Tag Archives: assimilation

Have We Lost The Next Generation?

I just read (skimmed really) an article published online by Charisma Magazine called Year in Review: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel. Among other things, the article defines three different types of Christians. I’m listing them below because they’ll factor into my essay by the by:

  1. Couch-potato Christians: These Christians adapt to the culture by staying silent on the tough culture-and-faith discussions. Typically this group will downplay God’s absolute truths by promoting the illusion that neutrality was Jesus’ preferred method of evangelism.
  2. Cafeteria-style Christians: This group picks and chooses which Scripture passages to live by, opting for the ones that best seem to jive with culture. Typically they focus solely on the “nice” parts of the gospel while simultaneously and intentionally minimizing sin, hell, repentance and transformation.
  3. Convictional Christians: In the face of the culture’s harsh admonitions, these evangelicals refuse to be silent. Mimicking Jesus, they compassionately talk about love and grace while also sharing with their neighbors the need to recognize and turn from sin.
culture wars
Image: © Istockphoto/Thomas_EyeDesign – found at Charisma Magazine

While the author is focused on this crisis in Evangelicalism, it’s not unique to Christianity. One of the long-standing issues in Judaism is assimilation of Jews to either secular culture or conversion to Christianity.

Last May, Arutz Sheva published Assimilation, the Jewish people’s worst nightmare outlining this, although a little over two years ago, Tablet Magazine posted an article called Why the Myth of Vanishing American Jewry is so Hard to Dispel.

All of these essays are very long and I’ll admit in not reading the entire content of each one.

In general though, the blame for Christians leaving the church or creating churches that are largely secular in their values, as well as for Jews assimilating and either identifying as cultural (but not religious) Jews or at least joining liberal Reform synagogues, is laid squarely at the feet of popular, secular culture, and by that I mean progressive liberalism.

I recently reviewed a book written by the late Andrew Breitbart titled Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World. It was written during the Obama administration and covered how the news media, entertainment industry, and university system have all been co-opted by socialism and liberalism so that they have almost overwhelming control of the national “message” being transmitted today.

But while Breitbart was addressing how Tea Party conservatives could fight back and send a message of their own, I can see parallels between his points and how religious structures in our country, really in western culture, are being impacted in the same way.

The question is, assuming all this is correct, how can Jews and Christians (and I’m including Messianics in this mix) successfully communicate their/our values to the next generation and make it stick?

chanukah
Chanukah 2016

As I wrote in my previous blog post, I haven’t been particularly successful in that arena.

Of course this comes to mind:

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)

That sounds nice in theory, but is it really successful?

You aren’t her parents anymore, her parents are Axl Rose and Madonna, you can’t compete with that kind of constant bombardment.

-Albert Gibson (played by Tom Arnold)
from the film True Lies (1994)

As our culture increasingly diverges from the values taught in Christianity and Judaism, it sends a powerful message to everyone, including younger people who want to be relevant and not perceived as an enemy or bigot by their larger peer group.

And our modern culture has a much larger and louder public relations department than the family our religious instructors.

So is it hopeless?

I hope not. On the other hand, you’d just about have to keep kids locked in a closet and never let them on the internet, watch TV, listen to the radio, go out to watch movies, or go anywhere and associate with anyone except like-minded religious people.

Only the most conservative and reclusive groups do that kind of thing. In fact, I’ve encountered some progressives that think raising Jewish children as Orthodox and controlling their hair styles, clothing, and educational environment is a form of child abuse (although for some strange reason, they don’t have the same problems with Muslims).

Not only does secularism teach values different from the Church and Synagogue, but they teach that Christian and Jewish values (conservative or traditional ones) are bad, wrong, homophobic, islamophobic, racist, sexist, patriarchal, misogynistic, and so on.

judeo-christianNo one wants to be thought of as a bigot, but the message being transmitted is that religious thought and observance is all of those things, and the only way to not be a bigot is to stop being religious (or create a religion that embraces secular progressive values).

I’m sure there are young Christian and Jewish people out there who have adhered to their religious values to one degree or another, but it certainly seems as if we’re trying to repair a ripped artery with chewing gum and scotch tape.

I know there are plenty of pundits who have written about the “culture wars” and what to do about it, but I’m not so sure how successful their solutions are (if they have any).

One problem that I don’t think is being addressed was raised by the Charisma Mag author:

Convictional Christians: In the face of the culture’s harsh admonitions, these evangelicals refuse to be silent. Mimicking Jesus, they compassionately talk about love and grace while also sharing with their neighbors the need to recognize and turn from sin.

The problem is whether their values are truly based in the Bible, or based rather upon conservative Christian interpretation and tradition?

I came across the notion of “teaching correct doctrine” in my previous sojourn in church. I left over two years ago, but my experiences are still vivid in my memory.

christians vs gaysThe problem might not always be religious vs. secular values, but how religious values are defined and understood.

Messianics, by definition, have come to the conclusion that normative Christianity does not have an entirely correct understanding of the Bible, especially when it comes to the Torah, Israel, and the Jewish people.

In fact, at least in my own experience, the Church has been wrong about so many things, that I’ve re-examined at large number of topics, including Christianity’s and Judaism’s stand on Gays in the church as well as in the Synagogue.

I came up with an answer that is a lot more nuanced than “Homosexuality is an abomination,” but still determined that Same-sex sex and marriage is not presupposed anywhere in the Bible.

But I looked, I didn’t just assume.

That might be a big problem younger people are having with religion. Conservative Christians and Jews rely on what they were taught and the explanations they were provided without engaging in an honest investigation into those beliefs.

Instead of just telling some young person “Homosexuality is a sin” or “Eve made Adam sin with the apple,” maybe engaging them and taking them through an investigation as to why these values are adhered to. Further, if a traditional value is discovered to be false (“the Church replaced the Jews in all God’s covenant promises”), adjust or eliminate the value.

While some churches have done this relative to Israel and the Covenants, other Christians have found it necessary to leave the Church and to either join Messianic congregations or, lacking access, finding online venues to nurture their beliefs and values.

