Rav Shaul/Paul – His Heart’s Cry for Israel: A Magnificent Obsession

Rav Shaul/Paul – His Heart’s Cry for Israel


We all experience times in our lives when we are profoundly disturbed by a given situation and our first response is often one of grief or anger depending on what has happened. This is sometimes accompanied by a feeling of being powerless to do anything significant to influence or change the situation that is confronting us. Such was the situation faced two millennia ago by a Jewish rabbi called Rav. Shaul (Hebrew), also known as the Apostle Paul (his Greek name).

However he did not throw his hands up in despair and declare, “There is nothing that I can do!” He moved into action and using his influence, penned a lenghty letter to help clarify things.  In a section of his letter to the believers in Rome Paul gave an explanation as to how he understood the situation concerning his fellow Jews and what outcomes could be expected in helping to resolve the deep trauma that not only he, but others were confronting (Romans 9 – 11 – chapter divisions were added later ). He did not let things get the better of him and just give up. This same letter to the Romans is one of the key texts in our contemporary age in which we endeavour to understand the place and plight of the Jewish people and their relationship to G_D.

What were the issues that were causing this deep anxiety? 

Let me endeavour to explain:

In Romans chapters 9 – 11 Paul gives a powerful testimony to his on going love and concern for his fellow Jews and in this section of his letter to the Roman believers he gives very specific details about how that relationship between G_D and Israel, though fractured and interrupted is bound to be repaired and restored.

He continues, that with such a heritage as the Jewish people have, they can neither get away from the person of Yeshua/Jesus, nor will he forever be a stranger to them.

Paul is not alone in his concern as to how Jews and Jesus may rediscover their common origin and future destiny together.  This reality is demonstrated in the work of Jewish and Israeli artists, writers, poets and theologians who continue to grapple with the person of Jesus/ Yeshua and his Jewishness.

We have seen this fascination with the luminous figure of Jesus in the artistic work of Mark Antokolsky, Boris Schatz, Jacob Epstein (sculptors), Mauricey Gottlieb, Ephraim Moses Lilien, Ze’ev Raban, Reuven Rubin, and Marc Chagall (painters).

Martin Buber, Franzec Rosenzweig, Leo Beck (philosophers), Geza Vermes, Rabbi Pinchas Lapide and David Flusser (theologians), and Chaim Potok (writer), are just a few Jewish Artists and thinkers who have confronted the question of Jesus and the Jewish people.

A covenant can be broken and interrupted, however in Israel’s case even though that agreement has been damaged it will be restored. This has to do with the grace of G_D and not primarily Israel, yet there must be a response to that divine initiative and a willingness to say, “yes” to G_D.


Magnificent Obsession

Jewish obsession with Jesus is part of the fact that G_d’s desire for the restoration of Israel is a reality and his pursuit of Israel will lead to their ultimate full inclusion in the family of G_d. May I even call it magnificent obsession?

However, as Paul says, “What then are we to say? Is there injustice on G_d’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, for I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on [G_d] who shows mercy…So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the hearts of whomever he chooses (Romans 9.14-16 &18 ESV).

This growing interest and realization among Jews worldwide is part of the divine plan and no amount of human resistance to this glorious reality will thwart the divine will. The hardening and softening of human hearts is the hands of the divine potter who moulds and fashions the clay.

With this in mind, we must not underestimate the place of prayer. It is both important and of great value. Some have said, that prayer moves the hand of G_d, so together with the Apostle Paul in Romans 10.1 may we say,

“My brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer for them, is that they may be saved” (NRSV).

We may in fact go further and say at this point that the need for such a discussion has become urgent, because the very reliability of G_d’s plan for the Jewish people needs clarifying. It would appear that because the majority of the Jews have not embraced Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah and Lord, that G_d has failed to fulfil his covenant promises. For if the truth that G_d’s purpose for Israel has been frustrated, then what hope is there for all those who call themselves believers? This affects both Jewish and Gentile believers. And if G_d’s love of Israel has ceased, what reliance can be placed upon Paul’s conviction that nothing can separate us from G_d’s love in Messiah?

If the state of the Jewish people’s divine calling is at stake,  then how may we proceed in having a biblically sound approach in formulating our response? We discover that the Apostle Paul, having pondered this question long and hard has some insightful ideas to help us in our quest:

According to Paul’s reasoning, G_d chose Israel as a vessel to display his mercy and not his wrath. His long-suffering attitude towards her demonstrates this fact, despite her rebelliousness, for he has chosen to show lovingkindness and mercy towards Israel.

His ultimate purpose is for her salvation, but that does not let her off the hook cart-blanche. Israel must bear responsibility for her failure to acknowledge his chosen one, the Messiah Yeshua HaMashiach/Jesus the Messiah. G_d’s showing of his mercy is not based upon any glory of Israel’s own as though they deserved it. It is all of grace, i.e. that is his free unmerited favour towards humankind. Both Jews and Gentiles are included, however, in this context it is Israel that is the focus of our discussion.

In Ephesians 2:10 we read:

“For we are what he has made us, created in Messiah Yeshua/Christ Jesus for good works, which G_d prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

This imagery of the divine craftsperson shaping and forming us into a vessel [people] for a particular purpose must not be missed.”

What is your destiny?

This question is discussed in this helpful article from a website jewishanswers:

[The writer’s response to an inquirer is done in the form of a dialogue (conversation) between himself and the other person].

Destiny – Beshert

Beshert means ‘meant to be’ (destiny)…fatalism. I thought Jews are not fatalists. I feel I am steering my own ship in life…”

“That’s one great question you ask (it’s even more impressive considering you asked it of your own volition and not because you were somehow predestined to).

You wrote that “Beshert means ‘meant to be’ (destiny)…fatalism.” Actually, beshert doesn’t imply fatalism at all. After consulting a language expert, I discovered that “Beshert” actually comes from the same root as ‘shern’, to shear (as in a beard) and in middle-high German, “bescheren” meant more or less “to give”.

So beshert in Yiddish means something that G_d has given you. According to Torah thought, all your natural intellectual and physical abilities are beshert for you, as are things like the parents to whom you were born and the country in which you were born. All these things are part of the unique potential with which G_d endowed you. From the dawn of creation ‘till the end of days, no other person will ever have exactly the same potential as you.

