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Dead holy men as mediators between G-d and man?

September 24, 2014

05_worship_1024A former “Messianic Jew” emailed me recently asking me my opinion on whether it’s proper to “access tzaddikim” (dead holy men), as long as one doesn’t consider them to be G-d. He told me that he no longer worshiped Yeshua/Jesus or thought of him as G-d or even as messiah, but wondered if it’s an acceptable Jewish practice to rely on dead holy men as mediators between G-d and man. Was it OK to access them for deliverance or any sort of help, the way Christians rely on Jesus? Here’s my reply.

A question that may help you answers yours: how many Jews today “access” Moses or Abraham? Those two men were the greatest tzaddikim we ever had, they even interceded with G-d on behalf of others (with varying success), but no Jew channels them today nor did they do that right after they passed away. No Jew prays to Moses or Abraham, no Jew appeals to them to “save” them from trouble. Why not?

Christians point to dead Hasidic rebbes as modern Jewish examples of “mediators”. That some Hasidim (a movement only two hundred years old out of three thousand year plus history of the Jewish people) channel their dead rebbes does not make it a legitimate Jewish practice. It’s wrong for them to do this, just as it was wrong for ancient Jews to worship a bronze serpent that Moses put up in the desert, even though it was created on G-d’s command! Indeed many Jews in years past and to this day frown on excesses of such devotion as bordering on avodah zarah (strange worship, or idolatry). This is because G-d’s Word explicitly prohibits us from “accessing” the dead or relying on exalted humans (dead or alive), trusting in a mortal man for help:

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. (Psalm 146:3)

That alone should give one a pause regarding such a practice. What’s more, unlike the hasidic rebbes, Yeshua/Jesus didn’t even accomplish anything worthwhile for the Jewish people to qualify as a “tzaddik”. His death was not extraordinary either  – hundreds of thousands of other Jews, innocent people, were crucified by the cruel Romans. On the contrary, as Rambam wrote, because of Jesus and the religion that sprang up around him the Jewish people were degraded and slaughtered, and he himself became a “god” for the Gentiles. He also prophesied falsely on numerous occasions. Hardly a tzaddik worth “accessing.”

We are to trust in Hashem alone with ALL of our hearts. He alone should be “accessed” by us, as Torah enjoins us over and over. There’s no mediator between G-d and man in Judaism, dead or otherwise – each man will stand alone before his Maker on the Judgement Day. The Jewish leaders, past or present, are there only to guide us on how to better worshipers of G-d, not to be adored and channeled in their own right, which is a form of idolatry that Christians commit daily. Moses is the perfect example of such a leader. Hashem buried him in a undisclosed location to prevent his exaltation. We would be wise to learn from this lest we slip into detestable idolatry.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Concerned Reader permalink
    September 25, 2014 2:25 pm

    Gene, I hear what you are saying. Can we ignore the ideas of the merit of the fathers, or the prayers asking angels to carry petitions to Hashem? It must have been a pre Hasidic practice if it’s in the liturgy. We also see these practices in the Dead Sea scrolls. People who penned these prayers were obviously Orthodox, or at least very Torah observant. It’s also known from scripture that angels appeared who made men tow that line very closely, ie Joshua 5. Could you explain your thoughts on this?

  2. September 27, 2014 9:30 pm

    CR, merit of the fathers is not the same as appealing through the said dead fathers for G-d’s help. One can appeal to G-d to take the merit of one’s Jewish forefathers into account based on pre-existing promises made by Hashem to the forefathers to bless their descendants. In effect, we are reminding G-d to remember His promises. We are not to appeal directly to the dead forefathers as mediators between us and the Almighty, the way Christianity and other religions do.

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