Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day! One of my first memories in life is the memorial siren that sounded loud and clear. Surprised and scared, I ran to my mother and wanted to nurse. She took me on her lap and allowed me to nurse. I was probably two or three years old.
Now, I am 75 years old and every year on this day of remembrance I know that I am a second generation Holocaust survivor. All my childhood from every member of my family I heard the narrative that was a pivotal point of every crisis that was the Second World War, the exile that my mother and sister and grandmother had to experience in the labor camps of Bulgaria.
The stories of my mother and sister making sandwiches and carrying water and walking to the Sofia, Bulgaria train station to give the Greek Jews that were loaded on cattle cars some food and water. The trains that were taking the Greek Jews to the extermination camps in Germany and Poland passed through Sofia and stopped there for a few minutes for refueling.
When you grow up with these narratives there are two reactions that could accompany you for the rest of your life. The first is a negative and unhealthy fear of the enemy, in this case the German Nazis. The second reaction is 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
I felt from those childhood days that I wanted to dedicate my life to making people better. My mother, who was one of the founders of the Communist Party of Bulgaria believed that humanity can become better by the principles of equality and social and economic progress, and the rights of the workers. My father who was on the opposite side of the political spectrum from my mother, believed that humanity will never become better and that the only way to live is be always ready to defend yourself and to win against your enemies by any and all means.
My father was a good man, but also amoral. He believed that morality was a luxury that was only for those who were at the top of the food chain who discuss it in order to camouflage their abuse of the weak and poor. Growing up in this kind of dual polarized political and social environment made me always interested in changing and influencing humans.
In our germ-infected environment I was interested in vaccinating ourselves as humans, from doing the evil things that my family and millions of people, not only Jews, experienced in World War II. When I found Yeshua, not Christianity, the Yeshua of the New Testament, the Jewish Messiah, the one who is teaching the world that it can be a better place than Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, at the age of 16, while reading the Gospels and the book of Acts, I understood that the only true chance for a better brand of humanity is not to fight evil with more evil, but to fight evil with good.
Nevertheless, now at the age of 75, after 59 years of worldwide ministry, I understand that even the Gospel is not an instant solution. I now understand that even with Yeshua the son of God, as my Rabbi, Teacher, Savior, and Messiah, the solution is not instant.
I understand that in order to raise an army of men and women who are dedicated to following this messiah, Yeshua, and to practicing His teachings and His example for both Jew and Gentile, it will take a different type of mechanism.
The mechanism of Christianity which we have seen operating, during the last 1500 years, has not produced a loving and peaceful community, in any place in the world. To generalize in this case is legitimate because the general history and examples that I have seen do not fit or reflect the person or the teaching or the requirements of Yeshua and His disciples as presented in the scriptures.
For this reason I urge and encourage brothers and sisters in Israel and around the world to forget the divisions and enmity that is the daily bread and butter of the Christian denominations. I urge the disciples of Yeshua to learn and to study the New Testament and to try to understand who Yeshua and His disciples are today, and to return to making Yeshua not only our savior and not only the son of God and not an object of only platitudes of worship, but our life teacher, our coach, who will ultimately become our judge.
He will be a tough judge that will judge all flesh with a sword in His hand and God’s grace will not help those who have divided and politicized and used the kingdom of God to teach enmity and hate and racism in order to achieve personal gain! The days of God’s grace are now!
We must make use of God’s grace now to correct and fix our lives and to direct others to not only go to the nice air-conditioned church buildings, but to spread the Good News, and the message of salvation, and God’s love to our neighbors in the here and now, with those who are around us!
The Torah reading of this week is from Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47, the name of this portion is Shemini. From the prophets the reading is from 2 Samuel 6:1 – 7:17. From the New Testament we read Matthew 3:11-17. This week I would like to take the words of John the Baptizer that describe John’s view of who the Messiah is and what His mission will likely be during His life here on Earth.
“‘I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.” – Matthew 3:11–13 [NKJV]
The first phrase that needs clarification here is a hebraism, it is an Hebrew idiom: “Baptized by fire!” The basic meaning of this idiom is: The first encounter and dealing with the enemy. John the Baptist is saying here about the Messiah is that He will give us the initial first introduction to the Holy Spirit and the first introduction to the battle, the confrontation with the enemy.
The rest of John’s statement is also of great importance for our understanding:
“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” – Matthew 3:12 [NKJV]
What does it mean “His winnowing fan is in his hand?” What is winnowing? Winnowing is the process of throwing the grain that was winnowed up in the air with a wooden fan with four wide prongs made from wood that is used to cast the winnowed grain up in the air against the wind to separate the grain from the chaff. The winnowing process is placing the harvested grain on the floor of the threshing floor, a flat big rock space on top of an exposed high hill or mountain.
