Tag Archives: Christians

The Prayer of the Nations to Our Father

praying aloneAs just about anyone involved in some form of Judaism or in the Messianic/Hebrew Roots movements knows, the High Holy Days are coming up on us fast.

Of course this season may not have the same application upon Gentile believers as upon the Jewish people. “ProclaimLiberty,” who often comments here, said (I think) that perhaps Sukkot might be the better time for a Gentile to make teshuvah given our understanding of Zechariah 14:16-19.

I’ve also been giving some thought to prayer, particularly after reading Rabbi Kalman Packouz’s commentary on Ki Tavo. The vast majority of what he’s written could as easily apply to the Gentile as to the Jew apart from his recommending the Artscroll Siddur.

Many non-Jewish Messianics use such a siddur for prayer and I have myself in the past, but there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid, such as any section that refers to the person praying as “Israel” or otherwise  to being Jewish.

After all, we’re not Jewish.

As far as I know, there is no such thing as a Messianic Siddur just for Gentiles and there’s a simple reason for that. Most Gentile Messianics worship corporately with Jews, at least in some congregations. It would make spoken group prayer impossible to manage if the Jews were using a siddur worded very much differently from the Gentiles praying nearby.

However, even one Orthodox Rabbi advises that Gentiles can use an Orthodox Siddur as long as they avoid employing any of the language or prayers specifically set aside for Jews.

He also says that Gentiles are exempt from the obligations for prayer applied to a Jew. He states that we (or at least Noahides) aren’t obligated to specifically worded prayers or particular times of prayer. He suggests that maybe the Psalms (from a reliable Orthodox Jewish publishing company…probably as opposed to how he considers Christian Bibles) would make a good “book of prayer” for Noahides.

Something similar (I think) has been suggested by the Messianic Jewish community such as how Gentiles are allowed to pray at the specific times of prayer but are not actually obligated to do so. In other words, we can adopt the praxis but it’s not commanded of us.

That’s not to say we should not pray or that God doesn’t expect us to pray. In Rabbi Packouz’s commentary for Nitzavim-Vayelech, he states in part, citing The Book of Our Heritage, that:

In the Providence section we proclaim our understanding that: 1) the Creator has a one on one relationship with every human being 2) God cares about what we do with our lives and sees and remembers everything 3) there are Divine consequences for our actions.

To bring a tighter focus on the main point, he says “the Creator has a one on one relationship with every human being.” If that’s true, then the Almighty has made provision to interface with and connect to every individual human being, including you and me.

Sometimes in the Messianic world, we Gentiles get so hung up on Judaism that we forget we also have a specific invitation to pray to God as Gentiles.

On another blog where I write fiction, my latest chapter in a time travel series sends one of my protagonists back to the time of King Solomon and the dedication of the Temple. The most relent portion of that for “the rest of us,” is this:

“Also concerning the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel, when he comes from a far country for Your name’s sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm); when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, to fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Your name.

1 Kings 8:41-43 (NASB)

It wasn’t since just the time of Rav Yeshua that Gentiles could communicate with God through prayer. It was an expectation from the very beginning. After all, who were Adam and Havah (Eve) and their children and their children’s children? Who were Noah and his family, and until being declared a “Hebrew,” who was Abraham?

I belong to a private Facebook group dedicated to “Unchurched Christians” or believers who have left the organized church but who continue to have a faith. The public website is Unchurching.com.

I’m not particularly involved in its content and joined mainly because I think it’s an interesting idea and also because not only am I unaffiliated with a congregation, I am likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

I was listening to Christian radio again on my commute home from work (I know…right?) and the Pastor was referring to a passage in John’s Gospel where Jesus was talking about the Church. The what? The sermon just reminded me of (in my opinion) what a massive disconnect mainstream Christianity has from what the Bible actually says since nothing called “church” existed in that place and time.

One of the Pastor’s points was that a Christian cannot subsist apart from the organized Church anymore than your hand could continue living if it were amputated from the rest of your body.

I don’t know about that. I have to believe continuing in relative isolation must be possible. After all, Richard Jacobson, who used to be a full-time Pastor in a church before quitting all of that and starting an online community for “Unchurched Christians” seems to believe otherwise, and more and more relationships are conducted online as we continue to rely on the internet for our extended social contacts.

Besides all that, God isn’t hiding. We don’t have to go to a church or synagogue to find Him. He’s there with us. If that weren’t true, He wouldn’t or couldn’t hear our prayers if we weren’t in a house of worship.

The one big flaw in my analysis, going back to Solomon, was his statement about a Gentile coming and praying toward the Temple, implying close proximity rather than merely facing in the direction of Jerusalem where ever you might be on Earth.

But I can’t help that and I do not intend to take Solomon quite so literally. Also, “church” isn’t the Temple, that is, the unique physical location where the glory of God appears physically.

God is accessible to us, Jew and Gentile alike. Yeah, I’ve said it before. We don’t belong formally to the Covenants, New or otherwise. We as non-Jews are wholly dependent on God’s mercy and grace, His desire and will that all human beings come to Him.

tears of repentanceBut that is His will, it’s what the Bible actually says, even though the vast majority of its content was written by and for the Jewish people.

