Tag Archives: keruv

Bless Someone Today

ancient_journeyAnd there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.

Acts 8:1-8

As I mentioned in yesterday’s extra meditation, the theme of last Sunday’s sermon and Sunday school teaching, based on the above-quoted scripture, was evangelism; the declaring of the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world around us. This is a significant mission among most churches and is carried out to one degree or another by Christians around the world. Not every Christian stands on a street corner with a Bible in one hand and a bunch of leaflets in another preaching to everyone who passes by, but based on the Master’s initial directive in Matthew 28:18-20, all believers understand that we have a mandate to, in one way or another, announce the Gospel to people in our world.

As I mentioned, this is a significant mission among the church, but there are bodies of believers where this mission isn’t apparently being enacted.

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know I separate Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots (One Law, Two House, Sacred Name) as distinctly different religious traditions, although they have some superficial areas of overlap. And yet, these two movements seem to talk to each other quite a lot, if the blogosphere is any evidence, while all but ignoring (with certain exceptions I’ll explain in a moment) the much larger body of believers that exist on the earth today: Christians.

Beyond this, (although there may also be exceptions) there is another large population of human beings both of these movements fail to engage: everybody else.

I’ve mentioned in prior blog posts an article written by Tsvi Sadan for Messiah Journal called “You Have Not Obeyed Me in Proclaiming Liberty.” In his write up, Sadan provides a small history of how Israeli Jews have come to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah through the Evangelical church. That process is changing and more recently, other Messianic Jews are spreading the message of the Messiah to their fellow Jews in the Land, but these Jews continue to operate largely from an “evangelical” mindset. This has resulted in what we see described in a recent news article for the Atlantic as “Messianic Jews…assiduously attempting to, essentially, redeem Israel from its Jewishness.”

The “good news” of Jesus Christ is being preached to the Jews but with the Jewishness of their faith omitted or significantly watered down.

Fortunately, Sadan offers an alternative as I recently mentioned but that doesn’t address the issue of Gentiles. Then again, in today’s age, are Messianic Jews obligated to spread the “good news” to the nations as a duty with which they were charged in ancient days?

I asked that question, perhaps as long as two years ago, and received an answer that, in terms of the dynamics of the different believing communities today, the most reasonable response is “no.” Given Sadan’s article, I can see that it might be a better idea to allow actual Messianic Jews who live a completely halakhic, ethnic, and religious Jewish lifestyle to employ keruv as the method of bringing Jews near to the Moshiach. Does that mean only the church speaks to the Gentile unbelievers?

jewsI mentioned Hebrew Roots before, which is primarily a Christian/Gentile owned and operated movement within larger Christianity (although many Hebrew Roots congregations refuse to claim the church as their own and prefer to bill themselves as “Messianic Judaism,” though most of their groups cannot be defined as “Jewish” by any reasonable halakhic standard). Who do they talk to? Besides the inevitable debates between Hebrew Roots and Messianic Judaism, Hebrew Roots rarely if ever engages in what we would typically think of as “evangelism.”

This was a source of frustration to me when I was involved in the One Law movement, but the whole system of One Law seems to be designed to approach people who are already Christians and who are, in one way or another, disillusioned with their churches. Once accessed, One Law proceeds to convince these Christians that they must take on board the total mitzvot of Torah and redefine themselves as “Messianic.” If anything, One Law, Two House, Sacred Name, and so on, are dedicated to “evangelizing” Christians to “convert” to their particular variation of “Christianity,” rather than performing the task Jesus commissioned his Jewish disciples with in Matthew 28:18-20 and doing what the Jewish disciples were doing in Acts 8:4-8.

It’s not like this hasn’t occurred to me before and it’s not like this topic hasn’t been discussed in the blogosphere before, so why am I bringing it up now?

In my Sunday school class, we talked about the general reluctance of Christians to fulfill the evangelical mission in their (our) personal lives. Sure, not all of us are going to go into the “foreign mission field” and preach the Gospel in places like the Congo, but we all live in the world, and the world is filled with people who, while they’ve heard of Jesus Christ, do not honor God and have no real awareness of His Presence. A traditional Christian might say, the world is full of “unsaved” people, but to me, salvation is just the beginning of the journey, not the whole point of existence.

If I can accept that Messianic Jews have a specific mission to address Jewish people and not the general population, and if I can accept that the church has a specific mission to address the general population, what mission does Hebrew Roots have? Do they just “feed” their own internal desires and consume their own theology and doctrine, or should they be reaching out as well? I don’t mean necessarily reaching out to take traditional Christians and recreate them in their own image, but to actually try to communicate the core message of the Gospel (Torah or non-Torah observance aside), and to “make souls for the Kingdom,” so to speak (if you can excuse the “churchy” language here).

As much as many Hebrew Roots groups denigrate and disdain the church, they seem to have left it to the church to do the “heavy lifting” of spreading the Gospel message. After all, how many One Law or Two House groups send missionaries into the Congo, to Tonga, to the Philippines, or anywhere else? How many Hebrew Roots congregations and organizations sent relief teams to Haiti after their devastating earthquake?

OK, I understand that Hebrew Roots groups are rather small and resources are limited. For that matter, the same can be said for Messianic Jewish groups. The traditional church as a whole is much larger, more organized, and better designed to render the sorts of assistance I’m talking about. I’m sure you must also be aware that Israel traditionally renders aid to other nations when disasters occur and Jewish groups provide tzedakah as a matter of course.

making_ripplesBut rather than pick on any one religious group (as I have been up until now), I’d like to suggest that whoever you are reading this and whatever sort of context you worship in, what are you actually doing for people, both in the area of giving aid and charity, and in sharing your faith with those who have no faith and hope in the world? The church sends the members of its body to visit the sick, provide clothing, medical supplies, and food to the needy and the suffering, and to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the four corners of the earth. Are your groups and your people doing that too? If not, why not?

Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel of Slobodka would sometimes sit near the window of his house and quietly bestow blessings and prayers on all those who passed by.

Once when Rabbi Finkel was walking down the street, he turned toward a house and said, “Good morning.” Rabbi Finkel explained: “Most people only wish someone a good morning when they see them face to face. But even when we do not see them, we should still develop good will toward them.”

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #663, Bless Others”
Aish.com

I’ve mentioned many times before that I believe we Christians have a specific responsibility to bless the Jewish people. However, I also believe that all of us are duty and honor bound to bless the world.

Bless others. Bless someone today.

Advertisements

Intersection

Due to the sin of murder the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed.

Shabbos 33a

Maharal points out that man is distinct and loftier than all other creations. Only man is infused with a heavenly spirit from above. Similarly, the Beis HaMikdash is on a separate plateau in function and purpose above all other places on Earth.

Furthermore, man himself functions as a type of Beis HaMikdash, in that he carries the shechinah with him, and he serves as a vehicle from which kedushah emanates and spreads throughout the world.

This is the underlying principle which our Gemara is presenting. The taking of human life, aside from the tragic aspect of the personal loss, also represents a destruction of a human Beis HaMikdash. A person, while he lives, has the ability to accomplish worlds of achievement in the realm of kedushah and in the service of Hashem. With the loss of this life, this person’s contribution to the world in this regard has been ended.

Daf Yomi Digest
Gemara Gem
“The holy human”
Commentary on Shabbos 33a

This is a rather remarkable Jewish commentary from a Christian point of view. We Christians tend to believe that only we possess the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” as a consequence of our faith in Jesus Christ. We tend to believe that no other people group or religious tradition, especially Judaism, has this concept, let alone possesses this reality.

But what if we’re wrong?

Here we see that the Jewish sage writing this believes that “only man is infused with a heavenly spirit from above.” And just as Christians believe that each of us is a Temple housing the Spirit of God, (see 1 Corinthians 6:19 and 1 Peter 2:5) the Rabbinic commentator states, “man himself functions as a type of Beis HaMikdash, in that he carries the shechinah with him, and he serves as a vehicle.”

