walking in dust

Walking in the Dust of the Footsteps of Moshiach

This is the actual time of the “footsteps of Mashiach.” (the final age prior to Mashiach’s advent) It is therefore imperative for every Jew to seek his fellow’s welfare – whether old or young – to inspire the other to teshuva (return), so that he will not fall out – G-d forbid – of the community of Israel who will shortly be privileged, with G-d’s help, to experience complete redemption.

“Today’s Day”
Monday – Sivan 18 – 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

Previously, I wrote about how privileged Gentiles associated with the Messianic Jewish movement (and in theory, all Gentile Christians) are to be able to support and encourage increased Torah observance among the Jewish people united in Messiah, in order to bring nearer the coming (return) of the King. Although the small commentary above states that it is important for every Jew to seek his fellow’s welfare, I believe we can extend that sentiment to all of mankind.

There are two interrelated principles here. The first is for all disciples of Jesus to seek the welfare of any other person, as it is written, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18, Mark 12:31). The second is like it in that we non-Jews should seek out the welfare of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, as it is written, “And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

As I also said, within the unity of the body of Messiah, we are all one and yet we are all distinct. Just as men and women are distinct, so are Jew and Gentile, for Paul in his various epistles, never stopped distinguishing between the Jew and the Greek (Gentile). Therefore, we have no excuse to fail to make such distinctions as well.

And yet, both within the larger body of the Christian Church and certain subsets of what is called Hebrew Roots, it is considered unfashionable and even offensive to continue to make such distinctions. However, if we fail to do so, either by eliminating the primacy of national Israel and replacing it with the Church, or forcibly inserting Gentiles into the nation of Israel, we violate God’s unique calling to the Jewish people to remain a set apart people before Him forever.

Thus says the Lord,
Who gives the sun for light by day
And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar;
The Lord of hosts is His name:
“If this fixed order departs
From before Me,” declares the Lord,
“Then the offspring of Israel also will cease
From being a nation before Me forever.”

Jeremiah 31:35-36 (NASB)

For the New Covenant was made with the house of Judah and the house of Israel, not the people of the nations, and it is only by coming alongside Israel rather than replacing her or co-opting her unique relationship with God, that we can enjoy blessings of the covenants God made with the Jewish people.

To deny this on any level is to bring a curse upon yourself, but to bless and uphold the nation of Israel and the distinct nature and character of the Jewish people is to bring blessings upon yourself from God, who selected Israel for His own.

The early sages, who were like angels (may their merit protect us) have already determined that the healing of the soul is like the healing of the body:

The crucial first step is to identify the location of the illness, whether it is caused by the crassness, grossness and corruption of his physical body or by a failing in his soul-powers, the person being inclined to undersirable traits like arrogance or falsehood and the like. Or, the source of the malady may be habit – inadequate rearing or unwholesome environment having brought on bad habits.

“Today’s Day”
Shabbat – Sivan 16 – 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

This relates to another quote I cited before:

A person who worries about how others view him will have no rest. Regardless of what he does or does not do he will always be anxious about receiving the approval of others. Such a person makes his self-esteem dependent on the whims of others. It is a mistake to give others so much control over you. Keep your focus on doing what is right and proper.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Given the current context, applying R. Pliskin’s words to me, I see that those who disagree with my words are not in control of who I am. Those who disagree with the uniqueness, sanctity, and distinctiveness of the Jewish people; the nation of Israel before God, cannot affect the nature and character of the chosen people, even as they either seek to eliminate Israel in God’s plan or dilute Israel by inserting masses of Gentiles into her midst without continuing to uphold her distinction.

But R. Pliskin’s words can also be applied to those who oppose Israel in that these people and groups may see their self-esteem and self-assigned identity as being worthwhile only if Israel is diminished either by elimination from God’s plan, or by needing to be included and even fused with Israel, not allowing Israel to exist apart from Gentile inclusion.

To the Christians, including some groups within Hebrew Roots, it is important and even vital to realize that our distinctiveness apart from Israel does not diminish us. Quite the opposite. Our vital role in supporting Israel and heralding the return of Israel depends on our distinctiveness.

If a Gentile “keeps the Torah” in some manner or fashion, that may benefit the individual involved but it does nothing to summon the Messiah’s return. If, on the other hand, the Gentile were to support and encourage Jews in Messiah, including those in the Church referred to as “Hebrew Christians” in observing the mitzvot, then we are fulfilling our purpose and passion and performing a mitzvah “only Gentile disciples of Messiah may accomplish”.

