Lies and Video

There are some things which are down right despicable. A case in point is a recent video promoted by One for Israel Ministry which promotes a lie. The lie is that the Rabbis purposely removed Isaiah 53 from the weekly haftarah readings. Here is a montage of the lie:

facts copyRabbi Singer and others [1] remarking on the lie many years ago says:

This well-worn claim that the Jews have deliberately removed Isaiah 53 from the Haftorah because rabbis are “so scared” that their worshipers might bolt from their synagogues for the local baptism pool upon hearing this chapter read aloud from the pulpit is a popular argument used by missionaries to sustain their Christological interpretation of Isaiah 53.

This contention, however, is so devoid of merit that I often find it difficult to know where to begin in my response.

Let’s start by exploring the origin of the Jewish tradition to read a portion of theHaftorah on the Sabbath day.

Those unfamiliar with the source of the custom to read the Haftorah might conclude from this missionary argument that the Jews read all of the Prophets during the yearly cycle (as we do the entire Pentateuch), and we somehow only leave out Isaiah 53 from the annual reading of the Haftorah. Actually, less than five percent of the prophets are read during the Sabbath service throughout the year.

The Jewish people adopted the custom to read the Haftorah long before the advent of Christianity. During the traumatic events that led to the festival of Chanukah, Antiochus Epiphanes IV (ruled from 175-164 B.C.E.) decreed that it was forbidden for the Jews to read the Torah in his effort to eradicate the Jewish faith. To circumvent this spiritual crisis, the Jewish people began to read from a selected portion of the Prophets on each Sabbath to substitute the designated reading from the Torah. This custom was retained after the decree was rescinded.

The particular Sabbath portion of the Prophets was carefully selected for one of two reasons. Either because the theme of a segment of the Prophets closely correlated to the portion of the Torah read that week, or because that section of the Prophets thematically corresponded to a festival or a historical circumstance during that Sabbath. It is therefore easy to understand why Isaiah 53 is never read in the synagogue. Isaiah 53 bears no relationship to any of the chapters of the Pentateuch and is unrelated to any holiday or historical circumstance on the Jewish calendar. Therefore this chapter was not included in any Haftorah portion.

Needless to say, this missionary argument is particularly preposterous when we consider that the custom to read the Haftorah in the synagogue was implemented more than 2,150 years ago, long before the Christian era. It is puzzling why missionaries are unaware of this fact when the custom to read the Haftorah is mentioned quite clearly in the New Testament (Acts 13:14-15), long before the Jewish people could have an inkling that a heretical sect would emerge that would misinterpret this extraordinary chapter.

This remarkable claim that the Jews expunged Isaiah 53 from the Haftorah is probably the most anti-Semitic argument used by missionaries. It thrives on and perpetuates the medieval Christian portrait of the Jews – a cunning, scheming, diabolical bunch – who are capable of rejecting Jesus, although deep down – in their heart of hearts, believe in him and have conspired to make sure that every other Jew rejects him. Only the Devil is capable of this dastardly deed. In other words, although the Devil knows the truth and believes in God, he rejects Him and seduces others to do the same. This dark portrait of the Jew as the Devil (John 8:44) is as old as Christianity itself, and things haven’t changed much.

How long must we endure this re-cycled garbage by the Christians who call themselves messianic Jews?


  1. CLAIM: The Rabbis read Isaiah 52 and 54 in the Haftorah but they purposely skip Isaiah 53 because it would show that Jesus is the Messiah.
    Why, among all the Haftorahs read during the whole year, Isaiah 53 is not included, is one of the issues that comes up from time to time. Some actually make the claim that the Rabbis ‘skipped’ it on purpose by reading Isaiah 52 and then jumping to Isaiah 54. All of this is just based on a weak knowledge of the reasons for Jewish customs and a deep-seated hatred for Judaism and the Rabbis. The answer to this question is easily found when one looks into the history, purpose and application of the custom with regards to the Haftorah.

    Why do we read the Haftorah? The Rabbis teach us[1] that at one time[2] an occupying king made a decree that the Jewish people could not publicly read from the Torah scroll. In order that the people should not forget about the readings from the Torah, a reading from the prophets was instituted. This selection of the prophets mentioned something related to the weekly Torah portion that was to be read. From this everyone could know what the portion was, and the main subject of it. When the decree was rescinded, this custom remained.[3]

    This custom is attested from the ancient times. Two ancient Midrashim, Pesikta D’Rav Kahana, and Pesikta Rabbosei D’Rav Kahana have a number of ‘sermons’ for these Haftorahs. In fact in the New Testament book of Acts[4] we read: “After the reading of the Law (Torah) and the Prophets…” This is understood as referring to this customary reading. We see that the Haftorah was a well-known custom even in those days.

    If we look at all the Haftorahs read over a full year they only represent a very small portion of the books of the prophets. We find that Isaiah 9:5-6, an important Christian messianic text, is included as one of the Haftorahs. Likewise, since we read all of the Torah portions, with none of it skipped, including Christian proof texts, it would seem absurd to claim that just this was excluded.

