Tag Archives: heaven

Jews, Gentiles, and the Divine Spirit

My father wrote that he heard in the name of the Alter Rebbe that all rabbinic authors until and including the Taz [1] and Shach, [2] composed their works with ruach hakodesh, the Divine Spirit. An individual’s ruach hakodesh, as explained by Korban Ha’eida in Tractate Sh’kalim (Talmud Yerushalmi), end of ch. 3, means that the mysteries of Torah are revealed to him. This comes from the aspect of chochma in its pre-revelation state. [3]

“Today’s Day”
for Tuesday, Sh’vat 6, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

The sacred Zohar teaches that God, the nation Israel, and the Torah, are one. This suggests that God may be experienced through those phenomena that are also perceived to be eternal. Since Israel is eternal [by Divine oath, Genesis 15] and since the Torah is eternal, God/Israel/Torah are inextricably linked by common eternity.

-Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
in his commentary on Parashat Behar-Bechukotai
for May 15, 2012,
published at The Jewish Week

I know today’s “morning meditation” may be a little esoteric for some of you, and I’ve been debating whether or not to even write it. However, I think there’s a certain benefit in visiting the relationship between God, the Torah, and the people and nation of Israel at a more mystic or metaphysical level. God, after all, is not human, so we shouldn’t expect His methods to correspond to human limitations. After all, if God created the Torah, what is it?

It is true that the Zohar writes, “G-d looked into the Torah and created the World”.

Of course, the Torah, in its written form, only briefly describes the process and sequence of Creation. However, we should not think that because of its deceptively brief and general description that the Torah does not contain within the text the plan for the entire multitude of Creation.

-Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman
“Torah Blueprint”
Ohr Somayach

The idea is that there is a Heavenly Torah possessed by God that, when given to the nation of Israel at Sinai, was “clothed” so that it could exist in the material world and be comprehended by human beings. That makes all written Torah scrolls, though immeasurably precious, mere shadows of the supernal Torah of God. Alternately, all earthly scrolls are “encoded” with the information in the Heavenly Torah, and we could read it if we just knew how.

It is said that the world was created for the sake of Torah, but the world would have ceased to exist of the Israelites had refused the Torah at Sinai. Fortunately, this did not take place.

OK, I know what you’re thinking. Many of you are not going to be willing to take the Zohar as an authoritative source of information, and many of you don’t believe there is a supernatural equivalent of the Torah in Heaven that corresponds to the Torah on Earth.

But we know through the Epistle to the Hebrews that there is a Heavenly court that corresponds to the Temple in Jerusalem (when it exists) and God commanded Moses to construct the Mishkan (Tabernacle) according to a model he was shown on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 25:40), indicating that there is a perfect Heavenly version of the Tabernacle Moses was to have constructed in the desert.

Tree of LifeIf the Tabernacle and every single object in it has Heavenly equivalents, including priests, and including a High Priest, why not the Torah?

This would make Israel, that is, the Jewish people and the inheritors of the Torah and the covenant at Sinai particularly unique among all the nations of the Earth. Even the Master said “Salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22) illustrating that apart from Israel, no other person or nation can be redeemed and reconciled with God. The means into eternity for the people of the nations is the eternity of Israel.

The Land of Israel shares in this eternity. The earth’s perennial cycle of birth, growth, decay, death and rebirth, express a movement of regeneration and renaissance. There are intimations of immortality: The trees shed their leaves and fruits onto the earth, and when they decompose and merge with the earth, that very earth provides the necessary nutrients for the tree to bear fruit in the future. Plants leave their seeds in the ground, these continue to sprout plant life from the earth after the mother herb has been taken and eaten.

Further, the Land of Israel is invested with a special metaphysical quality which is inextricably linked to Knesset Yisrael, historic Israel. The first Hebrew, Abraham, entered into the “Covenant between the Pieces,” that God’s promise of world peace and messianic redemption will be realized in the City of Jerusalem. Hebron’s Cave of the Couples — Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah — was the very first acquisition by a Jew of land in Israel, purchased as the earthly resting place for the founders of our faith. At the very same time, it is also the womb of our future, a future informed by the ideas and ideals of our revered ancestors. “Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children” [Proverbs 17:6].

-Rabbi Riskin, “The Unity of God, Torah And Israel”

In the quote from “Today’s Day” above, it is said that the Sages of the Talmud were inspired to write by the Holy Spirit. Since Christians believe that only Christians have the indwelling of the Spirit, this is going to seem at least confusing if not outright unbelievable. On the other hand, there’s another covenant to consider:

Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…

Jeremiah 31:31 (NASB)

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

Ezekiel 36:27

Given Acts 2:1-4, you’d think that only Jews who are disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) would receive the Holy Spirit, but what if we’re wrong? What if the Sinai Covenant and the fact that the New Covenant being made only with Israel and Judah have a direct impact on both Jewish disciples of Yeshua and the rest of the Jewish people, because God, the Torah, and Israel are one?

I do not agree that mainstream Jews are apostates. I think that is far too strong. In fact, I’ll go one step further, I believe a parallel outpouring of the Spirit has happened among traditional Jews, not unlike the one happening to the congregation of Messiah. Isaiah 59:21, “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.””

