Tag Archives: Messiah

Another Look at Torah Principles and the Gentile

Spirit, Torah, and Good NewsFor years, I’ve subscribed to daily updates from the Aish HaTorah Jewish educational website. I know, I’m not Jewish, but I find that the vast majority of their content “resonates” with me better than most traditional Christian commentary.

A few days ago, I came across an interesting question in the Ask the Rabbi column. Actually, it was the answer that was more interesting, but let’s look at the question first:

I’ve been reading Aish.com for years. But the other day someone asked me to describe the principles behind Aish. I must confess that I didn’t know. So what’s the answer?

Here’s the numbered list portion of the Rabbi’s response:

  1. Judaism is not all or nothing; it is a journey where every step counts, to be pursued according to one’s own pace and interest.
  2. Aish HaTorah defines success as inspiring a commitment to grow Jewishly.
  3. Every Jew is worthy of profound respect, no matter their level of observance, knowledge or affiliation. We never know who is a better Jew.
  4. Every human being is created “In the image of God,” and therefore has infinite potential.
  5. Mitzvot (commandments) are not rituals, but opportunities for personal growth, to be studied and understood.
  6. Torah is wisdom for living, teaching us how to maximize our potential and pleasure in life.
  7. Our beliefs need to be built upon a rational foundation, not a leap of faith.
  8. Each Jew is responsible one for another, and each is empowered to face the spiritual and physical challenges facing the Jewish people.
  9. The Torah’s ideas have civilized the world. The Jewish people’s history and destiny is to serve as a light unto the nations.
  10. The Jewish people are bound together. Our power lies within our unity. Unified, no goal is beyond our reach; splintered, almost no goal is attainable.

Now, Aish HaTorah provides educational content created by Jews for Jews. No part of it (as far as I can find) targets anyone else, including (and probably especially) Christians. Obviously, I’m not blocked from visiting their website, and I could even come up with a valid reason for reading their material given that my wife is Jewish, but does any of this stuff apply directly to us.

When I say “us,” in one sense, I mean all Christians, but more specifically, I’m addressing we “Hebraically-aware” Gentile believers (if you’re Jewish and Messianic, you probably don’t even have to ask this question).

I know there’s quite a bit of disagreement about just how much of the Torah can be applied to we non-Jews who find ourselves attracted to Jewish praxis and thought. I’m not here to “solve” that puzzle. I have a personal answer that works for me, but your mileage may vary. Also, since I don’t belong to a faith community, there’s no higher human standard that can be authoritatively applied to me (though some have tried).

Let’s go over this one step at a time.

1: Judaism is not all or nothing; it is a journey where every step counts, to be pursued according to one’s own pace and interest.

Assuming we believe that Christianity in general and Messianic Judaism in specific is the natural and planned extension of everything we’ve read in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible, Old Testament), is it fair to say that we Gentiles practice a form of Judaism (and I’ve addressed this question before)?

Maybe and maybe not. Perhaps the better question is whether or not the philosophy behind this first point can be applied to a Gentile’s spiritual journey with Rav Yeshua?

My guess is that most Christians would say “no.” Why? I think it has something to do with this:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. –James 2:10 (NASB)

Taken out of context, this seems to directly contradict the Aish Rabbi by stating that you have to keep every single commandment in the Torah perfectly, and if you break one law, you’ve broken them all (although a Christian would say we aren’t “under the Law”).

However, putting that verse back into its James 2 context, in my humble opinion, I think it means if you depend solely on your praxis to reconcile you with God, that’s the standard by which you’ll be judged. However, if you depend on faith, and out of that faith, comes your practice, you will receive mercy.

That could probably be said a lot better than I just put it, but it’s a more comfortable fit with the Aish Rabbi’s statement. After all, who among us is perfectly obedient to God all of the time? No one. Except for Rav Yeshua, I don’t believe that even the most devout of Jews has always perfectly performed the mitzvot every single hour of every single day.

In fact, the Bible is replete with statements emphasizing that rote behavior all by itself does not reconcile you with God, but instead Teshuva (repentance) and a contrite heart are needed.

Since even most traditional Christians believe we are all on a “spiritual walk with Jesus,” I think we could safely apply the “our faith isn’t all or nothing” principle to us as well.

2. Aish HaTorah defines success as inspiring a commitment to grow Jewishly.

On the other hand, point two doesn’t seem to have one darn thing to do with us, that is, we non-Jews. We don’t “grow Jewishly” since we’re not Jewish. No way around this one. Of course, success could be defined as inspiring a commitment to grow “Messianically,” but that opens up another can of worms.

3. Every Jew is worthy of profound respect, no matter their level of observance, knowledge or affiliation. We never know who is a better Jew.

Can we substitute “believer” or “Christian” for Jew? I think we can if we acknowledge that all human beings are created in the image of the Almighty. We already know that God desires all people to be redeemed, not just national and corporate Israel, you I don’t have a problem with believing that people are worthy of respect (though not all of them behave respectfully).

I also agree you’ll never be able to tell who is the “better Christian” just by looking. We all have our inner lives that only God is privy to. No matter how “holy” a person appears, it’s what God sees in their hearts that matters most.

Oh, this introduces a ton of questions about denomination, doctrine, and theology between Christians. For instance, nearly five years ago, John MacArthur held his Strange Fire conference where he and the other speaking Pastors did everything in their power to attack Charismatics. So much for “worthy of respect” (of course, I’ve read how some Orthodox Jews diss Reforms, so this is probably a human trait).

4. Every human being is created “In the image of God,” and therefore has infinite potential.

This is directly linked to item three, and seems to re-enforce it, so yes, we are worthy of respect and have infinite potential because we’re human beings. It’s just a matter of how we choose to apply that potential, and a lot of the time, we don’t do very well.

5. Mitzvot (commandments) are not rituals, but opportunities for personal growth, to be studied and understood.

This one is a bit dicey since, depending on your point of view, a large block of the mitzvot don’t apply to us at all, even acknowledging that without a Temple, Priesthood, and Sanhedrin, there’s a lot of the Torah even Jewish people can’t currently obey.

This answer hinges on whether you believe any of the mitzvot apply to us, and if so, which ones. We’ve had this discussion on my blog many times before, and I doubt that this side of Messiah, we’ll ever come up with the final answer.

Of course, there are some obvious points we can all agree on. If we’ve been believers for very long, we all have a sense of the difference between right and wrong, or righteous behavior vs. sin. What we all puzzle over is the more “ritualistic” aspects of the Torah; wearing tzitzit, donning tefillin, and such. Should we pray in Hebrew or are our native languages good enough (assuming Hebrew isn’t our native language)? Maybe this goes back to point one.

I would agree that obeying God’s will is indeed an opportunity for personal growth, and study is the cornerstone upon which Acts 15:21 stands, so yes, we can study the Bible, not just read it.

6. Torah is wisdom for living, teaching us how to maximize our potential and pleasure in life.

There’s actually a lot of the Torah we can apply to ourselves, or at least the moral and spiritual principles behind the mitzvot, which is another good reason to study them. We may not be commanded to wear tzitzit, but understanding why God commanded Israel to do so, may help us realize what God wants from us as well, which then adds to our potential and pleasure in life.

7. Our beliefs need to be built upon a rational foundation, not a leap of faith.

This is where traditional Christianity and Judaism travel in opposite directions, because the Church emphasizes faith most of the time. It’s not that Christians believe their religion is irrational, and Biblical apologetics is a really big deal, but at the end of the day, the Church is all about having pat answers, not continually struggling with tough questions.

