Tag Archives: antisemitism

Retiring in Israel?

israelAbout a month or so ago, my wife surprised me again. She doesn’t do that very often. After all, we’ve been married for over 35 years, so we know each other pretty well by now. However, after the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting and several other antisemitic incidents that made the news, she said if it gets much worse, she’d consider having us move to Israel.

Yes, you could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather.

Her making aliyah and having us move to Israel used to be a dream of mine back in the day, but that was a day when our children were still young and we all would have moved together. My wife and I discussed it and I did a bit of research, but life went on and we never seriously pursued it. My passion for living in “the Land” faded over time, and well, that was that.

Until my wife made her rather earth shattering pronouncement.

She hasn’t mentioned it since, and I haven’t seen her do anything else about it, plus, as my mother ages and her memory continues to deteriorate, the missus has seriously discussed moving my Mom up here from southwestern Utah, and I can only imagine that precludes any further discussion of my wife making aliyah.

To be honest, in addition to my Mom, I don’t think I could make myself leave my grandkids. Oh sure, my son (their Dad) is Jewish and he could make aliyah as well, but I don’t see that in his future, and certainly his ex-wife would prevent their two children from leaving the country on a permanent basis because it would severely inhibit her visitation rights.

But retiring to Israel is an interesting thought. I wasn’t going to write about it, but then, I read an Aish.com article titled Why We Left a Secure Life in the U.S. and Moved to Israel by Rabbi Jonathan Feldman, PhD. Of course, Rabbi Feldman is writing from a Jewish perspective, which doesn’t touch upon what it would be like for a non-Jewish spouse to go through the experience.

I found a news item from 2013 at Haaretz called Does Israel Hassle non-Jewish Spouses?, but it seems more directed at Israeli citizens who marry foreign non-Jews.

At a legal website, I found Aliyah for family members – immigration for non-Jewish nuclear family which was far more informative. The article states in part:

The Law of Return states that “a family member of a Jew” can mean a child or grandchild of a Jew, or the spouse of a Jew, or the child or grandchild to a Jew. The law does not provide for the immigration of other family members, such as siblings or half siblings and grand-grandchildren.

Therefore, if a non-Jewish member of another religion only has a Jewish father, or Jewish grandparents, and does not have a Jewish mother, he or she, would be entitled to immigrate to Israel legally, in accordance with the Law of Return allowing Aliyah for family members. It is important to note that hundreds of thousands of people have made Aliyah to Israel as family members of Jews, despite not being considered Jewish by the law of return, but were eligible for Aliyah as a family member of a Jew.

However, relative to some members of my readership, the article goes on to say:

In fact, in the Supreme Court verdict 2708/06 Steckback v. the Interior Ministry (Court ruling from the 16th of April 2008) it was clearly determined that a Messianic Jew would be entitled to immigrate to Israel, as a family member of a Jew, according to Section 4a(a) of the Law of Return, provided that he or she does not have a Jewish mother.

The same logic would seem to apply to a Messianic Jew/Christian, whose mother converted to Messianic Judaism, or Christianity, or any other religion, before the birth of the person in question. As the mother had converted before the birth of the Aliyah applicant, this individual was not born to a Jewish mother, and would therefore not be defined as a Jew, according to Section 4(b) of the Law of Return.

As I mentioned above, all of this is probably moot. However, my Mom turns 87 this year and although she’s in good physical condition for her age, at some point, she will pass. Also, the grandchildren will grow older, and although I will always love and adore them, they might not need Grandpa and Bubbe as much in ten years. Assuming my wife and I are still alive and healthy then, it’s possible that we may still choose to retire in Israel.

Again, the probability isn’t high, but it’s still non-trivial, so who knows?

But what is life like in Israel for the non-Jewish spouse of a Jew? At this point, I can only wonder.

Finding the Spirit of Haman in the Church

Recently a number of leaders in the Protestant community of the United States have urged the endorsement of far-reaching and unilateral political commitments to the people and land of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, citing Holy Scripture as the basis for those commitments. To strengthen their endorsement, several of these leaders have also insisted that they speak on behalf of the seventy million people who constitute the American evangelical community.

It is good and necessary for evangelical leaders to speak out on the great moral issues of our day in obedience to Christ’s call for his disciples to be salt and light in the world. It is quite another thing, however, when leaders call for commitments that are based upon a serious misreading of Holy Scripture. In such instances, it is good and necessary for other evangelical leaders to speak out as well. We do so here in the hope that we may contribute to the cause of the Lord Christ, apart from whom there can never be true and lasting peace in the world.

At the heart of the political commitments in question are two fatally flawed propositions. First, some are teaching that God’s alleged favor toward Israel today is based upon ethnic descent rather than upon the grace of Christ alone, as proclaimed in the Gospel. Second, others are teaching that the Bible’s promises concerning the land are fulfilled in a special political region or “Holy Land,” perpetually set apart by God for one ethnic group alone. As a result of these false claims, large segments of the evangelical community, our fellow citizens, and our government are being misled with regard to the Bible’s teachings regarding the people of God, the land of Israel, and the impartiality of the Gospel.

In what follows, we make our convictions public. We do so acknowledging the genuine evangelical faith of many who will not agree with us. Knowing that we may incur their disfavor, we are nevertheless constrained by Scripture and by conscience to publish the following propositions for the cause of Christ and truth.

-from the introduction to
“An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties:
The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel”
Also known as the “Knox Seminary letter”
found at BibleResearcher.com

A few days ago, I had a private email conversation with someone over a number of issues and the name of a well-known Evangelical Christian Pastor came up in connection with the letter I quoted above (he’s supposed to be one of the later — but not one of the original — signatories). The association wasn’t complementary and having looked up and read the letter after finishing the email dialog, I can understand why.

