Intermarriage: Not Peace, But A Sword

onfire.jpgTo die while committed to a belief system that is idolatrous, false and contrary to what G-d has revealed to us AND has resulted in the persecution of the Jewish people for the last two thousand years, even if it doesn’t affect our eternity through the ever burning hell fires that Christianity reserves for those who didn’t believe in Jesus, is still not something I would desire for myself or anyone.

-from a private conversation

The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.

Proverbs 14:15

Faith and belief are both defined as accepting as true something which transcends logic and which may not be subject to proof by rational argument. Yet, belief in God is not the “blind faith” of a simpleton.

A simpleton does not think, either because he lacks the capacity or does not wish to make the effort. Therefore, he is gullible and can be easily swayed in any direction. Being credulous is not the same as having faith.

When we reflect on the concept of a Supreme Being, Who is in every way infinite, we are likely to feel bewilderment, because our finite minds cannot grasp the infinite. Since all of our experiences involve finite objects, we lack a point of reference for dealing with the infinite.

When this reflection brings us to realize that the question of the existence of an infinite Supreme Being cannot be logically resolved, we then turn to the unbroken mesorah, the teachings which have been transmitted from generation to generation, from the time when more than two million people witnessed the Revelation at Sinai. When we accept our faith on this basis, we do so as the culmination of a process of profound thought which is no way similar to the credulousness of a simpleton.

This process also helps us with other questions that we have about God. For instance, the fact that we cannot possibly logically understand God does not preclude our coming to a knowledge of His Presence.

Today I shall…

…strengthen my faith by reflecting on the unbroken chain of tradition since Sinai.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twersky
“Growing Each Day, Elul 3”

I’d like to think I’m not a simpleton. I hope I’m thoughtfully considering my steps. I have faith. I believe. The faith and belief of the Jewish people ultimately rests at Sinai, at the giving of the Torah. It is said that each Jewish person is to consider himself or herself as having personally stood at Sinai and having received the Torah directly. This communicates a sense of direct “ownership” of the commandments of God, rather than just the tradition of having them passed down from one generation to the next.

For a Christian, faith and belief ultimately rests at the foot of the cross, in a pool of blood shed for our sins. Christians aren’t “commanded” to consider ourselves as having personally stood at the foot of the cross of Christ, watching him die for our sake and for the sake of the world. Maybe we should.

But even so, people like me have a difficult thing to face. In my case, I have a Jewish wife, two Jewish sons, and a Jewish daughter. My children don’t speak to me one way or the other about my attending church and professing my Christian faith, but occasionally my wife does. Occasionally a few (non-believing) Jewish friends do (although in strictest confidence) as well.

If I love my Jewish family and friends, how can I be a part of a faith that historically has been guilty of “the persecution of the Jewish people for the last two thousand years”? I thought I knew, but when someone you deeply care about asks that question, it’s not so easy to answer. The answer is long and involved, and when someone is responding to your Christianity on a really emotional level, they don’t always want to hear long, involved explanations that they’ll probably do their level best to shoot out of the water in any case.

I don’t really want to argue. If someone wants to hear about my faith, I’ll do my best to explain it to them. If they don’t, I’m not invested in beating people over the head with a copy of the New Testament.

intermarriageIt doesn’t help (ironically enough) that my wife used to be a believer. My limited experience with Jewish people who were once believers and then returned or adopted a more traditional Jewish practice and worship, is that they are more highly resistant to any idea that there could be validity in Christianity or Messianic Judaism. I can only imagine it’s like being a person who is an ex-smoker (I used to smoke a number of decades ago) and a smoker is trying to convince the non-smoker to light up again.

“Yuck,” is the predictable reaction, followed by a series of reasons from the non-smoker why lighting up is an incredibly bad idea, and harmful not only to the smoker, but to everyone around the smoker, particularly the smoker’s loved ones.