-Derek Leman
from his comment of
24 January, 2015 at 6:55 am
on his blog post
Double Opposition to Messianic Judaism

I know this stands outside of most of what I consider traditional Christian doctrine, but if God doesn’t abandon His covenants and His people and He always keeps His promises, then we Gentile Christians can hardly dismiss Israel out of hand. In fact, if the redemption of the nations, of we Christians, is solely dependent upon the “oneness” Israel has with the Torah and with God, and if God, according to the New Covenant, will redeem all of Israel (Romans 11:26-27; Isaiah 59:20,21; 27:9 (see Septuagint); Jer. 31:33,34), then maybe one of the things we Gentile believers better get busy at is supporting Jewish observance of the Torah and stop working so hard at trying to convert Jews to Christianity. After all, Ezekiel 36:27 directly links Jewish observance of Torah with God’s Spirit being placed within them.

There is a different way to understand no one comes to the Father except through the Son.

Divine TorahGod will provide the revelation of Messiah to Israel and indeed, this has already begun as evidenced by the modern Messianic Jewish movement. But Messianic Jews are also to be Torah observant Jews. Maybe the main issue at hand isn’t non-Messianic but otherwise observant Jews, but those who are secular, assimilated, and yes, even “Hebrew Christians” who have set aside the Torah for the “promise” of a Gentile version of grace (not that grace and Torah are mutually exclusive…far from it).

God is with His people Israel, all of them. God is also with the Gentile disciples of the Master. None of us has the perfect apprehension of how to best serve God, though often we convince ourselves we possess such a thing. In the end, God will open all our eyes and show us what we saw correctly and what we were blind to. Then God will forgive, and all of the drama and trauma we experience in the world of religion today will just fade to black.

The Spirit is with us. Let us listen to what He is saying.

I know this blog post is probably theologically “sketchy” so I expect some pushback. On the other hand, this is something I felt needed to be said, no matter how imperfectly I said it.

Footnotes

1. Acronym of Turei Zahav on Torah law by R. David Halevi, d. 1667.
2. Acronym of Siftei Kohein on Torah law by R. Shabtai Hacohen, 1622-1663.
3. See “On Learning Chassidus,” Kehot, p. 18.

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The Myth of Visiting Heaven and Coming Back to Talk About It

Nearly five years after it hit best-seller lists, a book that purported to be a 6-year-old boy’s story of visiting angels and heaven after being injured in a bad car crash is being pulled from shelves. The young man at the center of “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,” Alex Malarkey, said this week that the story was all made up.

The book’s publisher, Tyndale House, had promoted it as “a supernatural encounter that will give you new insights on Heaven, angels, and hearing the voice of God.”

But Thursday, Tyndale House confirmed to NPR that it is taking “the book and all ancillary products out of print.”

-Bill Chappell
“Boy Says He Didn’t Go To Heaven; Publisher Says It Will Pull Book,” Jan. 15, 2015, 10:20 p.m. ET
NPR.org

I suppose this will be all over social media today and that many people will be commenting on their blogs about everything from fraud to faith. Frankly, I’ve always ignored these sensationalist stories about people having near-death or death experiences, visiting Heaven, then being resuscitated and telling everyone they sat on Jesus’s (Yeshua’s) lap or something. I’ve ignored these stories, well, almost ignored them, because they never said anything that surprised me.

These stories always confirmed the traditional Christian view of the afterlife, of Jesus, of everything preached from church pulpits all over the world, or at least in the U.S. and Canada. Assuming (and this is my assumption) that standard Evangelical Christian theology and doctrine doesn’t have a perfect picture of everything having to do with God, Jesus, and Heaven, then I’d expect that a person who had actually experienced a mystical encounter and visited the Heavenly Court would say something that Christianity hadn’t anticipated, but at the same time made sense once we heard it and compared it to experiences such as Ezekiel’s or John’s we find in the Bible.

And to the best of my knowledge, that’s never happened.

Here’s the reason I’m writing this “extra meditation” today:

“I did not die. I did not go to Heaven,” Alex wrote. He continued, “I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to.”

Now here’s the kicker:

“They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.”

When I read that sentence, I immediately thought of the following:

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Luke 16:27-31 (NASB)

This is a parable and probably not a literal story involving real people, but the tale makes a point that is very relevant to the current topic. While some people may accept and believe stories like Alex’s, most people won’t including most religious people. After all, the Master was resurrected and is called “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20) and yet not everyone believes his testimony or the testimonies of the direct witnesses to his resurrection.

Alex Malarkey is right. The only information source we can trust is the Bible and believe me, Bible study is a lifelong effort in learning and drawing nearer to our Creator.

We do know that some people have “visited Heaven”. We have the mystical experiences of Ezekiel and the Apostle John recorded in the Bible that renders their visions or visits (not sure which) in vivid, if sometimes incomprehensible detail. We have the Apostle Paul writing that he (apparently) was “caught up to the third heaven,” though he provided no details of the experience because he heard “inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.”

Alex Malarkey
Alex Malarkey, seen here in a 2009 photo, has written an open letter saying that events described in the best-seller The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven were made up.
John Kuntz/The Plain Dealer/Landov

So we have a few Biblical examples of such mystical experiences, but they seem rather rare.

Both Judaism and Christianity have rich mystical heritages, but I’m not qualified to speak to all that because I’m not a mystic. To me, the mystic tales of the Hasidim (for example) seem more metaphorical than literal. For my part, I have a tough enough time just being ordinary and living life exploring my faith from my own limited perspective.

So I’ll continue to muddle along the old-fashioned way, by reading and studying the Bible, by praying, by visiting with other believers, and I’ll let God tell me what He wants me to know in whatever way He sees fit.

