The Hollow Man

clickedIt clicked when I saw this photo. I realized what’s been bothering me all along. I finally got why I was counting time down. Why I was waiting for it all to end. Why I didn’t believe my life in the community of faith was ever going to last. I realized I didn’t belong. I wasn’t part of the whole. No matter how hard I tried, I’d always be on the outside looking in.

Let me explain.

In reading the Rudolph and Willitts book Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Its Ecclesial Context and Biblical Foundations, I found a confirmation of what I believed about Jewish/Christian relations on so many levels. It all made so much sense. Chapters 17, 18, and 19, written by Craig Keener, William Campbell, and Scott Hafemann respectively, all spoke of Jewish and Gentile interdependence within the body of Messiah, specifically accessing Paul’s letter to the Romans. I’ll write about those chapters in more detail some other time, and I believe that there is an interdependence between believing Jews and Gentiles, but there’s a puzzle to solve, at least for me. The contributors to the Rudolph/Willitts book universally present the Messianic Jewish movement as one that is a home to believing Jews who are ethnically, culturally, religiously, and experientially Jewish. You cannot separate the lifestyle of being Jewish from the person who is Jewish, regardless if they have come to faith in Jesus as Messiah or not.

However, for the vast amount of Gentiles who are believers, their culture is the church. I know there are multiple expressions of the Christian church in our world, but they all have one thing in common. Their culture isn’t even remotely Jewish. Jewish religious and lived culture isn’t even remotely Christian. It’s like two different worlds that are trying to intersect and as interrelated as they are in Messiah, I’m not sure how they’re ever going to fit together.

And then there’s me.

No matter who you are as a believer, you “fit” somewhere. There are Gentiles, just tons and tons of them, who fit extremely well in the church. I’m anticipating seeing a lot of them tomorrow morning, Sunday morning at the church I attend. They are all very comfortable where they are. I’m the only one who sticks out like a sore thumb.

No, don’t tell me to go to a Jewish religious venue. None are accessible to me and even if they were, I don’t fit in there, either. Even if I fit in, that wouldn’t “fit in” with my wife. She’d feel extremely uncomfortable with my being a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. And that’s what I’d be. My past participation in pseudo-Jewish Hebrew Roots wouldn’t even come close to preparing me for an actual Jewish cultural encounter.

I like to think of myself as a person with a foot in each of two worlds but the fact is, I am only standing in between them. I’m not in contact with either one. I don’t belong in either one. That isn’t to say I don’t believe, but faith and religion and worship don’t exist in a vacuum, they exist in community, and I don’t belong in any of them.

It’s like someone tried to transplant a heart into my chest, but my body is rejecting it. It doesn’t belong. It’s alien. Without it, I’ll die (metaphorically speaking, of course), but I’m not being nourished by it, either.

A friend of mine once said, don’t seek Christianity and don’t seek Judaism, but rather, seek an encounter with God. But how do I meet God without a context and a culture? People can’t experience God in raw, unshielded contact. We need an interface, layers of abstraction so we can make sense of what’s happening to us, so we won’t be obliterated by connecting to God. For Jews, that interface is Judaism, cultural, Talmudic, tradition-based Judaism. For Christians, that’s the church and all the culture and traditions that are attached to the various “Christianities” in our world.

But I don’t connect to either one. I don’t belong. That’s the problem. I can read the Bible, but if I read it in a Jewish or Christian framework, it seems alien. Only just plain reading it makes any sort of sense to me, but then I’m limited to my own experience. To access the sages and the experts, I have to apply a context, which puts me in contact with denomination, with doctrine, with theology, with culture, and while that seems to work for everyone else, it doesn’t work for me because their doctrine, theology, culture, and context doesn’t belong to me and I don’t belong to them.

Classic approach-avoidance syndrome or as put more plainly, can’t live with it and can’t live without it.

That’s why doing my homework for Sunday school seems like an exercise in emptiness. It’s a culture that I don’t relate to, a perspective that seems hollow. If I’m ever going to experience God, it will be somewhere outside religion and culture, but that’s impossible for a human being. So where does that leave a “hollow man?”

157 days.

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58 thoughts on “The Hollow Man”

  1. I share your “hollow man” experience in many ways. I found immense connection in Mark Kinzer’s book “Israel’s Messiah and the People of God: A Vision for Messianic Jewish Covenant Fidelity”. His view on two-fold ekklesia and bilateral eccesiology have convinced me of many things, one of them is a level of comfort with engaging with a Church group for study and fellowship while maintaining my connection to my MJ community as a non-Jewish member.

