Shabbat Rest

Noahides, Talmidei Yeshua, and Shabbos Observance Revisited

On Facebook, I found a link to a YouTube video titled Can a Noahide/Non-Jew Keep Shabbos? and naturally I was intrigued. I should say that I have a pretty good idea how an Orthodox Rabbi would answer that question, but I watched the video anyway.

Afterward, I looked up the source,, and discovered that the Rabbi answering the question on the video is Rav Dror Moshe Cassouto. According to the site’s About page:

Rav Dror Moshe Cassouto brings to us rare honest pure Emuna principals of Rabbi Nachman. Our hope is that our Torah Videos will bring you closer to the Bore Olam (Creator of the Universe) and to serve Him with joy, faith, and trust (Simcha, Emunah and Bitachon).

Learn the real meaning of life, the real purpose in life available to you today! Find Fulfillment, Acceptance, Purpose for your life. Discover the good points in yourself and others, and Finding how to serve God with every aspect of your being: Your mind, Your talents, Your emotions.

Breslov teachings from Rabbi Dror Moshe Cassouto, Jerusalem, Israel. Torah Shiur / Shiurim.

There’s more, but you can click the link I provided above and read all of the content for yourself.

Recently, I wrote a blog post called Not a Noahide, in which I was reminded in the comments section, I probably should have called “More than a Noahide.” I also wrote a companion piece titled Talmidei Yeshua which addresses what we Judaicly-aware Gentiles in Yeshua (Jesus) should call ourselves and what that’s supposed to mean (an ongoing process of self-definition).

They both were inspired by a source that attempts to draw parallels between Noahides and we non-Jewish “Talmidei Yeshua,” or a population that’s more commonly known as Messianic Gentiles.

ShabbatI mentioned the “ongoing process of self-definition” above, but this is also a process of trying to understand the role of the non-Jew in Jewish religious and communal space. A Noahide’s role is well-defined by the various branches of Judaism, but not so the role of the “Talmidei Yeshua” in Messianic Jewish space.

But, unless you’ve already looked at the nearly seven minute video of Rav Cassouto’s response to the question at hand, you probably want to know what he said. Here are my rough notes, which I typed into notepad as I was listening to the Rav speak.

Halachically no. Must violate some portion of shabbat.

Any Gentile who does observe Shabbos must be punished horribly.

Not that they don’t want us to keep shabbos, but it was a gift to Israel from Hashem.

To do so, they must convert to Am Yisrael and the converts are loved in six ways, and born Jews are loved in five.

The purpose of our life is to be humble and me must be humble that we are not Am Yisrael. A Gentile can believe in the One God, but may still not believe that God chose the people of Israel as the chosen nation and they have certain priorities and privleges that other nations don’t have.

We can enjoy shabbos but need to violate Shabbos in a minor way like turning on a light. Not allowed to receive the Shabbos like Am Yisrael. The purpose is to be humble.

Be humble and crown Hashem and to serve Him. Gentiles level of doing this is less than Am Yisrael. If you convert, your level is elevated to Am Yisrael.

Rav Dror Moshe Cassouto
Rav Dror Moshe Cassouto

These are rough notes, so they may seem a tad disjointed. The bottom line is that halachically, Gentiles are not to observe the Shabbat in the manner of Am Yisrael because we are not Am Yisrael. We cannot claim to have fulfilled the mitzvah of Shabbat observance in the manner of the Jews.

However, if we not only acknowledge the existence of the One God but also that He is the God who chose Am Yisrael to be elevated above the nations, then we can appreciate the Shabbat in a similar manner to Am Yisrael, as long as we violate the Shabbat in some sense, such as turning on and off a light switch. Seems simple enough as far as it goes.

To truly be able to observe Shabbos and fulfill the mitzvah, a Gentile must convert to Am Yisarel. The Rav also said that Hashem loves the convert even more than the born Jew, which is interesting.

But I don’t believe Gentile Talmidei Yeshua are only Noahides by another name. I believe we are more. If I didn’t, then I’d have to admit that faith and trust in Yeshua is meaningless. If that were true, why did the Apostle Paul (Rav Shaul) approach the Gentile God-Fearers in the synagogues of his day and reveal to them the good news of Rav Yeshua? They were already God-fearers. What would have been the point?

The matter of halachah and Shabbos observance by the Gentile Talmidei Yeshua has been a hotly debated topic in the Messianic blogosphere and many other venues over the years. I’ve commented on this many times, including in Messianic Jewish Shabbat Observance and the Gentile.

I doubt we can draw a direct parallel between Rav Cassouto’s commentary and the various opinions on the same topic in the Messianic realm. It’s difficult to reconcile this with what we read in Isaiah 56, although I’ve certainly tried.

For a variety of reasons I’ve written about at length previously, I don’t particularly keep a Shabbat of any sort. I certainly don’t want to attempt anything that would approach the level of observance of my Jewish spouse, and her’s isn’t what you’d call “Orthodox” (and I’ve been chided by her in the past for trying).

As I write this, she’s preparing to go to shul for Shabbos services, which pleases me.

