Jews & Judaism

Winston Churchill wrote “Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.“

Jewish soldiers get first glimpse of the Western Wall

He is absolutely right! I have often said they are remarkable people –gifted in a special way and blessed by God. They had no homeland for 2,000 years yet held together and thrived no matter how scattered they were or how terribly persecuted. Like cream, they always rise to the top.

Where are the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites? They disappeared; yet even though scattered over the face of the earth (called the Diaspora) the Jews have survived, remained intact, and have thrived. God made promises to Abraham that his seed would be unable to be counted — as the sand on the shore and the stars in the heavens.

Remarking on the Jews, of which he was one, St. Paul wrote: “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” ( Rom 11:29). These gifts and calling are readily apparent even now, 4,000 years later. I have always thought the existence of the Jews and their incredible impact on civilization — even though their numbers are relatively small — is a convincing proof of the existence of God and to his faithfulness. Imagine, there are only 13 million Jews in the whole world, yet look at the huge and disproportionate impact they exert on our society.

I was recently in a bookstore buying a pile of books on Jewish culture and history — the better to understand the Bible and the roots of Christianity. The woman at the counter was surprised and asked if I was a Jew. I said, “Not by ethnicity, but certainly by affinity since I am a Catholic. I love the Jewish people and spend a lot of time in Israel.” She looked around, hesitating, and then said quietly, “I’m Jewish.”

I smiled and reached out my hand to shake hers. I said, “Congratulations. You are one of the great proofs of God’s existence. I envy you.” She was shocked — “No one has ever congratulated me for being Jewish before,” she said.

Our late Pope referred to the Jewish people as our elder brothers — and so they are. It might be just a story, though it may also be true, that once when the Pope and the head Rabbi of Rome were going into St. Peters, the Rabbi motioned for the Pope to step in first. But the Pope stopped and gestured for the Rabbi to precede him saying, “The Old Testament first!”

There was great wisdom here. The Bible is Jewish. Only one biblical writer was a gentile and the Old Testament is 90% of what we carry in the book called the Bible. The New Testament only makes up 1/10th of the book. The Church may be the branches and the fruit, but the roots and truck of our tree are certainly Jewish.

And considering those who hate the Jews, I love the little ditty that goes like this: “How odd of God to choose the Jews, but odder still are those who choose the Jewish God and hate the Jew.”

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How the Ancient Hebrews Viewed the Universe

by Steve Ray on April 25, 2019

This is part of Verbum Catholic Bible Software. I encourage every Catholic to get this Catholic and Bible Study software. Visit http://www.verbum.com/steveray. Use Promo Code STEVERAY10 for a 10% discount.

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“Rabbi, I can see the coastline!”

by Steve Ray on December 27, 2018

I cannot describe the sensation I feel every time we look out the window and see the coastline of Israel from the window of the plane. Yeah, we are exhausted — 8 hours from Detroit to Amsterdam, 3 hours layover, and 4.5 hours from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv. Some who travel with us come from California, Texas or other states which add even more hours and layovers to their flights.

IMG_6006Yet, even though our eyelids are at half mast and our feet a bit swollen, the excitement of descending over the Mediterranean Sea with the land of Israel appearing below is beyond words. Janet and I have had this experience over 65 times but it never fails to thrill us.

I will never forget the first time our family landed here in 1995 a year after converting to the Catholic Church. It was the rustic old airport (gone now, rest its ugly soul). With my 40 pound backpack on my back I stepped off the plane, descended down the steps to the tarmac and fell to the ground sobbing and kissed the blacktop. I WAS IN THE HOLY LAND LAND — ISRAEL!

I was overwhelmed with emotion after reading the Bible for so many years and loving God and his land finally — I was here! The thrill has not abated after over 150 visits.

Once I struck up an interesting conversation on the plane with a Rabbi named Rabbi Friedman. He and I talked all the way from Amsterdam to Israel. He was suspicious of me at first — me being a gentile and all — but after he learned how much I loved the Jewish people and their Bible he opened up. He talked to me about the Psalms and the Law. He was insightful beyond description. This old Jew with his wagging beard and lively eyes thrilled me.

Toward the end of our trip I looked out the window, saw the shoreline and said, “Rabbi, I can see the coastline; there’s Israel!” He broke into loud sobbing, almost uncontrollably.

IMG_6007I said, “Rabbi, is this the first time you have come here?” Through his tears he said, “No, I have been here many times; but it is the land our Our God!” I will never forget that. I visited him in the US several times after that experience. He taught me many things about God and the land of Israel — and, unknown to him, about who I was as a Catholic.

It is now in the middle of the night — 1:30 PM Israel time — and we can now see the lights forming a crooked line along the sea as we approach the airport. We will soon arrive at the new and very modern Ben Gurion Airport, so much easier and convenient than the old place. I am already excited — I will soon be walking on the very ground where God walked. I will be opening doors of wonder to pilgrims who will be experiencing this land for the first time.