    I think Dr. Kinzer provides the puzzle piece you feel you are missing. B”H.

    Karen

  2. Whenever I face your conundrum, and a Christian tells me I am Jewish and a Jew tells me to go to church…and I am rent in twain…I remember: I am The Drake.

  3. … Yikes, that’s me right there in hand basket. The majority of my life I have felt felt this way. No belonging for me. I literally just came to peace with this a couple of weeks ago, James.. I home school our children, and was drawing a massive Venn diagram on our white board for the kids to section off animals and plants into different groups… And for whatever reason, it just popped into my head that the graph I had started to make was the struggle of my life. I cannot be categorized.. I belong nowhere. You said how I feel at times dead on.. Sometimes I feel like I have one foot on one side if the doorway, and another foot headed into the other doorway, but that is never how it is. To put it it into actuality, you would put judaism and christianity into a venn diagram. The intersecting middle part is where many gentile believers are, and I feel like I should belong, but I just do not. If you drew a larger circle around the entire diagram, that’s where I would belong. Just floating around here and there around the edges, but my feet never actually cross over the border. At times this sense of no belonging can make any connection with God feel almost non existent. I have a great desire, but this sense of no belonging makes things incredibly difficult some days. . This “Venn diagram day” actually gave me a bit of peace as well though, because I pictured all of my “friends” family and acquaintances in one of those circles, or there in the happy medium… But there can be so much arguing and disagreements within each group, I am actually more comfortable floating on the outside.. I can argue too, but I try to focus my arguments in a way to help in diffusing heated debates, or try and offer some relaxing element to discussions that seem to have no right or wrong answer that people otherwise often get worked up over. I don’t belong, but I believe I have finally found my “place”…. And I’m OK with floating around the diagram for the first time in my life. God bless you, and I hope you find peace with your place within or surrounding your communities(s)!

  4. It’s been a hellacious week, James, and you’re discouraged and depressed. Understandably. Please don’t let what you’re feeling now keep you away from being part of the body of Messiah there. You’re making an impact, just like Boaz is in “his” church. You’re not there for the Jello salads; you’re there because they NEED your perspective, your brains, your heart, your voice. Remember the story of the ember: http://www.inspirationalarchive.com/texts/topics/evangelization/lonelyember.shtml
    Blessings to you, Brother.

  5. @James – You asked :…how do I meet God without a context and a culture?” It is not impossible to meet G-d as a culture of one, but it is exceedingly lonely; and people who do so often develop a malaise of spirit (and odd doctrinal views often follow that). Hence we develop relationaships within communities of people with whom we can share our thoughts, even if we disagree on various points. Even Avraham Avinu, who is sometimes viewed as being in a particularly unique position as “G-d’s friend” who was instructed to leave everything behind to cross-over into unfamiiar territory, has it said about him that he “made souls” in Haran. In other words, he did not remain alone, or merely commune with G-d by himself, but he effectively began to form “community” by means of the hospitality for which he is also noted.

    In modern American circumstances, some folks pursue a similar goal by forming home-fellowship affinity groups, sometimes in connection with a larger organization such as a church. Within Jewish circles, havurot are formed occasionally as special affinity sub-communities, also sometimes associated with a particular synagogue community. At the present stage of historical development, I suspect that there are few synagogues that would countenance a havurah of messianic Jews wishing to affiliate in any formal manner. But there is increasing recognition at scholarly levels of the Jewishness of Rav Yeshua, the early messianists who followed him, and even their view of him as a somehow divine messiah figure (ref: Boyarin). Hence there is hope for increasing tolerance of Jews whose return to the Jewish fold includes bringing Rav Yeshua home with them.

