‘Strange’ prayer shawl with ‘Yeshua’ stirs panic in Israeli synagogue

Prayer shawl used at a bar mitzvah ceremony in Bat Yam with the writing "Blessed are you o Lord our God, who has fulfilled all the Torah in Yeshua the Messiah and covered us all in his righteousness" (Photo: WhatsApp group)

Everyone at a bar mitzvah ceremony in a Bat Yam synagogue was singing siman tov u’mazal tov (a good time and good luck), until the rabbi noticed something “strange” about the tallit (prayer shawl) of the bar mitzvah boy. The inscription in Hebrew caused panic.

Blessed are You O Lord our God, who has fulfilled all the Torah in Yeshua the Messiah and covered us all in his righteousness,” it read.

I received the image through the WhatsApp group of the secular Israeli radio station where I have a weekly program in Hebrew, about Brazil. The person who sent it, an Orthodox Jew himself, attended the event. His message to the group, along with the picture, read: “Oy vey!”

What I found interesting were the many and varied comments among broadcasters, some secular, some religious, as well as those in the “scoops” Hebrew website rotter.net.

Comments ranged from “Oh My!” to “Yuck” to curious and genuine questioning. There were even some who wrote: “What’s is the big deal? After all, Yeshua was a Jew.” One of the broadcasters noted that it was “Yeshua,” not Yeshu (a rabbinic term and a curse for the name Jesus). Surely everyone wondered where the boy’s father bought the “impure” tallit.

“It is likely that it was purchased in a store owned by Messianic Jews,” wrote someone on rotter.net.

But this tiny story, published as an unimportant piece of news, included two images, the headline, “You must really check when purchasing a tallit,” and the caption, “A synagogue in Bat Yam.” And yet, it sparked a deeper debate. Those commenting in the scoops’ website, discussed the issue of Messianic Judaism, as well as the question, “Who is a Christian after all?”

“Dilbert” wrote in the forum: “Messianic Jews define themselves as Jews in every aspect, as Jews who believe in Yeshu as the Messiah. They never converted to Christianity, not in a church, not before the [Israeli] Interior Ministry. Just as the Chabad Chassidim are Jews who believe that Menachem Mendel Schneerson is the messiah. Incidentally, the Chabad Chasidim tend to weave ‘Long live our rebbe, our king, King Messiah’ on their sacred objects.”

Another Israeli Jew asked rhetorically, “Why is it so hard to say ‘Christian’? Even the first Christian was originally a Jew … (probably).”

One of the authors was accused of protecting the mission, and of being a fan of Christianity just because he warned against the hatred of becoming transparent in that particular forum: “The bitter hatred here against Yeshu and his disciples is irrational.”

What is clear is that the name Yeshua and his title Messiah is known among the people of Israel, even if they still insist on calling him “Yeshu.” But what is even more clear is that if we won’t share more about the Messiah, objects may do so, such as stones, prayer shawls and more.

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Rachel (Rachely) Scapa, studied journalism at the Open University TLV under Yedioth Aharonoth's journalist Dudi Goldman. Rachel served as news correspondent for various radio stations abroad, including BBC 3 Counties and Voice of America, both in English and Portuguese, giving the best reports from Israel. Currently she has two radio shows - one in Portuguese, which she has had for more than 13 years, presenting News from Israel and the ME. In the other, in Hebrew, she presents Brazilian music, on an Israeli radio station. Rachely is also a columnist for a Christian newspaper in Brazil, distributed over the triple border between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.