Tag Archives: Noahide

Starting to Explore the Divine Code

divine code
Cover for the Divine Code found at Amazon.com

I belong to a private Facebook group for “Messianic Gentiles.” Sometime ago, I was invited to join by a friend of mine but I don’t participate often; hardly ever in fact. However, I do read their content with interest.

Over the past year or more, a number of members  have been exploring the role of the Noahide as a model for developing the relationship a “Messianic Gentile” should have with Messianic Judaism and Judaism in general. It’s an interesting effort though I am cautious about applying that role across the board to those like me. After all, by necessity, it requires the Noahide to have no affiliation with or worship of Yeshua as Israel’s Messianic King. Besides, I don’t know if the Noahide Laws and their subsets compare favorably with the Acts 15 instructions for Gentiles who have come alongside Israel through faith in our Rav.

That said, I occasionally get promotional and informational emails from AskNoah.org which is a Noahide site administered by Orthodox Jews. Today, I got one mentioning a brand new eBook, The Divine Code, Parts I-iV: The Guide to Observing the Noahide Code, Revealed from Mount Sinai in the Torah of Moses.

It’s certainly intriguing, since it’s an Orthodox Jewish perspective on how (or if) the Torah can be applied to righteous Gentiles. I’m not overly enthusiastic about it explaining who I am in terms of Judaism as a disciple of Rav Yeshua, but it was priced reasonably, so I downloaded it to my Kindle Fire.

I’ve been pretty busy lately, so aside from my daily reading of the Bible, I haven’t had a lot of time for consuming books. However this one might be interesting, at least as far as my reviewing it for this blog.

Who knows what may come of it? I’ll let you know.

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What Are We Looking For From God?

I recently blogged about a Christian turned Noahide who I accidentally discovered on the blogspot The Torah Way. In describing this person’s “journey” away from faith in Jesus (Rav Yeshua) to a traditional Noahide or “Righteous Gentile” viewpoint and praxis, I neglected to examine what they wrote on their other blog Cozy Kitchen Chats believing it was more or less a collection of recipes and other food related articles.

As it turns out, this is an older blog and contains a lot more detail about this woman’s (one of the things I discovered) spiritual travels.

I’m not trying to pick on her or demean her in any way. I do, however, find that what she’s been through over the past several years is illuminating, because she comes from a place that should be familiar to many of my readers.

Let’s go to the beginning, the very first blog post from July 17, 2014:

To formally introduce you to my Cozy Kitchen, I absolutely need to share with the you the Foundation of my world, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, my soon coming KING. I had always been brought up in the church, although I had bounced around from church to church seeking and hungering for something deeper. I tried small town churches, large Mega churches, Pentecostal churches, Baptist churches, even Catholic churches. Each had amazing truths and amazing people, but nothing felt comfortable to me. My heart was always drawn to the Church described in the Book of Acts.

This is a person devoted to Jesus as Savior and King in search of a church that reflects the Biblical “prototype” church, the ideal church where one can draw close to the Spirit of Jesus. Apparently, she couldn’t find it.

All I know is that I personally needed to walk away from everything I knew about the modern day church. I spent two years aggressively seeking God to show me the Truth, regardless what it may cost me, I wanted to know that I know Him and that I am following Him wholeheartedly. I read everything I could about the religions most commonly found in the United States. I set aside all that I knew, wiped away all the prejudice that I held and explored each asking the Holy Spirit to show me the Truth.

This part is funny in an ironic way, given where she’ll end up.

…at first I honestly didn’t like the Jesus I was learning about. Oh, I loved how others in the Bible would describe Him, but when I read His words, I thought they were harsh, aggressive and difficult to understand. I really liked Paul much more than Jesus, Paul’s teaching were soft and easy, Salvation by Grace alone, no actions or responsibility, once saved, always saved. Paul was much more appealing.

MessiahShe goes on to say that in order to learn more from Jesus, she set aside Paul’s writings so she could sit at the feet of her Master. That’s how she started out her blog.

I am here exclusively to show the Love of God to you and to serve you and others in anyway I can. Opening up my Cozy Kitchen Chats with you, I will share with you the Gospel of Jesus, how to have a thriving Christian home, how to serve your community and how to make YOUR own Cozy Kitchen your personal mission field.