    There would likely be similar skepticism about a havurah focused on intermarried families, because of a concern about encouraging perspectives that inhibit integration with the greater community or otherwise foster sectarianism. On the other hand, intermarried families in particular must face the issue of resolving differences in perspective not unlike those that mixed communities of Rav Yeshua messianists must resolve. If your latest countdown is leading to another decision point where you may change direction from your current experiment in relating to community, is it inhibiting the effectiveness of the current experiment by directing your focus away from it before it may be deemed completed? And just what is the range of affility options you perceive as available to you where you are located? You’ve mentioned former “pseudo-Jewish Hebrew Roots” experience, and apparently your wife attends a synagogue of some sort. Your current experiment is in a church that I presume you perceive as the most likely nearby fellowship that may be open to what might be called a “wholistic” biblical perspective that encompasses Jewish-source validity. Are there within it any other non-Jews who share your Jewish affinities or this wholistic perspective? Alternatively, just how uncomfortable is your wife with the notion that you might be more comfortable fitting into her Jewish world, but that Rav Yeshua would be coming home along with you? Of course, it seems rather likely that you would be less able to discuss messianic issues with the rabbi than with Pastor Randy (although there are some who would enjoy the intellectual exercise if they felt it could be constrained to an academic framework without it spilling over into congregational life). What aspects of the Jewish cultural encounter do you feel unprepared for? I would have thought that your family experience was already sufficiently extensive to provide familiarity with that world. And whatever became of the folks with whom you shared that former “pseudo-Jewish Hebrew Roots” experience? Were there none among them with whom you retained contact, who might empathize with your current sojournings? It seems to me that you have an awful lot of potential blog material yet to explore; and perhaps a friendship or two that could ameliorate that “hollow” feeling.

  6. @Drake: Interestingly enough, it always seems to come to that. I’m my own entity standing somewhat to one side of anyone else’s religous and cultural flow.

    @A Nunnayabidness Lopez: Thanks. I may end up “floating around” myself for awhile.

    @Dan: Not a chance.

    @Michele: Thanks. Derek asked about the blog post on Facebook and here’s what I told him:

    It doesn’t have anything to do with you or Boaz personally, Derek. It just hit me that for most people, the pieces of the culture puzzle all fit together as far as their community of faith goes, but for me it doesn’t. Not sure if Boaz’s TOD book took that into account.

    I had time to think about what I wrote and realized it was like the year my daughter spent in Japan as an exchange student. The agency we worked with said that the kids all hit the wall at about five or six months into the experience, when they finally realized how different it is living in a foreign country and in a different culture. I think that my “church experience” is about five or six months old now. I did the ‘homework’ for Sunday school class yesterday and it contained some glaring assumptions in it based on how Christianity sees things in terms of doctrine and culture. I realized I didn’t relate. The photo was just a catalyst.

    @PL: You said:

    It is not impossible to meet G-d as a culture of one, but it is exceedingly lonely; and people who do so often develop a malaise of spirit (and odd doctrinal views often follow that). Hence we develop relationaships within communities of people with whom we can share our thoughts, even if we disagree on various points.

    It’s not a matter of agreement or disagreement on a few specific points. It’s the realization that my entire experience is totally unlike the people around me at church. We can talk, even to some degree about the “Jewish perspective” of Messiah, but how I related to all that seems very different.

    I think reading Rudolph’s and Willitts’ book contributed to all this in providing a concreate counterpoint to my church experience. Even though many of the articles are discussing the interdependence and connectedness of Messianic Jew and Gentile Christian, it presupposes that the people involved belong to one group or the other.

    If your latest countdown is leading to another decision point where you may change direction from your current experiment in relating to community, is it inhibiting the effectiveness of the current experiment by directing your focus away from it before it may be deemed completed?

    It helps to have a “trap door” to escape through on the one hand, but to have the time frame set out far enough to give me time to think.

    It seems to me that you have an awful lot of potential blog material yet to explore; and perhaps a friendship or two that could ameliorate that “hollow” feeling.

    I haven’t thrown in the towel yet, but there are days when it looks very attractive. We’ll see how it goes and if my bout of “culture shock” passes.

    @Everyone: Thanks for the encouragement.

  7. @Karen: Thanks. I’m getting pretty familiar with Kinzer’s viewpoint but my own situation is rather unique as I’m “neither fish nor fowl,” so to speak.

    @Marilyn: Probably a lot of people do, which is why there are so many people like me who are disenfranchised.

    @Michael: Doesn’t seem like it’s even remotely “me,” but thanks.

    There were some comments held for moderation, which is why I didn’t respond to you in the first round of replies.

  8. You’re dealing with the dissonance of being told to not forsake gathering, all the while you know your covenants and salvation are individual.

  9. That could be part of it, Drake. I hadn’t really considered it that way. I really am experiencing all this more as a cultural mismatch complicated by intermarriage issues.

  10. You know that you are not meant to live out your relationship with God in isolation – we just aren’t designed for that and you know that it is not God’s intent. I empathize with you deeply and would like to tell you why when we meet soon.

    In the meanwhile, via your blog you make a tremendous contribution to many Christians and Messianic Jews, especially those who are also somewhat isolated and/or those who struggle with the issues of life as you do. I know of few people who contribute so consistently and so well to the common good apart from a formal position of leadership. Your circumstances and your inner conflicts cause you great pain, but the good you do for others is exemplary.