    To understand the issue better we need to look into what texts from the prophets were selected. The Haftorahs are divided into 3 groups. The first part, the majority of the Haftorahs, are those that are associated with the weekly Torah readings. If we look at the first 5 readings we see:
    Bereishis – Isaiah 42:5-43:10. Bereishis deals with the creation of the world, and this Haftorah starts off with the words: ‘Thus says, the G-d, HaShem Creator of Heaven…’
    Noach – Isaiah 54:1-55:5. Noach talks about Noah and the flood, and verse 54:9 mentions the ‘waters of Noach.’
    Lech Lecha – Isaiah 40:27-41:16. This talks about Avraham his wars with the kings and other events. The Rabbis found a hint at this in 41:2-3.
    VaYeira – 2 Kings 4:1-37. Here we learn of the promise and the birth of Yitzchok and the Haftorah talks about the prophet Elisha and how he promised that someone would give birth to a son.
    Chayah Sarah – 1 Kings 1:1-31. This talks about the aging and death of Avraham, and the Haftorah talks of the same with regards to King David.
    And so it continues for all of the weeks except those special ones, which I will shortly explain. However since none of the weekly readings deals with the subject of Isaiah 53 in any manner, we cannot say that it has been excluded, as there is no reason to include it.

    The second part, are those Haftorahs that are read on the Shabbos of a one of the Jewish festivals, or one of the ‘special’ Shabboses. Here are a few examples:
    Yom Kippur there are two Haftorahs. In the morning we read Isaiah 57:14-58:14, and in the afternoon we read the book of Jonah, both of which relate to the theme of tshuva.
    First day of Sukkos we read Zechariah 14:1-21 which mentions the festival of Sukkos.
    First day of Passover we read Joshua 3:5-7, 5:2-16, 6:,27, which mentions the celebration of the festival of Passover.
    First day of Shevous we read Ezekiel 1:1-28, 3:12 which deals with the revelation that the prophet had which is similar to the experience of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

    The final part, are the Haftorahs read during the 10 weeks before Rosh HaShanah. They are divided into two parts. The first are three Haftorahs read before the fast day of the 9th of Av. This is a period of mourning leading up to that fast day. Then the seven Haftorahs read from the Shabbos following the 9th of Av, until the Shabbos before Rosh HaShanah. These are portions dealing with the consolation of the Jewish people, for the destruction. Portions were chosen for INCLUSION, based on a criteria, and not excluded. It is interesting to note that all of them are taken from the book of Isaiah and specifically from after chapter 40.

    The first three Haftorahs, before the 9th of Av, deal with warnings of punishments and are a prelude to the 9th of Av the day that commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
    Jeremiah 1:1-2:3
    Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4
    Isaiah 1:1-27

    Following this seven Haftorahs of consolation are read:
    Isaiah 40:1-26
    Isaiah 49:14-51:3
    Isaiah 54:11-55:5
    Isaiah 51:12-52:12
    Isaiah 54:1-10
    Isaiah 60:1-22
    Isaiah 61:10-63:9
    If we look at these seven Haftorahs of consolation, they all are taken from the last part of Isaiah, but none of them follow directly any other one. Also the third week is the only one out of numerical order.

    The missionaries make the claim that between the fourth and fifth week, Isaiah 53 is purposely left out. But there are a few problems with this proposition. First, we see many of the chapters in this part of Isaiah are skipped. For example all of chapters 42-48 and 55-59 are left out. Second an examination of these passages we see that they give messages of comfort for the Jewish people in exile. However, no matter what the interpretation of Isaiah 53 one takes, there are no words of comfort for the Jewish people.

    There appears to be support for the view of the Rabbis, from the Dead Sea Scrolls, that Isaiah 53 does not relate to any consolations for the Jewish People. This is from the documents 4Q176, which is referred to as 4QTanhumin[5]. Scholars see this fragment as a collection of verses consoling Israel. What is interesting is to notice what passages from Isaiah are included and the order of these passages.
    Isaiah 40:1-5, Isaiah 41:8-9, Isaiah 49:7, 13-17[6]
    Isaiah 43:1-2 [7]
    Isaiah 43:4-6[8]
    Isaiah 51:22-23[9]
    Isaiah 52:1-3, 54:4-10[10]
    Of the first five of the Haftorahs of consolation, all are represented here. And interestingly, there is the same skip of Isaiah 53 in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which predate Christianity!! It is not logical to claim that the compilers of the Dead Sea Scrolls were part of the ‘Rabbinic Conspiracy.’

    From this we see that the Rabbis specifically chose the Haftorahs, and did not skip or exclude any to fool people, or hide some errors they ‘knew’ in their own religion. __________________________________________

    [1]   This is in the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 284 in the name of the Avudraham and the Lavush. It is found in the Bach and Taz.

    [2]   Most like Antiochus in the 2nd century BCE.

    [3]   There are other customs, like the wording of ‘keser’ in the musaf prayer that have remained as reminder of decreees that were repealed.

    [4]   13:15

    [5]    Tanhumin means comforting.

    [6]    Fragment 1 + 2

    [7]    Fragment 3

    [8]    Fragment 4+5

    [9]    Fragment 6 + 7

    [10]    Fragment 8-11. It is interesting to note that these two chapters appear contiguously in the fragments.

    © Moshe Shulman 2003



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