I wonder how many people based their faith or came to faith because of stories like the one Alex told? I wonder how many people’s faith will be shaken or even shattered now that they know that he lied?

Actually, I feel sorry for him. He’s just a kid. It must have taken a lot of courage for him to come clean in so public a manner. I just hope everyone else involved also does the right thing.

Ha’azinu: Between Heaven and Earth

Why did Moshe address the earth as well as the heavens? And why did Yeshayahu address the heavens as well as the earth? Why did they not confine themselves to speaking to the realm closest to them?

The answer to these questions depends on a fundamental tenet of Judaism: we must relate to both earth and heaven. For material and spiritual reality are meant to be connected, instead of being left as skew lines. Judaism involves drawing down spiritual reality until it meshes with worldly experience (Moshe’s contribution), while elevating worldly experience until a bond with the spiritual is established (Yeshayahu’s contribution). (see Rambam, Commentary to the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:1), the seventh and eighth of the Thirteen Principles of Faith)

Indeed, the two initiatives can be seen as phases in a sequence. By revealing the Torah, Moshe endowed every individual with the potential to become “close to the heavens.” Yeshayahu developed the connection further, making it possible for a person to experience being “close to heavens” while “close to the earth” involved in the mundane details of material life.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“Close To The Heavens”
From the “In the Garden of Torah” series
Commentary on Torah Portion Ha’azinu
Chabad.org

This is something like what I’ve been trying to say in my Jesus, Halakhah, and the Evolution of Judaism series. There is a dynamic tension in Judaism between Heaven and earth; between God and man, between the Spiritual ideal and the practicality of performing the mitzvot in the secular world. Heaven never changes, but the world in which we live in changes all the time. As we see from Rabbi Touger’s commentary on this week’s Torah portion, we might very well say that a Jew has one foot anchored in Heaven and the other planted firmly on earth.

The Master said it this way:

But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. –John 17:13-19 (ESV)

Just as Jesus was, at that time, in the world but not of the world, this is how he characterized his disciples, who were set apart; sanctified for holy service to God. This is also a good understanding of what I see in Rabbi Touger’s commentary on what the Song of Moses was and is trying to teach the descendents of Jacob and the children of Israel.

And as Christians, this is a lesson we must learn as well.

But it isn’t easy. There’s a very delicate balance going on here. It would be very simple to slip too far one way or the other. If we go too far into the spiritual realm, we might have to leave the world altogether. More often than not though, we would probably just lose our way, walking off of the true path and into realms that involve excessive, arcane spiritual and mystic philosophies that are often mistaken for “mysterious truths” by people who are never satisfied with what God has given them. To go too far in the opposite direction (and this is the mistake most of us make) is to become too much of the world, bending our theologies and philosophies to the demands of a politically correct western culture, and believing that God has not prepared for us His enduring principles and values.

But how do you know if you’re biased too far in one direction or another? How can you tell if you’ve struck the right balance between adhering to eternal truths and adapting your religious practice to the needs of the current generation?

You almost never can tell until you, or someone around you, has gone to one extreme or the other, and then it becomes all too obvious.

How do you steady yourself on the path? That’s not easy, either. But it’s done by surrounding yourself with stable companions in the faith; men and women who are “grounded in the Word” and who have spent much time with God, men and women of prayer, grace, compassion, and acts of charity and kindness. Think of them as there to assist you in the occasional “course correction” that must be made during your journey between birth and God.

Unfortunately, there are always wrong communities that will support and encourage problems:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. –2 Timothy 4:3-5 (ESV)

This is a well used and well-abused set of verses because almost everyone in every type of Christian denomination, sect, and variant believes their group is the only one that possesses “sound teaching” and that everyone else who differs from them have “itching ears.” Indeed, the Messianic Jewish and Gentile Hebrew Roots movements are often characterized in the latter category by the mainstream Christian churches, since the focus on Hebraic and Jewish thought is contrary to what most churches teach.

So what do you do? How can you be so sure of yourself?

The scary answer is that, if you are at all honest with yourself and with God, you can’t be too sure. In fact, a little self-doubt is probably healthy. Taking other people’s criticisms to heart, at least temporarily, lets you look at yourself from a different point of view and ask the question, “what if I’m wrong?” I spent about a year on a different blog asking myself that question in many different ways, and my current perspective on this blog is the result. Just two weeks ago, I admitted I was wrong in response to a critic’s complaint, and I started a journey to investigate what the Bible really says about a Christian’s covenant connection to God.

If you assume that you’re never wrong, then you are almost certain to be walking away from God. I’ve met people like that, both in the blogosphere and face-to-face and believe me, they’re scary.

But what can we do when information overload hits, when the words and the texts and the spiritual pronouncements get to be too much? What do you do when you feel like you are about to fall off the tightrope, or that you are running on the edge of a razor blade, in imminent danger of being sliced to ribbons? As the saying goes, you need to “get back to basics.”

My soul thirsts for You; my flesh pines for You.

Psalms 63:2

One Yom Kippur, after the Maariv (evening) services that ended the 25-hour fast, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev exclaimed, “I am thirsty! I am thirsty!” Quickly someone brought him water, but the Rabbi said, “No! I am thirsty!” Hastily they boiled water and brought him coffee, but again he said, “No! No! I am thirsty!” His attendant then asked, “Just what is it you desire?”