While the High Holy Days may not have a direct application on the Gentile believer, Messianic or otherwise, it can serve us as a reminder that God also wants the people of the nations to make teshuvah and turn toward Him. What’s the harm if we actually accept His offer? In fact, what benefits might we discover the Almighty bestowing upon us if we do pray to our Father in Heaven?

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Why Do All These Gentiles Want To Go To Synagogue?

Lately, I’ve been making a few comparisons between that group of people referred to as Messianic Gentiles or who I sometimes call Talmidei Yeshua and non-Jews called Noahides, a group that Orthodox Judaism believes to be “righteous Gentiles” based on their adherence to the Seven Laws of Noah (see Genesis 9 for the original source material).

I got an email notification recently from a blog called Cozy Kitchen Chats stating that they had “reblogged” Where Are All The Gentiles Who Are Drawn To The Torah. I always feel honored when another blogger feels my content is worthy of posting on their blogspot, so I went to take a look…

…only to find that not only did the reblog not exist, but that it pointed to a different blog altogether: The Torah Way.

Now I was really curious, but the blog’s About page and the associated profile yielded no useful information.

I did find one blog post that seemed illuminating: Leaving Christianity. My guess is that this blog author reblogged my content without having read it thoroughly and thought it was a pro-Noahide commentary. Once he/she discovered more about me, he/she deleted it and moved on.

This person’s “story” seems similar to the other formerly-Christian Noahides I’ve referenced in other blog posts. They read the Bible, compare it to traditional Christian doctrine, and find a massive disconnect between the promises Hashem made to Israel in the Tanakh (Torah, Nevi’im [Prophets], Ketuvim [Writings]) or what Christians call the “Old Testament,” and what seems to be presented in the Apostolic Scriptures (“New Testament”).

As I’ve said before, people like me attribute the disconnect to a horribly inaccurate interpretation of the Apostolic Scriptures originally crafted by the early “Church Fathers” (and later, expanded upon by other Christian movements including the Reformation) in order to totally remove anything Messianic and Jewish about Rav Yeshua (Jesus) from devotion to him, creating a completely new Gentile-driven religion called “Christianity”.

Noahides, on the other hand, believe that the disconnect is because there is absolutely no validity in any of the content of the “New Testament,” no validity to the belief that Yeshua will return as King Messiah, and that non-Jews have no access to the blessings of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36) whatsoever (which is easy to understand since only the House of Judah and the House of Israel are named participants in the covenant).

leaving churchFrom that point of view, the only “in” for non-Jews with Hashem is through the Noahide Covenant (which is actually made with all living things, not just all human beings).

The unknown author’s blog post begins:

Leaving Christianity was extremely easy, yet most difficult at the same time. It was easy when I would weigh everything upon the Word of My Creator as I used Deuteronomy Chapter 13 as a balance in the scale of TRUTH. Difficult only in losing the community and camaraderie Christianity brings.

As I studied what is properly known as the Torah, (that which is called in vulgarity the “old” Testament). I fell in deep love and fascination with the God of Creation, the God of Sinai, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

There are a number of things here that parallel the history and attitudes of the “Judaicly-aware” folks of which I am one.

The non-Jewish Christian reads the Torah and discovers TRUTH that is not taught in the Church, and in fact, a truth that seems in direct contradiction to what is taught in the Church.

The non-Jewish Christian experiences an attitude of “vulgarity” or some other negative attribution toward the Torah expressed in the Church.

The non-Jewish Christian “falls in love” with the beauty of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings that is unique and precious.

The non-Jewish Christian feels driven to leave the Church and find a “home” elsewhere; some community of Gentiles who can live by more Torah-driven values, at least as much as portions of Torah apply to non-Jews.

However…

This is a lonely place to be, not a believer in Christianity, and not a “Jew” by any known bloodline. What does a believer, devotee and seeker of the God of Israel become? We don’t believe the Seed of Jacob will be replaced with another people, We don’t believe that God’s beautifully designed Laws and Standards are done away with, nor do we believe we are to pretend to be Jewish, yet to quote Rabbi David Katz, we long to be “Jew-ISH.”

This is very close to what New Testament scholar Mark D. Nanos refers to as Acting Jewishly But Not Jewish.

Nanos attributed this quality to the First Century C.E. non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua, particularly those who were taught by Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul).

Glasses on Open BibleIt’s funny how, no matter to what degree our individual conclusions differ from one another, when we discover this discrepancy between Christian doctrine and the actual Biblical text, we pour mind, body, and soul into study to discover the “truth,” trusting only in the Spirit of God to lead us to that “truth.”

Therefore, when I would try to calibrate the teaching of Paul to this Master Being’s Commands, Decrees and Standards it was clear to see to whom my loyalty would reside and to Whom I would choose to entrust my very soul. I applied myself to deep study of the Actual Scripture, turning off Television, Cable and Facebook, unplugging from everything and asked from a sincere heart for this God, this Creator to open my eyes to His Truth, no one else’s, to not allow me to go astray, or be misled. I put my faith in Him alone and held strong to the words of Solomon, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”

But although the process of “leaving Christianity” for a Talmid Yeshua and a Noahide may have some similarities, the results are quite different.

