You’re Amazing

It can take a long time until something is invented. But once one person has already broken through the creative barrier, others can easily follow suit and produce the same results. For example, it took many years until someone invented the first railroad train. But after one person invented it, many others built similar railroad trains. It doesn’t take a genius to model the work of a genius!

The same principle applies to spiritual growth. There were people in previous generations who reached great heights. They were innovators in the field of Jewish metaphysics. Since we now have them as models, the knowledge of how to reach spiritual greatness is available to all of us.

Today, think of five great people you have met or read about. What qualities do you most respect in each one? As you reflect on these qualities, consider how you would apply these same attributes to yourself.

(see Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz – Daas Chochmah Umussar, vol. 2, p.40)

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Duplicate Spiritual Greatness”
Daily Lift #385

I’ve been spending a lot of time writing about and discussing the meaning and nature of non-Jewish identity within Jewish space, particularly within Messianic Jewish space. While it’s been suggested that most or even all non-Messianic Jewish synagogues would at least feel comfortable with non-Jews as guests (assuming these guests were polite and respectful), someone mentioned in a comment on another one of my missives that Messianic Jewish synagogues in Israel might not be so cool with that idea.

If it’s true, I can understand why.

I’ve heard it said that when a Jew makes aliyah and returns home to the Holy Land, they do one of two things: either increase their level of religious observance or become totally non-observant. There’s a single reason for both.

In Israel, a Jew has nothing to prove. They are Jewish. Israel is the Jewish homeland. End of story.

Except perhaps for Messianic Jews. I’m just supposing, since I’ve never been to Israel and I’ve never been to a Messianic synagogue in the Land, but if a Jew ever needs to prove he or she is an observant Jew in Israel, it’s when they are also a disciple of Yeshua (Jesus).

For thousands of years, any Jew who has been such a disciple has voluntarily converted to Christianity or been forcibly coerced into doing so. Though one process or another, they surrendered their Jewish practices and their Jewish identity and effectively became, at best, a “Hebrew Christian,” and at worst, a “Goyishe Christian”.

synagogueWhile there have been other Jews who have remained observant and become Yeshua-disciples historically, the weight of the Church’s requirement (demand) for Jews to abandon their covenant relationship with God so they can accept the grace of Jesus Christ is heavy on their shoulders.

Association with (Gentile) Christians in Messianic synagogues could easily be seen as compromising the Jewish identity and affiliations for Messianic Jews in Israel.

Like I said, this is based on a number of assumptions on my part and I’m sure PL or someone else can correct the mistakes I’m most likely making.

But particularly in Israel and certainly every place else, if non-Jewish disciples with a Messianic Jewish “leaning” can’t depend upon any sort of Jewish role model in order to understand ourselves (which I suppose could be rather “crazy-making” since, for a multitude of reasons, you can’t mix the two identities), where do we go?

Rabbi Pliskin no doubt was writing to a Jewish audience in the above quoted “Daily Lift” but he makes a suggestion I think we can all use.

Today, think of five great people you have met or read about. What qualities do you most respect in each one? As you reflect on these qualities, consider how you would apply these same attributes to yourself.

Think of five spiritually elevated people, five tzadikim, Jewish or Gentile. Consider what qualities they possess(ed) that you admire. Then incorporate those qualities over time into yourself.

Seems simple enough.

I know what you’re thinking…well, a few of you, anyway. You’re thinking “I want to imitate Jesus.” That’s fine and well. No better role model available. But then, what attributes or qualities about the Master do you want to emulate?

Yes, Yeshua donned tzitzit and laid tefillin but he was and is Jewish, so unless you’re a Jew (and if you are, you already have a set of traditions available to you that define the mitzvot for observant Jews), let’s just set those behaviors aside for now.

What about Yeshua’s kindness, his compassion for others, his wisdom, his sense of justice, his expression of duty and servitude to his followers, and even to strangers?

Those are all fine qualities to imitate, and you don’t even have to be Jewish to incorporate them into your own behavior.

kindnessLike Yeshua, you can give to charity. You can pray. You can “preach the Word”. You can urge others to repentance. You can look forward to the coming of the Kingdom and teach others to do the same.

There’s a lot you can do to imitate the Master. He gave plenty of examples that are accessible to any one of us right now.

Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to Yeshua or even anyone you know about from the Bible. Pick anyone you can think of who you consider spiritually great, figure out why they had such greatness, choose some qualities they displayed, and then learn to integrate them into your own life.

Above, I said it seems simple enough, but it really isn’t. It’s not simple or easy at all.

In fact, it will take a lot of hard work.

But that’s OK because you’ve got the rest of your life to work on improving yourself. So do I.

There are two basic things you (and I) can do to start off with: when you consider yourself, think the best of yourself, and when you consider other people, think the best of them, too.

There’s a blues chart I heard the other day called “I’m Amazing” by Keb’ Mo’. I inserted a link to a YouTube video of his performance in one of my comments on a previous meditation, but I’m sure it’s going to get lost there.