MessiahI suspect that in Messianic Days, the people of the nations will likely keep some sort of Shabbos, but how that will compare to Jewish observance, I cannot say. In spite of the opinions of many and what they teach, I think the specific details aren’t definitively available.

That said, I suspect that, just as the Acts 15 Jerusalem letter to the ancient Gentile “Talmidei Yeshua” defined a less stringent level of observance than that incumbant upon Am Yisrael, our Shabbat observance, even in the Kingdom of Heaven, will still not be quite the same as that of the Jews.

So perhaps in the present age, we have a bit of latitude as to how we choose to honor Hashem on Shabbos. I know when I say that, I drive certain people nuts. Especially in religious terms, we like to have our lives well-ordered and highly specified. We want the rules and then we want to either obey those rules as Holy edicts from Heaven, or to adapt those rules and then say to ourselves that our adaptation is the Holy edict from Heaven (as opposed to the “man-made rules” of the Rabbis, who we are nonetheless sourcing).

We are more than Noahides, but what we are remains indistinct, at least as an overarching set of standards for we “Talmidei Yeshua.” According to the Nanos and Zetterholm volume Paul Within Judaism, there may not have been a definitive set of standards and roles, even for our ancient counterparts.

That’s also something that drives people nuts, but we can’t reasonably fill in the gaps in our knowledge with our imagination (although a great deal of theology and doctrine in certain circles does this to one degree or another).

All I’m doing here is attempting an honest (however brief) examination of the topic from the perspective of an “average guy”. Face it. I’m no scholar, leader, teacher, or pundit. I’m just a person trying to figure it all out who happens to write about that journey.

shabbatWhat does that mean to you as the non-Jewish disciple of Rav Yeshua (Jesus Christ)? Right now, it can mean whatever you want it to mean in terms of your own conscience and your understanding of the message of the Bible.

The Bible is highly biased toward Israel and the Jewish people, so we only have certain portions that directly speak to the nations. Interpreting those correctly, particularly within a Jewish document defining a Jewish context and covenant relationship with Hashem, is no small task.

Neither is our individual relationship with God. We progress one step at a time with the understanding that our movement is not at all linear. We learn by doing.

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Aid the oppressed. Uphold the rights of the orphan. Defend the cause of the widow.

Isaiah 1:17

49 thoughts on “Noahides, Talmidei Yeshua, and Shabbos Observance Revisited”

  1. @James — Shavua Tov! — You included among your notes on the presentation: “Any Gentile who does observe Shabbos must be punished horribly.” While that opinion does appear in Talmud, so does a virtually opposite opinion that would credit a non-Jew (i.e., not a convert) who performs the mitzvot of Shabbat (among others), as stringently as is demanded of Jews, with a level of holiness exceeding that of the high priest on Yom Kippur. In other words, it was a subject of debate between wide-ranging opinions, so it is not exactly fair for this Rav Cassouto to present only this side of the argument — nor to present only the views that encourage non-Jews to convert in order to keep mitzvot, which also are subject to varied opinions including some that favor virtually the same view that Rav Shaul expressed to the Galatians that gentiles should not convert in order to seek HaShem’s favor.

    1. In this case, I was quoting Rav Cassouto so it’s his opinion on what consequences should result from a non-Jew observing Shabbat. If you viewed the video, you saw the context in which he made the statement, and yes, he sees conversion to Judaism as the only alternative. However, he also said that Gentiles could “observe” the Shabbat as long as they committed some small infraction, so in theory, a Gentile’s Shabbat observance could look almost exactly like a Jew’s with just a minor variation or two.

      This video was posted to a private Facebook page that addresses issues of interest to “Messianic Gentiles,” so I thought it worth having a look at. I agree with you that Rav Shaul did not expect Talmidei Yeshua to convert to Judaism, and in many cases, actively discouraged it.

      1. I suppose a lot could be said in favor of the simplicity of gentile Talmidei Yeshua copying the well-defined Jewish procedures for Shabbat observance but with some minor infraction to acknowledge the distinction. It does raise some question, however, about what infraction should be sufficiently recognizable that it would distinguish gentile observance from Jewish observance, particularly since many Jews also fail to keep Shabbat perfectly with no infractions. And what if (heaven forfend!) a gentle should make the mistake of neglecting the infraction and should instead keep the Shabbat perfectly? Perhaps we need a “fence around the Torah” to ensure that gentiles do not make such a mistake, and that their observance should always be less than Jewish observance? Of course, that might mean they would need to forego Shabbat observance entirely! It seems to me that perhaps the approach outlined in FFOZ’s publication “The Sabbath Table”, which offers modified prayers for non-Jews, may be helpful in this regard. Also helpful, for this case and for other aspects of praxis, would be a focus on enacting the *principles* of Torah rather than on the specifics of Jewish praxis.

        Apart from this, it appears that Rav Cassouto is following a logical path that was also presumed to be helpful in Rav Shaul’s era, to resolve the problem via conversion to Judaism. However, we have discussed previously within this blogspace the shortcomings of such an approach, which include such things as eliminating the glory that is due to a righteous gentile, and the glory that is due to HaShem as the G-d of all nations and not only the Jewish one, not to neglect Rav Shaul’s concerns as expressed to the Galatians that in doing so they also could fail to experience the full benefits of trusting in HaShem via Rav Yeshua’s messianic role.

