Tag Archives: Israel

A New Chanukah Miracle

chanukah

As you are probably aware, Hanukkah (or Chanukah or lots of different transliterated spellings) is coming up. This year it will be commemorated from sundown on Tuesday, December 12 to sundown on Wednesday, December 20.

I was reading Rabbi Kalman Packouz’s commentary on Chanukah earlier and of course, re-evaluated my relation (if any) with the observance. I mean it’s difficult to objectively insert myself as a non-Jew into a purely Jewish historical event complete with miracle from Hashem.

Of course since today President Donald Trump formally recognized that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state of Israel barely a week before Chanukah, I suppose this too is a sort of miracle and one relevant to the entire world.

(The real miracle would be if the realm of news and social media wouldn’t have a total anti-Semitic hissy fit and meltdown over it, but I suppose that’s asking too much.)

I read somewhere (I can’t find the source now) that historically, the world has tried to destroy the Jews in two different ways, physically as a people (genocide, ethnic cleansing) and by assimilation into general culture (eliminating Jewish identity and uniqueness). Purim is the Jewish celebration of victory over the former and Chanukah the commemoration of victory over the latter.

But what does any of that have to do with non-Jew? In both cases, it’s non-Jews who are the problem, not the solution. Even those of us to are linked to the Jewish community one way or the other (okay, I’m married to a Jewish wife, but that only links me to her, not the community) and who are pro-Israel weren’t involved in either original event, so what do we have to celebrate, except perhaps in solidarity? It’s not our commemoration.

I visited the closest thing I can find that might hold any sort of answer at AskNoah.org to see what they had to say. Granted, they won’t recognize my devotion to Rav Yeshua as having any sort of legitimacy, but people like me inhabit a sort of spiritual and theological “no man’s land” anyway.

According to the article “Noahides may light Hanukkah candles without a blessing,” not only can we light the menorah to announce the miracles of God (minus the blessings since we are not commanded to do so), we can…

…still mark the days of Hanukkah this year in some of the additional customary ways. This includes the option to say the chapters of Psalms (Psalms 91, 67, 30, 133, 33), reading and thinking about the history and messages of Hanukkah, and enjoying some traditional recipes. You can also attend public lightings of outdoor Hanukkah menorahs that might be taking place near you during the festival.

The article even provides us with this:

The following recitation paragraph, adopted from the Jewish traditional liturgy (version of the Ari Zal), can also be said during the days of Hanukkah:

“In the days of Matisyahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, the wicked Hellenic government rose up against the people of Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will. But You, in your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for the people of Israel to this very day. Then the Israelites entered the shrine of Your Holy House, purified and rededicated Your sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courtyards, and instituted these eight days of Hanukkah to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.”

Granted, none of this takes into consideration our “Judaically aware” perception of Rav Yeshua and our being allowed to partake in some of the New Covenant blessings based on the merit of our Master and our discipleship, however meager in my case, to him. Still, for lack of any better template, this will have to do.

trump jerusalem
President Donald Trump holds up a proclamation to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

It is true that Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday, so there’s not a lot to get worked up over, but for me, this is what happens every time my Gentile faith in the Jewish Rav intersects at all with some aspect of Judaism.

All that said, I suspect the real role of people like me/us in the days to come will significantly eclipse Chanukah. As the world challenges the Jewish right to call the City of David Israel’s capital and hates the American President for recognizing the fact (of course, if Trump said he liked to eat steamed carrots, suddenly eating steamed carrots would become totally evil because, well, you know, just because), we will be called to stand up and stand with the defenders of Israel against her enemies.

The majority of the world, that is, all Gentiles everywhere, are going to oppose Jerusalem vehemently. We must shoulder the burden of standing against our parents, our children, our spouses, our friends, our neighbors, because we will be the few among the nations who stands with Israel.

May Chanukah be a time of miracles and may Hashem continue to protect His people and nation Israel. May He also grant us among the nations the privilege of joining the righteous.

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Atonement, The Temple, and Tisha B’Av

Animal offerings aided the atonement process, as they drove home the point that really the person deserved to be slaughtered, but an animal was being used in his/her place. The offering also helped atonement in many mystical ways. But we should not mistake the animal offering for more than what it is. It was an aid to atonement; it did not cause atonement.

