My apologies for the delay, as well as for the length of this post. Normally, I just note that the podcast is up and give a summary, but as I wrote this some thoughts occurred to me that I felt that the Holy One wanted me to pass along.
In this week’s podcast, I talk for a bit about the Haredi protests against Messianic Jews in Israel, giving an extremely brief overview of just who the Haredi are, and also give a summary of Egypt’s dealings with Israel in the Bible. I’ll come back to the Haredi in a minute.
The latter half of the podcast started into a study of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy. This week I focused on explaining the six specific goals of the Seventy Weeks for Israel and Jerusalem and why we can say categorically that they haven’t taken place yet. I also give a general overview of the prophecy, not yet delving into the issue of whether there should be a calendrical adjustment but explaining the various viewpoints on the starting point of the prophecy. I also deal with the necessity of a gap and demonstrate that even if we believe that the 69th Week points to the start of Yeshua’s ministry instead of, say, the Triumphal Entry, it’s still impossible for the Crucifixion to mark the midpoint of the 70th Week. This is due to the fact that Yeshua’s ministry lasted a little over two years, not the three-and-a-half years supposed by some scholars. Those interested in the chart of the 70th Week that I mentioned in the podcast should see the posts I’ve written so far on the subject for this blog.
On to the Haredi protests. The Rosh Pina Project, which I’ve been linking to a lot lately, is now doing profiles on the rabbis behind the protests of the last several days. I’m not entirely convinced that trying to single out individual rabbis is the way to go, so I’m not going to try to keep up with that series, but I did want people to be aware that the information is there. There is also the Failed Messiah blog (the title of which refers to the Lubavitcher rebbe, not Yeshua), which keeps track of the numerous scandals which have hit the Haredi community lately.
Many of these scandals involve money. The Haredi community in Israel is hugely dependent on government stipends which have not kept up with the rate of inflation over the years. The temptation to cheat a bit in order to obtain additional funding–like, for example, inflating the numbers of students in a yeshiva–is huge, especially since most Haredi consider the secular Israeli government to be the enemy.
The Haredi see these scandals of evidence of persecution by an apostate government rather than evidence of corruption within:
The cellular portal Haredim, which offered a collection of responses on the matter, quoted Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian sector in Bnei Brak, as blaming the instability in the region on contemptuous attitudes towards Torah study.
“Recently it appears that there is a powerful effort to destroy and agitate the world of the Torah, through various attempts to prosecute kollels and yeshiva students,” Steinman said. “When you try to agitate the world of the Torah, God agitates the world.”
Obviously, there’s more than a little denial here. One possibility that occurs to me about the timing of some of these protests is that they may motivated at least in part by the need to focus on an enemy “out there” rather than focus on the very real plight of the Haredi community itself: It is desperately poor, dependent on what the sages consider the lowest form of charity, and completely unequipped to enter into the marketplace or workforce.
The Haredi community as a whole, for all of its knowledge of and reverence for the rabbis has forgotten two very important teachings of the rabbis: “Don’t turn the Torah into a spade with which to dig” (Pirke Avot 4:5)–that is, don’t turn it into a common tool to make a living–and, “He who fails to teach his son a trade teaches him to be a thief” (m.Kiddushin 1:7). By taking government handouts to focus exclusively on the study of Torah and by failing to teach their children the skills needed to be competitive in the workforce in addition to teaching them the Talmud, the Haredi have as a community–and there are many individual exceptions to this, I might add–violated the very precepts they condemn others for.
So what should be our response? Well, despite the attention I’ve been giving the Haredi and Yad L’Achim in particular the last few days, do not number me among those who wish that they would simply go away. Israel needs those who are dedicated so firmly to the Torah and our traditions to counterbalance the secularization that goes with being an essentially Western society. The Haredi have a proper role in this–but it is not a role that they can fulfill in their current state.
Our own great Rebbe teaches us,
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Mat. 5:43-48)
It would be the easiest thing in the world for us to pray for the downfall of the Haredi that are persecuting our brethren in Israel. It would also be the wrong thing to do. Instead, even as we pray that the Holy One will use this situation to exalt the Name of Yeshua in Israel, we should also be praying that He will raise up among the Haredim leaders who will recognize the errors of the past and the resulting rot within their own community, who will publicly repent, and who will lead the Haredim into becoming independent of hand-outs and active in policing their own.
We should also pray that the Holy One opens up opportunities for Messianics to show kindness and grace not only in word, but in deed to the Haredi. Torah commands us, “If you see the donkey of him who hates you fallen down under his burden, don’t leave him, you shall surely help him with it” (Exo. 23:5). Are we prepared to walk in the ways of our Master to fulfill this mitzvah?
I actually see a golden opportunity here. I enjoy reading Elie Wiesel’s books on the Hasidic movement. One of the things that has struck me about the Hasidim is how much resistance and persecution they faced at the hands of the Haredi (i.e., the Orthodox) of their day. Wiesel relates a story about a Hasidic rebbe who sent a book to one of the rabbis critical of him. The rabbi read the book and became enraged. He actually threw the book to the ground and stormed away. When the rebbe’s students returned to him with the news, he rejoiced. “If he had read it and set it aside respectfully, there would be no hope. But because he became angry and threw the book down, I know that he will one day be one of us!”
One wonders if many of the Haredi will come to believe in Yeshua before the rest of Israel for the same reason.
Shalom and an early Shabbat Shalom.