From an Evangelical Christian point of view, when you read the ten points listed plus the rest of this letter’s content, you probably wouldn’t bat an eye. Nothing would seem amiss in the text of the letter and you’d probably think of it as standard, Evangelical Christian doctrine.

Sadly, it is standard Evangelical Christian doctrine and thereby hangs a tale.

I’m writing this “meditation” several days before you’ll read it. I’ve set it to publish automatically early (in my time zone) on Sunday morning, when millions of Christians across the country are getting ready to go to church. Today is also Purim, the celebration that is commanded of the Jews of Ahashuerus’ ancient Persian Kingdom, ”their descendants and all who joined them…” (Esther 9:27 – NRSV).

”All who joined them” is an interesting phrase because it seemingly refers to the objects of the following statement:

In every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict came, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a festival and a holiday. Furthermore, many of the peoples of the country professed to be Jews, because the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them. (emph. mine)

Esther 8:17 (NRSV)

I mentioned before that we aren’t quite sure exactly what that statement means except that obviously many non-Jews became strongly affiliated, perhaps even to the point of conversion, with the Jewish people. They were the ones who ”joined them” and thus they, along with all their descendants, have received a commandment to perpetually celebrate two days of Purim each year.

The descendants of the Jews in that ancient Persian land are considered today to be all Jews everywhere, but what about the descendants of the Gentiles who joined with the Jews? If they were only converts to Judaism, then their descendants are also Jews. If ”professing to be Jews” however, meant pretending to be Jewish or perhaps coming alongside the Jewish people in fellowship and solidarity, then they are something else. Modern day Iranians perhaps, since King Ahasuerus’ kingdom realm is part of modern-day Iran? Those Gentile descendants could have traveled far and wide in the thousands of years since Esther (Hadassah) and Mordechai walked the earth. Today, they could be anyone.

I don’t think I can expand the concept so far as to “command” all Gentiles everywhere to celebrate Purim (although, why not, since it’s such a fun holiday?). So assuming we’re not just talking about born-Jews and proselytes today, who joins or comes alongside the Jews today?

UnityThe most obvious answer are the Gentiles participating in the various streams of Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots. None of the Gentile populations in the numerous branches of those two movements directly claims to be Jewish (with the exception of adherents to Two-House Theology) but all have an affiliation with the Jewish people and Israel to one type and degree or another. In my little corner of Messianic Judaism, it is common to say that Gentiles have come alongside Israel, we have joined them, not as Jews, but maybe like the Gentiles in Shushan.

Then it’s obvious that we non-Jews who are in some way among Jews in Jewish communities (or primarily Gentile communities who affiliate with Jewish or Hebrew practices in the case of Hebrew Roots) are, along with the Jews, commanded to celebrate Purim. And again, as I said before, I think there are excellent reasons for all Christians everywhere to celebrate Purim as well.

But obviously not all Christians will agree with that statement. Probably most Christians won’t agree with that statement, and certainly the original and later signatories of the aforementioned open letter would absolutely not agree with me.

I was tempted to go over each point of the letter and write a rebuttal, but since that letter has been around since 2002, plenty of other rebuttals already exist, including an article at pre-trib.org and the Rapture Ready discussion forum (not that I’m likely to agree with all the points or perspectives of either population, but I do want to illustrate that not all “normative” Christians go along with the Knox Seminary letter).

Just a few days ago, as I’m writing this, Tim at the Onesimus Files blog, wrote a short but powerful article with accompanying links in support of Israel as remaining in God’s promises and refuting that the Gentile Church has replaced “earthly Israel” as the “spiritual” or “new Israel.” A day or so later, Judah Himango at his blog Kineti L’Tziyon wrote Purim: 5 unusual lessons for Yeshua’s disciples (and for those of you who may not know, “Yeshua” is the original Hebrew name for “Jesus”).

I don’t always agree with either Tim’s or Judah’s perspectives on certain things, but we do agree that God has not done away with the centrality of Israel in God’s prophetic, Messianic promises, and that the non-Jewish people of the world must come alongside the Jewish people by becoming disciples of “the King of the Jews,” who came once as Yeshua ben Yosef and who will return in power as Yeshua ben David, and through the worship of the God of all, the One God, Israel’s God.

I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Genesis 12:3 (NRSV)

That’s God speaking to Abram (later named Abraham) and blessing him with an eternal blessing that applies to all of his descendants through Isaac and Jacob who today are the Jewish people. God not only promises to bless the nations who bless Abraham and his descendants and to curse those who curse them, but He inserts a veiled promise that all the families, the nations of the earth shall be blessed by Abraham’s seed, Messiah.

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

Galatians 3:16 (NASB)

So we non-Jewish disciples of the Jewish Messiah come alongside Israel through Messiah, the seed of Abraham through whom the entire world will ultimately be blessed.

Roger Waters
Roger Waters

We can say that those people who are not Jewish and who have not come to faith in Jesus Christ have no obligation to observe Purim. However some atheists and agnostics and people of other religions do “bless” or support the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state and who think well of the Jewish people, though it’s popular in secular society worldwide to refer to Israel as an “apartheid state” and to demand a boycott of Israel’s products and services, thus bringing themselves under a curse (they don’t believe the God of Israel exists and thus that the curse exists, but the Messiah hasn’t returned yet).

But are any authentically believing and faithful Christians under the same curse?

Bad Christian theology regarding the “Holy Land” contributed to the tragic cruelty of the Crusades in the Middle Ages. Lamentably, bad Christian theology is today attributing to secular Israel a divine mandate to conquer and hold Palestine, with the consequence that the Palestinian people are marginalized and regarded as virtual “Canaanites.” This doctrine is both contrary to the teaching of the New Testament and a violation of the Gospel mandate. In addition, this theology puts those Christians who are urging the violent seizure and occupation of Palestinian land in moral jeopardy of their own bloodguiltiness. Are we as Christians not called to pray for and work for peace, warning both parties to this conflict that those who live by the sword will die by the sword? Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring both temporal reconciliation and the hope of an eternal and heavenly inheritance to the Israeli and the Palestinian. Only through Jesus Christ can anyone know peace on earth.