This is one of the reasons I tend to favor a Jewish perspective over a Christian one, because I don’t believe the Bible holds every single answer to our questions about God, Jesus, faith, and the universe. I don’t think God ever expected us to settle down in our pews and get comfortable and cozy. Instead, I believe that we all have a little “Jacob” in us as we struggle with our angels (or is it our demons?). I think we study and pray as part of that struggle, and through that crucible, we grow.

8. Each Jew is responsible one for another, and each is empowered to face the spiritual and physical challenges facing the Jewish people.

Are we our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper? The answer to that seems obvious, but Christianity isn’t the same sort of corporate entity as Judaism. We aren’t a single nation like Israel, we are all the rest of the nations, so we don’t share a unified identity.

Of course, not all Jews are the same, and in fact, just like the rest of us, they can be radically different, one from another. Certainly my wife isn’t like the local Chabad Rebbitzin, and although they’re friends, their personalities and level of observance are light years apart.

But if we see a brother sinning, are we responsible for doing something about it, or should we just turn a blind eye? Again, I think the answer is obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. On the one hand, Jesus did give his “new commandment” in John 13:34 only to his Jewish disciples, but why can’t we apply it to ourselves? Does it hurt to love one another just as we believe our Rav loves us?

9. The Torah’s ideas have civilized the world. The Jewish people’s history and destiny is to serve as a light unto the nations.

Okay, here we have the closest statement so far that the Torah principles actually mean something to the nations, but only if Israel is the light. I’ve said before that as Israel’s “first-born son” (metaphorically speaking), Yeshua is that light, and that he directly commissioned Paul (Rav Shaul) to be his emissary to the people of the nations means he intended for that light to be passed on to the rest of us.

There seems to be a thread that we can trace through different portions of the Bible leading to the conclusion that one of the functions of Messiah is to direct Israel’s light upon the rest of the world, only we must remember it’s Israel’s light. We can only benefit from that illumination, we can never possess it directly.

10. The Jewish people are bound together. Our power lies within our unity. Unified, no goal is beyond our reach; splintered, almost no goal is attainable.

That’s probably true of any group. The unity of the original thirteen colonial states in the U.S. is based on that principle.

Christians talk about “the body of Christ” meaning the corporate unity of all Christians everywhere, even though there seems to be a terrific battle going on between at least certain denominations and churches (although, as we all know, within Messianic Judaism, things are very “messy” as well).

When Messiah returns, one of his responsibilities will be to gather together all of the Jewish people around the globe and return them to Israel, so yes, Jewish unity will finally be achieved. That part is certain.

What about the rest of us?

That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? In my imagination, I believe he will end all of our petty bickering and posturing as well, but I don’t know if that’s particularly mapped out in the Bible. Yes, after all of the wars are over, there will be “peace on Earth,” but will people ever get along? More to the point, will we all agree on matters of spirituality, faith, and praxis?

I don’t know. One of the other things Messiah is supposed to do is interpret Torah correctly. We saw him doing some of that in the Gospels, but will that ever be extended to the rest of humanity? Will we finally know the exact “nuts and bolts” of God’s expectations for us besides the apparent moral and ethical values?

I hope so. It would be nice. But maybe even in Messianic days, we will still be required to struggle. Then again, Jeremiah 31:34 does say that at least Israel and every single Jew, will have an apprehension of God formerly reserved only to Prophets; a full indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 10 shows us that even Gentiles receive the Spirit, so perhaps what the Jewish will know under the New Covenant will be passed along to us as well. Then blogs like this one will be unneeded and I won’t have to ask any more questions.

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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.

A Case For Rosh Ha-Hodashim As The First Of The Year

I periodically receive emails from Hannah Weiss at Restorers of Zion. I probably haven’t personally emailed Hannah is years, but I’m still on the Restorers’ mailing list. I think my friend Tom keeps in touch with her, and I believe his perspectives on Judaism, the Bible, and Messiah more mirror Hannah’s than my own viewpoint.

As I understand it, many modern expressions of Messianic Judaism seek to identify and emulate modern religious and cultural Judaism. I hope I’m not being too presumptuous in saying that Restorers seeks to discover Judaism in the ancient Biblical texts as they were interpreted in the days of Yeshua’s earthly “ministry” and before, rather than as they are understood by modern Rabbinic Judaism in our day.

The beginning of Hannah’s most current email stated:

Rosh Ha-Hodashim is arguably the most neglected of the LORD’s “appointed times” for Israel… receiving less attention from the Torah-observant community than even marginal holidays like “Tu B’Shvat” and “Lag B’Omer”.

In 2012, RZ set out to investigate what happened to the New Year originally commanded by the LORD.

We discovered unexpected treasures: scriptural truth, spiritual wealth, and even buried wisdom from ancient Jewish sages – all connected to this very first commandment given to Israel as a nation.

A great deal of the Forgotten Milestone points to Yeshua, which hints that the rabbinic decision in 90 CE to move away from earlier rabbinic custom was conscious and calculated.

So what exactly is “Rosh Ha-Hodashim?” Well, you can find it’s source here:

Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.”

Exodus 12:1-2 (NASB)

Torah platesThere are four “new years” spoken of in the Torah, but Rosh Hashanah or the “head of the year” that occurs on Tishrei 1 is the most well-known today. Hannah and Restorers argue that there is a mystery as to why Rosh Ha-Hodashim has been “hidden” since 90 CE.

Now I was really curious and followed the link in the email to Restoring the Real “Rosh Hashana”.

On that webpage, you can find seven articles in Microsoft Office Word format. They are freely available for download. I downloaded all seven plus their “sources” paper and started reading and taking notes.

Is there a mystery behind Rosh Ha-Hodashim, one that points to the resurrected Yeshua as Messiah? Hannah Weiss and the people at Restorers seem to think so. However, from a plain reading of the text of Exodus 12:2, at least in English (Hannah renders the verse in Hebrew and explains problems with how it’s been historically translated), this “new year” is only mentioned in a single verse, and only then to instruct the Children of Israel, being held as slaves in Egypt, in how to prepare the Passover lamb and the related rituals that would allow them to live while all of the firstborn of Egypt would die.

What if Rosh Ha-Hodashim is nothing more than to commemorate the escape of the Children of Israel from slavery as well as physical and spiritual death, and their eventual coming together as a nation and receiving the Torah at Sinai? Is there really a “Messianic connection” that’s been hidden for over two-thousand years?

Here’s a summary of what I discovered in reviewing the Restorers’ Rosh Ha-Hodashim papers. The seven papers are not only study guides but “meditations” to be pondered over, beginning on Nissan 1 and concluding on Nissan 7 in preparation of Pesach and celebration of the resurrected King.

I can only briefly quote from each paper and hopefully, I’ve selected representative portions that make the Restorers’ point, as well as my own, clear.

Unlike the Tamid, it is not written anywhere that the Passover lamb brought atonement. Nevertheless, it was understood to provoke the compassion aroused within G-d for His people: “Of all of God’s creations, the lamb possesses the innate ability to arouse mercy by its voice.” (Sefer HaYetzirah, a Hasidic work commenting on the month of Nisan)

This idea becomes quite profound when we remember that G-d brought Israel redemption before they called on His name. They were simply groaning because of their troubles, and yet this was enough for G-d to remember His covenant:

And the sons of Israel sighed from the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help rose up to G-d from the bondage. And G-d heard their groaning; and G-d remembered His covenant, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. And G-d saw the sons of Israel, and G-d knew. (Exod.2:23-25, from the Hebrew)

-Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the New Year
2: Jewish Tradition with Messianic Potential, page 3

MessiahThis begs the question, was Yeshua’s symbolic sacrifice meant to bring redemption to Israel before they call on the Lamb of God?