“Atonement Today”
from the Ask the Rabbi column
Aish.com

One of the questions Christians sometimes have about Judaism is how religious Jews expect to make atonement for sins without the Temple. The traditional narrative goes that God allowed the Temple to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE because He had annulled the system of animal sacrifices, the system of Levitical priests, and all of the promises and commands about them that God previously said were eternal.

Christians tend to believe that God sent Jesus to replace the Temple sacrifices and to be our permanent, once in a lifetime atonement, as opposed to having to make an animal sacrifice every time a Jew committed a sin.

I can only believe Christians imagine that there was a perpetual line of Jews in front of the Temple waiting their turn to make a sacrifice. If that were the case, if every time a Jew committed a sin of any kind they had to make the journey to the Temple, they wouldn’t be able to go anyplace else.

Praying ChildIn contrast, for a Christian, every time he or she sins, they can pray to God in Christ’s name where ever they are and whatever they’re doing, and it’s all good.

Well, that’s not how it worked.

First of all, not all sacrifices had to do with sin and even those that did were specifically for unintentional sins, that is, an act someone committed they didn’t know what a sin. When they discovered that they had sinned unintentionally, then they offered the appropriate sacrifices at the Temple.

That probably wasn’t all that common.

But the quote above speaks of the animal being a substitute for the person offering up the animal, that the person knew he or she should be the one to die instead. What about that?

The verse says: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit” (Psalms 51:19). This teaches us that a person who does teshuva is regarded as if he had ascended to Jerusalem, built the Temple, erected the Altar, and offered all the offerings upon it. (Midrash – Vayikra Rabba 7:2)

When a person transgresses a mitzvah in the Torah, he destroys some of his inner holiness. He cuts himself off from the Godliness that lies at the essence of his soul. When a person does teshuva — “spiritual return” — he renews and rebuilds the inner world that he has destroyed. On one level, he is rebuilding his personal “Temple” so that God’s presence (so to speak) will return there to dwell.

-ibid

If we can understand not only the Psalmist David but the Rabbi correctly, it would seem that teshuvah, or sincere repentance is what draws us nearer to God on a spiritual level. That’s as true today as it was thousands of years ago when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, and further back still when the Mishkan or Tabernacle went with the Children of Israel through the wilderness.

So why make animal sacrifices at all if the true sacrifice is a broken spirit?

What inhabited the Tabernacle and later the Temple?

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:34-35 (NASB)

It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.

1 Kings 8:10-11

shekhinaThe Shekinah, often referred to in Christianity as the “Glory of God,” filled and inhabited the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle and later Solomon’s Temple.

Prayer and true repentance brought any Jew, no matter where he or she was, spiritually closer to God. An animal sacrifice was required to allow the Jew to come nearer to where the Shekinah dwelt physically.

The Aish Rabbi doesn’t say that exactly, and I must admit the idea isn’t my own. I simply can’t remember where I learned it. If it was from anyone reading this, I’m not trying to rip you off, I really can’t recall the source of this information.

This year, Tisha B’Av or the Ninth day of the month of Av, the solemn commemoration of the many disasters that have befallen the Jewish people, begins this coming Saturday at sundown and continues through Sunday.

Jews all over the world will fast, and pray, and turn their hearts to God. I don’t mean to say that the Temple isn’t important, even vital to the lives of the Jewish people. Jews will weep over the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B’Av as well as for many other tragedies.

The Jewish people long for the coming of Messiah who will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and restore the sacrifices and the Priesthood.

So am I saying that Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ) is irrelevant to Jews, that they can pray to God and be forgiven of sins without acknowledging Yeshua?

That’s complicated.

For we non-Jews, our access to the God of Israel is the direct result of our faith in Yeshua and all he accomplished, but I don’t believe for a second that he replaced anything. We non-Jewish disciples of our Master require our Rav in order to benefit from any of the blessings of the New Covenant.

The advent of Messiah was the next logical extension of the all the promises of God to Israel we find in the Tanakh (Old Testament), and then to the rest of the world. Yeshua came the first time as the forerunner of how God would fulfill the New Covenant promises. That includes his being the forerunner of the total and permanent forgiveness of all Israel’s sins as it states in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:34; Romans 11:27) When he comes again, it won’t be as a preview but the main event.

