She Goes to Synagogue and He Does the Lawn Work

The Jewish people in the land of Egypt had sunk to the lowest possible level of impurity — so much so that it was nearly impossible to distinguish between Jew and gentile. And then, suddenly, Hashem pulled them out from beneath all their impurity, and they were free — ready for a new beginning and spiritual greatness.

One must remember that no matter how far he has sunk, and as hopeless as his situation may seem, he has still not descended to the level of his forefathers in Egypt. His spiritual predicament cannot be worse than theirs. He must remind himself of the Exodus and internalize its meaning. He can then look toward the time when Hashem, in His mercy and in His kindness, will simply lift him up, freeing him from his seemingly hopeless state, and allowing him to begin his spiritual ascent anew.

-from “A Closer Look at the Siddur,” p.43
Thursday’s Commentary on Parashas Acharei
A Daily Dose of Torah

I know I’ve said this before, but I really enjoy studying from the Jewish texts, at least those I’m capable of comprehending. In reading the studies contained in “A Daily Dose of Torah” I find myself again drawn toward Judaism as a method of study, a way of understanding God, and even as a lifestyle. In Judaism, there seems to be such a great richness of tradition and apprehension of faith, trust, and obedience that much of Evangelical Christianity lacks.

I live with a Jew. Actually, right now, I live with three of them, but only my wife is the least bit religious. Only she regularly worships at synagogue on Shabbat, and this is as it should be because, after all, she’s Jewish. It’s a commandment from Sinai given to Israel, and as a Jew, she is part of Israel.

I, on the other hand, have great difficulty being obedient even to those commandments I know unequivocally apply to all people of the nations as well as to the non-Jewish disciples of Yeshua. How could I ever hope to attain the level of obedience and devotion expected of a Jew?

No, it’s not that Jewish people are perfectly obedient and devoted, but any Gentile aspiring to any sort of Jewish “lifestyle” might want to take stock of how they’re doing as a Gentile first before having the chutzpah to believe he or she can voluntarily take on board the much greater responsibilities and duties God requires of the Jewish people.

A Jew is born into the covenant whether he or she wants to be or not. They’re not given a choice. Any Gentile considering conversion certainly is making a choice and, like deciding to get married, cannot possibly see the long-term results and consequences of such a monumental decision.

The same goes for Gentiles who remain Gentiles but, through one thought process or another, come to believe they can or should either voluntarily take on board some, most, or all of the Torah mitzvot, or who have decided for themselves that they are (somehow) equally obligated to the mitzvot in the manner of the Jews.

Helping the HomelessReally, are you doing so well at a lesser level of obligation and obedience that you need the additional challenge in your life? Has doing charity, feeding the hungry, comforting the grieving, abstaining from even the hint of lashon hara (evil speech, gossip, denigrating another human being through words) become so humdrum and boring that you require adopting the higher standards of Torah in order to keep your life from becoming mundane?

When I take stock of my life, day by day, I realize how limited I am and how even those requirements Hashem has placed upon the people of the nations sometimes seem far beyond my abilitites. Why do I think I’d do any better in davening three times a day with a minyan, donning tzitzit, laying tefillin, observing Shabbos, keeping glatt kosher, and many of the other mitzvot of Torah?

He explains that both Shabbos and Mikdash (the Sanctuary) represent a dimension of love between Hashem and His nation, the former in time and the latter in space. On Shabbos, Hashem, as it were, invites every Jew to spend the day in His House, to live in the holiness of Hashem’s embrace and bask in his radiance. The Mikdash, too, represents this loving relationship, as symbolized by the two Cherubim that faced each other in the Sanctuary’s innermost chamber, the kodesh hakodashim.

-from “A Mussar Thought for the Day,” p.99
Thursday’s Commentary on Parashas Kedoshim
A Daily Dose of Torah

I have to recognize that, while God loves the whole world and while the Gentile disciples of Messiah are also loved and cherished by Hashem, it is Israel who receives a special love and relationship with the Almighty, and without Israel’s “chosenness,” we Gentiles would have no hope at all. Thus, God has given His people Israel, the Jewish people, special gifts as well as special obligations, in this case, Shabbat and the Holy Temple.

It’s not that we Gentile believers won’t have a role or a place in either in future Messianic Days, it’s just that we shouldn’t forget where they came from or to whom they were given.

This date marks the death of Judah P. Benjamin (1811-1884), an American-Jewish statesman. Benjamin was the second Jew to serve in the U.S. Senate, representing Louisiana. When another senator accused him of being an “Israelite in Egyptian clothing,” Benjamin, who had married into a prominent Roman Catholic family, replied: “It is true that I am a Jew, and when my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate Deity, amidst the thundering and lightnings of Mount Sinai, the ancestors of my opponent were herding swine in the forests of Great Britain.”

-from “This Day in Jewish History,” Iyar 11

Judah Benjamin’s reply to his fellow senator is as relevant today as when he first spoke those words.

I suppose in some sense, this is why my wife goes to shul on Shabbos and I stay home, mow the yard, and try to fix the broken sprinkler system so that I can water our lawn. It’s not that I’m necessarily forbidden from worshiping with my wife. After all, there are plenty of intermarried couples, both at the Chabad, and at our local Conservative/Reform synagogue. It’s just that it’s more important for her to observe the mitzvot associated with Shabbos than it is for me, because she is a Jew and I’m not.

ShabbatEven if I somehow believed that the Shabbat is also incumbent upon me as a Gentile, the Jewish people kept and preserved the Shabbat for thousands of years, while the ancestors of every non-Jew alive today were worshiping pagan gods, consorting with heathen temple prostitutes, and in some cases, feeding their children to sacrificial fires in obscene fertility rites.

We have no worthiness or honor of our own not did our forefathers. It is only through God’s abundant mercy and kindness that He provided any way at all for the Gentile to even approach His Throne in the most humble and penitent manner.

Let us strive to improve ourselves and to become obedient to those few things God requires of the Gentile disciples. If we can master our yetzer hara and if there are more requirements and more gifts Hashem wishes to assign to us, we will receive them from the hand of Messiah in all due time.