  11. Thanks, Carl. I look forward to our meeting as well. Less than a month now. Maybe I need an annual “recharge” of my batteries.

  12. “In the meanwhile, via your blog you make a tremendous contribution to many Christians and Messianic Jews, especially those who are also somewhat isolated and/or those who struggle with the issues of life as you do.”

    +1

    You are not alone, friend.

  13. James, thank you again for baring your soul for all of us. If it’s any help to you, it helps me tremendously to know there are others struggling with the same issues. We often speak of how we feel so in exile, those of us who aren’t Jewish, aren’t completely welcome in shul, don’t exactly “fit” in church … Our exile is so barren, the exile of our Jewish brethren actually seems sometimes like it would be a step up!

  14. Michael – I am not sure how one can reconcile the Catholic church’s statements in Lumen Gentium as a Messianic Jew. What are your thoughts on that?

  15. I had an interesting time at church today, particularly in Sunday school. In fact, the first words out of one person’s mouth to me made all the difference in the world. I won’t say what they are right now because the experience is worthy of a blog post of its own. Alas, I don’t have time to write about it right now, but in the near future, for sure.

    Thanks for all the support. I appreciate you all.

    Blessings.

  16. Dan said: “James, come back home, where you belong.”

    Thank you again, Dan. I know you sincerely want to welcome me to where you see home as being. 🙂

  17. James,

    This post moved me deeply.
    I am so glad that you and Rabbi Carl are going to meet up.

    Your experience (which is relayed through your blog) is valuable. This does not alleviate your difficulty or pain, I know.

    While your situation is incredibly unique, you are not alone. At least not in thought or spirit.

  18. Jonathan! Glad to see you here.

    As you can see, things got a little better at church, though there are always times when the various struggles in the worlds of online and face-to-face religion still drive me kind of nuts.

    If there were only a way to translate that not alone in thought and spirit to a more tangible experience. Perhaps that’s yet to come.

    Thanks.

  19. I think when one adopts God’s culture within the scriptures, and yes, God has His own culture separate of our human cultures, it is unifying. The world will experience this one day, for example, when all will be obligated to attend Sukkot, Zech 14. This does not mean, we have to ditch all man-made cultures, at least I hope not, but this does mean, there is a single unifying culture found in God’s word. Sadly, some lay claim to it as if it is only for one people group, which causes division, thankfully this is not what the scriptures teach…

  20. Zion, it is true that we human beings tend to take what God has given to us and make a mess out of it in many, many ways. It’s also true the representatives of all the Gentile nations will be required to send representatives to Jerusalem each year for Sukkot in the Messianic Age. But to the degree that the commandment has to be given to the Gentile nations as distinct from the Jewish people and nation, which already has that commandment in Torah, means there will be Jews and there will be the nations. Jews and Israel will not disappear. Quite the opposite in fact.

  21. Jews and Israel will not disappear.

    I would hope not, but the fact that the nations will be doing what Israel is doing, shows there is no conflict either. Yet, some argue that Zech 14 would be a violation of Jewish distinctiveness, which is clearly a problem within ‘BE’ camps.

  22. I think you’re overextending your argument and you probably have already read what I actually mean multiple times.

    But just in case:

    I’ve said this before, but from my point of view, I hardly can object to Gentile believers conducting some form of rest on Shabbat, choosing to keep some form of Kosher (and living in Idaho, I can tell you how difficult it is for even Orthodox Jews to keep kosher short of living as vegetarians), choosing to pray at the set times of prayer with a siddur, and so forth. My real objection is Gentiles (and I’m not saying this is you) who not only claim but demand that it is their “right” to be obligated to Torah, to enter national, cultural, ethnic, and spiritual Israel as a “Jew” (albeit without a circumcision in most cases), and who claim their is categorically no distinction whatsoever between believing Jew and believing Gentile across any element or aspect of either party whatsoever.

  23. I hardly can object to Gentile believers conducting some form

    But James, there still exist a contradiction in what you are saying, how in the world are you deciding what is to be objected to and not objected to for gentiles. I asked Toby Janicki this same question, to no avail, in fact the opposite, I was banned from FFOZ’s blogs. How are you picking and choosing what gentiles can and cannot do?

  24. Zion:
    In the history of Judaism, halakha is set at the local level. There has always been wide diversity in Jewish practice. This is no different. What may be acceptable for a community to do in Idaho within a set of congregations may be different in Tukwila and again different in Spokane. It is incumbent upon the visitor to the community to inquire and this is true for Jewish as well as non-Jewish visitors (I am presuming the context of MJ communities here). This is not “picking and choosing” – this is the setting of local halakha based on local conditions and community customs as it has been done for centuries in Judaism.