I can’t believe that God out of hand rejects all Jewish people who didn’t convert to Christianity and believe in the Goyishe King. That would include the vast majority of Jews who have lived and died over the past two thousand years. God would never abandon His people Israel this way, nor expect them to violate the Torah mitzvot for the sake of eating a baked ham on Easter.

Tisha B'Av
photo credit: Alex Levin http://www.artlevin.com

I do believe that a Jew who acknowledges Yeshua as the sent Messiah, the Jewish King, Rav Yeshua, not to draw them away from Jewish praxis but to intensify it, crystallize it, bring that practice into sharper focus relative to the entry of the New Covenant into our world a bit at a time, is acknowledging Yeshua’s role as the mediator of that covenant, the living representation of the permanent forgiveness of sins, and the one who will rebuild the Temple at the end of these “birthpangs of Messiah” we currently experience.

Starting at sundown this Saturday, after the conclusion of Shabbat, there will be many tears shed by the Jewish people in their homes and their synagogues for all they have lost. But there will come a day when He shall wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4) and return joy and fulfillment to His people Israel through Messiah.

And when God has restored Israel, then the nations will be healed as well.

Afterword: I’m fully aware that I’m no expert on the Temple or the sacrifices, and I wrote this blog post on the fly rather than doing a lot of research (as I probably should have), so if you find any errors I’ve made, let me know. Thanks.

Enmity Between Neighbors

Bentzi Gopshtain and members of his anti-assimilation organization Lehava protested at the entry to Immanuel Church, located adjacent to Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, which was opened to the public this week at the peak of the Jerusalem Light Festival.

Gopshtain told Arutz Sheva that the opening of the church to the wider public was meant to lead Jews astray and into the trap of the missionaries, as he termed it.

-by Benny Tocker, June 3, 2016
“Jerusalem Light Festival hijacked by missionaries?”
Arutz Sheva

Given the rather disquieting historical relationship between Christians and Jews, I can appreciate that there are Jewish organizations who seek to minimize the threat of Jewish assimilation and conversion to a religion they see as false.

gopshtain
Gopshtain and Lehava activists protest missionary event – Photo: Arutz Sheva

But are Jewish people so gullible that if they accidentally walk into a church that they’ll suddenly abandon all of their beliefs and their heritage?

Of course, to the best of my understanding, the majority of Jews in Israel are secular and have no affiliation to religious Judaism, but even still, why is it a foregone conclusion that if a Jew, secular or otherwise, is exposed to the inside of the church or speak to missionaries for a few minutes that they’ll automatically convert to Christianity?

There is another side to the story. One person commented below the news article:

I’m a religious Jew who has gone to the festival year after year. There is ALWAYS a light show on the side of the church because it IS part of the festival. Been there. Seen that. I don’t walk inside the church; nor have I ever seen anyone unintentionally walk inside the church. Is Gopshtain simply uninformed or is it intentional?

I have no idea. I have no yardstick by which to measure Gopshtain.

One possible explanation is that according to multiple sources including Rabbi Naftali Brewer at The Jewish Chronicle, it is forbidden for a Jew to go into a church for any reason whatsoever:

Your rabbi is correct. The rabbinic consensus, based on the Talmud (Avodah Zara 17a,) is that it is forbidden to enter a church, even if just to admire the architecture or artwork. This body of opinion spans the generations and comprises leading medieval Sephardic and Ashkenazi rabbis such as Maimonides, Rashba (Rabbi Solomon ben Aderet), Ritba (Rabbi Yom Tov ibn Asevilli) and Rosh (Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel), as well as contemporary halachists including Rabbis Moshe Feinstien, Ovadia Yosef and Eliezer Waldenberg.

But again, not all Jews are religious, so even though it is Rabbinically forbidden, secular Jews may not acknowledge that authority over their lives.

I should say that the same site also gave the opinion of Reform Rabbi Jonathan Romain who states in part:

A key question is: why are you going into a church? Entering does not mean worshipping. It could be for a variety of other valid reasons: to admire the architecture, to attend the funeral of a non-Jewish friend or to learn about Christianity for the sake of dialogue.

There is a small possibility that a Jew may be so impressed by what he finds that he decides to convert – but such instances are extraordinarily rare. It also displays an insecurity about Jewish loyalties that is very unattractive. Why are we so afraid?