“A tractate Succah (the volume of the Talmud dealing with the laws of the festival of Succos).” They brought the desired volume, and the Rabbi began to study the Talmud with great enthusiasm, ignoring the food and drink that were placed before him.

Only after several hours of intense study did the Rabbi breathe a sigh of relief and break his fast. The approaching festival of Succos with its many commandments – only five days after Yom Kippur – had aroused so intense a craving that it obscured the hunger and thirst of the fast.

It is also related that at the end of Succos and Pesach, festivals during which one does not put on tefillin, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok sat at the window, waiting for the first glimmer of dawn which would allow him to fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin after a respite of eight or nine days.

Today I shall…

try to realize that Torah and mitzvos are the nutrients of my life, so that I crave them just as I do food and water when I am hungry or thirsty.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Tishrei 11”
Aish.com

The “Torah and mitzvos;” Heaven and earth are the nutrients of life. We crave them like food and water. To extend the metaphor, we need a “balanced diet” to stay healthy. I adopted the name and philosophy for my blog from something written by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman that was based on the letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson:

When you get up in the morning, let the world wait. Defy it a little. First learn something to inspire you. Take a few moments to meditate upon it. And then you may plunge ahead into the darkness, full of light with which to illuminate it.

When you find yourself poised between Heaven and earth, try to balance yourself as much as possible, and then pick up a Bible or perhaps some text produced by a learned sage. Learn one thing that inspires you, that fills you with energy, and prompts you to seize the day…meditate upon it, question it, question your own understanding of it and of yourself for a time. Then start walking forward on your path toward the dawn and let yourself be the light that provides illumination.

I am gratified that this lesson has extended outward a little from my humble blog.

Good Shabbos.

Knocking On Heaven’s Door

One of the hardest chinuch matters to deal with is what to do when faced with a student who is in a decline, whose presence in the yeshiva can be harmful to the other bochurim. Sometimes, the only option a rosh yeshiva may feel he has is to ask the student to leave.

When Rav Boruch Ber Lebovitz, zt”l, needed to send a student out of the yeshiva, he literally wept, expressing his love for his wayward student. When a student who had taken a negative path recounted how Rav Boruch Ber had told him he had to leave the yeshiva, he was overcome with emotion. “It was obvious that he didn’t want me to leave, that he would have done anything to allow me to stay. One felt as though he was compelled from on high to expel me, even though this was the furthest thing from his desire. Believe me he was more upset about the matter than I was at the time.”

The Beis Yisrael of Gur, zt”l, was known to be very sharp—and to be a leader of similarly sharp chassidim—yet he could also be extremely gentle. When one of his chassidim had a fall, some members of the community wished to banish him. But the rebbe would never allow them to do so as long as the young man continued to pray with them at the shteibel.

He would explain, “In Temurah 11 we find that if a person declares the foot of an animal an olah, the holiness spreads out to the entire animal. This hints to the fact that even if a person only sanctifies his foot by going to a kosher beis midrash, in the end he will change directions and ascend again in teshuvah. The holiness in his feet will spread out to his entire self.”

He would often quote an inspiring vort of Rav Zusia of Anapoli, zt”l, “The verse states… ‘They are a topsy-turvy generation.’ Rav Zusia explained that we never know where a Jew will end up. He is constantly in an upheaval; one day he may be very far, yet the next he can do a complete about-face and become a truly good Jew. Who can delve into the deepest places of the Jewish soul, which is a portion of Godliness from above?”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“About Face”
Temurah 11

My past two meditations have been discussing the general and personal implications of a video I recently saw, recording the lament of Rev. LeeAnne Watkins, Rector at St. Marys Episcopal Church St. Paul, Minnesota, and the decision made by the church’s ministry to stop all of their adult educational programs. When reading the above-quoted Daf this morning (it’s Sunday as I’m writing this), I couldn’t help but think that this is what Rev. Watkins and the other shepherds at St Marys have done…to most of the people attending their church. No, they didn’t literally kick these folks out, but they did give up on them, and on themselves as ministers. As I mentioned in my previous blog, I can certainly understand the temptation to give up, which in my case, is giving up on me, but the consequences are enormous. Consider what the Master had to say on this topic:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” –Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV)

The first part of this scripture details the specific process by which a sinner among the congregation is confronted and addressed at each step of his or her refusal to acknowledge their sin, first to the offended party, then to a small group, and finally in front of the entire congregation. If the person still refuses to repent (which also closely mirrors the quote from the Daf I posted), then the sinful person is told to leave. I can only imagine there would be quite a bit of angst in this final part, but there’s more to it. In the last few verses of the quote from Matthew 18, there appears to be more than natural consequences to such an act of rejection. Whatever the congregation does, as an authority and representative of the Master, is also permitted by the Heavenly authority as well. This tells me that we should be extremely careful who we discard, since we are evicting them, not just from our local church or faith community, but perhaps out of the Kingdom of Heaven as well.

When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. –1 Corinthians 5:4-5 (ESV)

That sounds very serious…and very final. But Paul also said this:

By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. –1 Timothy 1:19-20 (ESV)

That sounds a tad more temporary. To me, it sounds like Hymenaeus and Alexander were handed over to the adversary until they learned not to blaspheme. Does that mean they’d be able to re-enter the congregation and the Kingdom if they repented? I hope so. No one should be condemned forever unless they choose to be irredeemable. Some people do make that permanent choice, but not everyone. Let’s review part of the commentary from the Daf again:

Rav Zusia explained that we never know where a Jew will end up. He is constantly in an upheaval; one day he may be very far, yet the next he can do a complete about-face and become a truly good Jew. Who can delve into the deepest places of the Jewish soul, which is a portion of Godliness from above?”

