On Tuesday, September 7th, about 6:00 P.M., I was walking in downtown Tiberias on my way to get some fresh squeezed orange juice. A religiously observant Jew, a Hasidic man dressed in a black coat, black pants, black hat and white shirt, about 23 years old, stopped me and asked me where a kosher restaurant was. I began to tell him and one thing led to another and for the next two hours, we stood there on the sidewalk and talked about Yeshua and Judaism. His name is Levi and he's from Austria. He has been in Israel for the past five years, off and on. He teaches young people in his branch of Hasidic Judaism.
He's Lubavitch, or Habad, as they are known. Habad is an acronym and in Hebrew, the H-B-D stands for Loving-Kindness, Understanding and Knowledge (of God). We didn't start off immediately talking about the Lord but as soon as I saw an opening I brought up a question to him. I asked him if he had ever done any studies on the Messiah. He began to share with me about the Rabbis, and something about criteria, and if someone does many miracles but doesn't do all the rabbinic criteria, than he isn't the Messiah.
I could hear arguments against Yeshua, as the Lord did many miracles and the Rabbis don't believe in Him, so they have to counter His miracles by denigrating miracles and making up their 'criteria.' The Pharisees did it. They said that Yeshua did His miracles under the power of Satan (Mt. 12:22-28).(1)
I could see that he didn't know much about the real Scriptural criteria for the Messiah so I began to share with him about the two streams of Messiah in the Scriptures. He was aware of Messiah ben David and Messiah ben Yosafe.
I told him that I had found Messiah ben Yosafe, the Suffering Messiah that is spoken of in Isaiah 53. That He was Yeshua from Nazareth. That didn't seem to upset him. We kept on talking. He told me that we must believe all that the Rabbis say. And they say that Yeshua 'was a deceiver, a fake, and is boiling in hot feces now.'(2) 'Oh really,' I said, 'Why? What did He do to deserve that?'
He told me that it wasn't so much His life but what happened after His life, meaning that Christianity is another religion and they hate the Jewish People, so Jesus is responsible for that. I asked him if he ever read about Jesus because he told me some things that were supposed to be about Yeshua, but I told him that they were old wives tales. He also told me that he couldn't read the New Covenant because it was banned by the Rabbis. They would be excommunicated from the fold and go to Hell.(3)
At first he told me that I needed to go to yeshiva (a school of higher learning in Judaism), and study with the Rabbis there. They would set me straight and keep my soul from going to Hell. But by the end of our conversation, he said that I shouldn't go to yeshiva. I would be dangerous in yeshiva. I asked him why and he said because I would 'lead others away' : )
He said that there were some who thought that Menahem Schneerson, the late Lubavitch Rabbi, was the Messiah. I told him that was impossible as the Scripture states in Micah 5:1 (5:2 in English), that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and Rabbi Schneerson never even came to Israel, let alone was he born in Bethlehem.
He said that the Rabbis had changed that criteria. Talk about hutzpah (audacity). I told him that the Lord states that we must not add to, or take away from His Words.(4) And yet, here he was speaking of the rule or the criteria of the Rabbis (the Oral Law), that must be obeyed to the letter and would be more authoritative than the Word of God. The Rabbis teach that the Oral Law, also known as Talmud, goes back to the days of Moses. This gave them their authority 'to change' whatever they desire or don't understand.
I said that the Oral Law couldn't have gone back to the days of Moses as they contend. Not one rabbi mentioned in it goes back past the days of the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.). And when the High Priest, Hilkiah, under the direction of King Josiah (637 B.C. to 608 B.C.), found the Book of the Law, there wasn't any mention of an Oral Law still being handed down. So how could the Oral Law have been around then? (2nd Kings 22-23)
I told him that there wasn't any mention of an Oral Law that is authoritative when Joshua came into the Land of Canaan. The Mosaic Law is read to the people and concludes, saying that, 'all the words of the Law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law' was read (Josh. 8:35).
No mention of any oral tradition there. And again Yehoshua (Joshua) states, 'Be very firm then, to keep and do all that is written in the Book of the Torah of Moses' (Josh. 23:6). There's no mention of an oral tradition needing to be followed, let alone more authoritative than the Word of God. But Levi just kind of brushed it off.