  2. I listened last night to Rabbi Friedman – The Soul and the Afterlife: Where Do We Go From Here? – on YouTube (link below). In his continual self-reference to Jews he had a hard time preventing himself from actually stating that he wasn’t sure Gentiles even had souls, while Jews had both a Human Soul and a Spiritual soul that were a part of YHVH that would meet up again at the resurrection. The hubris was interesting, but not surprising. Too many Jews seem to believe that all the rest of us on the planet are simply doomed and irrelevant, no matter our love for YHVH, nor our earnest desire that Jews get all of the inheritance promised to Abraham.

    I do not want to take anything away from any Jew, but I do not want to care anymore what the unbelieving Jews think the Talmidei Yeshua should do. Until they meet Yeshua, they will not even know what we are talking about, and there are not enough Hassidei Yeshua that can agree to speak to our questions as a Talmidei Yeshua Sanhedrin might.

    No one living has the authority to tell us anything about how to live as Talmidei Yeshua. We have a Rabbi, and the writings about him, and we are supposed to be like him, or we are not Talmidei Yeshua at all.

    Yeshua was a 1st Century Orthodox Jew, and presumably, the decree in Acts 15 wanted us Talmidei Yeshua to study Torah, so that we could be more like Yeshua, or else why speak of sitting under the reading of the Torah on Shabbat? We are not commanded to be Jewish, nor to study the Oral Law, but we are instructed to follow in Yeshua’s footsteps, and do as Yeshua did. If we do that, and do not formally convert to Orthodox Rabbinical Judaism, why do Orthodox Rabbinical Jews get to speak to us at all? And why do we ask them to?

    The point that no one wants to discuss is that if we are truly Talmidei Yeshua, then we already are Israelites in Abraham via Jacob through Yeshua, just not inheritors of the Sinai Covenant by conversion or birth.

    We Talmidei Yeshua inherit the Kingdom only in Yeshua’s righteousness, and have only a part of Yeshua’s inheritance as he decides to share it. We do not have our own inheritance as a party to a covenant where by that covenant one must stand on one’s own righteousness.

    As for breaking Shabbat on purpose, that seems a bit pointless when I haven’t been trained to do it properly in the first place. I break it automatically, as do most Talmidei Yeshua who are not sitting under a mortal Rabbi that happens to be Hassidei Yeshua himself. But to suggest that a Talmidei Yeshua purposefully dishonor G-d’s Shabbat? May it never be so.

  3. @PL: I tend to agree that it would be helpful for some “modified” set of standards be established for Gentile Shabbat observance. As you say, FFOZ has made an attempt at this but I’m sure not all “Talmidei Yeshua” will choose their model.

    I’m not sure that there’s much to worry about, though. I can only imagine that the vast majority of non-Jews who seek to “observe” Shabbat don’t do so anywhere near the standands set forth in Orthodox Judaism if, for no other reason, than they’re seeking to avoid “man-made laws”.

    Those (relatively) few non-Jews who seriously desire to observe Shabbos and respect Jewish halachah will hopefully build in sufficient variance into their observance that it would not seem to be too “Orthodox”.

    @Questor: Given the various prophesies in the Tanakh that speak of both Israel and the nations giving honor to Hashem and His House (Temple) being a House of Prayer for all peoples, it would seem unlikely that the view of the sages that the people of the nations will simply die out in the final war leaving only Israel is unsustainable.

    Oh, I don’t think we can call Rav Yeshua an “Orthodox” Rabbi since the modern definition and praxis did not at that point, exist. The closest we can come is to say he was most likely a Pharisee, though he did not always agree with all of their practices.

    Are we really Talmidei Yeshua? That’s a very good question. Are the Christians who will be worshiping in their churches this morning truly disciples of Jesus? They believe so. If they and we do the will of the Father, then I think we are. However, that doesn’t make us perfect disciples. We all have a long way to go.

  4. Turning on a light switch or breaking the shabbos in some small way almost seems like a dodge insomuch that many Jews also do so imperfectly. Breaking shabbos deliberately seems to invalidate the entire act performed by a gentile, making it a meaningless act from beginning to end.

    “Hey! Look! I’m not really doing shabbat!”

    What’s the point? Such would be an ineffective act of mimesis and nothing more. Sabbath, intrinsically to itself, represents a higher cosmic reality. Institutionalizing a rupture in its ceasing makes it not Shabbos.

    “From one new moon to another, and from one shabbat to another, all flesh will come to worship before me… save the gentiles who will perform a rote and ineffective pantomime forever because I command them to…” I conjure the image of Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill for no reason at all. The vengeful Olympians in the story did not really care so much that the king reach the top.

    1. I don’t disagree Drake, but I think the point, at least in terms of traditional halachah, is to in some way distinguish between Jewish observance and Gentile observance. The Shabbat is the sign of the Sinai Covenant, which is specific to Israel and not the nations. Their observance should reflect that.