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Matthew 23:37-39 (NASB)

Other significance (meditations, page 4)

What are we to learn from these widely different events occurring on Rosh Ha-Hodashim? What do they all have in common, besides the date itself? We see here new beginnings, historical turning points… but mostly a theme of “cleansing and closure”. The earth emerged freed from an irreversible corruption, a Jewish leader left behind his life of exile, disobedient Jews were made accountable to the Covenant, G-d rewarded a king who had carried out His judgment, and three different sanctuaries were (or will be) made ready for pure worship.

While born-again Christians often relate to Redemption as an individual experience that unfolds in private communion with G-d, in Jewish understanding it is a communal experience with world-changing impact. These different views are emphasized by Jewish antagonists to Messianic faith, claiming that an experience of personal Redemption is not a Jewish concept.

How closely is that opinion connected to the following, which reflects a more modern Orthodox Jewish interpretation?

The special attitude to Tishre and Nissan as two very significant points in the annual cycle, both connected to new beginnings, is voiced in the dispute between R. Eliezer and R. Yehoshua on the date of the Creation. While R. Eliezer’s opinion is that the world was created in Tishre (Bavli, Rosh ha-Shana, 10b), R. Yehoshua claims that Nissan is the first of months (ibid. 11a). For the Maharal, this dispute represents different approaches to the basics of life. He writes that Nissan and Tishre are the main months of the year, but while Nissan expresses the life force and vitality of the year at the emotional level, Tishre expresses the holiness and spirituality of the year at the intellectual level (Sifre ha-Maharal, Hiddushe Aggadot I, 94-97).

-Dr. Miriam Faust
Bar-Ilan University’s Parashat Hashavua Study Center
The Days of Awe – Renewal and Reassessment

Orthodox JewsThe main point of contention between this Messianic point of view on Rosh Ha-Hodashim and the more normative Orthodox Jewish approach is this:

In the orthodox community, the honoring of Rosh Hodesh Nisan consists of reading the Torah passage where the relevant command appears (Exod.12:1-20, called Parashat HaHodesh). A few additions to the daily prayers appear (a partial Hallel, Yaaleh V’yavo, the Musaf for Rosh Hodesh), while petitional prayers and public mourning customs are omitted, as mentioned in Meditation 2. Otherwise the day is treated like every other Rosh Hodesh (new moon), the observance of which is optional: “Many have the custom to mark Rosh Chodesh with a festive meal and reduced work activity. The latter custom is prevalent amongst women, who have a special affinity with Rosh Chodesh.” (Observances for Rosh Hodesh Nisan, Chabad.org)

This neglect leaves the field open for Yeshua’s disciples to construct Messianic traditions and customs, as the Holy Spirit teaches us about Rosh Ha-Hodashim. The potential is greater than we have explored so far, but here we offer a suggested observance as a starting point.

-Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the New Year
3: Celebrating Rosh Ha-Hodashim, page 1

You will have to read the first three papers/meditations to get the entire context up to this point, but my question is, how much of Messiah is being read into this holiday by the Restorers of Zion author?

Granted, many groups, from the various expressions of Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots, to some denominations of normative Christianity see “Jesus in the Passover,” so the symbolism of the Passover seder elements is very familiar to Yeshua-believers, but is there a wider context related to Rosh Ha-Hodashim that we’ve all been missing?

The Mishnah describes the first of Nisan as “the new year for kings and festivals” (Rosh Hashana 1:1).

The “new year for kings” meant that counting the reign of Israel’s king was always dependent on Nisan.

Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the New Year
4: Receiving the King, page 1

I’m sure you can see where this writer is going in connecting Nissan 1 with King Messiah. In this paper, the coronation of King Solomon (I Kings 1:39-40) is compared not only with Zechariah’s prophesy of the coming of Messiah (Zechariah 14:4) but with Yeshua’s entry into Jerusalem depicted in John 12:12-14 and Mark 11:10.

Also…

Only John’s gospel pinpoints the day when Jerusalem celebrated the arrival of her King. It was five days before the Passover (see John 12:1,12). Since the Pesach was slaughtered on the second half of the 14th day, this would have been the 10th of Nisan (in Jewish reckoning, partial days are counted as days). We now have a clue to the strange, unexplained command from G-d to choose the Pesach lamb on Nisan 10, even though it wouldn’t be sacrificed until Nisan 14:

Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household…. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to slaughter it at twilight. (Exod.12:3-6)

-ibid, page 3

The AkedahIn the next paper, a further connection is made, this time between the Akedah or Binding of Isaac, and Nissan:

It’s universally accepted today that Akedat Yitzhak, the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22), is associated with Tishrei 2 (the second day of Rosh Hashanah). This appeared fairly early in rabbinic history, and is supported by its mention in the Talmud (B. Megillah 31a). By the 3rd century, it was being explicitly connected with Yom Ha-Truah, the Feast of Trumpets (B. Rosh Hashanah 16a).

However, the original place of the Akedah in the Jewish calendar was Nisan 14, later to be designated by G-d as the day for sacrificing the Pesach. Following is some of the evidence (from “Torah Reading as a Weapon: Rosh Hashanah and the Akedah,” Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, Executive Director, Mechon Hadar).

-Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the New Year
5: The Messiah, Our Passover, page 1

I don’t know how accurate this is as I lack the necessary education and references to verify it, but if true, it is a compelling parallel between the Akedah and the crucifixion of Rav Yeshua.

However, this connection isn’t recognized today. In fact, this is the first I’ve ever heard of it. Why?

According to Rabbi Kaunfer, the connection of the Akedah and Pesach was deliberately broken after the destruction of the Temple, in an effort to erase its powerful association with Yeshua’s sacrifice.

-ibid, page 2

However, according to this paper’s author, that dissociation was not universal, at least as early as the fourth century CE:

In that context, the 4th-century Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael further strengthens the association between Passover and the Akedah, and the similarity between Isaac and Yeshua. Commenting on Exodus 12:13, “When I see the blood [of the Pesach lamb] I will pass over you…” the Mekhilta states: “I see the blood of the binding of Isaac.” This was apparently relying on another tradition, handed down in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (2nd c. CE), which said that although not actually sacrificed, Isaac gave a quarter of his blood as an atonement for Israel. (from “Vayera: What Happened to Isaac?” Israel National News, 21/oct/10 – http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/9768 )

-ibid, page 3

Talmudic RabbisFurther, early minority Rabbinic opinion suggests that Abraham actually did successfully sacrifice Isaac (although this contradicts the Biblical account) and that Hashem subsequently resurrected Isaac.

Of course, even if this occurred, the resurrection of Isaac wouldn’t be the same as Rav Yeshua’s since Isaac died in old age while Yeshua, once resurrected, will never die again. If he could, then our own promised resurrection would be questionable and even in vain, since our lives would not be eternal.

But Isaac, in this interpretation, is meant to “point” to Rav Yeshua, not be identical to him. He’s a signpost along the way and the goal is Messiah.

But Messiah did escape death and the tomb and, according to Gospel accounts, was seen by many witnesses. Now here’s something curious:

So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

John 20:8-9

Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

Luke 24:24-27

These verses are quoted in “6: The Resurrection,” and in reading them, I’ve always wondered exactly what Yeshua said to these men from the scriptures that convinced them Moses and the Prophets really spoke of him being resurrected? Certainly Judaism of today doesn’t interpret Moses or the Prophets in this manner, and I’ve never been convinced that Christianity has been very successful in this area either. I’ve never found a “smoking gun” pointing directly from the Prophets to Yeshua.

This sixth paper quotes from Psalm 16:9-11, Hosea 6:1-3, and other scriptures (see the paper for details) as compelling evidence for the resurrection of Yeshua, and I don’t necessarily doubt that, but again, does that make Rosh Ha-Hodashim more relevant somehow?

According to the Restorers author, the answer to my question is this:

It is appropriate for Yeshua’s disciples to celebrate His Resurrection either on Nisan 17, in memory of that singular event; or on Nisan 16, the day designated for the Barley First-Fruits offering.