-from point ten of the Knox Seminary “open letter”

This is in direct contradiction to God’s giving the land of Israel to the Jewish people in perpetuity (see Genesis 15:18 and 17:8 … also see ”The Bible on Jewish Links to the Holy Land” at Jewish Virtual Library).

The quote from the “open letter’s” point ten reminds me of something called Christ at the Checkpoint which, according to their About Us page, exists:

To Challenge Evangelicals To Take Responsibility To Help Resolve the Conflicts in Israel-Palestine By Engaging With the Teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God.

That sounds very nice, except under About Us/Manifesto, one of the twelve points listed states:

Any exclusive claim to land of the Bible in the name of God is not in line with the teaching of Scripture.

I have no idea how any Christian who reads and understands the Bible can make such a statement, but I said before that recent news articles report Evangelicals pulling away from supporting a Jewish Israel. Sadly, it actually makes sense for Evangelical Christians to turn a cold shoulder toward Israel and the Jewish people. It took Hitler’s ghastly Holocaust to shock the Christian church out of centuries of anti-Semitism and supersessionism, but World War Two ended nearly seventy years ago, and if I know one thing about human beings, we’re very shortsighted and of limited memory.

Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.

-Edmund Burke

It seems that even those who (probably) do know the history of the Holocaust are (unfortunately) destined to repeat it as well, at least to the degree of denying that Israel is a Jewish state in accordance to the promises of God, and agreeing that it is not only reasonable but Biblical to carve up Israel into Israel and “Palestine.”

I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse…

Genesis 12:3 (NRSV)

Uh-oh.

Rosh Pina ProjectThe Rosh Pina Project has been running a rather lengthy series on the 2014 Christ at the Checkpoint (CaTC) event (which ended on Friday the 14th) from a Messianic Jewish perspective.  Several authors on this blog have posted detailed commentaries and multiple videos of this year’s event, so if you want to learn more, the Rosh Pina Project is the place to go.

I find it ironic that the image in the banner at the CaTC homepage quotes Matthew 6:10, ”Your Kingdom Come.” I can only imagine that the folks at Bethlehem Bible College and the other CaTC supporters and allies believe that when God’s Kingdom comes upon the return of Jesus, the way they, and the folks who signed the Knox Seminary open letter, view God’s Kingdom lines up with the complete elimination of Jewish possession of Israel. The fact that point nine of the open letter states, The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the “Holy Land” cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua,” is, to me, a clear indication that the letter’s writers and signatories have no idea what God has promised Israel or what “Thy Kingdom Come” means.

I realize that makes me sound arrogant beyond belief. All of the signatories are Pastors and theologians with doctorate degrees up the wazoo, and I’m just one guy with no doctorate degrees and just a heck of a lot of chutzpah (and with chutzpah in mind, I invite anyone who agrees with the Knox Seminary letter and/or CaTC’s mission to watch The First Fruits of Zion episode Thy Kingdom Come for a bit of illumination).

I know it seems strange to say that there are Christians, well-known Christian Pastors even, who could be cursed by God because these well-known (and probably lots of not well-known) Christians believe ”the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua,” and that ”bad Christian theology is today attributing to secular Israel a divine mandate to conquer and hold Palestine.” Really. They should just join the BDS Movement and be done with it. I bet they’re big fans of Roger Waters’ vile opinions on Israel.

If these Christians are banking on ”He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved,” (Mark 16:16) they should remember Jesus also said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’”

Matthew 7:21-23 (NRSV)

SheepRemember the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). I used to think it was about being judged by how we do or don’t show kindness and compassion to others, especially strangers, but a year or so ago, I heard an alternative interpretation from a teacher at the church I attend, that Jesus is specifically addressing those Gentile believers who did not care for the disadvantaged, the hungry, thirsty, or naked of Israel, the Jewish people.

Imagine that.

I really hate to say this since I know it will hurt a lot of people’s feelings and make a lot of Christians mad at me, but the only conclusion I can pull out of all of this is that the “Spirit of Haman” not only roams the Islamic mosques and madrassas (seminaries) but that “Spirit” can also be found in some of our churches and seminaries. It breaks my heart to say that because there are a lot of good people in the church who indeed to love Israel and believe it is for the Jews only, but the evidence has been mounting that much of Christianity is turning away in the “Spirit of Haman” and bringing upon themselves the curse promised in the Abrahamic covenant, and the curse of Haman and his ten sons.

I wish I could have written a light, comedic “meditation” for today as a celebration of life and joy, but I discovered I’m not a comedy writer. I’m just a voice in the wilderness calling the churches of the nations back from where they’ve wandered off, pleading with them to repent of their ways, begging them to return to God before it’s too late.

John was a prophet in the wilderness and he called many Jews back to repentance in his day. I’m just a guy with a blog and I’m no prophet at all.

My friend Dan Hennessy is building an educational venture using “smart technology” to inform secondary and college-age students about the Holocaust. He’s developed a slogan for this “underground operation:”

“Education is resistance. Support the resistance.”

In our recent conversation, I countered with a quote from the film Terminator Salvation (2009) spoken by John Connor (actor Christian Bale) in the film’s trailer:

Humans have a strength that cannot be measured. This is John Connor. If you are listening to this, you are the resistance.

Like the scattered remnants of humanity all but decimated by the machines in John Connor’s fictional future world, I’m just a man alone or among a small group of partisans, fighting against a much larger and imposing force. But, like those celluloid (though movies aren’t on celluloid film anymore) resistance fighters, I’m just listening to a contraband radio set, so to speak, listening to words of freedom that have been all but forgotten, cherishing allies that have been thrown under the bus of “Christian political correctness.”