  25. How are you picking and choosing what gentiles can and cannot do?

    Zion, I have no control over what you do and don’t do. And frankly, I think you realize what “Jewish” behaviors when committed by an obvious Gentile would make Jewish people uncomfortable or offended.

    Let me ask you a question (I’m pulling this from one of the Indiana Jones movies). “Do you seek to observe the Torah for His glory or your own?” I’ll assume you are doing it because you authentically believe it pleases God.

    But conversely, when a Gentile like me, deliberately doesn’t adopt practices such as wearing a tallit and tefillin when praying, it must displease God if you’re correct (you can’t have it both ways unless it’s a choice and not an obligation). That’s the flip side of Gentile Torah obligation that is identical to Jewish Torah obligation. If you really believe that, then you have to also believe that every Christian who doesn’t do what you do is a sinner.

    Some Jews may be accepting of Christian Torah observances that make them look Jewish, but in my experience, it can’t be that many. And have you told other Christians you associate with about them being obligated (rather than them having a choice) to Torah observance to a level that will make them look Jewish too?

  26. Karen, you missed the context somewhere along the way, Bilateral Ecclessiology, holds to a distinction by commandments, not just halacha. In this case, there are claims that Hebrew Roots people are “stealing Jewish identity”, by keeping commandments that belong only to the Jews. There arguments usually involve claims of why “gentiles are not part of Israel or we must maintain distinction between Jews and Gentiles, while Hebrew Roots blur this distinction”, and “why these distinctions must be maintained”, but then comes a flood of contradictions, when the same people making those claims above from the “BE” camp, start saying it is ok for gentiles to keep the Sabbath or eat Kosher or keep the Feast, forget that it is for Israel and distinctiveness or whatever we just claimed. It is simply hypocritical picking and choosing, there is no way around it, at least I have not seen it yet, maybe you can enlighten me?

  27. I think you realize what “Jewish” behaviors when committed by an obvious Gentile would make Jewish people uncomfortable or offended.

    Yes, but I believe that is more in line with attitude versus what is actually being done.

    Let me ask you a question (I’m pulling this from one of the Indiana Jones movies). “Do you seek to observe the Torah for His glory or your own?” I’ll assume you are doing it because you authentically believe it pleases God.

    I love keeping God’s commandments, I can’t imagine a life without them now. As the scriptures say in Psalm 119, Paraphrased: God’s Torah is such a wonderful thing, its worth more than gold and silver. Deut 4, the nations will see God’s Law as full of wisdom and righteousness. Is righteousness and wisdom not for everyone? Well since we had those horrific events in Boston happen the other day, I guess not.

    But conversely, when a Gentile like me, deliberately doesn’t adopt practices such as wearing a tallit and tefillin when praying, it must displease God if you’re correct (you can’t have it both ways unless it’s a choice and not an obligation). That’s the flip side of Gentile Torah obligation that is identical to Jewish Torah obligation. If you really believe that, then you have to also believe that every Christian who doesn’t do what you do is a sinner.

    So only Jews who do not obey those commands are sinning… Again, how are you deciding this?

    Some Jews may be accepting of Christian Torah observances that make them look Jewish, but in my experience, it can’t be that many. And have you told other Christians you associate with about them being obligated (rather than them having a choice) to Torah observance to a level that will make them look Jewish too?

    Yes, I have, I argue for covenant obligation, are you in covenant with God, then you have an obligation, on this all will agree, at least that I have encountered so far, only when I go into details does it start to fall apart. Most will say they are part of the New Covenant through Messiah, I mention how it is only made with Israel, so where do they fit? Some will say they are now part of Israel or some will say, the Church is the New Israel, and completely ignore what the scripture says, others will argue it is a different Torah, so although they are obligated, the Torah at Mount Sinai is gone and the new one is here, usually referred by them as “the Law of Christ”, while some have their worlds rocked and change a lot of their beliefs. With that said, I don’t believe gentiles who are not in covenant with God are obligated to the terms of the covenant, only those who are now part of the Covenant.

    Talking to Gene the other day, he actually agreed, he agreed that being part of the covenant is being obligated to it, what he then when on to state, was that gentiles who believe in the Messiah, are not part of the covenant, thus no obligation. He believes gentiles benefit from the covenant, like a meal being served at a banquet and a poor man outside gets to eat from the trash can afterwards, but no immediate relationship to the covenant and obviously not inclusion.