So I see two issues here.

The first is whether or not the church in question was trying to trick gullible Jews into entering their house of worship so they could fall into the clutches of missionaries?

The second is whether or not the majority of Jewish people are so vulnerable to conversion and assimilation that one visit to a church would put them at significant risk?

missionaries in israel
Image: yadlachim.org

I can only imagine that churches operating in Israel would be well aware of how Jews feel about being proselytized. While, again to the best of my knowledge, it’s not actually illegal for Christians to proselytize in the Holy Land, I believe it is highly discouraged by the authorities, both civil and religious.

If some Christian groups are engaged in “bait and switch” tactics all for the sake of “saving Jewish souls,” then in my opinion, they are violating the integrity of their calling. If you believe you should share the “good news of Jesus Christ” to Jewish people, be honest about what you’re doing and why.

If some Jewish groups are “stretching the truth,” or downright being disingenuous about the tactics and intent of Christian groups in their midst, then, for whatever reason, they’re painting a false portrait of those groups, depicting them as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

I am well aware of the Church’s historical hostile and dishonest behavior toward Jewish communities, but it doesn’t mean that each and every Christian on the planet is de facto the vicious enemy of the Jewish people.

Maybe there should be a little balance exercised here.

When Israel Conquers the World

Nistell
Rabbi Jacoob Ben Nistell (Times of Israel)

Taking a glass half-full approach to the extraordinary saga of the “rabbi” who duped a Polish community for years about his Orthodox credentials, but who turned out to have been a Catholic ex-cook, Poland’s chief rabbi noted endearingly Thursday that nobody in Poland would have pretended to be a Jewish religious leader just a few decades ago.

The deception achieved by Ciechanow-born Jacek Niszczota — who passed himself off as Israel-born Rabbi Jacoob Ben Nistell to the satisfaction of the Poznan Jewish community that utilized his volunteer services — is indicative of a growing interest within Poland in its once-large Jewish community, which was almost completely destroyed in the Holocaust, Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said.

“Who, 30 years ago in this country, would have pretended to be a rabbi, to say nothing of 70 years ago?” Schudrich asked.

Schudrich added that he had met Niszczota/Nistell a few times, and always found him to be “very sweet and smiley.” Still, he stressed, it was not good that the man misrepresented himself…

-from “Poland’s chief rabbi finds comfort in saga of Catholic impostor who fooled community”
The Times of Israel

I actually lifted this quote from the Rosh Pina Project (RPP) which was quoting from the “Times,” and as far as I understand it, RPP meant the reference to be a criticism of Messianic Judaism, or at least those portions of the movement (perhaps One Law/Hebrew Roots) that allow non-Jews to function as “Rabbis”.

But I saw something different here. Just as Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich suggested, why would a non-Jew, a Catholic, pretend to be a Rabbi?

The article doesn’t describe Niszczota’s motivation, but I wonder if it’s the same one that, to a much lesser degree, attracts Christians out of their churches and into the Noahide, Messianic Jewish, or One Law/Hebrew Roots movements?

There seems to be something about Judaism that a significant subset of Christians find more attractive than their own faith.

As far as many Noahides are concerned, the disconnect between how the Church interprets the Old and New Testaments results in their rejection of Christianity and Jesus Christ altogether, and pulls them into an Orthodox Jewish understanding of the role of Gentiles in a world created by God.

christian at kotelTo one degree or another, Messianic Gentiles and One Law Gentiles “split the difference,” so to speak, and find a way to integrate the Old Testament (Tanakh) and New Testament (Apostolic Scriptures) within a more “Judaic” framework. The type and degree of Jewish praxis varies quite a bit among these populations, since there’s no one external standard defining who we are and what we’re supposed to do within any sort of “Jewish” community space.

However, I did find another opinion, or rather a link to that opinion, that was posted in a closed Facebook group for Messianic Gentiles:

With children, at least someone was already obligated to foster their growth in Torah and observance. R. Auerbach now extends this idea to non-Jews. Beyond specific Noahide laws, he assumes all non-Jews are obligated to accept the fact that the world was created for the Jewish people [he does not explain further: I think he might have meant only that the Jewish people set the tone for the world, not that we’re the central purpose of existence. To me, that’s the implication of his following comments].