I have to remind myself that one Jewish person taught me that Noahides, along with national Israel and we non-Jews in Messiah, may all have some status before Hashem. After all, Isaiah 56 doesn’t map out exactly how a “foreigner” is to attach himself (or herself) to the Lord (Isaiah 56:3, 6-8).

I admit, this area of thinking is more than a little fuzzy, but I learned some time ago, that the Bible operates at a large number and wide variety of levels, and some of the information encoded within is very tough to reach. I’m convinced that there is data in the Bible that, once our Rav returns and interprets it for us, we will be amazed that we missed it so completely.

But back to the musings of this anonymous Noahide:

I found Laws, Commands and Standards that seem so perfect, so regal, so wise that I envy these special children, these special People that have been chosen to follow them. Yes, I envy these standards. Saddened to think I wasn’t chosen or found special enough to be asked to live by such self-discipline and refined practices.

reading torahAnother strong parallel. A Gentile who longs to observe the mitzvot in the manner of a Jew and who realizes that the mitzvot, for the most part, don’t apply to us (though some non-Jews in the Hebrew Roots movement will strongly disagree).

But to continue quoting:

We, as a small family realized, we are not Jewish, we are not to replace the amazing Jewish People. We do believe that Their God is the ONLY GOD, We believe that His Ways are Rich, Rewarding and Righteous. Even though we as gentiles are not commanded to follow His Laws given to the Children of Jacob, we can clearly see the blessings, health and provision that almost immediately follow implementing them brings.

This is pretty much identical to the thoughts and feelings of a lot of non-Jews who, in some manner or fashion, have become associated with Messianic Judaism.

But this final quote is unique to those non-Jews who feel in order to leave normative Christianity, either for the Messianic Jewish/Hebrew Roots movements or into Noahidism, have to denigrate their former association with the Church:

We have found that seeking His Kingdom, His Will, His Truth, His Words have elevated us way beyond the falsehood Christianity (AKA Baal worship or idolatry).

Yikes. I suppose this person has disconnected not only from Christianity, but from those people in his/her former church who really did live a life of holiness, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and paying homage to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Sometimes going through a “divorce” is painful and that pain can turn into a terrible anger.

This writer says to the blog’s audience, “…you are NOT alone. I will soon post information on resources that are available.”

I’ve taken a look at this blog and there are only two subsequent write-ups present (as of this writing), neither offering further resources for the Noahide or potential Noahide.

This blog writer is correct in saying that the journey of a non-Jew circling the peripheral boundary of Judaism is lonely. We don’t quite fit into anyone’s definition of anything. We do what we do because only the centrality of Israel in God’s overarching plan of redemption makes any sort of sense once taking a holistic view of the Bible.

This is what has resulted in me giving up the identity crisis and concentrating on the core values of what defines a person of God. I don’t have to be concerned about how to enter community, Jewish or otherwise, if my primary connection to my faith is through Hashem.

Man aloneBut as I mentioned here, even Noahides are sometimes (often?) turned away from Orthodox synagogues and Chabad Houses when they show up wanting to learn Torah.

The difficulty of non-Jews gaining access to Jewish teaching, wisdom, and knowledge goes all the way back to Shaul’s/Paul’s Gentile communities in the diaspora. No one in Judaism, regardless of the “flavor,” knows what to do with us, largely because we don’t fit into  any “Jewish-friendly” template within Jewish community.

Well, that’s not entirely true:

Carolyn is Baptist. She always will be. And she comes to my synagogue regularly.

By regularly, I mean she comes to everything. Friday night services, Saturday morning Torah study, holiday celebrations, Adult Ed. Everything. Although she brings her Bible and her faith in Jesus along with her to every synagogue function, she doesn’t come to evangelize. And she’s not interested in converting to Judaism. She’s just interested in what Judaism has to offer.

-Rabbi Rachael Bergman
“Who are the Jewcurious?”
MyJewishLearning.com

This Jewish website is very liberal and so is Rabbi Bergman. I’ve mentioned her before, and she seems incredibly open to non-Jews and even Christians associating with her synagogue, probably because more Gentiles than Jews are attending the classes she teaches:

In my small, coastal Georgia community, 90 percent of the participants in the classes I teach are non-Jewish, whether it is a class in Hebrew, Kabbalah, or Judaism 101. Last fall I taught a class on Israel and had just over 100 attendees every week for six weeks. I took a survey of the 90 or so non-Jewish participants. Each person identified with a particular Christian faith group so there were no “nones.” The majority are currently affiliated with a church which means very few “nons.” This tells me it’s not only unaffiliated seekers who are Jewcurious, it is also the church-going, faithful filling the pews.

synagogueIt seems that there are a lot of non-Jews interested and even fascinated with Judaism. These aren’t just Noahides or people like me, but Christians who have no intention of leaving their churches. Some of the Christians, such as the aforementioned “Carolyn,” attend synagogue on Shabbat and church on Sunday, and in fact, she attends every function the synagogue offers.

