Tag Archives: good shepherd

Shepherd, Pens, and Flock, Part 2

rabbis-talmud-debateThe reason for any lack of “overarching standards” for halakhah is that the rabbinical system was designed to be more flexible than that, and dependent on each generation of rabbis to apply a set of common standards from common principles. That having been said, the standards are a bit less ambiguous in the orthodox realm, which is still the standard by which other modern streams of Judaism must measure themselves even insofar as they wish to diverge from them to accommodate some perceived modern situation. I will refrain from offering any comment about how well or poorly they may achieve their goals, and I will offer the observation that Judaism has preserved in its literature numerous behaviors that may be deemed more or less applicable or enforceable in any given generation but that may be revived when appropriate. I have the greatest sympathy for the Jewish Christians in your church, though I would try to persuade them that the Hebrew-Christian model developed a century ago was a temporary accommodation whose purpose has passed, and that their well-being as Jews and contributors to the Jewish enterprise would be better served otherwise. History has shown that they will not survive as Jews in a Christian environment, certainly their children or grandchildren will not, and that they are contributing to the alienation of their Jewish families from the Messiah. If they have been mis-taught that these considerations are unimportant, I can only lament their loss.

The modern Reform and Conservative streams (not to neglect Reconstructionism and others) were formulated in response to historical circumstances, and modern MJ is still grappling with a selection of halakhot that meets its needs. One of these needs or desires is to somehow reclaim a first- or second-century CE outlook, while recognizing all the subsequent influences that have affected halakhic development so as to integrate as much of Jewish tradition as may be possible and applicable into our current circumstances. I suppose that characterizes them somewhere within the Conservative spectrum. At issue is not a “doing of religion” so much as the development of a lifestyle that incorporates and illustrates millennia of Jewish civilization. It is a practical corporate educational exercise that promotes the preservation of the Jewish people and our characteristic knowledge base that is still indispensible to understanding Rav Yeshua’s and Rav Shaul’s teachings. It remains to be seen whether the modern streams of Judaism will also become increasingly anachronistic, or if some of their insights may continue to be preserved. What is currently called Reform Judaism has become quite different from its origins, especially since the Holocaust and the resurgence of Israel, though it has not yet embraced halakhah. Conservative Judaism has always applied halakhah, though it tries to adjust it to modern circumstances. On the other hand, so does modern Orthodoxy, though with a stronger emphasis on maintaining historical connectivity.

Acts 15 is quite clear that the full body of Torah mitzvot is not incumbent upon non-Jews, though it was still recommended that they learn Torah in synagogues each Shabbat. This does carry some implications about what may be permitted for the more mature non-Jew to do voluntarily and without obligation, for all the extra merit that the rabbis assigned to non-Jews who pursue Torah even though it is not their obligation (based on Is.56, among other passages). Of course, Rav Shaul re-inforced en-passant in Gal.5:3 his view that Torah is fully binding upon Jews and circumcised proselytes (i.e., converts). In his time it was also especially important to emphasize to non-Jews not to allow coercive social forces to deprive them of that potential for extra merit by becoming circumcised, which is how the Acts 15 halakhah came to be formulated.

-ProclaimLiberty, 1/27/2013
as quoted from a comment in Love and Commentary

I know it’s a long quote but I just loved the “in-a-nutshell” summation ProclaimLiberty (PL) offered in reply to my blog post and my subsequent comments on the topic (and as a counterpoint to the topics I discuss in Part 1 of this article). Not only does PL succinctly describe the history and development of Jewish halachah over the centuries, but also brings in the issue of Gentile disciples as they entered “the Way” in the late Second Temple era and the Apostolic response to their presence. In reading the original comment, I felt as if a clear vision of a valid Jewish viewpoint in relation to how tradition and Torah obedience interrelate were presented to me. It’s difficult to work through a large set of tomes addressing my questions,  and a few paragraphs that can reduce the arguments down to their basic essence is incredibly welcome.

praying_at_masadaI’m not saying there isn’t any possible rebuttal from Christianity or the other “Judaisms,” but at least we have a firm starting point as to how (and why) Messianic Jews must continue to live as observant Jews, and how halachah can be appropriately part of the modern expression of “the Way” within Jewish communities. It seems like there’s a certain amount of latitude regarding how each Jewish tradition (including the modern Messianic tradition) may select halakhot (although as PL says below, a great deal of selection may not be required) that meets its needs without running roughshod over the authority of the written Bible.

