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A Gentile’s Book Review of “First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer”

It is appropriate for Gentile disciples of Yeshua to participate in Jewish prayer. After all, the Temple in Jerusalem is to be called “a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). Yeshua did not come to create a separate religion for Gentiles with different prayers.

-Aaron Eby
“Prayer in Jewish Space,” p.33
First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer

I’ve quoted from Aaron’s book twice before, the first time in Messianic Jewish Shabbat Observance and the Gentile and just yesterday in Discovering Myself by the Light of Torah. I suppose it’s appropriate for me to do a more proper book review, and I’m writing it from the expected perspective: that of a non-Jew.

You see, for the most part, Messianic Jewish Prayer is Jewish Prayer. Aaron’s book can be thought of as a “Jewish Prayer 101” class complete with a minimalist siddur at the end of the book. It’s unique in that it has a specific focus on Yeshua HaMoshiach, but a focus on Messiah is not considered unusual according to Aaron:

The traditional Jewish prayers are constantly focused on the Messiah. Although they do not identify Yeshua by name, they do identify the Messiah by character and title.

Some people might object that the traditional Jewish prayers do not say anything about Yeshua since they do not mention him by name. The same is true of the Hebrew scriptures, yet we know that they say a great deal about Yeshua.

-Eby
“Prayer in Jewish Space,” p.29

Aaron starts out in Part One by describing “Prayer in Messianic Judaism” as distinct from the other Judaisms and Christianity. Although describing Jewish Prayer, as I said above, the specific focus is always on Messiah. In essence then, this is an instruction manual about prayer in Messianic Judaism which first and foremost should speak to Jewish people. Granted, devout Jewish people raised in religious households are raised in Jewish prayer, but many of the Jews attracted to Messianic Judaism have not had a traditional Jewish education. Still, the emphasis on Judaism must be recognized. The portions of his book that specifically address Gentiles in Jewish Prayer and in Jewish Space are called out and those are the parts I spent most of my time in.

In fact, the section of Part One called “Prayer in Jewish Space” seems to be a primer on how Jewish Prayer is conducted “procedurally” as well as in terms of “kavanah” (intent). I quoted from this chapter previously when addressing “Gentiles and Jewish Prayer.”

For example, one line in the traditional after-meal blessing offers thanks to God “for the covenant that [he] sealed in our flesh.” It seems problematic for a Messianic Gentile to say this. But should someone who is not Jewish then say “for the covenant that you have written on our hearts?” To do so would imply that Messianic Jews have only a fleshly covenant, whereas the new covenant that is written on hearts belongs only to Messianic Gentiles, God forbid.

-ibid, p.36

First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer
First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer

For the uninitiated Gentile or for those who are sensitive in one way or another to the distinctions made between Jews and Gentiles in Messianic Jewish space, parts of this book may be a little confusing or disorienting and even seem kind of annoying. At best, it will take some work for Gentiles, even those familiar with Jewish Prayer on some level, to get used to the flow of prayer outlined in the book during a synagogue service or even a Shabbat dinner. At worst, some Gentiles will feel put out not to be considered “Israel” and thus directed to pray the prayers in not exactly the same manner as their Jewish counterparts.

However, this book is designed to not only teach Messianic Jewish Prayer, but to continue to establish the distinctive roles Jews and Gentiles play in Messianic Judaism, with the understanding (from my point of view, anyway) that those roles are not firmly anchored or agreed upon at present.

That said, I was surprised when Aaron didn’t make much in the way of Jewish/Gentile distinctions relative to the standard prayers, particularly the Shema. But let me back up a step:

Gentiles who devote themselves to Yeshua of Nazareth are not only disciples; they are his subjects, and he is their King. In that sense they relate to the nation of Israel and the Jewish people in the same way that a conquered and annexed people is subordinated to a conquering king. These Gentiles are no longer separated from the Messiah or “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:12). Instead, they share in the inheritance and the destiny of the whole nation. In keeping with this identity, the God-fearing Messianic Gentile should not hesitate to join the Jewish people in formal prayer.