But conducting an extensive investigation of scripture to define religious values takes time, effort, and resources, plus the willingness to question your own traditions. Christianity and Judaism might not be willing to do that, since tradition has a tendency to take on a life of its own.

father and sonOne final point, and this has been said before, is that parents and religious teachers must walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Most younger people will learn more about your values by watching you live them out (or your failure to do so) than anything you’ll ever tell them.

That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, but you do have to be consistent. If cultural values lure you in at one level or another, you will probably lose the war for the next generation.

I wonder if we already have?

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Is Messianic Judaism Shrinking Because Almost All Other Judaisms are Shrinking?

James (and Chaya) …. what I am seeing today and I already saw that in my messianic days, on the other hand, is another trend, other than than just Gentiles being the majority in MJ places. There are virtually no new Jews coming into the Messianic movement. In my experience as someone who founded and helped run a sizable congregation that was very Jewish in orientation and in a very Jewish area, most of those who did come tended to be older (middle-aged and higher), all intermarried and very assimilated and they tended to migrate from one messianic place to another. There were virtually no young halachially Jewish people around, may be one (and he was mentally unstable and soon went back to the Baptist church no matter how hard we reached out to him). Most of the teens and twenties folks were either 100% Gentile or children of Jewish fathers. Other local messianic congregations nearby were in even worse shape, and I live in a state where there hundreds of thousands of Jews and tons of synagogues of all sorts. I addressed that on my “messianic” blog on numerous occasions. I am also seeing more and more former MJ’s (and messianic Gentiles) leave the messianic movement, in the last 5 years, many returning to Judaism or converting. I attribute it, in part, to much wider availability of information through internet, to aging of the Jewish messianics that are not being replaced by new blood and to the influx of the Gentiles.

-Gene Shlomovich
from his comment on my blog post
Much Ado About the Oral Law

I’m not quoting Gene to put him on the spot (not sure I’d be able to do that anyway) but only because I needed a quote that intimated that Messianic Judaism is neither a Judaism nor a viable religious movement because it contains relatively few halachically Jewish members and most of them are intermarried. Gene also emphasizes that the Jewish leaders are older and that few if any young Jews are joining the movement.

The reason I’m bringing all this up is because of the following:

If you leave out the Orthodox, 71.5% of American Jews marry outside the faith. Only 17% of children of intermarried couples will marry a Jew, and the largest block of American Jews under 40 are the unaffiliated. As Steven Weil, from the Orthodox Union, pointed out, “With a birthrate of only 1.9 children and an astoundingly high intermarriage rate, American Jewry is on a train speeding headlong into self-destruction.”

-Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith
“The Intermarriage Taboo”
Aish.com

It seems that the issues of intermarriage, assimilation, and lack of a younger Jewish membership aren’t exclusive to Messianic Judaism. However, let’s pursue the following:

On the other hand, the Orthodox are thriving. 83% of Orthodox Jews stay Orthodox. The birthrate among Orthodox Jews is significantly higher than most other religious groups (4.1 children per adult). Sarah Bunin Benor, a professor of Jewish studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, said “Orthodox Jews will eventually likely be the majority of American Jews.” 60% of Jewish children in the New York City area live in Orthodox homes and that number will only increase.

It would seem as if the only group of Jews who are thriving and growing, at least in the U.S., are Orthodox Jews, specifically in the New York City area, which to the best of my knowledge, is one of the largest concentrations of Jewish people in this country.

JewishThat suggests the problem with Messianic Judaism attracting a larger Jewish base population and matters of intermarriage may not entirely be simply because of Yeshua-faith and a large Gentile membership (although those are certainly contributing factors), but also indicative of a much larger problem in western Jewry.

Of course that’s a lot to assume from a single article published on the web, but it does bring up the question of what Orthodox Judaism is doing that all of the other Judaisms (including Messianic) aren’t.

According to a study published by the Pew Research Center as reported by The Jewish Daily Forward:

The study’s numbers suggest that the Orthodox birthrate in the United States is far higher than that of most other religious groups. Pew found that Orthodox Jews averaged 4.1 children per adult, while America’s. general public averages 2.2 children. The Orthodox number is higher than the average for Protestants (2.2) and Catholics (2.4). Hispanic Catholics (3.1) come close, but still fall short.

Certainly a high birthrate is a significant variable but what keeps the younger population within Orthodox Judaism as they become adults and especially as they start families of their own?

“Orthodox life is very, very different than a conventional lifestyle,” said Alexander Rapaport, 35, a father of seven. Rapaport lives in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn’s Boro Park and runs the soup kitchen network Masbia. He described a social structure designed to encourage and support large families — and that structure has apparently succeeded in more than doubling its share of the Jewish population in less than two decades.

That’s more anecdotal rather than hard data, but conservative communities that espouse adherence to traditional values and have strong internal support systems tend to transmit those values across multiple generations with relatively little “mission drift.” You see this especially among Chasidic Jewish groups such as the Chabad.

The price such groups pay, if you want to think of it in those terms, is the inability to “blend in” with the prevalent culture. In other words, such Orthodox Jewish groups do not bow down at the altar of Political Correctness, even the liberal religious variety.

(As an aside, I should point you to an article I recently read called The Challenges of Parenting an Openly Gay Orthodox Teen to illustrate that Orthodox Judaism also has “shades of gray” woven into its fabric. If it matters, the source website Kveller.com is socially and religiously liberal, so their viewpoints will be biased accordingly.)

Which may be why most or all of the other Judaisms are struggling to maintain their unique identity in a multi-generational fashion beyond “bagels and lox,” as Rabbi Coopersmith put it. To further quote the Rabbi’s article:

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee, got into a lot of hot water last week, when a copy of a speech she gave to a Florida branch of the Jewish Federation went public. She had to retract her words in order to calm things down.

Her party affiliation is irrelevant here; it’s not hard to imagine a Republican figure issuing a similar retraction. Outside of Orthodox circles you cannot come out and say that intermarriage and assimilation is a problem. It has become a taboo subject. In a not so distant past, stopping intermarriage and assimilation was the rallying cry used to garner support for Jewish outreach initiatives. Federations used the term “Jewish continuity,” to imply that the Jewish people have something of unique value worthy of preserving. Today it is likely you’ll be attacked for bigotry and racism and that rallying cry will more likely push Jews away.

