Jerusalem

Next Year in Jerusalem

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.

burning star of davidIt’s not just President Obama who has declared war on Israel and the Jewish people, it’s the entire world.

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!

passoverWhat 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

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25 thoughts on “Next Year in Jerusalem”

  1. The Trevor Noah guy is a bad choice; I can’t imagine how they came up with it as viable except that the time slot might be in less favor right now. That same guy has done, in addition to the anti-Semitic comments, “fat” jokes and jokes at the expense of women generally. I think there were other examples too. Lots of people were unhappy.

    As for Constantine, I’ve been avoiding saying his name since you retorted to me you were tired of hearing about him.

    But if Derek Lehman does it…

  2. It’s heartbreaking to see where things are going. The Middle East is destabilizing even further and the rest of the world is slipping into this horrible mindset.

    I saw this when I woke up. A jewish kindergarten in Belgium has been denied insurance because they consider the risk of attacks too great. A kindergarten. Really. http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/.premium-1.650072

    It’s disheartening to watch, but I found great hope in what you wrote. Your view that Gentiles are there to support the jewish people in this transition rings true to me and I look to do my part…

    William

  3. Amen! While it is certainly true that Israel wishes to attract young Jews and Jewish families, it is also true that a society requires the full range of demographic diversity to achieve its full strength. Even those who come to Israel in retirement bring with them resources of experience from which to contribute. Some of us (like me) even serve in security support roles as armed uniformed volunteers with the police. Others work in or volunteer in hospitals. Some find entire new careers open to them for as many years of strength remain to them. If your wife is at all interested in exploring aliyah, she should not let age deter her. Who knows but that your presence in Israel might place the notion also into the heads of your children, and bring them closer to their heritage which at present may feel foreign to them?

    ‘Hag Pesa’h Samea’h v’Kasher!

  4. @Marleen: I agree putting Noah in a highly popular comedy show just gives this anti-Semite a venue to spew his vile comments.

    @William: I also just read the latest about Anti-Semitism in the Netherlands.

    @PL: I don’t think it was a serious suggestion on her part. More like an outburst of frustration at our current Presidential administration. On the other hand, who knows? I’ll take it one day at a time.

    ‘Hag Pesa’h Samea’h v’Kasher!

  5. @Marleen — Derek only rarely mentions Constantine or any others of a number of “bad guys” like Chrysostom or Ignatius, and only in the context of reviewing or teaching some history. He doesn’t, and we don’t, need to bash these fools continually, until folks are tired of hearing their names. At least when we remember to blot out Haman’s name (boo!, hiss!) at Purim we’ve got noisemakers in hand and we’re formally prepared to do so. You needn’t imply that James is granting Derek some sort of preferential treatment, either for not complaining that he mentioned such a name, or for (heaven forfend!) quoting a portion of his presentation that does so.

    “Hag Samea’h

  6. You all might want to read Emuna Braverman’s brief commentary on Passover called “Next Year in Jerusalem” at Aish.com. She says that the Passover seder takes one from slavery to freedom. She also mentions that “Next year in Jerusalem” is the desire not just to celebrate Passover in the hear-and-now city, but also in a spiritual Jerusalem that includes Temple and Messiah. Saying those last words on seder night, is a “fervent prayer for the fulfillment of this Messianic dream…”

    I doubt Ms. Braverman is speaking to the context discussed in my blog post or the accompanying comments, but in reading her article, there certainly seems to be a demonstrable connection between Passover and Messiah. Perhaps we should see this symbol of hope in the Gospel rendition of the death of the Master as well.

  7. First, PL, I don’t think it should be “rare” that we mention these bad guys or fools, because the history is quite relevant in preference to just saying, “No, I just disagree with you,” and “no, you shut up.”

    Secondly, even though it shouldn’t be rare, I hadn’t been bashing continually and out of context as you imply. It did dawn on me after posting that someone would take it that way, and not be realistic.

  8. That’s a shocking story, William, given that I tell d to be shocked all over again even when I’ve already seen what jerks people can be. That Belgium insurance decision (which we can hope will be overturned) is an example of mindsets based on the market (and religion). Instead, western societies that take pride in being any kind of pluralistic culture (or secular) should be committed to protecting everyone in peace (as was alluded to in the Netherlands article from James) and to regulations that don’t allow this kind of hateful discrimination.

  9. @James, that is an interesting perspective, that, “next year in Jerusalem,” is also a yearning for the Messianic kingdom. I always assumed it was about the desire to return to the land and rebuild the temple. We have already been informed that ALL the nations where the Jewish people have been scattered will turn against us and go to fight against Jerusalem, and God will destroy them. This flies in the face of those who believe prayer and political activism will save the US, or anybody else. Jer. 30:11. What could be more clear? When does ALL not mean ALL?

