Although we never met, I heard much about you from a mutual friend. He told me aspects of your story – the painful struggle which caused you to seek help from a group of Christians and to later adopt their religion. You were given a difficult life challenge, and you were seeking spiritual support and guidance. Although you are a member of the Family of Israel, the “modern” temple of your youth had been influenced to some degree by secular, western thought; thus, you were not exposed to a Jewish community with a strong faith in the Compassionate One and that was fully devoted to the deep and life-giving wisdom of our Torah. This is why you were not able to find the right spiritual support and guidance in the community you grew up with.
I feel a loving bond with you, especially since I too have had a difficult life challenge. I eventually found support and guidance from wise and loving Torah teachers who connected me to life-giving Torah insights which helped me to rise above the suffering and which gave me new strength and wisdom to serve Our Creator. As a result, I developed a deeper understanding as to why the Torah is called a ”Tree of Life” (Proverbs 3:18). I therefore felt pain and sadness when I heard that your journey took a detour which led you to adopt the Christian religion. One of the reasons for my concern is because our Torah teaches us to feel responsible for the welfare of each member of the Family of Israel. This sense of responsibility is not just for our sake; it is also for the sake of all the families of the earth. As the Compassionate One promised our father, Jacob:
“All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Genesis 28:14).
Each member of the Family of Israel has a special role in the fulfillment of this Divine promise. And when all the members of our family unite in order to fulfill the Torah, we can develop a model society which will serve as “a light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). We have already brought some light into the world through the influence of the Divine teachings that are recorded in our Sacred Scriptures; moreover, the Compassionate One promised us that despite our setbacks, we will complete this universal mission in the messianic age, as He said, “Nations will walk by your light and sovereigns by the glow of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:3)
We strengthen our ability to fulfill this mission when we have the love and support of each member of our family, including you. I know that you have love in your heart, and I therefore pray to the Compassionate One that the words which come from my heart will increase your love, as well as your respect, for the Family of Israel.
Although I now live in Jerusalem, I grew up in Christian America, and I recall Christian missionaries who approached me with the message that we could only achieve atonement and salvation through accepting as our savior, “God’s only begotten son.” As a member of the Family of Israel who had studied the Torah of Israel, I found this message about “the only begotten son” to be very strange. After all, the Compassionate One proclaimed at the dawn of our history: “My firstborn son is Israel” (Exodus 4:22). In addition, the Compassionate One proclaimed to the entire Family of Israel: “You are children of the Compassionate One, your God” (Deuteronomy 14:1). Even when we stumble or sin, we are still called His children, as it is written: “Corruption is not His – the blemish is His children’s” (Deut. 32:5).
The Divine statement “My firstborn son is Israel” also indicates that there are other children. As the noted biblical commentator, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, writes:
“When God says, ‘My firstborn son is Israel,’ this means: With Israel, the womb of humanity will be opened; with Israel, the dance will begin; all the peoples are obligated to join him as My sons…Israel is My first, but not My only child.” (Commentary to Exodus 2:22)
As the firstborn child, Israel is to demonstrate to all the other children how to pray to our loving Parent, the Compassionate One, and ever since Abraham and Sarah, we have prayed directly to the Compassionate One without an intermediary. This is why we reject the Christian claim that one can only pray to God through Jesus. If you read the Book of Psalms carefully, you will get a better understanding of how we pray.
There is a Christian folk song which states, “Give me that old-time religion.” The song mentions that if the “old-time religion” was good enough for Abraham, Moses, and a host of biblical figures, “it is good enough for me.” In this spirit, we, the Family of Israel, emulate our righteous ancestors, and we pray directly to the One Creator of all life.
Any human being can get close to the Compassionate One, as it is written: “The Compassionate One is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely” (Psalm 145:18). A classical biblical commentator, known as the Radak, explains that the words “all who call upon Him” apply to any human being regardless of nationality.
