Letters August 2004

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Reader: I have a question for someone with knowledge of Hebrew. It deals with chapter 8 of Shir HaShirim. The enigmatic portion about Shlomo having a vineyard, that the keepers have to pay him 1000 pieces of silver, then the Shulamite saying her vineyard is her own, that 1,000 will go to Shlomo and 200 to the keepers.

My question: Could the Hebrew be rendered to express the following line of thought...The shulamite would be saying “My vineyard belongs to him. Therefore 1,000 must be paid to him, but the keepers only have 200.” Is this a possible reading?

Thanks and shalom.

Mesora: As is the case with all Torah study, the Rabbis’ words must be reviewed to gain insight.
This is a metaphor.

This metaphor is this: G-d has a vineyard (The Jewish people) which was handed over to cruel guardians (The Jews were exiled to oppressive nations) who extorted 1000 pieces of silver (these nations levied heavy taxes on the Jews)

In 8:12 the nations response is that they vindicate G-d’s ownership of the Jews, and also confess their sin, by saying “the 1000 pieces of silver is yours”, meaning, “we will pay you back for what we did to the Jews. Study this section with this understanding.

Reader: I have a question about forgiveness being extended to Gentiles. My husband was born and raised Jewish and after his mid 20s he left Judaism. In 1999 he became a Christian. In May of this year he returned to Judaism and of course, many of our friends are not friends any longer.

This Friday afternoon we were asked to join some Christian friends for lunch. When we got there, it wasn’t about lunch at all. These people were extremely rude to us. In front of our two teenage daughters, the man of the house read these scriptures to my husband:

For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not G-d. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him G-d speed. (2 John 1:7-10)

My husband then said, “are you telling me to leave your home?” Yes, was the answer. We were invited for lunch and my husband was going to remove a virus from their PC since he is a tech. Instead, he was attacked. There was much more said.

My question is, are we obligated to forgive them for this if they ask for forgiveness?

Mesora: If a person is genuine in his request for forgiveness, then we should give them the benefit of the doubt. But if in the same breath someone commits such an attack, and then asks forgiveness, I suspect he is simply guilt-ridden, and not sincere. Wait some time to forgive. If he doesn’t request forgiveness on a later date, you need not forgive him, as he is clearly cleaving to his sin. Jewish Law entitles the victim to a few opportunities, and need not forgive on the first request.

Reader: Dear Rabbi, I am a rising sophomore at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in downtown Baltimore. Although I admit it feels odd, as I am Catholic, I am seeking knowledge on the Jewish faith. I am writing about a passage from the Tanakh that has importance for both Christians and Jews so that both communities might find common ground. I understand how every aspect of one’s religion is very important to him/her. However, is there one passage, idea, or ideal that you can say the Jewish religion holds even a little higher than the rest or relate to more than others? Your help is most appreciated.
Thank you.

Mesora: You write “I am writing about a passage from the Tanakh...” but you don’t mention the passage...Please inform me of the passage.

Regarding what Judaism holds “higher” than other issues, it is our position that religion must not deviate from what our senses and rationale tell us, but religion too, must follow proof. For this reason, we deny all other religions, as they are ALL based on the words of one man, claiming beliefs, bereft of masses proving their positions.

Conversely, Judaism is based solely on Revelation at Sinai, which ironically, the major religions accept as fact. This is because it is impossible to fabricate a story of such magnitude (2.5 million attendees). The stories we have today in every Bible MUST have happened. Otherwise, it would not have successfully been accepted as truth, and transmitted throughout all the generations until today. This story proves G-d’s existence, and His selection of Judaism as His exclusive religion, for all Mankind. (Gentiles must keep 7 of the 613 laws, which Jews observe.)

Reader: I cannot find the subject of the Nephilim of Genesis Chapter 6 on your search option. I have been studying about Judaism for a few years now. I would like it if you could verify for me that the “intercourse” between the wicked angels and daughters of men was not sexual but a type of spiritual adultery and /or possession.

A friend and I are studying this presently. My friend says that the words in this chapter are easily mistranslated and at first one would think that angels and human women begat children.

In the New Testament it says: “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of G-d in heaven.” Matt. 22:30

Please direct me to the answer to this on your site if it has already been addressed.


Mesora: The Nephilim as well as the “children of Elokim” refers to men, not “fallen angels” or any misinterpretation like that. See the authentic Bible commentators such as Rashi. The Jews are those to whom G-d entrusted His Torah, and they must be the exclusive authority sought out to determine the meaning of the passages in the Bible.

Reader: What is a scripture that has great importance to Christians and Jews? How does this particular passage shed light on what Christians and Jews have in common and on what distinguishes them from each other?

I am trying to understand. Any help will do. Thank you so much.

Mesora: G-d told Moses, “You cannot know me while you are alive.” Judaism holds steadfast to this, while Christianity supposes a trinity, Immaculate Conception, and that Jesus is G-d incarnate. We cannot know G-d, so all of Christianity’s suppositions are baseless, and violate G-d’s Biblical words. The difference between Judaism and Christianity is that Judaism follows reason and G-d’s words, while Christianity apparently ignores them.

Reader: Good day. What is the Jewish belief about Satan? As a Gentile I have been taught that Satan is an evil fallen angel who is responsible for all evil on earth and who will be defeated by G-d at the end of “time”.

Mesora: Satan in Hebrew means, “to turn aside”. Satan is man’s instincts, which turn him aside from G-d’s Biblical commands. Nothing more. Judaism denies any idea of an evil, animated being. The only beings, which exist, are G-d, man, and G-d’s angels, which we do not claim any knowledge of. But we do not believe in your concept.

Reader: I am writing a paper about reaching common ground between Jews and Christians. In Genesis chapter 12:1-3, G-d called Abraham out of Haran. It was in this passage that G-d made his first promises to Abraham about his descendants. As a Christian I see the passage to mean G-d blessing Abraham’s descendants and through him all nations would be blessed. The blessing that all nations receive is through the birth of the messiah via Abraham’s lineage. And by Christ dying for our sins on the cross we are blessed because through acceptance we become part takers of those blessings and heirs of Abraham. I’d like to know where we have common grounds and differences in the interpretation. Any suggestions on how we might all look and interpret that passage that will help us better understand each other and get along will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Mesora: Nowhere in these verses is messiah discussed, nor dying for other peoples’ sins. Study the verses based on their content alone, and based on the Rabbis’ commentaries. Do not lose the opportunity to learn G-d’s true words, by projecting alien issues. Additionally, Judaism really has no common ground with Christianity, as our tenets have nothing at all to do with a man-G-d system, and any other Christian belief.


Reader: I would like to thank your publication for providing rational and logical arguments to many viewpoints that unfortunately have denigrated into emotional issues. I as a Noahide have learned so much in the past few months. Quite literally it has changed my life. I was once a Christian, but that has changed. Truth is something that can be discovered through rational thought, as I have discovered through your many articles. I hope that there continues to be more features that focus on the Seven Universal Laws. There is scant little out there in the intellectual world. I think it would be absolutely incredible if there were a weekly article, or perhaps a collection of articles to be collected later on. Once again, my heartfelt thanks to all those involved in your website and publication.

Kent W Kromrey