But less than three months later:

I know this is topic that can really set some “believers” off balance, since there has always been a belief that the Torah or the Life Teaching and Instruction of God, given to Moses was done away with at the resurrection of Yeshua (Christ)

Nowhere in the Prophets nor in the instruction that was given to Moses was it ever mentioned that the Law would be done away with. During Yeshua’s time on earth, He never mentioned that the Law or the Word would be dismissed. He actual said the following.

First, she described a general dissatisfaction with all of the churches and Christian denominations she experienced and was determined to study the Bible at the feet of Jesus and gain wisdom from the Holy Spirit alone.

Then she discovered the Torah, started calling Jesus “Yeshua,” and described her understanding in terms more familiar with someone who was just introduced to either the Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Roots movements.

Based on a link she posted, her source material came, at least in part, from 119 Ministries (as of this writing, there’s a JavaScript pop-up that asks if you’re new and you have the option to click “Yes” or “No”. However, the box doesn’t go away when you click either button, so website content is blocked unless you edit the URL to go to the home page — Addendum: This problem has apparently been fixed, although the site still has connection difficulties).

Subsequently, she started writing about kosher foods, her opinion of the Christian Church and of Pastors continued to decline, she became focused on Sacred Name theology, and she decided that Christmas was pagan, thanks to 119 Ministries, and stopped celebrating it.

I don’t know if she actually started donning tzitzit, but it looks like she wanted to. Shabbat became important to her.

The Jewish PaulA really critical point though, is that her attitude about the Apostle Paul (Rav Shaul) changed remarkably. Remember, at the very beginning, she loved Paul’s teachings, but thought Jesus was too harsh and aggressive.

Don’t allow the mindless teaching of man separate you from the TRUTH. The Pharisees over taught the law with man made regulations to overwhelm man so he would not honor it, then the new Pharisees (Paulines, followers of Paul’s teaching rather than Jesus’) discounted the Sabbath with man made doctrines so men would not follow it. Seek God’s instruction to find the Truth.

Here, she’s reversed her original position and now sees the teachings of Paul in opposition to those of Jesus. Ironically (again), she denigrates the “man-made laws “of the “new Pharisees” and believes only in seeking God’s instructions of truth in Jesus. I say ironically because when she became a Noahide, she had to accept the validity of the teachings of the Rabbinic sages and their authoritative interpretations of Torah, which most Christians call “man-made laws”.

And most Christians consider the Sages to be something like “the new Pharisees”.

Here’s a little more:

A husband that truly LOVES his wife will catch on. Believers that are TRULY following, TRULY LOVING Him, TRULY READING Him will catch on. They will start to step away from Paul’s teaching or rather “un-teaching” and will seek to find out what the WILL of the Father is and what is meant by the “Word of God.” it’s an exciting time! An Awakening!

I’m emphasizing this because abandoning Paul is usually a major step in leaving Christianity, Hebrew Roots, and Messianic Judaism for a non-Jewish believer, since so much of our understanding of how to apply Torah to the Gentile and to live a life as devoted disciples of Rav Yeshua, depends on what he wrote.

She found this to be the best teaching on Paul she ever heard. I had a difficult time following the link and managed to navigate to the 119 Ministries video teachings page and found the correct video by searching for the lesson’s title: “The Deuteronomy 13 Test.”

I thought I should investigate what she was listening to in order to discover what was influencing her thinking and beliefs. The textual introduction to the “Deuteronomy 13 Test” states:

Have you ever considered why the Jews reject the Jewish Messiah, our Lord and Savior…What if it was because many today misunderstand Paul…Millions of Jews reject the Christian presentation of Jesus and Paul, alarmingly, because the Word of God says to. Sadly, if the misunderstanding continues, Jews are forever prevented from not only not knowing their Jewish Savior, but also from experiencing the blessings of the New Covenant. This teaching exposes the gap in the misunderstanding, and takes a first step into building a bridge…

119 video
Screen Capture: 119 Ministries

The video (about 41 minutes long) wasn’t exactly what I expected. It seemed, at the beginning, to be both very pro-Jesus and pro-Paul. The video instructor said that although Jesus and Paul didn’t teach against the Torah of Moses, but they did teach against the Oral Traditions, what is known today, according to this “teacher,” as the Talmud.

