Jews & Judaism

“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

by Steve Ray on November 14, 2018

FlintKnife sm1.jpg

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 is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.”

Ouch! Abraham gathers his 350+ men together and says, “Hey Kies, do you want the good news first or the bad news? God has finally given us a sign of his covenant but…!”

What kind of sign is that? But Abraham obeyed and at 99 years old, Abraham dropped his . . . well, anyway, he did the surgery and again demonstrated his faith and obedience to God. And so did all the men with him.

Next we read of Joshua’s bloody job after the hundreds of thousands of men with their families crossed the Jordan River to possess the Promised Land.

“At that time the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Make flint knives and circumcise the people of Israel again the second time.’So Joshua made flint knives, and circumcised the people of Israel” (Joshua 5:2-3). The place was called “the Hill of the Foreskins”

In the early Church, many of the Jews insisted that all gentiles be circumcised before they were allowed to be Christians. The Apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the first recorded Church Council (Acts 15) said “NO!”  Thanks be to God!

The whole gospel is about how Jesus came to save the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The question was, how do we get both groups into one family. Circumcision was one of the biggest issues in the way. Looked at in one way, the whole New Testament is about circumcision, how to deal with that and how to receive Gentiles into the family of God without it.

These flint knives were made for me as a generous and remarkable gift by Mike Cook of Portland Michigan. He is a “flintknapper” and primitive skills enthusiast (and also a student of the Bible!). The large one has a handle made from the jawbone of a black bear!

They are beautifully crafted and will always be a gift I treasure and which I will use in my Bible studies and apologetic work. I am overwhelmed with his skill and kindness.

I have also provided his letter about his craft and the biblical wisdom regarding flint knives and circumcision. You can read it here. Enjoy — and thanks so much Mike!

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We Loved this Movie: “Woman in Gold”

by Steve Ray on July 15, 2018

794B3CA1-BC78-436A-9890-E09578E3B731We 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 Altman and her attorney Randy Schoenberg were truly heroic and golden.

International intrigue and lots of very moving flashbacks. You won’t regret the time invested.

“Woman in Gold” https://g.co/kgs/tW9szK  Available on Netflix.

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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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Jews as Proof of God’s Existence & Faithfulness

November 3, 2017

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.“ He is absolutely right! I have often said they are remarkable people –gifted in a […]

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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 the Ancient Hebrews Viewed the Universe

September 28, 2014

This is part of Logos Bible Software. I encourage every Catholic to get this Catholic and Bible Study software. Visit http://www.logos.com/steveray

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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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