Tag Archives: fellowship

Waiting in a Minefield

The words and the stories of Torah are but its clothing; the guidance within them is its body.

And, as with a body, within that guidance breathes a soul that gives life to whoever follows it.

And within that soul breathes a deeper, transcendental soul, the soul of the soul: G-d Himself within His Torah.

Grasp the clothes alone and you have an empty shell. Grasp straight for the soul—or even the body—and you will come up with nothing. They are not graspable; they are G-dly wisdom and you are a created being.

Instead, examine those words and those stories, turn them again and again. As fine clothes and jewelry can bring out the beauty of the one who wears them, so these words and stories can lead you to the G-dliness that dwells within the Torah.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Grab the Clothing”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

I quoted the above in today’s morning mediation but it seems this particular lesson isn’t done with me yet. The “clothing” of Torah or of God (take your pick since they’re interchangeable in one way or another) is only one aspect of who we are. We refer to Jesus as “the Word made flesh” declaring that Christianity, as well as Judaism, has a tradition of imbuing the Torah with the life of the Divine, but what about the clothing that we wear as disciples of the Master? Interestingly enough, Rabbi Freeman has something to say about our live clothing, too.

There is a suit we wear that has a life of its own.

It is knitted of the fabric of words, images and sounds, mischievous characters that no one else can see—or would care to know.

You, however, hear them day and night, chattering, buzzing, playing their games in the courtyard of your mind. They are all the threads of the garment of thought that envelops you.

Leave your thoughts to play on their own, and they will take you for a ride to places you never wanted to see.

Grab the reins, master them, direct them, flex your mind, and they will follow. Provide them a script, and they will play along.

Do something quick, because you, after all, are dressed up within them.

We seek to be clothed in the holy but all the while, we struggle with the fabric of the mundane, which is the fabric of our human lives. I suppose that’s as good a way as any of describing the struggle we go through every day as people of faith living in a broken world. It’s also more personal because the brokenness is in each of us, not just in the world we inhabit. Rabbi Freeman says that we can achieve some manner of control over this “suit” we wear by giving it a “script” to follow, but make no mistake, taking control is not the same as shedding your skin, because after all, we “are dressed up within them.” We are all trapped in the mundane while longing for the holy.

Recently, I was accused of not understanding this particular lesson and failing to have compassion for people whose life of faith competed with the demands of family. I suppose I feel that demand a bit less because my children are not adults and are responsible for their own religious existence (or lack thereof), but I still experience the push, pull, and shove between the various “words, images and sounds” that make up the different forces that struggle for control over me. I continue to be encased by the competing priorities of man and God.

Part of the interesting dilemma of asking for advice when trying to make a decision, is that you get some. I’ve been asking for advice about the future of fellowship in my life and have been receiving both public and private messages in response. I’ve been forced to consider options that had not occurred to me and avenues I previously had not considered valid. I feel like a man standing in the center of a room with blank walls and no furniture and who is told that I am surrounded by explosive mines. I’m provided with several conflicting maps showing me a safe path out of the room, but I don’t know which one to trust. I’m also told that my own plans for escaping the room are flawed and will certainly lead to destruction.

There’s a difference between asking for and receiving advice, and then taking it.

I think this is one of those times when I’m supposed to be still and quiet and I’m supposed to patiently wait. As you know, I’m not very good at being quiet, but it seems I have no choice about waiting. In real life, making a move one direction or another won’t result in an actual explosion, but a wrong step will still result in making a mistake (which I suppose is inevitable, no matter what I do). On the other hand, I can choose to grab a chair and make myself comfortable in the center of the empty room. Perhaps this is where God wants me after all…or it may be the consequence I’ve built for myself as a result of my assumptions and decisions.

Either way, I am in an empty room with no clear way out…and God is here.

So I sit and wait for God to make the next move. My only question now is, will the wait be temporary or permanent?

Falling and Rising

Rabbi Noah Weinberg was visiting the United States of America. He spent one Shabbat in a small New Jersey community. The people were friendly, and because of the small size of the congregation for Rabbi mingled freely with all the congregants. On Shabbat afternoon, when they sat to eat Seudah Shelisheet, the third Shabbat meal, a young man who was sitting next to the Rabbi began a conversation, which expressed his frustration with his ability to learn Torah. The young man described the many hours in the many techniques he had tried in order to grasp the difficult concepts of the Talmud study.

“How come I just can’t get it?” he asked. “No matter what I do, it seems my conclusions are wrong when I get a chance to review with my Rabbi. I am about to give up,” he said he reported.