Of course, what we do with that potential is another matter. That’s our responsibility. Every human being possesses free will and each of us is responsible for developing our G_d given potential: this is one of the most important principles of Judaism; perhaps the most important.

The reason why G_d gave each of us a unique potential is because He has a unique position assigned for us to do our irreplaceable part in perfecting the world. Each of us receives exactly the inner potential we need in order to be equipped to meet the all the life challenges that G_d designed especially for us.

According to my encyclopaedia, fatalism [predestination] is the “doctrine that all events occur according to a fixed and inevitable destiny that individual will neither controls nor affects.”

Nothing could be farther from the Torah (Scriptural) truth. Our individual wills certainly control and affect things greatly. Our free willed moral decisions make us into who we really are. It can’t be our innate potential that makes us who we are, because that potential was, in a sense, predestined (at least we had nothing to do with it). But what we CHOOSE to do with our potential, every day and every moment, is who we truly are…”

In Jewish understanding “your destiny – Beshert” is particularly significant in who HaShem (G_D) has chosen for your life long marriage partner.


Returning to our theme, of G_d’s destiny for Israel and the Jewish people, while it certainly does involve the choices that that we make, he is a Sovereign L_rd and his divine purpose will be fulfilled.

So then, the calling of G_d, is not only to include Jews, but Gentiles as well. While Jewish choosiness was the original decision by the Almighty that he made, the Gentiles are also now included in his plan. These vessels of mercy are not only from among the Jews, but also the Gentiles.

The presence of Gentiles within the believing community is a sign and pledge that the realm of rejection, of Ishmael, Esau, Pharaoh and the unbelieving Jews themselves, is not finally shut out from the mercy of  G_d.

As previously said in our last Shalom Radio UK programme that Lord Sacks (former Chief Rabbi of the UK), answers the question of divine choice:

Why Isaac, not Ishmael? Why Jacob, not Esau? These are among the most searing questions in the whole of Judaism.

It is impossible to read Genesis 21, with its description of how Hagar and her son were cast out into the wilderness, how their water ran out, how Hagar placed Ishmael under a bush and sat at a distance so she would not see him die, without feeling intensely for both of them, mother and child. They are both crying. The Torah tells us that G_d heard Ishmael’s tears and sent an angel to comfort Hagar, show her a well of water, and assure her that G_d would make her son “a great nation” (Gen. 21:18) – the very promise he gave Abraham himself at the start of his mission (Gen. 12:2).

Likewise in the case of Esau. The emotional climax of the Scriptural [Torah portion: Toldot] occurs in Genesis 27, at the point when Jacob leaves Isaac’s presence, having deceived him into thinking that he was Esau. Then Esau enters, and slowly both father and son realize what has happened. This is what we read:


Then Isaac trembled with a very great trembling, and said, “Who then was it who hunted game and brought it to me and I ate it before you came and I blessed him?—and he will be blessed.” When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried an intensely loud and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, me too, my father!” (Genesis 27:33-34)

These are among the most powerful descriptions of emotion in the whole of the Torah, and they are precisely the opposite of what we would expect. We would expect the Torah to enlist our sympathies for the chosen: Isaac and Jacob. Instead it almost forces us to empathise with the un-chosen: Hagar, Ishmael and Esau. We feel their pain and sense of loss.

So, why Isaac and not Ishmael? Why Jacob and not Esau? To this there are two types of answer. The first is given by midrash [Rabbinical commentary method – Christian hermeneutics approximates this]. On this reading Isaac and Jacob were righteous. Ishmael and Esau were not…

In the case of Esau, the most pointed verse is the one in which he agrees to part with his birthright in return for a bowl of soup (Gen. 25:34). In a staccato series of five consecutive verbs, the Torah says that he “ate, drank, rose, went and despised” his birthright.” Yet this tells us that he was impetuous, not that he was evil.

If we seek the “deep plain sense,” we must rely on the explicit testimony of the Torah itself – and what it tells us is fascinating. An angel told Hagar before Ishmael was born that he would be “a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him” (Gen. 16:12). He became an expert archer (Gen. 21:20). Esau, red-haired, physically mature at a young age, was “a skilful hunter, a man of the field” (Gen. 25:27). Ishmael and Esau were at home in nature. They were strong, adroit, unafraid of the wild. In any other culture they might have emerged as heroes.

And that is the point. We will only understand the Torah if we recall that every other religion in the ancient world worshipped nature. That is where they found [g]od, or more precisely, the gods: in the sun, the moon, the stars, the storm, the rain that fed the earth and the earth that gave forth food.

Even in the twenty-first century, people for whom science has taken the place of religion still worship nature. For them we are physical beings. For them there is no such thing as a soul, merely electrical impulses in the brain. For them there is no real freedom: we are what we are because of genetic and epigenetic causes over which we have no real control. Freewill, they say, is an illusion. Human life, they believe, is not sacred, nor are we different in kind from other animals. Nature is all there is. Such was the view of Lucretius in ancient Rome and Epicurus in pre-Christian Greece, and it is the view of scientific atheists today.

The faith of Abraham and his descendants is different. G_d, we believe, is beyond nature, because He created nature. And because He made us in His image, there is something in us that is beyond nature also. We are free. We are creative. We can conceive of possibilities that have not yet existed, and act so as to make them real. We can adapt to our environment, but we can also adapt our environment to us. Like every other animal we have desires, but unlike any other animal we are capable of standing outside our desires and choosing which to satisfy and which not. We can distinguish between what is and what ought to be. We can ask the question “Why?” [Christianity accords with Judaism in its view of Creation and the Creator].

After the Flood God was reconciled to human nature and vowed never again to destroy the world (Gen. 8-9). Yet He wanted humanity to know that there is something beyond nature. That is why He chose Abraham and his descendants as His “witnesses.”

Not by accident were Abraham-and-Sarah, Isaac-and-Rebecca, and Jacob-and-Rachel, unable to have children by natural means. Nor was it mere happenstance that G_d promised the holy land to a landless people. He chose Moses, the man who said, “I am not a man of words,” to be the bearer of His word. When Moses spoke G_d’s words, people knew they were not his own.