Go to Aish.com to find out what Ms. Schultz uttered that was so terrible, but suffice it to say, it’s not popular in most branches of Judaism, let alone within many Christian groups (in my opinion), and certainly not in the view of American secular egalitarianism, to believe and publicly declare that maintaining the uniqueness of Jewish identity along with cultural and religious Judaism is not only a big deal, but absolutely vital to the continuation of the Jewish people as a people.

And yet, in spite of its apparent shortcomings, including a lack of Jewish membership and including a lack of a young Jewish presence, Messianic Judaism has repeatedly raised a loud and persistent voice requiring and demanding the protection of religious, cultural, and halachic Jewish identity within its communities.

IntermarriageAnd Messianic Judaism has been shot down from all sides for daring to say such a thing, just as was Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the aftermath of her statements at the Democratic National Committee. Ms. Schultz was forced to retract her “offending” words to calm the outrage leveled against her.

It used to be a taboo for Jews to marry outside, but now the taboo in many Jewish places is to dare to criticize intermarriage. More’s the pity (and I say this as an intermarried person).

Can Messianic Judaism afford to do the same as Ms. Schultz did to placate its critics and further risk the survival of Messianic Judaism as a wholly Jewishly-oriented community?

I’m not proposing any answers, but I think it’s important that, according to the data I’ve presented here, Messianic Judaism is suffering a crisis that is very much the same as many other Judaisms apart from the Orthodox.

I’m probably going to regret this, but for this one blog post only, I’m opening up comments. I may close them down just as fast, and I remind everyone that as the blog owner, I’m a benevolent dictator, not the leader of a democracy. Commenting here is a privilege I grant, not a right you possess. Keep that in mind when you keyboard your responsive missives and press the “submit” button.

Passover, Messianic Judaism, and Mutual Inclusiveness

Jewish wealth is not houses and gold. The everlasting Jewish wealth is: Being Jews who keep Torah and Mitzvot, and bringing into the world children and grandchildren who keep Torah and Mitzvot.

-from “Today’s Day” for Nissan 9 5703
Compiled and arranged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, in 5703 (1943) from the talks and letters of the sixth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory.
Chabad.org

“The older I get, the more I realize how different it is to be a Jew in a Jewish place as opposed to a Jew in a non-Jewish place. It’s definitely a different feeling in terms of how freely you can be yourself and celebrate your culture and religion.”

-Natalie Portman

I have tried to pull back from my formerly self-imposed obligation of writing and posting a “morning meditation” each day (except for Shabbos). I typically plan to write only one or two blog posts each week. But I realize that, perhaps below the level of conscious thought, I’m actually leaving room in my schedule for those things I write spontaneously when I come across a compelling topic…

…like Jewish identity.

Jewish identity and the approach of Pesach (Passover). What do they have in common besides the obvious?

Our Sages assert that the Israelites in Egypt were on the lowest level of spiritual impurity. They worshipped idols. They were debauched and dissolute. So how did they merit the grand and miraculous redemption?

They had only three things going for them: They kept their Hebrew names, their Hebrew language, and their distinctive Hebrew dress. In other words, they retained their Jewish identity.

Wait a second! Didn’t you cringe when you found out that the biggest Ponzi scheme in history had been perpetuated by someone with a distinctly Jewish name? Wouldn’t we have preferred that instead of retaining his Jewish identity he had changed his name to Christopher Johnson?

What is the redemptive value of Jewish identity?

-Sara Yoheved Rigler
“Jewish Identity: Are You In or Out?”
Aish.com

In Christianity, one is redeemed by God due to faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not who we are, for Christ accepts everyone, regardless of heritage, background, nationality, language, walk of life, and so on. You aren’t saved by who you are but by what you believe, almost regardless of what you do about it (though to be fair, I know Christians who expect believers to live a transformed life in response to their faith).

But what Sara Yoheved Rigler is suggesting, is that Jews are redeemed by who they are, particularly in their outward appearance. What redeemed the ancient Israelites (according to the Sages) is that, regardless of worshiping idols and being enslaved, they retained an obvious Jewish identity.

Seems crazy, huh?

But according to Ms. Rigler, this isn’t just an issue for the Jews of antiquity, but it is a critical question for modern Judaism.

The question assumes particular importance in our generation. Indeed, the rates of adultery, domestic violence, addiction to drugs and porn, and murder for reasons as trifling as being cut off in traffic have skyrocketed in this generation. An objective look at our moral standing would produce a grim assessment.

Judaism promulgates a teleological worldview – that history is moving toward a specific goal, namely, the Redemption, or the Messianic era. So how can a generation as dissolute as ours be redeemed?

jewish-davening-by-waterI’ve written before about the necessity of a Jewish community for Messianic Jews and that one of the critical purposes of Jewish community for Jews in Messiah is to prevent them from being cut off from the world-wide community of Jews. But no matter how much or how well I think I’ve made my point, it’s one that is difficult for many others, including some Messianic Jews, to accept.

What many people read and hear is that I’m replacing Messiah with Judaism, as if Messiah and Judaism are mutually exclusive terms. Certainly the Chabad don’t think that, although they’d certainly disagree with me about the identity, function, and to a degree, purpose of the Messiah. On the other hand, they certainly expect him to arrive and don’t consider the desire for the coming of Messiah to eliminate their Jewish identity.

So where do we get the idea that Jews must stop being Jewish and stop having community with other Jews when they come to faith in Yeshua of Nazareth as Messiah?

From Christianity and Judaism, historically.

For nearly two-thousand years, any Jew who has realized that Jesus (Yeshua) is indeed the Messiah and desired to worship him and honor him has been required, by the Church (in its many and various forms) to renounce Jewish identity and Jewish practices and convert to (Gentile) Christianity. In its darkest days, the Church has resorted to various sanctions, torture, and even the threat of death to “convert” Jews to Christians. For Christianity, being Jewish and being a Christian are mutually exclusive terms.

