Jesus concealed in the Jewish prayer book

Abraham Cohen was walking on Broadway, carrying a little parcel wrapped in brown paper. He looked very pious and reserved, very deep in meditation. Being an old friend of his I hailed him: “A happy New Year to you Mr. Cohen. I hope you are well.” It was Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), and evidently my friend was returning from the Synagogue. “Thank you,” he mumbled without looking up and appearing as if he desired to proceed with his walk undisturbed. But I called again: “What are you carrying in your parcel?” He stopped and in an aggrieved voice replied: “Why do you want to know? This is something which is of no interest to you. It is the Machzor, the Jewish Prayer Book for Rosh Hashanah. There is nothing in it for you to argue or dispute.” “My dear Mr. Cohen,” I tried to mollify him. “Please don’t take me wrong. I do not want to argue or dispute. I am very much interested in the Machzor. In my possession I have at least a dozen different editions of it and other Jewish books of prayer. If you don’t mind I just would like to show you a few things in it which have caused me a great deal of thought, and which I am sure, you will be glad to know also.”

He looked at me inquiringly. Mr. Cohen and I had often met and argued on all kinds of subjects. Though we seldom agreed, I usually found him a stimulating and intelligent opponent and enjoyed talking to him. With all his apparent reluctance, he did not take it amiss as I accosted him even on Rosh Hashanah. He therefore readily turned aside with me into the privacy of a deserted doorway and handed me his book. It was a Machzor with an English translation by a man who signed himself “S.G.” Opening it one page forty-two, I pointed to a certain passage and asked my friend to read it. He took the book again into his hand; and this is the exact translation, word for word, of what he read: “Behold I prepare my mouth to thank and praise my Creator in the name of the Holy Unity, Blessed is He, and His Shechinah, by the hand of Him, who is hidden and concealed in the name of all Israel.” When he had done reading, he paused for a moment, then he reread the above words slowly and thoughtfully. After he had finished, I remarked: “I hope you don’t think the missionaries have slipped this passage into the Machzor?” He did not answer.

Then I began to question him. “Who is the ‘Holy Unity’ spoken of here?”. “I suppose it refers to Jehovah God,” he admitted. “Who is the Shechinah?” I asked again. Hesitating, as if afraid to commit himself, he said: “This seems to be the Holy Spirit, the Ruach Hakodesh.” I asked once more: “Who is He that is ‘hidden and concealed’?” He replied with caution. “I never thought much of this matter. These words are in Aramaic; they are difficult to understand. In any case I cannot tell you off-hand what they mean. I must talk it over with my Rabbi.” Then as a parting shot: “I imagine you will tell me now that they refer to your Messiah Jesus!” “I not only imagine, I am sure of it!” I affirmed. “It can be no one else. You see now dear friend, how in your own Jewish Machzor you have the same representation of the Godhead as a Trinity, as it is found in the teaching of the New Testament! Only to you, Jesus is ‘hidden and concealed’, behind a curtain, as it were.” Then facing my friend squarely I urged: “But why do you try to hide Him? Why are you so against Him? It is no use keeping Him a secret. The world never succeeded in concealing Him in the past nor will you be able to do so in the future. Moreover, there is no reason why you should hide Him. He is your Messiah and Redeemer, the Hope of Israel.”

Mr. Cohen, however, insisting that he must first talk it over with his Rabbi, wrapped his book again carefully in his piece of paper and departed. The words which Mr. Cohen and I read together are found in the Morning Prayer of the Rosh Hashanah Machzor. Part of that prayer consists of a group of Psalms. But before the recitation of these Psalms, the Prayer Book bids the worshipper to invoke the God of Israel in the threefold form as quoted above. Similar invocations are also offered on numerous other occasions, such as before reading the Torah in the Synagogue, before the Kiddush (prayer of sanctification) on the Sabbath day, before entering the Succoth (booth) on the Feast of Tabernacles, several times during the Seder meal at the Feast of Passover, and so on.

As orthodox Jewry performs these and other acts of worship, it does so in the name of The Blessed Unity, The Shechinah, through the hand of Him Who is hidden and concealed. This, however, is not the only form in which the Machzor expresses the Jewish threefold conception of the Godhead. Another outstanding example is found in the chant which begins with the words: “Askino Seodose.” There, instead of the Messiah being called “The Hidden and Concealed One,” He is referred to as the “Lesser or the Younger FP–,,” or the image mirroring the Face of God. In that connection it has the same meaning, in theological language, as the Greek term “Prosopon”, which means “face”: In Greek, the Trinity is often spoken of as the “Three Faces of the God-head.”

