Orthodox Rabbi Eliezer Cohen, in a thoughtful—and thought provoking—article published in “Jewish News” (10-6-05) mused that the covenant of Moses “has been a 3,500-year failure.” Although the Jewish religion has steadfastly refused to implement the Christian Gospel with its New Covenant, Cohen bares the shortcomings—and indeed failure—of the Old Covenant, found in the Old Testament Scriptures known to Jews as the Tanach. This was envisaged by Moses himself in Deuteronomy 31:16 in stark words: “And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Behold, thou art about to sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go astray after the foreign gods of the land…and will forsake Me, and break My covenant which I have made with them.” (JPS)
In modern Jewish theology, there is no need for the prophesied New Covenant or Divine intervention by the Son of God.
That this disappointment and rebellion would not be limited to the lifetime of Moses, but instead become an enduring failure, was also foretold by Moses: “For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck; behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?” (Deut. 31:27)
Cohen declares, “What seems perfectly clear is that the system of punitive enforcement of the program of law and ritual, behavior modification and self-improvement commanded by the Torah has been a…failure.” Yet this is what the Old Covenant was! Judaism, of course, is squarely based upon this law of Moses and its rituals as the foundation of their way of life. It stands upon a punitive enforcement of laws and commands, “thou shalt nots,” which are intended to bring peace, order, and unity to society. It is indeed moral, but is composed merely of strictly external precepts and commands. It is an abject failure if these do not translate into a change of heart, because our internal will controls our actions. This is why the prophets proclaimed the necessity of a New Covenant.
Cohen may also be beginning to recognize what an earlier “Rabbi” named Saul realized long ago when the Damascus Road experience (Acts 9) converted him into Paul the Apostle, a New Covenant champion.
The Prophet Jeremiah explained, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:.” (Jer. 31:31-32) This New Covenant will not be like the Old Covenant with its strictly external commands and requirements, which has been a failure. Rabbi Cohen apparently understands something that the Jewish religion has steadfastly refused to see for centuries, that “religious coercion is counter-productive. Forced compliance with ritual or doctrine does not produce piety; if anything, it creates alienation and defection,” he says.
Cohen may also be beginning to recognize what an earlier “Rabbi” named Saul realized long ago when the Damascus Road experience (Acts 9) converted him into Paul the Apostle, a New Covenant champion. Paul upheld the moral principles of the Mosaic law, and yet he said, “But then Law came in, [only] to expand and increase the trespass [making it more apparent and exciting opposition]. But where sin increased and abounded, grace (God’s unmerited favor) has surpassed it and increased the more and superabounded.” (Rom. 5:20, Amplified) Due to our human shortcomings and inability to perfectly keep the law by ourselves, the law can only convict us and throw light on our sin and carnality.
Paul also stated, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” (Rom. 7:14-15)
Although the Jewish religion is ostensibly based upon a foundation of the Mosaic laws and regulations, Rabbi Cohen admits, “…whether it was ever implemented widely is historically questionable.” In fact, scholars believe that the Mosaic laws as a whole, including the “moedim” or feast days, were never once in any historic period completely observed according to Biblical specifications. Some believe that the famous “Year of Jubilee” that inspired the words on America’s Liberty Bell (Lev. 25:10), never saw a single observance. It seems almost incredible that any people would continue to follow a system that has been a 3,500-year failure.
Yet Scripture tells of a time when the Divine laws and precepts will be fully observed and taught. Deuteronomy 30:2, 6 promises, “And shall return to the Lord your God and obey His voice according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your [mind and] heart and with all your being…And the Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with all your being, that you may live.” (Amp.)
Christ came that we might have life, and “have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) He opened the way of salvation.
How will that fulfillment take place? In spite of admitting that the Old Covenant has been a failure, Rabbi Cohen is yet optimistic that it will see complete success: “…we, ourselves, voluntarily…will return to God and His Law…” However, if three-and-a-half millennia have taught us anything, it is that the Mosaic law will never be fulfilled voluntarily by the external coercion inherent in the Old Covenant. It instead requires the help of the Holy Spirit writing those moral precepts to our hearts and minds in order to change our will and give us the ability to obey. The Prophet Jeremiah explained it this way: “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the LORD, I will put My law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people; and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying: ‘Know the LORD’; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.” (31:33-34)
In modern Jewish theology, there is no need for the prophesied New Covenant or Divine intervention by the Son of God. There is only a faint hope that God’s people will somehow find the way by themselves to Divine obedience, in spite of the Prophet’s words to the contrary. The idea of a self-salvation has been an admitted failure for 3,500 years. The key to Jewish misunderstanding concerning God and His Divine Plan for us is to recognize our own human shortcomings, and that we cannot save ourselves, or reach Divine perfection by mere external commands. Christ came that we might have life, and “have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
He opened the way of salvation. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
The New Covenant with its new way of salvation was proclaimed long ago in the Old Testament “Tanach” revered by the Jews themselves. To deny these Divinely given facts will only prolong a 3,500-year failure.