    I think one problem is Jews living in so far comfortable diaspora homes do not think of ourselves as being scattered. After all, my own family was exiled from Eastern Europe and Iran, not Israel, as any physical connection to the land was 2,000+ years ago. Retired persons do make aliyah, and there is info on one of the aliyah sites that explains how this is done. Maybe others in your family would do the same?

    One thing we can clearly see is that Jew hatred is moving back toward acceptability and mainstream acceptance. All it is going to take is Israel doing something that creates backlash in our world to light the match on this simmering fire, and law enforcement will reply with minimal intervention.

    There is an issue with the SWJ perspective, in that the nations that persecuted and slaughtered Jews were Christian nations, with government and church in an unholy alliance. Historically, Christianity had to define itself as, “not Jewish,” in order to make a name for itself that it would not be blotted out from under the heavens.

  10. The return to the Land and rebuilding the Temple are all part and parcel of a yearning for the Messianic Kingdom, Chaya.

    As far as Jewish people being comfortable in the diaspora, that seems to be getting less and less true and anti-Semitism is sharply rising everywhere, even in America. Ironically, as the nations, one by one, turn against the nation of Israel, the only relatively safe place for any Jew will be in Israel. The Jewish people will have to gather together as one and fight their enemies or perish in the lands that hate them. We do know that God will fight for Israel, as you say, and destroy her enemies. The course is clear for the Jewish people. For those Gentiles who claim to love Jews and Israel, they’d better get on board quick.

  11. The idea of all nations being against Israel isn’t the same as all individuals being so. But it looks like ALL U.S. presidents are, if a two-state “solution” is by definition anti-Semitic. Meanwhile, people in for instance Yemen can be heard complaining about what Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and Israel (together) are doing to them.

  12. I don’t get political very often because…well, nobody likes my politics. But this President and how he’s interacted with Israel…sickens me.

    I listened to a radio program today hosted by Dr. Michael Brown (I don’t agree with him on everything by any means, but he’s a good listen from time to time) and he was talking about the rise of anti-Semitism in relation to ISIS using social media to draw out western Muslims. And my heart just sank. I wonder where are the churches are? I wonder, where is the collective voice of Gentiles saved by the Jewish Messiah?

    Then I got irritated. There probably isn’t much outcry against anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism because of this junk about the church replacing Israel. Lord, help us.

  13. @Marleen: Every U.S. President has been trying to negotiate the “Two-State Solution” since the idea first came up. They all failed because the Arabs don’t want two states, they want to eradicate Israel and establish the “one-state solution:” Palestine. That’s why I support Caroline Glick’s One State Solution: Israel. Annex Judah and Samaria.

    @Marie: At work, I sometimes talk to a co-worker who is a Christian and who is remarkably supportive of a world ruled by a Jewish King, or should I say, the Jewish King. But to answer your question about “where are the churches,” many of them are becoming increasingly “progressive” and secular, and adopting the values of the world under a thin layer of “Biblical interpretation.” The history of the church has been largely anti-Semitic and only after the Holocaust did churches take a different stance about Jews, Judaism, and Israel. However, the church’s attitude, like the rest of the world’s, is returning to anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments. When the Messiah returns, will he still find faith in the churches or will there be only a small remnant remaining?

    @Peter:

    “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…”

    Jeremiah 31:31 (NASB) (emph. mine)

    All of God’s New Covenant promises (and there are a lot of them) are made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In modern times, that translates into the Jewish people and national Israel. Gentiles are able to come alongside the Jewish people and benefit from the blessings of many of those promises (the resurrection, the receiving of the Holy Spirit in fullness), however there is only one head nation in the world whose King is Messiah:

    For thus says the LORD, “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, And shout among the chief of the nations; Proclaim, give praise and say, ‘O LORD, save Your people, The remnant of Israel.'”

    Jeremiah 31:7

    Also consider:

    The Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully…

    Deuteronomy 28:13

    This is also why I think one of the primary roles of the “Messianic Gentile” is to support and encourage increased Jewish Torah observance, since God links such observance among Jews to their ascendancy as a nation.

    I have no trouble at all being a subject of King Messiah residing in a vassal nation.

    In the Star Trek episode “Space Seed,” Kahn (Ricardo Montalban) famously quotes from Milton’s “Paradise Lost:”

    It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven.

    I believe the exact opposite. It is better to serve the King and to honor the head of the nations than to attempt to usurp those who are rightfully Israel.

  14. I just read this:

    Just before Purim, a non-Jewish woman asked me about the holiday. After I explained a little bit about Haman and his plan, she asked, “so Hitler wasn’t the first?” They really have no idea.

    We read in the Haggadah, “for not only one has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hands.”

    -Rabbi Yaakov Menken
    “Not Just Once”
    Project Genesis

    Rabbi Menken writes about the same deep concerns I have for Israel’s continued existence in the face of a nuclear Iran and the western nations that continue to negotiate with this irrational and genocidal people who are dedicated to “wiping Israel off the map.”

    In every generation people and nations rise against Israel to destroy her. Our generation is no different and I fear it will be the worst.

