Rabbis on a Plane

Tel AvivYesterday, December 27, 2013, I boarded a plane for my first trip to Israel! I was excited. I was nervous. I was emotional.

In waiting for the plane to board, I noticed a group of Jewish gentlemen feverishly trying to find 10 Jewish men who would agree to be a part of the minyan for evening prayers. They prayed. They davened. They sought God … albeit without understanding that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Some of the men were more fervent in their prayers than others but they were satisfied that they had achieved God’s will by reciting their evening prayers.

Upon boarding, I noticed one particular Haredi Jewish gentlemen face a conundrum … where can I sit? There was a married couple and the wife was sitting in the middle seat and the rabbi was supposed to sit on the corner. He was flummoxed. He was bamboozled. Bottom line … he was afraid of violating the Torah.

I stepped in and explained to the couple that it was that he would not sit by the wife but that he could not sit by her because of rabbinical precepts about avoiding a woman’s impurity (that was a fun conversation!). The rest of the plane trip was an exercise in frustration for the rabbi because whenever he got up to go do additional prayers or whatever, he was engaged in a gymnastic exercise to avoid touching the wife.

I prayed for the rabbi during the entire trip for he exemplified a shining example of the truth of Romans 10:1-4…

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

This rabbi obviously lived a life in which he sought to acheive righteousness but to borrow the expression, he will never be able to see the tree of righteousness because of the forest of Rabbinic Law. He might never, unless someone shares with him the truth of Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law in Matthew 5:17-20, realize the freedom of Jesus’ Law and the grace of Jesus’ fulfillment of it. This rabbi is approaching the later years of his life and I cannot help but wonder if someone has ever attempted to plant a seed of the Gospel with him. Because of his Haredi, ultra-Orthodox environment, the answer is probably not. My question is … WHY NOT?

It is not too late but I must tell you truthfully that the couple on his row, interestingly enough coming to Israel because they love Jesus (but perhaps not His people), did not react well. They rolled their eyes. They smirked at his odd gyrations. They looked at this rabbi as comical and not a soul that needs Jesus. In other words, they did a lousy job of living Romans 11:11 before him. Sadly the next question is … DO WE DO ANY BETTER?

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