G_d promised two things to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: children and a land. Throughout history, most people at most times have taken children and a land for granted. They are part of nature. They constitute the two most basic natural drives: the Darwinian imperative and the territorial imperative. All animals have children, and many have their own territory that they mark and defend.

Jews – one of the world’s smallest people – have rarely been able to take children for granted. Abraham’s first recorded words to G_d were: “O L_rd G_d, what can you give me seeing that I go childless?” and even today we ask, Will we have Jewish grandchildren? Nor have they been able to take their land for granted. They were often surrounded by enemies larger and more powerful than themselves. For many centuries they suffered exile. Even today they find the State of Israel’s very right to be called into question in a way that applies to no other sovereign people. As David Ben-Gurion said, “In Israel, to be a realist you have to believe in miracles.”

Isaac and Jacob were not men of nature: the field, the hunt, the gladiatorial game of predator-and-prey. They were not Ishmael and Esau, people who could survive by their own strength and skill. They were men who needed G_d’s spirit to survive. Israel is the people who in themselves testify to something beyond themselves.

Jews have consistently shown that you can make a contribution to humanity out of all proportion to their numbers, and that a small nation can outlive every empire that sought its destruction. They have shown that a nation is strong when it cares for the weak, and rich when it cares for the poor. Jews are the people through whom G_d has shown that the human spirit can rise above nature, testifying that there is something real that transcends nature.

That is a life-changing idea. We are as great as our ideals. If we truly believe in something beyond ourselves, we will achieve beyond ourselves…”

         [Lord Sack’s full article – see: https://rabbisacks.org/isaac-jacob-toldot-5778/ ].


Paul continues to elaborate on the issue of Israel’s destiny by citing a passage from Hosea the Prophet, 

As indeed he says in Hosea chapter 1,

25“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
    and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”

26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
    there they will be called ‘sons of the living G_d.’”

Paul uses this passage to argue that the Gentiles are also to be included in the family of G_d.

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel[c] be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the L_rd will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the L_rd of hosts had not left us offspring,
    we would have been like Sodom
    and become like Gomorrah.”

Israel’s Unbelief

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence;
    and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Even so, while the majority of Israel, Paul’s contemporaries, had failed to embrace Yeshua as Messiah, in rabbinic thought, when reflecting upon the passage from Hosea says, ‘that G_d is rich in mercy towards his people even in the midst of his wrath against them’ (The International Critical Commentary, Romans vol. ii, p. 500).

While the vast majority of Israel, stumbles over the stumbling stone (rock of offence), Yeshua/Jesus, there is at the present time a remnant according to divine grace that are included in the Messianic kingdom.

Who are these Jews that are the remnant?

When we think of a remnant it usually refers to a piece of material at the end of the roll of cloth, so in the context of the Jewish people, we may assume that those who are called the remnant are not the majority, but a small portion of the Jews.

Who are this remnant? How have they been identified and what role and place do they play as part of the Jewish people?

maxresdefault (1)Jewish,_Judaism,_Messianic_Judaism,_Messiah,_Jesus,_Torah,_Tanakh,_Biblemessianicjudaism

They have severally been called, Hebrew Christians; Christian Jews, Jewish Christians; Hebrew Catholics; Completed Jews; Fulfilled Jews; and latterly, Messianic Jews or in Hebrew: Yehudim Mishachim.

I wish to focus on the name Messianic Jews and elaborate as to how one may explain what this means:

A Messianic Jew is a Jew who has embraced Yeshua/ Jesus as Messiah and L_rd, and still identifies himself or herself with being Jewish. I must stress this is a self-definition and is not universally accepted, though there is a growing trend even by some Jews who do not accept Jesus as their saviour to use this term and to recognise those who follow Yeshua as being Jewish.



They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 

Romans 9.33 “as it is written,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

This passage from Romans correlates with Isaiah 28.16 ‘therefore thus saith the L_rd G_D, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone of sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste’ (Isaiah 28.16 RV).

Instead of simply trusting in the security that the rulers of Jerusalem could offer, those who truly trusted in G_D, they would find a lasting and sure security in Jerusalem. Human intentions, even those meaning the very best for those who put their trust in them, may fail, but in trusting in G_D, it can never fail.

I am reminded of a poster that I saw in a Kosher Butcher shop in North London of a large US dollar bill with the words, “In G_d we trust.  All others pay cash.” 

In G_D we trust:

These words, “In G_D, we trust” written on every dollar bill, are noble intentions and the Founding Fathers of the United States of America did include many devout Christians who expressed their trust in the sovereign grace of G_d.

May all of us, Jews, Christians, and all people of true faith in whatever religion they adhere to, put their trust in the TRUE AND LIVING G_D, and make the joyous discovery that Yeshua is the true and living Messiah of Israel and Saviour of humankind.


Shalom Radio UK 

sponsored by MTMI – Messianic Teaching Ministry International




Toldot: Generations – G_D’s Plan for Israel & the Jewish People

Messianic Jewish Perspectives


Pilgrims in the Land of Hope – Reuven-Rubin-Landscape-of-Galilee

Do Not Miss Out on G_D’s Blessing in Your Life

Toldot: Generations:

Genesis 25.19-28.9, Malachi 1.1-2.7 & Romans 9.1-13


Jacob & Esau


The Struggles and Reconciliation of Jacob & Esau


1/It is important to state from the outset that when dealing with these verses from Romans 9 we must keep in mind the issue concerning the question of the gospel and the fact that the relationship between Yeshua and Israel is inseparable.

The Jews are God’s special people. Despite their stubbornness and at times rebellious attitude, this unique relationship will never change. This promised gospel of the Messiah’s advent, foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures, and its message become explicit in the words, ‘both for the Jew first and for the Greek (gentiles) later’ (cf. Romans 2.9-10).

It is plain that when thinking of God’s faithfulness, then the question of Jewish involvement cannot be ignored of glossed over. It became incumbent upon Paul to discuss this subject in some length in Romans chapters 9-11.

The Apostle Paul/ Rav Shaul in his letter to the believers in Roman wrote to them concerning their new life in the Messiah. The congregation in Rome was made up of Jews and Gentiles and Paul wanted to help establish their faith and clarify a number of issues that were causing confusion and needed clearing up.