Other non-Jews like Carolyn come to synagogue regularly. Some are looking to be closer to Jesus, some come to enhance their understanding and connection to their own faith, and some just come to understand themselves. Something about Judaism provides an access point to spirituality and meaning. Regardless, Carolyn and her cohort take what Judaism has to offer on Friday night and Saturday morning to one of the many churches down the street on Sunday.

A lot of non-Jews are interested in Judaism and believe that in some way, Jewish teaching is meaningful to them, even though they have no intention of actually converting to Judaism.

I don’t know what it means. Maybe this has always been a trend but isn’t often noticed, or maybe (and I think I’ve said this before) God is preparing His remnant from among the nations for Moshiach’s return and the unfolding of his Kingdom here in our world. Maybe it’s important for representatives of the nations, including those who are church-attending Christians, to begin to understand that King Messiah and Israel will be ruling the nations of the earth, not the Church.

The day is coming. We must be ready…no matter who we are.

Talmidei Yeshua

Actually Questor made the suggestion for a proper term by which to call Judaicly-aware non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua in coining the phrase תָלְמִדִם שׁל יֵשׁוּע – Talmidim shel Yeshua – Disciples of Yeshua, however ProclaimLiberty suggested:

Nice label suggestion, “Q”, but the phrase requires the possessive contraction as: “תָלְמִדִי יֵשׁוּע” (Talmidei Yeshua) rather than as merely a descriptive or explanatory phrase.

Of course, referring to people like me as “Talmidei Yeshua” is going to draw a lot of blank stares from Christians or just about anyone else.

Just the other day, I got a knock on my door, and when I answered, the fellow asked if I was a Christian. I said “yes,” but pointing at the mezuzah on the door frame, I said my wife was Jewish. If I had told him something “I’m Talmidei Yeshua,” he might have given me a much less predictable response.

For as many years as I’ve been involved in the Hebrew Roots and Messianic Jewish movements, there’s been a struggle as to what to call ourselves. OK, Jewish disciples of Messiah can call themselves Messianic Jews, but even early on, there was some resistance to applying the word “Messianic” to non-Jews, the idea being that “Messianic” belonged to the Jewish people.

church?A lot of Gentiles in Messiah don’t like being referred to or like calling themselves “Christians” because of the implications of replacement theology, denial of the applicability of the Torah as a requirement of God’s for Jews in general and Messianic Jews in particular, and the whole church on Sunday, Christmas, Easter, eating ham at the drop of a hat deal that seems so anti-Jewish and thereby anti-Messiah.

Some folks hedge their bets and say they’re “believers” which is acceptable as an alternate “Christian-ese” word that still doesn’t peg the non-Jewish Messianic as “Christian” specifically.

However, in spite of all this, Messianic Gentiles as a proper term, has risen to the top of the list in being the most accurate representation of who we rather odd non-Jewish disciples of the Jewish Messiah King are in our theology, doctrine, and praxis.

That said, Q and PL may have a point in addressing us as “Talmidei Yeshua” since “Yeshua’s disciples” is both accurate and generic. I even mentioned to PL that we could refer to both Jews and Gentiles in Messiah by that title and still be correct.

Except that he reminded me of something:

Yes, it could refer to both, though Jewish disciples might prefer ‘Hasidei Yeshua. Or, as someone in my local ‘havurah suggested last week, Jewish disciples might do well to forego any distinctive label altogether, being satisfied to be simply Jews without any such label that could suggest separatist factionalism or “minut”. Just as Rav Shaul was content to identify himself simply as a Pharisee or a Binyamini (tribal designator), without any other qualifier specifically associated with Rav Yeshua, so could modern Jewish disciples do in modern terms. Distinctive terms such as “Nazarene” did not appear until later, and were used primarily to distinguish Jewish messianists as individuals to be avoided or forced out of the Jewish community. That sort of social dis-interaction needs to be countered as Jewish messianists re-integrate within the wider Jewish community, bringing what they’ve learned from Rav Yeshua with them.

For gentile disciples, on the other hand, a label could have a positive function to emphasize that such individuals have “drawn close” to the Jewish community and embraced the principles and values of the Torah covenant.

Stuart Dauermann
Rabbi Stuart Dauermann

And that Reminded me of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann’s article “The Jewish People are Us — not Them,” published in Messiah Journal, which I reviewed a couple of years back.

Historically, converting to Christianity has been seen as drawing the convert out of his or her former life and associations and into the Church. This has been true whether the convert were a Jew or anyone else. Sometimes, the convert’s Jewish family and friends don’t even acknowledge this person as Jewish anymore.

However, as Dauermann correctly pointed out and as I interpret him, being Messianic is a very Jewish thing to do. All religious Jews eagerly await the coming of Messiah. The only difference between a Messianic Jew and any other religious Jew, is that the Messianic acknowledges the specific revelation of Messiah as Rav Yeshua (I’m sure there are Jews who would strongly debate this point).

Accepting the revelation of our Rav as Moshiach, if anything, should increase and enhance the observance of a Jew and ideally, draw the Jew nearer to his/her fellows and to Jewish devotion and praxis.

That’s why there probably isn’t any real need to call a Messianic Jew anything other than a Jew. PL rightly points out that Paul didn’t create a special designation for himself after the events of Acts 9. So why should any other Jewish disciple of the Rav do so?