I asked him if he had read the Prophet Daniel. He told me he had and I spoke of the prophecy in Daniel 9:25 which tells us that the Messiah would come and die before the destruction of the Second Temple. I said that all the Rabbis of old believed this and were looking for Messiah at that time. He said 'Then they all missed Messiah?' I told him,
'Not all, but many, and that was because their hearts were more like the hearts of our Fathers in the Wilderness, who provoked God and died in the Wilderness, than like Yehoshua, and Kalev (Caleb). Our Fathers despised Yahveh. They held Him in contempt and chose to not believe what Yahveh wanted to do for them in bringing them into the Promised Land. Instead, they said that Yahveh only brought them out of Egypt to murder them and to give their woman and children to others.' (Num. 13-14; especially 14:11: 'And Yahveh said to Moses, 'How long will this people despise Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?')
I told him, 'Today, if you hear His Voice, do not harden your heart as our Fathers did in the Wilderness, for He was angry with that generation.'(5)
One of the strange things that the Rabbis teach them is that Yeshua flew. I told him that I didn't know where they got that from, they had to be making it up because it's nowhere to be found in the New Covenant. (He did walk upon the water but that's not flying.)
Levi also told me that Miryam wasn't a virgin but that a Roman soldier had raped her and that's how Jesus came to be. I told him that was a lie, made up by the Rabbis to keep Jews like himself from checking out the claims of Yeshua being the Messiah. And that he needed to read the New Covenant and find out the real story.
He asked me about Yeshua being born of a virgin, if I believed that. I said yes, and he told me that the place in Isaiah which speaks of this really doesn't mean virgin.(6) I told him that the Hebrew word there, almah, means, 'a young maiden' and that every place in the Bible where it is used (and it's only used a few times), it always refers to young maidens who are obviously virgins. One place is when Moses is placed in the ark on the Nile by his sister Miryam. She's called an almah and she can't be more than 12 years old (Ex. 2:8). Another place is when Rivka (Rebecca), is brought back to marry Isaac. She too is called an almah and no Rabbi would think that she was anything but a virgin (Gen. 24:43).
Then I asked him if he knew of the Septuagint, the Hebrew Bible translated into Greek, by the Rabbis, 200 years before Jesus came. He wasn't familiar but I told him that in it, the Rabbis used the specific Greek word for virgin (par-thay-nos). Those Rabbis must have believed that a virgin would conceive and bear a son and that it would be 'God with us'.(7)
I then shared how I had come to know the Living God, and that He wanted to cleanse Levi of his sins and fill him with His Spirit because of Messiah Yeshua's Sacrifice. He told me that for one to believe that, one must leave their intellect on the side. In other words, only ignorant people could believe that Yeshua was the Messiah. I told him that I wasn't an ignorant Jew and that for the last 24 years, I had seen over and over again, that Yeshua is the Messiah and that if I saw that He wasn't, I would have stopped believing in Him.
I went on to share many other things about Yeshua and as we were ending, I told him of the forgiveness that I had come to know of because of the Blood Sacrifice of the Lamb of God and of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me. It was powerful. This was one of three or four times that I could sense that he was being drawn to Yeshua by the Spirit. But you know how stubborn we Jews can be and he would say something like I needed to come back to Judaism and not deceive myself. But I could tell his heart wasn't in it.
When we parted, we did so on good terms, much to his credit. I went home and was concerned for Ruti. I should have been back hours ago. She too was concerned for me, although things like this have happened before. She was very glad to see me alive and well.
I told her all that the Lord had done with Levi and she shared with me that just a little after I left, she began to feel a heaviness. At first she didn't realize what it was but then she knew that she needed to pray. She began to pray and to intercede for me and sensed that she was also praying for someone else that I was witnessing to. I couldn't believe it for joy as she told me that. I told her that the Lord had made us quite a team. And then we both sensed we needed to pray some more for Levi and we did. Please add Levi (in Hebrew pronounced Lay-vee; the third son of Jacob), to your prayer list. The Lord is moving in his life. And I believe that one day, we'll see him in the Kingdom.
1. What the Pharisees said about Yeshua healing people through the power of Satan, made it's way into Sanhedrin 43a. There it says that Yeshua healed by sorcery. Of course, this would be another theological wall that would keep most Jews from wanting to know any more about Yeshua.
2. Gittin 57a says that Yeshua is in Hell, boiling in hot excrement.
3. Sanhedrin 90a says that those who read the New Testament 'will have no portion in the world to come.'
4. Deut. 4:2: 'You must not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the Commandments of Yahveh your God which I command you.' Also, Deut. 6:18; 12:8, 25, 28; 13:18, and for the opposite of this, see Judges 17:6; 21:25.
5. 'Today, if you hear His Voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, when your Fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said they are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways. Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest', Ps. 95:7-11.
6. Is. 7:14: 'Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.'