Short course report

September 18, 2015

Studying with the Jews written by Ian and Julie Robinson from St Margaret’s Church

For seven weeks during July and August 2015 we have been attending lectures at the Jewish Museum on the topic of The Prophets of the Hebrew Bible [Tanakh].

Our teacher is David Solomon who regularly teaches this topic. He is passionate about the message of the Prophets and their relevance today. With his loud booming voice and with his tendency to get on his soap box at least once each session he has endeared himself to us.

Ian and I started studying with Jews in 2000 in a 2-year evening class designed to help those Jews who hadn’t been brought up in an observant family, or to any who just wanted to understand their faith and tradition. As Christians we were made very welcome. There were 2 other Christians.

The current lectures on the Prophets cover the three Major prophets and all of the 12 Minor [shorter] Prophets. Each week the lecture covers in two hours, a book, starting with the Major Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel at a good pace!

The next 4 weeks are covering three Minor Prophets each day. There are about 25 people in the class, two of whom are Holocaust survivors. The discussions are very lively and at times controversial.

For us, as before, it has been a very good experience as so many scriptures as taught by the Rabbis, help us to understand the New Testament, especially the Gospels.

Right from the first lecture on the Prophets we have been taught that the only way forward to bring about lasting change in the world is by inner transformation. For me, that means we are on the same path.

Another first and fundamental command from God is that the people of Israel were called to be a light to the nations. We read in the Gospels that Jesus urges us to let our light shine and do not cover it up or hide it. In a small way we have been witnesses to the light of Christ.

A strong loud message in every Prophet’s writing is the command to give justice and mercy to the poor, the needy and the marginalised people. David Solomon stated categorically that the most important verse in all of the Prophets to remember, and to act upon, is in Micah 6 verse 8. What the Lord requires of you is to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

When reading the book of Hosea, I read some verses that lit up for me. They are in Hosea ch.6 entitled A call to Repentance. Verse 1 and 2
Come, let us turn back to the Lord:
He attacked, and He can heal us:
He wounded, and He can bind us up,
In two days He will make us whole again;
On the third day He will raise us up,
And we shall be whole by His favour.

I noted the words two days and the third day He will raise us up. Another interesting discovery was that the book of Jonah shows what happens to someone going his own way in contradiction to God’s command. An interpretation of the Rabbis suggests that the word Jonah represents the soul in the body. If the divine calling is not heeded and done, the body and psyche break up,[as in the ship breaking up]. This book is read in the afternoon of Yom Kippur, a day of fasting. It completes The Days of Awe, a period of time when the focus is on repentance and obedience.

Finally, it has been so good to meet Sara, a Polish woman who was the only one of her family to survive the Holocaust. She is graciously giving me the written story of her life when we next meet. Ian and I are amazed to see that she reads aloud from a 200 year old King James Bible she was given many years ago.

In class, when we are reading aloud a verse from the Tanakh, she quotes from the King James Bible (of 1611) and they accept her contribution in respect of her age.

We have benefitted greatly over the years by studying with the Jews, and we have gained insights from the way they interpret their Hebrew Bible [our O.T], which is the foundation of our faith in Christ.