This instructor’s first mistake was defining the traditions and praxis of the Pharisees in the late second Temple period as the Talmud, which would not actually exist for centuries (Mishnah c. 200 CE, Gemara c. 500 CE)

This is very much an anti-Judaism (including Messianic Judaism) lesson. I needed to understand a little more about 119 Ministries itself. According to their site’s About page:

Our purpose is to seek and bring the truth to all nations, unlearn false doctrines and traditions of men, and to equip the body to live and practice the Word as God originally intended.

We find that continuously examining the Scriptures (in the same Hebraic first century context and perspective in which they were written and understood) reveals to His people much more understanding, as opposed to the more common Greek mindset that is a couple thousand years removed.

Sounds pretty much the same as when a Fundamentalist church says their doctrine is the only “sound doctrine.”

It’s difficult to tell if 119 Ministries is specifically “One Law” or “Two House,” but their Faith Statement says in part:

Another purpose of Yeshua was to begin calling back the scattered 10 tribes of Israel that were divorced, scattered, and became Gentiles.

This at least suggests a Two House theology, although it’s hardly conclusive.

Frankly, in listening to the above-mentioned anti-Judaism video teaching, it’s amazing that this woman finally became a Noahide, since as far as I can tell from her blogspot, 119 Ministries was her primary and possibly her only source of information relative to Hebrew Roots.

Listening to the 119 teacher was hard for me since his lesson was not only almost totally opposed to my personal beliefs, but it was thinly disguised anti-Jewish rhetoric which not-so-subtly was also a presentation of supersessionism, misappropriating the Torah from the Jewish people and denying observant Jews the right to establish their own interpretation of Torah.

Orthodox JewsAbout halfway through the video, the teacher started hammering away against modern observant Jews. To be fair, he seemed just as prejudiced against normative Christianity.

The 119 Ministries video teacher says he wants to bring Jewish people to faith in Yeshua, but his attitude toward observant Jews is so poor that I can’t imagine any Jewish person wanting to listen to this fellow. In this, his concept of Jewish people who “reject Jesus” is pretty much that of normative Christianity, at least in its worst expression.

This teacher is a great example of how a person who continually quotes from the Bible (and he did so, scripture after scripture) can still grossly misrepresent the intent of Hashem, Rav Yeshua, and Rav Shaul (In doing some subsequent research, I discovered that the people behind 119 Ministries are well-meaning and kind, but I still have to disagree with almost all of their conclusions).

Toward the end of the video, the teacher cited Romans 11, Ephesians 2 and Numbers 15:15-16 as “proof” that the Law of Moses was meant to be observed by, not just the Children of Israel and their descendants, but by all humanity, so he tips his hand, so to speak, and reveals that his ministry supports One Law. He does it however, in a really easily refuted way, so I readily set it aside.

(I found this half-hour long YouTube video of an interview with the two guys who founded and operate 119 Ministries, Steve and John. They seem like really nice guys. If you want to get to know who they are and why they started their organization, click the link).

The bulk of this blog’s content was written between July and December of 2014. The last blog post of 2014 was published on December 15th. The next missive, the last one here, was from January 24, 2016, and is simply a link to her article Leaving Christianity at The Torah Way.

There’s a gap of over a year where something must have happened, where her fascination with 119 Ministries and what they teach must have waned in the extreme. She would never have become a Noahide if she was listening to their anti-Judaism, anti-Jewish people diatribes.

interfaithI wonder if she and her family (she’s married with two children) went through something like this:

Jewish Values vs. Other Faiths

I am struggling with the sense that on one hand I want to instill Jewish beliefs in my children, but on the other hand I feel this would be diminishing the value of other faiths. I feel that love, harmony and happiness are the most important values, and that we need to be accepting of everyone’s beliefs. People are different, so isn’t truth relative for each individual?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

This is an important question, one that I think goes to the heart of today’s society.

If you think about it, you’ll realize that “truth” cannot simply be everything that everyone wants.

from the “Ask the Rabbi” column
Aish.com

I think this blog writer held on to the love and truth of Torah she discovered early on, but for some reason, everything else had to give way. Maybe she finally figured out that the video teachings she was consuming ultimately didn’t hold water and actually disrespected the Jewish people who are the sole human objects of the Sinai Covenant.