But I can hear a voice and because I’m listening, I am the resistance. Learn about Purim. Learn why the Knox Seminary open letter and Christ at the Checkpoint are tragically wrong about what the Bible says. I did so by becoming a student of Messianic Judaism but that’s not the only way. Become part of the resistance by blessing Israel and not cursing it, for surely we will all be judged by how we have treated Christ’s “little ones.”

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

Psalm 137:5-6 (NRSV)

And I say with some irony, Chag Sameach Purim. Have a joyous Festival of Purim.

Conversion At Any Cost?

tomas-de-torquemadaIn 1483, Tomas de Torquemada was appointed as “Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.” Jews of Spain had been forced to convert to Christianity, and the Inquisition was designed to uncover those who were continuing to practice their Judaism in secret (called Conversos or Marranos). Those who never confessed were burned at the stake; those who did confess were strangled first. Torquemada believed that as long as the Jews remained in Spain, they might influence the tens of thousands of Jews who had converted to Christianity. It was on his recommendation that the remainder of the Jewish community — 200,000 people — was expelled from Spain in 1492. An estimated 32,000 were burned at the stake, and Torquemada’s name became a byword for cruelty and fanaticism in the service of religion. The order of expulsion was not officially voided by the government of Spain until 1968.

Today in Jewish History
Cheshvan 4
Aish.com

This will be short but not sweet. There are some Christians who say that it was a sin for Jews to refuse to convert to Christianity across the last two-thousand years of history. Yes, these are Christians living today in my little corner of the world. I’ve brought this issue up to them. Is it right for Christians to torture Jews into “conversion?”

They say the torture part was wrong, but that the Jews should have studied scripture and discovered the truth of Jesus for themselves. I’m also told that Christians who resorted to torturing Jews in order to gain their conversions were not “true Christians.”

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, they represented the normative Church of their day and as far as I can tell, there were no opposing bodies in the Church crying out against the torture and murder of the Jewish people.

I think forcing anyone to convert to Christianity on pain of torture and death is wrong. Period. I don’t think such conversions would be valid in any case. You can torture a person’s body and you can make them speak the words, you can even make someone afraid to think thoughts of refusing Christianity, but you can’t control the spirit, and God knows the truth.

And yet, there are Christians today that say that the Jews under Tomas de Torquemada and those like him should have converted when requested to. I disagree. I think men such as this one are reprehensible villains and should be reviled. The only reason to keep their names in our history books is so that their bad example will never be repeated. I think the Jewish people who resisted this monster are heroes and the ones who “converted” should be pitied.

If any person, Jewish or Gentile, of their own free will, chooses to accept Jesus as the Messiah, that’s between them and God. The minute a so-called “Christian” takes up any manner of coercion against another human being to trick or force them to convert, both that “Christian” and their victim lose.

Intermarriage: Not Peace, But A Sword

onfire.jpgTo die while committed to a belief system that is idolatrous, false and contrary to what G-d has revealed to us AND has resulted in the persecution of the Jewish people for the last two thousand years, even if it doesn’t affect our eternity through the ever burning hell fires that Christianity reserves for those who didn’t believe in Jesus, is still not something I would desire for myself or anyone.

-from a private conversation

The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.

Proverbs 14:15

Faith and belief are both defined as accepting as true something which transcends logic and which may not be subject to proof by rational argument. Yet, belief in God is not the “blind faith” of a simpleton.

A simpleton does not think, either because he lacks the capacity or does not wish to make the effort. Therefore, he is gullible and can be easily swayed in any direction. Being credulous is not the same as having faith.

When we reflect on the concept of a Supreme Being, Who is in every way infinite, we are likely to feel bewilderment, because our finite minds cannot grasp the infinite. Since all of our experiences involve finite objects, we lack a point of reference for dealing with the infinite.

When this reflection brings us to realize that the question of the existence of an infinite Supreme Being cannot be logically resolved, we then turn to the unbroken mesorah, the teachings which have been transmitted from generation to generation, from the time when more than two million people witnessed the Revelation at Sinai. When we accept our faith on this basis, we do so as the culmination of a process of profound thought which is no way similar to the credulousness of a simpleton.

This process also helps us with other questions that we have about God. For instance, the fact that we cannot possibly logically understand God does not preclude our coming to a knowledge of His Presence.

Today I shall…

…strengthen my faith by reflecting on the unbroken chain of tradition since Sinai.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twersky
“Growing Each Day, Elul 3”
Aish.com

I’d like to think I’m not a simpleton. I hope I’m thoughtfully considering my steps. I have faith. I believe. The faith and belief of the Jewish people ultimately rests at Sinai, at the giving of the Torah. It is said that each Jewish person is to consider himself or herself as having personally stood at Sinai and having received the Torah directly. This communicates a sense of direct “ownership” of the commandments of God, rather than just the tradition of having them passed down from one generation to the next.

For a Christian, faith and belief ultimately rests at the foot of the cross, in a pool of blood shed for our sins. Christians aren’t “commanded” to consider ourselves as having personally stood at the foot of the cross of Christ, watching him die for our sake and for the sake of the world. Maybe we should.

But even so, people like me have a difficult thing to face. In my case, I have a Jewish wife, two Jewish sons, and a Jewish daughter. My children don’t speak to me one way or the other about my attending church and professing my Christian faith, but occasionally my wife does. Occasionally a few (non-believing) Jewish friends do (although in strictest confidence) as well.

If I love my Jewish family and friends, how can I be a part of a faith that historically has been guilty of “the persecution of the Jewish people for the last two thousand years”? I thought I knew, but when someone you deeply care about asks that question, it’s not so easy to answer. The answer is long and involved, and when someone is responding to your Christianity on a really emotional level, they don’t always want to hear long, involved explanations that they’ll probably do their level best to shoot out of the water in any case.