Because of the rejection of Yeshua by the Judaea Temple leadership centred around the High Priest and his ruling council, as a consequence the believers were being persecuted.

The darkest hour had dawned with Israel’s failure to embrace Yeshua as Messiah and Lord.

What hope was left for the Jewish people? What was the consequences of this for Judaism that had chosen another path other than acknowledging Yeshua as Messiah and Lord? In Romans 9 Paul outlines some of his thinking about their destiny. Painful as it is, all hope was not lost.

A refreshing translation gives new insights: this‘magnificent prospect’ – missed by those who he came for…’their special privileges and their high destiny’ – a cause of great sorrow to Paul & he was willing to sacrifice his dearest hopes…

EPSON scanner image

2/ Our story begins much earlier and takes us back to the beginning of this formation of the Nation of Israel.

There is a good story worthy of our consideration concerning the Generations [Toldot]of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob and Esau and it is full of twits and turns. In this Parasha (portion) TOLDOT: Genesis 25.19-28.9 we are given the account of the struggle between Jacob and Esau. It began inside Rebecca’s womb and it continues down till this day as Jews and Arabs, the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael and Jacob and Esau are still locked in conflict about birthright and land.

The Birth and Youth of Esau and Jacob

Genesis 25.19 These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?”[c] So she went to inquire of the Lord23 And the Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
    the elder shall serve the younger.”

24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.[d] Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Esau Sells His Birthright

29 Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. 30 Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.[e]31 Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me first.”[f] So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Isaac Blesses Jacob

Genesis 27 1 Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” He said, “See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.”

Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food to eat, that I may bless you before the Lord before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. Go to the flock, and get me two choice kids, so that I may prepare from them savory food for your father, such as he likes; 10 and you shall take it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” 11 But Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, “Look, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a man of smooth skin. 12 Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him, and bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.” 13 His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my word, and go, get them for me.” 14 So he went and got them and brought them to his mother; and his mother prepared savory food, such as his father loved. 15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; 16 and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.

18 So he went in to his father, and said, “My father”; and he said, “Here I am; who are you, my son?” 19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me.” 20 But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” 21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. 24 He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” 25 Then he said, “Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son
    is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed.
28 May God give you of the dew of heaven,
    and of the fatness of the earth,
    and plenty of grain and wine.
29 Let peoples serve you,
    and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
    and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
    and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

Esau’s Lost Blessing

30 As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of his father Isaac, his brother Esau came in from his hunting. 31 He also prepared savory food, and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, “Let my father sit up and eat of his son’s game, so that you may bless me.” 32 His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am your firstborn son, Esau.” 33 Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all[a] before you came, and I have blessed him?—yes, and blessed he shall be!” 34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, me also, father!” 35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” 36 Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob?[b] For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright; and look, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37 Isaac answered Esau, “I have already made him your lord, and I have given him all his brothers as servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.

39 Then his father Isaac answered him:

“See, away from[c] the fatness of the earth shall your home be,
    and away from[d] the dew of heaven on high.
40 By your sword you shall live,
    and you shall serve your brother;
but when you break loose,[e]
    you shall break his yoke from your neck.”


This conflict is no where more apparent than in modern day Israel and its impact is felt by all. Messianic believers from both Jewish and Arab backgrounds share in this struggle of land and of identity and also how to square this up with their faith. The historic and present reality of life in Israel and the Middle-East in particular is a constant challenge.  Some may even say, ‘it is an existential challenge’ with those of Israel’s enemies threatening to annihilate her.

Many Arab and Middle-Eastern Christians may well have descended from the Jewish believers of the early first two centuries of the Common Era. The notion has both historic validity as-well-as a strong tradition held by numbers of Arab, Kudish and Iranian believers that I have met over the year. This claim is often partly based on their family names.

Returning to our story of the Generations of Abraham, some may want to sanitise their ancestry, while others delight in discovery all kinds of juicy bits about whom they descended from: Brigands on the high sea, Popes, Cohenim, Levites, the other tribes of Israel, a long line of rabbis, etc.

The problem of infertility on the part of both the patriarchs wive’s, Sarah and Rebecca was followed by prayers and holding onto the promises of God, (if at times falteringly). This led to the birth of Isaac after Abraham’s failure to trust God with the birth of Ismael to Hagar, and with Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Esau were conceived and born.

Isaac’s life was pretty uneventful, except for the intrigue that resulted from the birth of the twins to his beloved Rebecca. They struggled in the womb and at birth Jacob came out of the womb following Esau grasping onto his brother’s heal – Jacob means he who grasps the heal or he who supplants.

Scoundrel or cheat are possible synonyms for one who supplants. And Jacob with his mother’s encouragement conspired to get Esau’s birth right and patriarchal blessing just before Isaac’s death. Yet despite it all G_D chose to bless him and make him the father of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Does God favour cheats and cheating? In this case it would appear so! Look at what Malachi 12-3 says,

The Lord’s love for Israel: a“I have loved you,” says the Lord. bBut you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau cJacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet dI have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. eI have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.”

This is repeated by Paul/ Rav Shaul,13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

3/ Why, why?

It is a Jewish tradition to ask many questions and these include the difficult ones, and some of the issues appear to be contradictions and even out of character with that of a holy God. So, “Why, why?”

(A useful Jewish resource: THE GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED BY MOSES MAIMONIDES) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Guide_for_the_Preplexed

This has to do with  God’s election of Israel to fulfil his purpose for Israel and the nations. Jacob and Esau, the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca had the same parents, and at birth Esau came out first. The purpose of God was to demonstrate his free choice and by selecting Jacob over Esau shows the Divine call. This choice was not based on merit or human convention of the first born being the favoured son. Before they were born neither had done good of evil, however, a selection was made by God.

In Genesis 2523 Rebecca was told that two nations were in her womb, and that the elder should serve the younger. God is not bound by human convention.

A word from Lord Sacks (the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain), is helpful concerning the descendants of Ishmael and Esau, the Arabs: Just because God chose Isaac and not Ishmael and Jacob and not Esau, that does not mean that their descendants, the Arab people are under a curse and do not have a blessing from God.  We see that Isaac though unable to give Esau the blessing reserved for the first born, non-the-less, he did give him a blessing too.