To be fair, this is also considered true by most Jewish people. I’ve heard stories that in Orthodox Judaism, a friend or family member is mourned as if they died if they should become a Christian (I don’t know how true this is but I can see the point). Messianic Jews, that is, halachically Jewish people who come to faith in Yeshua as Messiah and yet retain their Jewish identity, continue to perform the mitzvot, and in all other ways, live a completely consistent Jewish life are still thought of as “Jews for Jesus” and tend to be shunned by secular and religious Jews alike.

In the Fall 2013 issue of Messiah Journal, Rabbi Stuart Dauermann wrote an impassioned plea that all Jews in Messiah must consider the Jewish people as Us, not Them, meaning that faith in Messiah should not and must not stand in between a Jew and all other Jews.

And many centuries ago, another Jew made a similar plea:

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Romans 9:1-5 (NASB)

The Jewish PaulIn his faith in Messiah, Paul did not see himself as separated from the larger Jewish world or from other religious streams of Judaism. In fact, his love for his fellow (unbelieving) Jews was so great that he would have willingly become accursed and separated from the Messiah for the sake of other Jewish people, that they might see and accept Messiah as Paul did.

For Paul, the Jewish people, all of them, were “us” not “them.” Jewish identity and faith in Messiah were never at odds for Paul. Faith in Messiah was the natural extension of his being a ”Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee…as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6). It’s thought by many Christians that Paul was talking about his past, before “conversion,” since he mentioned his persecuting the church, yet he was speaking in the present tense when he said:

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today.

Acts 22:3 (NASB)

”Being zealous for God just as you all are today.” Paul was talking to a crowd of Jewish people. True, they were calling for his death, but that wasn’t because Paul surrendered his Jewish identity and was encouraging other Jews to do likewise, as the false allegations suggested. He remained a devout and faithful Jew and zealous for the Torah. His only “crime” was his fervent desire to also include Gentiles among the community of the redeemed.

Maimonides, in his code of Jewish Law, makes a startling pronouncement. He writes that a Jew who lives in isolation from the Jewish community, even if he keeps all the commandments, is considered a kofer b’ikar, a heretic. The implication is that identifying with the Jewish community is a basic value that underlies all the commandments.

Living among so many Gentiles for so much of his life must have taken a toll on Paul. I don’t know if the concept of kofer b’ikar existed in first century Judaism, but if it did, it may have been another reason the Jewish crowds in Acts 21-22 were so angry at Paul. He was a Jew who, because of his unique mission as an emissary to the Gentiles, didn’t spend a great deal of time in Jewish community. Yes, he went first to the Jew and then also to the Greek, but by the end of his third missionary journey, many Jewish communities in the diaspora were incensed with Paul because of the issue of the Gentiles.

This is a huge issue in Messianic Judaism today. This is one of the vital reasons why Messianic Jews must consider themselves as part of a larger Jewish community, not just a Messianic Jewish synagogue, but the overarching world of Jewry and affiliation and allegiance to national Israel. Even if a Messianic Jew is scrupulous in observing the Torah and faultless in performance of the mitzvot, outside of Jewish community, or more to the point, buried neck-deep in a community of Gentile believers, whether Messianic Gentiles or Evangelical Christians, the very real threat of kofer b’ikar and kareth exists.

Sara Yocheved Rigler
Sara Yocheved Rigler

I’m not suggesting that all Messianic Jews abandon their relationship with non-Jewish believers or stop associating with non-Jews in Messianic Jewish religious spaces, but first and foremost, a Messianic Jew must continually grasp tightly to the fact that he or she is a Jew and part of the Jewish people, all of them, everywhere.

In her article, Ms. Rigler goes on to describe the different critical points in history when Jews could and often did renounce their Jewish identity through forced or voluntary conversion to Christianity or to blend in with American culture when emigrating to this country.

That’s why alarm bells rang a couple years ago when a study revealed that 50% of American Jews under the age of 35 would not consider it “a personal tragedy if the State of Israel ceased to exist.” Two months ago an American Congresswoman declared that the Jews of America had sold out Israel in their support of Obama’s diplomatic surrender to Iran’s nuclear program.

Today, the community of Jews in the diaspora and particularly in western nations, could easily be extinguished through assimilation. I don’t believe that’s what God wants but I do believe it’s what most Christians want as long as said-assimilated Jews assimilated into the Church.

But unlike why I, or rather Ms. Rigler said above, it’s not just about appearing Jewish:

Let’s be clear here. God wants the maximum from us Jews: love your neighbor as yourself; keep Shabbos; don’t speak lashon hara; keep kosher – the whole nine yards. But the minimum requirement to be redeemed is to identify as a Jew.

Jewish identity is where you start, not where you finish. Particularly for Jews in Messiah, it must be abundantly clear to all other Jews as well as to everyone else, that the Jewish person in Messiah is Jewish. That’s why it’s (in my opinion) not optional for a Jew in Messiah to observe the mitzvot. While the minimum requirement to identify as a Jew is good, it is much better to go the whole nine yards, so to speak, and to live a life indistinguishable from other religious Jews, regardless if the standard of observance is Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform.

Jewish identity is what prompted Kirk Douglas to fast every Yom Kippur. As he proudly stated, “I might be making a film, but I fasted.”

Jewish identity is what prompted Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to post a large silver mezuzah on the doorpost of her Supreme Court chambers.

Jewish identity is what prompted movie star Scarlet Johansson to stand up for Israel at the cost of her prestige as an Oxfam ambassador.

schiffman
R. Michael Schiffman

This morning, Rabbi Michael Schiffman, who grew up in Jericho, NY in a traditional Jewish family, wrote a simple and heartwarming blog post called Finding Yeshua. No, being a Jewish believer and living a life consistent with Judaism, Jewish identity, and affiliation with Jewish community does not replace or reduce Messiah. It simply puts everything in perspective.

Ms. Rigler ends her article this way:

The Passover Seder speaks about four sons. Only one of them is cast as “wicked.” As the Hagaddah states: “The wicked son, what does he say? ‘What is this service to you?’ ‘To you,’ but not to him. Because he excludes himself from the community, he is a heretic. … Say to him, ‘Because of what God did for me when I went out of Egypt.’ For me, but not for him, because if he would have been there, he would not have been redeemed.”

