Judaism and Christianity part 2: Jarchi, Being "Saved" and God's Compassion

Q. Jarchi, the commentator, says this: "companies of husbandmen shall meet those that plough in the fields with the voice of mourners that cry in the streets.'' This is for Amos 5:16. What's the difference between husbandmen and those that plough in the fields? Aren't they both farmers?

A. Thanks for your question. In this instance, your translation is faulty. I looked in the Hebrew and what Rashi says is, "They will meet groups of plowmen plowing in the fields...," not that plowmen will meet other people plowing. So, kudos for intuiting that the translation you were reading was somehow off. As an aside, I noticed you said Jarchi rather than Rashi; what translation are you using?

Q. Thanks for replying. I'm using a commentary by John Gill. He stated that "companies of husbandmen shall meet those that plough in the fields with the voice of mourners that cry in the streets'' is from Jarchi.

Do you have an idea what Jarchi could mean by husbandmen meeting with those that plough in the fields?

A. John Gill. Wow. That's a "deep cut" (at least in my circles). I asked because Jarchi is the Christian name for Rashi, so when I said, "Rashi says...," that's the same as Jarchi. In this instance, Gill's translation is a little off. Like I said, it means that "they" (the same general "they" as in the verse) will meet plowmen plowing, not that plowmen will meet others plowing.


Q. In Christianity they teach that all you have to do is "accept Jesus" and you will be "saved." From a Jewish perspective, is this not a path to true growth? It is true?

A. Well, obviously Judaism doesn't agree with all the tenets of Christian theology. If we agreed on everything, we'd be the same religion!

Numbers 23:19 says, "God is not a person that He should lie, nor is He a human being that He should change His mind." Once He gave us the rules, those are the rules. He's not going to change them or take them away.


Q. I was accosted at the beach today by a guy from Jews for Jesus. He offered me a New Testament in Yiddish and said that many Jews have been "saved" by accepting Jesus as the messiah. I just ignored him. Then I saw a big ad in the newspaper from the same people. My question: Can a Jew believe in Jesus?

A. The idea that Jesus was the messiah or somehow divine is incompatible with Judaism. People can believe what they want to believe but that particular belief contradicts a number of tenets of Judaism (such as that God has no parts or subdivisions, that the messiah will rebuild the Temple, etc.). So while there are people who claim to be Jewish and adherents of Jesus, every stream of Judaism will tell you that such movements are outside the tent.


Q. I was talking to a friend of mine who is Christian, and he was telling me about how the God that he believes in is more compassionate than the God that Jews believe in.

I sought to prove him wrong, but I could not find any particular passage in the Bible that proves God’s compassion and love for the people of Israel; it appears to me that God in the Old Testament is more harsh and even scary in a way than what is mentioned in the New Testament.

I was wondering if you think that my friend’s comment is true, and if not, why?

A. You can cherry-pick any religion's scriptures to make them appear however you want. "Old Testament" verses that attest to God's compassion include Exodus 34:6, Psalms 111:4, Lamentations 3:22, and many others. On the other hand, "New Testament" verses include things like "Don't think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I came not to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Matthew 10:34-35). That doesn't sound very compassionate! You can select verses out of context to prove anything.

Considering how God repeatedly saved the Jews no matter how often they rebelled against Him, wouldn't you say He's compassionate? Sure, they were exiled, but God spent literally hundreds of years sending prophets to warn them. Actions have consequences, regardless of compassion. Compassion mitigated the severity of the punishment. For example, God destroyed the Temple rather than the nation. I'd say that was pretty compassionate!

Rabbi Jack's latest book, Ask Rabbi Jack, is now available from Kodesh Press and on Amazon.com.