Any human being can also merit forgiveness from the Compassionate One without the need of an intermediary. A fascinating example can be found in the biblical story about how the Gentiles of Nineveh repented after the Prophet Jonah gave them a Divine warning. The following verse describes how they merited to be forgiven through changing the way they acted:
“And God saw their deeds, that they returned from their evil way; and God relented concerning the evil He had said He would bring upon them, and did not do it.” (Jonah,3:10)
In my conversations with the missionaries, I discussed the Christian persecution of our family over the centuries, and through this discussion, I discovered that the missionaries had the following view: The people in Christian countries who persecuted and murdered the Children of Israel will go to heaven if they accepted Jesus as their savior, while the Children of Israel who believe in the Compassionate One, but not Jesus, are condemned to eternal damnation, despite the good deeds they have done. This view contradicts the Torah’s emphasis on serving the Compassionate One not only through faith, but also through deeds, including the mitzvah of tzedekah - the Divine mandate to share our resources with those in need. This emphasis on faith with deeds can be found throughout the Torah, and an early example is the following Divine statement concerning our father, Abraham: “For I have loved him because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of the Compassionate One, doing acts of tzedakah and justice” (Genesis 18:19). And regarding our future redemption from exile, it states, “Zion shall be redeemed through justice, and those who return to her through tzedakah” (Isaiah 1:27).
Another major contradiction of the Torah is the Christian deification of Jesus. We, the Family of Israel, received the Torah and its interpretations on Mount Sinai; thus, we heard the Divine voice proclaim: “You shall not have other gods in My presence” (Exodus 20:3). We serve only “Hashem” – the Compassionate One; moreover, we proclaim each morning and each evening, “Hear O Israel, Hashem is our God, Hashem is One!” (Deut. 6:4). We therefore do not deify any human being, including a member of our own family!
We also reject the Christian claim that Jesus is the promised Messiah, for the true Messiah must fulfill the prophecies that are outlined in chapter 11 of Isaiah and other places within our Sacred Scriptures. According to these prophecies, the Messiah will gather in all the exiles of Israel, rebuild the Temple, and inspire all human beings to return to the Compassionate One. In the age of the Messiah, there will be peace and spiritual enlightenment, as it is written: “They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain; for the earth will be filled with knowledge of the Compassionate One as water covering the sea bed" (Isaiah 11:9). Neither Jesus or anyone else has fulfilled these prophecies; thus, we, together with Gentile friends who share our beliefs, are awaiting the true Messiah who will redeem Israel and all humankind.
If the Christian peoples are correct in their beliefs,
then the messianic prophecies should record that, when
the Messiah comes, our family will go to the Christians
who had the “correct” beliefs and make them our
spiritual guides. Instead, the Prophet Zechariah states:
“Thus said the Compassionate One, God of the hosts of creation: In those days it will happen that ten men, of all the different languages of the nations, will take hold, they will take hold of the corner of the garment of a Jewish man, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you!’ ” (Zechariah 8:23)
It is the Gentiles - including the Christians - who will seek out our persecuted family and ask us to be their spiritual guides. Yes, we are a small family, and we form only a tiny fraction of one percent of the world’s population, but the following Divine promise reminds us that we are destined to serve as “kohanim” – ministers – to all humankind: “And you shall be called kohanim of the Compassionate One; ministers of our God will be said of you” (Isaiah 61:6). The families of the earth will acknowledge our role as the guardians of the Torah, and they will accept the teachings that we have to offer. This Divine promise and all the other Divine promises to the Family of Israel will be fulfilled, as it is written: “God is not a man that He should be deceitful, nor a son of man that He should change His mind; shall He say and not do, or speak and not confirm?” (Numbers 23:19).
Let us therefore remember that the Compassionate One said to the Family of Israel,“I have loved you with an eternal love”(Jeremiah 31:32). Let us also remember that the Compassionate One is the Forgiving One, as it is written:
“Who, O Compassionate One, is like You, Who pardons iniquity and overlooks transgression for the remnant of His heritage” (Micah 7:18).
We, the remnant of His heritage, can find strength and hope in the following Divine promise which was conveyed to us through Moses, our teacher:
“It will be that when all these things come upon you - the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you - then you will take it to your heart among all the nations where the Compassionate One, your God, has dispersed you. And you will return unto the Compassionate One, your God, and listen to His voice, according to everything that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and all your soul. Then the Compassionate One, your God, will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you, and He will gather you in from all the peoples to which the Compassionate One, your God, has scattered you. If your dispersed will be at the ends of heaven, from there the Compassionate One, your God, will gather you in and from there He will take you.” (Deuteronomy 30:1-4)
My dear brother, it’s not too late to come home. In this way, you can join us in experiencing the next stage of the above Divine promise:
“…The Compassionate One will return to rejoice over you for good, as He rejoiced over your ancestors, when you listen to the voice of the Compassionate One, your God, to keep His mandates and His statutes, that are written in this Book of the Torah, when you shall return to the Compassionate One, your God, with all your heart and all your soul” (Deut. 30: 9:10)
I long to greet you in Jerusalem.
B’Ahavah – With Love,