I don’t really want to argue. If someone wants to hear about my faith, I’ll do my best to explain it to them. If they don’t, I’m not invested in beating people over the head with a copy of the New Testament.

intermarriageIt doesn’t help (ironically enough) that my wife used to be a believer. My limited experience with Jewish people who were once believers and then returned or adopted a more traditional Jewish practice and worship, is that they are more highly resistant to any idea that there could be validity in Christianity or Messianic Judaism. I can only imagine it’s like being a person who is an ex-smoker (I used to smoke a number of decades ago) and a smoker is trying to convince the non-smoker to light up again.

“Yuck,” is the predictable reaction, followed by a series of reasons from the non-smoker why lighting up is an incredibly bad idea, and harmful not only to the smoker, but to everyone around the smoker, particularly the smoker’s loved ones.

As a Christian among Jews, I feel like a smoker among long-term non-smokers. If I want to “light up,” I sure better take it outside, down the alley, and around back behind a shed where no one can see me or smell me. As a Christian among Jews, I feel as if they see me like this:

In 1391, the Jews of Barcelona, Spain were victims of a massacre. This was part of three months of deadly riots throughout Spain, which left the Jewish community crushed and impoverished. Incredibly, on this same date 70 years later, a bishop named Alfonso de Espina urged the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition was designed to uncover those Jews who continued to practice Judaism in secret (called Conversos or Marranos). During the years of brutal Inquisition, an estimated 32,000 Jews were burned at the stake and another 200,000 were expelled from Spain.

-from “Day in Jewish History” for Elul 4
Aish.com

You may consider that example a little extreme, but I’m not sure it’s that far out. I think it’s one thing to be Jewish and to be aware of Christians in your general environment, at the grocery store, at work, at the park, driving the streets of your city, and another thing entirely to be close to and even to live with a Christian. While my wife will occasionally give voice to her concerns, my children haven’t. My daughter, who is the only child left at home, has become more distant from me in recent months. She says everything’s OK, but everything else she says and does communicates otherwise. I can’t absolutely say it’s because of my continued church attendance and my reading from the Christian Bible, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch, either.

Authentic Jewish life is characterized by the study of Torah, the observance of Shabbat and Kashrut, and the thrice-daily worship of God. Not Shabbes leichter as museum pieces, but a generation of Jewish women who light their candles to usher in the holy Shabbat. Not klezmer concerts to evoke nostalgia for the shtetl, but Jewish bands playing Jewish music at Jewish weddings where Jewish communities are celebrating the beginning of a new generation of a Jewish family.

I wish my niece Jodi had had such a wedding.

-Sara Yoheved Rigler
“The Dead End of Jewish Culture”
Aish.com

magen-davidRigler wrote this article as a description of how Jewish people identifying themselves as Jewish entirely on the basis of Jewish culture (as opposed to Jewish faith, observance of the mitzvot, and study of Torah) are reaching a dead-end to their Jewish identity. The painful result, from Rigler’s perspective, is her Jewish niece Jodi’s (not her real name) wedding to a Catholic husband in a Catholic church.

Rigler writes:

One December afternoon, my precious four-year-old niece Jodi walked into my mother’s suburban New Jersey kitchen and asked, “Bubbie, are you Jewish?”

“Yes, I am,” my mother answered proudly.

“So am I,” Jodi confided, “but don’t tell Santa Claus.”

I laughed when my mother told me this story, and I chuckled every time I thought of it – for 22 years. Last week, Jodi got married, in a Catholic church, kneeling in front of a huge gilded cross. I stopped laughing.

Apparently, Jodi’s perception of Judaism as a liability grew with the years. At the age of four, being Jewish made her a persona non grata to Santa Claus. At the age of 16, growing up in a town whose century-old bylaws stipulated, “No Jews or Negroes,” Jewish identity must have been a social non-starter. At the age of twenty, as a sophomore at Boston University, being Jewish must have threatened her budding romance with a handsome Catholic senior.

I’m sure Jodi’s Catholic husband doesn’t imagine that he might be considered guilty of any wrongdoing to Jodi or Jodi’s Jewish family, but, based on my experience, eventually he’ll have to confront those feelings. At least I don’t have Jewish in-laws who are upset with me, just the nuclear family and a few other Jewish people.

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

Matthew 10:37 (NASB)

That’s a tough one to take. How am I supposed to respond to that, God? And what about this?

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Luke 9:26 (NASB)

This next one is even worse.

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

Hebrews 6:4-8 (NASB)

It would be worse to come to faith in Messiah and to fall away than never to have come to faith in the first place. Ouch.

So how am I supposed to choose, or if a choice is impossible, what am I supposed to do? At least in terms of marriage, Paul (and not God) had this to say:

But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

1 Corinthians 7:12-16 (NASB)

separation“But God has called us to peace.” Really? Not until Messiah comes/returns (depending on who you are).

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m fighting with the missus (or anyone else) tooth and nail, and that I’m constantly engaged in some sort of “battle” of faith with the Jewish people in my life, but I can hardly ignore the steady undercurrent in these relationships as well as the occasional flare ups, either.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

Matthew 10:34-36 (NASB)

“Not peace, but a sword.”

Whoever has faith in individual Divine Providence knows that “Man’s steps are established by G-d,” (Tehillim 37:23) that this particular soul must purify and improve something specific in a particular place. For centuries, or even since the world’s creation, that which needs purification or improvement waits for this soul to come and purify or improve it. The soul too, has been waiting – ever since it came into being – for its time to descend, so that it can discharge the tasks of purification and improvement assigned to it.