  15. Boy, I don’t think it is a good idea to have all the worlds Jews in one location. Jacob divided his family before encountering Esau. Not a bad idea in my mind.

  16. “Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you,” Zechariah 2:11

    In that day, James, the nations will no longer be separate peoples but will think of themselves as a single People–i.e. a single family. And what is G-d’s family if not Israel?

    There is where Bilateral Ecclesiology (or “Dual Family” Theology) utterly fails. It says to Gentiles, “You are excluded from the family.”

    Scripture says otherwise.

  17. @Steve: The Bible speaks of a day when Messiah will bring all the Jewish exiles back to the Land of Israel. So someday, they will all be gathered in one place. God also promised that “Each of them will sit under his vine And under his fig tree, With no one to make them afraid, For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:4)

    @Peter: Amos 9:12 says there will be a remnant from among the “nations who are called by My name.” Yes, we are His people, we are called by His Name, and no, that does not create a fused identity between Jews and Gentiles nor make the people of the nations literally Israel.

    Even in families there are hierarchies. No one says the children are the same as the father. No one says the Levite is the same as the High Priest. And while Galatians 3:28 attests to Jews and Gentiles having equal access to God’s love and blessings, equality does not mean uniformity. Yes, Jews and faithful Gentiles will co-exist in the world in peace and no doubt some Gentiles will actually live in Israel, but that doesn’t make those Gentiles Jewish. Israel is the Jewish nation.

  18. I love that verse Micah 4:4. There is a third category, I believe, that of those descended from the Jewish people who have had that identity stripped from them or it has been lost. I was just thinking about the 14th century slaughter of the entire Jewish population of Basel, 600 people, where they were taken to an island, locked into a specially designed for them wooden hut and burned to death. The children were baptized and raised as Christians. Surely their descendants are alive on this earth somewhere, unaware of their identity? That doesn’t follow that every person who finds themselves attracted to Jewish stuff or torah is a lost Jew, but some may be. I read an article where a rabbi mentioned that, in several instances, persons who were involved in conversion discovered that they had Jewish ancestry during the process, and their was a blog, that I don’t believe is around any longer, where a Dominican convert from Catholicism, now an Orthodox Jew married to a rabbi, learned following her conversion that she had Jewish, converso ancestry. This also doesn’t validate the current practice of anyone who has Hispanic ancestry considering themselves conversos without evidence.

  19. Chaya, I’m not sure how all that’s going to work out. I heard one Jewish commentary some time ago that said the descendants of those Jews who assimilated hundreds of years ago would be considered Gentiles when the Messiah comes (returns) and not counted among Israel. I dunno. Certainly one’s ancient ancestry is not hidden from God but who is to say how He will enact the return of the exiles to their Land?

  20. Funny that Chaya would say what she said about possible ancestors being Jewish. I had read a story about a woman that wanted to convert very badly and when she was refused she went into a deep depression. The Rabbi recanted and said let her convert. She is probably a Jewish neshama from the shoah that didn’t get to live out their life. I am not saying I agree with that Rabbi, but, sometimes, when listening to a Torah study on youtube etc…I feel homesick. Strange, isn’t it? In my meandering thoughts I wonder, “Do I have a Jewish soul? Ah, silly, you have a Jewish Messiah and He gives you a Jewish soul.” Perhaps not, but I do wish His Kingdom would come, desperately so.
    Chag Sameach!

  21. James,

    James, I would love nothing more than for you to understand the contradiction in what you wrote. You intimated (and correct me if I’m misunderstanding you) that Gentiles are included in the family and yet excluded from the nation. But nation is family! : )

    Your nation is the what you would fight for if it is attacked. Would you fight for Jerusalem/Israel? Your nation is where your allegiance lies. Would you as an American go to war with Jerusalem/Israel? Or does your allegiance to the latter prevent you from doing so?

  22. Good Morning, Peter.

    I disagree, but you knew I would. I have a family and I’m a citizen of a nation but the two aren’t the same. I have a wife, but not all American women are my wife, or my sister, or my mother. However, I do share citizenship with every other American which grants us all certain national rights and responsibilities.

    You might want to read today’s morning meditation as it describes quite well why the two of us are always going to disagree. Cheers.

  23. Following the exodus from Egypt, it appeared that each person had their eyes opened to what tribe they were from, what clan, what family. Surely much of this had been lost in the years of slavery. God certainly knows each person’s ancestry and is able to reveal it at the right time. @Peter, the firstborn has special privileges and responsibilities, even though all children are members of the family and receive an inheritance. @Steve, when God leads a people to a place, he keeps safe all those designed to remain on the earth for that time. When the Jewish people leave their diaspora nations, God’s restraint upon the nations for their wickedness leaves with them, and his protection resides upon Israel.

    @Steve: While Jacob acted according to human wisdom, he forgot God’s promise to his progeny. May we no longer fear the Esaus, or anyone else.

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