The offering itself was suspended after the Temple’s destruction, with no substitute customs ordained by the rabbinic community. All halachic discussion over the generations has focused on who should avoid eating newly sprouted grain before Nisan 16 every year.

Therefore, Yeshua’s followers have an open area on which to build a distinctly Messianic custom to celebrate the connection of His Resurrection with the Barley First-Fruits offering.

-Resurrection, page 5

I’ve skipped from quoting portions of the paper providing more details about the festival of first fruits and the Omer for the sake of length, but again, these papers are freely available online for you to read and download.

PassoverAm I convinced? I don’t know. As a non-Jewish disciple of Rav Yeshua, I’ve chosen to back away from celebrating most of the moadim or “appointed times,” since the vast majority of them have exclusive significance to Israel and the Jewish people. The most notable exceptions are Passover and Sukkot (Festival of Booths). I have a Passover seder in my home every year, largely because I have a Jewish wife and children.

I build a sukkah in my backyard every year, both because I have a Jewish wife and children, and because Sukkot seems to be that one moadim on the Jewish calendar that has applications to the people of the nations:

Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.

Zechariah 14:16-19

Passover is a little more questionable, even though many “Messianic Gentiles” and Hebrew Roots Christians, as well as more normative Christian churches hold some variation of a seder seeing “Jesus in the Passover”.

It’s possible that there has been an overlooked significance in Rosh Ha-Hodashim, and that in the Messianic future, we will all be rejoicing the “new year for the King” on Nissan 1. By the way, the first of Nissan or Rosh Chodesh Nissan occurs this year on April 9th, which is also Shabbat. Erev Pesach or the first evening of the Passover is on Nissan 14, which is Friday, April 22nd this year.

If any of this is interesting or even compelling to you, use the link I provided above, download the seven (eight, actually) papers and decide of some sort of observance or commemoration is appropriate for you. If nothing else, like me, you’ll learn something new.

The Meaning of Purim and Easter

Our people have survived for the past 3,500 years … and not by accident. We did it against all odds — Crusades, Inquisition, Pogroms, Holocaust … There are perhaps 12 million Jews in the world today where by conservative demographic projections, there should be 400 million. However, they were lost to murder and assimilation. Why are we still Jews and how can we ensure our grandchildren will be Jewish?

There are questions all of us must ask ourselves: How important is it to me to be Jewish? What does it mean? Am I willing to die to remain a Jew? If I am willing to die as a Jew, am I willing to live as a Jew?

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
-from “Shabbat Shalom Weekly” commentary
Aish.com

Somewhere between 90 to 96 of the present era, after the death of the last Apostle, John, we have a head-on collision as the Hebrew words of the Bible are assigned new meanings by the gentile church leaders who are products of the Greek/Roman culture. The leadership of the Church shifted from Jerusalem to Antioch and finally, Rome. By 311 CE when Constantine, the Emperor of Rome, issued the Edict of Toleration, the spiritual situation was already critical. Just think of it, Constantine, head of the greatest empire on the face of the earth at that time, became a Christian. Anything that was good enough for the Emperor was good enough for the subjects, so, Constantine began to award medals, prizes, and money to those who converted to Christianity. Would it surprise you to know that most who converted did so for the medals, prizes, and money?

-Dr. Roy Blizzard
“What Has Happened to the Church? Is it Pagan or Hebrew?”
BibleScholars.org

purim
Purim Parade in Hebron

Given that Purim begins this Wednesday (tomorrow) evening at sundown and concludes a little over 24 hours later, and Easter is this coming Sunday, the 27th, I thought their close proximity on the calendar this year justified some juxtaposition between Judaism and Christianity.

From Rabbi Packouz’s point of view, Jewish survival of a nearly endless stream of “Purim-like” genocidal events is due, not only to the love and mercy Hashem has for His covenant people, but because Jewish people throughout history have remained steadfast to community, Torah, and Talmud. It’s their dedication continuing generation after generation, to preserving Jewish life and traditions, to raising children and grandchildren to, not just be ethnically or DNA Jewish, but to have a lived Jewish experience through the mitzvot.

From Dr. Roy Blizzard’s perspective, the once united Church of Christ splintered very early in history, within less than 100 years of its inception, and since that time, has continued to fragment again and again until today we have 400+ denominations of Christianity, all vying for the right to say, “Lo, here’s Christ.”

OK, I’m being kind of negative where the Church is concerned, and I must admit that Judaism as a religious stream has also fragmented across the last two thousand years, and today is represented by multiple, competing communities. However, unlike Christianity (and to make matters worse), there are also an unnumbered population of secular and assimilated Jews who have no seeming connection to the God of their Fathers at all (obviously, a secular Christian is a contradiction in terms).

Where these two parallel trajectories across history meet, where Christianity and Judaism collide, is at the aforementioned (by Rabbi Packouz) “Crusades, Inquisition, Pogroms, Holocaust” as well as “murder and assimilation.”

You don’t see too many Christian Crusades against the Jewish people these days (unless you count evangelizing the Jews as a “crusade”), but you do see a great deal of assimilation. My Jewish wife’s siblings were all assimilated, and two of them are avowed Evangelical Christians.

Is that such a bad thing? Not according to this article at the Rosh Pina Project. However, if a Jew has to come to the Jewish Messiah King by renouncing Jewish religious and lifestyle praxis and assimilate into the churches of their historic adversaries and conquerors, then I must disagree that it’s a good thing, particularly given Dr. Blizzard’s assessment of the rather poor spiritual state of the Church today.

Rabbi Kalman Packouz
Rabbi Kalman Packouz

The way R. Packouz sees it, if Jewish families want to support not only the observance of the mitzvot and Jewish religious praxis, but the continuation of the Jewish people as a population, this is what must happen:

If parents want their children and grandchildren to be Jewish, the parents must be a role model for living Jewishly. Any person I met who has positive feelings about being Jewish has told me it’s because he remembers his father making Kiddush, his mother lighting Shabbat candles, the Passover Seder. Memories, emotions and values only transfer through actions; philosophy does not pass to the next generation — unless it’s lived. Remember, a parent only owes his child three things: example, example, example!

Do you want your grandchildren to be Jewish? Then today go and buy To Be a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Donin. Read it. Make your decision. And then institute a gradual program of change that will lead to your living a fuller Jewish life. Then your children will have something that they value and want for themselves and for their children!

We actually have a copy of that book in our home and I know my wife has read it, and frankly, I wish she were more observant…much more observant.

As far as Dr. Blizzard goes, he believes that the restoration of the Church into what the Apostle Paul (Rav Shaul) envisioned so many centuries ago, is possible in this manner:

I want to emphasize something before you misunderstand what I am talking about. Restoration is never going to be accomplished on a denominational level. It can only happen on an individual basis. If you are in the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, or whatever denomination, restoration can happen. It will happen as there is an increased hunger and desire on the part of God’s people for true factual information. It will happen as individuals begin to ask questions about their religious beliefs and test them against linguistic, cultural, and historical facts. The good news is that it is probably already happening to you.

I also think this is beginning to happen as small groups within their churches are becoming aware of a more Hebraic interpretation of their Bibles. Some remain in their church communities and become lone voices of restoration among their peers and the Pastoral staff, while others leave the Church altogether and either seek out like-minded souls, or lacking that, go on a solitary journey of discovery in the company of the Holy Spirit.

ChurchI wrote the blog post Standing on the Jewish Foundation of the Bible in November 2013 when I was attending a small, local Baptist church. I was having weekly private meetings with the head Pastor to discuss our relative points of view on the Bible, with him trying to turn me into a good Baptist, and me trying to enlighten him with the radically Jewish nature of the Messiah and his laser-like focus, not on the Church, but on the restoration of Israel.

