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.
Monday – Sivan 18 – 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
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.
Shabbat – Sivan 16 – 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
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
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
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’?
Exodus 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)
Serve 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.
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.