rickshaw sukkah

On the Occasion of Ha’azinu and Building a Sukkah

As I write this, I put our little sukkah kit together several hours ago. It’s only a 4 x 6 foot sukkah and the frame snaps together, but it still took me a little over an hour. The canvas is the hardest part to handle, especially alone. Then there is improvising the roof supports so I can roll the bamboo (yes, it came with the kit and is certified kosher) mat across the top. Hanging the lights is usually pretty easy, though this year I used some masking tape to hold the connecting electrical cord in place.

I’ve got a couple of plastic chairs in the small structure, but since the holiday doesn’t begin until tomorrow evening, I decided not to have lunch inside (not that there’s any particular commandment for me to do so, at least as far as I can find).

All of my family had to go to work today, so I’m alone right now. Given that my major “honey do” task after the lawn was constructing the sukkah, I decided, that done, I’d read the Bible.

For the past several years, I’ve been using the same Bible reading plan to go through the Bible in a year. It’s one of the few things I took from my former church experience. The plan actually will take you through the Bible cover-to-cover in 222 days, but I like to build in some “wiggle room.”

That said, I stopped following my plan months ago, as my “slump” deepened, my faith in religion waned, and I decided to focus on other, less spiritual priorities.

Four days ago (again, as I write this), I downloaded a new plan, printed it, and have started reading again. It felt appropriate given my attempt at “starting over” in returning to God.

Since I’d also abandoned my traditional reading and studying the weekly Torah portion, and still having uninterrupted time on my hands, I decided to brush the dust off my Chumash (metaphorically speaking, of course) and pick up with Torah Portion Ha’azinu, including the haftarah readings and readings from Psalms and the Gospels.

I have to admit, it felt good. It’s a pleasant afternoon, and I decided to do my reading on the back patio with a cup of coffee and glass of water, within just a few feet of the wee sukkah I constructed earlier.

And, in defiance of my desire to not rely so heavily on Jewish sources, I also read the commentary on today’s Torah portion from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book Growth Through Torah.

Even though Rabbi Pliskin is writing for a Jewish audience, I must confess most of what he has authored in this book makes so much sense to me on a personal and moral level. I’ll return to that in a bit. I want to present something to you first.

As part of my Bible reading plan so far, I’ve read the first four chapters of Matthew. Being back in the Gospels reminds me that Gentiles do, from time to time, appear in those pages. I think it’s important to consider how Rav Yeshua interacted with them and I’ll explain why in a minute.

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.

Matthew 8:5-13 (NASB)

Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.

Matthew 15:21-28

MessiahHere we have Rav Yeshua demonstrating two very different attitudes towards non-Jewish people. In the first case, Jesus was actually amazed at the faith in which the Roman Centurion had in Yeshua’s power to heal (and presumably faith in Hashem, the source of all healing). In fact, verses 11 and 12 seem to state that in Messianic Days, many non-Jews, because of their faith, “will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” This is contrasted with a statement about the “sons of the kingdom,” which in this context, I can only presume are Jewish people, “will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” most likely due to lack of faith.

I’m sure these verses have been misused by Christians for centuries to support the old idea that God replaced the Jews with the Gentiles (the Church) in His love and in the covenant promises. While I do not believe this to be true in any sense, there appears to be some support for the idea the Gentile faith in Messianic days, through the merit of Messiah, will at least metaphorically, allow a number of them to “recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

That’s pretty exciting.

But what about Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman?

A lot of Christian commentators (I can’t cite references, but I do remember this explanation being served up to me more than once) believe that Jesus really wasn’t referring to this person, pleading for her daughter’s life, as a “dog,” and that this was just a test of her humility and faith.

But given the traditional social relationship between Jews and Canaanites in those days, that’s pretty much how he, and most other Jewish people, would have thought of her. Even his disciples implored Rav Yeshua to send the woman away, fully knowing that her daughter was “cruelly demon-possessed.” Not the sort of kindness and compassion we’d expect from students of Jesus Christ.

And it’s almost as if Yeshua provided the healing in spite of his feelings for this woman and her people. Yet it was her great faith that seemed to touch the Rav and transcended their usual social roles.

We know Yeshua himself said that he was “sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), so the Gentiles weren’t particularly any concern of his, and Yeshua’s interactions with them were an extreme exception rather than the rule.

Yet in John’s highly mystical Gospel, as he is declaring himself the Good Shepherd of Israel, he does make one small admission:

I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.