      Short of the suggestion that Gentiles break Shabbos observance in some fashion, then the alternative would be to define a different yet overlapping set of Shabbat practices specifically tailored to Gentiles, and in my opinion, Talmidei Yeshua.

  5. “What does that mean to you as the non-Jewish disciple of Rav Yeshua (Jesus Christ)? Right now, it can mean whatever you want it to mean in terms of your own conscience and your understanding of the message of the Bible.”

    There is no substitute for revelation.

    1. And there are plenty of people who say they have revelation. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone at a church or other Christian venue (including online) say, “The Lord told me…” or something similar, as if an audible voice from God spoke only to them.

      Then there are those who claim,”Scripture clearly states…” as if none of the Bible was open for interpretation. To traditional evangelicals, the meaning of the Shabbat, either that it’s been done away with along with the rest of “the Law,” or that it changed to Sunday because it’s “the Lord’s Day”(the day Jesus was resurrected), seems perfectly clear, but once you dig deeper into the Bible without the lens of Christian tradition getting in the way, suddenly things aren’t always so certain.

  6. I keep Shabbat and say, “No, I’m not a Jew, I’m a gentile.” Doesn’t that make a distinction?

    Isn’t counseling someone to deliberately sin by breaking a commandment treading on dangerous ground? Or are you saying that it a sin for a gentile to observe a commandment that it is a sin for a Jew not to observe?

    I would ask the same question as Questor. Why are we seeking advice and approval from those who reject Yeshua as the Messiah? Shaul and the other Apostles did not set this precedence.

    1. Greetings, Ken. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      This begs the question of your specific praxis for observing Shabbat. Since we can only infer (though it’s considered binding halachah in Orthodox Judaism) that turning a light switch on and off is forbidden on the Shabbat, it might be too big a leap to call it a “sin”. Much/most/all of how Gentiles keep Shabbat is derived not only from the Bible but from Jewish tradition and custom as well. Any Gentile who lights Shabbos candles on Friday evening can’t say they are only observing Shabbat as Biblically proscribed, since candle lighting cannot be found in the Bible.

      With respects to the Sages, there is as much (or more) tradition involved in a Jew observing Shabbos as their is Biblical commandment.

      I know that “borrowing” from the Rabbinic Sages to define non-Jewish religious practice is something of a double-edged sword in certain circles since, as you say, the Sages do not recognize the revelation of Rav Yeshua (Jesus) as the coming Messiah. On the other hand, can we also say that the Sages are universally wrong about everything they say regarding Jewish praxis? Has God gone against His word and abandoned the Jewish people because of that lack of recognition?

      We have most Jewish people who discount the possibility that Yeshua could be Messiah, and we have most Gentile Christians discounting the idea that the Torah commandments remain in effect for Israel and the Jewish people. No one group has it all right but then again, no one group has it all wrong. Perhaps God is with them both slowly guiding history, Israel, and the nations, to the inevitable endgame when “every knee shall bow”.

    1. Good afternoon, Peter.

      First of all, midrash isn’t necessarily objective fact. I wrote a five-part series attempting to examine midrash, and long story short, much of it does not appear as if it could be factual, but rather, on the order of ‘morality tales’ (though I’m sure I would be some ‘push back’ from many Jewish people on this).

      For instance, over four years ago, I wrote something called The Rabbinization of Abraham illustrating how the Sages tend to ‘retrofit’ the Torah to map to much, much later interpretations of Torah in the post-Biblical era. We don’t have any direct evidence that Adam and Havah received a commandment to observe Shabbos in a manner similar to that received by Israel from Hashem through Moses.

      That said, as I’ve indicated in my blog post and subsequent comments, there’s really nothing stopping you or any Gentile from ‘observing’ Shabbat in one manner or another. If it’s an issue of having a somewhat different practice for doing so than what Orthodox Judaism requires, it is likely that your observance is sufficiently distinct that it would not be considered ‘too Jewish’.

  7. “There is no substitute for revelation.” – AJ Heschel

    One thing I struggle with is the desultory way in which G-d will say in the Bible “I establish all nations.” So if there is only one nation ever founded by G-d, what does the aforementioned even mean? What does that look like? Do the rulers of those nations have Divine Rite? Does G-d register gentiles collectively or as billions of redeemed individuals? Does a gentile sin against G-d by quitting the customs of his own people that G-d vaguely established? If not, why did G-d make the “create” to begin with? It makes little sense dubbing them distinct nations if they are all just a big glob of pick-your-poison.

    When a society no longer believes in a myth, loses its myth, or has it taken, then that society ceases to be. All that remains is the state apparatus. The grandiloquence of Virgil on the foundations of Rome would not be nearly as rich absent divine intervention, revelation and partnership. Rome’s founding of the city would have been a stale datum in an almanac or a dry travel itinerary when those elements of the foundation myth are expurgated. That, I think, was the steamroller of Monotheism across the world. I suspect that Eusebius invented the myth of Constantine’s Vision at the Milvian Bridge to fill this gap in for the Gentiles. Suddenly whatever council this man later gathers has the weight of Sinai – it wasn’t mere chance.