-Rabbi Raymond Beyda
“Try Try Again”
Commentary on Parashas Terumah

On last Friday’s extra meditation, I posted a video of Rev. LeeAnne Watkins, Rector at St. Marys, St. Paul, a faith community located in the Merriam Park neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota. As you may recall, she was lamenting that after “years of experience and lots of good will, traditional Faith Formation programming is floundering in communities across the country,” including her own. In response, the ministerial staff at St Mary’s had stopped offering all adult education classes. They cancelled everything. They gave up. Rev. Watkins gave up.

I just got an email notice from WordPress.com notifying me that the domain name for this blog will expire in 90 days. I can either choose to renew it for another year, or let it lapse, sending my “morning meditations” into obscure oblivion. Believe me, there are times when I’m tempted to give up, too. The contentiousness and extreme lack of unity within the community of faith in Jesus Christ is just stunning at times. It’s not only the lack of unity, but the hostility expressed in our various online exchanges that makes me wonder if there even is a community of faith in the Messiah anymore. Everyone is so concerned with protecting their own turf and their own theologies, usually at the expense of everyone else who calls Jesus “Master” and “Lord.”

An extreme, though understandable, example is found in Lawrence H. Schiffman’s review of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s controversial book, Kosher Jesus as posted at JewishJournal.com. Even the concept of attempting to establish peace between Judaism and Christianity is depicted in widely different ways by these two Jewish gentlemen:

Most difficult to accept is Boteach’s claim that Jews should re-accept Jesus as one of their own teachers, so that Jews and Christians will share this common teacher and unite in our service of God. This notion is probably the cause of the great controversy that already surrounds this book. In making this proposal the author ignores two major issues: 1) The symbolism of Jesus in Western culture where Jews were taunted, persecuted and killed in Jesus’ name. It is simply insensitive to expect, as Boteach does, that this experience should be forgotten so quickly. 2) The need for Judaism to draw clear lines between itself and Christianity to avoid losing adherents to the dominant faith. The Jewishness of Jesus is regularly used in evangelizing Jews by Christian proselytizers to ease the way from Judaism to Christianity. So there is no sense to the proposal to reclaim Jesus as a teacher and hero. He is best left to his Christian adherents, even if he was once a fellow Jew who lived by the Jewish tradition.

Although Rabbi Boteach advocates Jews attempting to reintegrate the historical and Jewish Jesus back into Judaism in order to foster Jewish/Christian peace, Professor Schiffman believes that such peace can only be achieved and maintained by abandoning any hope that Jesus could be considered Jewish, relegating him to the exclusive realm of “Gentile god”. While I can certainly understand the need to separate the Christian Jesus from modern Judaism, given the traditional enmity between the two religions, it is still discouraging that Judaism is unable or unwilling to at least consider the teachings of the Jewish teacher from Natzeret, even apart from Christian rhetoric.

Of course, there are plenty of disagreements within Christianity and particularly between the church and the Messianic Jews who have accepted the Nazarene as Master and Messiah, so I don’t have to go looking too far for discouragement. Going back to Rabbi Beyda’s commentary, at the level of the individual, disappointment doesn’t have to be caused by interfaith conflicts. Just facing personal inadequacies can be enough to make you, or rather, to make me want to give up.

But what about our metaphorical Talmud student. Is his case truly hopeless. I found an interesting answer from a very non-religious source:

In this new paper, Moser et al. extends this research by looking at how beliefs about learning shape these mostly involuntary error-related signals in the brain, both of which appear in less than half a second. More specifically, the scientists applied a dichotomy first proposed by Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford. In her influential research, Dweck distinguishes between people with a fixed mindset — they tend to agree with statements such as “You have a certain amount of intelligence and cannot do much to change it” — and those with a growth mindset, who believe that we can get better at almost anything, provided we invest the necessary time and energy. While people with a fixed mindset see mistakes as a dismal failure — a sign that we aren’t talented enough for the task in question — those with a growth mindset see mistakes as an essential precursor of knowledge, the engine of education.

-Jonah Lehrer
“Whe Do Some People Learn Faster?”
October 4, 2011

I encourage you to read the entire article but in brief, research seems to support the idea that what you tell yourself about learning affects your ability to learn more and to learn faster. If you believe learning is only an effect of your raw, native intelligence, then you internally set limits that you cannot and will not exceed. If, on the other hand, you believe that time and effort can create change and expand your ability to learn beyond your current thresholds, then you indeed will learn more and exceed your limitations.