Neither one of us were successful, in large part because of my conviction that the Church as it exists today, for all the wonderful things she has done, still represents a Two-Thousand Year old Mistake.

When the early non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua (Jesus Christ) and their Jewish mentors and teachers each demanded an ugly divorce, the Gentile Christian Church rose out of the seeming ashes of its Jewish origins and began describing a drunken course through history much as Dr. Blizzard has described.

On the flip side of the coin, the number of Jews who retained fidelity to Rav Yeshua dwindled over the decades and centuries until Jewish devotion to Yeshua as the revealed Moshiach was extinguished.

This is what made it possible for the various incarnations of the Church to persecute the Jewish people, burn synagogues, burn volumes of Talmud, burn Torah scrolls, and burn the Jewish subjects of the Jewish King, all in the”Gentile-ized” name of that King; in the name of Jesus Christ.

But the Jewish people and lived Judaism have continued to survive, in spite of the persistent spirit of Haman which has followed them across the pages of history, attempting time and again to finish what he started as we read in the Scroll of Esther (see your Bible for details).

In a tiny handful of hours, Jews all over the world will be gathering together and celebrating Jewish survival from historical and modern genocide (represented today in part by ISIS, Iran, the PLO, Hamas, CNN, Barack Obama) by the observance of Purim. And on Sunday, in sunrise services around the world, Christians will be gathering together to celebrate the meaning of a risen Christ.

Unfortunately, a nasty side effect of Easter, again, at least historically, is that “after every passion play, there’s a pogrom.” In other words, while Easter is supposed to be a celebration of life, particularly eternal life in the Kingdom of God, the crucifixion of Christ, memorialized on Good Friday (and with supreme irony, Purim ends the evening before Good Friday this year) has been expressed in harassment of the Jews because “they killed Jesus.”

judeo-christianI used to believe that way of thinking had gone the way of the Dodo bird, until I read of an incident that happened earlier this year:

When Catholic Memorial School, an all-boys high school in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, played Newton North High School in a closely-fought basketball game last Friday, tensions were running high among the crowd.

Fans of Newton North High, which serves the suburb of Newton, a leafy suburb known for its high academic performance and its sizeable Jewish population, teased the Catholic Memorial School for its all-boy makeup, chanting, “Where are your girls?”

As the crowd got rowdy, a group of between 50 and 75 supporters of Catholic Memorial started a chant of their own. “You killed Jesus!” they yelled at Newton’s team and supporters, repeating the slur over and over through the gym.

The Newton students fell silent, shocked and upset.

This happened within the past few months, not the past few decades. These Catholic sports fans wouldn’t have known to taunt the Jewish basketball players and their families with such an insult if they hadn’t learned it somewhere.

Perhaps there are certain corners of the Christian Church that haven’t put their houses in order yet.

Dr. Blizzard believes that the restoration of the “Hebrew” Church is happening one individual at a time, and in the present age, I believe that’s true. I also believe that there’s a war coming; a terrible war.

I believe every nation on Earth is going to turn against Israel in an attempt to finally accomplish Haman’s mission and wipe every single Jew from the face of our planet. I believe the western nations, particularly the United States, will be among those standing against Israel. I expect my neighbors, co-workers, and people I’ve worshiped with in church will be among those supporting such a war (though I hope there will also be those who will join me in opposing it).

fall of jerusalemHowever, the Bible tells us that when all seems lost and Israel is about to be buried for the last time, Hashem Himself will fight for her and He will win. Messiah will restore Jerusalem, rebuild the Temple, return all of the Jewish exiles to their Land, and…

Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.

Zechariah 14:16-19 (NASB)

As such, I don’t think there will be a Church, at least as we understand the concept today, when King Messiah rules from his throne in Jerusalem. I believe there will be an ekklesia, a world-wide multi-national community of those devoted to the God of Israel, who are the disciples and servants of the Jewish Messiah King, made up of two basic people groups, Jewish Israel, and everybody else.

From Wednesday night to Thursday night, Jews around the world will celebrate continued Jewish survival in a way that looks like a cross between Halloween and April Fools Day. And without really understanding the significance from a Jewish point of view, on the very the next day, on Good Friday, Christians will commemorate the crucifixion of Christ, which has historically (and as we’ve seen, also in the current era) been used as an excuse to attempt to deprive some Jews of continued survival.

The Bible tells us the story of Purim and the meaning behind it throughout Jewish history, and in the end, Israel wins, and finally, all of Israel’s enemies, including us, will be made subservient to the nation we have forever attempted to destroy. Does this mean Purim wins over Easter, too? Well, sort of. But not actually.

Ironically, although this will elude a traditional Christian viewpoint, the resurrection of Rav Yeshua was originally supposed to be understood as the beginning of the restoration of Israel, the Jewish people, and the lived experience of Judaism through the Torah mitzvot. Only after all of that, will the rest of the world, we devoted ones from among the nations, be restored as well. Zechariah 14 paints this picture for us very clearly.

Fortunately for us, God is infinitely merciful, trustworthy, and kind. Although He could have assigned us inferior roles in the Kingdom of Messiah as a consequence of being from among the nations who declared (will declare) themselves as enemies of God’s Holy Nation of Israel, He did (and will do) this instead:

“Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord,
To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath
And holds fast My covenant;
Even those I will bring to My holy mountain
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar;
For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

Isaiah 56:6-7

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26

“And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.

2 Corinthians 6:18

We will join ourselves to the Lord, minister to Him, love His Name, be His servants, be taken to His Holy Mountain (the Temple), be made joyful in His House of Prayer (the aforementioned Temple), our burnt offerings will be accepted, and we will all be privileged to call ourselves the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty.

Up to JerusalemOur takeaway from both Purim and the Resurrection (though not necessarily the modern expression of Easter), is that we serve our Rav by celebrating the risen King Messiah who is the mediator of the New Covenant promises to provide for the continued survival of the Jewish people and the restoration of the Jewish nation as the head of all the nations (Jeremiah 31:7).

This year and every year, we non-Jewish disciples of our Rav (i.e. Christians everywhere) should celebrate Jewish survival and the Jewish state as signs of our risen King, who upon his return to us, will destroy the spirit of Haman once and for all and establish lasting peace not only for Israel, but for our contentious and weary planet. And in the end, we will finally be healed.

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Revelation 22:1-2

The Blessings of Living in Israel are for the Jews

The Jewish people, the Almighty, the Torah and Eretz Yisroel (The Land of Israel). For more than 3,300 years we’ve been bound together. Did you ever wonder what the Sages taught us about how special is the Land of Israel? Here is a compilation from The Mitzvah to Live in Eretz Israel:

“There is no love like the love for the Land of Israel” — Bamidbar Rabba 23:7.

“There is no Torah like the Torah of the Land of Israel” — Bereshit Rabba 16,7.

“The air of the Land of Israel makes one wise” — Talmud, Bava Batra 158b.

“There are 10 portions of Torah in the world: 9 in the Land of Israel and 1 in the rest of the world” — Esther Rabba 1.

“If you desire to see the Shechina (Divine Presence) in this world, study Torah in the Land of Israel” — Midrash Tehillim 105.

“Living in the Land of Israel is the equivalent to all the mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah” — Sifrei, Parshat Re’eh, Tosefta Avoda Zara 5).

The Ramban, Nachmanides, writes that “We are commanded to take possession of the Land God gave to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). We must not leave it to others or in desolation, as God told them, ‘And you will take possession of the land, for I gave the Land to you to possess and you will settle the Land which I promised to your fathers’ (Deut. 17:14, 26:1).”

Israel is far more than just a country or a refuge for the Jewish people — it is an integral part of our spiritual destiny!

