Rabbi Shlomo Riskin: Interfaith Prayer “Bringing Us Closer” to Messianic Age

“Praise the Lord, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples! For His lovingkindness is great toward us, And the truth of the Lord is everlasting. Praise the Lord!” (Psalms 117:1-2)

Over the festival holiday of Sukkot, the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC), together with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat, hosted an interfaith event in Efrat in which 200 Christians and Jews came together to sing the praises of the one true God in unity.

The event came at an appropriate moment. On Sukkot, the Temple service traditionally involved the sacrifice of 70 bulls, signifying the 70 nations. As such, it is an auspicious time for non-Jews to show their growing support for Israel.

David Nekrutman, Director of the CJCUC, told Breaking Israel News, “Interfaith meetings have always involved dialogue, but have generally avoided practical coming together in the area that is essential to each side – prayer.”

David Nekrutman, Director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding and Cooperation, at the event (Photo: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz/Breaking Israel News)
David Nekrutman, Director of the CJCUC, at the event (Photo: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz/Breaking Israel News)

He added that the event was special because Orthodox Jews usually do not participate in interfaith events. “From the Jewish side, interfaith networking was dominated by the Reform and Conservative movements, and the Orthodox movement generally was not involved,” he explained. “From the Christian side, the Evangelicals were not included in the dialogue. The CJCUC is attempting to bring together Christians and Jews in prayer, in a way that does not impinge upon the principles of either side.”

Those concerned with halachic (Jewish lawful) implications, he added, should have no problem with the program. “Since the service was led by Jews, in an authentic worship style of Judaism, reciting a series of psalms that include the mandate where the nations are obligated to praise God for what He has done for us.”
Nekrutman noted that even for Jews, Hallel, a beautiful part of Jewish prayer and a part of the Temple service, has been neglected.

Kevin Howard, from the Christian Friends of Israel, was thrilled to attend. “This is a great opportunity for the Christian world to come and understand more about what the Jewish world celebrates at the Hallel,” he told Breaking Israel News. “This is the time to get together with Jewish friends, to sit down and enjoy each other’s company, something we haven’t really done for 2,000 years. For me personally it is a chance to come closer to God in a way I haven’t always done in the past. To go a little deeper, and take that time to connect to God personally.”

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Rabbi Riskin, the spiritual force behind the event, told Breaking Israel News that the prayer event will help usher in the Messianic age.

“We’ve been involved in Jewish-Christian relations for the last seven years. This is a wonderful moment for me personally,” he said, quoting Psalm 117:1-2. “‘May all the gentiles praise God. Praise him, all you people, for his love for us is great’. We are having a service with Christians and Jews , reciting Psalms, thanking God for the miracle of bringing us back to Israel, and the eternity of the Jewish people and Jewish holidays.”

He added that the event, representing nations coming together to praise God, would help to usher in the times of redemption. “This is, in effect, the beginning of the messianic age, when, please God, his house will be a house of prayer for all people, and all the nations will come to praise him,” he said. “That is what we are doing here: Praying to God, thanking him for bringing us close to this great period of time.”

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