26 thoughts on “She Goes to Synagogue and He Does the Lawn Work”

  1. “without Israel’s “chosenness,” we Gentiles would have no hope at all.”

    Amen. Sadly, this is not only lost on traditional Christianity via Replacemt Theology, but the supposedly “messianic” One Law approach as well. I believe both camps can blithely adhear to such notions because they lack any intimacy with–or in most cases any aquaintence with–actual Jewish people. Looking to give them the benefit of the doubt, I think they simply don’t know how destructive their assertions and attitudes are.

    “Has doing charity, feeding the hungry, comforting the grieving, abstaining from even the hint of lashon hara (evil speech, gossip, denigrating another human being through words) become so humdrum and boring that you require adopting the higher standards of Torah in order to keep your life from becoming mundane?”

    Not for me, I regularly fail in these. However, with Jews in my house I do need to honor their level of observance and engage with Torah requirements for them. Re food, for example, If it was only me I’d just avoid treif and omit the rabbinic prohibition of mixing meat and cheese, but they don’t play that way. 🙂

  2. “We both have the advantage of having Jewish spouses…”

    The truth is, I haven’t thought of it as an advantage very often James. For one thing, in my church environment I felt an amount of guilt for having married a non-believer. Additionally, no one offered a way of looking at his identity as anything positive, rather, it was ignored. For another, trying to understand my daughter’s identity and obligation was no cakewalk. Of course, the hardest part of all has been the over-the-top rejection by a certain close relative of his.

    Perhaps there will be an advantage in the future, for now I seek to serve in any capacity that brings healing.

  3. @Sojourning: I think of it as an advantage because it gives me insights into Jewish experience (though I have none of my own, of course) that I would otherwise be oblivious to. Also, since neither of us were religious when we first married (and for a long while afterward), I also got to witness my wife’s developing sense of her Jewish identity, see her explore that identity, and grasp a hold of what about being Jewish made her unique.

    I can’t say it wasn’t (or isn’t) painful that she was once a believer and has since stopped believing that Yeshua is the Messiah, but each of us negotiates his or her relationship with God and what that means to us. I accept her as a Jewish person who needs her space and believer or not, too many Jews have been persecuted, harassed, tortured, maimed and murdered by “the Church” for me to not accept her as a Jew and to allow her (not that she needs my permission) to embrace her Jewish identity.

    I’ve said on numerous occasions that I believe one of the functions of the “Messianic Gentile” (and arguably the church-going Christian) is to support and encourage Jewish Torah observance. The Bible, both Tanakh and Apostolic Scriptures, is loaded with examples of the dire consequences to the Jewish people for falling away from the Torah. The restoration of Israel and return of the Messiah isn’t affected one little bit by whatever Torah mitzvot I may or may not “observe,” but it is strongly believed by many Jewish authorities (including some within Messianic Judaism) that Jewish Torah observance and the restoration of Israel is closely associated. I believe that the New Covenant will be fully enacted and “all of Israel will be saved” as a consequence of a “revival,” if you will, of Torah observance among the Jewish people.

    This is the advantage I see that we have together. Granted, your experience is very different from mine and we have only very distant Jewish in-laws that my wife has only met a few times since we’ve been married. No one in either side of our families have said “boo” about Lin being Jewish or me being a Christian (Messianic Gentile, whatever). Our challenges lie along a different path. But along the paths we both walk, amid the gravel and boulders are nuggets of gold.

    @Pat: I remember reading an article in the latest edition of “Messiah Journal” written by Rabbi Carl Kinbar where he says something similar. He talks about the unique role and purpose of modern Jews in carrying on the instructions and obligations Hashem gave to Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. He said he hesitated to say that because he might offend some non-Jews in the Messianic and Christian space.

    I have to say that a lot of non-Jews in Messianic Judaism and the Hebrew Roots movements are pretty sensitive. Well, to be fair, I’ve felt put off a time or two in the past by Jewish exclusivity. And yet, as I mentioned to Sojourning above, being married to a Jewish person has given me some unique insights as to the relationship Jews have with their community and their God and how we non-Jews best should position ourselves in terms of that realization.

    A lot of “Messianic Gentiles” feel left out or cut out of something special that only the Jewish people have and, being that we live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave” where everyone’s supposed to be equal, no one likes to think that someone has something others don’t possess.

    Except the Bible is replete with examples of God choosing Israel and granting many obligations and privileges to the Jewish people that he did not visit upon the people of the nations, and being “grafted in” aside, that doesn’t mean we Gentile believers suddenly join the “Sinai club”. Paul, at the beginning of chapter three in Romans, continues to define specific advantages the Jewish people possess that are not also property of the Gentile disciples.

    Perhaps this is ego bruising to some Gentiles, but it’s a Biblical truth so they’d better get used to it.

  4. “Perhaps this is ego bruising to some Gentiles, but it’s a Biblical truth so they’d better get used to…”

    truth hurts… i guess this was the trigger of replacement theology maybe or maybe not. It’s funny how sense of being “chosen-ness” spawns jealousy and further down to this road, it results to mass killings, genocide and so forth. It’s not because of the Jews’ superiority or any that met the eyes’ of the L-rd to make the Jews chosen but because of their few in numbers. i used to have hard time stomaching this when I first saw the significance of Israel and the Israel Mandate. however, nowadays, I am glad that I wasn’t born a jew not because of the observance of the torah obligations but because of what I am. i am who I am and G-d is who G-d is. He’s the one who created me and I am his creation. Though this may sound oversimplified in a sense, it is the way it is. We better get used to it…

    1. The truth can hurt. It just depends if we’re willing to accept it or not. Those who chose not to became jealous and resentful, which led, as you have pointed out, to many centuries of persecution of the Jewish people by the Church. Today, it’s even more “interesting” in that there are those non-Jews who, in order to “level the playing field”, demand that whatever privileges and obligation are possessed by the Jews also be assigned to the Gentile believers, effectively erasing Jewish “chosenness” and covenant distinction. It’s tragic really, and we will all be called upon one day to give an account to how we’ve lived our lives. For we Gentile believers, I think that will include giving an account to how we have treated Israel, the Jewish people.

