Every couple of weeks they would call. They were not the bullying Yad L’Achim I remembered from 20 years ago, who enjoyed using the phone to harass us in the middle of the night. (“Meet with us, or we will make trouble with your employer.”) Nor were they the cloak-and-dagger Yad L’Achim I remembered from 10 years ago, pretending to be Messianic in order to spy on us. This was a kinder, more honest Yad L’Achim. Or was it? I never did find out how they got everyone’s name and cell-phone number in our family.
After a few calls, I overcame my sense of invaded privacy and started recognizing the caller as a person. A fellow-Israeli, a fellow-Jew. A young female voice, around the age of my daughter. Let’s call her Orit. She called my number thinking it belonged to my daughter, but it turned out that Orit was content to speak with any believer who didn’t hang up on her.
I was pretty sure she wasn’t making that up to manipulate me. The Israeli Body tends to regard Yad L’Achim as a monolithic enemy: kippah-wearing fanatics looking for meetings to disrupt, congregations to firebomb, or car tires to puncture. We all know the confrontations which created that image; they were/are real. But the foot-soldiers in Yad L’Achim’s “Jewish soul-rescue” division follow a different strategy, applying the real meaning of “outreach” with increasing finesse.
Therefore, beware of Myth One: “The anti-missionaries hate Jewish believers and just want to hurt us.” For those of us who expect only hostility and rejection, the personal affirmation can be disarming… especially for Messianic Jews who crave acceptance from the wider Jewish community.
It was always the same young woman who called me. At first I thought this was due to the haredi (ultra-orthodox) tradition that discourages men from talking to women. But that didn’t seem to apply to our adult Israeli children, who were often approached by smiling, attractive Yad L’Achim activists of the opposite sex. I later concluded that the reason was more humbling. The guys have the Torah training, and they’re reserved for the challenging believers. In contrast, American and Russian immigrants to Israel are at the top of Yad L’Achim’s list of the “vulnerable“: uneducated in Jewish things, easily misled into cults, and therefore just as easily retrieved.
As an American immigrant, I would be an easy assignment. This was confirmed when Orit turned out to not have much Torah knowledge beyond the Yad L’Achim classes she had attended on “how to expose the lies in the New Testament”. When I finally met my would-be rescuer in person, I realized that she was not even religious: she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
There went Myth Two: “Yad L’Achim activists work hard to deal with believers discipled by the Messianic movement.” On the contrary, Yad L’Achim publishes numerous testimonies from Jewish believers taught by Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, Jews for Jesus, Israel College of the Bible and Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations – even former leaders – who “came home to” rabbinic Judaism. Through interaction with these Messianic Jews, anti-missionaries have identified a kind of faith rooted “in the wisdom of men” and not “in the power of God” (1 Cor.2:5). All they had to do was present a superior wisdom, with a dash of supernatural power.
Orit was eager to rescue me from the clutches of Christianity. “What harm could it do to come and have a cup of coffee with us? You’re a Jew, you need to give your own religion a chance.” Despite her condescending assumption that I knew little about Judaism and cared less, I couldn’t resent it; the average Israeli Messianic believer would fit her stereotype. Anyway, it was refreshing to be approached with no hidden agenda. And if she was sincerely concerned for my Jewish soul, I was even more concerned for hers. But I refused her invitation to come to the Yad L’Achim office. We agreed to meet on neutral ground, in a coffee shop.
Orit never doubted for a moment that my orientation was Christian and my faith was based exclusively on the New Testament. Thus she came to our first meeting armed only with her notes from Yad L’Achim’s “New-Testament-lies” class. I was the one with the Jewish Bible (Hebrew-English).
She began her assault on my faith with an oddly triumphant announcement: “Jeremiah 31:31 is about a new covenant God made with Israel, not with the Christians.”
I wholeheartedly agreed… and Orit looked perplexed. She clearly wasn’t expecting that.
It was my turn to be perplexed. How could anyone understand God’s clear statement any other way? “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah….”