However, it always seems to come back to “what do we do with the Gentiles?” If being “Messianic” is such a Jewish thing to do, then it must be a pretty strange thing for a non-Jew to do. Who are we? What do we call ourselves? How do we define our praxis? Once we enter this world, as distinguished from the more traditional Church, we find ourselves in an indistinct, foggy, no-man’s-land, being neither fish nor fowl, still Gentile but located, even tangentially, in Jewish space because we have declared ourselves as disciples of the Jewish Rav.

One of these things is not like the othersCalling ourselves Talmidei Yeshua may not change a great deal, but it does give us some small sense of identity, or at least what to call ourselves, that shouldn’t be objectionable in Jewish religious and social space. Of course, it’ll rather put off most Christians who consider the title “Christian” to be more than sufficient, but then again, anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows that people like me don’t think, speak, teach, write, or believe in precisely the same things you’ll find preached in the average Evangelical Church on Sunday morning.

Of course, those other pesky questions remain unanswered for the most part. Yet I think each person has created his or her own answers out of necessity. Some let themselves be defined by the standards of accepted praxis for Gentiles in their congregations. Some, like me who have no congregation or group, self-define. However, there remains no single standard to which the Talmidei Yeshua can consult and emulate.

This is probably why so many of the non-Jewish Talmidei Yeshua look to their Jewish counterparts with envy since Jewish halachah is well-defined.

My Jewish wife would be perplexed by all this. From her point of view, and from the point of view of the Jews attending the two synagogues in my community, I’m considered a Christian and that’s that. All the little spins and twists that I derive from Jewish literature in understanding my faith are moot to them.

human beings
Photo: theshirtlist.com

This isn’t a problem really if we don’t factor community into the equation. Besides my name, I have no idea how God refers to me, how He categorizes me (besides “human” or “Goy”), how He thinks of me, if He has to have categories at all. None of this probably matters to Him. He doesn’t see titles or labels, He sees the heart and the relationship.

In the end, that’s all there is. Maybe we live in community or at least family, but we die alone and only God receives us. He calls us by whatever name He wills.

The Pilot Project for the Nations

Warning. This is pretty cynical. It’s been that kind of day.

@James — You wrote: “It does seem like the Bible is biased heavily in defining the roles and responsibilities of the Jewish people and is pretty skimpy with its “advice” to the Gentiles.” I think I mentioned somewhere above, in response to a similar comment from Drake, that this should be obvious because the literature was written by Jews for Jews, and its consideration of gentiles was only to provide a larger framework for the world in which Jews must exist as a part of that larger body of humanity. It was never intended to provide advice or guidelines for non-Jews, though such guidelines may be (and have been) inferred from it. I pointed out to Drake that it is inappropriate to “criticize” this literature for not providing such information, because that was not its purpose. One might as well criticize a cookbook for not including motorcycle-repair instructions, or a self-help book about quitting smoking for not addressing drug addictions in general. Now, it’s not entirely incidental, of course, that the instructions for a pilot program redeeming one of the families of the earth should contain information that can be generalized to other families; but to criticize a lack of generalized information is just not correctly appreciating the nature and purpose of the existing literature.

Comment by ProclaimLiberty (emph. mine)
Submitted 2015/06/30 at 10:53 a.m.
On Why Do Christians Hate Judaism

That explains a lot.

I actually like the references to the non-Jewish disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) in the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) being referred to as a “pilot program” (I know PL used “pilot program” as applied to the Jewish people and then generalized to the rest of us, but I think my interpretation fits better). It makes perfect sense. The phrase brings into clarity what I think we’ve been struggling with in the conversation taking place on the aforementioned blog post, as well as the one that started this whole thing out.

I don’t know if the Apostle Paul ever intended to flesh out his “pilot program” and develop a full-fledged halachah for the non-Jewish disciples. Maybe not. I’ve read more than one commentary stating that Paul believed the Messianic return was imminent, so he probably didn’t think he had to do anything but put band-aids on gushing arteries because Yeshua was going to be back so fast, he’d heal all our wounds.

Oops.

divorceThis also explains why, with the passage of time, the Gentiles decided to take matters into their own hands and, in a rather ugly divorce, separate themselves from their Jewish mentors and invent an identity of their own, one that diminished if not deleted the Jewish role in the redemptive plan of God through Moshiach (Christ).

Maybe I’ve been a little hard on the Church Fathers. Maybe they thought that turning against the Messianic Jews, all other Jews, and Israel was an unfortunate but necessary step if Gentile lives and souls were to mean anything at all, at least in a more fully developed form.

No real identity, role, or function for the Gentile disciples in Jewish space? No problem. Leave Jewish community and create an identity, role, and function for non-Jewish believers, excuse me, “Christians” that stands on its own legs, without any sort of need for Judaism. Heck, if they were stinging from being put on long-term hold in a “pilot program,” they’d just take it to the next level and write a theology that made Israel and the Jewish people the “bad guys”.

And it worked, at least, from a Christian perspective, for the past eighteen-hundred years or so.

Then, as Derek Leman recently wrote, Messianic Judaism had a “revival” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and then later in the 1960s. From there, after a few missteps, it picked up steam and is now beginning to realize itself as an authentic Judaism again.

