Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the Grand Rabbi of Haifa, on Monday became the first Jew to address a synod of Catholic bishops at the at the Second General Congregation of the Bishops’ synod on the Bible. Calling the fact of his presence “very meaningful,” “a signal of hope,” and “a message of love,” he discussed support for Israel before addressing the praise of God, prayer, and Jewish habits of sermon writing.
Rabbi Cohen, the co-president of a commission for dialogue between the Vatican and Israel, added: “There is a long, hard and painful history of the relationship between our people, our faith and the Catholic Church leadership and followers, a history of blood and tears,” Agence France Presse reports.
The rabbi then alluded to the anti-Israel remarks of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before the U.N. General Assembly last month, saying Israelis felt “deep shock at the terrible and vicious words of the president of a certain state in the Middle East in his speech.”
Speaking to the synod, Rabbi Cohen added: “We hope to get your help as religious leaders ... to protect, defend and save Israel ... from the hands of its enemies.”
However, much of his talk was also theological and explicitly religious.
"We pray to God using His own words, as related to us in the Scriptures," he said. "Likewise we praise Him, also using His own words from the Bible. We ask for His mercy, mentioning what He has promised to our ancestors and to us. Our entire service is based upon an ancient rule, as related to us by our Rabbis and teachers: 'Give Him of what is His, because you and yours are His'.”
"We believe that prayer is the language of the soul in its communion with God. We believe sincerely that our soul is His, given to us by Him," the rabbi continued.
He explained that rabbis always try to build their sermons around biblical quotations, “as interpreted by our holy sages,” when addressing issues of concern such as the sanctity of life, combating promiscuity, fighting secularism, and promoting fraternity, love, and peace.
"Our point of departure stems from the treasures of our religious traditions, even while we endeavor to speak in a modern and contemporary language and address present issues. It is amazing to observe how the Holy Scriptures never lose their vitality and relevance to present issues of our time and age. This is the miracle of the everlasting and perpetual 'Word of God'," Rabbi Cohen commented.