As a Christian among Jews, I feel like a smoker among long-term non-smokers. If I want to “light up,” I sure better take it outside, down the alley, and around back behind a shed where no one can see me or smell me. As a Christian among Jews, I feel as if they see me like this:

In 1391, the Jews of Barcelona, Spain were victims of a massacre. This was part of three months of deadly riots throughout Spain, which left the Jewish community crushed and impoverished. Incredibly, on this same date 70 years later, a bishop named Alfonso de Espina urged the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition was designed to uncover those Jews who continued to practice Judaism in secret (called Conversos or Marranos). During the years of brutal Inquisition, an estimated 32,000 Jews were burned at the stake and another 200,000 were expelled from Spain.

-from “Day in Jewish History” for Elul 4

You may consider that example a little extreme, but I’m not sure it’s that far out. I think it’s one thing to be Jewish and to be aware of Christians in your general environment, at the grocery store, at work, at the park, driving the streets of your city, and another thing entirely to be close to and even to live with a Christian. While my wife will occasionally give voice to her concerns, my children haven’t. My daughter, who is the only child left at home, has become more distant from me in recent months. She says everything’s OK, but everything else she says and does communicates otherwise. I can’t absolutely say it’s because of my continued church attendance and my reading from the Christian Bible, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch, either.

Authentic Jewish life is characterized by the study of Torah, the observance of Shabbat and Kashrut, and the thrice-daily worship of God. Not Shabbes leichter as museum pieces, but a generation of Jewish women who light their candles to usher in the holy Shabbat. Not klezmer concerts to evoke nostalgia for the shtetl, but Jewish bands playing Jewish music at Jewish weddings where Jewish communities are celebrating the beginning of a new generation of a Jewish family.

I wish my niece Jodi had had such a wedding.

-Sara Yoheved Rigler
“The Dead End of Jewish Culture”

magen-davidRigler wrote this article as a description of how Jewish people identifying themselves as Jewish entirely on the basis of Jewish culture (as opposed to Jewish faith, observance of the mitzvot, and study of Torah) are reaching a dead-end to their Jewish identity. The painful result, from Rigler’s perspective, is her Jewish niece Jodi’s (not her real name) wedding to a Catholic husband in a Catholic church.

Rigler writes:

One December afternoon, my precious four-year-old niece Jodi walked into my mother’s suburban New Jersey kitchen and asked, “Bubbie, are you Jewish?”

“Yes, I am,” my mother answered proudly.

“So am I,” Jodi confided, “but don’t tell Santa Claus.”

I laughed when my mother told me this story, and I chuckled every time I thought of it – for 22 years. Last week, Jodi got married, in a Catholic church, kneeling in front of a huge gilded cross. I stopped laughing.

Apparently, Jodi’s perception of Judaism as a liability grew with the years. At the age of four, being Jewish made her a persona non grata to Santa Claus. At the age of 16, growing up in a town whose century-old bylaws stipulated, “No Jews or Negroes,” Jewish identity must have been a social non-starter. At the age of twenty, as a sophomore at Boston University, being Jewish must have threatened her budding romance with a handsome Catholic senior.

I’m sure Jodi’s Catholic husband doesn’t imagine that he might be considered guilty of any wrongdoing to Jodi or Jodi’s Jewish family, but, based on my experience, eventually he’ll have to confront those feelings. At least I don’t have Jewish in-laws who are upset with me, just the nuclear family and a few other Jewish people.

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

Matthew 10:37 (NASB)

That’s a tough one to take. How am I supposed to respond to that, God? And what about this?

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Luke 9:26 (NASB)

This next one is even worse.

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

Hebrews 6:4-8 (NASB)

It would be worse to come to faith in Messiah and to fall away than never to have come to faith in the first place. Ouch.

So how am I supposed to choose, or if a choice is impossible, what am I supposed to do? At least in terms of marriage, Paul (and not God) had this to say:

But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

1 Corinthians 7:12-16 (NASB)

separation“But God has called us to peace.” Really? Not until Messiah comes/returns (depending on who you are).

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m fighting with the missus (or anyone else) tooth and nail, and that I’m constantly engaged in some sort of “battle” of faith with the Jewish people in my life, but I can hardly ignore the steady undercurrent in these relationships as well as the occasional flare ups, either.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

Matthew 10:34-36 (NASB)

“Not peace, but a sword.”