Recognizing Jews’ role in Hashem’s world means recognizing that Torah scholars, and especially a consensus of Torah scholars, are our best way of knowing what Hashem wants us to do. That’s as true for non-Jews as for Jews, so that a decree by Torah scholars should sound to them as if they’ve been told the Will of Hashem.

Technical questions of lo tasur as a Biblical obligation aside, non-Jews have to listen to the Torah leaders of the Jewish people for this reason [that might be only when there’s a formal body of Torah scholars, debating and voting on their decisions]. Such powers should extend to confiscating money and making decrees, as it does for Jews. Although in the non-Jews’ case, they’d be listening out of their own awareness that they are required to, not (again) a formal halachic obligation.

-R. Gidon Rothstein
“Children and Non-Jews’ Personal Obligations”
TorahMusings.com

Granted, this is a minority viewpoint within Orthodox Judaism, but it does exist. It also presupposes Gentile recognition of Rabbinic authority, which must be something of a rarity. I can’t imagine in my wildest fantasies, for example, the Head Pastor of the little Baptist church I used to attend going along with any of the above.

And yet, whether you’re a Noahide or Messianic Gentile in Jewish community, to one degree or another, you are accepting Jewish Rabbinic authority (One Law Gentiles, not so much).

For the Noahide, it’s a foregone conclusion that whether in the synagogue or their own communities of non-Jews, they must accept Rabbinic authority because it is the only thing that defines them.

Who am IFor Messianic Gentiles, it’s a lot more “messy”. First of all, there is no one definition of what it is to be a “Messianic Gentile” among Messianic (or other) Jews. Secondly, a lot of us don’t live anywhere near a Messianic Jewish community (at least an authentic one), so we lack an actual Jewish lived context in which to operate. Finally, depending on who you are and how you understand what “Messianic Judaism” means, your acceptance or rejection of various areas of Jewish authority and Rabbinic legal rulings will flex quite a bit.

There is one final thing to consider. In the Messianic Age, when King Messiah is on his throne in Jerusalem, and the peoples of the world live in nations that are all servants of Israel, we will indeed be under Jewish authority. I don’t know what that will look like relative to Orthodox Judaism, but my guess is that said-Jewish authority will look more Jewish than most Gentiles would be comfortable with, especially more traditional Christians.

Something to consider as Pesach (Passover) approaches.

Romans 11:26 And What “All Israel Will Be Saved” Means

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved…

Romans 11:25-26 (NASB)

I hold a minority opinion in terms of understanding what “all Israel” means in this context. I think that, based on the New Covenant promises (Jer. 31, Ezek. 36) God intends to save all Israel, that is, all of the Jewish people. But if you’re a Christian, this doesn’t seem quite right. Shouldn’t I mean “all of the Jewish people who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior?”

That could be interpreted as meaning “all Israel” is all those Jews who have abandoned their Jewish identity, abandoned their Jewish heritage, abandoned all of the covenants God made with Israel, who have converted to (Gentile) Christianity and live like the goyim.

But that doesn’t seem right either, because this flies in the face of the language in the aforementioned New Covenant, which promises a return of the Temple, the Levitical priesthood, and the sacrifices. If the “law were nailed on the cross with Jesus,” then all of those covenants, including the New Covenant, and the attached promises don’t make sense.

In fact, I could argue that a Jew who converts to Christianity, a Hebrew Christian, might not be considered “Israel” at all if they have been taught (by well-meaning but misguided Gentile Christians) to abandon the very covenants that define the Jewish people and Israel. There’s a lot more to being a covenant people than just your DNA.

Fortunately, I came across a comment made by reader “ProclaimLiberty” (PL) on the Rosh Pina Project blog post Messianic Jews Must be Consistent in Our Reverence of Scripture:

Insofar as I can interpret Rav Shaul’s phrase “all Israel shall be saved” (or, “πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ σωθήσεται”) in Rom 11:26, it includes everyone. The term “πᾶς” may be rendered: “1) individually 1a) each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything 2) collectively”. Hence, “all Israel” seems to refer to each and every individual in the collective of Israel.