So I’m posting it at the bottom of this blog post where it won’t get lost, at least not as easily. I think my way of lifting up our spirits where many of my blog posts lately have been bringing them down.

If you are (or I am) not sure where to go in your walk of faith and your life of devotion to God, and especially if you’re frustrated because that walk cannot be defined as “Jewish,” it doesn’t mean there aren’t Biblical and other holy examples available to you. I just outlined how you can imitate the most important and holy Jew who ever lived and who still lives, Yeshua, and you don’t even have to be Jewish (or Torah-compliant, Torah-observant, Torah-submissive, or whatever) to do it.

We’re all amazing. It’s OK for you to be amazing. It’s OK to realize everyone around you is amazing, too.

4 thoughts on “You’re Amazing”

  1. Very well said…
    As you are very aware of, every silver lining of everything is something we should all bear with as we are all attempting to become the better reflection of Yeshua, the greatest Jew ever lived. I have been keeping myself away from the good old church because of what I thought my calling would be and difference in hashfawkwa. However, spending your time alone really dries me up, so I really am determined to go back to the good old church. Though sometimes I must pretend to be someone else in the church for the sake of getting along with the crew, I think bright side is that I will be worshiping more frequently and maybe get some relaxation on the side. But I sincerely I hope that one day will come when the Jews and the non-Jews can dance all they want and become just natural before Yeshua.

  2. I’ve started reading the biography of William Wilberforce…the guy who was responsible for the slave trade being ended in Britain in 1807. He was totally amazing…brilliant, charming, articulate, affectionate, caring, and eventually moral…just not all at once. He was also effective, which is very hard to be in this world.

    According to Wilberforce, he always thought he was not doing enough, but was responsible, it seems, for getting western civilization to admit that they were wrong about not paying attention to what was going around them at the time, slavery, poverty, and the common abuse of those less well off than you. The Wesley Brothers, and Whitehead added to the mix giving us all something to aspire to as people, if not as any particular kind of religiousity, as the Wesley’s were Methodist, and Whitehead Calvinist.

    I spend a good deal of my time just trying to get through the day without doing any deliberate sin. I fail most of the time. I don’t worry about it much, because I know I am failing less than I used to, but I do wonder how to calculate whether I do any good, or even if I should calculate my effect on others, since pride is the source for rebellion and all sin. At most all I can say about myself is that I do not have the evil eye, and I prefer for people to not kill, cheat, steal, and lie. (I include sexual sins under cheating, stealing and lying.) I doubt if that makes me at all unusual amongst those who read your blog, James.

    I already know I am unique, as is everyone, and that G-d planned it that way, by allowing us to develop in a free will universe with a, birthplace, genetic and economic lottery amidst a plethora of different ways of being badly brought up as a child, and then doubling down on the errors as we reached adulthood.

    That G-d found us is Grace, and that we are hanging on as hard as we can is Faith. If I do my faithing in a somewhat Messianic Jewish way is simply my way of hanging on to what Yeshua gave us. I am actually beginning to discover that my path is right in front of me, and I don’t mind walking in it. I find it difficult sometimes perhaps, but not painful.

    I don’t know that I would go so far as to say I was amazing though…interesting perhaps, but not amazing. I don’t do anything well enough to be least, not yet.

    1. If we all spent less time fretting over the minutiae of religious practice and more time focusing on reducing the sinfulness in our lives and improving our behavior toward other people and toward God, we’d all be better off and better servants of our Master.

  3. I quite agree. I don’t have many rules for myself to follow, even in regard to Shabbat, or the Moedim, except to remember them as Appointments of G-d, and to treat them appropriately…rest from what I do the secular part of the week, and celebrate what G-d has deemed appropriate to celebrate. There aren’t any real rules of daily behavior for Gentiles, so, I don’t find myself breaking many. But the Torah commandments that I take on seem to get incorporated into my life a little at a time, and become part of my behavior, not a part of a list to be checked off daily. I do fail at doing them as well as I would like to do them…but I am still learning to incorporate Judaism into my life.

    Perhaps this means that I am not living up to the same potential were I a member of the Mosaic Covenant by birth/choice/training…but I can’t tell. It seems hard enough to live my life well without taking on all the ways of living well that other people do, although my life is similar in many ways to those more religious. I avoid the same negative behaviors, and attempt the same positive behaviors, and ask the Ruach haKodesh to tell me when I am going at something wrong, so that I get that ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach that warns me that I am about to step off the straight and narrow path.

    Relaxing into this simple manner of following the Master, to do as He did, and did not do, minus the Jewish trimmings which I really don’t see mentioned a great deal by Yeshua, as everyone that he spoke to was Jewish, and the Jewishness didn’t have to be mentioned. Yet everything that he wants us to do or not do is in the two overarching commandments…to love G-d, and love your neighbor as yourself.

    I am coming to see that once one stops trying to put the rules into one’s life, and simply focuses on the doing part of doing good, and avoiding bad behavior as described in the Scriptures, the less trouble I find myself in.

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