In November, Temple Tmunah’s Israel Action Committee will present an Israel Synaplex Shabbat where special guests include Dr. Tamar Elram, Israeli Obstetrician and current Wexner Fellow, and two of JCRC’s 2010 Interfaith clergy tour participants– Reverend Bryan Wilkerson, Senior Pastor of Grace Chapel, Reverend Paul Shupe Sr. Minister of Hancock Church. This sermon by Rabbi Lerner was inspired, in part, by that JCRC trip experience.
Israel: Challenges and Hope
sermon by Rabbi David Lerner
Understanding the Christian Perspective
This interfaith trip was a new experience for me in Israel; Judaism was only half the story – we explored many Christian sites. Most eye-opening for me was the focus on Jesus. While most Christians see Jesus as divine, to me, Jesus was a Jewish teacher. I wanted to understand the Christians perspective.
We went to Capernaum or Kefar Nahum to see where Jesus lived and visited the 4th century shul built on a first century synagogue where Jesus probably davened each Shabbat and many other sites related to his life. My Christian colleagues suddenly had new insight into their sacred texts as they stood on the shores of the Galilee and could see where Jesus walked, how his disciples could have seen him on a boat so clearly from the shore.
In addition to traveling the land, my Christian colleagues also gained insight into Jesus’s life through the experience of traveling with observant Jews. For example, they were fascinated by the tallit and tefillin that I wore to daven each morning. Not only was this an interesting religious practice, but they also realized that Jesus, himself an observant Jew, wore tefillin each morning as well.
On the Mount of Beatitudes, Reverend Bryan Wilkerson, the senior pastor of Grace Chapel here in Lexington recited excerpts from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:3-5)
These words echo some of the thoughts that we will read next week in our Yom Kippur Haftarah from the prophet Isaiah: “… to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked, to clothe them, and do not ignore your own flesh.”
I was truly moved to see Israel through this Christian lens, one which is clearly founded on our tradition, but yet also different. They gave me hope, helped me realize that Israel is not alone, that we are not alone. This is profoundly new – while in previous generations, many Jews were threatened by Christians, now many Christians are our greatest allies, friends and supporters. This Christian connection to us and to Israel gives me great hope for Israel’s future.
I pray that these relationships, especially with the clergy here in the Lexington area, will endure. They are a personal blessing to me.
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