I don’t know. She took the path of many Christians who become disillusioned with the Church and find Hebrew Roots as an alternative. Eventually, it becomes too difficult to balance love of Torah but not of Judaism and Jews, as well as seeing Yeshua and Shaul being depicted as somehow against their own people.

Granted, a life either in Hebrew Roots or Messianic Judaism isn’t easy. If you’re a believing Gentile, being a Christian is the path of least resistance, and if you are an observant Jew, then Orthodox Judaism is probably a more understandable option.

But if you’re a Gentile who comes to doubt first Paul and finally Yeshua, and who believes normative, observant Judaism to be true, what do you do?

Jewish ConversionYou either convert to Judaism or become a Noahide.

I don’t know if these individuals finally end their search for truth (or TRUTH as the subject of today’s “meditation” likes to write it). We all want to know who we are from Hashem’s perspective, and what His purpose is for our lives. We all want the easy, pre-programmed answer, where we don’t have to think, we don’t have to doubt, and we don’t have to be anxious.

We all want to settle down and relax, secure in the knowledge that we are finally “right” about everything and we have nothing else left to search out and study, and no other questions to ask that we might not find ready-made answers for.

Good luck with that.

Not to say that there aren’t plenty people in houses of worship all around the world who don’t feel settled and secure and who have stopped asking all but the most elementary of questions. But I think that a sense of insecurity, at least a little bit, is built into our relationship with God.

If we finally come to the point where we have no more questions, then we are saying that there’s a limit to God and His relationship with us.

I can accept a person who goes through a developmental process in their faith, exploring and seeking to understand what the Bible is really saying. I’ve gone through that process and am still progressing along that path. I probably never will arrive at a “settled” place, though there are a few things I accept in my understanding now.

But there’s a difference between that and moving around from one faith discipline to another seeking a “TRUTH” that answers “everything”. A human being’s relationship with Hashem is more “edgy” than that. Just look at anyone in the Bible who was close to God. Abraham wasn’t settled and comfortable, neither was Moses. None of the Prophets had peaceful lives. Paul certainly didn’t. If anything, when Rav Shaul was introduced to Yeshua, his life became remarkably “unpeaceful”.

Why should our lives be any different?

A final word. Paul’s life was unsettled and violent and yet in his relationship with Messiah, he said he found “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension” and that guards “your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” ( Philippians 4:7 NASB).

peaceThere’s a peace that goes beyond our day-to-day lives, and even beyond our occasional crisis of faith as we continue to study the Bible. There’s a peace we only find if we lay aside our doubts and turn to Him in trust, knowing He desires that we draw close to Him. All the religious pundits in the churches, synagogues, on streaming video, and in the blogosphere don’t hold a candle to authentic trust in Hashem and the peace that He brings to our troubled souls.

I hope the anonymous woman whose journey I’ve attempted to chronicle finds peace in God.

But I also hope she never stops asking questions.

Giving Up the Identity Crisis

“Every human being on earth has a personal relationship with God – whether he knows it or not. The fact that he is alive or that he/she is breathing is God’s expression of love towards that individual. Some people accept it, acknowledge it, reciprocate, but some people don’t. The Jewish people, in addition to this personal relationship, stand in a communal relationship, in a national relationship. The Jewish people stand together as a community in a relationship with God. This is an inter-generational community that has a covenantal relationship with God. When the Torah says ‘you’ it addresses this national communal entity.”

–Rabbi Yisroel Chaim Blumenthal

The other day I wrote a blog post mentioning a community of Noahides in Texas (and elsewhere) called Netiv (Hebrew for “path” or so I’ve been told). I wrote the article to highlight the differences as well as the similarities between these Noahides and those “Judaicly-aware” non-Jews I sometimes call Talmidei Yeshua (which I think is a better name for them/us than “Messianic Gentiles”).

TrustWhile I was on the Netiv website, I had a look around and found a short article written by someone named Ida Blom called Pursuing Righteousness in the Nations.