Couldn’t that also be applied to an errant disciple of the Master? Didn’t the Master himself teach that return is always possible with repentance?

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. –Luke 15:17-24 (ESV)

I’ve heard it said that the church is the only army that shoots its own wounded. It has learned the first part of what to do with an unproductive tree that is not fruitful, but it sometimes forgets that Jesus also taught that the prodigal son should be allowed to return. I’m not condemning Rev. Watkins and, as I said, I can very much understand what she’s saying and even agree with her on various levels, but I also hope that St Marys will be open to shepherding their flock at whatever point the sheep decide to return to the fold. This gets a little confusing when we remember that Jesus also taught that a good shepherd would leave ninety-nine sheep in the flock to retrieve even one lost sheep (Luke 15:4). Maybe giving up on all of the adult ed programs at St Mary’s is an effort to “go after” the lost sheep. Or maybe it’s like the old joke that asks, “Why did the farmer hit the mule in the head with a stick?” The answer is, “to get its attention.”

I’m not just talking about the church giving up on its sheep but on us giving up on ourselves. It isn’t just the church’s fault if their programs and their activities aren’t attracting people, it’s our fault for not participating in the community of faith. Each of us, as individuals, have to decide the direction of our walk of faith. If we give up on that walk or tarry too slowly along the path, why should we be surprised when we find that the community has decided to leave us behind? Indeed, why should we be surprised and even astonished, when we discover that God has left us behind, and given us into the company of a far less savory fellow?

But we can still come back, both to the community and to God.

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
Chabad.org

I’m encouraged when I can see that the Bible I hold in my hands is not a mere book, but an interface imbued with the Holiness and Presence of God. Although God, as the Rabbi teaches, is not to be accessed directly in any sense, by reading and studying and responding to the Word, and the Word made flesh, even in our darkest moments, we are allowed to return in repentance, just by touching the hem of His garment, or perhaps in the Master’s case, just by touching the merest threads of his tzitzit.

But then, a woman with a flow of blood for twelve years approached from behind him and touched the corner of his garment, for she said in her heart, “If only I touch his garment, I will be saved (from her ailment).” Yeshua turned and saw her and said, “Be strong, my daughter. Your faith has saved you.” The woman was saved from that time on. –Matthew 9:20-22 (DHE Gospels)

We can choose to go back, no matter how long we’ve been gone and we will be accepted by God in the Kingdom, as the angels sing His praises. May the church that has sent away those who have failed, also open their doors and their hearts to everyone who has tried and failed, and to those who sincerely seek to return home. We’re all knocking on heaven’s door.

Terumah: Waiting for God On Earth

When dedicating the Beis HaMikdash, King Shlomo exclaimed in wonderment: “Will G-d indeed dwell on this earth? The heavens and the celestial heights cannot contain You, how much less this house!” For the Beis HaMikdash was not merely a centralized location for man’s worship of G-d, it was a place where G-d’s Presence was and is manifest. Although “the entire earth is full of His glory,” G-d’s Presence is not tangibly felt. He permeates all existence, but in a hidden way. The Beis HaMikdash, by contrast, was “the place where He chose to cause His name to dwell.” There was no concealment; His Presence was openly manifest.

Why was man’s activity necessary? Because G-d’s intent is that the revelation of His Presence be internalized within the world, becoming part of the fabric of its existence. Were the revelation to come only from above, it would merely nullify worldliness. To cite a parallel: when G-d revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, the world ground to a standstill. “No bird chirped… nor did an ox bellow, nor the sea roar.” Although G-dliness was revealed within the world, material existence did not play a contributory role.

When, by contrast, the dwelling for G-d is built by man himself part of the material world the nature of the materials used is elevated. This enables G-d’s Presence to be revealed within these entities while they continue to exist within their own context.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“A Dwelling Among Mortals”
from the In the Garden of the Torah series
Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 902;
Vol. XVI, p. 286ff; Vol. XXI, p. 146ff
Chabad.org

The building of a Mishkan foreshadows the transformation of the entire world into a dwelling place for G-d. This is accomplished through Torah, Divine service, and deeds of kindness – the “three pillars” upon which the world stands. (Avos 1:2.)
-Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XVI, pp. 292-297.

In this week’s Torah portion, we see the Children of Israel being commanded to bring contributions that will be used as materials for building the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert. Moses is provided with what me might think of as a “diagram” of the Heavenly Court and told to direct the Children of Israel to build, for all intents and purposes, a “scale model” so that God might dwell among His people. This is a strange enough request when you try to picture the “environment” where God dwells in the Heavens, and then imagine what it would be like to build a physical representation of that metaphysical “place.”

But it gets even stranger.

Thus, it is understood that although the construction of the Mishkan and the bringing of donations had to have happened in accordance with only one of these three schedules, all three opinions are true as they relate to the spiritual Mishkan within the heart of every Jew.
-Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. VI, pp. 153-156.