But PL has more to say:

Halakhah is the human response in the conversation with HaShem that begins with His Torah instructions. It is a re-iterated conversation that continues throughout our generations, so of course it is varied and flexible. Judaism is not constrained by a concept of “the Bible as the final sovereign word of G-d”. We view a hierarchy that begins with the Torah above all, followed by the authoritative interpretations of Torah from Israel’s appointed leaders and teachers, in the Torah-defined role of the “shoftim v’shotrim” (judges and magistrates). The Prophets decry failures to live up to the standards of Torah, but they do not contribute to any new interpretation of it. The Writings provide additional illustrations of how this plays out in history or even in hypothetical scenarios (as some might view some of the literature). The inter-testamental apocryphal writings take that farther, including some material that could be viewed virtually as “fantasy” (since it was a bit too early in history to consider science fiction), though even that period included historical records such as the Maccabbean revolt and the miracle of Hanukah. Subsequent to that we have a variety of Rabbinic literature and Responsa, of which the Rav Yeshua messianic writings are a fitting example, though a bit earlier than other Rabbinic codifications. So MJ is not required to choose a particular stream of tradition, though most of its current contributors to halakhic formulation have been influenced by the Conservative movement and its particular flexibility. The only “complication” for messianists is the desire to integrate the views of Rav Yeshua and Rav Shaul into their compilation of halakhah for a Jewish community that honors them at least as well as other rabbinic views are honored. Since there is not really any incompatibility here for the discerning halakhist, that need not present difficulty or disconnection from other halakhic compilations in other Jewish streams.

As to the difficulty of recapturing the 1rst-2nd-century worldview, more data seems to become available continually, but it is fair to say that MJ has devoted more attention to this than any other form of Judaism has done, because of its need to understand the teaching context of its primary rabbis. But from a modern halakhic standpoint, the issue is somewhat moot because of all that has happened in the past two millennia. So “… when [he] comes, will he find faith in the earth? (Luke 18:8). The linguistics of this also allow a more narrow colloquial reading asking whether he will find those who trust him in the land of Israel. Will he have any difficulty recognizing his sheep, either because of their halakhah or in spite of it? As long as MJ halakhists keep this question in mind, I’m reasonably confident of a positive response.

There is a midrash that depicts Moshe Rabbeinu as being carried by an angel across time and space to visit the Jewish Talmudic Academy of Babylon. He is terribly perplexed by the argumentation, of which he cannot make any sense. He is then consoled by its reference to the Mishnah and its quotation of the words of Torah from the mouth of Moshe. Now, while we know nothing of the conversation that occurred on the “Mount of Transfiguration” between Rav Yeshua, Moshe, and Eliahu, in some future midrashic conversation Moshe might council Rav Yeshua to be patient with his modern disciples for exactly similar reasons. And we would be similarly well advised.

-PL, 1/28/2013

jewish-handsI apologize for inserting large blocks of copied and pasted text, but the alternative would be for me to rework what PL has written and present those ideas in my words, and really, what’s the point? Better that you read what was presented in the original comments rather than risk my messing up the meaning or intent. All I really want to present are these ideas and my impressions of them.

Part 1 of this article was my continued understanding of how Torah does and doesn’t apply to Gentile Christians, including Jewish halachah. In this second part of my missive, I’m trying to show the opposite side of the coin, not so much about why Torah applies to Jews, because by definition, the entire body of Torah must apply, but how we can see the rulings and traditions of the sages as a natural extension of Torah, which includes the authority of the accepted teachers in Judaism to make such rulings.

I view Judaism as we know it today as valid and authoritative for the Jewish people. I also agree with Yeshua own words (in Matthew 23:3) that whatever (“everything”) those sitting in the seat of Moses (Jewish leaders) bid Jews to observe is bound on all Jews. He didn’t make an exception for Jewish disciples of Yeshua, but in fact was speaking to them when he said those words. He believed in the leadership of Israel, even if he condemned those who were hypocrites.