The first Passover marked the birth of the Jewish nation. Every Passover since poses the challenge to every Jew: Are you in or are you out?

If you are Jewish and you are a believer, how do you answer this question? Since I’m not Jewish, it’s not a question directed at me, but as a Messianic Gentile, I believe it is my duty to encourage believing Jews to answer “in.”

Lech Lecha: Did You Hear the One About the Jewish Student and the Priest?

strangers-in-israelThe Lord said to Abram, Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.”

Abram went forth as the Lord had commanded him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the wealth that they had amassed, and the persons that they had acquired in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, at the terebinth of Moreh. The Canaanites were then in the land.

Genesis 12:1-6 (JPS Tanakh)

Thus Abraham took his first steps on a journey that would result in the vast and astonishing progression of the Jewish people across the grand panorama of human history. Abraham the Hebrew “crossed over” not just a geographical boundary, but a spiritual one.

I’ve said on a number of occasions that I thought one of the missions of the Christian church was to provoke zealousness among the Jewish people, to inspire Jews to return to Torah, return to Judaism, return to being who God made them to be.

Although I don’t believe God would allow it, there is a tremendous and ongoing concern, especially in America, that the Jewish population will continually assimilate, and ultimately vanish from our national landscape. And while many Christians believe that the only hope for the Jewish people is to convert to Christianity no matter what, there are some Jewish believers who insist that only when the Jewish people repent and return to Torah that the Messiah will finally return, and all of God’s promises to Israel and the people of the nations who are called by His Name (Amos 9:11-12) will finally come to pass.

In this week’s Torah portion, Avraham (Abraham) makes his way to the land of Israel and begins the journey of the Jewish people through history. Along that path we have seen nations rise and fall and have survived them, even through massive persecution. There were 2 million Jews during the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago. Demographers state that though there are approximately 14 million Jews identified worldwide, there are possibly 400 million halachic Jews (Jews whose mother’s were Jewish or converted according to Jewish law). Many Jews have fallen by the wayside of history. This week I share with you a story of one Jew who made his way back to identifying with the Almighty, the Jewish people and the Torah … albeit in a rather unusual way.

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
“Shabbat Shalom Weekly”
Commentary on Torah Portion Lech Lecha
Aish.com

orthodox-talmud-studyRabbi Packouz goes on to tell the story of “Lance,” a young Jewish fellow who came from a family so assimilated that they sent him to a Catholic school to get the “best education.” One of Lance’s instructors, a Priest, found out that Lance was Jewish only by accident. Lance chose to write an essay about Rabbi Akiva for an assignment in the Priest’s class. Curious, the Priest asked Lance why he chose a great Jewish sage as the topic and Lance answered, “Because I’m Jewish.” This simple statement launched another journey into Judaism with some surprising twists:

The priest was surprised that he had a Jewish pupil and asked Lance if he had ever studied the Five Books of Moses with Rashi, the great commentator, or if he had ever learned the Mishna, part of the Talmud. When Lance told him “No,” the priest offered to teach him. For an hour a day after school, they learned together.

One day it occurred to Lance that Judaic studies were not the usual curriculum for the priesthood, so he asked his mentor, “How did you become so knowledgeable in Torah?”

The priest replied, “Before I entered the seminary, I traveled to Israel. While visiting the Western Wall a man asked me if I was Jewish. Curious as to why he asked, I answered ‘Yes.’ The man then asked me if I was interested in learning about my heritage. I figured it would be interesting, so I said, ‘Sure.’ He took me to a yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem and I was so impressed that I stayed for close to a year, never revealing that I wasn’t Jewish. I considered converting, but decided that it would be too difficult and too much of a shock to my family, so here I am.”

One Jewish young man who had grown up never knowing what it is to be Jewish and a Catholic priest who nearly converted to Judaism. What strange partners of God. A Priest encouraged his Jewish student, not to convert to Catholicism, but to become knowledgable in Torah and Mishnah. He encouraged “zealousness.”

Protestantism struggles with how to support the Jewish people but gets hung up on Jews who are not in the Church. They can’t always see that we can also “provoke zealousness” and that Messianic Judaism is the most likely vehicle for doing so. If Jesus is Jewish and the Messiah, then his Jewish followers will not abandon being Jewish and will not neglect Torah as his disciples.

Abraham took all that he had and, at the command of God, went to the Land of Promise in obedience. God put Lance and a Priest together and using a highly unlikely set of circumstances, sent one lost Jewish person on the correct path as well. According to Rabbi Packouz, Lance continued pursuing his Jewish studies and presumably became observant.

If you are a Christian, what does this tell you about what God wants you to do? If you are Jewish, where should you be going?

Good Shabbos.

Whitewash

whitewashMordechai said to respond to Esther, “Do not think that you can save yourself [from Haman’s decree of annihilation] because you are in the royal palace.”

Esther 4:13

Esther, the heroine of the Purim episode, received this sharp rebuke from Mordechai. No Jew should ever assume that anti-Semitism will affect only others but not oneself. No one has immunity. Every Jew must know that he or she is part of a unit, and a threat against any Jew anywhere in the world is a threat to all Jews.

History has unfortunately repeated itself many times. Spanish Jews who held powerful governmental positions were sent into exile along with their brethren. Jewish millionaires and members of European parliaments were cremated in Auschwitz ovens. Throughout the ages, those who had thought to escape anti-Semitic persecution by concealing their Jewish identities sadly learned that this effort was futile.

Esther accepted Mordechai’s reprimand and risked her life to save her people. In fact, the Megillah (Book of Esther) tells us that Esther had not revealed her Jewish identity because Mordechai had instructed her to keep it a secret. She never would have stayed hidden in the palace and watched her people perish. Mordechai spoke his sharp words not to her, but to posterity.

Some people simply refuse to accept history’s painful lessons. In defiance, they continue to say that they will be different. Neither any individual who feels secure for any reason nor any community that lives in what it considers to be a safe environment should have this delusion of immunity.

Mordechai’s message reverberates throughout the centuries: “Do not think that you can save yourself by hiding when other Jews are being persecuted.”

