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Rabbi Henry Bregman.
There is a time when every true Israelite seeks forgiveness of his sins by merits of his own.
The Talmud, which is the Jewish code of laws, says:
Three books are opened [in heaven] on New Year, one for the thoroughly wicked, one for the thoroughly righteous, and one for the intermediate. The thoroughly righteous are forthwith definitively inscribed in the book of life; the thoroughly wicked are forthwith definitively inscribed in the book of death; the doom of the intermediate is suspended from New Year until the Day of Atonement; if they deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of life; if they do not deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of death. (Tractate Rosh Hashanah, 16b)
HOW TO GET INTO THE BOOK OF LIFE
A Jew who is not orthodox all the year (that is, who is lax in keeping the Judaistic observances) will repent, pray on New Year’s Day and the nine days following, and give to charity between New Year’s Day and the Day of Atonement, in order to be inscribed in the Book of Life. Even the orthodox Jew would do his best during "the awful days of repentance", as they are called in the Jewish faith.
In order to be remembered in the Book of Life, the writer of this article used to "open his hand wide unto the poor" to fulfil the commandment in Deuteronomy 15:7-8, and also seek to abound in other good deeds. He carefully observed the ritual, and went to synagogue three times a day, a whole month before the New Year. Many a night he spent in studying the written and oral laws, repeating the Psalms and many prayers, even wailing for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the return of the Jews to Palestine, while sitting on the ground. Many other things he did, as wearing his phylacteries all day, and not looking at women, so as to have his mind consecrated and devoted to heavenly thoughts.
All these were done in order, that the "Mitzvot" (commandments) might outweigh the "Avarot" (sins). According to the Talmud everyone’s sins are being weighed against his merits at the judgment day. Maimonides (Rambam) in Hilchoth T’shuvah, c. 3:3, says that the same rule applies to the ten days of repentance, i.e., from the beginning of the New Year and the following nine days, including the Day of Atonement.
In order to please his Heavenly Father, a Jew seeks favour and pardon by observing many precepts, customs, and repeating the whole "Machzor" (a prayer book containing the festival prayers), without missing a word.
NEW YEAR’S DAY AND DAY OF ATONEMENT
On New Year’s Day he goes to the bank of a river, and there throws all his sins into the water. Then, on the eve of the Day of Atonement, the orthodox Jew takes a rooster, and swinging it three times around his head, says: "This rooster goeth to death, but 1 shall be gathered and enter into a long and happy life and into peace." Then he throws it on the floor to be killed immediately afterwards.
During the Day of Atonement most of the people torture themselves, standing most of the day on their feet, with shoes off, fasting twenty-five hours, and even abstaining from water. All these things, they believe, will save them. The writer believed this also, but the Lord graciously opened his eyes, and he saw that he had no merits of his own. "There is none that doeth good, no not one" (Psalm 14:3).
No man has any merits, for God declares furthermore that, "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores" (Isaiah 1:5-6). These verses are descriptive of Israel. This description is generally true of mankind. The intellect is corrupt, for the whole head is sick. The affections are corrupt, f or the heart is faint, and the confession of the prophet implies that "we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).
MY EYES WERE OPENED
The writer thus found that he had nothing of his own by way of good deeds to atone f or his sins. He asked himself whether he had kept, or was keeping, all the commandments of the Lord. He was forced to reply in the negative. In that case the curse of God was hanging over him and would eventually descend and destroy him: "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say Amen" (Deuteronomy 27:26). According to that statement there is no hope, except for those who yield in perfect obedience. But where are they? The prophet Isaiah says, "All we like sheep have gone astray" (Isaiah 53:6).
Again, he asked himself: "Where is the High Priest? Where is the Temple with all its ceremonies? Where is the atonement for sins?" The answer came in the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews 9:12, "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he [Messiah] entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption f or us."
As Messiah obtained our redemption on the eve of the Passover (John 19:14-17), so He became my Passover, my Atonement, my High Priest, and my All in All. He is my "Yom Kippur", not only once a year, but always, having obtained eternal redemption for me. My faith, my Hope and my Trust, are all built upon God’s promises, and cannot be better expressed than in His most Holy Word: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised f or our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). The Messiah was wounded for my transgressions, bruised for my iniquities, the chastisement of my peace was upon him, and with his stripes I was healed.
FROM RABBI TO BELIEVER IN JESUS
It was very hard for the writer to give up his pride, because of the position he held in the Synagogue as Rabbi. He always gloried in his wisdom, but the preaching of "Messiah crucified" was unto him, being a Jew, a stumbling block – [being] a Rabbi, foolishness. But now he is called, Messiah became to him the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Dear Reader, if you are wise, mighty or rich and proud of these things, relying on your wisdom, might and riches, but you own not the Lord, there is no hope f or you, except you yield in perfect obedience. Each one has to renounce all his pride, and appear at the bar of God as a miserable sinner, looking only for mercy and not for rewards.
Thus saith the Lord: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me that 1 am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (First Letter to the Corinthians 1:31).
We naturally think we must do something to merit God’s favour, but God’s Word plainly declares, ‘God commendeth His love, toward us in that while we were yet sinners Messiah died, for us’ (Letter to the Romans 5:8). This sets aside everything I might do to merit salvation as worthless, "for by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast’ (Letter to the Ephesians 2:8, 9). This is the reason why God’s way of salvation will never be popular in this world; it is not flattering to the human race, it sets aside everything in which we can possibly pride ourselves, and makes everything of Messiah Jesus and His finished work on Calvary’s Cross. Messiah has been rejected and cast out of his world, He is still rejected here, and now the question for you, dear reader, is, Which side are you on? Have you taken sides with Messiah confessing Him as your Saviour? If not, let me tell you that you are on the world’s side and will meet the world’s condemnation, f or this world is guilty of the blood of the Son of God, and judgment will surely overtake it. If not already sheltered from the coming wrath, let me persuade you, yes, beg of you, to "escape from the wrath to come", take sides with Christ. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts of the Apostles 4:12). Don’t be deluded by false religion or careless indifference, there is only one Saviour.
Put your trust in Him now before you meet Him as a judge, for then it will be too late. If you die without forgiveness, you will be lost forever.