The use of the term ‘them’ rather than ‘it’ has been interpreted as a message that the purpose of the Mishkan sanctuary was to facilitate the dwelling of the Divine Presence within the heart of every Jew. The role of the Mishkan in the wilderness and during the first four centuries of a Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael was perpetuated by the first and second Beit Hamikdash Temples which spanned a period of nine centuries. All of this is today but a memory to which a visit to the Kotel (Western Wall) gives a special dimension. This does not mean, however, that a Jew cannot build a mini-sanctuary in his heart even today. The Divine Presence is waiting to dwell within the hearts of all Jews if only they will let it enter!

-Rabbi Mendel Weinbach
‘The “Holy Sites”‘
For the week ending 8 February 2003 / 6 Adar I 5763
Ohr Somayach

If it seems unusual or even incomprehensible to be able to build a “scale model” of the Heavenly Court and then expect God to take up residence, how much more incredible is it to expect God to take up residence within the “spiritual Mishkan within the heart of every Jew?”

Oh, have you heard of this before?

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. –Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)

Perhaps this isn’t so strange, since the Jewish disciples of the Master had a precedent for the Pentecost event act at Sinai, but what came next was completely unexpected.

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. Then they asked him to remain for some days. –Acts 10:44-48 (ESV)

God desires to dwell among His people, which we can understand, because God once did dwell among His people in Eden before the fall. God once again, though in a somewhat different sense, arranged to dwell among His people Israel, and that dwelling was to be a light to the nations. As part of the process of God being among man, each Jew was to consider that the Divine Presence was also dwelling within each of them. This was repeated at the Pentecost event and while all of that is magnificent, the truly amazing thing in the eyes of God’s chosen ones, was (and perhaps still is for some Jewish people) that the Creator extended His splendid and compassionate grace, even to the Gentiles.

But is this the whole story and, now that Christianity boasts of the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit,” is this work finally complete?

On the ninth day of the month of Av (“Tish’ah B’Av”) we fast and mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Both the First Temple (833-423 bce) and the Second Temple (349 bce-69 ce) were destroyed on this date. The Shabbat preceding the fast day is called the “Shabbat of Vision,” for on this Shabbat we read a chapter from the Prophets (Isaiah 1:1-27) that begins, “The vision of Isaiah…”

On the “Shabbat of Vision,” says Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, each and every one of us is granted a vision of the third and final Temple — a vision that, to paraphrase the Talmud, “though we do not see ourselves, our souls see.” This vision evokes a profound response in us, even if we are not consciously aware of the cause of our sudden inspiration.

Adapted by Yanki Tauber
“Shabbat of Vision”
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Chabad.org

I previously mentioned that Christianity abandoned a major portion of it’s history and heritage by tossing the Jewish foundation of our faith aside, so I can understand that the church would view any Jewish “vision” of the Third Temple with skepticism if not utter disbelief. Perhaps they are right, but could there be any way to reconcile all of the imagery we have of the bodies of believers being as Temples for the Spirit of God and the coming of a Third, physical Temple where God will once again dwell among His people Israel?

Maybe.

Especially in western thought, we tend to see conditions as “either or”. Either the Spirit dwells in the Temple, or it dwells within the heart of the believer. For some reason, it can’t be both, although I’m not sure why. After all, in Judaism, the Divine Presence dwelt within the Mishkan, but it also dwelt within each Jewish heart in some mysterious, spiritual, and mystic way. God, in a metaphysical manner, dwelt within the Heavenly court, but He also made it possible for a physical replica of His “abode” to be created among His people Israel so He could also dwell among men, even though no structure could possibly contain Him.

God’s desire to be among us is fraught with problems when we actually make ourselves wonder how it is possible, and yet we see reliably, that God has indeed done so, in Eden, in the Mishkah, and in Solomon’s Temple. Jews are said to be able to have a vision, on a mystic level, of the Third Temple on the Shabbat just before the Ninth of Av. What are the Jewish people supposed to see and understand? Perhaps this.

The First Temple was built on Divine command and assistance. The Second Temple was constructed at the orders of a human being. The level of revelation associated with it, and the accompanying miracles, were far less intense. Yet, precisely because it came to be built through human efforts and on human initiative, it had a greater impact on this world. It was larger than the first Temple, taking up more of this world in terms of space, and it lasted longer, occupying this world for a greater length of time.

The Third Temple, like the Shabbat on which we are shown its image, combines the strengths of both the first and second Temples. It combines the Divine revelation, an inspiration from Above, along with human effort, an inspiration from below, to create a permanent home for G-dliness. Thus is the lesson and inspiration of this Shabbat. We are given a Divinely revealed vision which we must combine with human efforts to permanently alter the world we live in, and, even more challenging, ourselves.

-Chana Kroll
“Make It Real”
Shabbat Chazon
chabad.org

Repeatedly, we’ve seen how God must contribute to the construction of His dwelling on Earth, but so must man. While God does not need human beings to offer their efforts in the service of Divine tasks, we see in the Bible how people are continually involved in “building” with God and repairing the world. While God does not “need” our help, something about the nature of God dwelling among us requires that we be actively engaged. In this, we must take “ownership” of our desire to return the holy sparks within us to Him, not by our going up to God, but in allowing God to come down to us. Somehow, God dwelling within us and God dwelling among us in a Temple are all interconnected. We must change the world for Him but we must also change ourselves. Paradoxically, we can do neither without God’s help, but then, those tasks cannot occur without us, either. I can’t explain how it all works. I only know that God is showing all of us, not just the Jewish people, a picture of His future with His people; His human beings.