“Today’s Day”
Friday, Elul 3, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

Assuming God is establishing my steps too, I have to believe that I have come to this place, this time, this circumstance, for a reason. What that reason is, I cannot say. May it be right that I am here for a good purpose, and that God intends my existence and my presence in order to correct and purify some part of the world around me. I have no desire to hurt anyone, least of all those people I love who are Jewish.

8 Days: Critical Mass

Critical_Mass_by_sam2993How much better than fine gold is the acquisition of wisdom, and the acquisition of understanding is choicer than silver! The paved road of the upright is turning from evil; one who keeps his way guards his soul. Pride precedes destruction and arrogance comes before failure. Better [to be] lowly of spirit with the humble than [to be] sharing the spoils with the proud. One who undertakes a matter intelligently will find good [success]; and praiseworthy is he who trusts in Hashem. The wise of heart will be called an understanding person, and one whose speech is sweet will gain learning.

Proverbs 16:16-21 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:8

James/haSatan: First of all I made sure to use the words of Messiah particularly because you don’t know them or understand them. The teaching I put in the comments here were all backed up by scripture and were HIS WORDS and there is NO GREATER LOVE THAN TO LAY DOWN ONES LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS. What are you accusing Yeshua of…..hatred?

IF I don’t sit in a pity party with you guys reviewing all the past evils done to the Jewish people while at the same time “Bashing Christians” and attempting to lay all the responsibility at THEIR feet……you call my words hateful?

A critic

I know. Taking verses out of context can sometimes create a false impression of what is really being said, but in my current reading from Proverbs, there seems to be an emphasis on controlling your speech, humility, understanding, and wisdom. No, I’m not trying to blow my own horn, but I am trying to understand why someone who feels they have a valid theological point to make must do so while spewing vitriol and hate. Certainly comparing me to the adversary is a little over the top, no matter how angry my fellow Christian brother may be with me.

But what started this mess, anyway?

What follows is a confession of faith for Jewish converts to Christianity, from the Church of Constantinople. While it seems extreme to us today and many Christians have regained their appreciation for Israel and Jewishness of Jesus, how many Christians truly disagree with a basic premise expressed in this swearing of allegiance to faith in Christ when it comes to their own attitudes toward Jews and especially their view of Judaism?

My friend Gene Shlomovich wrote a blog post called Confession of faith for Jewish converts to Christianity, from the Church of Constantinople. He wanted to draw attention to how Jews, during the early Christian period, were put in the position of having to renounce their entire Jewish identity, the Torah of Moses, all of the mitzvot, in order to be allowed to enter the community of faith in the Jewish Messiah…uh, that is Jesus Christ, our Lord. Here is the “confession of faith” a Jew was expected to make as quoted from Gene’s blog.

As a preliminary to his acceptance as a catechumen, a Jew ‘ must confess and denounce verbally the whole Hebrew people, and forthwith declare that with a whole heart and sincere faith he desires to be received among the Christians. Then he must renounce openly in the church all Jewish superstition, the priest saying, and he, or his sponsor if he is a child, replying in these words:

‘I renounce all customs, rites, legalisms, unleavened breads and sacrifices of lambs of the Hebrews, and all the other feasts of the Hebrews, sacrifices, prayers, aspersions, purifications, sanctifications and propitiations and fasts, and new moons, and Sabbaths, and superstitions, and hymns and chants and observances and synagogues, and the food and drink of the Hebrews; in one word, I renounce absolutely everything Jewish, every law, rite and custom, and above all I renounce Antichrist, whom all the Jews await in the figure and form of Christ; and I join myself to the true Christ and God. And I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Holy, Consubstantial and Indivisible Trinity, and the dispensation in the flesh and the descent to men of the Word of God, of the one person of the Holy Trinity, and I confess that he was truly made man, and I believe and proclaim that after the flesh in very truth the Blessed Virgin Mary bore him the son of God. and I believe in, receive, venerate and embrace the adorable Cross of Grist, and the holy images; and thus, with my whole heart, and soul, and with a true faith I come to the Christian Faith. But if it be with deceit and with hypocrisy, and not with a sincere and perfect faith and a genuine love of Christ, but with a pretence to a be Christian that I come, and if afterwards I shall wish to deny and return to Jewish superstition, or shall be found eating with Jews, or feasting with them, or secretly conversing and condemning the Christian religion instead of openly confuting them and condemning their vain faith, then let the trembling of Cain and the leprosy of Gehazi cleave to me, as well as the legal punishments to which I acknowledge myself liable. And may I be anathema in the world to come, and may my soul be set down with Satan and the devils.’ (From Assemani, Cod. Lit., 1, p. 105.)

That sounds very hateful and even kind of crazy, but it did reflect the reality of how Christians were thinking of Jews at that point in time. Unfortunately, something of an “echo” can still be heard among at least a few Christians these days.

With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; With the perfect man thou wilt show thyself perfect; With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; And with the perverse thou wilt show thyself froward. And the afflicted people thou wilt save; But thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou mayest bring them down.”

Both the abusers of the Jewish people and those of the Jewish people who hate G-d, his son, and their neighbor will stand in judgment together. “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.”

No repentance……no mercy!

No-MercyNo mercy. No mercy from God?

Doesn’t God have mercy upon us even before we repent? If He didn’t, He would never allow us the opportunity to do so…no matter how long it may take some of us.

Or how about this?

This post is not about anti-semitism. It is Christian bashing by way of blaming men who were never really followers of Yeshua for Israel’s lack of belief, faith, and transgressing the law and departing through disobedience. Israel needs to take some responsibility and stop blaming others. If you have unforgiveness in your heart and need to go through history to find someone to blame other than yourselves you missed the entire point of the Torah. Repentance begins by taking responsibility.

But how could the Jews historically accept a Messiah who was re-cast as the “Goyishe King” and was unrecognizable to his Jewish brothers?