Whoever has faith in individual Divine Providence knows that “Man’s steps are established by G-d,” (Tehillim 37:23) that this particular soul must purify and improve something specific in a particular place. For centuries, or even since the world’s creation, that which needs purification or improvement waits for this soul to come and purify or improve it. The soul too, has been waiting – ever since it came into being – for its time to descend, so that it can discharge the tasks of purification and improvement assigned to it.

“Today’s Day”
Friday, Elul 3, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan

Assuming God is establishing my steps too, I have to believe that I have come to this place, this time, this circumstance, for a reason. What that reason is, I cannot say. May it be right that I am here for a good purpose, and that God intends my existence and my presence in order to correct and purify some part of the world around me. I have no desire to hurt anyone, least of all those people I love who are Jewish.

12 thoughts on “Intermarriage: Not Peace, But A Sword”

  1. James. Thanks for sharing such deep thoughts and feelings that you have. Like I said yesterday, Today too, I have learned a couple of things about how to connect to Yeshua. And you are the one who has been the messenger for those teachings.

    I’m aware now, that we MUST love people around us SO MUCH, that when they ask us why we love them that way, all we can say that it is because we have so much more love for Yeshua. And this is a task that is so difficult to do on a daily basis, yet, that is what our Rabbi commanded us to do. Now is the time to learn by doing.

    Reading your post today, I wish I knew some Jewish people, for in me, a love for them is growing every day. You, on the other hand, are lucky to have them with you. Just do as our Rabbi is teaching us. I surely will try here where I live.

    Thanks again James.

  2. James, I know this struggle all too well. I often find myself in a constant battle to ‘just give up’ for it would make life so much easier to take if I went along with the rest of my family. Reading your blog today brought back a memory of making Challah for Shabbat and crying my eyes out thinking of all the women in my family who had done this same thing and wondering if my Bubbe would finally love me. I love my family so very, very much but my desire to follow Yeshua will forever keep me on the outside looking in.

  3. Wow. Thanks for commenting, Deborah. Ironically, last Friday night, my wife made Challah for the first time in ages. No candles, though. Still, I was really happy.

  4. Hi James,
    Yep, you’re correct, we have similar topics!

    It’s not easy, in the best of circumstances, and I can imagine how you must feel. As I’ve been pointing out on my blog regarding identity, theirs is important, but then, so is ours. The conclusion I’ve come to is that God intended us Christians, which I see as a hybrid–not Jewish, not merely Gentile– as those called to surround and protect Israel/Jews from the greater world of Gentiles and the Amalek’s who seek to destroy them in EVERY generation. We got tripped up historically because our Church Fathers were overcome with arrogance and insecurity (it is Israel’s God, Israel’s Scripture, Israel’s Messiah, and Israel’s story). But as you know there are many people involved in putting a stick into the spoke of that theology, most notably Jews.

    It isn’t dishonorable to be a part of reforming something, and God equips those called into the “reform” to do His work. Hang in there James, you’ve been chosen for a reason.


  5. James, your Hebrew name is Ya’acov, and I believe you just need to hang on until you receive the blessing. I know that the Hebrew, “ahavah,” translated, “love,” means, “to reveal the father,” as you put a heh, a window, in the middle of the word for father, av. I don’t believe any woman can resist love that is free-flowing, unconditional and without expectations. I can imagine that the temptation to join your wife in whatever form of Judaism she chooses is strong. Who doesn’t prefer peace? I read about a couple who were involved in Messianic ministry, where the wife was Jewish and the husband not Jewish. Some anti-missionaries got a hold of them, and the wife decided to become an Orthodox Jew and abandon Yeshua, and her husband joined her and converted to Judaism. At least the woman didn’t say hateful things about her life as a believer; she said that that belief and life had taken her out of drugs and instability, and brought loving, caring people into her life, for which she was grateful. Perhaps for some, their faith relationship was weak or non-existent, and what they responded to was the acceptance of a loving group of people. If someone is caught in the fear of man snare, and responds to emotionalism, there will just be a different man who will be able to turn them in another direction, and employ the same emotionalism.