John 10:16

We presume that these “other sheep” are the Gentiles who will eventually come to faith in the God of Israel through the merit of Messiah, but that must have been a confusing statement to his Jewish audience, since in verses 19 through 21, they accused him of being demon-possessed.

We really don’t find a good example of Gentile Yeshua-devotion in the Gospels, largely because having come to the “lost sheep of Israel,” the Rav wasn’t seeking out, nor did he direct his disciples to seek out, the Gentiles.

In fact, in spite of Matthew 28:18-20, even Yeshua’s closest companions had no expectation that they should actively search out Gentile devotees and make them into disciples. From their point of view, it’s likely that if they had chosen that direction, they would have obeyed their directive by having interested Gentiles convert to Judaism through the proselyte rite.

Peter's visionIt wasn’t until about fifteen years later by some estimates, that Peter was more or less forced to witness a righteous Gentile and his household be the objects of God’s acceptance of faith by allowing them the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

Acts 10:44-48

If you read the full context of Acts 10, you’ll see that Peter was pretty reluctant to make the journey to the home of the Roman Centurion Cornelius. Peter’s famous rooftop vision, recorded earlier in the chapter, was Hashem’s effort to convince this apostle that associating with Gentiles, even to the point of entering a Gentile’s home and breaking bread with him, was not going to ritually defile Peter and his Jewish companions (no, it’s not about food…it was never about food).

Just as with Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman, it was a matter of social roles and the perceived “spirituality” of pagan Romans vs. Jewish worshipers of Hashem that kept them apart.

But while Cornelius was a God-fearer and had made many acts of tzedakah (charity) on behalf of the Jewish people, as well as continually praying to Hashem, he was not a disciple of Rav Yeshua until God directed Peter to visit the Centurion’s home and teach him.

It was only then that Cornelius and all the Gentiles in his household received the Holy Spirit of God in the manner of the Jewish disciples as we witnessed in Acts 2.

After this astonishing revelation, Peter had some explaining to do to the “apostles and the brethren” about why he spent several days in a Roman Centurion’s home.

After relating the supernatural circumstances that resulted in Peter visiting Cornelius, he concluded:

“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”

Acts 11:15-18

It seems that the leaders of the Messianic sect of Judaism once known as “the Way” never anticipated this possibility. They never expected Gentiles to receive the Spirit and to have the ability to repent “that leads to life.”

I believe this is some sort of indication of the qualitative difference between Cornelius’ status before Hashem as a God-fearer and later, as a disciple of Rav Yeshua. Only by Yeshua’s faithfulness and in the merit of Messiah may a Gentile become a disciple, one who is more or at least different from the God-fearer Cornelius had been before, and repent in a manner that “leads to life,” the resurrection, and have life in the world to come.

As far as the Bible is concerned, we never hear of Cornelius again and have no clue as to how he led his life after these events.

But I do believe that the various incidents I’ve referred to so far provide some interesting perspectives as to the encounters of non-Jews with Messiah or with faith in Messiah.

In all of these examples, faith seems to be the common element. It’s faith that transcends the ethnic and national barriers that “contain” God within Judaism and allow the rest of the world to turn to Him. This faith even impressed the Rav, and it was proof of this faith that convinced Peter, and through him, the rest of the leaders of the Way, that Gentiles could receive the Spirit, could repent, could merit the promise of life in the world to come, just as the Jews had.

But what does that mean for we non-Jewish disciples today who don’t find an identity or role in the traditional Church and who do not find it convenient or even warranted, to, in some fashion, imitate Jewish praxis?

My teachings should come down to you as rain.

Deuteronomy 32:2

Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz used to cite the Vilna Gaon on this verse that rain helps things grow. But what grows? Only what is there from before. If someone has vegetables and fruits that are healthy and delicious, rain will help them develop. But if there are poisonous mushrooms, rain will help them grow too. Similarly, Torah study makes one grow. But it depends on one’s character traits what one will become. A person who has elevated traits will become a greatly elevated person. But if a person has faulty character traits, the more Torah he studies the greater menace he will become.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Commentary on Torah Portion Ha’azenu, p.464
Growth Through Torah

the crowdI suppose this is why we have such a diversity of “characters” in the religious space, particularly among the more learned. But if Bible study only amplifies who you already are, then how do you, Jew or Gentile, truly become a better person? More to the point, what path must the “Judaically aware” Gentile take (on a metaphoric deserted island) beyond Bible study, in changing one’s character and becoming more conformed to the expectations of God?