Isaac and Ishmael buried their father  Abraham in the Machpela cave at Hebron. Both Isaac and Ishmael laid their father Abraham to rest at this site (Genesis 25:9).

Their diverging lines of descendants share a common lineage to Abraham —but today they struggle to share even the same site that commemorates him. As a result the unpredictable—and even volatile—tensions between the Muslims and Jews who share this holy site does flare up sporadically.

A Lesson From Abraham’s Act

When thinking of Hebron, and reflect on Abraham’s willingness to walk away from everything comfortable and familiar and to trust God for an unknown future. When Abraham acquired the small piece of land in which to bury Sarah, he demonstrated his faith in the Lord’s covenant to give him all the land one day.

Abraham’s purchase at Machpelah showed that we lose nothing of God’s promises in death, because those promises extend beyond the grave.

4/ This hardening that came up Israel is only partial and nor is it permanent – In every age there are those Jewish people that have come to faith through Messiah Yeshua and this once again has to do God’s divine purpose.

Romans 9-6-13

EPSON scanner image

A breakdown in the relationship between Israel and her God is not final or irrevocable – Paul’s sigh over the fall is sign of deep personal anguish, yet the fall is not so absolute as to imply a nullification of God’s purpose for Israel.

The promises made to Israel, though they have been severely disrupted does not mean that there is no way back or hope of restoration.

Divine sovereignty in the Hebrew Scriptures makes it clear that God is not unjust when he selects one person or group to fulfil his plan and purpose. One may be chosen for a high purpose, while another for a lowly one.

God’s sovereignty allows him to respond to human initiative as he chooses: “[Humankind]/ man proposes and God disposes!”

Therefore in the Jewish response to Yeshua, God does what he wants, while a hardening came upon Israel in part, so that the Gentiles may be included in the family of God – the natural branches were cut off and the wild ones were grafted in! (See Romans 11.11-24).

However, both Jews and Gentiles are personally held accountable for their response to God’s initiative in his plan of salvation.

Examples of God’s choice are displayed, he chose Israel and not Edom; Moses to display his mercy and Pharaoh his anger; he will select some Jews and some Gentiles of being members of his Messianic Kingdom.

Let us be clear, while God’s choice of some for his favour, it does not imply that therefore he has chosen to damn some. Paul does not say this here. Nothing is said in chapter 9 about eternal life or death. God uses his judgement and compassionate mercy as he sees fit to fulfil is divine plan.

God is not unjust – he is both righteous and a just judge and always responds with fairness.

5/ Our Response What are we to say then about the purposes of God? What is your calling? Are you called to lead or follow? Are you a Jew or Gentile? Have you been included in Messiah Yeshua?

Have you let the challenges of life lift you up or put you down?

The choice is up to you as to hope as you respond to the grace and light of God that you have received.

 A Prayer: Aba, Father, thank you for the light I have received, give me greater light and clarity, so that I may recognise that in Yeshua’s name there is salvation and deliverance, AMEN.

The Hospitality of Abraham


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Behold the Man: …and the Zionist Messiah (Part B)

Reuven in Israel

Shalom Radio UK – http://www.hotrodronisblog.com

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Due to the great significance of the artistic work of Reuven Rubin in the development of the visual arts and painting in particular in the Land of Israel, it is my intention to continue to look at his work, that he contributed..

Part 3B: Behold the Man:…and the Zionist Messiah*

*[AMATAI MENDELSOHN, BEHOLD THE MAN: JESUS IN ISRAELI ART, MAGNES PRESS, JERUSALEM, 2017,                                                                  ISBN 978 965 278 465 0].

Rubin’s engagement with the luminous figure of Jesus in three of his paintings and in particular, will be considered: The Madonna of the Vagabonds; Self-Portrait with a Flower; and The Prophet in the Desert.

reuven-rubin-godseekers,-portfolio,- Rubin, Reuven, The prophet in the desert- B87_1119

“The God-Seekers” – A woodcut of Jesus with stigmata in his hands

The Prophet in the Desert

Rubin’s spiritual quest was tied up with his interest in the Jewish Scriptural heritage of his people. From a series of woodcut prints that Rubin produced that he entitled,The God-Seekers,” he interprets the theme that Jesus is a symbol of the regenerated Jew who is destined to take his place and therefore heals the suffering of the Diaspora (p 105). This picture of Jesus (The Prophet in the Desert) bearing stigmata in the outstretched palms of his hands in a gesture of blessing that gave expression to that sentiment.

Rubin, Reuven, First Fruits, 1923

First Fruits




is (1)

Elijah the Prophet

There is considerable similarity between Rubin’s two painting  Jesus and the Last Apostle  and The Encounter.

 Jesus and the Last Apostle  is a large canvas (1 – 1.10 meters) that he painted shortly before his immigration to the Land of Israel (British Mandated Palestine). On inspection the similarity between the between the two pantings is apparent (p 106).


In 1922 Rubin wrote to his friend Bernard Weinberg:

“[I am working] in agony with my very lifeblood, my own and no one else’s,” …”In this last work, I have put all my anguish of my soul, with no understanding from any side and without a ray of light. The nails in the hand and feet of Jesus are burning me, and no one can grasp my suffering” (p 106, Behold).

We recall the words and painting that Marc Chagall did:

These are but a few examples of the catalogue of paintings on the theme of Crucifixion that Chagall painted in which he identifies himself with Jesus’ suffering:

“I awake in pain / Of a new day with hopes / Not yet painted / Not yet daubed with paint / I run upstairs to my dry brushes / And I am crucified with Christ / With nails pounded in the easel” – A poem by Chagall and illustrated with his profound painting The Painter Crucified (1941-42); (p 56, Behold the Man).

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The Painter Crucified – Marc Chagall

Chagall expressed similar anguish to what Rubin had experienced, some twenty years earlier. Like many creative people, these two Jewish artists gave expression to their sense of anguish, foreboding and even its manifestation in personal physical pain. That deep emotional turmoil is often induced by the suffering that they witness around them. Rubin’s sense of pain is related to the plight of his fellow Jews in Eastern Europe and Chagall in 1942 must have had some knowledge of the huge catastrophe that was engulfing European Jewry during WWII.

