from the Hebrew original but even from their translation. The wording is different, and it does not say that the ONLY way to receive forgiveness is through blood sacrifices. For example, atonement could also be accomplished by giving money (Exodus 30:16), offering incense (Numbers 16:47), and by a wave offering (Number 8:21).
I also pointed out that most sins, when done intentionally, did not require sacrifices, and required only remorse and repentance. For those sins that did require a sacrifice, the sacrifice served to arouse feelings of remorse and repentance.
Finally, I explained that after the Temple was destroyed, we can offer our sincere prayers in place of sacrifices as it says, “Take words and return to the Lord… offer your lips in place of sacrifices” (Hosea 14:2).
One missionary was unsatisfied with my response and demanded that I give a more definitive proof that words can achieve forgiveness.
I immediately recalled a verse in this week’s Torah portion Shelach (Numbers 13:1–15:41), which describes God’s anger when the Jews accepted a negative report about their ability to enter the Land of Israel.
Moses prayed to God and asked for forgiveness. God relented and said, "I have forgiven them according to your words” (Numbers 14:20).
I made my point and stressed that the power of prayer is so great Jews repeat this verse numerous times on Yom Kippur.
The crowd watched as the missionary’s jaw dropped, and he was left speechless.
May this Shabbos provide many opportunities to turn to God with our prayers, and may they be answered with blessings of good health and success in all our endeavors.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz