With Pesach beginning this Friday, April 3rd at sundown, I thought I’d interrupt my reviews of Pastor Chris Jackson‘s book Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church, and say something about how I’m experiencing the approach of Passover and Easter this year.
Last year, I called the association of Easter and Passover a collision, although I did urge Hebrew Roots and Messianic people not to throw Christianity under a bus for celebrating Easter as their most Holy day.
However, this year, I’m getting nervous. No, I’m not feeling anxiety about Passover or even Easter, but about how the status of the state of Israel is changing. A few days ago, The Jewish Press published an op-ed piece called “Obama Declares War on Israel”. Unfortunately, they’re not wrong. American President Barack Obama’s negative attitude toward Benjamin Netanyahu and his recent victory in winning the election in Israel, coupled with Obama’s disastrous policies toward a near-nuclear Iran, indicate that the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is at its weakest point ever.
We are about to join the ranks of those nations who are enemies of Israel, and we know from scripture that all the nations that will go up against Israel in war will be defeated by God, and their survivors will be compelled to pay homage to Israel and her King.
On a much smaller scale, I read a story about some comedian named Trevor Noah, who is taking over Jon Stewart’s job as host of “The Daily Show”, making a number of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel “tweets” on twitter.
Here’s two of his more vitriolic tweets:
Almost bumped a Jewish kid crossing the road. He didn’t look b4 crossing but I still would hav felt so bad in my german car!
South Africans know how to recycle like Israel knows how to be peaceful.
Fortunately, according to the story, he suffered a strong and immediate backlash for his comments. However, his tweet in response was hardly repentant:
To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn’t land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian.
So far, I don’t find him particularly funny.
I’m just listing two examples of a much wider body of information indicating how the world is continually turning away from the nation of Israel and is being willing to victimize Jewish people up to and including murder. Even American Vice President Joe Biden publicly admitted that Jews in this country can only rely on Israel and not on the U.S. As anti-Semitism continues to rise in our nation, are we going to start looking like Europe in how we treat our Jewish citizens?
It may not be too soon for American and European Jews to start making Aliyah. That gives the statement “Next Year in Jerusalem,” which we say at the conclusion of every Seder, a new and poignant meaning.
Yesterday, Derek Leman posted (or re-posted) a blog called Passover, Resurrection, Constantine which is a fabulous history of how Easter came to be in the Christian religious calendar.
In the second century, the congregations of Yeshua-believers were dissociating themselves from Jewish origins. Ignatius of Antioch famously said, “It is monstrous to talk of Christ and practice Judaism” (Letter to the Magnesians 10:3). The Jews had been in two wars with Rome (66-70 and 130-132 CE). Yeshua-believers, who had originally been seen as a sect of Judaism, had originally been protected under Roman law — free from obligation to show devotions to Roman gods and Caesars under the Jewish exemption — by being regarded as Jews and proselytes to Judaism. Now being Jewish carried with it the worst social stigma possible in Roman society.
But a controversy arose between the main congregations and some Asian bishops (the Roman province of Asia, in modern Turkey). Specifically Polycrates, claiming to be keeping up the practice handed down to him from Polycarp, kept a fast (vigil) until the 14th day of the month (apparently the Jewish month, Nisan) and then held a feast (likely a Passover Seder). But the other congregations at this point held a vigil on Saturday followed by a feast on Easter Sunday. The people in this dispute like Polycrates, who kept their feast on the 14th day, were called Quartodecimanists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartodecimanism).
They were some of the last hold-outs, Yeshua-followers who kept some of the Jewish customs of the early believers. There would be philo-Semitic (Jewish friendly) Christians well into the fifth century (as Chrysostom preached sermons against them). But in the second century such friendliness with Judaism was already well on its way to being considered a departure from true faith.
I think we still suffer under the legacy of those days and, even in the secular world, Jews and Judaism have historically endured the disfavor and displeasure of the people of the nations (to put it mildly).
Recently, the Sojourning with Jews blog posted a missive called One New Man-ity challenging the traditional Christian belief that God’s “Old Testament” particularity toward Israel was replaced by a “New Testament” universalism that exchanged the Jewish people for the Church. As a non-Jewish wife married to a Jewish husband, she defines the Gentile role in relation to the Jewish people thus:
God also says He will discipline His people and that they will be scattered out of the land and suffer terribly from the nations for a very long time. They will “dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar….” But “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.” Hosea 3:4-5. Other places say He will rescue Jacob from “hands that were too strong for him.” I juxtapose that with Jesus saying his followers are to love and care for even the least of his brothers and so, I see that I have a calling of my own and the overarching purpose is to love God, and my neighbor as myself.
According to the historical record, if all Christians had understood this, there would have been more to stand in-between the Jews, and the nations that repeatedly sought their blood.
As far as I’m concerned, she is definitely “preaching to the choir.”
Passover and the Week of Unleavened Bread commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from under the harsh slavery of Egypt and God, through Moses, leading His nation to Sinai to establish them as the head of the nations, giving them His Torah.
In his commentary on Passover this year, Rabbi Kalman Packouz says:
People think they are free when they throw off the yoke of the Torah. However, unless one has the revealed wisdom of the Torah, he is at risk at becoming a “slave” to the fads and fashion of his society. Slavery is non-thinking action, rote behavior, following the impulse desires of the body. Our job on Pesach is to come out of slavery into true freedom and to develop a closer relationship with the Almighty!
What has kept the Jewish people free and united them as a people for over 3,500 years when an entire world continually tries to destroy them, is cleaving to God’s Torah and maintaining their Covenant distinctiveness from the nations around them.
Passover, for the Jewish people, is a time to celebrate freedom, not just from slavery and tyranny, but from the spectre of annihilation, assimilation, and dissolution.
Several days ago, my wife and I were discussing the sad state of America and how our President seems all too willing to throw Israel to Iranian wolves. In a fit of pique, she said she’d consider giving up on the U.S. and making Aliyah.
A momentary surge of joy welled up in me at the thought, but I realize she wasn’t making a serious suggestion. According to my spouse, Israel is looking for younger families to make Aliyah, not a couple approaching retirement.
But this made me realize that while I would hate leaving my children, my grandchildren, and my parents behind, it’s more important to me to support the Jewish nation and the Land of Promise than to tolerate my own country, which seems to be in a moral and ethical nosedive destined to crash and burn at the conscience of the King.
The weight of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic hate weighs heavily upon my shoulders as I contemplate this year’s seder, just a day away as you read this (and as I consider Easter as well). But if I have faith in God at all, then I know what He has promised Israel, to be the head of all the nations, to be a Land of everlasting peace and prosperity, will come to pass. And not all the Barack Obamas, Trevor Noahs, or anyone else can stop Him from ushering in the Messianic Era and blessing the Jewish nation of Israel.
At my family Seder tomorrow night, when we all declare “Next Year in Jerusalem,” may that “next year” come soon. May it come soon for all Jews living in the diaspora and for all those who love them.
Freedom is the responsibility to fill our lives with meaning.
-Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf