Tag Archives: Jesus

The Gentiles and Passover Dilemma Redux

Question: “Is it permissible for a Gentile to eat a Passover Seder meal?”

Answer: Gosh, I hope so, because I eat at my family’s Passover Seder every year.

That question was recently asked in a closed Facebook group for “Messianic Gentiles” and the moderator’s short answer was “yes”. The only prohibition would be if the Temple existed in Jerusalem, the Levitical priesthood was re-established, and the sacrifices, including those for Pesach, were resumed…and even then, that would only be a problem if the non-Jew in question were in Jerusalem for Passover.

LambThis was discussed somewhere on this blogspot in years past, and reader ProclaimLiberty (PL) basically said that if an intermarried Gentile, such as me, (or any Gentile, I suppose) were in Jerusalem with his Jewish family, he (or she) could eat of the meal except for the Pascal lamb which is reserved for the Jewish people.

For any male to eat of it, he must be circumcised, which is shorthand for “covert to Judaism”.

However, not everyone sees it that way. Here’s a comment from the aforementioned closed Facebook group discussing the topic:

OK but if Gentiles are grafted in and there is one new man and all true believers become the Israel of God…(and, no, I do not adhere to replacement theology, neither am I a two house/stick guy) doesn’t that give us a different outlook on this subject?

I say this speaking from the notion that the Passover is ultimately pointing to Christ and not simply a cultural festival for only one group of people.

If the Passover is strictly about the Exodus and God showing Himself mighty to a certain group of people then yes, I agree.

But if the Passover ultimately points to Christ then you are saying that only one group of people (culturally Jewish people) are allowed to celebrate it and not the totality of God’s people (i.e. the Israel of God).

I don’t say this to be divisive.

I am asking a serious question.

One person answered this query by stating that non-Jewish (uncircumcised) Yeshua-believers are welcome to attend the seder in Jerusalem, even once the sacrifices have been restored, and he/she could “partake of the matzah, bitter herbs, the four cups, and the whole seven-day festival…there is no prohibition except in regard to the sacrificed lamb.”

PassoverPretty much my opinion as well.

In the back-and-forth in the discussion thread, it is generally (but not universally) agreed that Gentiles can partake of the modern Passover seder, since we are without the Temple and the sacrifices, but are not to eat of the sacrificed lamb in Jerusalem in the days of the Temple (and there’s no other place to perform the sacrifices except in the Jerusalem Temple, so arguably, even in the Messianic Age, Gentiles in the diaspora can partake of the seder fully, since no lamb would be present).

The original asker cited Ephesians 2:14-19 in an attempt to invoke traditional Christian teaching to sustain a more egalitarian view of the Messiah’s work, diluting or obliterating the distinctions between Israel and the nations defined in the Torah relative to the requirement that only a circumcised (Jewish) male can eat of the lamb (and in case anyone asks, women, who can’t be circumcised as defined in Torah, must be Jewish in order to eat of the lamb as well).

The questioner lamented:

So we’re one…but not really?
We’re fellow citizens…except we’re still strangers and aliens?

This is a common complaint of some Gentiles in Messianic Jewish space, and in days gone by, I’ve made that complaint myself. But being “one” does not mean being “uniform”. It does mean that the ekklesia of Messiah is a single container that nurtures both Israel and the “people of the nations who are called by His Name” (Amos 9:12).

Then this came up:

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.

Galatians 2:11-13 (NASB)

shabbosExcept, of course, the above passage of scripture isn’t describing a Passover meal in Jerusalem, but (probably) an “ordinary” meal in which Peter felt inhibited sharing with Gentiles in the presence of (it is assumed) high-ranking Jewish members of the Messianic Council in Jerusalem who were apparently applying “peer pressure”. It’s been suggested that Paul and James (Ya’akov) disagreed about the cultural barriers (which are not found in Torah) between Jews and Gentiles, and whether or not just eating in the presence of a Gentile rendered a Jew ritualistically “unclean.”

Frankly, non-Jews are usually welcome (if invited) at most Jewish functions, including worshiping in the synagogue on Shabbat, attending an Erev Shabbat meal, attending a bar or bat mitzvah, and so on. Before my wife and I became religious, Jewish friends invited us to their Passover seders on numerous occasions. Granted, some of our friends weren’t Orthodox, but others were, so I can see a case being made for Gentiles in the current age being able to participate in many Jewish ritual activities, extending into the Messianic Age.

There are distinctions between Jews and Gentiles in the current age (including Jewish and Gentile Yeshua-believers) and I think those distinctions will continue in the Messianic Age. If there are to be any sort of “adjustments” in halachah to be made, Messiah will have to inform us of what they will be.

But even in the current age, it really depends on how closely you adhere to the halachah:

98:35 All the activities that are permitted on yom tov are only permitted for the sake of people, not for animals. The Torah tells us (Exodus 12:16), “do for yourselves” – for yourselves but not for animals. Therefore, we may not cook or carry outside for the sake of an animal just like on Shabbos. (We may add to a pot of human food for animals – Rema 412:3.) 98:36 We may not cook or bake for a non-Jew on yom tov. One who has a non-Jewish servant may add food and cook it all in one pot so that there will also be enough for the servant. (He must not specify that he is adding for the servant – Mishnah Brurah 512:11.) For an honored non-Jew, however, one may not even add. (We are concerned that one will do extra for an honored guest – see MB 512:10.) Not only that, even if the Jew cooked or baked for himself, he may not invite a non-Jew to eat with him on yom tov. One may give a non-Jew who isn’t particularly distinguished something that he cooked or baked but he may not bake a loaf even for his non-Jewish servant. (For the purposes of this halacha, an apostate Jew is the same as a non-Jew – MB 512:2.)

-Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
“Cooking for a Non-Jew on Yom Tov”
OU.org

shabbat meal
Shabbat meal, Photo: shelanu.cz

But it was also pointed out that Gentiles regularly attend Yom Tov events at Chabad and are welcome to do so.

The response was:

Sometimes there are halchot that people are much more lenient on these days, especially when kiruv is involved. I also read that in this particular halacha the concern is alleviated if the person shows up without an explicit invite. I think the underlying reason might be that Jews can cook on Yom Tov, but they can only cook for what is needed. Since a non-Jew can cook for themselves regardless of Yom Tov then a Jew should not cook for a non-Jew, but may serve them food if there are leftovers.

But the question is how or if this particular standard will be adhered to in the Messianic Age. Will this be one of the “adjustments” Messiah will make, or will he honor all halachah as it currently exists? Interesting question.

As of this writing, there’s no consensus in the closed Facebook group discussion on the matter of how restrictive or permissive Jews are or should be regarding a non-Jewish presence at a Passover seder. The most restrictive seems to be:

Another perspective that I have read about, is that since parts of the seder are done as a remembrance of the Korban Pesach some Jews will not invite gentiles to their seder or ask gentiles to not participate those parts. Just thinking off the top of my head this might include Korech and Afikomen. I am sure many people are not that strict, but it is an interesting thought.

I’ve written about Gentiles and Passover many times before, including in Passover, Messianic Judaism, and Mutual Inclusiveness and Passover for Gentiles in the Diaspora, Not in Jerusalem (the latter specifically addressing the topic of discussion going on in Facebook). And in spite of all that, I once even reblogged something about No Christian Seders, Please, but that was more specifically aimed at churches that conduct their own Passover seders rather than Christians who are guests at a Jewish seder (but of course, even President Obama conducts a Seder at the White House each year rather than being a guest of Jewish hosts).

Since my wife and kids are Jewish, I’ve got an automatic “in” at our family seder (though if my wife chooses to attend the Chabad seder, I’m definitely not invited). However, if a non-Jewish believer is to attend a seder, it should be at the invitation of Jewish hosts, and the expectation of a Gentile guest should be spelled out ahead of time relative to halachah.

Traffic ConesIt’s problematic in Messianic space to the degree that Gentile expectations can lead us down the “one new man” path a bit too far, but again, local customs should be understood ahead of time so there won’t be any surprises.

I don’t observe Easter in any sense and basically, I even shun it, so Passover is the Yom Tov in which I (silently within myself) honor Rav Yeshua’s symbolic sacrificial death and resurrection which gives us all the hope that in our Rav’s merit, we too shall share a place at the banquet of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 8:11) in the world to come.

An Easter Musing: Why I Consider the Church as “Them” and not “Me”

Something to ponder. If Jesus died on Passover and rose again a few days later (depending on your timetable), then why are most people celebrating his resurrection a whole month before Passover this year (and various other years as well)? Respectful responses are welcome. No witch hunting.

-Query from Facebook

No, this wasn’t directed at me. It was a general question tossed out into social media by a Facebook “friend” (I put that in quotes because we’ve never met face-to-face).

It’s an interesting question, but I must admit, it wasn’t the catalyst for today’s “morning meditation.” Easter was.

More specifically, my massive and total disconnect from Easter was the catalyst. For Easter, or perhaps more accurately expressed, for “Resurrection Day” three years ago, I crafted this little missive about my emotional disconnect from the event, even as I was attending Easter…uh, Resurrection Day services in a little, local Baptist church.

There were certain things I liked about the service. There were certain things I learned. But I wasn’t just gushing with joy like everyone else around me because “he is risen”.

Add to that, the memory of how my wife looked at me when I was walking out the door to go to Resurrection Day services, how crushed and betrayed she seemed, as if she found out I was cheating on her. I know I’ll never attend another Easter service in my life.

My regular readers are aware that my wife is Jewish and not a believer. More specifically, her viewpoint of Jesus, Paul, and Easter is what she learned from the local Chabad Rabbi. She would never stop me from expressing my faith in whatever way I choose, but I know it bothers her, at least on certain occasions…

…like Easter.

he-is-risenShe sometimes surprises me, though. She said that although she wouldn’t take me to Israel with a Jewish group, she does want me to go with a more appropriate (for me) Messianic group. I once had a passion to do that, but a lot of things dried up for me, including my sense of community.

I’ve been thinking about Rabbi Stuart Dauermann’s essay “The Jewish People are Us — not them” which you can find published here and which I reviewed a few years back.

Rabbi Dauermann was emphasizing that a Jewish faith in Yeshua shouldn’t result in Jewish “messianists” considering the wider Jewish community as “them” or as “the other,” the way most Christians consider “unbelieving” Jews. From his perspective (as I understand it), Jewish devotion to Rav Yeshua is very Jewish and should, if anything, result in Jewish Yeshua-disciples being drawn closer to larger Jewish community because, after all, Moshiach is the first-born of Israel’s dead, living proof that the New Covenant promise of the resurrection to Israel will indeed come to pass.

What’s more Jewish than that (and I know I’ll take “heck” from one or two Jewish critics of my blog for that question)?

But what about those of us, we non-Jewish “Christians” who stand on the Jewish foundation of the Bible, who feel a greater connection to Passover and Sukkot (Festival of Booths) than Christmas and Easter? What about those non-Jewish believers who feel more comfortable calling ourselves “Messianic Gentiles” or Talmidei Yeshua than Christians?

While Rabbi Dauermann may feel a lot closer to Jewish community than the Christian Church (and I agree, he should), does a “Messianic” perspective for a Gentile believer draw us closer to the Church or push us further away?

I admit, after this particular church experience and the consequences that resulted from my public disagreement with that church’s head Pastor, I realized I have no place in the Church. The ekklesia, yes. The Church, no.

Simply put, because Rabbi Dauermann is Jewish, he identifies with larger Jewish community, even those who are not disciples of Rav Yeshua (which just baffles the daylights out of most Christians I’ve spoken to about it). I have a Jewish wife, so I’ve seen that dynamic in action first hand, and any thought of my denying her or forbidding her to associate with Jews (not that I would, of course), is totally revolting to me, absolute anathema.

quitting churchBut to reverse the equation somewhat, being a Gentile disciple of Jesus does not automatically make me think of the Church as “us” or even “me”. In fact, on Easter, I feel more apart from “Church” than ever.

Going back to the previously mentioned Facebook commentary on Easter, there have been some interesting responses. There are others like me out there who also experience the disconnect from this Christian holiday, even those who remain in the Church. Some recognize Easter as a deliberate attempt by the early “Church Fathers” to co-opt the Passover/Resurrection event for Gentiles, divorcing it from its Jewish origins and context.

Others launched into “paganoia,” often a consequence of some Hebrew Roots teachings, saying that Easter was a deliberate attempt to introduce paganism, particularly worship of “Ishtar.”

I don’t think I’d take it that far.

But I am disturbed by one thing. The resurrection of Rav Yeshua is living proof that the New Covenant promises of God to Israel (Ezekiel 37:11-14) will indeed occur, and Yeshua is the “first fruits from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Why don’t I feel connected to that?

Well I do, sort of, but it happens more on Passover and during the week of Unleavened Bread than it does at Easter, whether I’m in a church or not.

I know there are Hebrew Roots and Messianic Gentiles out there, those in their churches and elsewhere, who still have an emotional connection to Easter. These people were probably raised in a Christian setting by their Christian families or otherwise, spent enough time in a church to forge that visceral linkage.

I didn’t, not when my parents took me to church as a child, nor when I returned to Christian community as an adult.

Today being Easter punctuates for me that I consider normative Christianity as “them, not me.” I can’t say “us” because I don’t have an alternative “us” to relate to, at least not in an actual, physical form of community.

But that’s OK. Worshiping alone is OK, even though, in an absolute sense, we are never alone.

One of these things is not like the othersI’ve said before that I’ve given up the identity crisis that has seized so many non-Jews who are either in Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Roots community. As Popeye famously quipped, “I yam what I yam,” even if it doesn’t have a widely recognized name or label.

For those of you who are indeed emotionally and theologically attached and even thrilled by Easter or Resurrection Day, may you use your worship to strengthen your devotion to Rav Yeshua (Jesus Christ) and all he brings to us.

For those of you who are like me, any day is a good day to bring honor to our Rav and glory to the God of Israel. May the day come when we all merit the resurrection from the dead, and the life in the world to come.

How To Choose Life Over Death

The other day I read an article written by Rabbi Noah Weinberg of blessed memory called “Free Will – Our Greatest Power” originally published over 15 years ago at Aish.com. I only casually mentioned it on this blog post, and thought Rabbi Weinberg’s understanding of free will was worth sharing more in detail.

“How precious is man, created in the image of God.”

Talmud – Avot 3:18

What does it mean to be created in the image of God?

Unlike other creations, the human being has free will. Within this divine spark lies our potential to shape and change the world.

Proper use of free will beautifies and perfects. Misuse of free will plunders and destroys.

It is a uniquely human endeavor to learn how to use free will properly.

-Rabbi Weinberg

I know that R. Weinberg was writing for a Jewish publication, envisioning a primarily Jewish readership, and probably not considering non-Jewish readers at all, but it does say man (humanity) was created in God’s image, not just the Jewish people and not just Israel, so this should apply to the rest of us too, right?

Actually, according to the article, God did us two favors, not just one. He gave us free will and He told us what He did. That is, we are aware we have free will and can exercise it.

This is somewhat different from what you’ll hear in certain Christian circles, especially those that favor Calvinism (for the record, I don’t subscribe to either Calvinism or Arminianism, because I think this false dichotomy was constructed by people who didn’t interpret the Bible very well). Supposedly we have no free will or only a very limited form of it, because we cannot have consciously chosen God. Only God can choose us. If we had free will, say the Calvinists, it would undermine God’s total sovereignty over the entire universe.

Baloney.

So let’s cut to the chase. What is free will? R. Weinberg tells us:

It is a sweltering summer day. You trudge past the ice cream parlor. Wow – 10 new flavors! Special of the day! Frozen yogurt, too! You go inside and proclaim: “I’ll have double-fudge chocolate, please.”

Is picking chocolate over the vast array of other flavors a “free will choice?” No. It is simply the exercise of a preference, just as a cow chooses to eat hay instead of grass.

“Free will” refers to the type of decision which is uniquely human: a moral choice.

But don’t mistakenly think that morality is the choice between “good and evil.” Everyone chooses to be “good” – even the most evil, immoral people. Hitler rationalized that the Jews were the enemies of the world, so in his mind he justified that as doing “good.”

Rather, free will is the choice between life and death. As the Torah says: “I have put before you, life and death… Choose life so that you may live.” (Deut. 30:19)

Now before we go crazy making all kinds of assumptions, let’s take a look at Deuteronomy 30:19 in context.

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (NASB)

So who’s speaking? Moses. Who’s he addressing? The Children of Israel. Is anyone else there? Arguably, there’s a mixed multitude of non-Israelites, Egyptians and people from other nations who left Egypt with Moses and the Children of Israel.

So, to whom do these verses apply? In their original context, they apply only to the people present and their descendants, but let’s drill down into that a little bit.

Some would argue that because of the (supposed) presence of a “mixed multitude” who had attached themselves to Israel, that the words of Moses, along with the Torah of Moses, is as appropriately accessed by the non-Jew as the Jew, particularly the non-Jew who is a disciple of Rav Yeshua (Jesus), that very specific population I sometimes call Talmidei Yeshua.

But is this so?

Probably not. Here’s why.

Whatever happened to the mixed multitude? If you clicked the link I posted above and read the blog post, you have your answer. It was always understood that the non-Israelites would fully assimilate into Israel by the third generation. The words of Moses applied to these non-Israelites because they had made a multi-generational commitment to attach to Israel and for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren to intermarry and become part of the tribes.

In other words, there were no Gentiles who intended for their descendants to remain Gentiles, though attached to Israel in some matter, resident aliens perhaps, who bore the same covenant obligations to Hashem as did the Children of Israel.

However, when Rav Weinberg cites Deut. 30:19 as the definition of free will, the choice between life and death, does that apply, not only to Jews, and not only to Christians, but to all human beings across time?

Everyone who has ever been born, lived, and died will one day stand before God to be judged. Both Christians and Jews believe this. So it would seem that all of us, each and every one, must have free will because we were all created in the image of God and because, based on the fact that we will one day be judged, we all have the ability to consciously choose between life and death.

Yes, the situation we see in Deut. 30 is a specific case and it attached highly specific covenant responsibilities onto Israel (or rather it re-states those commitments as they were originally given at Sinai), but in a much broader sense, Israel and the nations choose between life and death all the time.

Does anyone really choose death over life?!

We all want to be great. But achieving our goals takes a lot of effort. So we get distracted and take the easy route instead. The escape route.

I agree. No one would deliberately, meaningfully choose death instead of life. Rav Weinberg says that even Hitler believed in his own twisted mind that he was doing good and choosing life. He just (grossly) misunderstood what good and life happen to be.

So how do we choose death? Hint: we do it all the time, most of us, anyway.

It’s Sunday afternoon. You’re bored. You grab the remote and slump down into the couch. You could be using your time to learn and grow. But instead you choose the easier option of painlessly passing the afternoon… escaping into the world of TV.

Each day we are confronted with many escape routes. Daydreaming, drugs, checking our email for the seventh time this hour…

Killing time is suicide on the installment plan. And suicide is the most drastic and final form of escape.

Basically, any decision that takes us away from God and puts our personal desires ahead of Him is a form of choosing death, and as R. Weinberg put it, every time we choose death, we’re committing suicide an inch at a time.

Whenever we consider our pain or our desires or our cravings first and then act upon them, we are choosing death.

So just how does one live a life that is flawlessly pious? I mean, it sounds really difficult, and probably pretty boring, right?

R. Weinberg believed he had the answers in five stages.

Stage One: Self-Awareness

You aren’t going to be able to correctly choose life over death unless you start becoming aware of the decisions you’re making and why you’re making them. Choosing to watch a football game over studying the Bible isn’t an accident. It’s a decision. Start monitoring each decision you make. Start watching yourself exercise free will.

Stage Two: Be Your Own Person

What does that mean? I’m “me,” right? Well, maybe. R. Weinberg wrote:

Don’t accept society’s beliefs as your own unless you’ve thought them through and agree with them. Live for yourself, not for society.

Oh man, I could really go off here. I recently quoted Israeli writer Naomi Ragen when she said:

I suddenly remembered something my Harvard-educated son recently told me: “Many American Jews will blindly follow any agenda created by the Liberal establishment because it makes them feel virtuous and like part of the in-crowd.”

Also, in the past several months, the news and social media have been highlighting groups of college and university students who are apparently “majoring in the minors” by complaining about everything from the potential for offensive Halloween costumes to culturally insensitive food on campus.

As Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University quipped, This is not a day care, it’s a university.

I know I’m hammering away pretty hard on political and social liberals, and especially very young ones, but I must admit that putting your own wants first isn’t just a liberal trait. It’s a human trait, and one we are all very capable of exercising, every single one of us.

I don’t object to someone being liberal, or conservative, or Christian, or an atheist, or any other alignment or orientation. I object to people selecting an orientation or alignment without thinking it through and making a conscious and informed decision.

So many people simply follow the herd because it’s the path of least resistance (and because they think it makes them virtuous, part of the in-crowd, and “cool”). I think that’s what R. Weinberg is talking about.

Check your assumptions and make sure that they are really yours and not someone else’s. Don’t be a puppet of society.

Stage Three: Distinguish Between Body and Soul

Weinberg calls this a “raging battle”:

BODY: Gravitates toward transitory comforts and sensual pleasures. Desires to quit, to dream, to drown in passions, to procrastinate. Says: “Give me some food, warmth, a pillow – and let me take life easy.” Looks for the escape of sleep… slipping away into death

SOUL: Seeks understanding, meaning, productivity, accomplishment, permanence, greatness. Confronts challenges. Embraces reality and truth.

Which plays out as:

Soul: “Let’s set some goals.”
Body: “Leave me alone, I’d rather sleep.”
Soul: “Come on, let’s be great!”
Body: “Relax, what’s the big deal if we wait til tomorrow?”

Do you ever feel like this? I do all the time. One example is when I realize I have to get up by 4 a.m. to make it to the gym when it opens at five so I can work out. This is the only time during the weekday I can do this, and I think particularly because it’s winter and cold and dark, I don’t want to do it.

I make myself but it’s never easy. Once I get to the gym and get moving, I’m OK, but that five or ten minutes when I first wake up, I’m arguing with myself about getting up vs. staying in bed and taking a “rest day”.

That plays into the next level.

Stage Four: Identify With Your Soul

This is sort of like saying I’m a soul that has a body rather than a body that has a soul. Instead of saying, “I’m hungry,” realize the soul means “My body needs food.” I know. It’s not that easy. That’s why using your free will to choose life takes discipline and practice, like learning to play a musical instrument (although this also takes innate talent) or working out at a gym.

In his article, R. Weinberg outlines specific strategies for how to train yourself to favor the viewpoint of the soul over the body and thus to more consistently choose life over death.

However, the final battle isn’t between your body and your soul.

Level Five: Make Your Will God’s Will

Weinberg wraps up his missive by stating:

The highest stage of free will is not when you ask yourself, “What does my soul want?” It’s when you ask yourself, “What does God want?” When that is your prime interest, you will have achieved the highest form of living. You are using your free will to merge with the most meaningful and powerful force in the universe: the transcendental.

Free will is the choice between life and death. Attach yourself to God and you will be attached to eternity – the ultimate form of life itself.

Make your will His will. If you do, you’ll be a little less than God Himself. Partners in changing the world.

The final battle is won (or continually being won) when you choose God’s will over your own day after day. As Weinberg said, it’s the highest form of exercising free will and choosing life. You are consciously, deliberately choosing God and life in abundance.

Once you embrace and fully integrate God’s will into your own, any concerns about life being difficult and boring seem rather silly.

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:18-21

Non-Jews have no covenant standing before God, except perhaps the covenant God made with Moses. However, through the mediator of the New Covenant, through Rav Yeshua and through God’s infinite mercy and grace, we have been permitted to partake in the blessings of the New Covenant, even though only Judah and Israel are named participants.

Hence our devotion to our Rav.

Every Jewish person is born into a covenant relationship with God whether they want to be or not. Yet they all still have to make a conscious decision to choose life or death. No one else has ever been born into such a relationship with God, and yet we are still given the option to choose life over death by choosing to make God’s will our will.

It is said that no one comes to the Father except through the Son (which takes a bit of explaining which is why I’m linking to another blog post), and if we believe that, particularly as non-Jews, then choosing to become disciples of Rav Yeshua, whether you call that being a Christian or a Talmid Yeshua, is making that choice.

Every morning when we wake up, that choice is before us. “So choose life in order that you may live.”

When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and mediate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

The Spiritual Responsibility of the Church to Israel

In a closed Facebook group, someone mentioned recently that the Noahide Siddur completely omits the Mussaf, probably because the wording is so closely associated with the exclusive relationship of the Jewish people to Hashem and the avodah of the Temple.

And while I’ve said in the past that Gentile Talmidei Yeshua are not Noahides (though I have been since corrected that a better title would be “more than a noahide”), this does bring up a boundary line between non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua and the Jewish disciples (and Jewish people in general). There are just some things we can’t claim to share with Israel because they are the exclusive property of Israel.

Very recently, I wrote a blog post about a Christian’s duty to support and defend Israel and the Jewish people, even from the “war” being waged against them by our nation’s current administration.

It’s not always easy to do.

No, we’re not Israel. We’re not Jewish. But we still have a duty.

But what is the duty we Christians and/or Talmidei Yeshua have relative to the Jewish nation and her people?

The Jewish people are considered as one “organism.” What happens to one limb affects the entire body.

Every Jew recognizes that all the Jewish People are bound together. When there’s a terrorist attack in Israel, we all feel it. The Talmud says “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh la-zeh” – Every Jew is responsible one for another.

The story is told of the religious man who died and went to heaven. There, he appeared before the Heavenly Tribunal to hear a listing of his good deeds and bad. The man was quite satisfied to hear of all his mitzvahs. But he was shocked to have included amongst his transgressions the prohibition of eating pork.

“What?!” the man protested, “but I never once ate pork!”

“True,” spoke the Tribunal, “but for 20 years you lived next door to a man who ate pork, and you never made an effort to discuss it with him. For that, you are responsible.”

from the article “Responsible One for Another”
posted in the “Ask the Rabbi” column at
Aish.com

OK, that’s the responsibility of one Jew for another, but what about the rest of us?

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

Matthew 25:34-40 (NASB)

MessiahI once knew a Christian who had a unique interpretation of these verses. While on the surface, it seems as if the disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) are commanded to provide assistance for people who are hungry, thirsty, without clothing, or who are otherwise in distress or disadvantaged, this older Christian gentlemen (and one of the most steadfast doers of what Jesus commanded that I ever met) said he believed that we merit the reward spoken of by our Rav (he didn’t word it this way, of course) when we provide this sort of care specifically to the Jewish people, not just to people in general.

I’m not sure that’s likely, considering that Yeshua’s audience consisted of Jewish people and that Matthew’s Gospel is widely considered to have been written specifically to Jews, but on the other hand, it makes a sort of sense.

The Rav himself said that “salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22), and if Israel can be said, particularly through our Rav, to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6), then we owe that light a great debt.

The Apostle Paul (Rav Shaul) believed that there were many advantages to being a Jew, as he chronicled in his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 3:1-2). Paul also commended the largely non-Jewish communities (“churches” if you will) in the diaspora for donating charity (tzedakah) to the Holy Ones in Jerusalem (see 1 Corinthians 16 and 2 Corinthians 8 for examples), as if the Gentiles owed it to the impoverished Jews in the Holy City.

Of course, there are other reasons we owe the Jewish people a debt:

On this day in 1601, Hebrew books that had been confiscated by Church authorities were burned in Rome. This was an unfortunate theme throughout the Middle Ages: In 1592, Pope Clement VIII had condemned the Talmud and other Hebrew writings as “obscene,” “blasphemous” and “abominable” — and ordered them all seized and burned. Centuries earlier, Pope Gregory IX persuaded French King Louis IX to burn some 10,000 copies of the Talmud (24 wagon loads) in Paris. As late as 1553, Cardinal Peter Caraffa (the future Pope Paul IV) ordered copies of the Talmud burned in the Papal States and across Italy. Yet despite all attempts to extinguish our faith, the light of Torah shines brightly till today.

from “This Day in Jewish History”
for Shevat 11
Aish.com

OK, you might say that you’re not Catholic or that this happened a long time ago and we don’t do this to Jewish people anymore, but the inherit memory of the Jewish people and the history of the Church’s “relationship” with the Jews is very long lived.

And sadly, even to this day, we can often find the spirit of Haman in the Church.

It’s so easy to wallow in the mud, to get tangled up in Israel’s final redemption and the current political landscape. It’s easy for non-Jews in Yeshua to experience jealousy over the advantage of the Jews (Romans 3:1-2), which I suppose is why Christianity developed the doctrine of supersessionism (or cryptosupersessionism as the case may be).

Rabbi Noah Weinberg of blessed memory wrote an article over 15 years ago called Free Will – Our Greatest Power. It’s somewhat lengthy, but here’s a summary of his five main points:

  • Level One: Don’t be a sleepwalker. Make decisions actively.
  • Level Two: Don’t be a puppet of society’s goals, or a slave to your old decisions.
  • Level Three: Be aware of the conflict between the cravings of your body and the aspirations of your soul.
  • Level Four: Identify with your soul, not your body.
  • Level Five: Make your will God’s will.
Rabbi Weinberg
Rabbi Noah Weinberg

If you read the entire missive, you’ll see that having free will and making Hashem’s will our will results in an intersection between the mundane and the Divine. We learn to see past the physical reality of our world and the things (and people and nations) we often fight against, and perceive them (things, people, nations) through a spiritual lens.

By the way, this isn’t an either-or affair:

Given that we live in a physical world, much of the goal of Judaism is to infuse the physicality with holiness. We say a blessing before eating our special kosher food, we have a framework for sanctifying our marital relations, etc.

from the article “What is Holiness?”
posted in the “Ask the Rabbi” column
Aish.com

In the western mindset, we tend to think of things in binary terms. Something is either this or that, we turn left or right, we can choose this one or that one. But that mindset, including within the Christian Church, is based on ancient Greek philosophy.

Judaism and Hebrew thought is much more comfortable with dynamic contradictions in which seeming opposites can live together, if not at peace, then at least under a flag of truce.

Observant Jews don’t choose between the material and spiritual worlds, they infuse the physical with the spiritual. In my own dim little way, I can see Israel as both the present political reality and the Holy Nation of God given to the Jewish people as their perpetual heritage.

I think if we choose to put on that pair of lenses and see the many aspects of our world, and particularly Israel and the Jewish people, the way God sees them, we would have no doubt in our minds (or hearts) at all that we should be doing all we can to assist an Israel under siege, or at the very least, not to get in Israel’s way.

I said that the physical and the spiritual can co-exist in dynamic tension, but looking at Level Four of Rav Weinberg’s summary, it seems like that co-existence isn’t exactly 50/50. If we can perfect our vision, it means being biased somewhat toward the spiritual side of our sight. In this context, that means seeing more of Israel’s spiritual reality than her current physical and political reality. It means seeing Israel more as what she’ll be when her full redemption arrives.

For when Israel’s redemption arrives, ours will arrive with him.

If your bread fell out of heaven, you might be afraid to make a diet of it. Sure, it’s convenient, but most people would rather sink their teeth into a steak, or at least a potato—something that feels like a part of their world.

That’s also the way many people feel about any topic that touches on the spiritual. It is the unknowableness of it—that you can’t grasp it in your hand or tally it up with your assets—that causes people to shun it, to run from it, to even deny it exists.

These people are running from who they are. Far more than we are a body with a bank account, we are spiritual beings. Without nourishment for our souls, we are plagued by insatiable cravings—like a body lacking essential nutrients.

For the human being, inner peace is achieved by first surrendering to the unknown.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Grasping Bread from Heaven”
Chabad.org

If we don’t feed ourselves with “bread from Heaven,” not only will our spiritual self be starved, we won’t be able to recognize what is truly, spiritually real, and then act upon it in the present world.

The Lessons of Failure

Few of us like tests. However, what if your child comes home from school and tells you that he has the greatest science teacher this year — he’s too busy to grade tests, so there won’t be any tests the whole year! Likely, you’d be heading for the phone to call the principal. Why? Tests ensure that your child pays attention to the material, does the assignments and achieves the ultimate that he can achieve in the subject. No tests, the child will likely slack off and learn little.

However, when WE get a test in life — be it health, economic, interpersonal — we ask “Why is this happening to me?” Why does the Almighty send us a test? Because He loves us and He wants us to get the most out of life, to develop ourselves and our character, to have the greatest life possible and to achieve our potential. The Talmud tells us that the Almighty does not send us a test that we cannot handle.

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
from the Shabbat Shalom Weekly commentary on Torah Portion Ve’eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35)
Aish.com

So the Talmud says that the Almighty does not send a test the person being tested cannot handle. I’ve heard something similar in Christian circles and I’m not sure I agree with either source. I think there are plenty of Christians and Jews (and lots of others) who have encountered horrifying experiences that completely overwhelmed them.

How many Jews didn’t survive the Holocaust, and even of those who lived, how many did not survive with their emotional and physical health intact?

While I don’t believe Christians are persecuted in the United States, there are plenty in other countries run by oppressive and anti-Christian regimes where Christians are beaten, tortured, raped, and murdered for their faith. Sure, just like in examples of Holocaust survivors, we hear miraculous testimonies from Christians who have been terrifically brutalized, but who endured nonetheless with their faith and other facilities remaining whole.

But what about the stories we’ll never hear because they’re unpopular, of Jews and Christians who were totally broken by these tests and trials, those who never recovered, those who lost faith?

What about things that we don’t see as persecution? What of the Christian father who loses his five-year old little girl in a car accident and turns to alcohol instead of God? What about the Jewish mother whose baby boy dies of SIDS and she responds by ceasing to ever again speak to Hashem in prayer?

God provides the tests, but their’s no guarantee we’ll pass.

failureWhat happens when we fail? I don’t think Rabbi Packouz’s commentary is very helpful here:

How do you know it’s a test? If it’s hard. Test are tailored made for each individual. It may be hard for one person, but not for another. Know that the choice you make will determine whether you get closer to reaching your potential or further away. Think back to a difficult situation. Beforehand you might have thought that you couldn’t handle it, yet you did — and you grew tremendously from it. We only grow from that which is difficult and challenging. We draw upon something inside of us that we didn’t know we had.

That’s assuming we have whatever it takes inside in the first place. But then there’s this:

People think that they are being punished with bad things. The Torah teaches us that ultimate reward and punishment are not in this world, but in the next world, the World to Come (Mesilat Yesharim, Path of the Just, ch.1). In this world, it is not punishment; He’s teaching you a lesson, giving you a message. If you gave tzedakah (charity) and your stocks went up — it’s not a reward, but a message that you are using your money properly and here’s more to use wisely. Likewise, if you misused your wealth and your stocks declined.

It is important to understand that what happens to you may be bitter, painful, but it is not necessarily bad. It depends on how you view what happens and how you respond to it. Bad is what takes you away from a connection with the Almighty.

The flip side is what happens when something good happens to us, something really good? Imagine you win the lottery and win big. Suddenly, you’re set for life. You now can devote much more time and resources to charity, prayer, and Bible study because you don’t have to work, you can hire others to clean your house and take care of your yard, and free you from all the “ordinary” tasks in life.

Just like “bad” tests, “good” tests don’t always have the desired result.

“But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—
You are grown fat, thick, and sleek—
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scorned the Rock of his salvation.

“They made Him jealous with strange gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.

“They sacrificed to demons who were not God,
To gods whom they have not known,
New gods who came lately,
Whom your fathers did not dread.

“You neglected the Rock who begot you,
And forgot the God who gave you birth.”

Deuteronomy 32:15-18 (NASB)

moses mount neboJust as in difficult tests, there’s no promise we will respond as God desires when He makes life easier for us, there’s no guarantee we’ll come closer to Him either.

I hate tests. I’m not very good at them, at least the ones Hashem provides. It’s disappointing. I sometimes wish for things that would make my life easier, at least from my point of view, rather than having to endure all of God’s “tests.” All this occurred to me again as I was pouring a cup of coffee this morning in an effort to wake up my brain.

It also occurred to me that, just like the test a young student has to take in school, what I receive or don’t receive from God is for my own (ultimate) good, even if I don’t see it that way. If I don’t win the lottery, for example, while that means I still have to work and struggle to save for an eventual retirement, there is something “good” about that. I don’t know what it is, but God must.

And of all the tests Hashem puts in my path that I find uncomfortable or even downright painful, even though I don’t see the “good” in them, it must be there. I have to believe that if I have faith and trust in God. Otherwise, life is just random and meaningless and we have no support from God when we suffer…we simply suffer.

How empty and vain a life is that?

But it’s not easy. Rabbi Packouz teaches us what we learn when we pass a test, but what do we learn when we fail?

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

-Napoleon Hill

Our best successes often come after our greatest disappointments.

-Henry Ward Beecher

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

-Theodore Roosevelt

You can Google “failure quotes” and find a seemingly endless supply of inspirational statements about learning from failure. Of course, the quotes of famous people don’t necessarily reflect the viewpoint of God on the matter.

Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Luke 22:54-62

peters-denialPeter’s failure. But it wasn’t the end, even though the failure was great.

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.”  He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.

John 21:15-17

Rav Yeshua gave Peter (Kefa) another chance to show how he loved his Master. Peter recovered from his failure and recovered well.

But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Acts 3:4-10

This is just one small example of Peter the empowered Apostle and the result of his recovery from failure. He’d never be perfect and sometimes he’d make mistakes, but he never denied his Master again.

But what about us? We could attribute Peter’s boldness to his having received the Holy Spirit in the Acts 2 as opposed to his deliberately choosing to pass God’s tests rather than fail them. He was an Apostle full of the Holy Spirit of God. What about us? What about we poor, dim, ordinary human beings?

As Acts 10 attests, we Gentile Yeshua Talmidei are also supposed to possess the Spirit of the Almighty. Where is our greatness? Why aren’t we like the Apostles? What’s the difference between them and us?

Why do we continue to fail, what does that mean, and what do we learn, if anything at all?

The Torah states:

“And Pharaoh sent word and summoned Moses and Aaron. He said to them, ‘I have sinned this time. The Almighty is righteous. I and my people are wicked! … I will let you leave. You will not be delayed again.’ ”

Shortly thereafter, Pharaoh refused to let them leave.

Why did Pharaoh change his mind once the pressure of the plague was removed? Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel of the Mir Yeshiva explained that Pharaoh viewed suffering as a punishment. That is why he said, “The Almighty is a righteous judge and His punishment is fair because I have done evil.”

The reality is that there is a strong element of kindness in the suffering that the Almighty sends to us. In part, it is a divine message that we have something to improve. The goal of suffering is to motivate a person to improve his behavior. Pharaoh viewed suffering only as a punishment. Therefore, as soon as the punishment was over, he changed his mind and refused to let them leave.

Our lesson: View suffering as a means to elevate yourself and you will find meaning in your suffering. Try to accept it with love and appreciation. Even though there is still pain involved, it is much easier to cope. Whenever you find yourself suffering, ask yourself, “How can I use this as a tool for self-improvement?”

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Commentary on Torah Portion Va’eira
from Growth Through Torah

runI think that’s what we learn from failure. If we see our failures as a punishment from God or some sort of inherent quality in ourselves we can never overcome, we will continue to fail. If, however, we choose to consider our failures as tests, they point to the areas in our lives where we need to improve. They show us a target to aim at, a goal to achieve, they illuminate a sort of “finish line” in a race.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3

We fail, but as long as we persevere and do not give up, we will never be defeated.

I know, easier said than done, but as people of faith, every time we are knocked down, we must either get up again, dust ourselves off, and keep moving forward, or we surrender our faith, give up on God, and go off in our own direction, becoming truly lost.

Passing God’s tests strengthens us, brings us closer to God, and shows us that God has built within us more persistence and empowerment than we realized we had. In fact, without tests, we’d never know just who God has made us to be. Even if we fail and fail often, as long as we keep trying, we never lose our way or step off the path God has placed before us.

Even in abject failure, abandoned by everyone we ever thought loved us, we are never alone.

When you have nothing left but God, you become aware that God is enough.

―A. Maude Royden

May this always be true of each of us.

Talmidei Yeshua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except that he reminded me of something:

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

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

Stuart Dauermann
Rabbi Stuart Dauermann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

human beings
Photo: theshirtlist.com

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

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