    Of course a person who has abandoned a previous belief or practice is going to be resistant and not even want to discuss it. This causes me to think that they are not so convinced about their choice, and have some doubts which they don’t want to revisit; otherwise, it wouldn’t matter. We naturally avoid things that are painful and difficult; we choose the easy road. But we are empowered to take up our cross and follow the master, and the cross may be the rejection and disapproval of others. Those who are not willing to face these things are not worthy of him, and perhaps they received a false message that failed to warn them to count the cost. I know that Judaism historically has discouraged people who wish to convert, and currently, Christianity does just the opposite. Perhaps the ancient Jews were right; we should discourage people, and make it clear that the road to life is narrow, rather than widening the gate.

    I suppose there is not a simple answer to the emotionally manipulative appeal, “How can you follow a religion/faith of those who murdered our people?” This is the same as when friends of mine abandoned their faith because an anti-missionary asked, “Where is your grandfather now?” I would say this: Yeshua is my shepherd. I listen to his voice and follow him. I will not follow the voice of another. Those who followed other voices, whether the church fathers, Constantine, or the Catholic or Protestant churches in any of its permutations are the voice of another that I choose not to follow, and not to have any connection to. I can’t remove 2,000 years of history, and all of that existed for a divine purpose. You’ve probably heard a number of discussions about Yeshua’s mistaken identity. Just like Joseph, the ruler of Egypt, inspired fear in his brothers, so Messiah’s Egyptian language, clothing and makeup inspires fear in his brethren. But the time is coming soon when our brethren’s eyes will be opened, as he speaks to us in our own language. I wrote an article about some of this:

    1. Dear Chaya — Your etymology about “ahavah” is not correct. Have you ever considered actually learning the Hebrew language as such, rather than relying on questionable sources for faulty pseudo-insights? There is no extra aleph in the word that could precede the “bet” and allow for any connection to “av” (“father”). On the contrary, the etymology of its root “hav” is known to mean “giving”, and the connection between loving and giving is reasonably well understood even in English.

      The function of an “aleph” at the beginning of a word, in this case preceding the “hey” of “hav”, and the function of a final “hey”, are specific constructs in Hebrew that have defined meanings. Insights derived from letter-shifting wordplay in Hebrew should not be undertaken by amateurs, and should be based on solid understanding of the language. Woe unto him that darkeneth counsel without knowledge.

      1. PL, I am working on improving my Ivrit. You are aware that Hebrew was a pictorial language like Egyptian and Chinese at one time, before the pictures were changed to letters in Babylon. I know that the aleph represents strength and first. So, perhaps love is the, “strong,” or, “first,” giving? I don’t believe any of this speculation about how the word originally formed can go against scripture if the meaning is compared with scripture. Instead, it seems to open up the meaning. Do you agree that av, father, means, “strength of the house?”

      2. Chaya — It is a hypothesis, not a fact, that the Phoenician alphabet with which Hebrew was originally written originally served to represent language pictorially. However, there clearly are stylized images associated with the letters, so the hypothesis is reasonable. However, the hypothesis is a bit weaker in its assertion that combining the letters into words accurately matched a combination of the pictorial images. Maybe it once worked better for some semitic languages than for others, hence it probably also works better for fundamental words that tend to be shared across languages. However, long before the Jewish captivity in Babylon, where Hebrew began to be represented in the square script that is still used today, the Hebrew language developed its own rules and rationales that made it a distinct language that differs from other semitic languages, irrespective of the script with which it was then or is now written. So, it is not really true that Hebrew was once a pictorial language like Egyptian or Chinese. No one actually knows for sure what script Avraham the “Ivri” who grew up in Chaldea would have used for writing his language, though it may have been a cuneiform type of script similar to Akkadian or Summerian, which may have led to a Phoenician style in Aram-Naharayim by becoming “fluidized” or cursive when written with pen and ink on vellum or papyrus rather than with a wedged stylus onto clay. We should be grateful that Moshe Rabbeinu was not excessively influenced by Egyptian writing several hundred years later, so that the Torah was not written with demotic hieroglyphs. Apparently the Phoenician style script was preserved by the Hebrews in Egypt (and maybe even by the Midianites with whom he lived in exile for almost 40 years) and was thus preferred by Moshe (and presumably by HaShem) for writing the Torah (and the stone tablets).