  5. James, I do not wish to offend you, and apologize if my words do offend, but you are sounding a bit as though you are less than the dust beneath your wife’s feet, and that it is good for you to yield to her Jewishness, and all the Jewishness of others, as if only Jews are chosen for anything of worth in this life, or in the world to come, and Gentiles merely those that will set them in their honored place, and then get out of their way while they keep Torah.

    Following Torah is no different than seeking to follow Yeshua, regardless of what it say in Acts 15, since we are at one and the same time to seek to follow in Yeshua’s footsteps. If we Gentiles are trying to be like Yeshua, we should be keeping Torah to the extent we can…as he kept it, lived it and was the personification of it. That does not mean putting on a Kippah, donning a Tallit, laying Tefillin, and davening in a synagogue, but living a simple life that acknowledges G-d, His ways, His rules, and His written Torah. And following Yeshua as Gentiles does mean we are to support and defend the rights of Jews as G-d gave them to the Jews…to be Jewish, live in Israel, and have a special place before G-d. Following Yeshua, however, does graft us into the olive tree of Israel in his blood, and walking in his footsteps is not hard to try to do…just difficult to get perfect, which is what Grace is for!

    Yeshua did most of his praying away from people, not amongst them. When people were around, he taught. I observe Torah as a Gentile, a little bit more each day, and without any doubt imperfectly, but I do limit myself to things explained in the Torah that are for anyone to do to honor G-d without special training. That makes me a Kosher-Lite, Tithe-giving, Sabbath Honoring and Feast Celebrating Gentile, while I attempt the rest of the commandments as Yeshua and the Apostles taught in the Brit Chadashah. I think that all Messianic Gentiles should do as best they can to copy what Yeshua did in the ways that they are led to do so by the Holy Spirit. The remainder of the Torah that I do not attempt seems to exist to set the Jews aside as an exclusive group, which they are, and to keep them in a purified state, ready for a Temple to be built to go to.

    The Jews were set apart as the “people of G-d” indeed, and have been used as G-d’s ensample for the rest of us…and not as if their position was something we could not attain, should we wish to become part of the Mosaic Covenant. Yet it is the rare Jew who actually welcomes the foreigner at all, even if he converts. At most, it seems that Jews will accept the grandchildren of someone who converts, but only as someone of very low lineage…hardly worth consorting with, since they only have Avraham for their tribal identity, which is to say…none, as the tribal lineage falls from Avraham’s great-grandchildren! Certainly the Jews are forbidden to speak ill of the Jew-by-choice, but newcomers are not precisely welcomed by what I have been able to find out from those who have converted or married in. A strained toleration seems the best one can have for any of the married in or those who convert.

    Even so, YHVH made it a law that Jews were to treat those Gentiles that sojourned among them as one of their own, as being no less than they, and deserving of all honor amongst them, simply because they knew what it was like to not be in their own land, and should not make the foreigner’s living among them feel separated and living in that same bitterness of exclusion. Still, by the first Century, foreigners were unclean, and to be avoided.

    Nineteen centuries later, non-Jews may love YHVH, and be disciples of Yeshua, yet we are excluded by most Jews even in the diaspora. We are let to learn from them, but not to be welcomed by them. Very little light is being shed amongst the Gentiles by Jews except in the Messianic movement, such as is evidenced in Messianic Jewish writings, and the few Messianic Synagogues…unless the Jews’ very existence is supposed to be that light, which since Yeshua told his apostles to make all nations the disciples of Yeshua, I rather wonder at. Apparently only a very few non-Messianic Jews think any Gentile worth shedding their light over. Yet, if they would but read prophecy, they can’t get back to and be defended in the land of Israel without the help of gentiles, due to the extreme numbers of their enemies, at least not until Yeshua comes.

    As for the Torah, any foreigner amongst the Jews is supposed to keep the Sabbath. Both you James, and SojourningWithJews live amongst Jews, and may obey this of all laws, if you wish to, at least in the simplest sense. SojourningWithJews, I see, keeps Glatt Kosher, yet I doubt all Jews would accept that as a fact…why else does Ruth feel like she is only sojourning, yet if she is cooking a kosher meal for her Jewish family, I at least hope she is let to eat it! And James, you are not even supposed to be present at Candlelighting lest it oppress your wife’s Jewishness? I admire your willingness to encourage her separate exploration of her Jewish identity, and your toleration of her distaste for your exploration of who you are in Yeshua, but you don’t sound welcome in your own home.

    I think there is too much tiptoeing going on around the obviously overwrought sensibilities of those Jews around and among us. They have been badly treated by every Gentile Nation that they have ever had the unfortunate experience of meeting, so I don’t wonder at their touchiness in general, but just as they are free to speak out, so too are we Gentiles. I don’t advocate crashing their Synagogues, Messianic or not, nor dressing up and acting as an observant Jew to feel closer to G-d, unless you are an observant Jew, but having a decent day of rest on Shabbat is not forbidden ground for a Gentile…quite the contrary.

    Exodus 20:8-11 (CJB)
    8 ‏ד‎ 8 “Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God.
    9 You have six days to labor and do all your work,
    10 but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God. On it, you are not to do any kind of work — not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates to your property.
    11 For in six days, Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why Adonai blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for himself.

    Again, my apologies to everyone reading this if I seem too plain spoken. It is not my intention to offend anyone.

    1. @Questor — Given previous conversations on this blog, I think we have some appreciation of each other’s viewpoints; however, I think here you have overgeneralized some issues which therefore I should like to address in the following observations.

      I might agree with you that, at times, James does seem to bend over too far backwards in yielding to his wife’s developing Jewish sensibilities. To me it seems that the marital relationship should comprise more give-and-take and mutual recognition; but James is the “man in place” who must evaluate from his own observations what approach and interaction is best for his specific situation. Some of that may be different from general recommendations for close relations between non-Jews and Jews.