-ibid
“Declaration of Intent for Messianic Gentiles,” p.47

As a non-Jew in Messianic Jewish territory, you could choose to take this one of two ways. The first is that you could rejoice in your (our) unique role in the Kingdom of Messiah as grafted in Gentiles who had no hope and no belonging until our faith in Messiah brought us alongside Israel in devotion to God and sharers in the blessings of the New Covenant promises. The second is that you could feel pushed away, slighted, or “sent to the back of the bus,” so to speak, as if, as a Gentile, you aren’t worthy of sitting in the front of the synagogue with the Jews. By definition, if the nations of the Gentiles are to be considered vassal, then they serve Israel as well as Israel’s King. The wording Aaron uses could be spun in either direction:

As Messianic Gentiles engage in these prayers, they must not lose sight of their own important and esteemed position as the crowning jewels of the nations. A Messianic Gentile who participates in the prayers and petitions of Israel should thus consciously acknowledge that since he is not legally Jewish, his connection to Israel comes only through King Messiah.

-ibid

That’s where the “declaration of intent” comes in. Aaron has a difficult job as the author of this book in balancing the invitation of Gentiles into Jewish prayer and, at the same time, containing and protecting Jewish identity in Jewish space including in (Messianic) Jewish prayer. It’s our faith in Messiah that binds us and it’s difficult, particularly in egalitarian America, to accept the status of a subordinate or vassal citizen in the Kingdom of Messiah, with Jewish Israel being “large and in charge” of the rest of the world (that means the rest of us).

If you can accept that role as many Messianic Gentiles have done, then the only difficulty you may encounter is adapting your prayer life to the structure and language this book presents (depending on your experience in Jewish prayer up to this point). If you can’t, then you’re going to have a difficult time stumbling over the presuppositions Aaron makes about Jewish and Gentile roles in the Messianic Jewish synagogue.

shabbaton
Aaron Eby

Although I’ve attended Shavuot services and had a Shabbat meal or two at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship, which offers Jewish services and includes Jewish prayer, I’ve not had the pleasure of attending any of First Fruits of Zion’s (FFOZ) Shabbaton events. This would have given me a more personal look at how to use The Sabbath Table prayer book (which, as you read this, I’ll be using tonight for the first time), and thus experience Jewish prayer in the manner Aaron describes.

Although I’ve used a number of siddurs before, including Artscroll’s Sefard Siddur, this coming Shabbat will be a unique experience. I’m somewhat used to making the mental and linguistic adjustments Aaron’s book recommends for Gentiles since the language in traditional siddurs assumes the perspective of a Jewish man, but it’s refreshing to come across material that can be specifically adapted to me as a Messianic Gentile. I still expect to be challenged by the flow of Erev Shabbat prayers, especially since there won’t be anyone else present to emulate.

Aaron’s book devotes a lot of attention to the Shema and Amidah, which you’d expect, and as I mentioned before, I was surprised that these pages weren’t covered with caveats and alternate language for Gentiles, since this is the heart of Jewish prayer. Aaron continues to write for the reader, Jewish or Gentile, who knows little or nothing about Jewish prayer. Standard siddurs, although they contain many notes on a variety of topics, assume a certain amount of prior knowledge by the user. Aaron’s book opens the box, so to speak, and lets the reader look inside the prayers, what they mean, and how they were written.

But while there are few mentions of Jewish/Gentile distinction, they can be found:

Tefillin are a distinct marker of Jewish identity. It is not forbidden for a Messianic Gentile to wear them; however there are some communities in which it would be confusing or even offensive for a non-Jew to do so. It is important that Messianic Gentiles who wear tefillin are sensitive to the message that it communicates and that they conform to community standards; it may be advisable for Messianic Gentiles to avoid wearing them in public venues.

-ibid, p.65

And again…

Tzitziyot serve as a marker of Jewish identity. It is not forbidden for Messianic Gentiles to wear them; however, doing so may cause confusion and offense. It is advisable for Messianic Gentiles who choose to wear them to do so with utter discretion.

-ibid, p.69

Several years ago, for a variety of reasons, I put my tefillin and tallit in a box and shoved the box onto a shelf in the back of my closet. One of the reasons I did so was I became convinced that the part of Aaron’s statement about distinctiveness and Jewish identity is correct. This was filtered through the knowledge and experience of being married to a Jewish wife who had come to the conclusion that having a Gentile/Christian husband dressing up as a Jew was a pretty odd thing to do.

israel_prayingNo, she never mentioned it, but after being married for over thirty years, you pick up a few things about how your wife thinks. To honor her as much as for any other reason, I stopped doing pretty much anything that might appear “Jewish”.

I know Messianic Gentiles, including those within FFOZ and at Beth Immanuel, who wear tzitzit and kippot, and within their personal or community contexts, given Aaron’s words above, that would seem to make sense. In fact, since giving up the practice of wearing a kippah, tallit, and laying tefillin, even in private, I’ve been concerned about some potential “blowback,” even if it’s left unsaid, from some Messianic Gentiles and Jews concerning my non-use of Jewish “particulars”. Identity confusion goes both ways, and I can see how I might seem a little too “light” or “insubstantial” for actually not donning a tallit when I pray.

I wonder if someone like me would be considered offensive in a Messianic synagogue that more or less expected most Gentiles to wear a kippah and tallit, especially since Aaron presents the Shema as acceptable for Gentiles to recite, and especially because one of the customs during the Shema is to grasp the tzitzit together in the left hand?

I think the bottom line as Aaron suggested, is for the Messianic Gentile to adapt their practice based on the standards of their local worship community. Being “community-less” at the moment allows me to do more or less anything based on personal standards, but I’ve still got good reasons for not getting that box out of the closet and opening it up.

But that suggests another option. Many Hebrew Roots individuals and groups not only consider wearing a tallit to be an available option, but even an obligation and their right as grafted-in Gentiles. While I disagree with that opinion, since these people operate within their own communities and those communities have set standards permitting and even commanding Gentile men to wear tallitot, then technically, this part of Aaron’s book is adaptable to their needs.

I also started wondering (and I guess this is a community standard thing) if Gentiles could be considered as part of a minyan in Messianic Jewish synagogues. Aaron didn’t address that topic at all, and yet certain prayers, including Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) require a minyan.

As I said, much of the book was taken up with a detailed description of the Shema and Amidah prayers, but then on page 103, starts an analysis of what most Christians call “The Lord’s Prayer.” Aaron refers to it as “Our Father”.

The Didache contains this prayer in a version that is quite similar to that of Matthew, and it instructs believers to recite it three times a day. From the earliest available records, Christians have used this prayer as part of liturgical worship. Like a majority of traditional Jewish prayers, the first-person pronouns of “Our Father” are plural (“us,” “our”). This suggests that the prayer was intended for corporate liturgical use.

-ibid, p.104

While some scholars have suggested that “Our Father” (the Lord’s Prayer) was meant to take the place of the traditional Jewish prayer service and even contains all of the basic elements of said-service, Aaron believes that it was meant to be included at the end of the Amidah for Messianic Jewish and Gentile believers, particularly because the Didache instructs Gentile disciples to recite it three times a day.

The Didache was a sort of “training manual” for how to teach a non-Jew to become a disciple of the Jewish Messiah. It’s thought to have been originally composed by the Apostles or those close to them. The earliest version may have been in the form of oral instructions that accompanied the well-known Acts 15 “Jerusalem Letter.” This all seems to say that the very earliest Gentile disciples of Messiah practiced Jewish prayer alongside their Jewish teachers and mentors, perhaps well beyond the First Century CE.

The final portion of the book is a sort of “mini-siddur” containing the text, in English and Hebrew, for:

  • I Hereby join
  • Declaration of Intent for Messianic Gentiles
  • Shema
  • Amidah
  • Our Father
  • Prayer for the Restoration of Zion

Aaron even put in a “Suggested Readings” list at the back of the book for those who want to go beyond the “Jewish Prayer 101” level.

Shabbat candlesI know many of us in the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots movements have struggled at one time or another about how to use a siddur, how to adapt it to our faith in Messiah, and how to adapt it for a mixed Jewish/Gentile worship service. Over a decade ago, I regularly worshiped in our local Reform/Conservative synagogue during the time when my children were in Hebrew school, and I had no guide for this sort of thing. I felt pretty awkward.

That sort of dynamic is built-in to a Messianic shul and I think Aaron’s book is at least part of the answer to integrating Jews and Gentiles in a Messianic Jewish prayer service, at least enough to get a lot of people and communities started along the right path.