I’ll continue to explore these questions in future “meditations.”

16 thoughts on “On the Occasion of Ha’azinu and Building a Sukkah”

  1. About that “Canaanite dogs” remark — I should point out that the use of an analogy is not the same as name-calling, though in this case it’s obviously not the most flattering analogy. It is not necessarily appropriate to read it as a deliberate social or ethnic slur, however. Nonetheless, the woman deserves points for turning the analogy around from the image of a pack of wild dogs to that of beloved family pets under the dining table. Her sense of aplomb was also clearly a statement of her faith that patient persistent pleading would avail much (not unlike the advice later stated in Jam.5:16). Prior to that exchange, however, her behavior may have seemed more like inappropriate badgering. Unlike Cornelius, she had not been introduced by some of the disciples as a humble petitioner deserving to be heard. Her approach was brash, importunate, and entirely ad-hoc. So, just maybe, she could have handled the situation better, despite coming from a disadvantaged position outside the purview of Rav Yeshua’s target demographic.

    As for Cornelius’ position — notice that he knew where to send his friends to request Kefa’s visit. We can infer that his house might have become a meeting place for other G-d fearers who had been told about Rav Yeshua and his resurrection. Clearly, he had never lost respect for the charismatic rabbi who had healed his servant, despite “minor disadvantages” such as being executed as a political criminal. We can hardly fault him for not being around to see the outpouring of the spirit at Shavuot, or its subsequent effects among Jewish disciples; hence more than a decade later those whom he influenced needed to catch up with what some of the Jewish disciples had experienced — perhaps not unlike the episode in Acts 19 where certain “disciples” (presumably of Rav Yeshua) had not yet “gotten the memo” about anything beyond Yohanan’s mikveh of repentance. News apparently didn’t travel so well out into the gentile hinterlands, though the episode with Kefa’s vision and the events at Cornelius’ house did illustrate the common expectations of difference between Jews and gentiles and their respective abilities to interact with HaShem. Learning that HaShem’s Spirit was available to gentiles as well may have emphasized also the confusion that led to the need to differentiate responsibilities regarding Torah obligations in Acts 15, as well as for Rav Shaul to emphasize to the Galatians that conversion to Judaism was not required nor was it to be sought after, despite some folks who recommended it to resolve certain socio-political problems.

    As for your comment about hesitating to resort to Jewish source material, I see no reason to do so, since the implications of Acts 15:21 are that gentile disciples are expected to learn from Jewish sources, even if they are not expected to pursue Jewish cultural praxis.

  2. Abraham was a Gentile, seeking G-d, and finding Him. By faith, righteousness was credited to him, and he was in a deep relationship with G-d, loving Him, trusting Him above all else.

    This is the epitome of any person trusting Yeshua for redemption and salvation from our sins because God used Yeshua as the ultimate Passover lamb…one who’s blood is a permanent protection from the second death due to all the sons of Adam who do not walk in righteousness. In addition to that protection by the blood of the lamb, we receive the heart relationship with G-d, just as Abraham did, and even more, have a deposit of the Ruach haKodesh within us, irradiating us with righteousness, right thinking and right doing, to slowly teach us G-d’s ways.

    But Yeshua did not come at the time of his advent in AD 30 to preach to the Gentiles, but it seems that faith in Yeshua overcame any objection that stood in the way of ministering to non-Jews while Yeshua was on earth. For Cornelius, he was at least a God Fearer, and Yeshua was not averse to dealing with him, particularly because of his very great faith, but the Canaanite woman who did not worship YHVH seeking his mercy never the less persevered in faith that Yeshua could heal her daughter despite Yeshua’s initial refusal. He called her a dog, and was speaking in a manner similar to telling the disciples to not cast their pearls before swine. Indeed, in the discourse contained in the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua speaks to this point.
    And directly after that he spoke on perseverance in seeking him.

    Matthew 7:6-8 (CJB)
    6 “Don’t give to dogs what is holy, and don’t throw your pearls to the pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, then turn and attack you.
    7 “Keep asking and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
    8 For everyone who keeps asking receives; he who keeps seeking finds; and to him who keeps knocking, the door will be opened.

    Seeking G-d, trusting Him, and persevering seem to be the key for those of us not born to the covenant. We become part of that other flock that is Yeshua’s by seeking him, following in his footsteps, and faithing to the utmost of our ability. We are acting just as Abraham did, and receiving righteousness accounted to us for our faith.