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
Shabbat Shalom Weekly commentary for Torah Portion Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)
Aish.com

It’s quite clear Rabbi Packouz is addressing a Jewish audience. After all, what other people have ever been commanded to take possession of and live in the Land of Israel? Only the Jews, the modern descendants of the ancient Hebrews, the Israelites who wandered the desert for forty years prior to coming into their inheritance.

But I know more than a few non-Jewish Talmidei Yeshua who are envious and also desire the blessings listed above (I only quoted part of Rabbi Packouz’s article, so please click the link I provided above to read the full write-up).

I suppose we should be a little envious. After all there are tremendous blessings accorded the Jewish people for living in Israel that cannot be apprehended by anyone who isn’t Jewish. Further, except for maybe some exceptional cases, in Messianic Days, Israel will be filled with all or most of the world’s Jewish population. Imagine the prophesies finally being fulfilled.

“For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I have given Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your place.
“Since you are precious in My sight,
Since you are honored and I love you,
I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life.
“Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
And gather you from the west.
“I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth,
Everyone who is called by My name,
And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”

Isaiah 43:3-7 (NASB)

MessiahAccording to Judaism 101:

The mashiach will bring about the political and spiritual redemption of the Jewish people by bringing us back to Israel and restoring Jerusalem (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5). He will establish a government in Israel that will be the center of all world government, both for Jews and gentiles (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:10; 42:1). He will rebuild the Temple and re-establish its worship (Jeremiah 33:18). He will restore the religious court system of Israel and establish Jewish law as the law of the land (Jeremiah 33:15).

All of this is part of the Jewish argument that Jesus (Yeshua) couldn’t possibly be the Messiah because during his earthly life in the late Second Temple period, he did none of these things and then he died.

Christians believe that he was resurrected, ascended into Heaven, is our High Priest in the Heavenly Court, and in due time, will return.

Most Christians don’t believe Jesus will politically and spiritually redeem the Jewish people upon his return, although they probably would agree that if Jews converted to Christianity, they would receive spiritual redemption (I don’t think the Church would go for the idea of Israel being an actual political entity under Jesus, let alone the Kingdom that would rule all the other nations of the world, even though the Bible states this).

I know a lot of Christians who would vehemently oppose any idea that Jesus would rebuild the Temple and re-establish the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices, let alone restore the Sanhedrin court system.

But if we set aside Christianity’s traditions as they steer the Church’s doctrinal teachings, and if we accept the fact that non-Jews do not have a portion in the Land of Israel, just what do we Goyim have as far as Israel goes?

Thus says the Lord God,

“Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations
And set up My standard to the peoples;
And they will bring your sons in their bosom,
And your daughters will be carried on their shoulders.
“Kings will be your guardians,
And their princesses your nurses.
They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth
And lick the dust of your feet;
And you will know that I am the Lord;
Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.”

Isaiah 49:22-23

“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
“For behold, darkness will cover the earth
And deep darkness the peoples;
But the Lord will rise upon you
And His glory will appear upon you.
“Nations will come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.
“Lift up your eyes round about and see;
They all gather together, they come to you.
Your sons will come from afar,
And your daughters will be carried in the arms.

Isaiah 60:1-4

New arrivals at Ben Gurion airport
New arrivals at Ben Gurion airport

It seems our job is to facilitate the return of the Jewish people to Israel, to not just “surrender” them from our lands, but to take an active part in the Messiah’s mission to return each and every Jewish man, woman, and child to the bosom of their nation Israel, for the Jews are the nation of Israel. I’ve tried looking for information regarding what, if any, inheritance Gentiles may expect regarding Israel, but there’s nothing clearcut.

But something called ElijahNet.net suggests that the Gentiles who join themselves to Israel will indeed have a portion:

Will the Gentiles who have joined themselves to the Lord be separate from His people? The God of Israel says, “No. They will be part of My household, My family.” Will the Gentiles who join themselves to the Lord be excluded from the holy place and service of the Lord? God says, “No. They will worship Me in My house, along with those of the dispersed of Israel whom I have gathered. They will be gathered to the remnant of Israel.”

“In the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills: and all the goyim will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths, for the law [Torah] will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ And He will judge between the goyim, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.” (Is. 2:2-3, Mic. 4:1-3)

God gave Ezekiel visions of a time to come when living, healing water would flow out of Jerusalem. (Ezek. 47:1-12) The Lord told Ezekiel that the alien in the midst of Israel will be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. (Ezek. 47:21-23)

I should point out that from a Jewish point of view, Ezekiel 47:21-23 isn’t about giving Gentiles part of the Land of Israel.

A more apparently Christian source has this to say:

Question: Are we as “gentile Christians” part of Israel (Rom 11:17)? Do any of the promises made to Israel as a nation apply to us, for example Deuteronomy 28 (I’ve often heard this one used by prosperity teachers although they never read past the fourteenth verse).

Answer (in part): Regarding your first question, I would say that “no” we are not “part of Israel” as gentile Christians. Both Jewish and Gentile Christians today make up the “Church” the “body of Christ” or “one new man” which Paul discusses in Ephesians 2. We, as Gentiles, were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise (Eph. 2:12), but now we have been brought near through Christ. But notice that we are not said to be “part of Israel” or a “new Israel.” Instead, both Jews and Gentiles are said to be joined into a new spiritual body, the one new man (Eph. 2:15). Another evidence that we are not “part of Israel” is found by carefully examining Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in Romans 9-11, and especially chapter 11. There, it will be found that “Israel” still refers to Jews.

Regarding your second question, “Do any of the promises made to Israel as a nation apply to us, for example Deuteronomy 28 . . .”

Moses at SinaiWhile there are principles in Deu. 28 which apply in general (e.g., God will bless a nation which is devoted to Him and follows His will, He will turn away from a nation—such as ours—which forsakes Him), the context of the passage is very clearly specific to the nation Israel. It includes curses which make absolutely no sense when applied to Gentiles (believers or otherwise). For example, the promise of worldwide scattering in judgment of disbelief: yet Gentiles (non-Jews) have always been scattered all over the world.

Whereas all scripture is written for our learning (Rom. 15:4), it is not all written specifically to us—and this is the case in Deuteronomy 28. Both the blessings and curses stated there apply to Israel, as the phrase “wandering Jew” and history abundantly prove.

Concerning the blessings which come to believing Gentiles, this is best understood by studying the relationship between the New Covenant (given to Israel in Jeremiah 31) and the Church.

Of course, there are a seemingly endless collection of Jewish and Christian information sources on the web, so this is only a very tiny sampling.

I couldn’t find anything at AskNoah.org about what sort of connection there could possibly be between a righteous Gentile and the Land of Israel.

I did find something on their view of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31, as well as whether or not Noahides will worship at the Third Temple. From the latter article:

Gentiles were welcomed to bring their sacrificial offerings for G-d to the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, and they will participate even more at the Third Temple – especially during the festival of Sukkot (Zechariah 14:16).

Also…

In his commentary on the Torah section beginning with Genesis 12:1, Ramban (Nachmanides) wrote:

“Even in the time of Joshua, … the Gentiles knew that this place was the most august of all, that it was at the center of the inhabited world; and [Torah] Tradition had taught them that it corresponds in this world to the celestial Temple where Divine Majesty, called (righteousness), resides.”