As a young boy, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe) would go with his father on walks through the woods. One time, as they talked, the boy absent-mindedly plucked a leaf off a tree and began to shred it between his fingers. His father saw what his son was doing, but he went on talking. He spoke about the Baal Shem Tov, who taught how every leaf that blows in the wind—moving to the right and then to the left, how and when it falls and where it falls to—every motion for the duration of its existence is under the detailed supervision of the Almighty.

That concern the Creator has for each thing, his father explained, is the divine spark that sustains its existence. Everything is with Divine purpose, everything is of concern to the ultimate goal of the entire cosmos.

”Now,” the father gently chided, “look how you mistreated so absent-mindedly the Almighty’s creation.”

”He formed it with purpose and gave it a Divine spark! It has its own self and its own life! Now tell me, how is the ‘I am’ of the leaf any less than your own ‘I am’?”

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Purpose of a Leaf”
Based on the letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M.M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Everything was created by God with a unique purpose, even a humble leaf, and must be treated with respect. How is the Jewish ‘I am’ any less than the Gentile (Christian) ‘I am’?

korahs-rebellionExodus 20 commands Israel not to covet the things that belong to a neighbor such as his house, his wife, his servants, or his animals. Far be it from me to add to or subtract from the Bible, but my personal “midrash” on coveting includes the “commandment” not to covet thy neighbor’s mitzvot. Just as Korach and his followers coveted the position and mitzvot associated with Moses, the Prophet of God, and Aaron, the High Priest and was judged in error by God, so we too will be judged as in error by coveting positions, roles, and mitzvot we do not merit because we are not Jewish.

And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 14:7-11 (NASB)

It is not shameful or diminishing to seek humility in the presence of God and in our daily lives. In fact, as we see from scripture, it is ultimately honoring, though we should not seek honor for ourselves, for in taking our proper place furthest away from the head of the table, how might the host of the banquet choose to honor us by placing us in a much better seat. But that selection of a better seat is not for us to make, it is for him, for Messiah, Son of David. For even he, though he deserves great honor and glory, chose to be humbled.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:45 (NASB)

The Master said that all those who choose to glorify themselves in this world already have their reward, but those who choose to humble themselves now will have great reward in the coming Kingdom:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:1-6 (NASB)

walking humblyServe God in all humility, placing the needs of others before your own. Realize that Paul always went to the Jew first, for the Good News of Messiah is the Gospel of Israel and only afterward the good news also to the nations.

If you seek to take what is not yours, when Messiah comes, will he not seek justice and remove from you that which you have usurped? Better to pursue nothing for yourself, and when Messiah comes, let him gift each of us with whatever we may merit according to his grace, kindness, and wisdom. Consider the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30):

For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.

Matthew 25:29 (NASB)

Also, the Master taught:

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34 (NASB)

To God be great honor and glory, and to Moshiach our King, let him be raised high above us. Let us walk in the dust of his feet (Nahum 1:3) and be satisfied with our lot.

Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man. As is stated (Psalms 119:99): “From all my teachers I have grown wise, for Your testimonials are my meditation.”

Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations. As is stated (Proverbs 16:32), “Better one who is slow to anger than one with might, one who rules his spirit than the captor of a city.”

Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot. As is stated (Psalms 128:2): “If you eat of toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you”; “fortunate are you” in this world, “and good is to you” in the World to Come.

Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows. As is stated (I Samuel 2:30): “For to those who honor me, I accord honor; those who scorn me shall be demeaned.”

-Pirkei Avot 4:1

May we make teshuvah and repent of our failings before God, then pursue the path of Messiah as he and he alone has set it before each of us. Amen and Amen.

For more on this topic, please see the Hebrew Roots section of the MessianicGentiles.com website.

Addendum: Sadly, this blog post did nothing to resolve conflicts and in fact seems to have added fuel to the fire. Thus, I’m forced to write a “part three” to this series. Please see Briefly Revisiting Gentiles and the New Covenant for details.

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14 thoughts on “Walking in the Dust of the Footsteps of Moshiach”

  1. “…my personal “midrash” on coveting includes the “commandment” not to covet thy neighbor’s mitzvot. Just as Korach and his followers coveted the position and mitzvot associated with Moses, the Prophet of God, and Aaron, the High Priest and was judged in error by God, so we too will be judged as in error by coveting positions, roles, and mitzvot we do not merit because we are not Jewish.”