    I don’t think that the Israelites ever anticipated Gentiles becoming spiritual brethren to the Israelites by faith, but when you consider Abraham, and observe other Gentiles diligently seeking about YHVH just as Abraham did, one can see why Yeshua spoke of having another flock.

    John 10:16 (CJB)
    16 Also I have other sheep which are not from this pen; I need to bring them, and they will hear my voice; and there will be one flock, one shepherd.

  3. @Michele: You’re welcome.

    @PL: Yes, I’ve heard about the shift in metaphors from wild dogs to the family pet which is part of what convinced Rav Yeshua to grant the healing. I used the two examples from Matthew’s Gospel to illustrate that the role of the faithful Gentile evolved over time in the mid to late first century CE, and that Yeshua’s plan did for the nations was only to be enacted well after his coming for Israel, which is why things for the goyim didn’t get off the ground, so to speak, until Paul was commissioned as the emissary to the Gentiles.

    I couldn’t tell from your comment, but are you suggesting that the Centurion referenced in Matthew 8 might be Cornelius from Acts 10? I must admit I hadn’t made that connection before, but at best, it can only be suggested since I’m sure there were more then one Centurion present in Roman-occupied Judah in those days.

    I know I’ll have no choice but to access Jewish resources and I am planning on addressing my understanding of Acts 15:21 at some future date. Frankly, at least some Jewish sources make a great deal more sense to me than what is generally produced by Christian writers and publishers. Particularly Rabbi Pliskin seems to have a gentle soul and interprets the Torah in a way that I believe can many times be applied to all people and not just Jewish people.

    @Questor: It is true that Paul used metaphorical language involving Abraham to explain the status of Gentiles within the Jewish movement of the Way and in relation to Hashem, so you’re not wrong. And yes I agree, and stated such in the body of this blog post, that faith seems to be the one common denominator between all those who are devoted to God, Jew and Gentile alike, and Abraham is a great example of faithfulness, particularly when we consider the Akedah.

    I recall including a quote from John 10:16 in this blog post as well, but I also said, at least when Yeshua spoke those words, that his audience may not have understood what he meant, even though the prophets of old spoke of a time when “every knee will bow” and the “House of the Lord” (Temple) will be a “house of prayer for all peoples.”

    It is clear that Hashem desires all of humanity to turn to Him, to serve Him, and to be faithful to Him. Salvation comes from the Jews, that is, from the King of the Jews, Rav Yeshua. That also probably means Gentiles developing the correct understanding of how this process works, particularly the centrality of national Israel in Hashem’s plan of redemption for that nation, and through them, the entire world.

    However, getting back to the core position of this exploration, from the point of view of a lone Gentile outside of Jews as well as Gentile community, how does that relationship work?

    It’s sort of like the joke about, if a man is alone in a forest without his wife and he says something, is he still wrong?

    If a Gentile is alone with God without the presence of Jewish teachers and community, does he still have a relationship with God through Rav Yeshua’s faithfulness?

    Many Gentiles involved in Hebrew Roots and Messianic Judaism get Judaism and Jewish praxis mixed up with worshiping God. Obviously, Jews will worship using Jewish practices because, after all, God intended for the Jewish people to be unique among humanity, even Yeshua-faithful humanity.

    If a Gentile can remain “Judaically aware” but not assume they can lay claim to Jewish praxis, and they don’t necessarily turn to or have access to Jewish teachers (or those who have been trained by Jewish teachers), then what is that Gentile’s relationship with God and how is it operationalized?

    Paul must have known or if he didn’t, must have been trying to figure it out and teach it. We only have a few of his letters and Luke’s account of his life in Acts to go on. The Didache may or may not be the direct or derived teachings of the apostles for the Gentile initiates, so it is possible (though not certain) that it also provides us with clues). However, the Bible’s authority must trump extra-Biblical sources, at least as far as we Gentiles are concerned (while the Talmudic wisdom of the sages is not considered equal to or superior to Torah, it is recognized within observant Judaism as having significant “weight”).

    If Gentiles in Hebrew Roots or Messianic Judaism are ever to “untangle” themselves from the mix up of Jewish praxis vs. Messianic Kingdom worship, Paul may be our only hope in doing so.

    Again, I’m only doing this for me. Others can take from it what they will, but I’m not trying to tell any other non-Jew in any movement that they must change what they are doing. That’s between them and God.

    I’m trying to do what’s right between me and God.