When the farmer uses the winnowing fork (fan) he lifts the grain that was crushed on the threshing floor and throws it against the wind. The good grain falls to the ground because it is heavier and the chaff flies in the wind. The threshing and the winnowing is a difficult work, but the wheat is the part that suffers the most, it is a painful separation process between the chaff and the grain.
This is the description that John the Baptizer gives of the mission of the Messiah! Yeshua of course seconds John’s initiating introduction.
“So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just…” – Matthew 13:49 [NKJV]
John the Baptizer sees the Messiah, sees Yeshua, as also being the Lamb of God that came to take away the sins of the world. The image of the Lamb of God is taken from the Passover story:
“Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.’” – Exodus 12:3-6 [NKJV]
You will notice that there is a grammatical and logical dissonance in this text. Each family had to have their own sheep or goat and slaughter it on the evening of the 14th day of Nissan on their doorstep. However in verse 6 the text seems to imply that the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill “it” at twilight.
Rashi, who lived in Germany in the 12th Century, who is considered as being one of the finest commentators of the Hebrew Bible, commented about this and noticed the grammatical problem and alluded to the fact that it is impossible for the whole community of Israel to kill one lamb and there must be more to this text then meets the eye.
He from there takes his readers to Isaiah 53:7:
“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” – Isaiah 53:7 [NKJV]
Rashi noted that the motif of the Lamb that saves is also found in Isaiah 53 and he connects the two places not saying it directly, but by implication that this lamb that is collectively slaughtered on the eve of Passover is related to that Lamb that is a messianic Lamb from Isaiah 53:7.
I believe that this is the meaning of John the Baptizer’s statement upon seeing Yeshua coming down to the Jordan to be baptized by him:
“Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” – John 1:29 [NKJV]
The emphasis of John’s statement is one of division and separation between the “sheep and the goats,” between those whose righteousness is purchased by the Messiah’s suffering (Isaiah 53) and those who believe that they are righteous from their own deeds and charities.
Our challenge for these days is to return to basics, to be less attentive to our own gain and even to our own private salvation and more to the mission of all of Israel that was accomplished by Yeshua our Savior – to be a light to the world (see Isaiah 42:6 and God’s promises to our father Abraham). It is wonderful to remember and celebrate the grace of God that comes from Yeshua and His sacrifice for our salvation and forgiveness of sins.
We ought to celebrate and rejoice in Yeshua our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7,8) but we must not forget that He, the man Yeshua, will judge all flesh and will condemn some and save others.
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” – Acts 17:30,31 [NKJV]
I personally believe that the judgement of all flesh by Yeshua (The Jew who will judge the world in righteousness) is not far from us, and that this pandemic called “corona” is just a reminder that the whole world is in God’s hand. At His will He can save and at His will He can damn.
This is what I want you to remember on this Holocaust Memorial Day! Fearing God is as important as or even more important than many of the teachings and concepts that are very important in the Scriptures. “Fearing God” means to have the faith and trust and respect for God and be motivated to do right and to keep our relationship with Him between these two poles: loving, and fearing, God. (Respecting Him enough that your desire is to obey and please Him!)
The disciples of Christ (the Messiah) must not be passive or despondent with regard to what is happening around them. They must not be silent in the face of the challenges and evils in their community. They must not be oblivious to all of the suffering, injustice and abuse that is happening around them.
The disciples of the Messiah must be a light shining in the darkness of our world, on the immorality, and the abominable things that are happening all around us. Both the church and the synagogue have stopped up their mouths with water and are keeping silent in fear of the culture of political correctness, choosing to fear men rather than to fear God.
Political correctness has never been in tune with God’s Word or God’s will! It is always running on the the wide path that is downhill taking those who walk on that path down to destruction, to Hell! It is more important to please the Lord and be biblically correct than to be politically correct. I will end with the words of Jeremiah the prophet:
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.’ ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.’” – Jeremiah 17:5-8 [NKJV]
Just remember this, if there had been more Christians in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, there would have been no Nazi Holocaust There would have been no invasion of Poland, no Nazi extermination camps, no millions of men, women and children, Jews, Gypsies, and other nationalities sent to gas chambers and burned in crematoriums.
It was Christians who carried out this horror called The Holocaust. It was not Muslims, Buddhists, or Jews who degraded and murdered people by the hundreds of thousands just because they were Jews or Gypsies. It was protestant christians, it was catholic christians who went to church and sang, “a mighty fortress is our God…”
On this day of remembrance I am happy to have the chance to remind myself and remind you too that our faith in Yeshua (in Christ) is not only for getting dressed up in our nice clothes, and going to a nice church building and singing praises. Our faith places moral, ethical and business constraints on our total life, family, work, society and our civic obligations.
If you don’t like what I wrote above, don’t be shy, write me and challenge me. I will answer you kindly.
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.