Abram Epstein
Abram Epstein

Come down, Israel, Come down

 As a traditional Jew, it’s not my custom to cite a Gospel passage as a source of wisdom for contemporary rightwing Israeli leaders to draw upon for inspiration. But when the Torah has not put a “geder” (fence) around the rapacity masking itself in the guise of so-called religious Zionism, claiming the descendants of Ishmael’s West Bank domicile as God’s promised Judea and Samaria, a Jew- of-conscience like Jesus may surprise us with one of his own greatest insights. I offer this as one who has no belief in his messianic origins, just his deep spirituality as a Jew. (And, to those who do not know of me, I am an author of books and articles about the history of his life.)

Just as Jesus stood on the Temple mount (Matthew 4:3-4:10), the Israeli populace, and whatever coalition results from the Tuesday election, stands on a precipice. It is one where balance shall decide whether Israel’s democracy suffers a great fall, or retreats to liberate herself from the entrapment of her own devilish proclivities to occupy and steal the land of the descendants of Ishmael, Covenanted in the Torah as Isaac’s cousins to live as a great nation. (Genesis 17:20; 25.12)

What shall we Jews learn from this moment in Jesus’ life?

It may seem a spiritual oxymoron to suggest I, as a Jew, hope Israelis may empathize with the “passion” of Jesus–although I am not a Christian. A moment of particular empathy for Jesus occurs when he contemplates ending his life by leaping from the precipice of the Temple mount. It is early fall of our era’s year 31 CE, during Sukkot (the Feast of Booths) and he stands on the edge looking down at the rocks far below. The Gospels record the scene, noted above, as the “Temptation on the Temple Mount.”

The famous episode has been Christianized to be an offer by satan that Jesus will rule the world if he proves he is the Son of God –by throwing himself over the cliff and surviving.

In fact, historically understood, Jesus was contemplating suicide. And, his heart was being torn asunder by the very thing the episode suggests: that he had given people the impression he had Divine authority to rule the earth, was a God-sent messiah and even to some, the Son of God.

Now he realized that teaching his disciples they were his Divinely anointed courtiers, letting them believe he could miraculously heal diseases like leprosy, had authority to forgive sin–and was changing Torah law (though he never did) had led him to this terrifying moment of decision. He had meant to inspire their hope in a coming time free of pain and suffering; but he had let them turn him into a god.

At that moment, he could see no other way of atoning for giving people the impression he was the messiah King than to end his life. If they found his crumpled body on the rocks below, they would know he was only human!

What greater test is there for us humans than to believe we are special to God despite being mortal? 

Recovered from the reconstructed text, he despaired that his unintended self-exaltation had been engendered by a satanic inclination which he would now atone.

If ever there was a “passion” of Jesus –I would select this remarkable personal crisis. I think it is very close to a universal human trait to see ourselves as having god-like insight and judgment; especially autocrats and religious leaders who often even tell you what God wants or what God is thinking. 

(Here I urge those Israelis who claim God has given them the right to rule the Arabs who dwell among and alongside them–to heed Jesus’ words as he makes his lament). 

What were his words, you may ask?

I say to you, my fellow Jews, who declare their Arab fellow-citizens “second-class” in a political-caste legislation called the “Nation-State (of the Jews)” law–LISTEN! It is you who are standing alongside Jesus on that precipice, and he is about to speak; about to put an end to the idea that he was superior to others, that he was “Chosen.” 

“One must worship only God,” he says. And, “One must not test God.”

Now, it must become the voice of the Israeli People, liberating themselves from the talons of satan, and the yetzer ha-ra (evil inclination) to control the world of the Arabs.

The message is so simple: He had worshipped himself. And he had found an atonement: One must only worship God.

He leaves the Temple mount and finds his way to his cousin John, below, and is immersed in the mikveh (later usage, baptism) to cleanse him of his sin.

To you, my Israeli family at the side of Jesus on the Temple Mount, I say, renounce your claim to being chosen over the Palestinian People. Stop worshipping yourselves. End your guise as the b’nai Elohim (children of God) so holy that you are enfranchised by Adoshem (God) to steal the rightful heritage Covenanted in our Torah to Abraham’s progeny, our Arab cousins. Come down, Israel, come down, for the fall will prove only that you are mortal.

On this Pesach, let us strive to reach  our true Promised Land, z’man chay-ru-taynu, a time of freedom and liberation from the need to control or rule others different in background from ourselves. Hag Sameach!!

About the Author
Abram Epstein, a New Yorker, has served as Director of Education for several synagogues and actively participated in the Manhattan Educators’ Council. His graduate studies at New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center focused on ancient Near Eastern religion and Biblical Judaism. He is a recipient of the university’s prestigious Founders’ Award for Academic Accomplishment and has a screen credit as Historical Consultant for "The Seventh Sign" starring Demi Moore. His other books include, "The Historical Haggadah," "The Matthias Scroll," "A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity," and most recently, "The Matthias Scroll–Select Second Edition." Abram invites communication on his FB page: "Abram Epstein" or "Abram's Historical Writing."
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