The Meaning of Jesus and the Last Apostle

What is the hidden meaning behind Rubin’s painting of Jesus and the Last Apostle?

In this painting, Rubin has not depicted a known scene from the life of Jesus such as his Temptation in the Desert (Matthew 4:1-11), but this is a piece of fiction bearing a powerful message that needs to be examined.

Like other artists and intellectuals of the late 19th and early 20th century, a number of Jewish thinkers began to focus upon the person of Jesus as a Jew. This should not come as a surprise, for according to his human nature Jesus is  Jewish. However, if we consider that for two millennia the persecution and suffering heaped upon the hapless Jew in the name of Christ, then it is a surprise and all the more amazing that such a change was taking place despite the bad history of Jews and Jesus.

Bob Dylan’s song, The Times They Are A Changing, adequately gives expression to this change that was happening. Jesus became a symbol of Jewish suffering. We have explored this on numerous occasion in previous Shalom Radio UK, programmes. This Jewish action was a response to hostile attitudes adopted by the Church though engaged in worshipping Jesus, persecuted and showed hatred toward Jews (p 106, Behold).

From the Encounter to the painting of Jesus and the Last Apostle, it appears that Jesus underwent a metamorphosis. For in the Encounter, Jesus sits upright, head held high, displaying his wounds for all to see, with face showing pride and pain.

However, in Jesus and the Last Apostle, the situation to that of Jesus and the Wandering Jew are reversed: Jesus is seated on the left, where the Jew previously sat, his head is bowed with his face completely hidden.

What is the message that Rubin wants to communicate to his viewers?

The key to our understanding is held by the second figure of the Last Apostle! Who is he? For just as Jesus had communicated with his listeners in parables, so Rubin too had a deeper meaning to the imagery that he painted in this compositions.


Gala Galaction

In his letter to  Bernard Weinberg, Rubin named a well-known individual called Gala Galaction, a Romanian Orthodox priest as the person upon whom the figure of the Last Apostle is based. Galaction sincere love of the Jewish people of Romania, and he helped mediate between Christians and Jews in a very hostile environment that was anti-Semitic and dangerous for Jews. In addition, this philo-Semitic priest encouraged Zionism and he saw that Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel would be a solution to their plight in Europe.

Because of Galaction’s love of Jewish people, Rubin placed this figure of him as the Last Apostle at the side of Jesus, with Jesus showing his wounds to the Last Apostle. “Jesus seems to be expressing his grief [or] perhaps remorse, at the suffering endured by the Jewish people on his account” (p 106, Behold).

By his depicting Galaction as the Last Apostle, Rubin may have intended to convey a historic reconciliation and a reversal of roles. “Jesus has been transformed: no longer the long-suffering victim for which the Jews are blamed. He hangs his head and asks to be forgiven for the persecution of the Jews [that took place in his name]. The conciliatory figure of Galaction portrays a new kind of apostle, the Last Apostle, who will inspire mutual understanding between the two religions” (p 106, Behold).

Alas, this message of reconciling love expressed by this philo-Semite, Galaction proved to be among an isolated few voices in a Europe that were to carry out its greatest outrage against the Jewish people ever witnessed. With the rise of National Socialism (Nazism) in Germany that began its rise to power in 1933, resulting in the mass murder of 6,000,000 Jews during WWII.


On July 18th, 1925 Adolf Hitler wrote his pernicious book of hate, Mein Kampf  (My Struggle) in which he formulated his ideas that resulted in Nazi Germany carrying out the Final Solution resulting in the extermination of two-thirds of the Jews of Europe. Hitler describes his pathological hatred and loathing of the Jews in his book.

Romania, despite the wonderful work of Galaction, also became a killing field of its Jews under the direction of the occupying Nazi’s. A third of its Jewish population perished under Nazi persecution.

As we have seen other Jewish artists such as Anotokolsky, and Marc Chagall shared a similar desire to Rubin, using Jesus’ image in their work as a bridge between Christians and Jews, as was Gottlieb’s intention. Additionally to the message of religious reconciliation, Jesus and the Last Apostle, Rubin to his friend Weinberg expressed his personal identification of his own anguish with that of Jesus the man. This was particularly the case in his painting The Temptation in the Desert, where this Jesus seeks to heal the suffering the Jewish people and he also embodies the artist’s own pain (p 106 & 109, Behold).

In 1922 Rubin exhibited a number of his painting in New York, USA. This included the picture The Suffering of Christ and a sculpture and sketch as Christ Homesick. The record of these “lost and undocumented works offer additional evidence of Rubin’s great interest in the figure of Jesus, and perhaps (in the case of Christ Homesick) in linking him to Zionism” (p 109, Behold). EPSON scanner imageThe Meal of the Poor painted by Rubin in Bucharest and on display at the New York exhibition in 1922, has strong Christian overtones: “Seven despondent, lowly people sit at the foreshortened oval table. At the head of the table is an elderly Rabbi-like figure, (dressed in a coat resembling a kapote worn by traditional Eastern European Jews) breaks the bread. Everyone present is enveloped in a halo-like aura this especially visible around the rabbi and the man seated at the right. On the table are foods are eaten by the poor, slices of watermelon, bread and a solitary fish on a plate – and a glass carafe holding a white lily, the attribute of the Virgin Mary found in many depictions of the Annunciation. Rubin’s works from this period contain the flower motif as a symbol of rebirth, and a white lily features prominently in his well-known work soon after his arrival in Ertez Israel” (p 109)


Mariotto di Nardo’s Last Supper


The Madonna and the Vagabonds

The Madonna and the Vagabonds exhibited at the exhibition of Rubin’s work in Bucharest. Like the Encounter painting, with New Testament referencing Jesus is shown as an infant. This use of an infant Jesus symbolises “a pioneer reborn in the Land of Israel” (p 111, Behold).

A number of significant changes should be noted, namely Rubin’s palette is brighter and his new Eretz Israel style witnesses a change from a suffering Jesus to a newborn baby. This change was brought about by his new optimism linked to his immigration to the Land of Israel (p 111, Behold).