And…

When the First Temple was inaugurated by King Solomon, he beseeched G-d with an eloquent prayer that included the following words (Kings I, 8:41-43) (which show that in the past, Gentiles were welcomed to the First and Second Temples, and that they will participate even more in the Third Temple)…

And finally, the article quotes from Isaiah 2:2-3 regarding the participation of Gentiles in the Temple:

“And it will come to pass at the end of days that the mountain of G-d’s House will be firmly established, even higher than the peaks, and all the peoples will flow toward it as a river. And many nations will go and will cry, ‘Let us go up toward the mountain of G-d’s House, to the House of the L-rd of Jacob, and we will learn from His ways and walk in His paths, for out of Zion goes forth Torah and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.’ “

Of course, participation in the Temple rites is not the same as having any portion in the Land. Isaiah 56 aside, I can’t find a legitimate Jewish commentary saying that any Gentiles will have a permanent home in the Land of Israel at all. It seems that we can certainly visit, and if intermarried, the Gentile would probably live in Israel with the Jewish spouse, but that’s about it.

christian-tourists-in-israel
Christian tourists in Israel

Is that such a bad thing? I know some people who operate in the Hebrew Roots space who most likely would think so. I think some of those non-Jews somehow believe they have “rights” not only to the Land of Israel, but to the Torah mitzvot as well. It’s been a long-standing argument. The relationship between Gentiles and the Land of Israel is probably something like how Jews traditionally accept Gentiles visiting the synagogue:

Non-Jews are always welcome to attend services in a synagogue, so long as they behave as proper guests. Proselytizing and “witnessing” to the congregation are not proper guest behavior.

When going to a synagogue, you should dress as you would for church: nicely, formally, and modestly. A man should wear a yarmulke (skullcap) if Jewish men in the congregation do so; yarmulkes are available at the entrance for those who do not have one. In some synagogues, married women should also wear a head covering. A piece of lace sometimes called a “chapel hat” is generally provided for this purpose in synagogues where this is required. Non-Jews should not, however, wear a tallit (prayer shawl) or tefillin, because these items are signs of our obligation to observe Jewish law.

During services, non-Jews can follow along with the English, which is normally printed side-by-side with the Hebrew in the prayerbook. You may join in with as much or as little of the prayer service as you feel comfortable participating in. You may wish to review Jewish Liturgy before attending the service, to gain a better understanding of what is going on.

Non-Jews should stand whenever the Ark is open and when the Torah is carried to or from the Ark, as a sign of respect for the Torah and for G-d. At any other time where worshippers stand, non-Jews may stand or sit.

When we non-Jews are in Israel, we are guests and we are expected to treat our hosts with proper respect, just as if we were visiting someone else’s house. You wouldn’t go into someone else’s home and act as if you lived there, would you?

In Rabbi Moshe Weiner’s Passover message to all Noahides, he states:

One of the wonders of the future redemption is the revelation of the Divine light that will shine onto the whole world, to all humanity (Isaiah 60:3). From the power of this light, all people will recognize the true existence of the Master of the world, Who fills the whole world, as stated by the prophet Isaiah (52:8-10): “with their own eyes they will see that G-d returns to Zion. Burst out, sing glad song in unison, O ruins of Jerusalem together, for G-d will have comforted His people; He will have redeemed Jerusalem. G-d has bared His holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; all ends of the earth will see the salvation of our G-d.”

Just as Moses our teacher at Mount Sinai began to repair the world, including all the Children of Noah by giving the Seven Commandments that were commanded to them, so too, the Messiah will teach and show the world (but in a more wondrous manner) the same recognition in the truth of the Creator of the universe which began to be revealed by Moses.

It is a great merit for each and every one of us to bring himself and his community to the faith and anticipation of this future freedom for the whole world. This will be freedom from evil and falsehood, and a redemption by which we will merit to go out from darkness to a great and true light.

Toward the lightCertainly it seems, the righteous Gentiles are included in many of the blessings of Messiah and that both Jew and Gentile will “go out from darkness to a great and true light.”

But that’s as far as I can understand it. All of those blessings Rabbi Packouz mentions that are received by those living in the Land of Israel are only received by the Jews living in the Land of Israel. For the Gentiles, not so much.

I can only imagine that Gentiles are still blessed in some manner when they/we visit Israel, but we’re visitors and guests, not residents. We may be associated with Israel as citizens of the vassal nations, subservient to our King, and we may have been brought near to her (see Ephesians 2:13) so that there is to be peace between Israel and we people of the nations (although I suspect that peace won’t be truly realized until the Messiah establishes his reign as King in Israel over the world), but none of that means that we are Israel, nor that we have rights to any of her real estate (at least as far as I can discover).

I guess in the resurrection, just like right now, I’ll have to be satisfied with my own little corner of Idaho.

My (Jewish) wife did surprise me again the other day. Out of a proverbial “clear blue sky,” she asked me if I’d given up on any plans to visit Israel. I didn’t know what to say. One circumstance or the other has gotten in the way and I haven’t even been thinking of it lately. I also am concerned about expenses for a number of complicated (and private) reasons, so thought maybe my long-suffering wife would appreciate it if I didn’t spend thousands of dollars playing tourist in the middle east.

I don’t know.

Blogger Ro Pinto wrote multiple blog posts about her recent trip to Israel including this summary, and it is abundantly obvious that she has a tremendous love of and devotion to the God of Israel, His people, and their Land. Some of her spiritual insights border on spectacular, which is a realm that has always eluded me.

Compared to how she related to Israel during her trip, I can’t imagine achieving anywhere near such experiences and insights. I think a visit to Israel is supposed to be as much about what you bring to the table spiritually as what you expect to receive.

Visiting Israel as a Gentile is not like traveling to any other nation on Earth. Jerusalem is the only city on the planet where God has put His Holy Name. Every time I seriously think of traveling to the Holy Land, I feel humbled and chagrined. Who am I compared the men and women of the Bible who trod that ancient Land, the Prophets, the Kings, the warriors, the scholars?

Every time I read or hear from some non-Jewish person who lays claim to Israel or the Torah, I’m astonished at the “Obama-like” audacity they exhibit. The feeling of being able to do anything you want, regardless of the (in this case Biblical) Law, without so much as a “by your leave”. You can’t bypass the God of Israel with a pen and a phone.

Who among the Gentile Talmidei Yeshua hasn’t felt the call of Israel at one point of another in our lives? Who hasn’t, at some time in our existence, wanted to bathe in the glow of the blessings Rabbi Packouz outlined in his “Shabbat Shalom Weekly” article?

Up to JerusalemBut it’s like being a kid and watching the boy or girl next door receive a shiny new bicycle for their birthday. Just because you want to ride on that bike too, doesn’t mean it belongs to you.

Tipping Point to the End of Days

Question:

With the world appearing more and more a dangerous place, I’m wondering what Judaism has to say about the possibility of an apocalyptic final event. Does such a concept exist, and how will that play out?

The Aish Rabbi Answers in Part:

The other path is described as Messiah coming “humble and riding upon a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). In this scenario, nature will take its course, and society will undergo a slow painful deterioration, with much suffering. God’s presence will be hidden, and his guidance will not be perceivable.

According to this second path, there will be a valueless society in which religion will not only be chided, it will be used to promote immorality. Young people will not respect the old, and governments will become godless. This is why the Midrash says, “One third of the world’s woes will come in the generation preceding the Messiah.” (Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, “Handbook of Jewish Thought”)

“End of Days”
from the Ask the Rabbi column
Aish.com

I know a lot of religious pundits, both online and in various congregations and study groups, have tackled the question of the “end times,” so I’m probably being ridiculously redundant. On the other hand (and I’m sure I’ll get in trouble for this), as I was reading this column, I was thinking about how I, from my own (somewhat) unique point of view, see the matter.

According to the Jewish sages, the coming of Messiah can occur in one of two ways (the Aish Rabbi outlines both). The first is that the world becomes filled with love and kindness and all people everywhere bow down to and swears obedience to King Messiah. All the world has to do is engage in teshuvah (repentance) en masse and perform Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).

I don’t see that scenario taking place any time soon.