Unfortunately, that point isn’t always understood in the church or at least by some of those in the church. But what really bothers me isn’t that some Christians have an idea that the Jews are to blame for their own hardships because “they rejected Jesus.” What really bothers me is the level of rage and hate that such individuals express in trying to “explain” their point of view. Even if they believe they can back up their position with scripture, doesn’t scripture also encourage us to love, to use measured and wise words, to feel compassion?

The really sad part of the conversation I’m referencing is just that day, I had written a memorial to the victims of the Sandy Hook school shootings. Among the victims was a 6 year old Jewish boy named Noah Pozner. It’s one thing to take “pot shots” at Jewish people in general as a Christian if you believe Judaism is thumbing its nose at Jesus Christ, so to speak. It’s another thing entirely to completely forget a national tragedy that occurred hardly a week ago and to disdain (though indirectly) a specific Jewish victim. No, my adversary never mentioned his name or referenced Noah in any way, but when you condemn all Jews who don’t renounce being Jewish for the cause of the Gentile Christ, you condemn each individual Jew, including a young Jewish boy who did no harm to anyone at all.

You can go to Gene’s blog and read everything there including all of the comments and judge for yourself whether or not I’m being unfair. I typically don’t like calling people out personally on their behavior, but it really bothers me that a Christian can not only condemn all Jewish people everywhere unless they renounce being Jewish, but I find it offensive that it is done in so callous and harsh a manner. Does God hate the Jewish people He calls His own? Did the Messiah hate us before we came to him?

Are we supposed to hate those who disagree with us, who don’t accept our faith, who believe bad things about us? This goes way beyond what one “loose cannon” Christian thinks about the Jewish people and considers how the church views the “unsaved,” i.e. the rest of the world. Are we only supposed to love people once they’re “saved?” Until then, is everyone who isn’t a Christian just “secular scum?”

I hope I’m only referencing a few random, infrequently occurring believers among a more compassionate and caring church, but it’s hard for me to tell. I guess the only way to find out is to keep going to church and to see how people treat not only me, but those who aren’t like “us.”

I wonder what I’ll discover?

Death in Toulouse

Rabbi Sandler of Kiryat Yovel in Jerusalem and his sons Aryeh, 6, and Gavriel, 3.5, were murdered in Toulouse Monday morning, as was 8 year-old Miriam Monsonegro, daughter of the director of Ozar HaTorah Toulouse, Yaacov Monsonego.

Binyamin Toati, Head of the France Desk of Bnei Akiva, told Arutz Sheva before the names were published that there are reports that the man who was killed is a rabbi who served as an Israel shaliach (emissary) at the school and that two of his children were killed with him.

French press reported that two children were among at least three people killed in a shooting outside a Jewish school. Two other children are reported fighting for their lives. The French news reports said the dead are a teacher and two children, and that two other children were badly wounded.

“Toulouse: Rabbi Yonatan Sandler and his Children among the Dead”
-by Gil Ronen
First Published 3/19/2012, 10:18 a.m.
Arutz Sheva News

I’m sure you’ve heard this tragic news by now. I’m sure you’ve heard that a Rabbi, his two children, and a third child were all murdered in cold blood outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, France yesterday. The story has been covered by virtually every news agency on the planet. Sixty-seven years after the end of World War II and the end of the Holocaust, Jews are still being murdered just because they’re Jews.

I guess I’m taking it personally.

No, I’m not Jewish, but my wife and children are. That means the killer who cut down Rabbi Sandler and three innocent children just because they were Jewish is quite capable and willing to kill anyone who is Jewish, including my family. Yeah, I’m taking it personally, so forgive me if what comes out in this blog isn’t exactly “rational”.

I took a walk by the greenbelt on the Boise river over my lunch hour. It’s the first day of spring and it’s snowing and windy outside. It’s the perfect day to reflect on horror and terror and sadness in the world. It’s the first day of spring, when new life is beginning to trickle back into the trees and grass and flowers are soon to bloom.

And it’s snowing and windy and bitterly cold outside. It fits.

And four Jewish people were murdered yesterday in Toulouse, France for no other reason than just because they were Jewish.

I’m not trying to be insensitive. I know that, in the grand scheme of things, this is just one more harsh thing to happen in a world of harsh things. Many people, including children, are hurt and killed all over the world every day. Just point your web browser to CNN.com and you’ll see all of the headlines. Syria’s maimed children cry out, Slave master becomes abolitionist, 7.4 earthquake hit Mexico, and the beat goes on.

I’m not just upset because kids were murdered, although that upsets me. I’m not just upset because Jews were murdered just because they were Jews, although that upsets me. I’m upset because some people think it’s OK for Jews to be murdered just because they are Jews. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t think it’s an exaggeration to accuse the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, of saying that three Jewish children being murdered in cold blood is exactly the same thing as the children being killed in Gaza because the IDF is retaliating against the Palestinian terrorists who are firing an endless stream of missiles into Israel.

She spoke of remembering “young people who have been killed in all sorts of terrible circumstances — the Belgian children having lost their lives in a terrible tragedy and when we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world — we remember young people and children who lose their lives,” she said, according to a transcript of the speech distributed by the European Union.

Ms. Ashton’s spokesman issued a statement of clarification on Tuesday, following the criticism, saying that her words had been “grossly distorted” and that she had not intended to draw any parallel.

“Israel Criticizes E.U. Official for Comments on French School Attack”
-by Isabel Kershner
Published March 20, 2012
The New York Times

To detail Netanyahu’s statement a little better according to the Times:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said that he was “infuriated” by what he called “the comparison between a deliberate massacre of children and the defensive, surgical actions” of the Israeli military that he said were “intended to hit terrorists who use children as a human shield.”