Chassidic master Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev uses the following metaphor to explain the necessity of the Three Temples and why we must wait such a long time for Him to be truly among us again.

A father once prepared a beautiful suit of clothes for his son. But the child neglected his father’s gift and soon the suit was in tatters. The father gave the child a second suit of clothes; this one, too, was ruined by the child’s carelessness. So the father made a third suit. This time, however, he withholds it from his son. Every once in a while, on special and opportune times, he shows the suit to the child, explaining that when the child learns to appreciate and properly care for the gift, it will be given to him. This induces the child to improve his behavior, until it gradually becomes second nature to him — at which time he will be worthy of his father’s gift.

God has shown us His gift in the Messiah, but He also withholds the Messiah’s coming until we are ready. But God is gracious enough to show us what will happen once we reach this state of being worthy. Through the vision of a prophet, we can see the return of the Messiah, our later return to Eden, and finally, the placing of the Throne of God among us at a future time when the requirement for Ezekiel’s Temple is no longer necessary.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. –Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV)

But before all that happens, we must come to terms with our struggle between life in this world, in the spirit and in the body, as Rabbi Tzvi Freeman relates:

The human mind despises the body that houses it, but the soul has only love.

The mind would soar to the heavens, but for a body that chains it to the earth. The mind would be consumed in divine oneness, but for the body’s delusion of otherness, as though it had made itself.

But the soul sees only G-d.

In that very delusion of otherness,
in that madness of the human ego,
even there, the soul sees only G‑d.
For she says, “This, too, is truth.
This is a distorted reflection of the Essence of all things,
of that which truly has neither beginning nor cause.”

And so she embraces the bonds of the body,
works with the body, transforms the body.
Until the body, too, sees only G-d.

—Basi LeGani 5712

Good Shabbos.

At the Table of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

On today’s amud we find that seeming to prefer one sefer Torah over the other is like besmirching the other sefer Torah.

Honoring the sefer Torah is a great mitzvah. Some people even purchase a special silver crown for the Torah to show honor and respect for it. In one shul they had several sifrei Torah but only one crown. Usually this was sufficient, since on most weekdays and Shabbosim only one sefer is removed from the aron hakodesh. But on days when more than one sefer was removed, they would put the crown on only one of the seforim—what choice did they have?

One talmid chacham pointed out that this may be a lack of honor to the second sefer. “The Chazon Ish told Rav Simchah Kaplan, the rav of Tzfas, that he should not allow them to make a special monument in the cemetery there for a certain tzaddik since this besmirches the many other great tzaddikim interred there. Presumably the same is true in our situation and we must either purchase another crown or refrain from putting the crown on either sefer?”

They agreed to ask Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit”a, and he ruled in his usual brief and to-the-point manner: “They can put the crown on whichever Torah they want.”

When this question and answer reached the author of Doleh Umashkeh, shlit”a, he explained why there is no proof from the Chazon Ish’s ruling regarding a memorial in the cemetery in Tzfas. “A special monument is a permanent way of distinguishing one tzaddik over the others, while a crown on a Torah is only worn for a short time.”

Mishna Berura Yomi Digest
Stories to Share
“The Torah’s Honor”
Siman 144, Seif 4

You may be wondering what this has to do with anything, but when I read this commentary, I couldn’t help but think of the conversation that’s been going on in another one of my “meditations” for the past week about debating fulfillment theology. Let me explain.

One of the issues regarding how we consider the “specialness” of the Jewish disciples of Jesus (or Jews in general) relative to the Gentile disciples is the concern that Gentiles will become “second-class citizens” of the Kingdom if Jews are viewed as having a different covenant relationship with God. My proposition has been that the Messianic or Davidic covenant which was initiated by the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, did not overwrite or eliminate either the Abrahamic or Mosaic covenants that came before it, but rather, the Messianic covenant ratified the previous two covenants even as the Mosaic ratified but did not eliminate the Abrahamic covenant.

The first two covenants apply only to the Children of Israel but the third applies to Israel and to the nations. I know this is pretty confusing, and it’s probably easier for most Christians to do away with the complex nature of treaty and covenant relationships as they were understood in the ancient near east, by simply doing away with all but the most recent covenant, but that wouldn’t be accurate, fair, or Biblically honest. Yet, like the crown we see that can only be applied to a single Torah scroll, it seems as if only one scroll receives the highest honors with the other scrolls being subordinate. Just as with the concerns expressed in the commentary above, the Gentile disciples of Jesus (i.e. Christians) do not think it’s fair for the Jews to be crowned with a higher honor than the Gentiles and thus, one of the motivations for supersessionism is born. Instead of the Jews being ascendant over the Christians, the Christians become ascendant over the Jews. Using another Daf commentary, he’s a metaphor of how Christians see the Jews and the Torah.

Shulchan Aruch rules that a rented property that is used for a Beis HaKnesses does not have the sanctity of a Beis HaKnesses. The reason, explains Levush, is that although for the duration of the lease the property will be used for a Beis HaKnesses it is still considered only temporary since today or tomorrow the owner will take back the property. Only when a building was constructed in the first place to be a Beis HaKnesses or if it was purchased to be used as a Beis HaKnesses does it attain the sanctity of a Beis HaKnesses. Teshuvas Ravaz suggests that Shulchan Aruch is basing his ruling on our Gemara which states that a tenant cannot sanctify the rented property since it is not his. The rationale, suggests Teshuvas Ravaz, is that we do not find precedent that property could become sanctified for a limited period of time and then have the sanctity dissipate into nothing upon the end of the lease. As such one could assert that just as a tenant cannot sanctify the property that he is renting to the Beis HaMikdash, so too, he cannot sanctify rental property as a Beis HaKnesses for a limited period of time and then have that sanctity dissipate upon the end of the lease.