As I said, it’s not for everyone. If you, as a Gentile, think of yourself as part of “Israel” or a “spiritual Jews” or even espouse a “two-house” theology, then several parts of what Aaron wrote won’t suit you at all. Interestingly enough though, I’d still recommend First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer to just about anyone interested in the topic, because the research and level of description that has gone into the book illuminates the origin, purpose, and meaning of the prayers.

Shabbat Shalom.

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40 thoughts on “A Gentile’s Book Review of “First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer””

  1. The “Our Father”, as you’ve chosen to call it here, is mentioned in passing, if I recall correctly, in one-volume English summary of a larger Hebrew work entitled “The Siddur”, by B.S.Jacobson. Many rabbis of Rav Yeshua’s era would formulate shortened versions of the prayer service for their disciples. In part, this was to illustrate the elements they felt most significant and not to be omitted if one were pressed for time (while fleeing from pursuing Roman legions, for example). Hence Rav Yeshua’s example, offered in response to his disciples’ request, is in keeping with this pattern. It compresses a number of the concepts of the Amidah along with one subsequent prayer into a succinct abbreviated formulation. I doubt that it was ever intended to be added to the standard service to follow the Amidah, not even in place of the Mussaf which also reiterates the Amidah. While it was not originally formulated for non-Jewish use, it is general enough that I could envision non-Jewish disciples using it in place of the traditional Jewish prayer service or in place of the Amidah while participating with Jews in a traditional prayer venue.

    Oops! Candle-lighting time has arrived here in Jerusalem.
    Shabbat Shalom.

  2. @Peter: It’s considered poor form to review a book or any part of it unless you’ve actually read it. It also is inequitable to take a paragraph or phrase out of context and draw conclusions. If you want to be fair and accurate, please read Eby’s book. If you remain critical after having done so, then at least you can write a more morally sustainable book review.

    @PL: Actually it’s Eby who calls it “Our Father,” not me. Shabbat Shalom (still morning in my little corner of the world).

  3. If I had to guess, Aaron just took the first word(s) of the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew ‘Avinu’ as a designation of the prayer. This is pretty typical of prayers in any siddur. The section is referenced by the first word or words of that particular prayer.

  4. Although I have not read the book yet. ‘for obvious reasons.  Aaron has been doing a three week teaching on his book and it’s been really informative and this last week he spent some time going over the “Our Father.” He showed how the tefilah(Amidah) was considered the Keva(Set prayer) and how rabbis of his time would give prayers to tack on to the end of the tefilah, for example the Elohai Netzor prayer. This prayer is just one out of many diferent examples of prayers that the rabbis gave to their disciples. Elohai Netzor is just the one that ended up sticking today as the standard for most siddurim. I found this older article that probably discusses just a small part out of his book, but I thought it might be helpful for some readers that are interested in why Aaron might have chose this interpretation of the Avinu. http://ffoz.org/blogs/2007/02/our_father_as_a_jewish_prayer.html

  5. Thanks for the link, Troy. I think you have the advantage of living with and near people who are a lot more experienced in the Shabbos and other Jewish prayers, so you have more experience than many of my readers, or for that matter, me.

  6. History suggests that Gentiles joining in distinctive Jewish prayer isn’t sustainable for very long; one way and another, we always think we become Israel. And, since there’s way more of “us” than there are of “them” it’s easy to overtake and usurp them, finding various justification to do so.

    Every form of Christianity and non-Christian cult to one degree or another identify as the replacement of Israel or as the “true” Israel. (Mormons are particularly shocking in their beliefs and claim to have restored the priesthood and temple worship).

    Along with varied Ephraimite and Black Hebrew type movements, they all feel the need to magically insert themselves and deny the Jew– it goes together like peanut butter and jelly.

    R. Brumbach points out (“More Than a Greenhouse”) that Jew’s were made for Israel and being outside of the land for 2k years has taken a huge toll. They need an environment to heal, grow and strengthen, and the synagogue has been the only thing that provided such sanctuary. That Jew who believes in Yeshua is in an even more precarious situation– their needs cannot and are not met in church, and their faith in Yeshua is often an insurmountable obstacle in the a traditional synagogue.

    I honestly wish messianic gentiles would be more focused on learning Jewish history than Jewish prayer, which might go a long way to realizing they cannot appropriate their identity, and then trust God and His character enough to realize that isn’t our calling and purpose anyway.