The New York Times viewpoint on the “defensive, surgical actions” of the Israeli military includes:

During the four days of fighting, 26 Palestinians were killed, according to the Israeli military. Most were militants, but four of the dead were civilians. A 12-year-old boy was among those killed in Israeli air strikes; another boy, 14, was killed by explosives in disputed circumstances. During the same period, Palestinian militants fired more than 150 rockets into southern Israel.

Notice the Times uses the term “militants” instead of “terrorists”. A subtle difference? Perhaps.

I just keep thinking that it’s been less than 70 years since the end of the Holocaust, and Jews are still not safe. They’re not safe in France and they’re certainly not safe in Israel. They’re also not safe in the world of public opinion or the news media. We’re supposed to live in a modern, civilized, enlightened world, but that’s what made it so difficult for Germany’s Jews to understand the danger they were in when the Holocaust began. They just couldn’t believe that a nation as civilized, as educated, and as enlightened as Germany was in the early 20th century could be capable of such evil. That’s what made it so difficult for the rest of the world to understand, too. That’s why some people didn’t believe it was happening. But is that an excuse for not believing it’s still happening today?

What do you do when you want to kill someone? That’s not a random question. For most of us, it would be almost unthinkable to actually kill someone, even in self defense. We have to weave all sorts of extreme and violent mental scenarios to even imagine ourselves pointing a gun at another person and pulling the trigger. Even if the killing were justified, such as defending your family from violent home intruders, the aftermath; actually living with the memory of having killed someone, would be horrendous.

So unless you are inherently violent or violently insane, it would be extremely difficult to point a gun at someone and to pull the trigger, knowing that they’d be dead in the next few seconds.

So how to you kill someone? How do you train soldiers to kill someone? How do you train a populace that it’s completely acceptable to send an army to another country to kill a lot of people? Today in the United States, the Government doesn’t do a very good job of training the citizens to accept war and so most people don’t accept war. During World War II, we had a fabulous propaganda machine that depicted the Germans and Japanese as non-human, murderous monsters. That made it possible for normally non-violent young men to go overseas and to shoot, bomb, and gas a bunch of other human beings who were trying to shoot, bomb, and gas them. That’s what made it possible for the average U.S. citizen to completely support sending an army to different countries around the globe to shoot, bomb, and gas non-human murderous monsters, who would certainly shoot, bomb, and gas us if they got half a chance.

Ironically, what the United States fails to do in terms of war, it does all too effectively in terms of abortion. What do you have to do to kill an unborn human baby? (I know…you didn’t see that one coming) You make them an “embryo” or a “fetus” but you never, ever make them a human being. It’s the same thing that let U.S. soldiers kill the enemy. It’s the same thing that let U.S. citizens approve of U.S. soldiers killing the enemy. It’s the same thing that let Nazi soldiers and the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel) round up, torture, starve, shoot, and gas Jewish men, women, and children during the Holocaust.

It’s what let one (reportedly) neo-Nazi killer shoot and kill one Jewish adult and three Jewish children yesterday in France.

To France’s credit, they are (literally) up in arms over these deaths and are diligently searching for the shooter. According to news reports, the shooter has killed prior to this incident and there’s every reason to believe he’ll kill again. I want him caught too, and swiftly. I want him taken off the streets and put in prison.

But he’s only one man.

I know what you’re thinking. He’s only one man. He’s an extremist. He may be mentally ill. He is an aberration. If he’s stopped, things will become safe again.

Will they? I’m sure that the Jews living in Germany in the mid-1930s felt something similar. They couldn’t imagine any irrational hatred of Jews being anything but an aberration; something extremely unlikely to occur, and only involving one or two extreme individuals.

Except they were wrong. It involved thousands who committed horrible atrocities against human beings and millions who condoned it by the actions or their silence. Over the past 70 years tens or hundreds of millions of people have chosen to ignore or to deny the Holocaust, which murdered not only Jews but many other “undesirables” including the physically and mentally handicapped, gypsies, homosexuals, and anyone else who didn’t fit the “Aryan ideal”. All you have to do to kill them is to believe they aren’t human; to believe they aren’t like you, that they’re inferior, that they’re “less,” that they’re “monsters” or “things.”

Because if they’re humans just like you are, then you know that they want to live, just like you do. You know they have feelings, just like you do. You know that they can be scared and hurt, just like you can be scared and hurt. And if you have empathy for someone, you can’t hurt or kill them unless they’re doing something that’s very scary and threatening to you. One Jewish Rabbi and three Jewish children are very unlikely to be doing anything to scare or threaten anyone. They just died because they were Jews.

If we, who represent the rest of the world, don’t speak up and speak out and say “Stop!” to the rest of the world, then our silence is tacit acceptance that it’s permissible to kill a Jew for being Jewish, or to kill a person for being mentally ill, or gay, or for the color of their skin, or for the language they speak, or for being an inconvenient pregnancy.

If we believe that it’s acceptable to kill Jewish children for being Jewish, then we’re saying some people aren’t human and that’s OK with us. We like to think we’re civilized and enlightened, but if we are silent and do not protest injustice, then we are accepting injustice. We live in a world that still generally does not condone the murder of Jews, or African-Americans, or Gays, but we do condone the murder of millions of unborn baby boys and girls every year all over the world (and we’ve got a terrific propaganda machine in operation in America that justifies the whole damn thing and makes it sound enlightened and reasonable). Some people still believe it’s OK to kill Jews. A bunch of them live on land that used to be within the borders of Israel until other enlightened nations made Israel surrender that land to people who like shooting missiles at Jews. It’s a crazy world.

I told you I was taking this personally and that I wouldn’t be rational. But murder isn’t rational either. I figure you have a couple of choices. You can stand up and protect the defenseless and the victims from their murderers, or someday you’ll become either one of the murderers or one of the victims.

What? You don’t believe me? Neither did the German Jews in 1930…and neither did their German Gentile neighbors.