The Nursing Madonna was a popular theme with European artist from the Middle-Ages,  with Rubin’s conflation (to fuse into one entity; merge) of this image taken from Christian iconography. The example of the Madonna and Adoring Child first appeared in the 13th century. Sometimes Mary is alone shown worshipping the infant, while other times Joseph is also depicted alongside her.

Rubin may well have been exposed to some of these paintings in his native Romanic or some of the neighbouring countries such as Moldova, where painted images of the Madonna and Adoring Child. These paintings were rendered in a Neo-Byzantine style, like this painting by Jean Fourquet’s Madonna Surrounded by Cherubim and Seraphim (1452).


Jean Fourquet’s Madonna Surrounded by Cherubim and Seraphim (1452).

The Meaning of the Madonna and the Vagabonds

Rubin’s interpretation of the Madonna and the Vagabonds may well represent four apostles in this very unusual representation, with the four figures that surround the Madonna together with the infant Jesus all lying on the ground.

What was behind his thinking in doing this portrayal like that?

In this picture by Rubin, the day is dawning, with signifies an expression of hope on the threshold of a new era. As discussed previously, the work and style of Ferdinand Holder profoundly influenced Rubin’s work. The image of the young child in a symbolic sense is an image of regeneration. This image of the young child has been used in two of Holder’s paintings, namely, Adoration (1893), and The Consecrated One (1893-1894).



Holders Adoration-art-paintings-art-nouveau

The Consecrated One

A clear link to Madonna and Child is evident in Holder’s work and Rubin’s portrayal of the Madonna. In the painting Day (1899), Holder painted five nude female figures  seated on the ground in a semi-circle, warmed by the pale light that welcomes the new day, with the central figure with upraised hands.



hodler  Ferdinand Holder


This issue of a nude female with raised hands in the picture the Orant                                    (a representation of a female figure, with outstretched arms and palms up in a gesture of prayer, is an image in ancient and early Christian art). This image of the woman with upraised hands is also seen in Holder’s picture, Truth II (1903). The hands of Rubin’s Madonna are seen in a similar pose. But Rubin’s Madonna,  the woman she holds flowers as a sign of the future suffering of the new-born Messiah (p 112, Behold).

We are reminded of Simeon’s prayer the Nunc Dimittis [from the opening words (Vulgate Latin Bible ): now let depart] :

Luke 2:29-12:42 (NRSV)

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant (now let depart) in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.  Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

The words, “…and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” anticipated the fact that the infant Jesus was destined to suffer and die and this would affect Mary profoundly.

Purvis de Chavannes’ masterpiece, The Poor Fisherman (1881), that was exhibited at the Louvre while Rubin was in Paris, France. There is also a connection between this painting and Rubin’s Madonna and the Vagabonds. The image of an infant on the ground and a fishing boat are significant as they recall the words of Jesus to the Apostles Peter and Andrew as they were casting their nets, “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mark 1.17).

the-poor-fishermanPurvis de Chavannes’ masterpiece, The Poor Fisherman


In the background of Rubin’s of the painting the Sea of Galilee can be seen, is the setting of The Madonna of the Vagabonds, and many other scriptural scenes take place.

The Sea of Galilee is also the place where Jesus walked on the water and he is the fisher of souls. The three empty boats in the water, belonging to the fishermen asleep on the shore viewed in this picture. Are they waiting to be summoned by the Redeemer that has been born? (p 112, Behold).


Rubin’s early works that he did in the Land of Israel, have been compared to Gauguin’s portrayals of Tahiti, both wishing to visually portray that which is primodal and pure. It is very likely that Rubin had seen ‘s work on show in New York, USA, while he was there. The figure of Mary has been regarded as the second ‘Eve’, an untainted and noble savage like the women of Tahiti, who were untainted in contrast to the women of Europe who were considered to be decadent and seductive. This was the type of figure shown in the Madonna of the Vagabonds.

Unlike many portrayals of Madonna and Child the woman is not engaged in adoring the baby, but represents a figure with bared breast as a symbol of fertility, with her being seated conveying the message of simplicity and rootedness, rather than a traditional Christian portrayal of her seated on a throne attended by heavenly beings as in Jean Fourquet’s Madonna Surrounded by Cherubim and Seraphim (1452).

The men asleep behind her, the vagabonds are pioneers who have come to build the Land. However, having said that it is still imbued with Christian symbolism. This is not about suffering and death, but hope and renewal, though this is not without pain, hinted by the red flower in the woman’s palm that can just be seen. In it Rubin relates to Jesus in a different guise, as the child will bring redemption and vanquish death, through his resurrection (p 112, Behold).

Some Observations

Though there is a similarity of the composition of the two painting by Rubin, The Madonna of the Vagabonds is diametrically opposed to the Temptation in the Desert.

The tortured figure of Jesus in the Temptation, is replaced by the smiling figure of the Madonna, for she is the antithesis of the Temptation’s  femme fatale. The Madonna’s bared breast suggests health and fecundity (the ability to produce young in great numbers), where as the temptress in the Temptation has very different connotations.

“Jesus as a representative of Zionism’s New Jew in the Encounter reappears more powerfully The Madonna of the Vagabonds. The baby Jesus symbolises rebirth in the homeland as well as resurrection after the death of exile” (p 113, Behold). In some ways it can be viewed as a self-portrait of the artist, Rubin, who was about to begin a new life in the Land of Israel.

Reuven Rubin in Jerusalem

In April, 1923 Rubin realised his dream of moving to the Land of Israel, and this move brought mixed emotions. Though he was glad to be in the sunshine under clear blue skies, yet he was particularly saddened by the state of art in the country at the time.

He penned these words in his autobiography:

“Now I am in Jerusalem, I tread on the same stones that I first touched eleven years ago, and I roam in the very places where so many God-seekers cried out their anguish and affliction. I came here to spend Tisha Be-Av, the day of sadness over our destruction [the destruction of the Temple], in order to experience it to the full. I should like to stand, quaking, before this immense destruction etched on our backs through the generations, in order to leave here a stronger man, so that I many convince. Whom? Of what? How can I convince? Nonsense, nonsense…

No one has the courage to get up and sweep away all the merchants and pedlars from within the Temple. The Temple must be cleansed! I promise you the day will come when I will pluck up courage and my fist will be strong and my voice reverberate, and then the time will come for me to be the man who will sweep away. But in that case better I should decide to die[?] young. Other wise it won’t work” (p 113, Behold).

