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Lesson 1: The One Word that Divides
One word divides Christians and Jews.
No, it is not the word you are thinking about. It is not the word salvation, or more specifically Yeshua/Jesus. There is virtually no disagreement that such a person named Yeshua walked the earth. There is no dispute that He died in Jerusalem. The disagreement is in the significance of those events.
In my many discussions with Gidon, I remember exactly where we were walking, as we were leaving the Old City and crossing the Hinnom Valley, when he and I both stumbled on a very important Hebrew word that seems to carry within it that great controversy that divides Christians and Jews.
Want to try to guess the word?
Hint 1: It was spoken by Abraham.
Hint 2: It was spoken about God.
Hint 3: The word was spoken in what is now Jerusalem.
Hint 4: More specifically, it was spoken on Mount Moriah.
Still need more hints?
Hint 5: There might have still been a knife in Abraham’s hand when he spoke it!
Hint 6: It was spoken after the ram was sacrificed it to God.
The word is Yireh.
This is the word that forms part of the word Jerusalem. This will be even more obvious if we write Jerusalem phonetically as: Yireh-shalom.
The conversation between Gidon and me had drifted to Abraham’s “almost sacrifice” of Isaac. Gidon may have been saying something that evening about how Genesis 22:14 is a key verse from which the name of “Jerusalem” is derived, Yireh.
He then dropped the bomb on me without realizing it when he casually added that Yireh means:
“The Lord will see.”
And I replied, “don’t you mean to say:
The Lord will provide”?
And Gidon replied, “What makes you say that?”
I answered, “Because that’s what my New American Standard Bible says, and this is one of the most literal translations out there.” That translation reads:
Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.” Genesis 22:14 (NASB)
I then, in the midst of my shock, told him that as a kid, I used to sing songs about Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides for our needs.
Gidon said, “Hmmm, I don’t think so. The root of Yireh is raah, which means ‘to see.’”
As we were walking, Gidon did some checking on his phone, and said that it might be possible to also translate the word “to make manifest,” but it definitely does not mean “to provide.”
The Israel Bible, which we often use in these columns thanks to our friend Rabbi Tuly Weisz, is a version which derives most of its text from the very well-known Jewish Publication Society (JPS) version. The Israel Bible translates Yireh using the word vision, as follows:
And Avraham named that site Adonai-yireh, whence the present saying, “On the mount of Hashem there is vision.” Genesis 22:14 (TIB)
Why does this one little word matter so much? If this column series is trying to go out with a bang, then why, in the second-to-last column of the entire series, do we study the boring topic of one particular Hebrew word?
Why does it matter?
Because I believe this little word, Yireh, has both the problem and the solution for us as Christians, when it comes to helping us understand why the Jewish people don’t see salvation the way we do.
As Christians, we have come to see God (the Father) as the God who provides His Son, the greatest gift ever given! That story then reached its climax in Jerusalem! God has provided a sacrifice for us, to allow us to be accepted into His household, His family, and for our sins to be forgiven. Without a doubt, Jerusalem is the place where God provided a way for us to come into relationship with Him.
And yet, Jews relate to that verse through the verb of seeing. Specifically, the words are Hashem, (the four-letter name of God YHVH), will “see.” What’s the implication?
For Jews, Jerusalem is about what God sees, not about what God provides.
The Torah has many facets, and there are certainly dozens of ways to unpack this verse. But for the purposes here I would like to propose a summary of this particular facet from the Jewish point-of-view as follows:
“Jerusalem is the place it is today, a place of hope for all nations, because a man, Abraham, was so moved by the walking out of his obedience unto death (of his only heir), that it was revealed to him that God was much more involved in the affairs of this world than he ever thought possible, and that the world did change, has changed, and continues to change forever, not because of what Abraham saw and didn’t see that day, but because of what God sees.”
The lesson for us regarding understanding the Jews, is similar. I would state it as:
“Let us not look at them and determine “what we see” and “what we do not see,” but rather let our peace, our shalom, be based upon asking God to reveal to us what He sees. It matters not what we think we see. What matters is what God sees.”
In order not to end this column on so heavy a note, I would like to share one other difference I learned through Gidon that crystalizes, for me, the difference between Christians and Jews. We see it in the “very first song” our kids are taught in their Sunday school or Jewish school.
For Christians it is Jesus Loves Me. The first verse goes like this:
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong.
For Jews it is Adon Olam. The first verse goes like this:
The Lord of the Universe who reigned
Before anything was created
When all was made by His will
He was acknowledged as King
There you have it! The difference between Christians and Jews is unmistakable right from the very first verse of possibly the first-learned song in our respective kids’ education.
While many of these columns have stood on that which is our common ground, and that is certainly where I am most comfortable standing, I thought you might enjoy this one departure from the norm, because I think this one word — Yireh — can really give us something to ponder in the days ahead!