    The Torah provides only one clear instance for G-d in the business of nation-building from His own divine pattern. If by birth you fall outside Sinai, you have yet to find a religion or nation for you in the Bible. Such can only be provided by revelation, or spurious Milvian Bridge vision. Stacy Schiff calls mythos the “kudzu of history.” Her take seems to be that if you don’t get a divine revelation, then you will get a fake one. All nations need one. So a revelation you shall have.

    Your efforts are gallant storming the sheer rock-face that you are.

    1. Drake, if God didn’t want the people of the nations to have a relationship with Him, the Bible would look quite a bit different. That He allows us to struggle with what that relationship means and how to live it out, at least in the small details (the broad brush strokes should be obvious), probably means more or less the same thing as the father of a small child allowing him/her to stumble and fall while learning to walk.

  8. James, you’re a better man than I. If and when G-d ever creates the Gentiles, I hope you are among the first.

  9. James,

    Jews read this particular midrash as confirming that Adam was commanded to keep Shabbat. Also, here’s Neusner’s assessment of the aforementioned midrash:

    “Adam was assigned religious obligations, particularly the Sabbath. He was to rest on the Seventh Day and work on the six days of creation,” Neusner, A Theological Commentary to the Midrash, pg. 51

    1. With all due respect to Neusner in particular and the ancient and modern Jewish sages in general, my understanding of midrash, at least when studying how it is understood by Chabadniks, is that there is rarely only one meaning to a midrashic tale, and more often than not, there really isn’t a literal, factual meaning.

      When my children were in Hebrew school many years ago, they were taught that Lilith was the first woman, not Eve. My kids “pushed back” in their lessons, saying that the Torah states Havah (Eve) was the first woman. But although it’s midrash, their teachers were quite serious in their belief about Lilith, and even though we agreed with our kids that Eve was the first woman, out of respect to their teachers, we made our children apologize to them for disrespecting them.

      While the midrash about Lilith, just as the midrash about Adam and Shabbat, may hold significant moral, ethical, and mystical meaning within the various branches of Judaism, I don’t have to believe that each and every midrash describes a literal, factual event.

      And, to repeat myself, you don’t have to rely on midrash if you choose to observe Shabbos in some manner or fashion. The “Shabbos police” aren’t going to raid your home and blow out your Shabbat candles. I promise.

  10. James,

    I quoted an authoritative exegetical midrash that establishes fact. You referred to non-authoritative, medieval, SATIRICAL midrash (the Alpha Bet of Ben Sirach is the midrash that develops the idea of Lillith as the first woman).



    1. Midrash is not established fact, Peter. Also, you have to contend with if Neusner believes that A: Adam was commanded to observe Shabbat in the exact same manner as Israel at Sinai and, B: if Neusner believes that the midrash about Adam means Gentiles in the modern era are commanded to observe Shabbat in the exact same manner as modern Orthodox Jews. Unless his opinion flies in the face of religious Judaism in general, I’d tend to think he would not support Gentiles co-opting the Jewish sign of the Sinai Covenant.

      You are taking one small midrash and expanding it to an entire theology simply because it seems to map to your current perspectives about Shabbat and Gentiles. Studying the Bible isn’t about looking for whatever happens to match what we want to believe. It’s about seeking out the truth of our existence, whether we find that truth pleasant or not.

      Now, add to all that the question of whether or not every single event described in the creation narrative in Genesis is absolutely literal and factual. Did Hashem create the entire universe in six literal 24-hour periods? Was the first living human being created from dirt? Was the first living woman created either from the first man’s rib, or alternately, by splitting him in two? Is the earth and in fact, the entire universe a mere six to ten thousand years old?

      There’s a lot we don’t know for certain and frankly, there’s a lot we should be paying attention to that we can know for certain. Serving God includes things that are readily accessible to almost any human being. Giving to charity, volunteering at a homeless shelter or a food bank, even picking up a single piece of trash from the ground that you didn’t put there yourself.

      For me, sometimes serving God is as simple as serving my family, such as accompanying my wife to the gym and teaching her how to do certain exercises or taking my grandson to the movies and later, making a snowman with him in my backyard. It’s as simple as regularly having coffee and conversation with a disabled friend.

      Midrashim are intellectually compelling and I love a good metaphor, but like the parables of Rav Yeshua, a good metaphor is a story designed to teach a moral and ethical principle, not to describe a factual event. The Bible is more than a legal document. The trick is to learn to read the various parts of the Bible as they were designed to be read, and people have been struggling with that for thousands of years.

