On Hanukkah and Christmas let's remember how the Bible brings Jews and Christians together

For both Jews and Christians, this season of Hanukkah and Christmas is a time to celebrate and marvel at miracles. And though Hanukkah and Christmas are very different holidays, it is also a time for us to consider the many things our Bible-based faiths have in common.

I often surprise people when I tell them that the organization I head – the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews – is the largest charity in the State of Israel today. People are surprised as well to learn that the vast majority of the $140 million in donations we expect to get this year will come from evangelical Christians.

Questions I typically get:

Why do evangelical Christians give sacrificially so that Jews can make aliyah and return to live in their Promised Land?

Why do evangelical Christians give to support the poor, the elderly, victims of terrorism and Holocaust survivors living in poverty in Israel?

And why do Jews give generously to support the same type of assistance to help persecuted Christians in the predominantly Muslim nations of the Middle East?

For Christians and Jews, it is the Bible that brings solace, inner strength, and spiritual fulfillment during times of joy, security, and prosperity – as well as during periods of wandering, suffering, and adversity.

The answer to all these questions is that there is an unshakable bond between Christians and Jews, growing out of our shared reverence for the Bible. In addition, both our faiths have deep roots in the Land of Israel. And Christianity began as an offshoot of Judaism. Like Jesus, the earliest Christians were Jews.

Orthodox Jews like myself believe that the Jewish Bible, or Tanach, is the actual embodiment of God’s word. The Bible gives us insight into God and his will for mankind. This is why the study of the Bible is so important in Orthodox Judaism.

We believe that the Bible is eternally authoritative. Even though it was given at particular times in history, it is valid for all time and circumstances. And, not only is it eternal; the word of God is complete. Everything can be derived from it.

As Psalm 19:8 says: “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

For Jews, the study of the Bible is the supreme mitzvah, or good deed. Not only does it teach us how God wants us to live, but the study of God’s word also brings us closer to God himself.  

Daily, we pray the following prayer: “With an eternal love hast Thou loved Thy people, the house of Israel; Torah, commandments, good deeds, and laws hast Thou imparted to us. Therefore, O Lord our God, when we lie down and when we rise up, we will ponder Thy vows and rejoice in the words of Thy Torah and commandments. For they are our lives and the length of our days, and upon them we will meditate day and night.”

Study of the Bible is our loftiest spiritual pursuit. It orders our daily lives and gives us the focus and inspiration we need each day. From the dear friendships that I have with many Bible-believing Christians, I know that the daily study of the written Scriptures and their application to everyday life is as important to them as it is to us.

It is this commitment to the truth and authority of Scripture that leads evangelicals to take seriously God’s promise that he will bless those who bless the Jewish people. It’s this commitment that causes evangelical Christians to recognize the Jewishness of Jesus, and to understand that they were grafted into the promises first given to the Jewish people.

And it’s this commitment that causes evangelicals to be grateful for the measures taken by the Jewish people to preserve and pass down the Scriptures – even in the face of suffering and persecution.

For Christians and Jews, it is the Bible that brings solace, inner strength, and spiritual fulfillment during times of joy, security, and prosperity – as well as during periods of wandering, suffering, and adversity.

The Bible guides our collective path, shapes our character, and links us with the Almighty. In this way, it can truly be said that the Bible is our source of both life and solidarity.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein founded The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews, and build broad support for Israel.

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