I explained to her that the New Covenant is even part of the Torah given by Moshe Rebbenu (Moses our teacher). And just like in Jeremiah 31 (v.32), it was identified as “another” covenant, explicitly not the one made at Sinai. I turned to the evidence in Deuteronomy 29:1 (28:69 in Hebrew). Then I skipped over to chapter 30:6, which says that a key element in that new covenant was a heart circumcision performed by God alone. I pointed at the result of that circumcision: not just keeping God’s commandments but also hearing His Voice through the Holy Spirit – an experience which today’s Torah community considers impossible… until Messiah is about to be revealed.
Coming back to Jeremiah 31, I showed Orit (v.34) that not only would this intimacy with God be experienced by “all” of Israel, but it would start with “their small ones”… like her and me… and only then spread to “their great ones” (literally “Gedolim”, a title reserved for the most revered rabbis). Orit dropped her notes and started reading my Bible, fascinated. She didn’t mind admitting that these ideas were foreign to her… yet here they were in Tanach, and the Hebrew wording was unmistakable.
Say goodbye to Myth Three: “YL activists are trained to reject the New Covenant for Jewish reasons.” No, they are trained to reject it for Christian reasons. Whenever the church uses the Tanach as a New Testament footnote rather than its foundation, it presents the Jews with Paul’s “Good News for the uncircumcised” (Gal.2:7-8). Time to restore Peter’s “Good News for the circumcised”, presented from the Jewish Bible… which incidentally was all the Bible that the apostles had!
Orit did not meet with me alone. Yad L’Achim outreach activists go on assignment in twos. With her was a lady dressed in the customary clothing and wig of the married haredi woman. Let’s call her Shlomit. She was friendly too, and quite open about her life. Shlomit was young but already a mother of four. Currently, she was caring for them alone while her husband was on a special trip to Chabad headquarters in New York. A really long trip. Shlomit’s husband would be staying there for five months, and she was very proud to make the sacrifice.
I realized where this “testimony” was going. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Shneerson, had declared his “770” headquarters as God’s physical Temple, where Messiah will be revealed (see the Chabad article, “The House of Cedars”, here). Meanwhile, the hot spot is “the Ohel” (“Tent”), the grave of that same man, simply called “the” Rebbe. Thousands of Jews each year flock there to ask for blessings, miracles and advice from this engineer-turned-rabbi who died in 1994. Expectations that Shneerson would prove he was Messiah by rising from the dead gradually morphed into a teaching that he is still around somehow… because Messiah cannot die.
If you are thinking that implies divinity, you’re right. For years his followers have been saying that there is no essential difference between their Rebbe and God. When entering the Ohel, people are asked to take off their shoes “as Moses did before nearing the burning bush” (Chabad overview of The Ohel). And like at the Burning Bush, barefoot petitioners expect to receive Divine communication. The Rebbe himself regularly consulted with his dead father-in-law, who is also buried there. The Chabad website explains how you can send a letter asking for “the Rebbe’s guidance and intervention On High [sic].” Answers are guaranteed.
I gently probed for Shlomit’s thoughts. Does she believe the Rebbe is the Messiah? “Well,” she said with a coy smile, “I’m not ready to say he’s NOT the Messiah.” Nor was she ready to say he was dead. “You need to read the Tanach prophecies about the Messiah being revealed and then hidden, and then returning….”
I wondered how to break the news to her. So many Messianic prophecies were fulfilled by Yeshua of Nazareth, which could never be stretched to fit her savior. For example, being born in Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2), and living in the Galilee (Isa.9:1-2). Or rising from the dead the hard way… by leaving the tomb empty on the third day… as the rabbis also once taught.
So much for Myths Four and Five: “Yad L’Achim rejects belief in a dead and risen Messiah.” And, “Yad L’Achim is offended by the belief that we need a Mediator to approach God.” These anti-missionaries seek to discredit faith in Yeshua in order to promote faith in a replacement Messiah. Few know that the founder of Yad L’Achim (Rabbi Sholom Lifshitz, now deceased) was a Chabad rabbi for 50 years and repeatedly consulted with the Rebbe, who expressed his personal support for Yad L’Achim. Yad L’Achim leader Benyamin Kluger has consulted with the Rebbe since his death. As time goes on, Yad L’Achim in Israel and Chabad in New York are more open about their common goal: to gain disciples for their messiah.