      1. Just to add to your list of considerations about the creation narrative in Genesis, there are unknowns regarding precision and perspective. For example, given the model of a big bang at the beginning, one may consider possible time dilation effects across “the heavens” (i.e., the field of space). Six literal 24-hour periods close to the location of the initial explosion could translate to many thousands of years at a greater distance. Nothing about the language of the passage requires that all the days were of exactly the same duration — though if evening and morning represent darkness and daylight due to earthly rotation, then by the time green plants appear on day three, the subsequent period of darkness at the beginning of day four could not be too prolonged without killing off the plants for lack of photosynthesis. Further, one must discern between multiple meanings of words in the limited vocabulary of the first chapter of Genesis, because there is undoubtedly a distinction to be made between the initial creation of raw matter and energy and the later gathering of matter to form the planet and the waters on it as well as the vapors above its surface, not to ignore distinctions between the “heavens” that are what we would call sky and those that we would call outer space. Moreover, when the text mentions taking the man’s rib in order to form the woman, is it really talking about the whole rib or just certain cells found within it that contained a needed DNA sample that could be manipulated to genetically engineer and grow a female form of human that would be genetically compatible with the male template, and would be identifiable by the male as truly one with him (i.e., “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”)? When the text describes the man being created from the “dust of the earth”, was it merely describing dirt, or was it referring to the mineral elements of which the human body is composed? After all, without the water in it, the human body can be reduced to a rather inexpensive pile of simple inorganic chemicals. There’s an awesome lot of complexity to consider in the structure of the creation that simply can’t be described in one pithy chapter; and, even thousands of years later, our science can barely begin to fathom it. The closer we look, the more we discover, even when we’re not arguing about philosophical models such as uniformity of material causes within a closed system versus consistency within an open system that may experience inputs from outside the system, or developmental models such as evolution versus intelligent design of irreducible complexity. And even midrash was never designed to touch on questions of material complexity. Psychological complexity, yes; and philosophical complexity — but scientific questions, and even historical issues, are rather beyond its intended scope.

  11. “That He allows us to struggle with what that relationship means and how to live it out, at least in the small details (the broad brush strokes should be obvious), probably means more or less the same thing as the father of a small child allowing him/her to stumble and fall while learning to walk.”

    Then the Book of Mormon is in no small way legitimate prophecy, Constantine saw a Vision, Mohammed was a true messenger (PBUH), plus every other myth concocted by gentiles to see themselves as part of the Story with their own nation, land, sacred city, prophecy, text, unique duty, and promise. All the ingredients human sociology requires to carve a nation from the masses. Can they be blamed if they land off base? Mercy deep and mercy wide.

    Think about it. 2,000 years ago after being censured by the Gospel that their gods never founded their nations, that all gentiles have lamentably inherited lies and can never again pray to a G-d of their patriarchs, finding themselves castaways from their own histories, they are left to guess and grope and invent their national identities before G-d, only to be denuded all over again at the Acharit Hayamim, the day in which they are once more censured. This time around Joseph Smith, Constantine, and Mohammed got their guesswork wrong, and again their adherents inherited lies that rupture them from the past. MGs (if there really is such a thing before G-d) are already there.

    From that hard school, learning by dint of stumbling through silence seems a results-may-vary recipe for perpetual disinheritance whenever Reality shows up every few eons. And reassurance? No Gentile “Er” has ever reported back from Styx the national destines of Scythia/Greece/China in the time to be. One must wait until he/she dies to even talk to someone in charge who might answer such questions. And death’s one-way ferry bars us from discovering any refund requests on Pascal’s Wager that might litter the way. It strikes me as laughable this oft-bemoaned stumbling of Jews to accept a frum yid as their messiah; it seems like a petty hang-up next to this unarticulated frustration by orders of magnitude.

    Summer camp leaders would point to those tesselated spider webs as proof of a higher design. But the Indians used it as a token of Grandmother Spider, whose dreamcatcher would sift the true dreams from the false ones. Absent revelation, Gentile faith hangs perilously by the most tensile spider thread ever between the Gates of Horn and Ivory.

    Scrabbling around in cramped darkness is why duct taped jerry-rigging hides behind every home theater. Don’t look behind the curtain, lest you behold the hidden things of this world.

    I hope you have a lovely new year, James. You seem like a genuine person. Your blog is where I come to vent. Something about not crapping where one eats…

    1. I think we’ve had this conversation before, Peter. While Neusner is a noteworthy scholar to be sure, he is not without his critics (no scholar ever is), so I hardly think you can point to his works as foregone conclusions that can never be questioned.

      As far as Neusner being “One Law,” I think your interpretation of his work is “creative” and would probably come as a surprise to Neusner.

      We could go round and round with this and never come to a conclusion. This being a free country, you are allowed to believe anything you want and to practice the religious expression of your choice. However, that doesn’t mean you get to think for the rest of us. That our opinions differ is expected.

      Oh, and have a look at PL’s response to me. We can’t be absolutely sure of what we have written down in the Torah regarding Adam and the Creation event. How much more difficult is it to correctly apply Mishnah?

  12. James,

    RE: ” We can’t be absolutely sure of what we have written down in the Torah regarding Adam and the Creation event.”

    This seems like a cop out.

    And this thinking also portrays the Rabbis as incompetent morons who were too stupid to realize that you can’t perform exegesis of Genesis given that “we can’t be absolutely sure of what we have written down in the Torah…”

    No, I believe there is truth to be found in Genesis and that the exegesis of the Rabbis in this case is perfectly logical. And, furthermore, it appears that you and PL are both running from the truth.