Interestingly enough, that’s not much different from the advice Rabbi Weinberg gave to the troubled Talmud student.

“That is the worst solution, you could choose” the rabbi responded. “A person has to understand that the learning of Torah is not something that a human being can do without the help of Hashem. Hashem expects you to put in all the effort you can, and then he will produce the results.”

The young man listened and was encouraged. The respect he had for the sage gave him the strength to continue with his suggestion of try try again. Not long after he made a breakthrough. He reached a level where he was able to prepare a portion of the Talmud on his own. Today that young man is a practicing Rabbi in his community teaching others how to learn and how to be patient, if at first they do not succeed.

I’ve presented a lot of content to express what has already been said in a single sentence attributed to 19th century educator Thomas H. Palmer: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. W.C. Fields said something similar, but it’s hardly as useful. Then there’s what the brother of the Master said.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. –James 1:2-4 (ESV)

Am I trying to give you some sort of pep talk? Not at all. If anything, I’m trying to encourage myself. Given the sad shape the world is in lately, the spiritual struggles of one human being who otherwise is doing fairly well don’t really stack up all that much. To extend that thought back into the realm of famous Hollywood quotes, here’s what the “great sage” Rick (played by Humphrey Bogart) had to say:

I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.

Casablanca (1942)

If I (or anyone else) feels alone in the world of faith, it’s not because we are separated from God, it’s because we are separated from each other as human beings and disciples of the Master. That separation is largely by choice. We choose to believe this or that about what the Bible says, which makes it difficult for us to associate with people who interpret the Bible differently. We choose to organize a worship service on a particular day, using specific prayers, and songs, and sermons, and others choose to do it differently on a different day. Then we tell ourselves that one type of service “feels at home” while another type “feels uncomfortable,” but those are choices, too.

There’s nothing wrong about making those choices, but having made them, we live with the consequences. I’ve made choices and am living with the consequences now. I can choose to do nothing or choose a different direction and then there will be more and different consequences. Rev. Watkins and the folks at St. Mary’s made a choice and now they, and the people who attend their church, will live with the consequences. If the Talmud student had given up, there would have been consequences too, but he chose to go on and the consequence for perseverance was to become a Rabbi.

We like to think that we make one choice and we never have to revisit it again, but I find that I am looking at the choices I’ve made every day and continually confronting the consequences, adjusting my studies, my searches, my prayers, and my actions all the time as a result. A relationship with God is incredibly dynamic. If I were to dare to become comfortable with my choices, I have no doubt He would challenge me into discomfort, and then I would have to learn something by generating some effort. What we learn isn’t always what we want to learn but it all adds up to something, though I’m not always sure what. In the end, the only thing I know how to do is to move forward, whether I ultimately choose to continue this blog after the next 90 days or not. I can’t see around the next bend on this “trail of faith” which I suppose makes sense. Faith is pursuing the unseen, not the knowable. God is unseen but sometimes, so are people. Even though I know that my goal is holiness and it is God, what the finish line looks like, and whether I’ll accompany anyone else on the journey, is a mystery.

I only know that I can’t give up what I’m doing, whether it is chasing the scorching Sun like Icarus and plummeting to earth in flames, or like the Phoenix, rising painfully from my own burnt and smoldering ashes. I only know that I have to keep trying, regardless of the consequences. Because God will let me do no less.


Why Am I Alone?

embedded by Embedded Video

I can’t get this woman out of my head. I’ve seen this video embedded at a lot of different online venues yesterday, but I was busy and didn’t take the time to actually view it until this morning. As it turns out, my “lack of time” is part of what makes this Episcopal Priest’s plea so poignant.

To give credit where it’s due, I clicked a link at Derek Leman’s blog, which took me to the actual embedded video on Scot McKnight’s blog. If you frequent either of those places, you’ve probably already seen the video. If not, and if you haven’t already watched it here or someplace else on the web, please do so before continuing to read my blog post. The video is less than ten minutes long and it is so worth it.

Reading the various comments on Derek’s and McKnight’s blogs, I was taken aback at some of the criticism expressed by a number of the commentators. Granted, the Episcopal church isn’t my cup of tea either, but there’s a lot more going on here than just how we view one version of Christianity versus another. Also, as was pointed out repeatedly, most of the approaches this Priest felt had failed in bringing in and retaining people to a religious and spiritual experience have to do with “programs”. It’s as if, because her methods and her techniques weren’t successful, it meant that people didn’t care about the cause of Christ.