-Gene Shlomovich, 1/28/2013
as quoted from his comment in The Jewish Girl Who Saved Her Children

I’ve spent a great deal of time attempting to establish and confirm the validity and the authority of the ancient and more modern Jewish sages to establish halachah in Judaism including Messianic Judaism, such as in my recent blog post The Moshiach and the Rabbis, so I won’t go into a long tirade and repeat myself again at length, but I do want to try and tie together as many loose threads as possible.

If God is God over all and Jesus is the Jewish Messiah King and the Divine in the flesh who dwelt among us and who will do so again, then what are we to do with the post-Second Temple sages and the ancient and modern Jewish traditions and interpretations? Apparently, if you’re a Gentile Christian, you don’t have to do anything with them. As I have said on numerous occasions over the past few years, a Christian, in my opinion, is free to observe a wide variety of the mitzvot on a voluntary basis as a personal conviction and in solidarity with his or her Jewish fellows, as long as issues of Jewish identity don’t get stepped on, let alone walked all over. Saying all that, we don’t have to perform those mitzvot in obligatory obedience.

Since it’s impossible to observe the kosher laws, wear tzitzit, lay tefillin, or even daven from a siddur without encountering the sages and their judgments, any Gentile Christian who chooses to go down that path will have to make decisions about tradition as well (should I bind my tefillin by the Ashkenazi or Sefard tradition, or use the Chabad or another method?) Halachah, in this case, is unavoidable, even for the Gentile.

But for the observant Jew, it’s not a matter of whether or not to walk the steps of halachah, but to “grapple with a selection of halakhot that meets his or her needs.” God’s Word, in the final analysis, is absolute, but not necessarily halachah (of course, if you ask an Orthodox Jew about it, you might get a different answer).

Pastor Randy asked me recently if I thought it was possible for anyone to observe Torah perfectly? No, I sincerely doubt it, only because we human beings are bound to make mistakes sooner or later. So if Jews can’t keep the Torah perfectly, what’s the point of keeping it at all (James 2:10)? That’s like asking a Christian if he were to find himself looking at a woman in lust even on a single occasion, should he give up on remaining faithful to his wife, throw the Bible to the winds, and let himself be consumed by his desires for other women. It’s not about having perfect behavior, since no person is perfect, it’s about “perfecting” ourselves, continually turning away from sin, and turning more completely to God.

white-pigeon-kotelFor a Jew, that includes striving to become more spiritually elevated by correcting transgressions and continuing to master the mitzvot one at a time in order to honor God as a Jew and to sustain a Jewish presence and identity today and for future generations.

I hope this makes some sort of sense to both my Jewish and my Christian readers. I don’t have a Jewish lived experience, so I suppose I’ve made a thousand mistakes and if so, I trust I’ll be gently corrected. As far as my Christian readers go, I don’t doubt you will have many points of disagreement, if only because especially in Protestantism, tradition and Bible generally don’t mix. But we aren’t looking at how Christians walk as disciples of the Jewish Messiah, we’re looking at how Jews walk as disciples, and if we are to honor the uniqueness of their relationship with HaShem, then we must also honor how Jews are to be Jews, both in their communities, and in the presence of God.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside waters of rest.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and steadfast love shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I return to dwell in the house of the Lord for length of days.

Psalm 23 (ESV)

This conversation will continue in an “extra mediation” later today, based on some correspondence with PL whose insights I’m learning to appreciate. I hope I’ve laid a sufficient foundation upon which to base a dialog on these matters. The sheep are out of the pens and gathering together as a flock in the green meadow with our Good Shepherd. It is his voice we must listen to, and if we are his, we will follow where he leads.

One last thing I’d like to add is a short video made of Boaz Michael presenting the Gospels as the oldest written record of some of the Jewish oral traditions. I hope you’ll find this information as compelling as I do.

Shepherd, Pens, and Flock, Part 1

ancient_beit_dinThe apostles, after some deliberation, dispensed four rulings. Their letter to these Gentiles who are coming to faith indicated that they must abstain:

  • from what has been sacrificed to idols
  • from blood
  • from what has been strangled
  • from sexual immorality

The text of the letter is found in Acts 15:23-29. (Re-statements of these rulings appear in Acts 15:20, 21:25. Also note that manuscript variants exist with different versions of this list.)