    1. But you’re fueling all this based on the conclusions of a single scholar, not the “Rabbis” as a whole. Also, if you believe all the Rabbinic sages across the ages are infallible and can never be questioned, how do you account for their near universal rejection of the revelation of Rav Yeshua as the coming Messiah? While I respect the Sages and believe that Hashem has imbued them with authority, much as the Pharisees had authority (see Matthew 23:1-3), like the Pharisees of old, I don’t believe they were/are infallible.

      And as I said before, you have the freedom to believe what you want and to practice your faith out of that belief. Just don’t expect everyone to agree with you.

  13. James,

    Those are straw men. I never said I based my views on a single scholar nor did I say the Rabbis are infallible.

    But I do believe the Rabbis are entitled to a substantive rebuttal if you’re going to disagree with them. You never even addressed the logic of the midrash about Adam keeping Shabbat.

    Shall we then infer that you believe that exegetical midrashim have no value whatsoever–that they aren’t even worth responding to?

    Looking forward to hearing your response so that I can understand why you are treating the exegetical midrashim so dismissively.



    1. Like I said, we could go round and round about this, but I don’t have to care about winning a debate. You have your opinion and I have mine. I’ve said what I have to say about it. You seem to think a life of faith is all about who wins the argument. I have other ideas.

  14. If I ever come off discouraging, I repent. This blog is just my thought genizah for all the ones I often bury. Puck will make amends.


  15. I hope I am not being judgmental but I do not feel like a sister to anybody I ever met in MJ. I am not sure if that is because I have just never been accepted or what. I have had about 15 people die and nobody really reaches out, I just get laughed at from afar for trying to reach out to others because I have been hurting. I try to be compassionate sometimes even though I am in pain to these people and nobody really acknowledges it and says “thank you”.

    So I am on the road again to looking for a congregation home. God showed me recently that I have been called to a life of rejection until a certain point in my life. My congregation didn’t reject me this time, nothing was working out for me to continue.

    We will all find our congregation places and callings to what God has put on our hearts in time and this blog has been an encouragement to me.

  16. Drake said:

    Then the Book of Mormon is in no small way legitimate prophecy, Constantine saw a Vision, Mohammed was a true messenger (PBUH), plus every other myth concocted by gentiles to see themselves as part of the Story with their own nation, land, sacred city, prophecy

    I meant in terms of understanding the Bible. I didn’t mean to throw the gates open to anything anyone else considers a vision or holy text. We don’t live in chaos, just a continually unfolding mystery. We are searching for the meaning of our life as God has given it to us.

    Yes, over the past 2,000 years, the Gentile Christian religion has gone rather far afield in terms of its origins, which is why being a Talmid Yeshua is so important. We have to keep plugging away at it, however imperfectly.

    You’ve got no problem with me, Drake. Thanks for using this place as your “sounding board”.

    @J. Harris: I’m sorry for all the trouble you’re going through. MJ congregations are really like any other religious group, church or synagogue. They’re full of imperfect people who sometimes forget what they’re really supposed to be doing.

    I know that many years ago in my experience with Hebrew Roots groups, the people could become overly focused on the “Jewish stuff” and forget about the “kindness stuff”. On the other hand, I met a man who didn’t do the “Jewish stuff” so well (although he thought he did), but who did kindness very well and had a passion to help the homeless.

    The so-called “weightier matters of the Torah,” kindness, justice, charity, compassion, are what we’re all supposed to be about. Look for people like that.

  17. I can show my brothers and sisters how to find Goshen-like places because I know where some of them are but it doesn’t mean I will be able to live there myself either.

    My congregation leader explained in his sermon that we are supposed to be compassionate when people aren’t kind to us but I really struggle with not hearing something simple like “thank you” when I try to be. Maybe I will get to a point I don’t need to hear it.

  18. (Sorry I’m late with this comment.)

    I was startled to read Peter’s comment, “According to Jewish tradition, Adam was commanded to keep Shabbat.” This was news to me, so I followed the link to his blog post, where he quotes from a book by Jacob Neusner. I am very familiar with Neusner’s work, and respect him immensely. However, he is not without his flaws. One of them is that he writes so many books (about 1,000 – more than any author in history!) that he gets sloppy at times. Unfortunately, this is one of those times.

    Neusner quoted Genesis Rabbah, an early rabbinic commentary, on Genesis 2:15, where God “placed” or “rested” Adam in the Garden of Eden. Sadly, Neusner overlooked that was just ONE RABBI (Rabbi Berekhiah) who argued that God commanded Adam to keep Shabbat. Another rabbi (Rabbi Yudah), interpreted Genesis 2:15 in a more straightforward way: God “gave him repose, protected and delighted him with all the trees of the Garden of Eden.”

    All this is found in the Hebrew text of Genesis Rabbah.

    So Peter’s argument is based on a mistake: only one rabbi made the claim, not “Jewish tradition.”

    Other early rabbinic interpretations of the verse claim that God gave Adam either six or seven commandments (see Song of Songs Rabbah 1.16, Exodus Rabbah 30.9, and Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:25). but Shabbat is not mentioned there.