    1. @James — Yes, it’s only an inference that the centurion Cornelius in Acts 10 was also the nameless centurion in Mt.8, and it is to be hoped that there was more than one G-d Fearing centurion to be found in that era, but at least the attitude by which he is described seems to fit both cases (making it at least a reasonable inference).

      @”Q” — Let’s not overstate what Rav Yeshua said to the Canaanite woman. He didn’t actually call her a dog; he merely used an unflattering analogy about wild dogs and children’s food, in which her request would be potentially comparable to tossing the latter to the former and thus inappropriate. We shouldn’t confuse a metaphor with an explicit insult.

  4. My Apologies, PL. It is true that Yeshua did not call the Canaanite Woman a dog directly, only by inference, and she deftly turned Yeshua’s inference to not giving the children’s bread to dogs, into a statement that placed her not as just any dog, but one allowed into the household, and thus allowed to nose about for scraps. Perhaps she, though a Canaanite, was one of the Strangers and Foreigners living amongst the Children of Israel.

    Despite my incorrect handling of the description made by Yeshua of the Canaanite Woman, my point was that seeking G-d until you find Him is the key to it all, even as Abraham did, and the Canaanite Woman’s perseverance in the end convinced Yeshua of the woman’s faith, which he valued enough to grant her desire.

    James, no matter where one is, if one conceives of an idea of the ‘Other’ that is responsible for the desert island one is on, one then has the point of focus to seek after. That for me would be sufficient to reach out to that ‘Other’ until I received a response, and my perseverance in doing so would be the evidence of my faith that G-d exists, and will respond to those seeking Him. I hope this would be true for anyone doggedly seeking answers from a silent sky until the Sky speaks.

  5. James,

    I took a quick look into the website you linked to (LTB) and think I understand your “church experience” much better now. Assuming, of course, that your pastor recommended the site and that he is of the same mindset displayed there. Based on what I read, this is a fundamentalist site.

    I’ve known Christians like this over the years and while I don’t want to get into “fundie bashing” let me just say that this approach to the Bible and Christian doctrine is far from compelling, and would give me major heartburn and headaches too. Please don’t assume all conservative Christians, churches, or Baptists are like this. Yikes!

  6. @Questor: I’m not sure if I suggested that some “other” was responsible for me choosing a “desert island” metaphor to characterize my current position. Actually, the reason I selected that image was to communicate (in an exaggerated way) how (or if) a non-Jew can have a relationship with God without necessarily going through some other authority or community.

    If, by some circumstance, a Gentile believer really were shipwrecked and stranded alone on an island, without church, synagogue, home Bible fellowship, or whatever, on what basis does that Gentile develop his/her relationship with the Almighty?

    @Sojourning: The Bible study I’m using was suggested by the church I used to attend. I haven’t gone over the website except to find and download the study in question, but yes, the church I went to and the head pastor are quite fundamentalist.

    Don’t get me wrong, they are a bunch of nice people, and I learned many things during my two years in attendance, but in the end, my perspective and there’s remained a gulf too wide to cross.

  7. “@Questor: I’m not sure if I suggested that some “other” was responsible for me choosing a “desert island” metaphor to characterize my current position. Actually, the reason I selected that image was to communicate (in an exaggerated way) how (or if) a non-Jew can have a relationship with God without necessarily going through some other authority or community.

    If, by some circumstance, a Gentile believer really were shipwrecked and stranded alone on an island, without church, synagogue, home Bible fellowship, or whatever, on what basis does that Gentile develop his/her relationship with the Almighty?”

    If there is no one else to talk to, one speaks to G-d, and asks for enlightenment and instruction. Under such conditions there are no rules, and no praxis, but merely the person of G-d to reach for. When someone sincerely and fervently reaches out to G-d, G-d responds.

    I know, because I am on that island. I have the Scriptures, but they were written by and for Jews, and for those living with and being taught by Jews, while I am but a Believing Gentile separated by nineteen hundred and fifty years from the society that Paul was teaching. I have books and lectures from all manner of men that seek to persuade me that their understanding and praxis are the correct ones to adopt, but being a Gentile, and being alone there are no rules for me to follow, no authority to instruct me, and no community at all. I am without covenant except through Yeshua, and outside of any society or community that seeks YHVH.

    There is only me here, with the Ruach haKodesh looking over my shoulder, carefully perusing what has been written or spoken or taught to others. It is the Ruach haKodesh that continues to guide me as I search out what is good, or pure, or true, and it is the Ruach haKodesh that helps me as I struggle to bring my life into alignment with what G-d wants me to do.