And the term “σωθήσεται” may be rendered (from “σῴζω”, verb, {sode’-zo}):
“1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
1a) one (from injury or peril)
1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health 1b1) to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue
1b) to save in the technical biblical sense
1b1) negatively:
1b1a) to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment
1b1b) to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance”.
Jerusalem
It seems to me to be a consequence of HaShem’s unwavering faithfulness to keep His covenanted promises. Certainly the record of the Tenakh shows that it cannot be the result of 100% faithfulness by 100% of Jews throughout our millennia of history as a people. I can only infer that this was Rav Shaul’s intended meaning, based on his understanding of the prophecies cited (viz: Is.59:20-21; Is.27:9; Jer.31:33-34). None of it appears to be conditioned by the individual or collective state of any Jew, thus one must infer that HaShem has some plan by which to accomplish the redemption of the unworthy Jewish souls who will nonetheless benefit, and none will be left out. Personally, I envision a massive crash-course in Jewish messianism for a whole host of Jews swept up together into a special state outside of the time-stream immediately after their deaths; but, hey, it’s not my job to second-guess HaShem.

This is helpful since my knowledge of ancient Greek is non-existent, and it does establish that there is some justification for my beliefs and my hope that indeed, all Israel, every individual Jewish person, will be redeemed by God, just as He promised.

The promises of God are real and wholly reliable. We just need to make sure our theology and doctrine map to this Biblical truth.

A Christian’s Commentary on Jews and Messianic Judaism

Yesterday, the Rosh Pina Project (RPP), whose work in challenging those who support Arab terrorism against Israel I greatly respect, published a blog post called Messianic Jewish “Rabbis”: The New Testament is part of the Torah.

The blog post itself is a very short commentary on the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council’s decisions and self-definition of what it is to be a Rabbi in Messianic Jewish community.

However, what really got my attention occurred in the comments section of that blog post.

I’ve always been a little baffled when Jewish people willingly convert to (Gentile) Christianity, disdain the Torah, the mitzvot, the Shabbat, and the Biblical moadim (festivals) in favor of Christmas, Easter, and the “freedom” to eat ham sandwiches.

OK, I’m being a little snarky here, but remember, I have been married to a Jewish wife for over 30 years (although she hasn’t been “religious” all that time, and even now, her observance isn’t as full as I wish it was), so I have a rather unique perspective on what being Jewish means to her, including her special and precious covenant relationship with Hashem (God).

I don’t know the history or background of most of the people commenting at RPP, but it seems that at least some of them are believing Jews in the vein of “Hebrew Christians,” Jews who attend church along with their Gentile Christian counterparts, adopting the lifestyle and beliefs of the believing “Goyim,” and being Jewish in name and DNA only.

shabbosTo me (but who am I to talk?), a large part of being a Jew of faith is living a life of Jewish praxis, of lighting the Shabbos candles, davening with a minyan, attending the prayer and Torah services in synagogue on Shabbat, donning a tallit and laying tefillin to pray, and many other things that are inexorably intertwined with observing the Torah mitzvot and living life as a Jew.

Even as I’m writing this, one or more comments responding to the one I made at the aforementioned RPP blog post, are being published, so it’s going to be interesting writing this while commenting there.

I feel like I’m repeating myself in making my points, but to believe the traditional Christian view of Galatians 4 that the Torah is slavery or Hebrews 8:13 that the Torah is obsolete, and thus replaced rather than augmented by the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 36) means that God lied to Israel when He gave them the Torah at Sinai and when He promised to redeem Israel as Israel in the New Covenant promises.

I’ve written so much about the New Covenant, why it adds to and augments the Sinai and other covenants God made with Israel, why Israel, that is, the Jewish people, have been and always will be special and unique to God, even among the ekklesia of Jews and Gentiles who worship the God of Israel and bring honor to Yeshua, our Rav and King. I don’t want to write it all down again in a single blog post. It wouldn’t be an essay, it would be a small book (and believe me, I’ve thought of collecting certain of my blog series into a book, but who’d publish it?).

To understand my perspective on the nature of the New Covenant as summarized in a single blog post, read The Jesus Covenant Part 11: Building My Model.

