Judaism – it is time for a change. part 2.

(4200 words)

This is the second chapter of Judaism – it is time for a change.

To continue drawing on the state of Judaism in Israel today, I will open with a short story:

The return to the Heavenly Father.

Many years ago a son was born to a privileged father and the son was deaf and blind from birth. The father looked at the newborn and saw something else in him, like a great promise. Since then he devoted his time, his money and attribution for upbringing his son, he loved him as his soul, and tried to teach him the crooked ways of the world despite his severe disability. The son was curious and confident, because that’s how the father raised him. On the other hand, he was rebellious and if he understood that something was forbidden he would run to do exactly that. Perhaps this rebelliousness was due to his disabilities and frustration, and perhaps this son simply had a bad heart and was ungrateful by nature.

One day, despite his father’s order, he went further away from home than usual, got lost and eventually found himself in a distant land. There he was found and placed in an appropriate institution where he was one of many patients with various problems. The institution was generally comfortable and orderly, but no one there tried to connect with him in order to expand his horizons, understand his special needs, overcome his limitations and understand that behind them he is as any a human being. After years of being locked in this institution, he appeared to be a lost, he moved his deformed limbs meaninglessly and uttered strange repulsive sounds.

With him, in his room, was another patient who liked him. Over the years they developed some kind of a relationship, and eventually the friend managed to understand the son’s story more or less. He understood that he belongs somewhere else, that he has a father who took care of him properly, loved him, and there lay his future and salvation. Nevertheless, the other patient was also limited, and all he managed to convey to the deaf-blind son was a message of simple logic: ‘The things that you remember as a dream,’ he said one day to the son, using signs he drew on his palm, ‘about a father you had, hearing and seeing, who took care of you, instruct you in the ways of the world with devotion – it is not a dream! It is written on your heart. It was a reality.’

After hearing this, the son changed fundamentally. He stopped staring into the void, mindless and hopeless, but began to live the past he was reminded of as if it was happening in the present. He was imagining his father next to him, imagining that his father guides him in every matter. Then he used to insist on doing certain things and insist on not doing other things, so to speak according to his father’s instructions. Over time, this behavior became less and less connected with reality.

His patient friend who saw his new predicament approached him and said: ‘Remember when you once thought that your memory of your father was an imagination and an illusion? Now try to remember again, the way your father really used to treat you. Wouldn’t you felt on your skin when he hit you when you did something forbidden? Wouldn’t you felt in a realistic way when he hugged you? When was the last time you really knew that he is there? But if you haven’t felt these lately, get up now! Shake off your imaginations and go look for your father. You will have to be ready to do anything, absolutely anything, to find him, he is waiting for you, and only with him will you find your destiny and happiness.’

We, the people of Israel, are the blind, deaf, rebellious and lost son. And when was the last time we heard his voice explicitly and knew that he was personally speaking to us? Not in the imagination or with self-convincing, not in brainwashing that comes from fear and denial or empty religious enthusiasm, not in finding substitutes and listening to the teachings of flesh and blood. When did the priest read to us the true words of the living God in the Urim and Thummim? When did we saw his supernatural deeds and the power of his heroism that cannot be mistaken, in the temple or by the Ark of the Covenant? When have we heard a true prophet, whose words can be easily proven? (Not kabalistic mysticism and superstitions of rabbis). If we haven’t heard these things recently, we should urgently seek the father who exiled from his people and is waiting to be truly called back. Like Daniel the prophet who called and begged that the terrible exile of his time would end, and he was answered.

This search has nothing to do with today’s ‘keeping the Sabbath’, or any other rabbinic ‘commandments’. Also the father is not currently interested in the ritualistic worship, because the source of power for these symbolic actions is the covenant and the temple, but the temple is gone and the covenant has not been renewed. God never asked us to fulfill most of the commandments regarding worshiping Him separately from the temple (before the temple or the tabernacle was built they were not obligated), and in any case all the commandments related to purity and those intended to distinguish the Jew from the gentile are irrelevant because without the temple, we are all in impurity and in the status of a gentile.

The father today is interested in one thing: that his son will return home, to the safe, healthy place, To His house where we can hear His voice, feel his hands on us. Only then it would be worthwhile to also hear what His commandments are and how He wants us to adapt these commandments, given in Sinai, regarding the worship of God, to life in the 21st century.

The son who was lost in a distant land, forgot his past and became stupid and ridiculous is a parable to Israel who has turned away from their God, and is trying to adopt the ways of the world. Those are called in Israel ‘secular’, meaning the ones who lack faith in God. The son who lived in the past and adopted an imagined inner world, as if he has a real connection with his father, are called in Israel ‘religious’, ‘Orthodox’ or ‘traditional’. But we, the Israelites, we are all long for the time when we were truly safe and in peace, when we had unity and abundance of blessings from above.

How did the people pray and how did they observe the commandments in the Bible days?