    Yeshua said we were to ask, and that that we would receive; seek, and that we would find; and knock on the doors of understanding until they are opened unto us. I have no doubt that I look to be a right idiot, speaking towards the ceiling, and arguing with the Person that I sense, or singing to and praising a Person I cannot see, but I do receive, find, and am given comprehension by that Person, while the Ruach haKodesh continues to nudge me in the right direction whenever I step off the correct path.

    1. @James & @Questor — Y’know, guys, if each of you were really on a island alone, there would be very little about which to talk with HaShem beyond basic survival and food management issues. The real philosophical challenges only arise when there are other folks about, and you must figure out how to get along with them. That’s where HaShem’s creation of ‘Havah became Adam’s first real challenge.

      Now if both of you were on the same island, you might possibly start building a synagogue, or even three of them, like the old joke about two Jews who were rescued from such an island and asked to explain why they had built three synagogues. The answer, of course, was that the one fellow chose to attend one synagogue according to his preferences, the other did likewise with another synagogue, and the third synagogue was the one that neither one would ever set foot in! [:)]

  8. This quote seems to fit this discussion well. Of course, it was Jude writing to a Messianic Jewish Synagogue, but it is directly to the point

    Jude 1:20-24 (CJB)
    20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith, and pray in union with the Ruach HaKodesh.
    21 Thus keep yourselves in God’s love, as you wait for our Lord Yeshua the Messiah to give you the mercy that leads to eternal life…
    24 Now, to the one who can keep you from falling and set you without defect and full of joy in the presence of his Sh’khinah — to God alone, our Deliverer, through Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord — be glory, majesty, power and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.


  9. [To the above last quote: Tee-hee.]

    I want to offer a reminder that there were people in Yeshua’s time who referred to themselves as dogs (as if their approach to life was desirable). Mark Nanos has pointed this out.

    The “Canaanite woman” and her daughter may have been caught up in this (even if only as slaves; we can’t know but do know how life goes). So, her agreement with Yeshua could be taken as her rejecting such perspective on dogs (in such a philosophy) while acknowledging her position as harmed by it (in contrast to what or with Whom she wanted to call home). Certainly said philosophies were of demons.

    Aside from that, I also agree that a metaphor is not the same as calling someone a name. I go further than the responses to PL, in that while the words spoken imply something about the woman (and/or her daughter) I don’t believe Yeshua was even implying she and her daughter (or gentiles either) were dogs or intrinsically like* dogs. But he might have been naming (not calling but identifying) the oppression. It is possible that she or her family brought it on her daughter or that her daughter brought it on herself… as another possibility is that the daughter was taken; WE don’t know (now or yet). He knew.

    * Nevertheless, we can see (in Tanakh) that the interface of Israel with gentiles (not all gentiles) had at times been compared to the hounding of dogs (in conflict and brut selfish dominance). I remember a young man in college (when I was newly in college) who said he lost a girlfriend because he dogged her (no context of Jew/gentile).

    I agree with Nanos that we run into problems if we go with the usual interpretations that Jews made this a habitual slur.

  10. According to one tradition Cornelius became Bishop of Cæsarea; according to another, Bishop of Scepsis in Mysia. (RAMSAY, Cornelius and the Italic Cohort in Expositor (1896), 194 sq.; Acta SS., Feb., I, 279 sq.; BARONIUS, Annales ad an. 41, n. 2; P. G., I, 1049; CXIV, 1287; P. L., XXIII, 265.)

    1. So we have some soft evidence (tradition as opposed to scripture or established and documented historical data, that Cornelius became a “bishop” of some community. But in the mid to late first century CE, I wonder what the later title “bishop” would have actually been?

      1. The Greek “episcopos”, from which is derived the English title “bishop”, means an “overseer”. In more modern terms, we would probably say “supervisor”, but the meaning also corresponds to the Hebrew term “roi” (pronounced “ro-ee”), which is the job title of a “shepherd”. Cornelius was probably already functioning to “look after” a community of gentile would-be disciples when he sent that contingent to Kefa just in time for Kefa to be wondering about the meaning of that curious vision he had just experienced. But perhaps someone later formalized that community function as a title by which they referred to Cornelius in some letter or document. It is also not beyond the bounds of reason that he might have performed that function in more than one place at different times (e.g., Caesarea at one time and Scepsis of Mycia at another).

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