      I do agree with you that Ex.20:10 should apply to the non-Jewish partner of an intermarried couple, because (kal v’homer) a spouse is much closer to the Torah-responsible Jew in this case than a “foreigner” or a “sojourner”. We can exclude the argument that Shabbat observance, at least in refraining from “melakhah”, applies only to the “convert” degree of sojourner, because of Isaiah’s inclusion of the “b’nei nechar” in the notion of Shabbat-keeping. Hence lawn-mowing on Shabbat really ought to be considered inappropriate, if only for its impact on the Jewish partner who would be in violation of Torah to permit the non-Jew to do it on Jewish premises. The permissions in ‘Hazal for a “Shabbes-goy” to do various things for a Jew that the Jew is forbidden to do, and the prohibitions against non-Jews refraining from Shabbat-work lest they usurp Jewish prerogatives or be mistaken as Jews, are secondary considerations that were influenced by historical cultural circumstances during the second exile; and thus their application is subject to evaluation of current local minhag and circumstances.

      Nonetheless, it may be appropriate at some point for James to assert to his wife that not only does he love her deeply and wishes to encourage her Jewish development, and does not wish to embarrass her to her friends, he also has responsibilities as a human being who stands before the Most High G-d of Israel and as the husband of a Jewish woman; and that she, as a Jewish wife, has responsibilities also to him. She does not have any right to treat him as an idolater, nor as a stranger, because he has drawn near to HaShem, even moreso than most husbands in his situation. Indeed, she must encourage him so that he is not tempted to behave as an idolater, nor to bring elements of idolatry into their shared space, so that she also may be spared exposure to idolatry. Doing otherwise would bring pressure upon them to be divorced and separated, as one respondent to this blog recently mentioned as a danger that has occurred under some ‘Habad auspices. Of course, such a discussion would require in-depth consideration of whether the apostolic writings are to be considered an idolatrous influence. She would have to acknowledge that James’ approach to them is not of such nature, and she might have to defend that fact to her rabbi and Jewish friends, in order to spare herself the embarrassment that their contrary assumptions would tend to evoke.

      I don’t quite understand what you meant when you wrote “regardless of what it says in Acts 15”, because following Rav Yeshua’s perspective on Torah doesn’t suppress any of its inherent distinctions between what applies for all humans and what applies only to covenanted Jews. The tree into which faith-filled non-Jews are “grafted” is a representation of a community of similarly faith-filled people who are not only Jews but also others who walk in faith. Such trust in HaShem’s ways represents *how* we pursue the principles outlined in Torah, without specifying which precepts are to be enacted by whom.

      It can be a bit misleading to speak of grafting into an “olive tree of Israel”, even though the covenant of Torah made with Israel represents the native environment for the faith represented by this olive tree metaphor. One must remember that the focus of the joining or grafting process (and of remaining attached to the tree) is the notion of faith rather than the notion of its native environment Israel. Likewise the notion of “blood” is not referring to some sort of glue to adhere these non-native branches onto the tree, but rather to the notion of trusting that a metaphorical sacrifice represented by the martyrdom of a tzadik is effective in motivating a change of heart and the actions that follow therefrom.

      The depiction in the apostolic writings of Rav Yeshua’s “religious” behavior is rather limited, addressing almost exclusively the period during which he walked from place to place with his disciples in order to teach them and to interact with various individuals and groups of people, including Samaritans, Sadducees, Pharisees of varying viewpoints, and unspecific mixed groups. We lack any real example of what might be called “settled behavior”, working everyday in some town and attending synagogue and other community functions — so his example of private prayer cannot properly be generalized except as an example of what the ‘Hasidim later called “hitbodedut”. We get only a couple of glimpses that hint at more normative practices such as his discussion with learned men in the Temple, around the time of his Bar-Mitzvah, and his reading of a partial haftarat Nitzavim in a synagogue in Natzeret (viz:Lk.4:21; Is.61:1-2a). Hence neither Jewish nor gentile would-be disciples of Rav Yeshua can emulate his actual overall Jewish behavior, but can only infer it and extrapolate it from these few examples and from his teachings to conform with whatever Torah praxis is appropriate for their individual or community circumstances as Jews or gentiles. The limitedness of this depiction is why Rav Shaul’s instructions and elaborations to various gentile communities are significant to gentile praxis, and why comments from examples such as Yacov’s (James’) letter and the one addressed to “Hebrews” matter to Jewish disciples.

      Your references to “Kosher-Lite” and “Tithe-giving” already indicate that you process Torah through some non-Jewish interpretive matrix, since the Torah specifications for tithing require the Temple to be in operation, and its specifications for kashrut are too sparse for adequate implementation. The presence of both notions in Tenakh is sufficient primarily for the derivation of principles, while actual implementation requires the Oral Torah of Jewish custom to produce a sufficient interpretive matrix for Jewish observance. I presume you also have some non-Jewish interpretive matrix by which you derive suitable gentile praxis for “Sabbath Honoring and Feast Celebrating”, since you acknowledge the function of Torah that serves to “set Jews [apart] as an exclusive group”.

      I do wish to take issue with you over your statement: “… it is the rare Jew who actually welcomes the foreigner at all, even if he converts. At most, it seems that Jews will accept the grandchildren of someone who converts, but only as someone of very low lineage…hardly worth consorting with, since they only have Avraham for their tribal identity, which is to say…none, as the tribal lineage falls from Avraham’s great-grandchildren! Certainly the Jews are forbidden to speak ill of the Jew-by-choice, but newcomers are not precisely welcomed by what I have been able to find out from those who have converted or married in. A strained toleration seems the best one can have for any of the married in or those who convert.” Somehow I thought you already knew better than to think that Jewish acceptance of converts in their midst would ever be conditioned by views of tribal identity or a convert’s metaphorical lineage being limited to merely Avraham. In the communities in which I have had any experience, the same sort of efforts are made to integrate converts as would be exerted on behalf of any other Jew who is lacking in Jewish knowledge and experience.