Today I shall…

…be forthcoming and proud of my Jewish identity and at all times retain a firm solidarity with my people.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Adar 14”
Aish.com

Purim is typically celebrated as a time of joy, happiness, and even silliness, but there is always an undercurrent of sheer terror and a hint of cringing under the spectre of death. The Jewish people had “dodged the bullet,” so to speak, and it’s not so difficult to understand that when you thought you would certainly die and then are miraculously saved at the last-minute, you’d want to “whoop it up” a little because you’re so relieved. Hence the costumes, wigs, and hamantash.

But let’s get back to that “spectre of death” thing for a minute. The story of Esther is only one story in the long history of persecution and multiple times of “certain death” for the Jews, not just individual Jewish people, but the entire Jewish people. Nevertheless, God in his infinite mercy and love for His Children, though He may rebuke them, even harshly, never allows their light to be completely extinguished from the earth.

Purim teaches us the age-old lesson, which has been verified even most recently, to our sorrow, that no manner of assimilation, not even such which is extended over several generations, provides an escape from the Hamans and Hitlers; nor can any Jew sever his ties with his people by attempting such an escape.

On the contrary: Our salvation and our existence depend precisely upon the fact that “their laws are different from those of any other people.”

Purim reminds us that the strength of our people as a whole, and of each individual Jew and Jewess, lies in a closer adherence to our ancient spiritual heritage, which contains the secret of harmonious life, hence of a healthy and happy life. All other things in our spiritual and temporal life must be free from any contradiction to the basis and essence of our existence, and must be attuned accordingly in order to make for the utmost harmony, and add to our physical and spiritual strength, both of which go hand in hand in Jewish life.

-Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory
from Personal and Public Correspondence of the Rebbe
7th of Adar, 5713 [February 22, 1953] Brooklyn, N.Y.
Chabad.org

In this letter, written by the Rebbe just over sixty years ago, he tells us of two types of dangers to the Jewish people: “Hamans and Hitlers” and “assimilation.” However of the two, it would seem that assimilation is the greater villain in our “Purim play” for while violence and oppression can be resisted, passivity and apathy is like a cancer in the bones. And yet even as Esther’s supposed “assimilation” did not exempt her from her duty to her people, and even as assimilation did not save the European Jews from the horrors of Hitler’s Holocaust, the Rebbe says that assimilation will not hide the Jewish people forever, even “extended over several generations.”

jewish-assimilationBut what about whitewashing?

In a sense, Jews assimilating into the surrounding culture is a form of whitewashing; a form of disappearing into the background, blending in, disappearing, vanishing completely. But what of the reverse? What if the “background” blends into the Jews?

I suppose one way of doing that would be if the rest of the world converted to Judaism, but that hardly seems likely. In fact, the rest of the world is going to do everything in its power to avoid looking or acting like Jews for fear of being mistaken for them and being swept up in the next persecution, pogrom, or holocaust.

But time and again on blogs like mine, the theme of a kind of “reverse whitewashing” comes up where it is not the Jews who are disappearing into the Christian background, but certain elements of the Christian background are springing up and looking like Jews. But how could this be much of a problem? I mean, after all, history shows us that the Jewish people need all of the allies they can get, even allies in Christianity (which historically has been one of the greatest forces in attempting to exterminate Judaism).

But a Christian cannot convert to Judaism (except arguably Messianic Judaism, but that’s a discussion for another time) without renouncing Christ, and such a thing would be unthinkable (see Matthew 10:33). However, what if you could assume a Jewish “identity” without ever converting to Judaism?

Some say that’s exactly the situation James and the Jerusalem Council set up in Acts 15, but as you may know if you’ve read my Return to Jerusalem series, that is not quite the case. But then again, we know that Paul applied a sort of halachah to the non-Jewish disciples of Jesus, and we also know that even in the absence of Jewish teachers, devout non-Jews worshipped the God of Israel in a manner very similar to the Jews in the days of Paul and Silas.

So where is the dividing line that separates Jewish and Gentile identity in the body of the Jewish Messiah? I think that’s still being worked out. There are some in Messianic Judaism who say that no Christian should ever worship in a body of believing Jews nor perform any mitzvot that even remotely suggests Judaism. There are others however, who say that Lydia and her group of devout women in Philippi (see Acts 16:13-15) should be a sort of model for the rest of us; a template for Gentile Christian congregations to recite the Shema, pray the Shemoneh Esreh, and read from the Torah and the Prophets during Shabbat services.

In less than three months, a group of Jews and Gentiles in Messiah will gather together in Hudson, Wisconsin to celebrate Shavuot and to discuss and share the gifts of the spirit. Last year I attended this conference and was blessed to be part of this unified body of Messiah, which for just a few days, seemed to summon the Messianic future we will all one day enjoy.

Since the gathering included a wide variety of people representing different expressions of faith, philosophy, and theology, there were a few who were still struggling with the “identity issue,” including one Christian gentleman who said he insisted on wearing a kippah and tallit gadol to different churches in his area to act as a “witness” to his faith. This viewpoint was gently challenged by the hosts of the event, but the majority of us seemed to have a clear idea of who we are in Christ and what role God expects of each of the parts of Messiah’s body.

Gentile believers ate kosher alongside Jewish believers. We had every opportunity to pray side by side, share ideas, discuss our devotion to God, hear the Torah being read, and bask in the glow of the light of the world in one house as one family.

And whitewashing our identities to create some sort of illusion of uniformity (which after all, is not the same as unity) was not requested nor required.

Assimilation and its shadowy twin which I’ve been describing are remnants of the past, vestiges of an era when it was thought that Jews and Christians could not co-exist as co-heirs in one body of Jesus.

Small groups of Jewish Christians (more accurately, Christian Jews) persisted through the first five or six centuries CE, but they were regarded as sects by both the Jews and the Christians. As one fourth-century church father remarked, “They are not Jews because they believe in Christ, and they are not Christians because they observe the Jewish laws.”

