In Judaism, Shabbos is a time to be especially careful not to become angry or to become involved in a quarrel. Quarrels spread like fire and destroy everything that is precious. The sanctity of Shabbos, if it is observed properly, enables people to feel a sense of unity. It promotes love and brotherhood. The sanctity of Shabbos can spread and enter the hearts of each individual and everyone can become as one.
-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“The Sanctity of Shabbos”
I’ve been trying to write a commentary for Torah Portion Re’eh (the reading for this coming Shabbat) but it’s not coming. I actually did write something, but I didn’t like it, so I deleted it (a rare thing for me). I know I’m forcing stuff into the text rather than just letting it flow. That’s not typical of how I write but then, it’s still Monday and maybe I’m just too far away from Shabbos mentally and spiritually.
Rabbi Pliskin says that we should not become angry or quarrel on Shabbos. It destroys peace. It’s destroys sanctity, not just the sanctity of the Shabbat, but the sanctity among God’s people (if we can call ourselves God’s people).
Here’s an example of Shabbos as described by Derek Leman in his blog post The Jewish Experience at UMJC 2013:
The highlight of the conference for me came in the Shabbat Shacharit service. While our crowd of 600 people that morning may not have been the largest crowd I have ever been in, it was the largest crowd of Jewishly knowledgeable and intensely spiritual people I have ever been in. I have worshipped in a stadium with 50,000 Christians before and found it to be powerful. But to be in ballroom meant for 474 people that has 600 Jews packed in with tallitot and kippot, all of whom know the calls and responses of the Hebrew liturgy, was something powerful on a level I can hardly explain.
Before reciting the Shema we sang a song about the Shema. It began with a haunting melody that we called out for several minutes just to the sound “oo.” Kavanah, they say, is the Hebrew word for inner intent, devotion and concentration upon an idea. I have never felt kavanah like that before.
When the Torah scrolls were being paraded around the ballroom, paraded throughout a dense crowd, standing room only, aisles packed, and being paraded slowly so all could touch their tallitot or books to it and bring the word to their lips, we recited the “Niggun Neshama,” by Neshama Carlebach. It must have taken at least ten minutes to complete the Torah parade, with the crowd facing it wherever it was in the room and a spirit of intensity of devotion on every face and joy that was overwhelming.
I truly experienced what God said about Shabbat, “It is a sign between you and me forever” (Exod 31:13).
I have to admit to being a little envious (sorry, Derek) at reading his description, but then again, even if I had the bucks to spend on going to a conference in Los Angeles, Derek did say it was “600 Jews packed in with tallitot and kippot,” so it’s not an experience that would be open to (Gentile) Christians.
No, I’m not kvetching. I understand and support worship venues that are specific to Jewish people in the Messiah. I realize I’m not part of the community of Messianic Jews (and I’ve calmed down since I wrote that last blog post). Last May, I expressed some concerns about worshiping in a Messianic Jewish context, based on my “transition” into a Christian religious space, but after about nine months in church, as much as I enjoy certain aspects of being in church, if I had my “druthers,” I’d probably worship at some place like Beth Immanuel.
But for lots and lots of reasons, I don’t have my “druthers” and probably never will. Frankly, I don’t think it’s about me getting my way. I think it’s about me being where I am and doing what God wants me to do. Anyway…
But as much as Derek enjoyed his time at the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) conference, there are others who didn’t think it was so hot. I was going to quote from a certain Hebrew Roots blogger or one of the commenters on his blog as an example of their criticism, but after reading through the material, I just didn’t have the heart. It’s not Shabbos, but really, the words have been put online once. I don’t need to repeat them. Suffice it to say, there are those who find that the UMJC is disingenuous, or non-Biblical, or too Talmudic, or not enough apostolic scriptures, or whatever.
I’ve complained about religious people on more than one occasion. Really, it takes a lot of effort sometimes to remain religious, at least publicly, given the way some people express themselves, supposedly for the sake of Heaven.
From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished.
–Acts 14:26 (NASB)
Last Sunday, my Pastor preached on Acts 14:21-28 in his sermon, “What Makes a Good Missionary (Part 3)?” I’ll write more about it on Thursday, but as part of his description of the end of “Paul’s first missionary journey,” he said that Paul and Barnabas reported back to their “home church” at Syrian Antioch (I’m more inclined to believe it was a synagogue that included Jewish and non-Jewish disciples of Messiah) about everything they had accomplished. Reminded me of this:
The essence of Shabbos is peace of mind. Our attitude on Shabbos should be as if all the work we need to do has already been completed. If you need to travel or do any kind of work, on Shabbos you should try to feel as if you have reached your destination and every single job you have to take care of has already been completed.
All the laws of Shabbos serve as a recipe for attaining peace of mind. Not only are we to refrain from doing any form of work, but we are enjoined not to even discuss anything that has a connection with work.
-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Let Shabbos Finish Your Work”
Absence of quarreling and peace of mind at the week’s work having been accomplished. Sounds good, but my view of the world of which I’m a part doesn’t provide for peace.
Derek ended his blog post this way:
I am encouraged. I am strengthened. I pray you, Jewish or non-Jewish reader, find your heart warmed as well. May God, as Solomon prayed, hear in heaven and forgive the sins of our people and bring them again to the land which was given to the Jewish people as an inheritance.
The Jewish people have a right to pray for the God of Israel to forgive their sins and to return them to their Land which was given to them as an eternal inheritance. If we Gentile believers can’t be a part of the solution, then we should at least get out of their way (and out of God’s way…not that we could ever inhibit His will). My generation used to have a saying: “If you aren’t part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.”
We Gentile believers, whether we call ourselves “Christians,” “Hebrew Roots,” or anything else, need or consider our position and make a few adjustments. The fact that we are disciples of the Jewish Messiah does not give us vast authority to run roughshod over those people who were uniquely chosen by God at Sinai. If there was no Israel, there would be no method of attaching a Gentile through covenant to God. We vilify the Jewish people at our own peril. We should be wise. A blessing and a curse lay before us as well.
I’ve been writing about the Shabbat which I currently have no way to enjoy. I suppose that’s my fault for a lot of reasons, but it is no longer in my control. However there is an eternal Shabbat promised to all the faithful, if we can just maintain our strength until it comes. But in denigrating the Jewish people including Jews in Messiah (no, we don’t have to agree with all Messianic Jewish organizations about everything) are we unknowingly throwing away our place within that Shabbat? Are we in the process of finishing our work as the crown jewels of the nations or are we simply ending our opportunity for the final Shabbat rest because of our hostility and disrespect?
Sorry for another in a long line of “why can’t we play nice together” blog posts. I really wish the lot of us would take the advice of Thumper’s father (brief video) and just hush up and worry about perfecting our own spirituality. Let other people including Derek Leman and the various attendees of the UMJC conference attend to their own relationship with the Almighty.