After our talk, I emailed the ladies a link to a popular Chabad poster in Israel (Translation: “Behold, this is our God, this is YHVH for whom we have waited, the Rebbe Lubavitch”) and I asked for their opinion. Orit wrote back that I was “afraid of the truth” and that further contact with me would be pointless.
Thus ended Myth Six: “Yad L’Achim urges Jews to leave Yeshua in order to restore them to the mainstream Jewish community.” No, Yad L’Achim is a missionary arm for a very ambitious messianic cult. Chabad’s supreme leader believed and announced that he was God’s divine redeemer, and his rabbis issued a “ruling” (go here for a poor English translation) that “every single Jew” in the world MUST acknowledge him as messiah.
In fact, Chabad presents the Rebbe as a rival messiah for the Christians too. The traditional Seven Laws of Noah are their way of salvation, but communing with the Rebbe is an eighth. According to a Chabad how-to site, the only difference for the non-Jew seeking the Rebbe’s advice is a requirement to identify with his/her father rather than mother.
To complete the mimicry, there is even “salvation by grace”. Blessings are distributed by the Rebbe from “On High” free of charge, regardless of someone’s personal faithfulness or lack thereof to either God or Judaism. A Chabad booklet (2014) recommends that you also write a “pan” (short for “pidiyon nefesh” or plea to have your soul redeemed), which is a way of “giving yourself to the Rebbe [sic]”.
Convincing an Israeli who follows Yeshua to leave Him for this other messiah is a cause for celebration at Yad L’Achim. Take former Jews for Jesus evangelist and Israel College of the Bible student Amitai Schiff, whose face is known to many Israeli believers. He is described here as someone “who was caught in the net of missionaries and himself became a missionary who entrapped other Jews, until the day he discovered the truth.” And what is that truth? Instead of communing with the God of Israel in the name of Yeshua, his goal is now to “connect in a deep inner way” with the dead Rebbe in the name of “Chassidus”. But note his claim to be experiencing results [emphasis added]:
According to Amitai, the closure to his story took place on Simchas Torah of this year [October 2015] in 770 [Chabad HQ in Brooklyn].
“Last year I was with Yoav in Kfar Chabad [their HQ in Israel] and we wrote to the Rebbe through the Igros Kodesh [see an explanation here]. The answer I opened to was that before going to 770 I needed to have study sessions.
“So this past year, along with my job as a traffic light inspector, I have regular study sessions, some with study partners in the yeshiva in Ramat Aviv. And then I went to the Rebbe [sic] for Simchas Torah. The experience is indescribable. It entered my neshama [soul] in a deep way.
“Throughout my visit I thought of my previous visit to New York when I had come to talk about J [i.e. Jesus]. This time, I wore a suit and hat and was in the home [sic] of the Nasi Ha’dor, Moshiach Hashem [The Prince of the Generation, Messiah-God].”
We might be tempted to dismiss such defections as a handful who weren’t sincere to begin with, and who are no cause for concern. Do not make the mistake of Myth Seven: “Yad L’Achim, and Chabad, are no competition for the true Messianic faith.” While some of their claims will prove to be nothing but posturing, and while even their “miracle-workers” will never be able to produce real Life, we should not underestimate the power of spiritual deception. Especially where divination and other occult activities forbidden in Torah are being encouraged, “results” can be and will be produced.
The war for souls is very real, the spirit realm is cunning, and the Lord Himself declared that before His return, “many” will be deceived by false messiahs.
But the danger doesn’t stop there. We must confront Myth Eight: “I’m secure in my faith. Deception can’t touch me.” Really?
Yeshua’s warning (Matt.24:4) is to those who already believe in Him: “Take heed that no one deceives YOU.”
How much do you rely on group consensus? “Many” of His own disciples will betray one another under pressure of persecution. “Many” false prophets will deceive “many” into accepting them as real prophets. The resulting Lawlessness (a-nomian) will chill and kill the love of “many” (v.5-12).
What kind of “results” convince you of God’s presence? False messiahs and prophets will perform “great signs and wonders” designed specifically to attract Yeshua’s chosen ones (v.24).
How will we keep from being deceived? Not by how well we know the Scriptures, how long we have been in the faith, how much education we have, or how large and active our congregation is. It’s by loving the Truth (2 Thess. 2:10-12) more than our very lives (Rev.12:11).
“See, I have told you beforehand.”