        Now, the letter “aleph” is presumably based on a stylized image of an ox. Hence it is deemed to bear some relation to strength. Similarly, the letter “bet” is deemed a stylized image of a house, or “bayit”. However, while combining them as “av” might allow for interpretation as “strength in the house”, as you suggest, it allows just as well for the image of a big lummox of a man standing next to a house or being incarcerated in a jail. But none of these really says anything about the distinctive characteristic defining role of a “father”, which is to sire children — regardless of whether there is any house (or many houses) in which to put them. There is so much more that goes into producing meaning with words, that cannot be conveyed in a simplistic pictorial representation. Hence, “strength in the house” is entirely misleading as an original representation of a “father”. It is not really the meaning or concept that is intended by the word.

        If you would like to consider the “aleph” of the word “ahavah”, you might find some meaning in its use for what we call future tense in English, though in Hebrew it is actually rather an “indefinite” tense that allows for an action that is not completed or is unlimited or ongoing. Thus placing such a letter in front of “hav” could imply unlimited or unending giving. Incidentally, the “hey” on the end of a word often implies a sense of approach or moving toward something. For example, travelling toward Egypt (mitzraim) is travelling “mitzraimah”, and returning to the “land” (aretz) of Israel is returning “artzah”. Hence “love” might be interpreted as “unlimited action in the direction of giving”. But you will not find any of that in the pictorial system you’ve been citing. And I would recommend against any reliance on such a system for interpreting words in the Tenakh.

  6. I read about a couple who were involved in Messianic ministry, where the wife was Jewish and the husband not Jewish. Some anti-missionaries got a hold of them, and the wife decided to become an Orthodox Jew and abandon Yeshua, and her husband joined her and converted to Judaism.

    I don’t see that happening. I know it’s a common dynamic with a lot of families who have left traditional Christianity and transitioned into Messianic Judaism or some form of Hebrew Roots. They become attracted to Judaism but don’t realize that we are each commanded to turn to God as who we are (1 Corinthians 7:17-24). In any event, my options to convert, even if I should make such a choice, are very limited where I am, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what my wife wants of me.

    I’ve spent years developing my understanding of how my faith in Messiah is involved in Judaism, and what my role is in supporting Israel, but while I can write, and write, and write, talking to the missus about all this is kind of difficult. I think it always is when it’s so close to home.

    It’ll work out by God’s mercy..I just don’t know how yet.

  7. there’s some difficult things to accept as true, to believe(to know from Y’shua), yet at the same time totally have to depend on ABBA for deliverance/knowledge/understanding/truth/freedom/discipline. richard wurmbrandt pointed out in one (maybe more) of his books, that the Jewish people have for long time resisted, even rejected the ‘Jesus’ of christendom and RIGHTLY SO. Jesus, Y’shua, the Messiah written of all through the Tenakh is not known, sought, taught, exampled, nor followed by ‘christendom'(the worldly huge religion that pretends to be saved).
    when an old man showed wurmbrandt the true Y’shua, from Scripture, wurmbrandt recognized the difference(from the fake promoted by the words and (lack of) life of worldly churches and in the amazing grace of Yhwh turned to Y’shua to follow Him, to live HIS LIFE.
    in such a short space/time here, i can’t hope to accomplish much (yet), but the only real help and hope and joy is if you, the reader, turn to Yhwh in Y’shua’s grace to find Him, to follow Him, to live His Life, to do as He says !
    it is an eternally joyous celebration of life when one who has been divorced from the truth for so long turns to Yhwh, as Yhwh wills delightedly, and is a receiver of LIFE! in Y’SHUA! (the ONLY WAY YHWH HAS DECREED)

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