  7. Yes, I’d like to. Lately I’ve been focused on finishing up writing a 4 part class on identity, distinction, calling, and purpose, and the character of God; the thing that is always ignored in these identity dramas. 🙂

  8. Maybe such an extreme statement, the one about conquered subjects, is meant to crowd out any sense of Jews being conquered; just a thought. But it also reminds me of the interpretation for the people of Israel going INTO Israel, the land for the full culture — the interpretation that they weren’t commanded to attack with force. But it also reminds me of views about the Millennium, that there might be nations that are defeated or subjugated but survive (or individuals from such nations). All of these may be interesting, if not derived from Bible understanding for today in time or from social understanding of current society.

    A fourth concept comes to mind: The fear of God/YHWY is the beginning of wisdom. While Jews or Israel are not God, the God revealed through Israel is God. And there is wisdom in the human sense of fear being placed in the care of this God. This is a beginning. It would be very important to differentiate fear of God and fear of men/people or a social structure (which can be extended to a more overarching legal structure, again which could be preferable), though. Even with all these considerations, I’m still uncomfortable with the wording because of the message it can send to real living-breathing families and children.

  9. Marleen, I think you’ll get a pretty good view of what Eby means by reading my review of one of D. Thomas Lancaster’s sermons in his “Hebrews” series. When reading in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 how the New Covenant is made (just) with the houses of Judah and Israel, it’s easy to get stuck as to how the rest of the nations of the world fit in, since Gentiles, even disciples of Messiah, don’t seem to be included. The ruling state/vassal nation model is a way to define the relationship and how we benefit from the blessings of the “agreement” we have with Israel and God through Messiah.

  10. A ruling nation or commonwealth I accept just fine. As you indicate, that’s more along the line of an “agreement” where true believers in the Messiah are concerned. Not “conquering.”

    I will check out the review you suggest though.

  11. I’m specifically thinking of Mishneh Torah, Sefer Ahavah, Hilchot Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim, Chapter 8, Halacha 4:

    “What is implied by [the term,] communal prayer? One [person] prays aloud and all [the others] listen. This should not be done with fewer than ten adult free males. The leader of the congregation is [counted as] one of them.
    Even if some of them have already prayed and fulfilled their obligation, they can complete the [quorum of] ten provided the majority of the ten have not prayed.
    Similarly, we should not recite Kedushah, read the Torah with its blessings before and after it, or read the haftorah from the Prophets except in [a quorum of] ten.”

  12. @Marleen: I think that your “softer” interpretation of the concept of the Gentile nations being vassal nations is probably the better one.

    @Yahnatan: Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve read through the entire book but didn’t call out that particular section.

    @Peter: This is what I meant when I said that it’s rather poor form to “review” a book without having read it. I noticed on your blog that Judah spoke (wrote) well of Aaron, so on top of what I said, judging a person you have never met and do not know may not be the wisest course of action. At least read Aaron’s book before drawing any conclusions. You may find something of value in it.

  13. James,

    I didn’t review his book. I stated my reaction to a paragraph in his book. Big difference.

    If I do ever decide to review the book, I’ll let you know. However, I have no plans of giving money to that organization.

  14. Peter, it’s true that I would never spend my hard earned cash on books written by Tim Hegg or J.K. McKee, so I anticipated your response. I did, however, read one of McKee’s books cover-to-cover before I reviewed it, so at least I didn’t take a single paragraph out of context and render an opinion of it. Even when we disagree with each other, we have certain duties as disciples of Messiah related to how we speak of each other and by what standards we judge. That’s all I’m saying.

  15. James,

    RE: “Even when we disagree with each other, we have certain duties as disciples of Messiah related to how we speak of each other and by what standards we judge.”

    That’s very vague. What standard–specifically–do you think I violated?

    You quote single paragraphs all the time. Does that constitute “taking it out of context”? Are we supposed to quote the entire book in which a paragraph appears?

    I would love to hear you articulate the SPECIFIC principle you think I violated.

    And, furthermore, McKee and Hegg NEVER once called you a follower of Korach—and impliedly said that your whole family should be swallowed up by the earth. But you know who did say that? Boaz Michael. THAT’S why I wouldn’t patronize his organization.