-Shaye J.D. Cohen
Chapter 5: Sectarian and Normative
From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, 2nd ed (kindle edition)
quoting Jerome, Epistle 112, in A.E.J. Klijn and G.J. Reinink
“Patristic Evidence for Jewish-Christian Sects” (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973), 201

diversity-dayenuWhile Cohen may believe (and while Jerome may have believed) that a Jew who is a disciple of Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah and who is still performing the mitzvot is an oxymoron, I do not. I don’t believe those Jews who continued their faith in the Master into the fifth and sixth centuries CE were confused or misguided for their faith or for continuing to observe Torah. I don’t believe that we non-Jewish disciples of our Jewish Messiah King are confused for desiring to recite the Shema or pray the Amidah alongside our believing Jewish brothers and sisters. I just think we need to be exceptionally mindful of the fact that coming alongside Israel does not make us Israel; it makes us the beneficiaries of God’s love and mercy toward humanity through Israel, the light to the nations, and through Messiah, the light to the world.

But if we Christians, especially those of us drawn to the Torah, to the siddur, and to Shabbos, truly honor our Jewish brethen and “love Israel,” then we will do anything to protect them, which means protecting the very identity of the Jewish people and of Judaism, even from ourselves.

Protecting Jewish identity is how Jews and Judaism have always been saved from Hamans, Hitlers, assimilation, and whitewashing.

The Rebbe concluded his letter this way:

With best wishes for a joyous Purim, and may we live to see a world free of Hamans and all types of Amalekites, the enemies of the Jews, of their body, soul and faith.

Put away the paint brush and the bucket of whitewash and enjoy the colors, hues, and shades produced by the differing “organs” within the body of the Christ. Appreciate the “civilized” Jewish branches along with the “wild” Gentile branches, soaking up the same nourishment from the same root, and growing and flourishing together.

Opting Out of Yiddishkeit?

On today’s daf we find halachos that apply to converts.

Converting is a huge sacrifice, which God values greatly—and so should we. But as is well known there is a halachah that a non-Jew who converted as a minor can recant his decision upon reaching majority. In that case, he reverts to being a non-Jew. How sad that he lost out on such a special distinction due to some passing whim!

There was a case where a family converted together; mother, father and children. When one son heard that he was allowed to opt out of Yiddishkeit, he honestly said that he wanted to let go of his conversion. “If I am obligated to be a Jew that is one thing, since God wants me to fulfill the mitzvos. But if I am able to be a non-Jew, why should I take on the obligation to do all the mitzvos? How can I know that I will fulfill them as I should? Isn’t it better for me to go the easier but more sure way?”

But when he expressed this wish, the dayan he spoke to wasn’t sure what to do. “I am not sure whether when an entire family converts one who was a minor at the time can opt out. This is a machlokes Rishonim and I am not certain how we rule.”

When this question reached the Chasam Sofer, zt”l, he ruled decisively. “We hold like the Rishonim who rule that a convert whose entire family converted with him cannot opt out of his Jewishness.”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“The Convert’s Choice”
Niddah 49

I’ve been thinking a lot about religious observance recently. Actually, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and wondering if I’d ever get up the nerve to actually blog about it.

So here goes.

It’s fairly common knowledge within the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots communities that the status of non-Jews and their possible obligation to Jewish religious observance is a matter of some concern. Mark Kinzer’s book Postmissionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People is something of a blueprint of one end of the spectrum of Messianic Judaism that advocates for parallel but wholly separate conduits of Jews occupying Messianic Judaism and Gentiles occupying traditional Christianity. In theory, both groups relate to One God and to Jesus (Yeshua) as the Jewish Messiah, but their recommended approaches to religious practice are totally different, and the two groups rarely if ever, interact.

On the other side of the spectrum is the One Law group which states that there are no distinctions or differences between Jews and non-Jews in the Messianic movement. Except for a matter of DNA, Jews are no different from Gentiles in their obligation to the 613 commandments that define the modern understanding of the Torah. This brings up the uncomfortable reality that all Christians everywhere have the same obligation to the Torah, whether they realize it or not. The One Law position must come to the conclusion (though I’ve never heard them state it as such) that the vast majority of the Christian church is continually in sin because they don’t refrain from eating trief and work and play on Saturday.

The educational ministry First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) has proposed a sort of “middle ground” in this arena with the idea of something called “divine invitation.” FFOZ has produced a number of books and other, similar materials presenting information from Jewish literary sources suggesting that historically, Gentiles were not always completely forbidden from certain Jewish observances. I won’t attempt to list the details here since they are too numerous, but the basic idea is that, while non-Jews are not obligated to fulfill the Torah mitzvot in the manner of Jews, they are, in many cases, permitted to do so.

This would no doubt fly in the face of more traditional Jewish viewpoints and certainly Orthodox Judaism would be in almost complete disagreement. Nevertheless, within the Messianic context, you will find many non-Jewish people voluntarily taking on board some of the Torah mitzvot as they feel led to do so, but with the understanding that refraining from any of the mitzvot does not constitute a sin on the part of a non-Jewish Christian.

Divine invitation is an opportunity for non-Jews in the movement who have become accustomed to keeping certain of the mitzvot to continue to do so without necessarily crossing the distinction barrier between Gentile and Jew and thus preserving Jewish distinction in Messianic Judaism.

But there’s a flip side to the coin. Divine invitation allows non-Jews in the movement or at least associated with the movement to not observe the mitzvot…at all…ever.

It’s been well over a month since I attended FFOZ’s Shavuot conference at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, Wisconsin. For several days, I was allowed to worship in what seemed to be the ideal Messianic Jewish religious environment. The Gentiles still outnumbered the Jews by quite a bit, but the model for worship was definitely that of the synagogue, though great accommodations were made for non-Hebrew speakers and readers.

There were a lot of non-Jews worshiping in the Jewish manner, though in that environment, they were not obligated to do so. We non-Jews were not obligated to eat the fine kosher food that was provided. We were not obligated to daven shacharit. We were not obligated to don tzitzit. And yet most of the non-Jewish worshipers did so and no one seemed to mind.