Numerous and varied interpretations exist as to the exact intent and purpose of these rulings. Regardless, it is unreasonable to think that these four laws constitute the complete list of obligations of a Gentile before God. They say nothing about stealing, oppression, justice, or honor for parents, for example. Furthermore, the laws are not specific enough to be practical. What, for example, constitutes “sexual immorality”? Where does one go to find that definition, if not the Torah?

Regardless of their exact meaning and purpose, we can see from these rulings that they are not an end, but a beginning of a Gentile’s journey into a life conformed to God’s will. Consider the rationale for these four prohibitions:

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues. (Acts 15:19-21)

What purpose does it serve to mention the fact that [the Torah of] Moses is read every Sabbath in the synagogues in conjunction with the list of obligations for Gentiles?

-Aaron Eby
“Divine Invitation”
Adapted from Messiah Journal #100
First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)

As my regular readers must realize by now, I’ve been writing “fast and furious” about the topics of halachah in the Messianic Jewish world and the application of the Torah commandments to Christianity. I feel as if I’m trying to think in two opposite directions simultaneously, and it’s giving me a headache. But it’s also fascinating me and as you can tell, I can’t put these topics down. It is or should be part of the continual dialog between the believing Jewish and Gentile communities, and provide a point where we can meet to compare our similarities and our differences; a place in the meadow where the sheep from the two sheep pens participate in the flock of the Good Shepherd (see John 10:1-18).

I’m not a real fan of the term “divine invitation,” mainly because I don’t think it can be derived from the Bible or even necessarily implied. I’d rather have the Christian’s role in relation to Judaism defined by a more substantial mission.

That doesn’t mean to say that I disagree with Aaron, but his article poses more questions than answers. He suggests that more of the Torah and the Prophets apply to the Gentile church than what is intimated in the “Jerusalem letter,” but he doesn’t define just how far we are to take it. I suppose the answers are contained elsewhere, but I’m not going to wait until I can discover their location in order to comment.

Aaron says correctly that Israel has always been intended to be a light to the nations (Deuteronomy 4:5-8, Isaiah 49:1-6). This “light” is to extend well beyond the first coming of the Messiah and project itself far into the Messianic Age (Micah 4:1-2, Isaiah 42:1-4). He even goes so far as to suggest that Messiah always meant the Torah to be the light for the Gentiles:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others [anthropon, literally “men, humans, mankind”], so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

praying-jewish-womanBut as I’ve previously said, just how was and is the Torah meant to be applied to the Jewish and Gentile populations of believers? As I’ve met Aaron and I know Boaz Michael as well as the philosophy of FFOZ. I know they don’t believe in a theology that does away with Jewish identity and fuses Jew and Gentile believers into a homogeneous mass of generic humanity, but how we Gentiles are to “do” Torah has never been clear, except as an effect of love of God and of humanity, which I have commented on and related to the new commandment of Messiah.

I did suggest to my Pastor not too long ago that if a Christian wanted to voluntarily choose to take on additional mitzvot as a personal conviction, it would not be such a bad thing. The fact that he lived in Israel for fifteen years meant, in his case, that he did observe such things as Shabbat and a form of kosher, because his environment supported it. Granted, the environment outside of Israel is less friendly to Jewish observance, particularly among Christians, but that doesn’t mean a Christian who is so led can’t perform some of the same “Torah” out of love and solidarity, especially in interfaith families such as mine.

But why can’t Gentile Christians simply mimic Jewish religious behavior down to the last detail? I mean, what’s the problem if, as Aaron says, the Torah is for the Gentiles, too?

Each human being possesses a unique combination of personality, talents, timing and circumstances – a specific role to play in this world. Our role is dependent on many factors – not only our innate talents, but also on the needs of the times.

The important thing is to discover your unique contribution – and fulfill it.

The Torah tells us that one day Moses saw an Egyptian taskmaster killing a Jew.

“And Moses looked all around, and when he saw that there was no man, he took action.” (Exodus 2:11-12)

Why does the Torah tell us “there was no man”? Because Moses was checking to see if someone else was available, someone better qualified to do the job. Because if you reach for leadership when it’s not necessary, then you’re doing it more out of your own desire than for the needs of the people. Only when Moses saw there was nobody else qualified, did he take action.

