Archive for April, 2014

Report of lecture of Rabbi Chaim at Nijkerk

April 4, 2014

A report of a lecture (4/2/2014) given by Rabbi Chaim Eisen, an orthodox Rabbi in Jerusalem, dean at Yeshivath Sharashim, lecturer at Orthodox Union. Organized by Christians for Israel at Nijkerk, the Netherlands.

Lecture can be downloaded here.

The topic was: Israel, the heart of the nations.

The topic doesn’t come from scripture. Heart isn’t used as a metaphor in the Bible. It comes from Kuzari, a book of Rabbi Jehudah haLevi. (Completed not long before his dead in 1141.)

Rabbi Chaim began with ps. 1:2. Blessed is the man whose delight is in de Torah of the Lord. He desires the word of God. I that sense, she stressed that the audience chose the topic.

The foundation of Israel lies in the verse Ex. 19:5, particular the word segulah, be mine. This word also appears in the verses Ecclesia 2:8 and 1 Chronicles 29:3. Where it means a (royal) property.

Then he goes on showing Israel as to be a light for the nations. This is written so in Deuteronomy 26:17-19. It is about being “for a praise and for renown and for glory” of God.

This is seen in different verses.

Isaiah 60:3 (nations will go by your light)
Exodus 19:6 (Holy nation)
Isaiah 61:6 (Holy nation / priests of God)
Priests are servants of God, teachers (Leviticus 10:11, Deu.34:10)
Ez.44 vision of the future priesthood
Mal.2:1, 6-7 (The Torah of truth was in the mouth of the priests)
Isaiah 42:6, 49:6 (de servant of Israel) Isaiah speaks about the suffering servant.

Priests are there to teach the people. In the time of the temple there were many priests. Priests served in the Temple at least (and usually only) two weeks a year, on a once in 24 week rotation. What did they do in the other time? Teaching.

And who is Israel? Israel is the firstborn son. But he is not the only son! Many are the sons of God. And God cares about all the people, He has compassion on everything, even animals. (Jonah 4:10-11)

Israel leads all humanity. Deu.27:2 When Israel entered the Jordan to go to the land, they wrote down the Torah in 70 languages, well explained. That means for all the people. And verse 9 says: This day, this very day, you’ll become Gods people. If you do this. So it is a priestly task to teach the world.

In the afternoon the part of the suffering servant came. Suffering also is a great deal of the people of Israel. Amos 3:2 states: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”

Now he first pointed us to the origin of the expression “Israel as the heart of the nations”.

First it is found in the Zohar, volume 3, page 221b: “The Holy One blessed be He made Israel into the heart of the world.” From that centre (the temple) they have to teach the Torah. But the heart also experience anguish and suffering.

Secondly it is found in the classic work of Rabban Jehudah ha Levi, his book Kuzari. Jehudah haLevi was a physician and he described Israel as the heart among the nations. The heart is the most central part of the body affected by all physical, mental and emotional circumstances. The heart can be most diseased and most healthy. That’s how Israel suffers in an unrighteous world. It’s a curse and a blessing too to be such a people.

I personally was thinking about Romans 9:1 where the apostle Paul was anguishly regisaiah-53-5retting the fact that Israel didn’t accept their Messiah, their suffering Messiah. Paul also rightly saw Israel as the heart of the world. And he knew too that Israel would be completely restored and he ended up in a blessing: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God … For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom.11:33-36)

The iniquity must reach its full measure as we can learn from Gen.15:16. In contrast to Israel, the Emorites were not punished constantly, which led to their destruction. Israel is punished continuously. Israel must bear his iniquity.

A principle of Jehudah haLevi is the suffering of the Servant in Is. 53.

Who is My Servant (avdi)?

Rabbi Chaim gave us an investigation. All places in Isaiah where my servant (avdi) is written, are given here:

reference – meaning

Not Israel:
Is. 20:3 – Isaiah
Is. 37:35 – David
Explicit Israel:
Is. 41:8 – Israel /Jacob
Is. 43:10 – Jacob / Israel (it refers to verse 1)
Is. 44:1 – Jacob / Israel (also verse 2)
Is. 45:4 – Jacob / Israel
Is. 48:20 – Jacob
Anonymous:
Is. 42:1-  18-19  (verse 22 is people)
Is. 49:  (perhaps Isaiah or Israel)
Is. 52/53 (could be Messiah, Israel or prophet Isaiah.)

The suffering servant who bears the pain of the nations is Israel. And how do we respond to the multiple possible explanations of prophecy? The answer is: humility. Just be humble, until dawn breaks through.

Conversations between Jews and Christians in the past almost 2000 years often were harsh and disputes were one against the other, said Rabbi Chaim. But now times are changed. It’s a blessing to be here together. To learn from scripture. We share the same word, the Tenach. This was also the base of Jesus and the apostles. They were Jews who taught according to the Jewish way of teaching. They often taught in a midrashic way. As an example of approaching midrash, Rabbi Chaim gave us a tradition which shows that the words of Psalm 22:1 were explained as meant for, and used by queen Esther. When she came before the great king Ahasuerus (which was a death sentence to do unsolicited) she was very afraid and said: Eli, Eli, lama asavtani! (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?)

In that manner of applying midrash, Jesus and the apostles also explained scripture, he said.

What a beautiful tradition! In the same way Jesus used these words when he came before the Kings of Kings, just before his dead, he cited these famous words! However, (what a blessing!) God didn’t forsaken Him and all those who are with Him.

The most intriguing answer on that day for me was definitely on my question on what does suffering means. His response: “What a blessing!”. Wow, such an answer! Here we are. Just my thoughts: How close did we come together although the differences are as high as the sky? Where’s the real Christian? Where’s the real Jew? Aren’t they both suffering a lot? And they both would answer with Asaph in psalm 73 the last verse: In all the punishment and suffering: It is good for me, to be close with God. Didn’t our Messiah show it? The suffering king is a great King. Didn’t Jesus say: pick up my cross and follow me? Wasn’t there an era of suffering following for almost 2000 years now? What a blessing to have a share among the righteous people, persecuted because of the sins also of another one. Because of the gracious God who wants you to get ready to be his child. He who heals the soul! What a great work does He do! Blessed be He Who build his kingdom already even without worldly countenance!

 

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