A leading rabbi reflects on the growing friendship between Jewish and Christian communities
As a rabbi, I share with many others in the Jewish community a deep sense of gratitude, allied to some perplexity, at the phenomenon of evangelical support for Israel. I welcome this chance to share my views as a Jewish leader, on our shared perspectives and goals.
A great Hasidic teacher, the Kotzker Rebbe, once said the only whole heart is a broken one.
In an unredeemed world, there is so much pain and loss, any healthy heart must break. What people of God share is that our hearts must hope as well.
Evangelical Christians and Jews have many differences. But we share hearts of hope, we share the conviction that love of God and of one another is essential to help heal the world, and we share a deep, abiding passion for the land of Israel.
For 2,000 years, Jews looked longingly toward Jerusalem. The miracle we celebrate—that the land has been restored—is allied to the Jews and Christians standing together to defend it. The United States is bound to Israel by ties of history, value and common purpose.
The frequent pilgrimages, the vocal support, the rallies, the understanding that Israel is the focus of a great struggle of spirit in our own time—all these efforts by the evangelical community have been seen and appreciated both in Israel and here in the United States. Together we recognize that our age has been given renewed gifts as well as beset with serious challenges.
We are told in the Bible that God blessed Abraham with everything when he was very old (Gen. 24:1). Yet Abraham was a man who left his native home, drove one son from his house, was asked to sacrifice the other son, was forced by famine to go to Egypt, feared for the safety of his wife, fought a war, and witnessed both wickedness and destruction. How can the Bible tell us that he was blessed in all things?
The rabbis offer a beautiful answer. To be blessed in life is not only to have comfort and ease. Blessing means that we have to witness struggle, feel pain, experience the ills and anguish of life, as well as its sweetness, its embrace and its joy. That is “everything.”
We share a deep love of Israel. But we are keenly aware that this love is mixed with all the daily difficulties of a land in which populations jostle with one another, people often fail, and disappointments mark both the lives of individuals and the aspirations of the nation.
This is God blessing “with everything.” Israel is imperfect; human beings are frail and flawed creatures, but it grows out of a divine vision. When we look at Israel, we still see the land where our ancestors walked, where dreams and wonders and possibilities shaped the legacy of all the earth.
History and politics are fraught. Answers are not easy. Yet a steady gaze at the horizon keeps us mindful of both the past and the promise of the Holy Land.
The Jewish community is grateful to our evangelical brothers and sisters, for amidst the jangle of the everyday, you too hear the music of the miracle that is Israel. We will continue to have our differences; Jews believe that God does not wish us to be other than we are. That is our abiding conviction.
Nonetheless, everyone who seeks to walk with
God knows that our ultimate hope is the same for this small, embattled, remarkable land that God has called God’s own: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:9). God bless you.
David Wolpe is rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. He has taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City and the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He currently teaches at UCLA. Rabbi Wolpe writes for many publications, including the New York Jewish Week, beliefnet.com, the L.A. Jewish Journal, the Jerusalem Post and the Los Angeles Times. Rabbi Wolpe is the author of the best-seller Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times. He was named the top pulpit rabbi in America by Newsweek magazine.
MinistryToday March // April 2012