    So, yes, I believe that if you do not observe the Torah you are sinning, which includes all of us, not just Christians or Jews who are not very observant. But lets also conclude that Christianity has been keeping portions of the Torah even though they will deny it, we just need to embrace it.

  28. With all due respect, Zion, I believe you are misunderstanding bilateral ecclesiology.

    I’m not sure I can do it justice in a nutshell, but I’ll try. It is important that the nations not merge into Israel, and that Israel not merge into the nations. I think we agree on that, yes? We can see in the eschatological view that the Nations and Israel are distinct. (e.g. Isaiah 19) Where is this distinction endangered? When Hebrew roots Christians believe that in Christ there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile (for example quoting 1 Cor 12 and Gal 3). I suggest that is a misunderstanding of Paul, particularly since the eschatological timeline bears witness to the distinction, so we should examine the epistles for another point of view. Given that we can agree that the eschatological timeline bears out the distinction, then the question that I think you are asking is, how is that distinction expressed in a congregation where Jewish and non-Jewish believers worship together? I can only speak for my own experience within UMJC, as these guidelines are suggested on the MJRC website. There is some local discretion for rabbis to adjust these – and as I mentioned before this is the tradition in Judaism.

    Our local custom based on MJRC guidelines is that non-Jews do not wear Tallit (gadol or katan), nor do non-Jewish members read Torah during the Torah service (they may read haftarah and besorah). I believe only Jewish members (male and female) are counted in a minyan. Because of the lack of availability of a community MJ mikveh, it is impractical for non-Jewish members to participate in ritual purity, etc. Everyone is expected to live according to Torah in every other way (except Gentile male circumcision as an act of membership in the commonwealth of Israel). If people lived with it, instead of criticising it, they would see that it is not such mishegoss, nor is it arbitrary.

  29. I see the dilemma in your question – our posts crossed in the mail. You see for example that the commandment to wear tzitzit is a mandate for any non-Jewish believer who comes into the Commonwealth of Israel through faith, just the same, as for example, the mandate to not eat the blood.

    I believe Toby Janicki did this work already in his book God Fearers, but essentially the analysis of the mandate given by the Jerusalem Council (no immorality, no blood, idolatry, animals not properly slaughtered (ie not strangled)) maps to a great majority of the mitzvot of Torah. Mitzvot for non-Jewish believers can be derived from the Brit Hadashah, commandments to Noah, the Jerusalem Council, the Didache, and of course, the traditions and praxis of Yeshua. By linking these to TNK, a great many of the mitzvot that are mandated for Jews are included.

    At the end of the day, we need to be able to discuss this in a loving, Yeshua-centered way, don’t we?

  30. So, yes, I believe that if you do not observe the Torah you are sinning, which includes all of us, not just Christians or Jews who are not very observant. But lets also conclude that Christianity has been keeping portions of the Torah even though they will deny it, we just need to embrace it.

    The part where we go around and around Zion is what is the Torah? For most “One Law” people, the most important parts are the “Jewish looking” parts, wearing a kippah and tzitzit, praying in Hebrew, and so forth. For me, the most important parts of Torah are feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, showing kindness to the lonely. I know you probably don’t neglect the latter for the sake of the former, but many OL people I’ve personally encountered think that “keeping Torah” is only about the “Jewish looking parts.” Frankly, I’ll take a person whose idea of “keeping Torah” is helping other human beings (even if they never call it Torah…maybe they just call it being a Christian and loving God) than all of the “Jewish looking” stuff in the world.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think there is great beauty in many of the traditions, but your lighting the Shabbos candles doesn’t make you more righteous than the person who will never keep a Saturday Shabbat but volunteers to build houses for people left homeless by a hurricane in a third world country. Righteousness doesn’t come only out of a siddur and obedience to God isn’t ultimately dependent on whether I wear tefillin or not when praying to God. If I have to choose for myself, (I’ve already said I can’t choose for you, nor would I ever try), I’ll choose kindness every time, and that’s probably the majority of “keeping Torah” right there.

    If God wants to send me to hell without an iced tea or electric fan because of my choices, then He has the right to judge.

  31. Nice, James. Amen to that. There are so many mitzvot that we DO, there is a disproportionate kerfuffle over the few that are retained for the purposes of distinction.

  32. There are so many mitzvot that we DO, there is a disproportionate kerfuffle over the few that are retained for the purposes of distinction.