      Regrettably, there are far too many such ignoramuses in the American Jewish community (i.e., Jews lacking knowledge) — and I deliberately chose the term “ignoramus” for its connotations and the emotional socially-limited reception I believe it implies. Jews tend to honor Jewish knowledge; and it would only be a perception that such knowledge is lacking (or that a motivation toward acquiring it is lacking) that might inhibit an open-armed social reception into a local Jewish environment. Now, outside the realm of converts there is certainly a long-standing suspicion of non-Jews who infiltrate the Jewish community. Again, note that I have chosen loaded terms deliberately. Both partners of intermarried couples are suspect for lack of commitment to preserving the perennially-threatened survival of the Jewish community as a viable entity. Theoretically, they represent an open door allowing the taint of idolatry, assimilation, and anti-Jewish persecution to enter. While this may be perceived as an over-reaction, or an over-sensitivity, or even a paranoia, Jews never know, even in the modern post-Holocaust era of heightened awareness among the enlightened that guards against anti-Semitism, just what may trigger the ancient threat to rise again. Further, assimilation is already a well-recognized threat, so intermarriage without conversion must be considered dangerous to the community. Given this, even a strained toleration of intermarriage is risky.

      The Jewish people in the aggregate has had almost no positive experience with unconverted gentiles in its midst, and much negative experience with unconverted gentiles and even with some insincere presumed converts. One may well ask whence one may draw optimism to support a willingness to lower one’s guard sufficiently to extend warmth and trust to newcomers in such circumstances? The Jewish community has been burned so often, literally as well as figuratively, that even “twice shy” must be deemed inadequate. Nonetheless, our likewise longstanding sense of hospitality and hope does still embrace strangers, despite well-justified fears.

      Modern MJ interaction with even the most positively-motivated gentiles has had mixed results over the past four decades, to say the least. As for the shedding of Jewish “light” among the nations, Jews in general have continued to excel in all fields, contributing to the well-being of all humanity. Specifically, as MJs have been able to develop, we have begun to contribute worldview-shattering insights into resolutions for errors of perspective that have persisted for more than fifteen centuries. That ought to be considered a pretty bright spotlight in itself. But there are still many locations that resist the light and continue to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (cif:Rom.1:18). Those who wonder about the degree of gentile participation in MJ synagogue communities are really asking a question about suitable or unsuitable methodologies for the diffusion of MJ light — it is not that such light is lacking.

      It’s actually rather an overstatement that “any foreigner amongst the Jews is supposed to keep the Sabbath”. There is a difference between refraining from “malakhah” and “keeping the Sabbath”. I think I mentioned recently in a response to something submitted by Pete Rambo, that in Is.56:6 the honored “ben-nechar” is described as not “profaning” the Sabbath, as guarding it against being made a common ordinary day — which is different from the more extensive Jewish responsibility to consecrate it. But this difference in responsibilities vis-à-vis the Sabbath is a separate issue from whether James should be inhibited from being present for his wife’s Shabbat candle-lighting or whether he is unjustly being made to feel unwelcome in his own home or anywhere else that his wife may be present. Thankfully, they are past the stage of life in which they would need to argue over such matters as blessing the children at the table (to be like Efraim and Menashe, or like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah) prior to erev-Shabbat dinner. [:)]

  6. @Questor:

    “SojourningWithJews, I see, keeps Glatt Kosher, yet I doubt all Jews would accept that as a fact…

    This a complicated topic so I don’t get into much detail about it with folks who aren’t Jewish or married to a Jew, for a variety of reasons. Here’s one:

    I remember a time that a couple needed to follow us somewhere in their car and before we left I asked my husband to stop so I could get a soda on the way. He rolled down his window and told the man we would be stopping at the gas station for a drink when the man’s eyes got big and his face became contorted with surprise and disgust before he blurted out “Well… It better be kosher!”

    Who this man thought he was to talk to my husband that way is beyond me. My husband doesn’t eat anything that isn’t kosher, but that is none of that man’s business, or anyone else’s. In fact, as much as possible, we don’t even talk about it outside our immediate family because it is very uncomfortable. Either Gentiles will be offended, overly worried about accommodating us, disdainful, or think that they are somehow experts after reading a definition of kashrut online.

    You’re correct that all Jews would not consider my food kosher, especially since my challah is not pas yisroel. There are many other reasons my food would not be considered kosher, being a “shiksa” and all. Obviously, we must navigate this issue, and we do, in the privacy of our own home.

    Yet, my table is full of Jews every Passover and frequently on erev Shabbat dinner, with Jews who deem my food “kosher” enough. 🙂

    “why else does Ruth feel like she is only sojourning, yet if she is cooking a kosher meal for her Jewish family, I at least hope she is let to eat it! “

    I don’t look at it as “only” sojourning, Questor.

    The thing is, I have my own identity. I have been a gentile Christian for a very long time, and this is not a negative in my book. Yes, I have a fuller theology than most of my fellow Christians, and yes, I am very lonely in my walk since I am technically a messianic gentile and the Gentiles in the moment are so busy trying to find a way to claim Jewish identity that I have little fellowship opportunities.

    But I am not a Jew, and don’t see this as a bad thing! If my husband was Chinese, would I lose my identity and suddenly be Chinese? I think God made us all for a reason, and attempting to take another’s identity is not it.

    He Covenanted with the all of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but He went into the orphanage and selected me. He didn’t (so far) select my whole family, or people group (Irish, Scottish, English, etc) but He did select me. How can I *not* feel blessed, chosen, special, and loved?

    And, btw, My husband would never expect me to make his meal and then shuffle off to the shiksa corner to eat matzoh alone. And, if he did, he’d be in for a rude awakening. 🙂

  7. @Questor: I suppose I’m seeking to counterbalance the general view Christianity has held of the Jewish people and of their covenant obligations to God over the long centuries. Christianity has held a low view of Judaism and the Torah and especially the importance in Jewish observance as a factor in summoning the return of Messiah.

    I’m also commenting on how some Hebrew Roots people insist that it is *their* observance of the mitzvot that is of great importance when, Biblically (as I see it), God has always called the Jews to return to the Torah in fulfillment of covenant obligation, not the nations.

    All peoples are to bend their knees to the God of Israel but not all peoples are Israel, thus how that looks differs depending on whether or not your Jewish or a member of the nations, being grafted in notwithstanding. As far as a “Torah for the nation,” I wrote about that just recently. As far as a Torah for the Gentile disciples, Acts 15 speaks to that somewhat and the Didache even more.