Beiur Halacha cites earlier authorities who maintain that Shulchan Aruch’s ruling is limited to the circumstances of Mahari ben Chaviv whose words are the source for Shulchan Aruch’s ruling. In the time of Mahari ben Chaviv the government did not allow property to be rented out to serve as a Beis HaKnesses. For that reason the rental of a property for a Beis HaKnesses was by nature very temporary since at any time the owner could contact the renters and inform them that they had to leave the premises. As such a property rented to be a Beis HaKnesses did not attain the sanctity of a Beis HaKnesses. In our times when it is acceptable for property to be used as a Beis HaKnesses and the owner cannot terminate the lease early a Beis HaKnesses that rents space does attain the sanctity of a Beis HaKnesses with all the halachos that go together with that.

Daf Yomi Digest
Halacha Highlight
“The sanctity of a Beis HaKnesess on leased property”
Arachin 21

The Mosaic covenant, the Torah which details its conditions, and the people who have been subject to that covenant, are all considered temporary or “placeholders” until the arrival of the Messiah. According to supersessionist thought, the Jewish people have no intrinsic value in and of themselves, to God or to the world. The Jews, the Torah, and the Mosaic covenant only existed to point to the Messiah and perhaps just to “fill up space” until Jesus was born.

Once the Messiah arrived and “completed” the work of the Law, the temporary covenant expired, according to supersessionism, and the Messianic covenant permanently replaced the Mosaic covenant, the conditions of the Torah for the Children of Israel, and the descendents of Israel, the Jewish people, forever. Any “sanctity” that the Jews possessed, like a Beis HaKnesses that is rented property, is considered temporary and perishable. In contrast, the Messianic covenant and the Gentile Christians (and any Jews who might choose to surrender their Jewish identity and succumb to becoming a Gentile by converting) rise to become the permanent inheritors of all the covenant promises God made and that were contained in the Abrahamic covenant, with the conditions of the Mosaic covenant (with minor exceptions) being swept away as inferior and even repulsive (which is probably where many Christians over the past 2,000 years got the idea that the Jews themselves were inferior and repulsive).

But is this really so? The two commentaries above do not have direct applications to the answer and I’m using them only as imperfect metaphors, but I think they’re very good imperfect metaphors. Let’s consider the “temporary” nature of Jesus Christ.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… –John 1:14 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us… –John 1:14 (Young’s Literal Translation)

Most common English translations of John 1:14 say that the Word “dwelt among us” or “made his dwelling among us” or “lived among us”. Young’s translation implies that the “living among us” was temporary, because a tabernacle or a “tent” is not considered a permanent home (although it can be used over an extended period of time, even decades, as we see in the example of the wanderings of the Children of Israel in the wilderness). The Weymouth New Testament translates the same words as “and lived for a time in our midst”, which also emphasizes that Jesus was among us only temporarily.

Jesus, the Word, lived among human beings but only temporarily. Did that make him any less sanctified before God? Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to discard things we consider temporary. They could have a much longer “shelf life” than we might imagine.

“I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.” –Ezekiel 34:25-31 (ESV)

“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it. –Joel 3:1-3 (ESV)

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
“and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.” –Romans 11:25-27 (ESV)

Unless God was leaving out some important details, He never seemed to indicate that the Children of Israel would be a people before Him only up to a certain time, and then He’d toss them aside like a bowl of hummus that had been left out in the sun too long. In fact, it seems as if He plans to judge all of the nations that have treated His people Israel poorly, so perhaps the rest of us should be a little cautious when we casually claim that we have replaced “the apple of His eye.” For those Christians who are reading this who are still convinced that Jews and Judaism are “dead” in the eyes of God and as seen through the lens of the Davidic covenant, remember that God can resurrect human beings and even a nation of “dry bones” (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Israel is not “cut off.” Israel has hope. God will place flesh upon all of Israel and Israel will be restored. In fact, God is restoring Israel right now, before our very eyes.

We have a picture, based on John 1 of the Messiah temporarily dwelling among his people Israel and then leaving again. We have a picture of the Jewish people, based on Romans 11 temporarily being “hardened” against the Messiah. We also have this.

And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel… After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” –Revelation 7:4,9-10 (ESV)

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. –Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV)

Here we see that the “temporary” Lamb is now permanent and the “temporary” tribes of Israel are now permanent, and we also see that “a great multitude…from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” will be “standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Jesus is permanent though he was once temporarily on the Earth. The tribes of Israel are permanent though they temporarily were hardened to the Messiah for the sake of the Gentiles. The Gentiles are there with the tribes of Israel and with the Lamb, not as second-class citizens, but co-citizens with Israel in the Kingdom, and the Lamb is the Lamb for us all.

One God, One Lamb, One throne, One Kingdom. One shepherd over two folds in one pen.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. –John 10:14-16

I don’t know how it all works or how it will all work out, but I trust that it will all work out between God and His people Israel, and we Gentile Christians, His people who were placed in His hand by Jesus. And in the end, we will all be seated together at the feast of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 8:11) and we will all be at peace and none will make us afraid (Micah 4:4) “for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.”