Letter To The Jews / Chapter 3

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3: Examining The House

The prophet Amos says: “If a shofar is blown in a city, will people not tremble? If there is disaster in a city, is it not YHWH who has acted? For my Lord YHWH will not do a thing unless he reveals the plan to his servants the prophets. A lion has roared. Who will not fear? My Lord YHWH has spoken. Who will not prophesy?” 1

But where were the prophets who warned the people, and instructed them on how to avoid the impending destruction, in the days of the Romans?

YHWH also said, through the mouth of Malachi: “Look! I am sending you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and fearful day of YHWH; and he will turn the heart of fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers, or I will come and strike the land and devote it.”2

But where was Elijah, to turn back the hearts of your ancestors, before YHWH devoted the land to destruction at the hand of the Romans? If Elijah had come, would the Temple have been preserved and the land devoted to holiness instead?

And where were the rabbis who discerned the will of YHWH in those days? Even the wisest one among them was led to believe that a certain Simon would be the star to come out of Jacob, and lead your ancestors to victory as YHWH’s anointed one.

Yet Simon was defeated, Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina, your ancestors were scattered, and forbidden to set foot in the holy land, except for the ninth day of the month Av, the same day on which the first and second Temples were overthrown. It was as if YHWH had caused the wisdom of the wise ones to perish.

Now, we will not dwell for too much longer on this aspect of history. But as a certain famous writer of plays said: “What's past is prologue.” In other words, the past is always the beginning of the story to come. And so, a greater understanding of the earlier scenes can help to make better sense of the ones to come.

As humans, we first of all learn from those who came before us. In turn, those who instruct us learn from those who instructed them. But if a teacher has an error in his teaching, then the student will receive that error as truth, unless the student is more diligent than the teacher, and finds the error.

A good teacher will praise the student for correcting the mistake. But a bad teacher will be indignant! For what authority does the student have to correct the teacher?

Nevertheless, truth is its own authority. And this is how progress has been made in many fields of education; by correcting errors of the past, even if they have been taught for generations as truth.

Now, let us again speak plainly. Your ancestors lost their holy city and sanctuary, not once, but twice. YHWH himself said that he would cause the wisdom of their wise to perish, and even the greatest of their teachers was led along into a false belief. And for many hundreds of years, they were not able to dwell in Jerusalem as a nation, or rebuild their holy Temple.

Yet their teachings and interpretation of prophecy have been passed down and taught even to this day. For that reason, the truly wise person does well to carefully examine what has been taught, especially in relation to the words of prophecy.

When people consider buying a house, they first pay someone to inspect it. Now, perhaps the house is built on a shaky foundation and is near to collapsing. Or it may simply need one or two adjustments, to make it suitable for habitation; or it may be fine and in no need of anything. Either way, the wise buyer will make a thorough examination first.

But those who are born in the house, and who live in it and inherit it, do not make the same careful examination, for they have lived in it for a long time, and have become accustomed to it, even if it has imperfections.

Nevertheless, those living in the house would do well to have an outsider inspect it carefully from time to time, to make sure it is suitable as a dwelling for the one who desires to reside with you.

1 Amos 3:6-8. 2 Malachi 4:5,6 (3:23,24).

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