I went through something of a crisis of faith a few years back when I realized that there is nothing whatsoever in the New Covenant language that promises salvation or a place in the world to come to non-Jewish, non-Israel people who believe in Jesus. The fact that Yeshua mentions the New Covenant in his blood in Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, and Luke 22:20 has no apparent connection to Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 at all.

new heartSo I spent somewhere around nine months or so complaining in the blogosphere, asking for help from anyone I thought would/should know how to make that connection. Ultimately, I made it myself through a lot of study and investigation. No wonder most Christians just take the “this is the new covenant in my blood” statement and how to interpret it for granted. If you really look at it, the statement is like a castle built on air if you don’t understand how all of the covenants work together. The Church doesn’t teach that part. You have to dig it out for yourself.

Recently, I wrote a blog post that clarified how we non-Jewish disciples do not have a covenant relationship with God at all, but rather, we rely on faith and trust alone to assure us that God’s great mercy and grace allows us to participate in blessings of the New Covenant without being named parties.

But for the Jews, it’s a different matter. Acts 15 makes it clear that our participation in God’s blessings does not require the same rigorous involvement in covenant mitzvot as God requires of the Jewish people and nation. Nothing in the New Covenant language states that it replaces the old.

Paul’s Hagar and Sarah midrash in Galatians 4 challenges the traditional Christian interpretation of Torah as slavery, and my review of D. Thomas Lancaster’s sermon Glory to Glory clarifies the meaning of a previous covenant becoming old and growing ready to disappear. It’s not the conditions and requirements of the Sinai covenant (Torah) that are disappearing, it’s the difference between the Torah being external and internal. In the Messianic Age, Jews will have the Torah written on their hearts; wholly internalized so it’s natural for them to be obedient to God in performance of the mitzvot, thus it will be humanly possible to serve God without sin.

I think I know where the fine folks at RPP are coming from. A month or so ago, I wrote Exploring Reformed Theology: The Fallacy of Covenant Equality Between the Church and Israel. Doing this investigation actually helped me understand why Christians think it’s logical and Biblical to believe that Jesus observing the Torah mitzvot perfectly “fulfilled righteousness,” and thus rendered it unnecessary for Jews to continue to be Torah observant, and eliminates the requirement for the Sinai covenant.

divorceI just happen to believe that interpretation is in error and was ultimately created as a consequence of the ugly divorce that happened between the Gentile novices and their Jewish teachers and mentors within the first century or less after Yeshua’s ascension, and ended up becoming the Christian Church’s two-thousand year old mistake.

I know from a traditional Christian point of view, the continued practice of Rabbinic Judaism for the past nearly twenty centuries, is considered to be the “mistake.” From that point of view, Jews should have abandoned Jewish praxis, if not Jewish identity, and converted to Christianity the way Paul did in Acts 9 (except he didn’t convert, he just changed Ravs and took on a more Judaically enlightened perspective and purpose based on his supernatural revelation).

To my way of reading the Apostolic scriptures, the Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua did not cease Jewish practice, did not cease the traditional prayers, did not cease offering Korban at the Holy Temple, and did not renounce the Torah.

You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law…

Acts 21:20 (NASB)

I don’t have the time to pull in all the necessary quotes from the Bible to illustrate my points, which is why I’m peppering this blog post with links to many other of my essays. However, when Paul was falsely accused of “teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs,” the thousands of Yeshua-believing Jews who were all “zealous for the Torah” doubted Paul because of these rumors. Paul had to do something to convince these Jews and their non-Yeshua-believing brothers, that he had never turned away from Torah or Temple and had never taught other Jews in the diaspora to do the same.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work out as planned, but if you follow the progression of trials Paul went through as depicted in Luke’s Book of Acts, you’ll see that Paul never agreed with the false accusations against him. He always maintained his innocence and repeatedly stated that he never committed a crime against Roman law or Torah.

Apostle Paul preachingAn excellent book describing Paul’s trials is John W. Mauck’s Paul On Trial: The Book Of Acts As A Defense Of Christianity which I reviewed in part in this blog post. Even Christianity Today published an article some years back stating that Paul was not anti-Judaism, and I’ve written a commentary on their viewpoint as well.

Last year, I wrote a response to challenges against the viability of Messianic Judaism as a Judaism, and a couple of years back, I championed the necessity of Messianic Jewish community as a fully-realized Jewish community.