I mentioned on McKnight’s blog that…

I have sort of the opposite problem. I’m sure she and I would disagree about a good many things, but I would *love* to sit down with her (or someone) and talk about Jesus. I just can’t find a person or a place (face-to-face as opposed to online) where I’ll fit in. It’s not a matter of the details, but the honesty and passion this Priest has for what she’s doing and who she is as a person of faith is exactly what I’m looking for.

To me, her specific religious “bent” or her reliance on programs and methods are all secondary to what she’s really saying and particularly, what she’s really feeling. I’ve felt that way too, sort of. No, I’m not an ordained minister of any kind and I haven’t been “called to lead” (although I did a bit of teaching for several years at a small congregation), but I do feel frustrated and isolated, as if no one understands the drive I have to do what I’m doing. She has a drive and a need as well, and she keeps hitting a brick wall. You can only take a good run at a brick wall and smash into it so many times before the pain and lack of forward progress makes you do what she said: “So we cancelled it all…”

In a way, I “cancelled it all” too, but my reasons were very different. I “cancelled” my former way of leading a religious life, not because I wasn’t happy and not because I wasn’t making a kind of progress, but because of where my progress lead me. It’s really a lot more complicated than that, and to find out more, read Why I Don’t Go To Church. I left, not because I hit a wall exactly, but because I realized, in order to avoid hitting a wall, I had to change course.

And so I did.

And then I hit a wall anyway. I recognized the possibility that I might hit that wall, but I was banking on managing to avoid it. I didn’t. So I’m sitting at the base of the wall, as I imagine this Episcopal Priest is doing, taking stock of my options and looking for a way around, over, or under the wall. I’ll need to change my course again, but that’s what life is all about: change. Change is always painful, even when it’s beneficial.

I’m not sure what this Priest’s answer is. I’m not particularly sure of what my answer is. I do know that I’m not inclined to criticize her for her religion or her approach to her need to teach, even if I disagree with them. I do know she’s someone I would really love to talk to about Jesus, not because we would agree with each other, but because, in spite of our extremely different backgrounds, we are at the same place on the trail. We have the same experience. We’re asking the same questions. We’re looking for the same answers. And that tells me something I hadn’t let myself realize before.

It tells me that, in the mess of all of our different religious traditions, and all of the subsets of our religion, and all of the splinters and fragments and offshoots we inhabit because we are so unalike in how we conceptualize God and the Bible and faith, we are all the same. I spend a lot of time focused on how different I am from everybody else around me and what an oddball I must look like to all the other Christians, but today I found someone in a video who helped me realize that we are all the same, too. We travel different paths and occupy divergent trails, but all of those trails intersect between the question and the answer of “who is God” and “who am I”. When we take off our pretenses and our masks and our religious self-delusions and are brutally honest with ourselves and with everyone else, we are all alike when we ask, “why isn’t this working for me?” “Why isn’t this working for everyone else around me?” “What’s wrong and how can I fix it?” “Can I even fix it at all?”

We are all alike when, even in the presence of God, we cry out, “Why do I feel so alone?” That’s why I want to meet her. To tell her she’s not alone. And I want to meet her so I won’t feel alone, too.

But there is hope, even in emptiness, as Rabbi Tzvi Freeman cites from the teachings of the Rebbe:

The beginning of all paths and the starting point of every climb is to open yourself to receive from Above.

How do you receive from Above?
By being empty.
For a vessel that is full cannot receive anything.

A person that is full of self-concern, of “what will become of me?” of “where life is taking me?”—such a person leaves no room for life to enter.

But a simple, open spirit is filled with joy from Above.

Addendum, Friday afternoon: I realized I had no idea who the Priest in the video is and decided to try and find the original source or at least something a little closer to that source. I discovered that the Priest is Rev. LeeAnne Watkins of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. I traced the video as far back as February 16, 2012 as posted at the Episcopal Story Project. If I find out any more, I’ll update my information here.


Today’s daf discusses the halachos of a firstborn animal.

Although secular and Torah law sometimes share similar rulings, many times they are at odds. And when it comes to the overtly metaphysical aspects of Torah, non-Jews are understandably clueless. The Chazon Ish, zt”l, once said that the simple understanding of a person not immersed in Torah is often the very opposite of the halachah. For example, if one’s animal caused damage to someone else’s property, a person unfamiliar with Torah jurisprudence would say that the owner is not responsible. After all, why should the owner pay for damage caused by his animal unless it was through his own gross negligence?