-Rabbi Noah Weinberg
“Way #26: Know Your Place”
from 48 Ways to Wisdom
Aish.com

If Gentile Christians were to observe the mitzvot in a manner completely like the Jewish people, then the most straightforward way to accomplish this would be for Jews to convert Gentiles to Judaism. While such a process didn’t exist in the days of Moses because Israel was organized around tribal identity, and after the Babylonian exile, around clan identity (see Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, Westminster John Knox Press; 2006) it was completely available in the days of Jesus. But that didn’t happen in the New Testament as the application of Christ’s Matthew 28:19-20 command. We see this acted out by Peter in response to Cornelius and his household:

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Acts 10:44-48 (ESV)

Notice what didn’t happen here. If it had been Peter’s intention to convert the Gentiles to Judaism, between Cornelius and his household receiving the Holy Spirit and being baptized in water, Peter should have arranged for Cornelius and the other men to be circumcised. He didn’t and in fact, we don’t see any of the new disciples of Christ from among the nations ever converting to Judaism (I believe Timothy was considered Jewish because of his Jewish mother and that’s why Paul circumcised him). Paul spent a great deal of effort in his letter to the Galatians specifically discouraging them from converting, and as I’ve said before, also citing Paul from Galatians, if you’re not a Jew or a righteous convert, you are not obligated to the full “yoke of Torah,” both as defined by the actual Books of Moses and the Prophets, and by accepted halachah.

the_shepherd1Rabbi Weinberg suggests that we are each created for a purpose as individuals and should pursue that purpose in order to fulfill God’s design for our lives. What if it’s true that God’s intent was and is to have a specific purpose for the Jews and another (and perhaps overlapping) specific purpose for the Gentile Christians?

Jesus opens all the doors and holds all the keys. He is the portal by which we Gentiles enter into any sort of covenant relationship with God at all, and he also fully reconciles and restores the Jewish nation to the Father as the fulfillment of all His covenants with and His promises to the Jewish people. Make no mistake, the Sinai covenant made between God and Israel didn’t vanish simply because Messiah came. It would be insane to suggest otherwise. Not only did Jesus live a lifestyle in obedience to Torah and not only did his teachings support Torah and the Temple, but his Jewish disciples were never seen to do otherwise, either. The history of the Messianic movement forward isn’t abundantly clear, but I don’t believe that next generation of Jews after Paul and Peter were any less Jewish even as they continued to worship Jesus as Messiah (we never see Paul, for example, telling Timothy that he doesn’t have to observe the mitzvot as a Jew).

But that’s a direction I’m saving for part 2 of this article. For now, although we don’t have an image we could define as crystal clear regarding just how far to apply Torah to Christians, we do know that it is well-applied in the weighty matters of the Law: doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.

Freeing Prisoners

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.Luke 4:17-20 (ESV)

Visit the prisoners and bring them some happiness. Even if they are guilty; even if, in your eyes, they deserve whatever misery they have. Bring them joy.

G-d is always with the oppressed. Even if the oppressor is righteous and the oppressed is wicked, our sages tell us, G-d is with the oppressed.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“G-d with the Oppressed”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

He has been sent to proclaim liberty to the captives and to set free the oppressed. When we read these lines Jesus read, citing Isaiah 61:1,2 (see Septuagint) and Isaiah 58:6, we Christians think of ourselves, which I suppose is rather self-centered. We have been set free, if not from the world or our own human natures, at least from being slaves to the values of the world and the complete corruption of the human heart. It’s actually not that simple, since Christians often believe only they (we) can perform good while all of our secular counterparts can do only evil. Yet the just and the unjust can both feed the hungry, give to the poor, and shelter the homeless. Our freedom is to see that we do not serve only ourselves or only other human beings when we do what is good, but we serve God and acknowledge His Kingship over all the earth.

But we were not always free.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. –Romans 5:6-11 (ESV)

Please keep that in mind. Jesus didn’t die for you (or for me, or for anyone) because you were so cool, but because you were his enemy! I say that because many in the church continue to disdain “sinners” and hold themselves up higher than the human beings who are “unchurched” just because we Christians are “saved by grace.” And yet, many Christians don’t act like they were saved by grace, but rather, they act like they’ve been saved because they were loved by Jesus more than the unsaved (I know…the faulty “logic” confuses me, too).