For those among you who may not know, the Beis HaMikdash can refer to the Temple in Jerusalem (which currently doesn’t exist) or the Heavenly Temple.  In the days of Solomon,  the Temple housed the shechinah or the Divine Presence, which Christian Bibles call “the glory of God” (this is also true of the Tabernacle in the days of Moses). While we can’t make a direct comparison between the shechinah and the Holy Spirit, we see that both Christian and Jewish concepts of how God “indwells” the faithful are all but identical.

Imagine that.

But why do I say such a thing and why should you care?

Shmuel only crossed a river on a bridge together with a gentile. He said that misfortune would not occur to two nations simultaneously.

Shabbos 32a

Shmuel crossed the river only on a ferry boat upon which gentiles were riding with him. He determined that the Destroyer cannot punish Jew and gentile together, so he would be safe and secure that the boat would not capsize.

-Daf Yomi Digest commentary

This is a less than complimentary Jewish commentary about we Gentiles, since it implies God will not visit a tragedy upon the Jew that is going to occur to the non-Jew for the sake of the holiness of the Jewish people. It elevates the Jewish people above the other peoples of the earth in a spiritual way due to the perception of a Jew’s higher awareness of God. Actually, the commentary may well be true of many non-Jewish nations and people who neither fear Hashem nor honor the God of Israel.

But what about Christians? Can’t we be said to have an awareness of God through our devotion to Jesus, the Jewish Messiah? I would say “yes,” but we must remember that said-awareness and devotion originated with the Jewish people, and did not spring forth fully grown among the Gentiles, independent of Israel.

Many Christians reading this may get the wrong idea about what I’m trying to say. Some may even feel threatened, as if I’m subordinating Christianity to Judaism in a manner that makes we non-Jewish believers into “second-class citizens” in the Kingdom of God.

I’m not saying that at all.

But I do want to say that the church has a tendency to reverse causality. We often view Jesus as wholly owned and operated by Gentile Christianity and completely divorced from (if he was ever “married” to) Judaism in any way or form. That’s pretty tough to do since Jesus was born to a Jewish mother, was circumcised on the eighth day, was raised as a Jew, was granted the power of the Spirit as the Jewish Messiah, walked like a Jew, talked like a Jew, only had Jewish disciples, ordered his Jewish disciples to only minister to the “lost sheep of Israel” in only Jewish communities, barely spoke to a Gentile, and after death and resurrection, promised to return to establish Jewish self-rule of Israel and over the nations.

Tsvi Sadan, who authored what I consider a landmark book, The Concealed Light: Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources, wrote an article recently published in Messiah Journal, issue 111 called “You Have Not Obeyed Me in Proclaiming Liberty.” It’s a unique article in that it takes to task the missionary efforts of the church to convert Jews to Christianity. But Sadan is a “Jewish believer.” More accurately, he’s a “Messianic Jew” living in Israel, and that makes all the difference in the world.

What I have described up to this point means that much of what calls itself Messianic Judaism is in fact an exotic Christian sect. One can argue until blue in the face that the Israeli Supreme Court was wrong when in 1989 it ruled that Messianic Jews are people who belong to “another religion.”

I imagine that there are more than a few Christians reading this who are quite puzzled. After all, isn’t Messianic Judaism just another form of Christianity? What’s wrong with Jews converting to Christianity? Jesus is “Jewish,” isn’t he?

Of course, when most Christians say that “Jesus is Jewish,” it’s like how they view the occasional Jewish Christian in their church…someone who is Jewish in name only and who, in terms of any identity markers, has surrendered cultural, ethnic, experiential, and halalaic Judaism for a completely Gentile Christian identity and lifestyle. This is what I mean by reversing causality. In the early days of the ministries of Peter and Paul, masses of non-Jewish people came to be reconciled with the God of Israel through the Jewish Messiah, embracing religious practices and concepts that were completely Jewish and totally foreign to them. Today, we in the church expect Jews to abandon all of their Judaism and to worship a Lord and Savior who, from our point of view, is totally foreign to Jews.

