Onlooker

The strong presence of ultra-Orthodox Jews is very evident as soon as you arrive in Jerusalem. If you have been raised in a very secular society outside of Israel or New York City, their manner of dress and customs seems strange. I have been intrigued by their hidden lifestyle for years. Please note that I say intrigued and not enamored.

You may be surprised to find out; although they are a group who gives more time in education than any other in the history of humankind, they do not spend much time or place much value in studying or learning the Jewish Bible or Torah, also called the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Bible. Most of their time is used in studying the Talmud or Mishnah. These are the rabbinical writings and interpretations of their Bible. These writings and practices are highly esteemed and equal to scripture in their eyes.

In Israel, they are 700,000 plus strong and growing since they have large families of six or seven children or more. Less than half ultra-Orthodox Jewish women work outside the home and even less men. Some receive financial aid that enables them to spend their time in study.

Usually, they live in poverty and rarely do they send their young adults to serve in the Israeli army. They receive exemptions, however, this is changing  today. There are some among them who sincerely desire to serve. Because of these things, secular Israel is not overly fond of the extreme, let’s say fanatical, side of their family.

Sometimes, Christians, especially when they first arrive in Israel or become aware of their Jewish roots begin to idealize them. Thinking they have some mystical connection or deeper revelation of God that has not been revealed to Gentiles. These thoughts can lead into grave deception.

They, like all humankind, must reckon with Yeshua. He is the stone which the builders rejected. His own did not recognize or want Him. They went a different way; and after the destruction of the Temple and the dispersion, some of them grew into the sects of ultra-Orthodox Judaism that exist today — vehemently against belief in Jesus or Yeshua. Although, Judaism will tolerate a Jew who turns to Buddha, existentialism, Hare Krishna, education, secularism, even atheism, they will not accept one as a Jew still if he turns to Yeshua as Messiah. Some count family members who believe in Him as dead.

In reality a Jew becomes more of a Jew when the scales fall from eyes and he begins to see Him as the long-awaited One who was a Jew among Jews and brought light and salvation into the world as promised and prophesied by Jewish prophets.

Psalm 118 foretells of the day when the Messiah becomes that stone which the builders reject and is tossed aside. During Shavuot or Pentecost and the falling of the fire of the Holy Spirit upon those who gathered after the resurrection of Jesus in the upper room, Peter calls Jesus or Yeshua that very stone.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is

“‘the stone you builders rejected,
    which has become the cornerstone.’

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:8-12).

Whether Jewish or non-Jewish, each must deal with the question of who is Jesus or Yeshua. Either you fall, pleading for mercy, on the stone in your pathway or let it fall on you.

I wrote this poem contemplating these things.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein*

Onlooker

With prayer shawl and phylactery

ultra-Orthodox Jew

appears odd to unlearned onlooker

like me. Unchangeable

trivialities he esteems

holy with trembling fear.

Anchored by covenant,

every jot and tittle line his face,

predict his course.

Black silhouette looms,

a phantom of grace,

stark against post-modern culture.

Mouthpiece to the nations or

laughing-stock chiseled in stone?

Fixed. Prevailing

above societies’ substandard pace.

His life by law, like a shadow at dusk,

elongates retribution’s foretaste.

So rare his dedication, I stare gaping

floundering foundationless

without roots. Envious for a second,

yet rescued, grafted in, and indebted —

the commonwealth of Israel is mine

by a paid price.

Both of us have stumbled, both

blocked by a common Cornerstone.

Equalized by need.

Two groups. One.

Stones from a broken partition

rest in rubble at our feet.

Separation cancelled.

Cleaving or crushing,

the bloodstained Cornerstone

triumphs.

© Bonnie Saul Wilks

all right reserved

* Photo credit: Wikipedia, ultra-Orthodox Jews


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