Really, I’ve met Christians like this. It’s one of the reasons I left the church in which I became a Christian. Self-superiority among many believers is just rampant and it’s appalling.

If we could only look at ourselves as God sees us. What a horrible thing to wish upon anyone.

Oh, you think that you look really terrific to God? By His grace, perhaps, but He can see you, me, and everyone exactly as who we are and who we have been (and who we will be). He saw the good in us and the person He created us to be when we were still slaves to the sin in our hearts and the desire to serve only ourselves. Remember Rabbi Freeman’s advice? Visit the prisoners and bring them some happiness. Even if they are guilty; even if, in your eyes, they deserve whatever misery they have. Bring them joy.

Haven’t we all been guilty? Haven’t we all deserved whatever misery from which we suffered? Didn’t we cause Jesus to suffer and die because of our guilt? And yet God “visited” us when we were prisoners, guilty though we were and brought us the joy of the Good News. Now that we who were oppressed have been set free, and we who were poor in spirit have had the Gospel proclaimed to us, instead of condemning those who continue to be guilty, shouldn’t we proclaim freedom for them as well? And if you do and if you are rebuffed and ridiculed for your faith, should you then rebuff those who treat you poorly, or should you pity them? If you return bad for bad, are you not declaring that you are just as blind as those to whom you offer a lamp?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. –Romans 12:14-21 (ESV)

Our righteous shepherd desires that we do kindness, mercy, and justice to those around us, as we have received it from him. Dr. Tsvi Sadan, in his soon to be released book The Concealed Light, shows us a different application of the name shepherd (ro’eh) for the Messiah (pp 222-23), particularly when we, who claim the name of Christ, treat his people Israel as if they are prisoners who will never be redeemed, and as if the Jews are no longer his own sheep.

It is Ezekiel who hears God speak of Messiah as the Shepherd (ro’eh): “I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them – My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:23). This Shepherd – “my servant David” – is seen by the Zohar as Shiloh, the “Faithful Shepherd,” who will deal decisively with Israel’s enemies (Zohar, Pinchas, 246b).

In his book “Em HaBanim Smechah,” Rabbi Issachar Shlomo Teichtal (murdered by the Nazis in 1944) had this to say about the religious leaders of the Jews of his day: “Who will accept responsibility for the innocent blood that has been spilled in our days? It seems to me that all the leaders who prevented the people of Israel from joining the builders [of the land of Israel] cannot cleanse their hands and say, ‘Our hands did not spill this blood!'” (21-22). Rabbi Teichtal wrote this book while hiding from the SS search parties for three years. The remarkable fact is that he cites from memory countless passages from Scripture and Jewish sources, some of which are aimed at explaining his bitter complaint about those Jewish leaders whose approach, “it is preferable to sit and do nothing,” discouraged Jews from immigrating to Israel, thus leaving them to die by the millions in hostile Europe.

In light of these sobering words, the Shepherd of Israel will do what generations of shepherds could not do; namely, he will gather the sheep from the nations to Israel. Then he “will compel them to do justice and righteousness and then he will become their shepherd, meaning that they will accept his reign and will learn from him until they willingly receive him as their shepherd” (Malbim to Ezekiel 34:23).

If this is true of Messiah, the Shepherd of Israel and his people the Jews, shouldn’t we, his Gentile disciples also “do justice and righteousness” to those in our midst and not reject the unsaved among us? And specifically, shouldn’t we support the in-gathering of the Jewish people to Israel from the nations and not disdain them or the mission of the Shepherd to restore the Jews to their land?

Learn to be at peace with others who are unlike you and be at peace with Israel, the Shepherd’s sheep, and the prisoner you will be freeing will be yourself.

This is the “morning meditation” that will be published on Purim (I’m writing this the day before), a celebration of freedom from certain death for the Jews. Certainly God has visited the “prisoner” and announced the good news of life to Israel, bringing great joy to His people. Let us rejoice with them on this day, and in anticipation of His bringing an even greater freedom to Israel and to the nations in the person of the Messiah.

“Peace is not the absence of affliction, but the presence of God.” -Anonymous

Chag Sameach Purim.