Rubin clearly associated himself with Jesus in his cleansing of the Temple, viewing himself as one who had a new message to share, even as a prophet of the Messiah had. His mission was to cleanse the temple of the art world from all that was rotten and old. One the one hand he is excited and enthusiastic by a sense of the spirit  of renewal, but on the other hand he feels deeply frustrated and troubled. With this in mind it is easy to understand why he identified with the prophets and Jesus.


Rubin’s Self-Portrait with a Flower

In the painting of Rubin’s Self-Portrait with a Flower, he is wearing the white shirt of a chalutz (pioneer), against a background of sand dunes, tents and houses and a boat is also visible in the corner by the sea. He self-confidently gazes at the viewer out of the corner of his eyes that seem to penetrate one’s eyes. In the one hand he holds a glass with a white flower in it, while in the other, he clutches a number of his artist’s paint brushes.

The most striking feature is the picture is the white lily in the glass, which is a symbol of the Annunciation given to the Virgin Mary concerning the Holy Child that she will bear. Once again this message of renewal in the homeland is stressed. These hands unlike another self-portrait done by Rubin, communicate the importance of the Annunciation  to the viewer, and do not bear stigmata as was the case in other paintings (p 113-114).


Albert Durer’s – Self-Portrait: Man of Sorrows

In Albert Durer’s – Self-Portrait: Man of Sorrows in both hands he is holding the instruments of torture, a Birch and Scouge (1522), and as Rubin so often spoke and also portrayed himself as a tortured man, there are echos of Durer’s picture. While there is no evidence that Rubin knew of the work, very interesting parallels exist, the unhappy man with a possible accusatory look from the corner of the eyes of both, and in the left hand Durer’s Jesus holds a reed-scepter, while Rubin holds a hand full of paintbrushes.

These two paintings show victims of two different kinds. Durer’s Jesus sacrificing himself for the sake of humanity, while Rubin’s sacrifices himself as a artist-pioneer for the sake of the Jewish nation. The hand holding the paintbrushes may be equated to Rubin’s instruments of torture and suffering and the while the white lily the hope of redemption (p 115, Behold).

Once more in a letter to his friend Bernard Weinberg, Rubin wrote, “Today I passed through the valley [The Jezreel Valley] and this day I saw our crucified of the present time” (p 116, Behold).

Our final painting that we consider in this programme is Rubin’s First Seder in Jerusalem (1949).

d47921d1640892929f3b90cc9860e567--jewish-art-rubinRubin’s First Seder in Jerusalem (1949).

Nearly 30 years after Rubin painted, the painting Meal of the Poor and The Madonna of the Vagabonds, and nearly two years after the founding of the State of Israel, Jesus takes his place at the Passover table in Jerusalem. This ritual meal celebrating deliverance and redemption (p 118, Behold)

A Description of the First Seder in Jerusalem

Seated and standing around the table are people from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, The one thing they all have is common is that they are all in the Land of Israel, no longer British Mandated Palestine, but the new sovereign nation of Israel. These are Jews who have gathered from many nations.

There are Six figures that we should note in particular: a Yemenite looking elderly Jewish man (who could be a rabbi) holding the Passover cup that is raised in one hand and a Seder plate in the other; next to the rabbi is a good looking dark complexioned  couple: the man with his wife and she is holding a baby boy (wearing a scull cap) that she is nursing (an echo of a Madonna and Child) and the child’s father is gently touching the babies head, symbolising blessing and also according to Rubi’s imagery, fertitlty; then there is a self-portrait of  a seated older grey haired Reuven Rubin with his arm around the shoulder of a young boy who is standing next to him (this could be his son, a native born first generation child born in the Land of Israel who may now be correctly called an Israeli).

REUVEN_RUBIN_PAINTING_HIS_SON_IN_HIS_STUDIO_IN_TEL_AVIV._הצייר_ראובן_רובין_מצייר_את_בנו_בסטודיו_שלו_בתל_אביב 2.D22-115

The final figure that I wish to consider is at the other end of the table: Jesus

It is the seated figure of Jesus wearing a white robe, with his open hands bearing the stigmata and placed on the table and with his bowed in prayer. His image in the First Seder in Jerusalem suggests one who is resting in a peaceful state of composure. There are no signs of conflict as viewed in some of Rubin’s other depictions of Jesus, thinking particularly of the Encounter and Jesus and the Last Apostle, in which both portrayals are full of contrition, pain and sorrow. This painting  is in some measure the crowning glory of Rubin’s work dealing with the person of Jesus and may be considered a masterpiece!

Traditionally on a Seder night, those living in the Diaspora say: “Next year in Jerusalem,” which is filled with the hope of return to the Land of Israel! But this group at this the First Seder in Jerusalem may proclaim: “This year in Jerusalem,” and I wish to add the words, “Hallelujah!” [Praise the L_rd], because Jesus (Yeshua) is with them too.

Croped--jewish-art-rubinDetail of the Figure of Jesus at the First Seder in Jerusalem 

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced,* they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn (Zechariah 12.10 – ESV).

*This relates to the crucifixion of Jesus, and to his being pierced by the Roman soldier’s spear, and this interpretation agrees with the opinion of some ancient Jewish sources, who interpret it as to referring to Messiah the Son of David.

Encounter and Jesus and the Last Apostle


What Kind of Messiah?

There are two doctrines of the Messiah held within the Judaism of Jesus time. In two millennia this view of the Messiah of Judaism has not drastically altered.

Firstly, a political Messiah, and secondly, the suffering spiritual Messiah:

Initially Rubin’s Messiah that he featured in his early paintings was the Suffering Messiah. However, Rubin also held to a Political Messiah who as liberator sets the Jews of the Diaspora free from persecution, suffering and exile. He heals and regenerates them in their return to the Land of Israel.

This reminds us that Jesus is a changed multivalent  figure (having various meanings) and links to the revival of the Jewish people in their homeland, in Reuven Rubin’s work (p 118, Behold).

Our final two programmes in this series from Behold the Man: Jesus in Israeli Art is entitled: From Personal Experience to National Identity. This will also be a two part programme (Part A and Part B).

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