    1. Thanks for weighing in on this, Carl (and good to hear from you again). I think this is a case of one person selecting the interpretation that most suited his perspective, rather than reviewing the broader body of academic work on this section of Genesis.

  19. Carl,

    RE: ” ‘So Peter’s argument is based on a mistake: only one rabbi made the claim, not “Jewish tradition.'”

    You are arguing that something that began as the opinion of an individual can never belong to Jewish tradition? That argument is patently false. There are many conflicting opinions in Judaism and yet each opinion is nevertheless considered to belong to the corpus of Jewish tradition. No one disputes this except you.

    Furthermore, the opinion of a Sage as cited in a text of Rabbinic Judaism transforms from that of the authority of an individual to that of the authority of a respected text, demonstrated by the fact that centuries of Jews have consulted with Genesis Rabbah, cited to Genesis Rabbah, used Genesis Rabbah to decide exegetical issues for many centuries.

    Hope you are well.



  20. Peter,

    Of course Rabbi Berekhiah’s opinion “belong(s) to Jewish tradition” and “to the corpus of Jewish tradition,” as you say.

    But you previously wrote, “According to Jewish tradition, Adam was commanded to keep Shabbat.” This is not true.

    The truth is, “According to Jewish tradition, there are several interpretations: : Rabbi Yehudah offered the first interpretation, Rabbi Berekhiah offered a different interpretation (the one you quoted), and Rabbi Azariah offered a third (in Song of Songs Rabbah), which is affirmed by the rabbis as a group in Deuteronomy Rabbah.”

    The readers of this blog and your blog had no way of knowing these things because you did not tell them.

  21. Carl,

    RE: ” ‘But you previously wrote, ‘According to Jewish tradition, Adam was commanded to keep Shabbat.’ This is not true.'”

    You are demonstrating the fallacious reasoning that critics of the Apostolic Writings exhibit when they say that Matthew 27:5 is wrong because it says Judas hanged himself whereas Acts 1:18 says Judas fell. However, what these critics fail to understand (and what you fail to understand) is that just because one statement does not convey the entire picture does not mean that it is “not true.”



  22. I’m only going to tolerate just so many of these back and forth exchanges because, based on long experience, there’s no way to arrive at an ultimate resolution. Peter, you particularly have this need to “win” and tend to redouble your efforts in the hopes you might do so. In my opinion, Dr. Kinbar’s background and qualifications give him the edge in this debate, though I’m sure you’ll disagree.

    Fair warning gentlemen. As long as there appears to be something coming out of this transaction that may be elucidating to readers in general, I’ll allow it, but once I determine it has “crossed the line” (and as blog owner, I’m the final decider of where that line happens to be), I’ll be forced to close comments.

  23. I think I received the grand finale last week when a congregation leader poked fun at my loss situation to the point where the whole congregation was laughing like hyenas. I brought it up to him and it is no shock to me that there was no apology. I explained to him I am tired of looking for a congregation leader and his wife (been trying to find one for 11 years) to help shepherd me and that the right people will come and find me because the body of Yeshua is supposed to be about finding lost sheep.

    So there is only one person left that I believe is making fun of me indirectly but in a way that some of his followers know he talking about me to make people laugh about my situation.

    I learned I’m not going to tell people what my “problem” is anymore. If I am more quiet than others then that is for me and none of them will be given the blessing of me opening up to them to tell them what I am going through until they reach my trust level. With 11 years of being poked fun of because I went through many losses I don’t think trust will come that easily.

    I think I belong with the Netzarim instead.

  24. The amazing part was that I always thought it was worse at the congregation I was at before. I never thought people could turn tragic losses into ways to make fun of people but I am a better person now because I am more sensitive to people’s hurts.

    1. Unfortunately, finding a religious congregation is no promise of finding kind people. That said, in almost any congregation I’ve attended or visited, I’ve found at least a few people who did have kind and compassionate hearts.

      Obviously, I can’t speak to your experience and have no knowledge of what your difficulties are. I can only hope you have a friend who is good to you. Even if you don’t, human beings are not God and God can always be trusted to love us, regardless of our hurts…or perhaps because of them.

  25. I think it hit my spirit this morning through a message I watched / listened to that the message at that congregation last weekend came out wrong or I heard it wrong. I think I remember the congregation leader even saying at one point “that came out wrong” but I didn’t take him seriously at the time that it came out wrong.

    About all I could focus on after that was most of the people laughing hysterically. In my mind I think it felt like everybody was laughing but I glanced at the person beside me and she looked like she had a serious look on her face and I don’t remember seeing her laughing. The message was about having joy in difficult circumstances and there were things thrown in about down-hearted people and the way they act; those were the things that it seemed to me that people were laughing hysterically about so that is why I took it so seriously.

    I had thoughts in my mind to leave before all of that anyway, I think that was a way to show me my discernment was right that I didn’t need to be there anymore.

    The nearest Netzarim congregation to me is about two and half hours away and their sermons are available online, which is a blessing.

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