But Sadan has more to say:

Yet the judges were no fools. Long ago the Jewish people reached a firm decision to reject the kind of good news described above. The refused the gospel which in the name of Jesus called them to convert to another religion. They refused the gospel which in the name of Jesus called them to break their unique covenant with God. They refused the gospel which forced them to identify with the culture of their oppressors. They refused the gospel which called them to compromise Jewish monotheism and reject the Talmud, their tradition, and their cherished customs.

That’s got to be a tough paragraph for most Christians to read and accept, but remember that I’m pulling it out of the context of the entire article. Sadan is criticising what I call “reversing causality.” Why should Jews have to stop being Jewish and join “another religion” (other than Judaism) in order to become disciples of the Jewish Messiah and to worship the God of Israel; a God they have been worshiping since the days of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses?

You’ll have to pick up a copy of Messiah Journal (and I highly encourage you to do so) and read Sadan’s entire write-up in order to fully comprehend where he’s coming from, but he does have a “happy ending” for how Jews can be authentically approached in order to be brought near to Moshiach and to return to the Torah.

For the sake of we Christian readers, he does quote from New Testament scholar Scot McKnight’s little-known book A New Vision for Israel (1999) in order to substantiate Sadan’s viewpoint from a Christian perspective.

The most important context in which modern interpreters should situate Jesus is that of ancient Jewish nationalism and Jesus’ conviction that Israel had to repent to avoid national disaster. Jesus’ hope was not so much the “Church” as the restoration of the twelve tribes…the fulfillment of the promises of Moses to national Israel, and the hope of God’s kingdom. (pg 10)

Definitely a book I need to read.

I don’t blame you if you think I’ve gone off the deep end or have lost my mind as a Christian. It’s taken me a very long time to see from this particular vantage point and it may take “the church” just as long or longer to reach the same spot. But I believe we’re all getting there. I know several Christian pastors who share my vision about the relationship between Jews and Christians. I believe that God is involved and guiding us along a series of paths on journeys that will finally intersect.

Jews and Christians have interactive purposes in relation to each other whereby, as children of God, we are interdependent. The Jewish role is to return to the Torah and to embrace the holiness of God and we in the church are responsible for standing alongside the Jew and supporting that…not “mission” but “keruv,” bringing Jews near “to God and to one another, first and foremost through familiarity with their own religion and tradition…the Jewish people, as taught be Jesus, cannot comprehend his message apart from Moses (John 5:46)…Keruv is all about reassuring the Jewish people that Jesus came to reinforce the hope for Jews as a people under a unique covenant.”

For hundreds of years, perhaps since the beginning of Creation, a piece of the world has been waiting for your soul to purify and repair it.

And your soul, from the time it was first emanated and conceived, waited above to descend to this world and carry out that mission.

And your footsteps were guided to reach that place.

And you are there now.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Now”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

The Christian “mission” isn’t just to “get saved” and then wait for the “bus to Heaven.” Although vitally important, it isn’t just spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an unbelieving world, to give everyone, everywhere hope that God loves them and will never forsake them, even in the darkest nights of our souls. The Christian mission is also one of “keruv,” of bringing Jews to the Messiah in a way that is Jewish and in a way that would be completely recognizable to the apostles as they began their message to the Jewish people after the events recorded in Acts 2.

Keruv is probably not a task for all Christians. It’s probably not a task for me, at least not in a direct sense. But we can all participate by recognizing our role and the role of Israel and by welcoming and espousing the unique purpose, identity, and lives of Jewish Israel under their King and ours, Yeshua HaMashiach..Jesus the Christ.

For nearly twenty centuries, the people who Jesus drew to him, either directly or through the apostles, the Jewish people and the people of the nations, were first torn apart through much strife, and then continued to drift away from each other, one treating the other as strangers and aliens. While we may not experience it overtly today, the church and the synagogue in relation to each other are so wounded and isolated. Only by each one finding our true and unique purposes and roles in the kingdom of God can we both be healed, can we both be granted the gift of transmuting grief into joy, can we both have our loneliness be turned into joy and fellowship.