 In 539 BC. Cyrus, the new king of Babylon declared the return to Zion and allowed Israel to build the temple. The historic announcement was made after Daniel prayed and begged for their return when he read the prophecy of Jeremiah, who predicted they would return after 70 years. Please note that the return to Zion then, was focused on the construction of the temple! Everything else, the construction of the kingdom of Israel, the settlement of the land, the material assets and others, were, in a natural way, additions to the construction of the temple.

Also then, only a handful of people initially answered the call to go up. The call was to go up and build the temple physically. Today, the call to build the temple is spiritual and less physical, and the question of how exactly to build it today is a broad topic and should be devoted to another series of chapters. Yet the calling then and today is essentially the same. The call for the return of Zion and the return of the Jewish people to God is first and foremost the call to build the Temple.

At the time, the Second Temple was established by the same handful that came up and settled in Jerusalem for this purpose, and it was small and shabby at first. But the work that Israel was commanded in the Torah was done.

Therefore the building of the spiritual basis for the presence of God – meaning, His clear personal guidance among the people (the Shechinah) was done right. As stated, without the clear presence of God, there is no point in any ‘religious’, ritual or even civil action.

It should be noted that the Second Temple, in terms of spiritual power and not just physical, was nevertheless only the shadow of the First one, because of the violation of the Covenant. This meant, for example, that the original Holy ark, the golden lamp, incense altar and show bread table had disappeared from the first temple near its ruin and were now missing. Some of these props were restored by the builders of the Second Temple and some, like the tablets of stone, could not be restored. But even in the Second Temple days, the essence of the God of Israel still remained.

The book of Ezra 5 reads: Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.”

The prophets of God and the true priests (Zerubbabel and Joshua in this verse were priests) who build the only infrastructure that can according to the Torah bring His presence are there. But the common people, after 70 years of exile, have forgotten what the Torah says. So these leaders stood, read and explained to them from the Scripture, from the written Torah! (not the oral Torah), everything they needed to know. The Book of Ezra notes that in response to this reading the people cried. They cried both with grief for forgetting the word of the Torah and with excitement, so it is again a testament that the Shechinah itself was there with them and it was not just humanly teaching of Torah.

Then the leaders replied to the weeping and lamenting people: Why are you crying, it is Sukkoth now, and according to the Torah in Sukkoth you should rejoice: And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people… So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them. And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law. And they found written in the law which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.”

We can learn a few things from the verses above:

How to keep the true original Judaism?

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people – Hence Ezra and the leaders of the people read from the Torah book, not any oral Torah or rabbinic tradition. And since all the guidelines that are expressed in these verses, and in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, (as well as in the entire Bible), are all only from the Written Torah and there is no mention of any Oral Torah, then obviously the oral Torah wasn’t exist before the Pharisees who rose around the first century B.C. After all, the Pharisees teaching itself is written in books, and they learn it from books, so how do they claim that oral Torah has passed thousands of years through the generations from mouth to mouth, when they themselves pass it with their books?

So they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading This people, who did not know the Torah and did not even know what to do on Sukkot “understood the reading“. In other words, the Torah is for ordinary people who have not been taught in Yeshiva and have never been engaged in casuistry. These people, when reading to them from the Torah, interpret to them the difficult words they may not have known and showed them the simple meaning – “gave the sense” – , then it “caused them to understand the reading“. So, the claim that without oral Torah it is impossible to understand the Torah is not true.

Neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength – Why is it today that the ‘ultra-Orthodox’ are dressed in black and maintain a mountain of laws and commandments, While the people in the days of Ezra, for years, did not keep even the basic commandments of Sukkoth, and still are worthy to come before the Lord , and when He is with them and their hearts are innocent before him, all is well! As the priests told the people “Neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength“.

Then, if the Shechinah desired that they will observe, for example, the commandment of sitting in a booth (Sukah), the prophet and the priest opens their mouths and the people immediately cry and repent.

Therefore, it is not the outer commandments that are the bastion of the believer but the internal Joy of the Lord that is accompanied when He is presence. Such joy is the purpose of the commandments and it cannot come artificially, when the devotees of Breslau dance on their van in the streets – there, you don’t see the joy of the Lord but the forced thing, and it’s not a good testament to ‘Hashem’ (The way orthodox call God). The true joy of the Lord as it was to the people in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah can only come as a result of His living presence and revelation as described.

And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.” – The result of the presence of the Shekinah is that the people observe the Torah with great joy, because only God knows how to lead His children correctly. At every moment He knows what to emphasize and what to insist on, and what not.

When along hundreds of years, including the days of David and Solomon, the people did not fulfill this commandment of sitting in Sukkah, we have not heard a single prophet reprimanding the people for it, although we have heard many rebukes for not taking care of orphans and widows at the time. On the other hand, according to the prophet Zechariah, in the last days, people who do not come to celebrate Sukkoth properly will be severely punished. From this we learn that in the Torah there are commandments that arise to be fulfilled at certain times, and in each time there are more or less essential commandments for that time. And the tools God uses to bring these adjustments are the priests and prophets.

Also today there are specific emphases, sometimes new to the ears of the believers, that can be learned from the Torah, but this should be done through the Shekinah itself, using the tools I mentioned, and not by ‘rabbis’ who have neither the Shekinah’s revelation nor the authority from God to interpret and teach.

Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. – The leaders’ request to the people to bring various types of leaves and branches to the Sukkah is clearly the commandment from the Torah to bring the “four species”. Also, some of the plants that the people brought are clearly from the “four species”, but the other part is clearly not from the “four species”, because in the entire list of plants that the leaders of the people mentioned to collect, there are only leaves and there are no fruits, so it is clear that they did not bring, for example, “the fruit of the citrus tree“.

So the Israelites in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah did not build a sukkah exactly as written in the Torah but in a similar way. However, it cannot be claimed that the leaders of the people did not know the scriptures, only a moment ago it was noted that they read to the people and explained to them from the scriptures. And yet, as strange as this may sound today, against the background of the strict and meticulous religion we know, it turns out that in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah and before, the approach to the commandments between man and God was completely different: because even though they knew that the Torah spoke of a different list of plants than the one they actually brought They instruct the people to go and collect what was available (It is very possible that, like today, the exact knowledge of what the “fruit of the citrus tree” is, was lost).

When the Shekinah is presence the approach is never to sanctify the dead written letter. The approach do not need to be too sophisticated, not to boast with rare or expensive items that is hard for the common and the poor people to achieve. Back then, the “fruit of the citrus tree” was not available, but olive branches and date leaves were abundant. The goal is for us to experience the spirit of things and above all to implement it with understanding (“caused them to understand the reading as it is written), and to rejoice in the Lord, (“The joy of the Lord is your strength“).

 “On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher. – How do you get the people to be educated and to be happy? Well, it is not enough to teach the Torah or to uphold the commandments, but it is necessary that those who lead and who teach and who uphold the ritual commandments be those whom God has specifically appointed.

The heads of the people according to this verse are priests and Levites as required. Of course, it’s not just people whose last name is Cohen, but people who have engaged in the work of the temple as it is described in the Torah, and they need to be named and appointed from above. That’s the fundamental thing that we don’t have today. And how can it be if we don’t ask for the true priest and prophet along with the temple to be built, but just accept pointless substitutes that are not from God? God doesn’t give what man doesn’t ask for. Even the exodus from slavery in Egypt occurred only after 400 years. Why? Because only then: “they shouted to the Lord from the hard work.”

How to restore the “crown of glory to its old”? (A praise said by the orthodox).

In conclusion, I suggest to the people of Israel who believe today – those who truly want to ‘restore a crown to its old glory’ and not just as an empty slogan – to start ask for the restoration of the basic means specified above (temple, priests, prophets). Without these it is impossible to restore the presence of God among His people. Do as Daniel the prophet, who at his time fasted, begged and formulated these requests before his God and in accordance with Jeremiah’s prophecies.

With that said, today, it is necessary to know what the prophecy given to the building of the Third temple says, in order to know how to pray accordingly. And it is needed to pray for it in groups rather than in private as Daniel, because that is what suits our times.

For the not Jew believers in the God of Israel, I am suggesting not to impose their concept of building the new temple by Jesus the messiah. Jews need to find these answers by themselves and through their own traditions. The honest Jew believer will ask for example: Is it possible that God don’t give his people a solution for how to restore the temple? Is it possible that God brought us back to the land of Israel without giving us the mean to be purified so we can be in His presence? Is it possible that the prophets didn’t give any prophecy regarding this time and how to solve these problems?  Interestingly, Jeremiah (the same prophet who gave Daniel a hint about how to pray), give us a hint also today for how to restore, without any problem, the temple, the priests and prophets. This hint is in Jeremiah 31 – the whole chapter.

Regarding the question of maintaining the tradition of our ancestors and connecting to the faith of Israel through deeds and commandments of the Torah, I would suggest following the guidance of the heads of the people as in the days of Ezra to say: Observe Passover or Sukkot or Shabbat according to what is available to you and what makes sense to you (“Understand the  reading” without aggravating the laws and commandments, without adding new taboos, without crucifying the written word and trying to let justice be done though the heavens fall. This is not the way of the God of Israel and not what the Torah teaches.

It should be emphasized that everything spoken here refers only to the ritual commandments. As for the moral commandments and the relationship between man and his neighbor, the God of Israel never intended to be compromising, neither with the children of Israel nor with any of the peoples of the world. Therefore, also today, regarding the laws of morality established in the Torah, there is no room for expansive interpretation but to uphold as a whole (“thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bleach thy friend’s face“, etcetera). These are not required because we are Jewish but because we were created in the image of God.

As for the ritual commandments, their stated purpose is to bring us to stand in His presence and know what He wants us to do. In order for this to happen, one must ask for it in group prayers aimed only at this, and do the only thing that according to the Torah brings his presence: build the temple. But until we wake up to do these, those who care to keep the tradition of their ancestors will do so as in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah: happily, with common sense and without wriggling, or trying to cover up the absence of the Shechinah with strictures that are not even in the Torah. Those who demand it from you are not qualified to do so and do not seek your best interests.



To read the first part of “Judaism – it is time for a change” press here.

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