The Patriarchs and Prophets walked here. The Kings and Priests and Warriors of Israel lived here. Mary and Jesus traversed on the ground my own feet will touch. The Apostles and Apostolic Fathers walked here and some died as martyrs here. We will celebrate Mass at their sites.

I will go walking each day in the very places where they lived, prophesied and died. Nothing is like this! I am proud to be Catholic, to love the Jewish people — our elder brothers in the faith — and the Palestinian Christians and religious orders like the Franciscans who have preserved these holy sites through the centuries against much opposition and against all odds. How could I NOT come here to support and encourage them!

Thanks be to God as tears well up in my eyes again — for about the 150th time!

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Flint Knives at the Heart of the Gospel

November 14, 2018

Ah, excuse me? What do flint knives have to do with the Gospel? A whole lot! Abraham believed God against all odds and as a reward he was given the special sign of the Covenant with God. And what was that wonderful sign between them? In Genesis 17:10-11 God announces this sign to Abraham: “This […]

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We Loved this Movie: “Woman in Gold”

July 15, 2018

We watched an exceptional movie today which we highly recommend! Full of injustice and redemption, courage, family, sacrifice and love. Have Kleenex handy. We will watch it again for sure. The true story of artwork stolen by the Nazis from a Jewish Austrian family and their fight to have it returned. The elegant woman Maria […]

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Jesus Was A Jew – So What is That To You?

June 20, 2018

Jesus was a Jew… This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus and the book written about him—the Bible. Unhappily, in 21st century America we are far removed from the land of Israel and the ancient culture and religion of Judaism followed by Jesus and […]

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Putting Us to Shame

February 9, 2018

My wife and I are on a plane home from Israel. We watch as a young man stands among the crowd of passengers. He is uttering muffled chants under his breath and bobbing up and down. His chin is wagging under his serious eyes and his black hat. His prayer shawl with the many knotted […]

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Bet You’ve Never Heard of this Heroic, Selfless Woman

February 17, 2017

Remember this lady?Irena Sendler Died: May 12, 2008 (aged 98) in Warsaw, Poland During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ulterior motive. Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried. She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her […]

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St. Paul did NOT Write for Us!

October 6, 2016

When arguments about salvation arise between Catholics and Protestants, the Bibles are usually opened to Galatians and Romans. Are we saved by faith alone or are works involved? Protestants quickly accuse Catholics of teaching a salvation based on works and Catholics quickly point out that Protestants have swung the pendulum too far in the other […]

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Ben Stein — Full-blooded Jew — Comments on Christmas

December 7, 2015

Some of you may have already read this since Ben Stein gave this commentary on CBS in 2005, but it is worth repeating since Christmas is approaching — and because it is good stuff. I wanted to make sure it was accurate so I checked it out on Snopes and found it was accurate, though […]

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The Jewish Cardinal

November 16, 2014

I met a new hero today, but only through the medium of a movie. It was entitled The Jewish Cardinal. After returning home exhausted from the Raising Rebels Conference in Manchester NH where I gave three talks yesterday, I was ready for a good movie tonight. My wife found this one on Netflix.  This drama […]

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How Odd of God to Choose the Jew…

May 17, 2013

…to chose the Jew; but odder still are those who choose the Jewish God but hate the Jew.

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Pope Benedict’s “First Convert” – and a Jewish Convert at that

April 20, 2013

Groucho Marx once said, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have a guy like me as a member.”  So began my witness testimony at the Easter Vigil on April 7, 2007, when my wife Barbara and I entered the Catholic Church. For a New York Jew, who’d detested the name “Jesus” […]

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Yad Vashem and “Hitler’s Pope”

January 16, 2013

Yad Vashem Controversy An inscription at Yad Vashem states that Pius XII‘s record during the Holocaust was controversial, and that he negotiated a concordat with the Nazis, maintained Vatican neutrality during the war and, formerly stated that he took no initiatives to save Jews. In 1985, Pietro Palazzini was honored by the museum, where he […]

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On this I Agree with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

December 17, 2012

Prime Minister Netanyahu:  “Over the weekend, Hamas held festivities and demonstrations in Judea and Samaria to mark 25 years since it was founded. With the approval of Mahmud Abbas, they called for the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem and from every point in the State of Israel. We have been […]

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Has Europe Lost it Soul?

February 2, 2012

Jesse Ray here: I found this article by Rabbi Sacks very educational and the section on “Morality and the Crisis” especially thought provoking. He explores how our current market economy was formed under the auspices of Judeo-Christian values, and he draws a compelling picture of why our current economic shake-up has a central spiritual dimension: […]

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