And as I’ve said before, with Jewish realization of their identity in Messiah, there also came a Gentile realization that said, “I’m no longer the center of Christ’s attention, anymore” (not that we ever were).

And it’s not too far a walk from that point to, “I’m not only not the center of attention, but I’m pretty much irrelevant.”

Of course that defies certain statements in the Bible such as Galatians 3:28 which seems to establish some common ground between Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic ekklesia, but I think it stands to reason that if you admit the centrality of Israel, Judaism, and the Jewish people in God’s redemptive plan for the world, then the only place for Christians to go once they leave the pitcher’s mound is either the outfield, or more likely, the bleachers (the parking lot? …maybe a few miles away from the ballpark?).

shakespeareI’ve mentioned before that when Israel becomes the head of all the nations and King Messiah reigns from Jerusalem over not only Israel but over the rest of the world, the rest of the world will be composed of vassal nations, subservient to the head nation, the Jewish nation.

For some reason, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 57 comes to mind:

Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend,
Nor services to do, till you require.
Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you.
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour
When you have bid your servant once adieu;
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But like a sad slave, stay and think of nought,
Save, where you are how happy you make those.
So true a fool is love that in your will
Though you do anything, he thinks no ill.

Of course, the accepted commentary on this sonnet states this is the lament of a neglected friend regarding a companion who has abandoned him and gone off adventuring with others, but I think it could be applied to the current discussion.

I know I’m probably exaggerating, but this series of blog posts are an evolutionary exploration into who or what non-Jews in Messiah are if at all in relationship with Jewish community.

In the blog post I mentioned at the top of today’s missive, I commented that the worst case scenario (for Gentiles) in the Messianic Age, given what I’ve just said, is a true “bilateral ecclesiology,” one extending world-wide with the Jewish people in Israel and the rest of us in our own nations, perhaps only visiting Israel on special occasions to pay homage to our Lord, but otherwise, as the defeated nations that had vainly attacked (or from the present’s point of view, will attack) Israel and were conquered and shamed for our efforts, we remain in our place and tend to our own affairs and only come to the King if summoned.

I wonder if the pilot program was ever meant to be developed further, even by Messiah, since the rather dystopian scenario (for Gentiles) I’ve just crafted doesn’t really need a lot more detail than said-pilot program provides.

solomon

I wonder if there’s a Gentile application to Solomon’s Ecclesiastes? We poor, dumb Christians rule and reign in our churches for eighteen-hundred years thinking we have the proverbial tiger by the tail, only to realize that we are the tail and we’re no tiger, not by a long shot.

Each and every insult, pogrom, persecution, injustice, and inquisition Christianity has ever visited upon the Jewish people in eighteen or so centuries is going to come back and land right on our collective necks with a solid, concrete “thump”.

Maybe the reason Gentiles don’t fit into Messianic Judaism is that we were never meant to. Maybe Mark Kinzer’s vision of separate silos for Jews and Gentiles is intended to be carried over into the Messianic Era. Maybe we had our chance to stay loyal to the Jewish people and Israel during the Age of the Apostles, but once we walked out of the house, so to speak, and slammed the door in Messianic Jewish faces, there was no going back…

…ever.

I see now why the Pastor and just about all of the other people I described Messianic Judaism to at that little Baptist church I used to attend didn’t accept a word of it. I know why “One Law” Hebrew Roots Christians (no, you aren’t “Messianic Judaism”) can’t accept it either. It’s a terribly humbling realization and one accepted only with great difficulty and personal reorganization of who we are. We can never be who we thought we were. Those people never existed, at least not to God.

What was Solomon’s point in writing Ecclesiastes again?

Oh, yeah.

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NASB)

Yes, God will judge us, may He have mercy on the nations. Except that keeping His commandments, if you mean the Torah mitzvot, only “applies to every person” (assuming Solomon didn’t mean “every Jew” since his primary audience was most certainly exclusively Jewish), in the broadest possible sense.

torahOf course, it’s dangerous to attempt to apply any of the Jewish scriptures (and even the Apostolic texts are Jewish scriptures written by Jews for Jews) to non-Jews in any sense, so I’m skating on proverbial thin ice (a very hazardous thing given that it’s triple digit highs in and around Boise for the foreseeable future).

Yes, I’m being pessimistic. Half the time, I want to take this “religion thing” and say “to heck with it…if I’m not supposed to belong to the club, I’ll leave.”

Maybe Thomas Gray was correct when he penned in his poem “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College:”

“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”

While Christians were ignorant of their/our true place in the ekklesia and their/our station in the future Kingdom of Messiah, we felt like Kings and Queens, reigning and ruling with Jesus, King of the Hill, Top of the Heap, and so on.

Given the “alternate reality” I’ve just constructed, we’d better duck and run when Messiah really does return for treating the Jewish people and Israel so badly, especially if all of the nations we live in (everywhere except Israel) are going to war against God’s precious, splendorous people, and, as the Bible says, we’re going to get our fannies whooped.

So wising up, I look around and find that I’m just part of a pilot project, a starter kit, a house made of cards with cotton candy for a roof and play-doh for a foundation.