    Paul created communities where Gentiles were socially equal to Jewish disciples and taught that Gentiles shared in the blessings of the New Covenant, but (in my opinion) he never taught that Gentiles became “Jews without a bris,” so to speak. To paraphrase New Testament scholar Mark Nanos, the Gentiles were acting “Jewishly” but were not Jewish, at least when in the same community as their Jewish counterparts. That can include eating the same foods, observing Shabbos and the moadim, and many other things, not necessarily out of the same obligation, but as common observance of community standards. Let’s face it, the Exodus from Egypt means something different to a Jew than a grafted in Gentile.

  8. There have been some very interesting and obviously heartfelt thoughts presented here.

    @SWJ, most pareve drinks would be kosher, such as coke, etc. Some Orthodox are very strict and will not consume anything without the hescher approved in their community, but this is not common. It is true that the Orthodox community is suspicious, and I read of an instance where a baal teshuva with a secular husband kept a strictly kosher home, yet none of the members of her synagogue would eat in her home and wouldn’t allow their children to play in her home. Who knows? The secular Jewish husband might be somehow slipping treif into the sealed packages of cookies? I believe these things are sociological, not theological. In order to bond with a group, one needs to see others outside the group as dangerous and fearful.

    1. “SWJ, most pareve drinks would be kosher, such as coke, etc. ”

      Exactly, but can you imagine explaining this to someone across the parking lot through rolled down windows, who we barely even know? My point was that he thought nothing of trying to tell my husband what he needed to do. a) the drink was for me, b) there are kosher drinks at the gas station c) it’s none of his business.

      1. No problem Chaya.

        My “issues” stem from trying to make sense of Jewish/gentile identity and purpose. My Bible reading gave one impression (i.e., Jews are God’s chosen people and dearly loved, believing Gentiles have been “grafted in ” and are dearly loved), my Christian environment said another, that was not always congruent with what the Bible said, or even logical, so it was clouded in fuzziness.

        Exposure to my husband’s family created more confusion as I didn’t understand why there seemed to be a black cloud that followed them around (I didn’t get the issues they carry with
        them, and this is the only way I could explain them). Exposure to Orthodox Judaism didn’t always help either, as their version of Jewishness/Judaism isn’t always congruent with the Bible either.

        Frankly, Messianic Jewish theology is thrilling. It connects the dots and has the potential to fix the mess we’ve made (Jewish/Christian polemics). And, I thought I would finally meet up with other Gentiles who rejected RT, loved the Jewish people, and wanted to support them in their identity and calling—within God’s created order.

        Instead, I’ve met (mostly) Gentiles who *say* they love the Jewish people, but only insofar as they can attempt to appropriate their identity via: One Law, Ephramite, mystical dreams or visions (i.e., “God told me I am Jewish”), conversion, filling a gap in their heritage with a Jew, or, as rabbi Dauermann says: if someone in their family had a big nose and ate strange food, they will declare themselves a Jew. None of these make sense to me, and so I am exceedingly lonely.

        Okay, true confession is now over. 🙂

      2. I think I get what you are saying. You are looking for a, “people who want to be honest,” club, and find it doesn’t exist, especially in the world of religion. Dauermann is one of the most intelligent and honest of the bunch, not pushing a party line and examining nuances the arguments of opponents. I would have more respect for him if he didn’t appropriate the title, “rabbi,” unless he was educated at a Yeshiva or Jewish Seminary and received legitimate smeicha.

        In a different way, I am in the same situation. One must suspend disbelief to belong, and sometimes it is worth it. I didn’t knowingly suspend my critical thinking faculties for almost 40 years, but somehow I did. It was like being drugged (oxytocin acts like a drug) that I could think critically about everything besides my religious beliefs and everything attached to them – such as political beliefs and judgment of others. I like the term Bill Bullock used, “the whited sepulchres of religion.”

      3. @Chaya:
        “I think I get what you are saying. You are looking for a, “people who want to be honest,” club, and find it doesn’t exist, especially in the world of religion.”

        Lol, pretty much.

        I don’t understand why people who claim to believe in God will turn around and discredit Him by diminishing some aspect of His creation. He made humanity in a his image—both male and female—and so one cannot be “better” than the other. Yet, have women historically been treated as equal? Ha! In modern times, women tend to behave as if men don’t matter.

        Later, He distinguished His covenant people as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for the benefit of all of His creation. And, last time I checked, “descendants” come in 2 varieties: male and female. Yet, man-made constructs, borne in pride or insecurity, have been imposed on His oft repeated distinction, that deny His Word. People use His categories, yet change His definitions as they eliminate some from His covenant and add others. No one wants to let His distinctions stand and declare them “good” or support the “other” in *their* God given identity. It makes me crazy.

  9. @Questor, @James, @PL – This idea of the Jewish world shunning idolatry is a bit dishonest, as they have no problem with liaisons with American Buddhists – many Jewish, or HinJews teaching Yoga at the JCC – certainly not much consistence. The Jewish community has a problem with nearly 2,000 years of Christian antisemitism. @SWJ, I know of Jewish women who agreed to keep a kosher home to please their more religious husbands, even though they didn’t grow up this way. My brother went along with his wife’s desire to have a kosher home, but eats unkosher (not trief) food at my parent’s house, yet will order a salad when out at a non-kosher restaurant. Let’s face it, we are all inconsistent hypocrites who do what we need to do to survive, and that includes maintaining social relationships.

    I don’t see where inability to do things perfectly or even well should cause us to forget about it. There does seem to be a theme with @SWJ and even more with @James that you are being treated as second class citizens and your spiritual needs are ignored or at least highly subservient to the Jewish spouse. I understand that one needs to realize that their spouse may change during the marriage and there is a need to be flexible if you want to keep things together. Usually there are checks and balances, where one spouse gives in with one area, while another gives in with other areas. If this is the case, then nobody is a doormat. My husband turned religious issues over to me, and I accepted that he liked to spend a lot of time on the golf course, while I don’t play. I think in the same way I don’t want to play golf because I would be a lousy golfer and would rather do what I am naturally good at, he isn’t too interested in religious stuff. I think he made a better choice than I did in that the majority of his friends are through sports he takes part in, which is a lot more accepting of change and growth than the world of religion. @James, it sounds like you are saying, that in order for your wife to explore and grow in her Jewishness, you are required to quash and deny, at least in expression, any spiritual growth and identity of your own.

