Gather together and I will tell you what will befall you at the end of days.
Prior to his death, the Patriarch Jacob wished to disclose to his children the future of the Jewish nation. We know only too well what those prophecies were, and Jacob knew that revealing the enormous suffering that the Jews were destined to experience would be devastating to his children. The only way they could hear these things was if they “gathered together” and, by virtue of their unity, could share their strengths.
What was true for our ancestors holds true for us. Our strength and our ability to withstand the repeated onslaughts that mark our history lie in our joining together.
Jacob knew this lesson well. The Torah tells us that “Jacob remained alone, and a man wrestled with him” (Genesis 32:25). Jacob discovered that he was vulnerable only when he remained alone.
-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
from the “Growing Each Day” column
Someone recently commented in one of my blog posts wondering why I said that “Messianic Gentiles” had no active spiritual life.
I replied that it wasn’t that we didn’t have an active spiritual life, but that our praxis is ill-defined when in relation to Jewish community.
I’d actually read Rabbi Twerski’s commentary before the blog comment, but once I read and responded to the comment, my thoughts turned back to R. Twerski’s statements about Jewish community. Here’s some more about what he said from the same source (see the link above):
Some people feel that they must be completely independent. They see reliance on someone else, be it others or God, as an indication of weakness. This destructive pride emanates from an unhealthy ego. In my book Let Us Make Man (CIS 1987), I address the apparent paradox that a humble person is one who is actually aware of his strengths, and that feelings of inadequacy give rise to egocentricity and false pride.
Not only are we all mutually interdependent, the Torah further states that when we join together, our strengths are not only additive, but increase exponentially (Rashi, Leviticus 26:8). Together, we can overcome formidable challenges.
Of course, R. Twerski is writing to Jews about Jews, but I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that the principles he is highlighting apply to the rest of us as well.
However, the “rest of us,” or at least that subset who identify as “Messianic Gentiles,” “Talmidei Yeshua,” or something similar, are really only who we are in relation to (Messianic) Jewish community, or at least (Messianic) Jewish religious thought and teaching. Otherwise, who are we?
We are non-Jews who have chosen to understand and explore our faith by returning said-faith back (as best we can) to its original Jewish context rather than accept the Christian refactoring of the teachings of Rav Yeshua (Jesus) and his emissary to the Gentiles, Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul), or for that matter, just about anything else in the Bible.
Granted, some writers and teachers within the Messianic Jewish religious and educational space are non-Jews, and they are very helpful in assisting us in understanding ourselves. However, by definition, we Gentiles cannot set aside the “Jewishness” of the context that defines us (although that definition isn’t clearly understood). That context is a large portion of who we are.
And that’s part of the problem.
Another part is that because we are so few in number, it’s pretty hard for a bunch of us to get together and “hobnob,” at least on a regular basis.
Every other Sunday afternoon, I get together with a friend of mine for several hours of coffee and conversation, however not everything we talk about has to specifically do with our common understanding of our faith and praxis.
Yet another part of the “community” difficulty is that although we all may share certain things in common, we are also divided by what we don’t have in common. I’ve probably met or at least know of most or all of the “Messianic Gentiles” in the greater southwestern Idaho area, and in the past, I would meet with a few of them periodically, but we weren’t and aren’t the same, and that lack of “sameness” (and sometimes a radical “differentness”) makes our “community” highly fragmented.
While Rabbi Twerski can reasonably expect to regularly gather with a large or at least significant number of Jews to worship with, study with, and to be in community with (not just religious community, but social, cultural, and national community), the same cannot be said of “Messianic Gentiles”.
It’s one of the things we have in common with Noahides, since there aren’t to many of them around either, and even if they can gather in community with other “righteous Gentiles,” they don’t always live near a significant number of Jews.
I’ve been reminded that Messianic Jews have the same problem, often swimming in a vast sea of secular and religious Gentiles, but without another Jew in sight.
Until then, we must focus on the hub that unites us all through the spokes of the wheel, so to speak, that is, Rav Yeshua. If we have no immediate community, although geographically (and often theologically) apart, we are spiritually united. Although our traditions and doctrine may not always line up with each other, the Messiah has one mind and one heart and after all, God is One.
We may not always see Him or each other in the same way, but He is One and when our Rav returns, our King will correct all of our misunderstandings about Messiah, God, ourselves, and each other.
Faith and trust means being patient, even in isolation, and holding onto the fact that this current world is not forever. The Bible states that all the Jewish people will be returned to their Land, national Israel. It’s one of the tasks of Messiah, and one in which the people of the nations will take part.
Those Jews who find themselves apart from their people and their Land will have unity as the covenant people of Hashem.
We Gentiles, though we live in many different lands and in Messianic Days we will continue to live in our nations, will have one King and one God, and we will also be brought to a place of unity and peace.
Today I shall…
…try to join with others in strengthening Judaism and in resisting those forces that threaten spirituality.
We should try to do the same thing in relation to our faith in God and in trusting our Rav, and if we can’t join with others in this mission, then at least we can do this within ourselves.
We are vulnerable when alone, but if we don’t have a body with which we can join, then as long as we turn to God, we can never be alone, and in Spirit, we are also with each other.