The Zohar, the book of Jewish mysticism, also has a conception of a Trinity. It speaks of it as “the Mystery of the Three.” From this it is evident that the most serious-minded religious groups of the Jewish people, as they worship on Rosh Hashanah and other high and holy occasions, call upon God in the same manner as Christians, namely, in the form of a Trinity. It is surprising therefore that the very same people, as we meet them outside the synagogue, will argue and protest that they know nothing whatever about such an idea as a Trinity! And they will insist that the idea of Trinity is totally foreign to Judaism, and that those who hold it are idolators, believing in three Gods! When are they right? When in the synagogue or on the street? When at prayer before God or when disputing with Christian believers? We believe that they are more likely to be right as they stand in the presence of God in prayer. To be sure, Jewish theologians and Rabbis do not call their conception of the Godhead by the name of “Trinity.” Trinity is a Latin term and was coined by Latin theologians.

Nevertheless, the invocations it the Machzor plainly show that, in essence, devout Jews and devout Christians are worshipping not only the same deity, the God of Israel but also are calling upon Him in the same manner, namely, in the form of a Trinity. WHAT IS HIS NAME?

The Machzor, however, not only reveals the existence of the mysterious personage who is hidden and concealed, but permits us also to draw aside the curtain of secrecy for a moment, and catch a glimpse of His Name. The Jewish reader will be surprised to hear what it is. It is the name which he would least expect to find on the pages of a Jewish Orthodox Prayer Book. But the Machzor gives it clearly and simply. It is non other than Yeshua-Jesus! Still more amazed will the Jewish reader be when he discovers places in the Machzor where that Name is found. It is found in the place most sacred to Israel, and at the most solemn act of his worship of Rosh Hashanah: at the blowing of the Shofar! In the Machzor mentioned above the name Yeshua-Jesus is found in two instances, on page one hundred and twenty-nine and on page three hundred. In both of these passages Jesus is shown as the Prince, the Face (of God), standing by the Throne of Mercy.

Attempts have been made, even in that sacred place, to draw a curtain of secrecy over that Name, or to tamper with it. While some of the editions of the Machzor, such as the Siddur HaShalem* spell it out exactly as it appears in the New Testament: Jesus, others produce curious variations which are meaningless, except as attempts to disguise the real name. At the side of Yeshua-Jesus (or identified with Him), stands the mystical figure “the Metatron” who is represented as the Mediator or advocate of Israel, gathering up the petitions of the people and presenting them before the throne of God. But this is most extraordinary! How did it happen, we ask, that the pious and spiritual-minded Jews who composed the prayers of the Machzor should point to Jesus as the Mediator of Israel before the Face of God?

Not to Abraham or Moses did they turn for intercession, but to Jesus. He alone was found worthy to stand in God’s holy presence and this in spite of the prejudices and misunderstandings of the centuries Thus even into that most guarded citadel of Judaism, the synagogue, the name of Jesus has penetrated. It has secured a place of the highest reverence. And all the attempts to banish it from the lips of Israel have failed. There is no explanation of this most extraordinary fact except that God so willed it. In the Book of Psalms we have the following prophetic picture of the Messiah: The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes (Psalm 118: 22, 23).

In conclusion – Why do we write these things? The answer is, first of all to show that there is no enmity between the spiritual Judaism and the Christianity of the Bible. In essence they have the same conception of the God-head; they call upon the same name of Jesus as their Mediator; and they have the same hope. The closer Judaism clings to the Bible, the more it reveals the same thought, the same faith, as that of spiritual Christianity. And the second reason why we stress this matter is that the name of Yesuha-Jesus means salvation; God’s offer of salvation for all me; God’s answer to man’s deepest need. When the angel of God announced that Name, he also gave the reason why the Bearer of it was coming into this world.

He said: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Sin is the cause and root of all human sorrow. Sin is the cause of that because it causes separation from God. It is the sum of all the evil that has befallen mankind. Jesus is the revelation of God as the Saviour and Forgiver of sin. He forgives because He alone has paid the penalty of man’s guilt. The Word of God declares: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). All men are under the judgment of death, because all have sinned! But God does not desire the death of the sinner. He provided a way of forgiveness. This way is shown in the following words: “The life of the flesh is in the blood; and I (God) have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul”. (Leviticus 17:11). This, then, is God’s way of forgiveness and cleansing from sin. It is the blood of the sacrifice upon the altar. Jesus is the eternal sacrifice for sin. The cross is the eternal altar. The Messiah shed His blood upon the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.

The prophet Isaiah long before proclaimed that transaction of God’s forgiving love. He said: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”. (Isaiah 53:5, 6). At the appointed time, Jesus, the Sin Bearer, came. He fulfilled these and all other words of the prophets of God. He is the promised Messiah! That is why we speak of Him in this urgent fashion, and plead with men to accept and believe in Him.

The men of the Machzor saw a light in the distance. Haltingly and uncertainly they walked toward it. That light was not distant, however. It only appeared so, because a dark veil or a curtain had descended upon their eyes to dim it. Jesus was that light. It was He who said: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”. (John 8:12). He is the Light of whom the Prophets prophesied,; and one of them, the Prophet Isaiah, called to us: O House of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord! (Isaiah 2: 5 ).

Siddur Ha-Shalem, Part 2, page 282, Jewish Room, Public Library 42nd Street, New York:
By permission of the Interpreter, 3606, Oak Avenue, Baltimore, U.S.A.