    Yes! My point exactly. I’m glad *somebody* gets what I’m trying to say here.

  33. The part where we go around and around Zion is what is the Torah? For most “One Law” people, the most important parts are the “Jewish looking” parts, wearing a kippah and tzitzit, praying in Hebrew, and so forth.

    No, that is not correct, we don’t have a view of Torah from the perspective of parts that look Jewish, this is God’s word we are talking about here, it is all important, its not a pick and choose what works for gentiles and what does not work.

    For me, the most important parts of Torah are feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, showing kindness to the lonely.

    This is a fact, not an opinion. This is understood by all who know the Torah.

    I know you probably don’t neglect the latter for the sake of the former, but many OL people I’ve personally encountered think that “keeping Torah” is only about the “Jewish looking parts.”

    Such a minority if what you state is accurate, but since I am still in every way part of OL, I know it not to be true. Also what in the world is a “Jewish Looking Parts”, can you show me this in the Torah.

    Frankly, I’ll take a person whose idea of “keeping Torah” is helping other human beings (even if they never call it Torah…maybe they just call it being a Christian and loving God) than all of the “Jewish looking” stuff in the world.

    Agreed, same here, Jewish Looking stuff just sounds like a cultural fad…

    Don’t get me wrong, I think there is great beauty in many of the traditions, but your lighting the Shabbos candles doesn’t make you more righteous than the person who will never keep a Saturday Shabbat but volunteers to build houses for people left homeless by a hurricane in a third world country.

    Agreed.

    Righteousness doesn’t come only out of a siddur and obedience to God isn’t ultimately dependent on whether I wear tefillin or not when praying to God. If I have to choose for myself, (I’ve already said I can’t choose for you, nor would I ever try), I’ll choose kindness every time, and that’s probably the majority of “keeping Torah” right there.

    Agreed.

    If God wants to send me to hell without an iced tea or electric fan because of my choices, then He has the right to judge.

    The same goes for all of us.

    But instead of picking through what you want, just do what God said, problem solved, don’t pick and choose, just accept it all as a package. Sure we all fail, and no one can do it perfectly, and the most important things are not the lesser commandments, but lets not neglect the lesser commandments just because we are keeping the greater.

  34. Zion, you make it sound like you don’t make interpretations and decisions about what the Bible says…as if you had unfiltered access to the Word of God and understand even the parts that theologians have been struggling with for centuries. You play the superiority card because you are acting on your One Law belief and you think that gives you some sort of special “edge.”

    If you want to be superior, then be superior. You can make decisions for yourself based on the theology and doctrine you subscribe to. That’s what all religious people do. The best you can say is that you are operating honestly based on what you believe. You can’t make decisions for the rest of us, nor can you claim to have an inside pipeline to the ear of God, but if you want to believe otherwise, so be it.

    Do as you will and judge me and everyone like me if you must. None of that means I have to buy into your interpretation of the Bible. A handful of people believe what you do. The rest of us study and pray and do our best everyday. I’m sorry if that’s not good enough for you. It’s people like you that make me think a life with “religious people” in it is just some sort of contest among the holier than thous. No wonder it all seems like such a sham.

    Have a nice evening.

  35. Viktor Frankl said: “What is to give light must endure burning.” I think of this when feeling “squeezed” in between worlds–the world of my upbringing (Catholicism) and Yeshua’s world. And to keep from becoming charred remains, when hard pressed, I do my best to live in the questions rather than the answers. Your “burning” is producing light, as some have said in comments already. I know you like Rabbi Tzvi’s thoughts… I thought you might get a kick out of this one, given the circumstance: “The world is absurd. Ugly absurd. To repair ugly absurdity, you can’t just be normal. You need an alternative absurdity. A beautiful absurdity. We call it ‘divine madness’.” ― Tzvi Freeman. Blessings, brother. I feel like I understand… even if I don’t. Call it “divine madness.”

  36. Zion wrote, “But instead of picking through what you want, just do what God said, problem solved, don’t pick and choose, just accept it all as a package.” James responded, “Zion, you make it sound like you don’t make interpretations and decisions about what the Bible says…”

    Exodus 21:7-11.

  37. Carl: Exodus 21:7-11.

    Carl, do you feel there is an issue in those verses to anything I said? I would enjoy hearing it.

  38. Z. – Actually, no – based on the opinions you expressed in response to James’ post, I assume that you support slavery and polygamy as described here and elsewhere in Torah.

  39. Actually, no – based on the opinions you expressed in response to James’ post, I assume that you support slavery and polygamy as described here and elsewhere in Torah.