    By the way, does Boaz violate any standards when he says that One Law Messianics are like followers of Korach?

    It’s ironic that when FFOZ says evil things against One Law Messianics you say nothing; but the minute I express how I feel about the garbage they say about my family then suddenly I’M the one who is acting inappropriately.

  16. You seem to be taking my book review way too seriously, Peter.

    I can hardly say I’m perfect, but the Messiah did give one new commandment:

    “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

    John 13:34

    In general though, it’s usually a good idea to get your ducks in a row before commenting on someone else’s motivations, especially if they are derived from a single paragraph in someone else’s book review. Beyond what I’ve quoted above (and again, I’m hardly perfect at this, but I continue to make an effort), I think it behooves us to “play fair,” even when we think the other guy isn’t. I don’t doubt you feel you have your reasons for disliking Boaz Michael in particular and FFOZ in general, but you’ve never even met Aaron. On your blog (I know I’m repeating myself), Judah said he had and he portrays Aaron in a pretty good light.

    Regarding Hegg and McKee, I don’t dislike either of these people. I’ve met Hegg on a number of occasions and even spent Erev Shabbat in his home with his family, then worshiped at his congregation the next day (this was quite a few years ago). I was treated kindly and with respect, so I have nothing against him as an individual. I simply have come to a place where I don’t agree with him theologically, hence I’m likely not going to purchase his materials (I’d love to buy every book in the world, but my wife takes a dim view of me running up our VISA bill — by the way, that’s a joke).

    I can get bent out of shape on occasion (and sometimes more than just on occasion), but when I take a step back from my feelings, I realize the only person who can hurt me is me, or rather, my choice as to how I interpret a person or a situation. I’ll probably go off half-cocked in the future, but fortunately, I have a few friends who know when to step in and provide me with perspective.

    I hope you find your’s Peter.

  17. James,

    If Boaz Michael and Aaron Eby are nice and polite in person, does that mean they get to say whatever they want and no one is allowed to ever question it?

    My only crime here is that I had the audacity to question the teachings of Eby and Michael.

  18. I think you’re taking this way too personally, Peter. No one accused you of a crime. You seem to be pretty handy at criticizing others but when you are the one receiving some criticism, not so much. It’s a human trait. I’m guilty of it as well. The hazards of blogging.

  19. So, I listened to the recording — I think that would be listened again (not totally sure if I listened before, but I know I’ve been through that meditation in some form or fashion and that it seems to be from around the time I first started reading here). After listening, I thought someone has some loose parts rattling around to say that shows some basis for what we are discussing. But I toughed it out and read your writing all the way through. Here is a time you seriously departed from what Lancaster was saying (as you said so yourself). I take it you and Eby and others disagree with Lancaster in quite a significant way.

    You and Aaron Eby are on the wavelength of my first statement (first line), but are “all out” as in an us or them kind of mode. Your comparison to Life of Pi was helpful for at least what you might want or think Eby’s meaning to be. And you may know Eby. Certainly, you have read the whole prayer “101” book (to know if there is further elucidation) while I have not. And those of us reading your review or meditation might not have enough context to go on. But Pi is not quite a parallel for his wording (certainly a better fit, however, than with what Lancaster said; the particular scene of Pi you access is a VERY GOOD choice of imagery for this).

    Lancaster wasn’t on the topic at all, the topic of the conquering concept put forward in Eby’s prayer book. That is unless the people submitting (or reading the book) are of an extreme nature: coming from and buying into either a highly charged dominating arrogance of a religion (which sure is possible even with churches that say they are pro-Israel), or from and into a life that seems more clearly identified with the Prince of Darkness (say a pimp, a concentration camp guard, a Satan or pagan god worshipper, pedophile, predatory preacher). And that would be me reading into it, as you know.

    Here’s the thing. I get what you’re saying. And I very much identify with what you’re saying. But stating it in an aid for anyone — to worship — as if every single gentile fits this characterisation and every single gentile should be approached and viewed this way and view himself this way, like he is the same as a pagan nation or perverse ecclesia impersonator, is wrong (which is not meant to detract from importance in everyone’s honest self/institutional evaluation). But maybe Eby is self-selecting for attendees who want to venture over, as on a field trip or engaging toward a hobby, and are willing to play by these rules. These rules are not truly definitional but can be for his purposes.