But what if we didn’t? I mean, if we’re not obligated and let’s say, we don’t feel led, so what if we didn’t worship in even a remotely Jewish manner? I suppose nothing bad would happen. But is there an expectation that even if we don’t have to keep the mitzvot, that we should, particularly if we are choosing to worship with Jews who are worshiping God as Jews in a (Messianic) Jewish synagogue?

It would be an interesting experiment in that environment to have a non-Jew observe absolutely none of the mitzvot, just to see what it would be like to decline a “divine invitation.” I suppose it would be like going to your high school senior prom and then continually refusing invitations to dance. What would be the point?

The point I suppose, is that the “prom” is where you feel you belong, where your friends and maybe your family are, and yet you feel you aren’t called to dance their dance because you believe you don’t really belong to that group of dancers.

OK, it’s a crummy metaphor, but you get the idea.

Of course, most of the time, I don’t worship with anybody. In fact, I don’t worship in a community at all. This avoids the whole problem of how I should worship, identity confusion, and the whole shooting match, but there’s a problem. I live with Jewish people. Do I do what they do?

Well, sort of.

Here’s the scary part.

The Jewish people I live with aren’t particularly observant.

There, I said it.

It’s true. At this point, my wife and daughter don’t even light the candles on Erev Shabbat. For a long time, I was the only one doing it, but it seemed absurd that I continue since I’m the only non-Jew in the house and a male and I’m the one lighting the candles. I kept asking my wife on Friday as sundown approached, “Do you want to light the Shabbos candles?” Her response was always something like, “You can if you want to.”

Like I said, it got kind of absurd. No one seemed to care if I lit the candles or not. So I stopped.

My wife hasn’t gone so far as to serve up pork chops for dinner and in fact, she’s rather studious about making sure we all continue to eat “kosher style” (see Leviticus 11), but our kitchen isn’t kosher and, strictly speaking, my wife doesn’t understand why I don’t choose to eat trief, since the kosher obligation doesn’t apply to me.

We also (gasp) work on the Shabbat. This part really bothers me, but there’s not a lot I can do about it. My daughter’s and my wife’s employers require that they work highly variable hours including the weekends, and they often work late Friday nights and on Saturday. The missus has made no bones about saying she would like me to keep my writing and editing schedules up on the weekends, though I’m able to refrain from household chores on Shabbos for the most part, deferring them to Sunday. I can’t remember the last time she went to shul, except perhaps to cook for some special occasions.

Yes, I do know that my Jewish family members are obligated to the Torah, though none of them are observant at the moment.

I suppose that makes me a bad husband and father for not compelling them to do so.

But I can’t really compel them to do anything. I have tried being supportive, but my children are all of adult age and my wife is of course, my wife, so she takes responsibility for her Jewishness and again, it seems rather absurd for a non-Jew and particularly a Christian to be telling her the business of being Jewish.

So having tried that and seeing that it didn’t work out so well, I stopped.

(I suppose at this point I should add that my wife subscribes to and reads the same (more or less) Chabad.org newsletters and tutorials that I do, which means her “morning meditations” are substantially similar to my own. I should also say that she anticipates leaving her current “slave job” at some point in the reasonably near but not clearly defined future, so what she does with her “free” Sabbaths after that is up in the air…but I can hope.)

The whole “divine invitation” and Christian identity thing means that I am not obligated to a Jewish lifestyle. I’m sure most Jews out there are relieved to hear that I’m not living like a Jew. But depending on your view of Jewishness and Jewish obligations to God, some of you may be distressed that my Jewish family members are not observant. Heck, there are members of the local Reform shul who are more observant than my family.

I can imagine that many Jews would blame me for all of this. After all, my wife and I are intermarried. Intermarriage is usually seen as the gateway for a Jew to leave Judaism and assimilate into Gentile secular culture or even into Christianity. While I can assure you that my wife has no attraction to Christianity on any level and I don’t believe she has become secularized, she doesn’t display a strong religious Jewish lifestyle.

More’s the pity.

(I’ll add here that my wife does keep up on events at the local synagogues and does have definite opinions about people at the Reform shul with a “questionable” Jewish background positioning themselves to lead services and teach [and that would never happen at the Chabad]. She’s “OK” with non-Jews and even Christians attending synagogue as long as they don’t talk about their faith, but she draws the line at “Messianics” or those who were formerly associated with the movement assuming any formal synagogue role.)

I have been trying to encourage my son David to return to the synagogue. His wife has recently rekindled her interest in attending church but I don’t think David would go with her on a regular basis. His basic internal template for religion is still Jewish and he remembers fondly some of his “debates” with the local Reform Rabbi. Actually, just last Sunday, my wife said she’d love it is David would visit the Chabad here in town, so she has her hopes as well.

The “religious identity” of my family continues to be in flux. I’m not even sure how much more my wife can tolerate my Christianity, so where I’ll end up in the months and years ahead is uncertain. I’d like my Jewish family to return to Judaism as an observant lifestyle. I hope they don’t see me as a barrier. I’m really anything but. In fact, in a recent conversation about conversion with my wife, (hence the quote at the beginning of this “meditation”) she said it would be ridiculous for a Gentile to try to convert to Judaism in Boise, (although a good friend of hers converted within the past year) since the convert wouldn’t have a strong Jewish community in which to live. So I don’t think my wife wants me to be “Torah observant” in any way, shape, or form. But what about her?

It would seem that for the sake of peace in the home, I must decline my “invitation,” and as a Christian, I would not only make a poor model of Jewish observance for my Jewish family, but I would actually be an annoyance if I tried. Thus, I cannot encourage them by my example since my example would be completely unwelcome.

I suppose if I were a Jewish husband and father, it might be different, but that’s not an option. Maybe the fears of Judaism are authentic fears and intermarriage is the path to slow death for the Jewish people. Even though it is not my intent, I certainly seem to be killing the Judaism in my home.

Across the long span of history, an untold number of Jews have suffered and died to preserve who they are as Jews. Given that realization, I wish I understood what was going on in my own home. But then, in this particular case, I don’t have a say. I only have to wait and pray that God, who has never abandoned His people Israel before, won’t abandon those who live in my household now.

My wife and children are Jewish. I want and even need them to live like Jews. May the God of mercy grant this for them and for the sake of Israel.