    Lol, is slavery a commandment, or did God simply allow slavery? And is slavery the same thing as what we witnessed in America as most people of slavery? Did God endorse polygamy, or did He allow it for the purpose of protecting women in a society that were treated as less than men.

    Technically, based on what you said, I would have to assume, you believe God supported slavery and polygamy versus permitting it for the protection of certain people. And to that, I say Yikes!

  40. Hi, Carl – Did you pick Ex.21 because it reads like mishnah and contains details that are unlikely to be followed literally in our times? (I haven’t yet caught up with all the latest responses.) My thought was to ask Zion whether he is careful to read indications about to whom a particular passage was addressed, and whether he would recognize the distinction between what was addressed to Jews and what could be generalized to a larger demographic.

  41. Maybe Carl is understanding you in this way, Zion.

    Lol, it reminds me of a Christian who approached me based on hearing I believed in observing the Torah. He asked me if I stone people to keep the Torah… I asked him if the Torah allowed me to stone anyone I wanted at any time, or if it required a full governmental structure to sustain those laws, such as witnesses, judges, and councils. I have learned the ignorance of those who don’t know the Torah has no boundaries. I remember this person talking about how disgusting the Laws were in the Torah, and yet they were a Christian, I asked them if they thought God was barbaric and finally became civilized in time, lets just say the conversation went no where.

    Just like what Carl said, he seems to the think the Torah supports slavery and polygamy, when did God change his mind? Based on this, we would have to assume God supported divorce, or is it better understood that He allowed it? I remember someone of immense significance giving us this answer… 😉

  42. Proclaim Liberty wrote, Hi, Carl – Did you pick Ex.21 because it reads like mishnah and contains details that are unlikely to be followed literally in our times? . . . My thought was to ask Zion whether he is careful to read indications about to whom a particular passage was addressed, and whether he would recognize the distinction between what was addressed to Jews and what could be generalized to a larger demographic.”

    That’s right. On the basis of what Z wrote, I was wondering how he could evade the assumption that he supports “slavery and polygamy as described here [in Exod. 21:7-11] and elsewhere in Torah.” He evaded it by adding a condition that is not mentioned in the Torah itself. According to Z, the passage was only intended for societies where women are treated worse than men. (Of course, there are plenty of those today, too.)

    I am not suggesting that provision shouldn’t be added to the Torah. In fact, the Torah cannot be practiced without adding lots of provisions, including limits on things that are permitted and exception for things that are forbidden. The issue is whether those conditions are set by individuals with their personal interpretation or by communities who develop them with due deliberation over many generations.

    Just for the record: I do not support the sale of daughters as slaves of any kind.

    That said, I’m curious how Z will respond to your question. It’s an angle I hadn’t thought of.

  43. @Carl,
    That’s right. On the basis of what Z wrote, I was wondering how he could evade the assumption that he supports “slavery and polygamy as described here [in Exod. 21:7-11] and elsewhere in Torah.” He evaded it by adding a condition that is not mentioned in the Torah itself. According to Z, the passage was only intended for societies where women are treated worse than men. (Of course, there are plenty of those today, too.)

    The only assumption was based on “why”, which you are correct the Torah does not mention, however the fact, is based on the Torah does not command, but allows in this case, this does not require some form of assumption, but is plain to read.

    I am not suggesting that provision shouldn’t be added to the Torah. In fact, the Torah cannot be practiced without adding lots of provisions, including limits on things that are permitted and exception for things that are forbidden. The issue is whether those conditions are set by individuals with their personal interpretation or by communities who develop them with due deliberation over many generations.

    I would argue that majority of Torah should be understood within its own limitations, as stated above, and I believe in majority cases it can be. But to say that the Torah cannot be practiced without adding lots of provisions, is even a greater assumption not made by the Torah itself, but an individual.

    Just for the record: I do not support the sale of daughters as slaves of any kind.

    Do you disagree with the scriptures?

    That said, I’m curious how Z will respond to your question. It’s an angle I hadn’t thought of.

    PL said: whether he would recognize the distinction between what was addressed to Jews and what could be generalized to a larger demographic

    Of course.

  44. Z. asks me, “Do you disagree with the scriptures?”

    No. I just disagree with your approach to it.

    Now all I have left to say is that I acknowledge and bless you as a brother in Messiah. I trust that you can say the same to me.

  45. Now all I have left to say is that I acknowledge and bless you as a brother in Messiah. I trust that you can say the same to me.

    Blessings to you my brother!

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