    While focused on another’s gifts and /or calling, there’s no one to fill our own.

    The gentile Church (owned and operated by men) has always viewed Jewish identity as a threat and competition, as if there’s only room for one people of God. Hence, a gentile only identity must be what Paul meant by “one new man” and “no difference between Jew and Gentile”. But Paul also included male and female in that same equation, yet the Church has not tried to blend the genders. On the contrary, they’ve staunchly maintained distinctions between men and women, even to extremes, and often with a deaf ear to the plight of said females.

    I’m sure there’re exceptions, but Gentiles pea-cocking around as if they’re the descendants of Jacob strikes me as just plain crass.

  2. I think it’s difficult in our western culture to be told that any specific group is special and limits entry into it as well as holds certain practices/behaviors unique to that group. We’re so focused on inclusiveness and equality that it goes against the national and cultural grain.

    But God is above all of that and I’ve quoted from enough scriptures to establish that Israel and the Jewish people are unique, even within the body of Messiah. In fact, it is Israel, ultimately through a single condition in the Abrahamic covenant that is carried over to the New Covenant, that allows anyone from the nation to be grafted in and share in any of the blessings at all. Whenever we try to either replace or usurp Israel, we are sabotaging our own connection with God, for without an Israel that is unique and set apart, the Gentiles are left high and dry.

  3. That could well apply to the Messianic Age. I’ve said this before, or at least alluded to it, that when Yeshua returns as King Messiah, there won’t be two separate religious practices: Judaism and Christianity. There will be a Judaism correctly interpreted by Messiah and within that body will be different and overlapping applications for Jews and Gentiles. This does not make Gentiles Jewish or even “Israel,” but rather grafted in individuals and vassel nations ruled by the great King. I think it will sort of be like what we saw at the very beginning in Antioch where Jews and Gentiles in Messiah worshipped together. The Gentiles looked a lot more “Jewish,” keeping Shabbat, observing the festivals, saying the same prayers, and eating kosher foods, just as the Jewish disciples did. Their belief structure was very close to the Pharisees. I can see Isaiah 56:1-8 being applied in the fully realized New Covenant context.

    That said, since we’ve been given certain proofs and gifts ahead of time, such as the indwelling of the Spirit, I don’t see any reason why a Gentile believer couldn’t go “above and beyond” and keep a specific diet and even observe Shabbos in some manner as a matter of personal conviction, and as an expression of longing for the Messianic age to come.

  4. Hi James: You seem to forget “Peshat” (one of four classical methods of Jewish biblical exegesis used by rabbis and Jewish bible scholars in reading the Hebrew Bible, commonly defined as referring to the surface or literal meaning of a text. Wikipedia). In other passages when referring to the Messianic Ages, the Scriptures begin with something like “in those days”, referring to a future day. In this one, such statement does no allude to a future day.

  5. “If a Gentile “keeps the Torah” in some manner or fashion, that may benefit the individual involved but it does nothing to summon the Messiah’s return.”

    Does Torah-keeping by Gentiles not spur the Jew to jealousy, thus accomplishing the very goal you desire?

  6. @ James,

    If it “could well apply to the Messianic age” then why can’t it possibly apply now? How is that ‘above and beyond?’ Shouldn’t it be the norm?

    You know how I got here? I had zero teaching, no videos, no conversation with anyone… It was a question that kept ringing in my head, ‘What did the first century believers look like?’ What was the praxis of Gentiles like Cornelius who came to faith in the God of Israel and received the Spirit. THAT is what we should be aiming at… I don’t think he stayed outside the camp. He learned Shabbat, feasts, calendar, diet, etc… Didn’t make him Jewish, but most definitely taught him to walk as a son of Abraham and heir of the promises.

    Yep, Gentiles will most definitely look more Jewish. Indeed, should look more Jewish as they learn the halachah of the Rabbi.

  7. Hi Pete,

    I didn’t say that a Gentile believer couldn’t observe Shabbat or keep kosher. I just said they weren’t mandatory. Certainly if we engaged in those behaviors now, it would be with an eye on the future Messianic Age.

    I agree that the first century Gentile believers, especially those embedded in Messianic Jewish contexts, did look and act more “Jewish” than most Christians imagine. I also quoted Lancaster a few blog posts ago when he quoted from the Didache:

    If you are able to bear all the yoke of the Lord [i.e., Torah], you will be perfect; but if you are not able, do as much as you are able to do. (Didache 6:2)

    The Didache is generally accepted by many scholars to have been a sort of first century primer for newly-minted Gentile disciples of the Master. The content could well have started out as an oral explanation that accompanied the so-called Acts 15 letter, and defined more clearly the halachic ruling of the Jerusalem Council about the role and place of Gentiles in the Jewish religious stream of “the Way”.