No wonder I’ve felt so “unfinished” or maybe just “unmade” in my version of being a “Messianic Gentile.”

But it all fits. It explains everything, particularly why there are so many questions and so few, if any, answers.

We really were never meant to go as far as we tried to go, were never meant to rise as high as we tried to fly.

Like Icarus, now that I’ve flown close enough to the Sun to see the truth, my wax wings have melted and I plummet to earth like a broken angel, though I’m hardly angelic.

“Being your slave, what should I do but tend upon the hours and times of your desire” indeed.

icarusI think I’d better crawl on my knees in abject humility or humiliation for the incredible arrogance I’ve been guilty of in even imagining I could be more or, worse yet, that I was more.

I don’t think I’ve understood being a servant up until now, not really.

A fallen servant is one whose wings have melted, and wallowing in soggy, warm wax, all I can do to serve is to scoop up some of that gooey, messy stuff. Maybe it’ll be good enough to make into a few candles to light the way, should the King decide to return by the road that winds past my small place.

Renewing Her Relationship with Shabbos and Hashem

And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Israelite people and say: Nevertheless, you must keep My sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the Lord have consecrated you.

Exodus 31:12-13 (JPS Tanakh)

The Talmud (Shabbos 10b) describes Shabbos as a special gift the Almighty gave to the Jewish people.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
from “Observing Shabbos is a sign of your relationship with the Almighty,” p.218
Commentary on Torah Portion Ki Tisa
Growth Through Torah

My wife is continuing to renew her relationship with Hashem. Today (Shabbos, as I write this), she went to the Chabad for Shabbat services. I couldn’t be more delighted.

Why? Let me explain.

I’ve mentioned before that I believe the duty of non-Jews in Messiah and particularly those of us who identify as Messianic Gentiles, is to support, and if possible, inspire a return to greater Torah observance for Jewish people, and frankly, whether they’re disciples of Yeshua or not.

But without me doing a thing, something remarkable happened this morning. My wife (who is not Messianic in the slightest) went to Shabbat services. As I said above, I couldn’t be more delighted. She’s been lighting the Shabbos candle in our home somewhat intermittently over the past few months, but this is the first time in a long time when I’ve found her all dressed up and heading out the door to go to the Chabad to worship.

Shabbat candlesI’ve tried my hand at personal Shabbat observance and let’s say the results weren’t spectacular. Shabbat observance for anyone requires a great deal of discipline and preparation and really, I think it can only be done when it is fully integrated into your lifestyle. It would probably be best if you grew up in an observant home, but short of that, practicing and striving to observe Shabbos over the course of months, ideally with a knowledgable Jewish person guiding you, would certainly be effective.

But after my own “experiment,” and especially knowing my wife would not support me observing Shabbat (my “honey do” list has certain duties I must perform on Saturday), I decided that if it’s more important for her to observe Shabbat than it is for me, then my observing Shabbat, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t really matter all that much. I think Rabbi Pliskin would probably agree:

The Chofetz Chayim gave two parables to illustrate how Shabbos serves as a sign of the relationship between the Jewish people and the Almighty. When two people are engaged to be married they send each other gifts. Even if difficulties arise between them, as long as they keep the gifts that they received from each other we know they still plan to get married. But if we see that they have returned the gifts, then we know that the relationship between them is over. Similarly, as long as a person observes Shabbos we see that he still has a relationship with the Almighty.

-ibid

Granted, she drove to services and it’s possible she will perform other melachah today, but this is still a powerful leap forward.

The effect of observing the Sabbath properly has another dimension. The Midrash (Shemos 25) states: R’ Levi said, “If the Jews will observe Shabbos properly, even one day, the son of David will arrive (i.e. we will return to Eretz Yisrael).” Why? For it is considered the equivalent of all the mitzvos, as the verse states (Tehillim 95:7): “For He is our God and we are the flock He pastures and the sheep in His charge — even today, if we but heed His call!”

from A Mussar Thought for the Day
Sunday’s commentary on Torah Portion Vayakhel
A Daily Dose of Torah

Yes, this is midrash so we might not be able to take it literally, but I believe there is a certain truth involved in Jews performing the mitzvot with Kavanah, the return of Messiah, and the New Covenant promises of God to Israel, the Jewish people, being realized.

Then I will sprinkle pure water upon you, that you may become cleansed; I will cleanse you from all your contamination and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My spirit within you, and I will make it so that you will follow My decrees and guard My ordinances and fulfill them. You will dwell in the land that I gave to your forefathers; you will be a people to Me, and I will be a God to you.

Ezekiel 36:25-28 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

No, I’m not discounting the Messiah, and I know that no one comes to the Father except through the Son:

I am the bread of life. Anyone who comes to me will not be hungry, and one who believes in me will not thirst again.

John 6:35 (Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels)

MessiahI don’t believe that Yeshua-devotion and the New Covenant promises of God to Israel are mutually exclusive. In fact, they are inexorably tied to one another, since Messiah is the mediator of the New Covenant and he came the first time to lay the foundation and to make the first down payment of the New Covenant.