I agreed with Rabbi Stuart Dauermann that the “Jewish people are ‘us’ not ‘them,'” meaning that Messianic Jews are part of the larger community of Jewish people, not “Christians in kippot” who see non-Yeshua believing Jews as something alien and apart.

While I’m throwing in links, let me direct you to the excellent volume compiled by Mark Nanos and Magnus Zetterholm called Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle. There is a growing movement of Jewish and Christian New Testament scholars (and that’s a pretty amazing statement in and of itself) who are re-examining the writings of Paul without peering through traditional interpretive lens of the Church, investigating Paul’s intent and meaning as a Pharisaic Jew rather than a Christian convert.

The results are quite enlightening and, since we depend on Paul for much of our understanding of early “Christian” theology and doctrine, if we reconstruct him back into his Jewish environment and then re-read his letters, we get a very different view of the Apostle to the Gentiles and what he was actually trying to communicate.

Christianity, as we understand it today, was invented by a Gentile majority population within the ancient and short-lived Jewish religious stream of Yeshua believers once called “the Way”. Christianity had to occur in order for these Gentiles to “divorce” themselves, not only from their Jewish teachers, but from the wholly Jewish and Israel oriented message of the Messiah, re-interpreting the ancient Jewish writings to say what they were never intended to say. Only two-thousand years of Christian dogma make it seem as if replacement or fulfillment theology is at all reasonable, let alone Biblical.

Spirit, Torah, and Good NewsThe “good news” of Yeshua has always been about the coming of the New Covenant, the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, to restore them, to restore the Temple, to restore the Levitical priesthood (start reading at Jeremiah 31 and go forward through the subsequent chapters…it’s all there). It’s always been about good news for Israel first, and then because of that, also good news for the people of the nations, that is, the rest of us.

But if Jewish people, Jewish praxis, Jewish covenant connection with God, and Judaism as a lifestyle and expression of the covenants goes away and is replaced by Gentile Christianity and a Gentile Jesus, not only does Israel’s “good news” go up in a puff of smoke, so does ours. Gentile salvation and reconciliation to God only happens because of Israel’s covenants with God. If you replace them, then you drive the Jews away from God for all time and you destroy any hope the rest of the world has, because we depend on Israel’s covenant linkage to God to metaphorically link us (graft us in), too.

I’m sorry. I know there are many good and faithful Hebrew Christians in the Church and they really do believe the Torah is not only obsolete, but actually an error. It’s incredibly sad, because a Jew is the only person who is born into a covenant relationship with God, whether he or she wants to be or not. For them to be erroneously taught that their unique identity and relationship with God through the Sinai and other covenants, including the New Covenant, has been done away with, is to cause them to stumble in that relationship with Hashem and with Messiah.

It was this sort of Christian eisegesis that finally resulted in me leaving the Church.

In John 4:22, Yeshua famously said that “salvation comes from the Jews” and he wasn’t kidding. If the Church got her wish and converted 100% of the worldwide Jewish population to Gentile Christianity causing them to abandon the mitzvot and the covenants, we would not only be risking Israel’s future but our own.

synagogueThe Jewish people have been living out their covenantal lifestyle against the constant threat of genocide for thousands of years. Don’t let conversion and assimilation finish what Haman and Hitler started. There is another way, a better way for a Jew to accept the revelation of Yeshua as Rav and Messiah. That way is to accept Jewish devotion to Yeshua and worship of the God of Israel as a Judaism, not Christianity.

No, we non-Jews don’t exactly practice “Judaism,” even when we accept the Jewishness of Yeshua-faith, but we do recognize that Jewish people do have that obligation, even as we come alongside of them in the ekklesia. If you are a non-Jewish Christian, then it is your duty to support observance of the mitzvot among the Jewish disciples of Yeshua. If you are a Jewish disciple in the manner of the Hebrew Christians, at least consider idea that your connectedness to God is much more than what you’ve been taught, that you are more unique and precious to God as a Jew than the Church will ever be willing to admit.

If nothing else, right before the sun goes down this coming Friday evening, say the blessings and light the candles to welcome Shabbos into your home as a Jew. Judaism isn’t an all or nothing religion. It happens one mitzvah at a time. Turn your heart back to the Torah and thus back to God, and He will certainly turn His heart to you.