In one predominantly non-Jewish community, the local magistrates did not fine the Jewish owner of an animal that had caused damage to his non-Jewish neighbor’s property a cent. They did decide, however, that the neighbor who had suffered the damage could seize the animal in lieu of payment. And this is precisely what the offended neighbor did. Unfortunately, the animal was a bechor.

When the Jew approached his neighbor and broached the issue, the non-Jew refused to sell the animal back to him for the market value. “I have witnesses that the damage caused to my property by your animal was more than he is worth. Now, although the law does not obligate you to pay me for the damage it is perfectly within my rights to seize the creature. If you want it back we can talk about it, but I warn you that it is going to cost you…”

The forlorn owner—who was a kohen— wondered what he should do. Was he obligated to pay more than the value of the animal to the non-Jew? After all, it was not his fault the non-Jew had seized his animal.

When this question reached the Maharam of Rottenberg, zt”l, he ruled that the owner was not obligated to pay more than the animal’s value. “This seems clear from the Talmudic principle regarding redeeming tefillin and the like from a non-Jew. Such religious objects should not be redeemed for more than their value, as we find in Gittin 45. Just as paying more than their value will encourage non-Jews to steal tefillin and the like, paying more for a bechor is also likely to be used to our disadvantage by non-Jews.”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Reclaiming the Bechor”
Bechoros 15

I know the above quoted story is probably difficult for most of us to understand. For the vast majority of Christians and Jews, we wouldn’t necessarily see much, if any dissonance between our religious responsibilities and obeying the secular civil and criminal law of our local communities. There are however, some religious groups that do attend to a specific set of religious codes and sometimes collide head on with the secular law enforcement and court systems. I periodically see examples of this in news items involving the Chabad community in Brooklyn and very occasionally I’ve seen indications of a dissonance between how Mormons see their responsibility to secular law as different than the larger population (it can be very subtle).

This isn’t a new problem.

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him. –Mark 12:13-17

While the “render unto Caesar” example doesn’t include every possible religious/legal conflict, it does act as a general guide that our faith doesn’t absolve us of behaving like good citizens in the places where we live and obeying the laws of the local, regional, and national authorities. That begs the question, whose law is greater, man’s or God’s? Obviously God’s, but I don’t see a particularly strong directive in the Bible that allows people of faith to blow off police officers and legal court orders because God trumps their authority. We know that even secular authority is established by God and Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 to actually pray for our leaders that “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness.”

All of this is an extension of what I’ve been talking about in one way or another for the past week or so; the relationship between two unlike groups such as Christians and Jews. In terms of culture, getting along isn’t too much of a chore but when we add in our various religious requirements, we can sometimes encounter problems with each other as well as with the society around us. It’s not that we want the problems, but we know that our competing interests can get in the way of each other. Add to that centuries of conflict and mistrust that result in the prejudiced thoughts or ideas we have about who Christians are or who Jews are and how they’ve treated us in the past. It’s amazing to think sometimes that we even worship the same God.

But who, or what, is really responsible for the rift that separates the creatures of God?

When we can’t get along with someone, we like to blame it on that person’s faults: stupidity, incompetence, outrageous actions, aggression or some other evil.

The real reason is none of these. It is that the world is broken, and we are the shattered fragments.

And all that stops us from coming back together is that we each imagine ourselves to be whole.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Getting Along”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

We can sometimes blame the other guy or even blame supernatural forces for how fractured our relationships seem, but in fact, our relationships are broken because the world is broken. It’s as if a man who was intended to be an Olympic-class runner has his knees broken and is forced to limp along for the vast majority of his life when he should be racing around the track. That’s the world we live in. If it bothers you that Christians and Jews can’t get along (or that Christians can’t get along with other Christians and Jews can’t get along with other Jews), it should bother you. We weren’t made for these sorts of struggles. That’s why, instead of focusing on what keeps us apart, we need to contribute just a little bit each day, to putting the world and ourselves back together again. We aren’t whole, but we can strive to be.

What one thing can you do today to make your broken world just one little tiny bit better?

The World that Doesn’t Exist

Sukkah…these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Sovereign LORD declares—
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.”
Isaiah 56:7-8

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 8:10-11

According to the prophets, the Feast of Booths celebrates a time when all nations will ascend to Jerusalem bearing tribute to King Messiah and celebrating the festival. In that day, all nations will ascend to His throne in Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Festival of Booths (Tabernacles). Obviously, this is a very important festival for disciples of Messiah today.