  20. Marleen, I rather doubt Aaron is suggesting that all Gentiles who are believers approach prayer as his book describes. It’s more for those of us who are drawn that way anyway but don’t know what we’re doing. I’ve been praying using Aaron’s book for the past two days and it’s familiar and unfamiliar to me at the same time. A lot of it has to do with how Aaron’s translation of the prayers differs somewhat from the Artscroll Sefard siddur, with which I’m more familiar. That said, there are subtle wording differences that are specifically tailored for the Gentile praying an essentially Jewish prayer, so this morning I split the difference and used both siddurim for different parts of my prayers.

  21. I’m not so daft as to think Aaron is suggesting that all gentiles who are believers do or should approach prayer in accordance with any siddur (whether due to confusion before ever reading here — which isn’t the only way to have a clue about things Messianic — or due to being especially slow to catch on to niche material [a sub category within a specialization] after reading for over half a year). Of the people who are drawn that way, I think it’s pretty obvious there are different kinds of people [maybe that’s not so obvious to everybody and some think to the last person they’re all either wannabes or condescending and thus can “convert” or forever hold their peace]; beyond the [to me] obvious variation or difference in motive, there can be additional self-selection. And either that’s what Aaron wants to do or disrespectful people in this regard are all he’s ever seen (and he wants to put as many as possible of them in their place). In other words, Aaron’s way or the way he is portraying those so drawn is not the only way to be drawn “that way.” But it would simplify things for leaders of a group of people to have a couple of categories to juggle. Jews v Subjects. It would be advisable to keep such a publication “in-house.”

  22. I’m going to go out on limb here to say Korah’s rebellion was either a crime or as close as one can get to such, and kind of a difference without distinction [or a distinction with the meaning being that it is worse than a crime] if the penalty is annihilation of a family (or would be in the coming Kingdom or was in the dessert).

    Note: I wrote, days ago, the four paragraphs posted at nine-thirty today. The post was my take on the subject matter before reading a lot of the comments herein. This present post, however, is commenting on what a person can say when accused of or characterized by something so extreme. “Sticks and stones….” really?

  23. Instead of talking about Aaron, why don’t you all just talk to him. He is on Facebook and I’m sure he would respond to an IM.

  24. I’ve been out-of-the-loop for a few days, tending to some family medical matters, so I found it difficult to pick up the thread of the discussion here until I read Peter’s link and the paragraph he quoted from Eby’s introduction. While the concept of a vassal state may seem somewhat appropriate on a technical level, I’m not convinced that it doesn’t evoke some inaccurate images from less-than-pleasant episodes of human history, It is these not-so-benign images that tend to evoke rebellious feelings against injustice, because human history does not yet contain any positively beneficial examples of a kingdom or an empire in which such a political structure was not oppressive or demeaning to the so-called vassals. There are some more modern examples of “protectorate” states associated with a democratic superpower that fare a bit better, because they can manage themselves autonomously and can even choose to become independent, though it is expected that they would remain “associates” of the nation that was formerly their “protector”.

    But what do we expect life might be like under the rule of a worldwide messiah-king who is, at least technically, an absolute monarch? How much difference might we see between the socio-economic levels of the “associate” nations and those of the monarchial nation? Would there be any difference in political liberties or civic responsibilities? Or would differences be merely cultural? While a general amity might prevail as the “wolf would lie down with the lamb”, and “the toddler could play by the adder’s den” without fear of harm, and peaceful coexistence would be the general background, might various nations still compete with each other to demonstrate that they could develop improved living standards for their local populations, and trade with each other to exchange the benefits of technologies and products that they develop? Keep in mind that the early stages of the millennial messianic kingdom will need to be characterized by a great deal of reconstruction because of the prior warfare that preceded the establishment of the kingdom. And some sort of “united nations” congressional or parliamentary political mechanism will be needed to coordinate numerous activities among these nations. Might we see the Messiah functioning similarly to a Prime Minister under the auspices of HaShem as High King? Such political details remain TBD.