The other path is as you see quoted above. Instead of Messiah entering this world and establishing his Kingdom in honor and glory, he humbly emerges on the scene riding upon a donkey. This event happens if the people of the world never get their act together, and we allow society to “undergo a slow painful deterioration, with much suffering.”

moshiach ben yosefSo there has to be a “tipping point,” so to speak, where the decision is made, when the fate of the planet is determined by worldwide human behavior and intent.

According to the sages, this tipping point occurs in the future.

But what if it has already happened?

In addition to Zechariah 9:9, consider the following:

When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold your King is coming to you,
Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!”

When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matthew 21:1-11 (NASB)

The crowds seeing “the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee” couldn’t possibly have missed the symbolism. No wonder they were filled with joy. The Messiah had arrived.

But here’s what was also necessary, at least as I interpret the sages:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Matthew 23:37-39

If the Talmudic sages are right (and I’m taking a big leap here), then when Rav Yeshua (Jesus) entered Jerusalem on a donkey, the tipping point had already arrived and the decision had been made that the world would slowly degenerate and degrade into moral chaos.

I think Yeshua’s lament over Jerusalem was his expression of sorrow of what the Jewish people would have to suffer in a world that has always hated them. No matter what they had suffered up to this point, the world was going to become so evil, that it would become progressively worse for all Jews everywhere.

hiddenMaybe this is why we don’t have prophets and miracles anymore, at least not like we saw them in the Bible including as illustrated in the Apostolic Scriptures. Because “God’s presence” is “hidden, and His guidance” is “not…perceivable.” This differs from why the “age of miracles” is believed by many Christians to have ended.

The Aish Rabbi continues (I’m repeating some of what I quoted above for emphasis):

According to this second path, there will be a valueless society in which religion will not only be chided, it will be used to promote immorality. Young people will not respect the old, and governments will become godless. This is why the Midrash says, “One third of the world’s woes will come in the generation preceding the Messiah.” (Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, “Handbook of Jewish Thought”)

According to the Talmud, as the Messianic era approaches, the world will experience greater and greater turmoil: Vast economic fluctuations, social rebellion, and widespread despair.

Isn’t that much of what we see happening around us today? Isn’t our society “valueless” (though it doesn’t refer to itself as such) in which the faithful are not only chided, but we also see religious groups, including churches and synagogues as well as our own government, promoting godlessness?

Of course the world of the past nearly two-thousand years has been filled to abundance with chaos, lack of ethics, cruelty, moral abandon, and our religions, including Christianity, have stood many times against the will of God rather than for it, especially in the historic treatment of the Jewish people.

But then again, if the tipping point regarding how Messiah would come was made in the early years of the First Century C.E., then from that moment on, we should have known that collective humanity wasn’t going to spontaneously repent and join together under the one Jewish King.

Of course, this only makes sense if my creative blending of scripture and Talmud actually works. I know many Jews chafe whenever a non-Jew such as myself appropriates Jewish literature and adapts it to “point” to the revelation of Rav Yeshua as the coming Moshiach.

They state that the Messiah is understood to come only once and not twice, but even though we consider him our High Priest in the Heavenly Court, in some metaphysical way, perhaps he is also still with us, humbly riding that donkey in the degenerate alleys and byways of our many cities in the world, suffering along with his people, waiting for the proper moment when the world finally collapses under the weight of its own iniquity, and then a world war of “immense proportion led by King Gog from the land of Magog” will trigger the final battle between good and evil (Ezekiel ch. 38, 39; Zechariah 21:2, 14:23; Talmud – Sukkah 52, Sanhedrin 97, Sotah 49).

The Aish Rabbi states:

What is the nature of this cataclysmic war? Traditional Jewish sources state that the nations of the world will descend against the Jews and Jerusalem. The Crusades, Pogroms and Arab Terrorism will pale in comparison. Eventually, when all the dust settles, the Jews will be defeated and led out in chains. The Torah will be proclaimed a falsehood.

Then, just when we think the story is over, the Messiah will come and lead the Jewish redemption. He will inspire all peoples to follow God, rebuild the Temple, gather in any remaining Jewish exiles to Israel, and re-establish the Sanhedrin. (Maimonides – Melachim ch. 11-12)

fall of jerusalemIt’s telling that one of the predictions, according to the sages, is that the nation of Israel will ultimately be defeated, the Jewish people will once again be in chains, and the “Torah will be proclaimed a falsehood.”

I can imagine that a good many Christians and Jews will have their faith crushed when Israel is vanquished in the final war and yet the Messiah does not come (or Jesus doesn’t come back). However, the Church has already declared the Torah as a falsehood, at least the way Jews understand it, as has Islam, so it’s not hard to imagine that Israel’s enemies won’t just be the secular governments, but Muslim nations and Christians as well.

That’s a rather sobering thought. That means any of us who continue to support Israel through these times will be enemies of many nations, probably including our own.

It means that even those Jews who make aliyah and those Gentile believers who are family members accompanying them or who otherwise manage to reside in the Land, are voluntarily painting a huge target on their backs, one that will bring the wrath of the entire planet down upon them and their loved ones.

“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! But pray that it may not happen in the winter. For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.”

Mark 13:14-23

I know there are some who believe Rav Yeshua was predicting the downfall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and perhaps he was, but then again, it’s possible to use a good prophesy twice. This could as well be applied to the coming destruction of Jerusalem in the final war. To my few readers in Israel, depending on when this war comes, this prophesy could well apply to you.

rusty toolsI encourage you to click the link I provided above and read what else the Aish Rabbi has to say about Messianic redemption. As I read him, it seems clear that he still believes things could go either way. Either the world still has time to come together and summon the Messiah in peace, or we could still plunge into darkness, war, and chaos.

Assuming the Jewish sages are correct, I believe the decision was made long ago, and that for the past twenty centuries, the world has been slowly eroding, like the banks of a river being gradually washed away, or a collection of tools abandoned in some workshop and crumbling into rust as the years pass.

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Matthew 24:37-39

Just as it was in the days of Noah as the flood approached, so it is today, and so has it been for almost two-thousand years. Life has seemed “ordinary,” but there are days ahead when we will dispair.

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski wrote a commentary on Psalm 51:5 about King David and making teshuvah, even for sins which may be the result of some in-born character trait. If David was born with the biological nature to have great passion, and that passion led him to sin with Batsheva, it was still his responsibility.

In making teshuvah before Hashem, David takes personal responsibility for his sins rather than blaming other people or circumstances. Granted, he goes through many things, including the death of his first child by Batsheva, before arriving at this point, but he did arrive.

The same can be said for you and me. Moshiach is not here yet. We still have time. However, time may be very short. We don’t know, of course, but why wait? Make teshuvah now and serve God as if the war will begin tomorrow and you will lose time and your life.

The Aish Rabbi finishes his essay this way:

Despite the gloom, the world does seem headed toward redemption. One apparent sign is that the Jewish people have returned to the Land of Israel and made it bloom again. Additionally, a major movement is afoot of young Jews returning to Torah tradition.

By the way, Maimonides states that the popularity of Christianity and Islam is part of God’s plan to spread the ideals of Torah throughout the world. This moves society closer to a perfected state of morality and toward a greater understanding of God. All this is in preparation for the Messianic age.

MessiahThe Messiah can come at any moment, and it all depends on our actions. God is ready when we are. For as King David says: “Redemption will come today – if you hearken to His voice.”

While we may not be able to avert the disaster of a morally decaying world and an impending and catastrophic world war which will destroy Jerusalem, we can prepare ourselves for those times by learning the Torah as it applies to each of us, whether as a Jew or a non-Jewish disciple of the Rav. When the horrors have finally passed, as the Rabbi states quoting King David, then there will be redemption for us, if we have hearkened to His voice.