This may be for some of you as was said in the synagogue in Kefar Nachum (John 6:59-60), “This word is difficult. Who is able to hear it?”

Rabbi Derek Leman has been spending the past several weeks on his blog laying out his theological perspective on a Jewish understanding of the Bible including the Apostolic Scriptures, as it describes Hashem’s relationship with the ancient and modern Jewish people. One of the things he said, and I agree with him, is that God didn’t abandon the Jewish people, and switch to the Christian Church at the end of the Biblical narrative. He can be found just as commonly in the Synagogue as in the Church (and having worshiped in a synagogue setting in years past, I can attest that His Presence was there).

So I don’t believe that God has abandoned my Jewish wife anymore than He has abandoned me for being a Christian (or Messianic Gentile if you prefer). I do believe that God expects my wife, as a Jew, to observe the mitzvot, including the Shabbat, since they were given specifically to the Children of Israel (as opposed to all mankind) at Sinai. The existence of a large number of “grafted in” Gentiles does not take away uniquely Jewish obligations and duties to God, and if my being a disciple of Yeshua means anything at all, then it should mean that I will do everything in my power to support and encourage my wife to observe the mitzvot associated with Shabbos.

The first of the zemiros that many people sing on Friday night begins with the words: “Whoever hallows Shabbos as befits it, whoever safeguards Shabbos according to the law [and refrains] from desecrating it, his reward is exceedingly great, in accordance with his deed.”

from A Closer Look at the Siddur
Sunday’s commentary on Torah Portion Vayakhel
A Daily Dose of Torah

So even if she didn’t light the Shabbos candles last night but she davened at shul (today) on Shabbos, then in accordance with her deeds, may Hashem reward her.

Of course, this should only be the beginning:

Rashi comments on this that rest on Shabbos should be a permanent rest and not merely a temporary rest. I heard from Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz the following explanation: A temporary rest means that a person has not really changed his inner traits, but he merely controls them on Shabbos. He still has a bad temper and has a tendency to engage in quarrels, but because of the elevation of Shabbos he has self-discipline and these traits are not manifest. But the ultimate in Shabbos observance is that a person should uproot those negative traits which are contradictory to peace of mind on Shabbos. One needs to uproot such traits as anger and the tendency to quarrel with others. Only then is your rest on Shabbos a complete rest.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
from “To have peace of mind on Shabbos you need to have mastery over your traits,” p.220
Commentary on Torah Portion Ki Tisa
Growth Through Torah

intermarriageI’m choosing to interpret this a bit differently than I think Rashi and Rabbi Pliskin have in mind. I think that when a Jewish person observes some portion of Shabbos but not others, they are achieving a sort of temporary rest. Only when a Jewish person observes all of the aspects of Shabbos do they achieve the permanent rest they find in the complete acceptance of Hashem’s gift to Israel.

I’m keenly aware that my wife very likely sees me as an obstruction to her Shabbos observance since, after all, not only am I not a Jewish husband, I am in fact, a Christian husband, and like most Jews, she sees Christian theology, doctrine, and practice as the antithesis to religious Judaism and Torah observance.

More’s the pity.

I probably embarrassed her this morning, though I didn’t mean to. I spent about an hour and a half at the gym and when I got home covered in sweat, she was just coming out of our bedroom dressed quite nicely. I was startled and although I thought I knew the answer, I asked where she was going.

“Where do you think?” she responded.

I was thrilled she was going to services but she said I was “acting weird about it.” I guess I didn’t get my actual emotions across, but then I know she doesn’t want me to comment too much about her observance or relationship with Jewish community.

In the end, if my staying home and doing chores on Shabbat somehow frees her to go to synagogue, daven with Jewish community, and to observe more of the mitzvot, then I am content to be in that role. This is the role, at least from my tiny viewpoint, that I believe God has assigned me as a Messianic Gentile. The rest is in Hashem’s hands.

Are Christians Idol Worshipers?

More to the point, by Christians worshiping Jesus as divine, does that automatically make Christians idol worshipers according to Judaism?

The Jewish criterion regarding idolatry – as it relates to non-Jews – is also subject to debate. The accepted ruling is that if a non-Jew believes in a single all-powerful God, even if he accepts other forces together with God (such as the Christian belief in the Trinity), it is not idolatry. (Note that this distinction only pertains to non-Jews.) However, any other type of belief in a deity independent of God is idolatry (Code of Jewish Law – Rema O.C. 156:1).

-from “Ask the Rabbi”
Aish.com

Granted, the various branches of Judaism would have other issues with the worship of Jesus as part of the Trinity, but it is only idol worship if we are assigning an inanimate object with directly being God.

I’m not going to address the whole idea of the Trinity or the divine nature of Yeshua, and how all that’s supposed to work and, for once, I’m not going to write a lengthy missive on the topic. I just wanted to clarify for those folks out there who have accused Christians of being idol worshipers, that according to Jewish thought based on the above-quoted passage, we/they certainly aren’t.

As far as “the Father and I are one” (John 10:30) is concerned, there are other ways to understand why no one comes to the Father except through the Son.

But as the Aish Rabbi above explains, this applies only to non-Jews. For Jewish disciples of Yeshua, I can only imagine things may be a little harder to understand.