    I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I believe gentiles should be treated as second class citizens. It is just that I have seen the lack of respect non-Jews (Christians) have for Jewish space, whether real or virtual. When I go to my Asian friends’ homes, I take off my shoes and respect their cultural requirements. Perhaps the reason Jews and Buddhists get along so well, besides the lack of a negative history, is this attitude of respect and that one can learn from another, rather than one needs to convince the other of their truth and the other’s wrong.

    1. @chaya:
      “There does seem to be a theme with @SWJ and even more with @James that you are being treated as second class citizens and your spiritual needs are ignored or at least highly subservient to the Jewish spouse.”

      Oh dear god no, lol. Nothing could be further from the truth! My husband is sweet and kind and hasn’t an ounce of arrogance about being Jewish.

      He *never* puts limits on me and tells me what to do or not do, but then he doesn’t need to because we work as a team, I suppose. As he and my daughter began to wrestle with more observance I could have said “no” and resisted, but that’s just not how our family works, we did it together. I have a strong personality and wouldn’t tolerate being treated like 2nd class Chaya, and he’s not that way anyway. He’s more than appreciative for my efforts.

      Bottom line is that there are many levels of kosher and technically we cannot achieve “kosher” from a rabbinic standpoint, since I am not Jewish. Just like according to rabbinic Judaism my husband and I are not married since it’s impossible for a marriage to even exist between a gentile and Jew, or so says the rabbis. We must navigate this path according to our convictions and situation, and that’s why I don’t get into the topic much because it’s so easy to misunderstand and jump to wrong conclusions.

    2. @Chaya — The liberal Jews you cite as tolerating eastern idolatrous religious interactions are probably not the ones in view of the discussion about unwelcomed converts or intermarrieds. It’s in the Jewish communities that actually care about historical threats to Jewish identity from other religions that are deemed to be idolatrous or quasi-idolatrous (primarily from some versions of Christianity) that one is more likely to find any degree of hesitancy to embrace outsiders of uncertain influences or those seeming to lack Jewish commitment. Please don’t lump them together in order to accuse them all of hypocrisy or dishonesty. That’s neither accurate nor fair.

      Regarding your example of violating Shabbat to prevent check-bouncing, those who are Shomer-Shabbes avoid such situations by developing a habit of planning for Shabbat in advance, even throughout the entirety of the preceding week. This ingrained habit of advance planning tends to eliminate the likelihood of unpleasant surprises such as your son’s regrettable financial discovery; and if something Shabbat-threatening should occur anyway, then alternative means are sought to cope with keeping the Shabbat. It’s part of the comprehensive environment by which the protective fences around Torah operate.

      Incidentally, not to change the subject by too much, this incident reminds me of something I noted long ago about the Torah precept of the sabbatical year. A society that plans to leave its agricultural land lying fallow for a year every seven years must also plan a system of food storage to compensate for it. Such planning develops a buffer of supplies that also guards against famine and supports unexpected emergency disaster relief. I found this notion surprisingly compatible with a doctrine espoused by “survivalists”, who assert that if everyone were in the habit of maintaining a well-stocked “pantry” of common supplies (e.g., food, water, toiletries, first aid), there would be no sudden emptying of store shelves just before a severe storm, and no shortages of emergency supplies (and much less need of guns and ammo to prevent looting).

  10. If it will make anyone feel better, he is my breaking Shabbos confession. My older son was home for the weekend. He discovered Friday night that he didn’t have enough money in his account to cover a rent check he gave his roommate. Now, bouncing a check is not anywhere near life-threatening, but it would create some bad feelings as well as incur charges, possibly on both ends. So, I wrote my son a check to take to the bank Sat. am. Thinking about it, I probably could have found a way around this by letting him write his own check from my account, but that probably wouldn’t please most Orthodox rabbis.

  11. @Chaya: More than once, I’ve heard/read commentaries by Jewish people who object to Christians because they are idol worshipers, that is worshiping a man as God. That’s probably the primary focus of a disdain of idolatry.

    You said:

    My brother went along with his wife’s desire to have a kosher home, but eats unkosher (not trief) food at my parent’s house, yet will order a salad when out at a non-kosher restaurant.

    I’ve known Jewish people like this who have built some “variability” into their kosher observance for practical reasons. I would imagine this is more common in Reform Judaism and less common among the Orthodox, but I don’t have any data to support that.

    I don’t see myself being treated as a second class citizen by my wife nor that she is ignoring my spiritual needs. I’m perfectly free to worship anywhere and in anyway I want. I simply choose to avoid going to a church at this point for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which is I know it (probably) bothers my wife. She wouldn’t say anything about it or attempt to discourage me, but I know her attitudes toward Christianity are largely based on what she’s learned at the Chabad.

    In an ultimate sense, given how the world has kept trying to exterminate the Jewish people, I think it’s more important to nurture her Jewish praxis than it is for me to have a communal religious life (and my options are significantly limited in even having that life should I desire to pursue it).

    Every once in a blue moon, my wife asks me if I miss going to church or having religious fellowship. It’s a difficult question to answer. Actually, I don’t miss going to church, if for no other reason, than to not have to experience the extreme dissonance between what they preach/teach and what I believe. Do I miss religious fellowship? Well, yes. Of course. However, it just isn’t available in my little corner of the world. Well, I was invited to a Torah Club study, but it was on Friday night about 25 to 30 miles away, and if I can salvage even a tiny bit of an Erev Shabbat’s rest out of the evening, I would prefer to do so.

    Every once in a while, I think that questions like that from my wife may be her testing the waters to see just how “Christian” I still am. This is pure guesswork, but I wonder if she’s waiting for me to stop being Christian. If that’s the case, she’ll have a long wait.