    The above-quoted passage from the Didache does not restrict Gentile observance of the mitzvot up to and including all of the “yoke of Torah,” however, it does not impose all of the mitzvot as obligatory. If a Gentile could keep all of the Torah, they would be “perfect,” but if not, they were allowed to perform as they were able. For the Jewish believers however, the mitzvot were not optional.

    As far as a Gentile keeping Torah spurring a Jew to jealousy, when was the last time you heard a Jewish person tell you that your keeping of Torah made them jealous and prompted them to keep more of the Torah? I’d be willing to bet “never”.

    Almost a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post called Provoking Zealousness based on an article written by Jordan Levy. I don’t think we provoke anything positive in any Jewish person by donning a tallit or acting in an overtly “Jewish” manner publicly. I don’t believe that was ever Paul’s intent. I think we can “provoke” Jewish people to “zealousness” by encouraging and supporting them and national Israel. Jews are used to Christians doing the opposite, attempting to discourage Jews from “following the Law” and instead, trying to convert them to Christianity. What if we did the unexpected? What if we tried to encourage Jews to perform even more of the mitzvot?

    I found a quote in Sue Fishkoff’s book The Rebbe’s Army that I thought illuminating. It was an encounter between a Chabad Rabbi visiting Jews in prison, and the prison librarian who was a Jew converted to Christianity (Chapter 16: “Addicts, Inmates, and Other Jews,” pp 315-16):

    As he’s leaving the prison, Katz is stopped by a white-bearded inmate who is working in what looks to be a library of Christian books and videos. “Hey, Rabbi, you’re my hero!” he shouts, pumping Katz’s hand vigorously. “I’ve been here for eleven years, and I can tell you, when the Bureau of Prisons guys hear your name, they shake. I love that!” Katz smiles politely, then takes another look at the inmate, and asks whether he’s Jewish. “My mother is, but I’m not,” the man says. Before the sentence is out, so is Katz’s tefillin, but the prisoner backs away and shakes his head. “I converted, I can’t do that anymore,” he says, waving his hands at the literature in his little office.

    “There is no such thing, come on,” Katz insists, but the man refuses, until Katz sighs and puts away the tefillin. “You’re a Jew, and you’ll die a Jew, you know that, don’t you?” he says quietly. The man nods. “I know.”

    I sometimes have a wild idea of doing something like that to the few Jewish people at the church I attend, reminding them that their being Jewish is more than a string of DNA and a last name that “sounds Jewish.” My brother-in-law is Jewish (my wife’s brother) but he’s also a born-again Christian. He even denies that his mother was Jewish, even though we have overwhelming proof (all of her living relatives are Jewish and all of her dead relatives are buried in Jewish cemeteries).

    My wife said if her brother were to show up at any Chabad and tell them he’s Jewish and converted to Christianity, he would still be allowed to join a minyan and daven if he so desired.

    Our job is to do something like what Chabad does, only with “Christianized” Jews. We have to be delicate about it, but if we Gentile believers can support even a few Jewish people who are believers that there is no dissonance between being disciples of Yeshua and being an observant Jew, we could bring them back. Paul described the Jewish people as undergoing partially calloused wounds for the sake of the Gentiles, but in the end, all of Israel will be saved.

    I’ll try to flesh some of this out in another blog post when I can.

  8. @Pete: “Does Torah-keeping by Gentiles not spur the Jew to jealousy, thus accomplishing the very goal you desire?

    Actually, it’s the opposite Pete, and it grieves me terribly as an intermarried. Ask yourself, do you get “jealous” when a woman is dressed as a man? I certainly don’t become jealous when I see a man in drag.

    In my experience, there’s nothing even approaching “jealousy” when a Jew who sees a gentile appropriate Jewish identity markers, but it seems to be common assumption for Gentiles who don’t actually know any Jewish people and therefore don’t realize the negative effect their having.

  9. For these reasons, I as a gentile do not lay tefillin in congregational life nor do I daven in groups, save with only a few jews who are cool with it, so long as I don’t recite the tefillin berackah.

    And yes, today at the Kosher joint I saw the news about the little kiddos. Very sad.

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