    Setting such political speculations aside, if we, at present, endeavor to anticipate the conditions of that kingdom, particularly its social structures, how do we envision the process of assimilating kingdom principles and practices that include those which correlate with those of the Jewish nation that was designated as an example of interactions with HaShem as the High King? If non-Jews are to emulate the exemplary patterns that Jews have developed to a high art, without completely submerging their own identities, how may they accomplish it? The Jewish siddur compiles prayers which reflect the best of Jewish attitudes and outlook as a continual refreshment of Jewish minds with Jewish thinking. A siddur for non-Jews would seem to need to accomplish a similar task for the renewing of the minds and hearts of non-Jews with correspondingly appropriate attitudes and outlook. While much of this might be expected to be similar to Jewish views, since uprightness and godliness in general under the One G-d should be expected to be somewhat universal, its formulations cannot be entirely identical. Hence numerous biblical viewpoints expressed in the Jewish siddur should be expected to be reformulated for non-Jewish expression. This, I believe, has been the goal of the FFOZ efforts reflected in their publications for “The Sabbath Table” and in the “First Steps…” book that James has reviewed here. If we approach them as tools for the assimilation of kingdom viewpoints rather than as some oppressive religious hegemony, I don’t think we should see the rebellious reactions hat have been suggested in the discussion here.

  25. @Marleen: No, I don’t think you’re “daft”. Sometimes it is difficult for me to derive the central theme from some of your comments, so I apologize if I missed it this time.

    @Steve: I post links to my blog posts on Facebook and Google+ regularly, so it’s not as if Aaron isn’t aware of them. I’m writing a book review, which doesn’t usually require a direct conversation with the author, although he’s free to join in of course.

    @PL: I think, as you say, the image of “vassal nations” relative to Messianic Israel has been taken in a negative light based on human history to date. But how much better will it be to serve King Messiah in a world of perfect justice than any other king who came before?

  26. Rebellion… toward Aaron Eby [and his posse]. Now that’s funny.

    Something can seem well intentioned until….

    Those who don’t want to act conquered by Aaron Eby’s congregation (eh, partial congregation) are supposedly those who won’t want to be subjects in the kingdom of Messiah. Sigh.

    Like I said, I don’t know what kind of people Aaron encounters where he lives (at some point in my reading here, it seemed like there was some podunk town in the boonies involved where people can be pretty full of themselves because they have a gun cabinet or something). When the same attitudes that might be needed to tame his congregants are generalized, the resemblance to reason goes away.

  27. I said it a different way before, so I don’t mean to say this is exactly what I had in mind earlier. There can be a mixture of motives of people within one congregation in my experience. But maybe something of a wild west (if only just barely past the gateway to the west) comparison can help in understanding. I get that some people do need to be tamed.

  28. Hello, I have only recently come to discover your blog through common acquaintances Ryan and Veronica. I am a God-fearing Gentile and have been on the path of discovering a more Hebrew foundation to my faith for only a little over a year. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit has been a true guide, as I knew no-one else on this path locally until this last fall when I was invited to a Succot meal here in Nampa. My heart was dancing with the fellowship I discovered. My family have been highly fearful of the direction my faith has taken me, so finding like spirited living beings is a joy (as apposed to on-line services and contacts).
    I enjoyed your review of Aaron Eby’s book. I have been including his version of the prayers along with Morning Blessings and Bedtime Shema, from a Women’s Siddur, as a daily practice and have seen such an improvement in my thought life from which flow my actions. Yay!
    I enjoy your blogs as they hit my in-box and, as time allows, read through the archived ones.
    I, too, struggle with how to live as a God-fearing Gentile. I have almost finished reading Lancaster’s “Galatians”, have just begun the study HaYesod, from FFOZ and have a stack of books that are calling to me. Thank you so much for exposing your heart and journey. It is appreciated.

  29. Thank you so much for this review. I recently discovered your blog and was delighted when I saw it. I take classes at a local Messianic Jewish congregation and looked at this book just tonight. Definitely going to buy it!

    I appreciate reading about your journey. I’ve been struggling to figure out where I, as a Gentile believer in Israel’s Messiah, well…fit (for want of a better term) in the Kingdom. Your meditations are giving me good perspectives on that and many other things. Thank you.

  30. You’re welcome, Lora. Glad you enjoyed the review. There are a lot of us trying to figure where we fit into this particular paradigm and for the present, there may be no one right answer that fits all non-Jewish devotees of Rav Yeshua. I am confident however, that Hashem is with us all each step of the way.

    Blessings.

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