The Weekly eDrash
“A Tabernacle of Glory over Jerusalem”
First Fruits of Zion commentary on Sukkot

I’ve had my doubts.

No, I don’t doubt the word of God but on the other hand, given the division between different denominations of Christians and particularly between Christians and Jews, I wonder how we will all be able to sit down at the same table together “at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” and rejoice in each other and in the Messiah?

Last week I hit a speed bump in my pursuit of the Ger Toshav as a possible model for a relationship between Christians and Jews, and today I was reminded of the state of discomfort and even enmity some Jews feel toward Christians based on this “wall photo” that was shared on Facebook. Add to that some of the comments from Jewish participants about Christianity:

“Christianity has to realize its error in deviating from what the original sect taught and practices before that connection can be made, before that door can be entered through. Only then will hope be found.” –said by S

“I’m saying that Judaism shouldn’t centralize the messiah. And in my opinion when it does, it’s a mistake. Christianity and the holocaust are results of such a mistake.” –said by A

“There are 2 paths in serving Creator: 613 commandments for Jews and Noahide Laws for gentiles. Thats the ideal modality. When gentiles invent their own religions or Jews don’t follow their commandments, they keep the world from reaching perfection which is the hallmark of the Messianic Age.” –said by V

…the reason you give for Christians accept Jews is impossible. a Jew is what he is. Why should he give up to a lesser level of spirituallity?

Your reason for Jews accept Christians, isn’t exactly that, but it has a reason… a reason found in Torah. As long as a gentiles thinks that a man is God, or that there are more than 1 God, or that the Torah given BY GOD to Moshe in Sinai isn’t valid, then a Jew cannot accept it. That’s Idolatry.

I, as a Jew don’t think that gentiles are lesser human beings!!!! NOT AT ALL!!! A Jew who call himself Jew but commits lashon haRa and proclaims hate, is a lesser human being than a gentile with a good heart for humanity. –said by X

From mainstream Judaism’s point of view, it is reasonable to expect this level of response in believing that Christians have misappropriated the concept of Messiah and bent it in very non-Jewish directions. But it also precludes any possibility of a Christian entering a synagogue setting (where it is known he or she is a Christian), learning of the wisdom of the sages, and even being a tiny part of the community, when that Christian’s basic faith would be seen as an affront. Both Jews and Christians pursue God in His vast and majestic Heavens, and yet we cannot build a simple bridge between our two worlds on here on Earth.

I can truly see how Jesus could say “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

And yet the prophet says this:

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’” –Zechariah 8:23

The Jews rely on the promises of God that “every man will sit beneath his own vine and fig tree and none will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4) while the Christians rely on the grace of Jesus and the word of the Apostle Paul when he said, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

But each group believes God is speaking to only them and is excluding the other (and all others).

While Sukkot is a season of hope, in the present age it is also a season of despair, for while we (or at least Jews and those few Christians who will build a sukkah this year) are supposed to generously invite all guests into our sukkah for a meal and fellowship for the sake of God, how many people and groups will not be on the “approved” list?

JonahLike Jonah, we know the word and the will of God and yet we still seek to run away because it is against our human will to fulfill that word. God turned Jonah away from his mistaken path and delivered him to the great city to complete the job God gave to him, but how will God do that with us? It could begin with a single invitation into our homes and lives of someone we would otherwise not have considered letting in. It could begin with a Christian family accepting a single Jew into fellowship and the breaking of bread. It could begin with a Jewish family inviting a single Christian into their sukkah to enjoy a meal and the prayers. The question is, can it begin now, or must we wait for the Messiah to come (for the Jews) and come again (for the Christians)?

I’m not writing this for you who are “already onboard” with seeking a unity between Christians and Jews, but to those who seek to shelter themselves within their own groups and push away the rest of the world and the rest of the people God created. Is there a delight in committing one act of friendship and graciousness; an act of pure and simple love, not for your sake or mine, but for the sake of God?

G-d has many delights:

The delight that comes from a pure and simple act of love.

Greater than that, the delight that comes from an act of beauty sparkling in the darkness.

Greater than that, the delight when a child who has run away returns with all her heart.

Delight lies at the essence of all that is.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

The Rabbi describes a world of people and ideals that does not exist, at least not yet. The hope that we all have in the Messiah is that one day, we will all be able to live in this world and be at peace with God, with all our neighbors, and most of all, be at peace within our own hearts. We will see that peace someday. But we have a very long way to go until “someday” gets here.