    1. @James, I think you must understand what I mean. Some among Orthodox have a problem with idolatry, but only that among Christians. They do not have the same disdain for Hindu idolatry, or more close to home, Buddhist idolatry, as there are probably tens of thousands of BuJews in the US. That is why I believe the issue is antisemitism, not idolatry.

      Depending upon the group, Chabad can be somewhat cult-like, as all religious groups and other social/political groups are, to some extent. If your wife is in intelligent, educated person, which I assume she is, why would she take Chabad’s word as truth on a very complex and controversial subject? Perhaps Chabad is nurturing her Jewishness, but part and parcel with that is a disdain for Christians as idolators, but not Buddhists or Hindus as idolators. You mentioned that Chabad welcomes intermarried couples, but I assume that the non-Jew cannot be a practicing or believing Christian? One practice of cults is to encourage new converts to act in ways that will cause family and friends to reject them, thereby solidifying the idea that they are being persecuted for their new religion, creating a tighter bond to the cult, and shutting off input from people they trust, also burning bridges if they have doubts, as there is no way back. You did mention that you couldn’t invite a Christian or Messianic friend to the home. Perhaps joining a new religion is like getting a new spouse; one has to view the former as inferior, and perhaps even framing that person as having little or no good in them. The brain cannot stand the dissonance of going back and forth and wondering if one made a mistake in leaving or joining. Before you rejoice in her joining Chabad, remember that to bond with a group, one must view those outside negatively, as inferior in spirituality, knowledge, morality…. I am aware that if a married person also with a gentile spouse wants to convert to Judaism, the rabbi will not agree to it unless their spouse also wants to convert, because of the belief in shalom bayit – the desire to keep peace in the home. I suppose they don’t see it the same way if a non-observant Jew is married to a non-Jew,or another secular Jew, in creating a new barrier in the relationship.

      @PL, you are being kind; I suspect it is just accommodation, if the person is claiming to keep kosher and follow mitzvot. Reform do not claim to follow mitzvot, but seek to update them for modern life. To refuse to eat food in a restaurant, but eat the same food at one’s parents’ home to keep the peace – at least admit that is what you are doing.

  12. It crossed my mind, last weekend, that there might be religious people who convert or transition (and now that I think about it more, it could go either way or in any variety of ways) and who have to be or decide to be all the more stubborn (with whatever they have gotten into) because they divorced in the process (or before or after) — so no amount of reason or spiritual insight will ever get them anywhere or budge their perspective. They can’t have (or admit) understanding of certain kinds because (for instance) “idolatry” serves to stand in as cause for their unwillingness on sustained family commitment (to the accused). They talk about their beautiful family and don’t talk about that other family. It’s very sad. I know someone here has mentioned the idea of what you’re saying (and I’m now addressing) at this site before, Chaya. But it dawned on me in the context of a specific person. And to think of it again in another case even when one has thought of it before can be shocking still. No, I didn’t think of it with regard to James or his wife or their situation. I was thinking of a different man.

    Also, I’ve seen a situation before where a man [yet another, and his wife] never spoke of his having been previously married, while he had somewhat older children from that marriage who resented his current marriage but who didn’t say this to others (only radiated resentment). People were quietly confused as to why in the world the couple’s older children didn’t like them (not realizing those children, who were old enough for it not to be suspicious that they were not always around, weren’t “their” children). [There was another couple in the congregation who had children with a similar age split but who were in fact the mutual parents of all their appearing children. Presumptions can assuage concern.] This man finally took up a hurtful splitting faction of a congregation. The followers, I hear, practically had to beg [I perceive, let’s say, fawn over] him though. This means he officially states the origins of his congregation (they all do) as being a group of people asking him for the start of a congregation (no mention of the other leader who had included said people).

    That was a messianic congregation, and those people went in a slightly less messianic direction (more church-involved). But it’s not just in religious settings, obviously, that people can’t seem to mesh what they talk like they value with what they actually do. A neighbor was over visiting last weekend and repeatedly said negative and less-than-positive things about his wife (who he says was too young when he married her), who he met in Tunisia when he was in the Peace Corps — in front of his daughter, who has heard it so many times she recites them to the neighbors. One of the negative things (upon others) was that she was tired after work and didn’t want to come over and join us (I’ve never met her). It somehow seemed another negative thing (at least something to complain about) that HE bought their house. I could make no sense of what this was about and just stared at him. He then told his (eight-year-old) daughter that he wanted to stop talking about it. It was also “really bad” that his wife watches Arabic soap operas. But I couldn’t believe some of the music he said he liked. How does someone who listens to Steel, oh what was it… Panther, or something like that, think he’s a better person? And, by the way, he was telling this to someone (my grown children’s dad) who watches soap operas in English (like “Revenge” — although I’ve read it’s being cancelled). This American soap opera watcher kept encouraging this child to interrupt her father and think badly of her mother, repeating “You’re so smart.”

  13. I’m not (and wasn’t) SURE of the word “slightly” above. But I used it because the functionality of the Saturday service at the new place was still Jewish (at least by appearance, but slightly less so). Additionally, the non-Jews among the rebels were pushed out of the leading board so the leadership would consist of only the Jewish rebels. However, the FEEL of the service was just a little more not Messianic yet; and, like I indicated, there was the outright (but not institutional or legal) linking up of the new place with a large local church/organization (probably among others, but especially the one). I find that large place quite problematic (while there is a bit of a history of Jewish Christians [we all acknowledge this is different from Messianic] being visible there). Personally, I think people with a Messianic sense need to be careful about linking up in some sort of co-dependent existence with entities largely because they claim to be pro-Israel (along with a set of other political and flaky emphasizes that detract from the focus).

  14. (For instance, that entity/church was in the actively-promoted network that defends leaders and teachers like that young guy who was drawing crowds with his sensationalized meetings [I think first in Florida] and was “playing around” with an assistant and then made things look better [to the undiscerning] by divorcing his wife and marrying the assistant — ONWARD (they wanted him to keep infecting souls). And like the jewel people and the lady shaking her head uncontrollably, and the various men preying on young men and women through spiritual abuse and for physical abuse, and on and on.)

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