The quote from Rabbi Blumenthal at the top of today’s “meditation” was taken from the opening words of Ms. Blom’s missive. In the span of a few short paragraphs (most of which I quote below), I discovered more interesting parallels between the world of Noahides and ours.

I quoted the above, to make a clear distinction between individual people (in the nations) and Israel. The individuals in the second group are part of the first group by default, but the reverse is NOT true. Looking at the first group, and focusing on the section of people in the nations who do in fact reciprocate with a deep longing to grow in righteousness and pursue this relationship, let’s focus on the ones who have taken the steps to come closer to the second group, and who desire to learn from them in how to be righteous in God’s eyes in the way that they (Israel) have been instructed by God to be a light unto these nations.

Ah, more distinctions between Israel (the Jewish people and nation) and the people of the nations who have attached themselves to Israel (Isaiah 14:1; Isaiah 56:6). These distinctions are easier to understand in the context Ms. Blom presents because it is clear that the relationship between Israel and the Noahides is distinguished by the effect of different covenants. The whole world is part of the covenant God made with Noah (Genesis 9) but only Israel is a named participant in the Sinai Covenant (Exodus 19-20), or for that matter, the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:27).

Ms. Blom makes the point that the Jewish people are part of humanity, along with the people of the nations, but the people of the nations are not Israel. She goes on to say that we Gentiles look to Israel in order to learn the ways of righteousness. We must have a relationship with Israel to accomplish this.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’

Zechariah 8:23 (NASB)

tzitzitThis verse is well-known among those people like me and it seems to be lived out in the relationship between the aforementioned group of Noahides and their Jewish mentors.

But it is a relationship that is also desired by the Talmidei Yeshua, those non-Jews who choose to learn about Hashem (God), the Bible, and Rav Yeshua (Jesus) through a Judaicly oriented, Israel central lens.

Sometimes that relationship works well and at other times it doesn’t.

Actually, in quoting this article, the relationship between Gentiles and Jews doesn’t always work very well either:

And when Noahides show up at Chabad houses or synagogues, saying they want to learn Torah, they’re frequently turned away at the door.

I suppose after thousands of years of enmity between the nations of the world and the Jewish people, things are bound to remain a bit tense, at least under certain circumstances.

This next part I found to be very telling:

Why do the people in the first group, after coming out of our past religions, almost try to reverse-engineer our relationships with God in our zeal to find some identity? Because nobody but us will understand from experience, how and to what degree and price we have lost any previous identity. We are prepared to let go because of our quest for truth. True, we have to re-learn and unlearn MANY things, but there are some foundations which remain. We want to start with a new, clean slate, but by doing that, we almost throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. We ourselves create the void and then grab onto labels like noahide or ger or alternatively remain in the non-Jewish pool, feeling rudderless.

After leaving our former identity and context within normative Christianity, these Noahides struggle to establish a new identity in somewhat foreign territory and yet sometimes they “remain in the non-Jewish pool, feeling rudderless” to dodge being lost in the “void” while scrambling for a name and a label to call their own.

rudderlessSound familiar?

This is exactly what many non-Jews experience in their attempt to establish a place of belonging within Messianic Judaism, particularly those communities that really do function as a Judaism for Jews first and only afterward, a place for non-Jews to learn and worship as well.

See? We’re not alone. Noahides go through this, too. I suspect the non-Jewish disciples of our Rav that Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) made may have felt like this. Not quite fitting in. Not really understanding all of the prayers, all of the ceremonies and the praxis involved in a Shabbat service.

This is probably one of the reasons it was good with the Jerusalem Council and with the Holy Spirit not to lay the “burden” of all of the 613 commandments upon the shoulders of newly minted Gentile disciples of Rav Yeshua (Acts 15:24-29). It was enough for them to learn little by little, from one Shabbat to the next, hearing the Torah of Moses read and taught in the synagogues of the diaspora (Acts 15:21).

However, Ms. Blom has some good news for Noahides, and I believe for us as well:

Let’s forget the labels for a moment and try to ignore our desire for belonging and having an identity. Why work backwards? Don’t we belong already? Think bigger! See God’s hand in your life! He brought you this far! When reading the above quote, we fall perfectly into the first group AND have been drawn by Him to reciprocate. That is a huge blessing! Did we believe in the God of the Bible, the God of Israel? YES. Of course we deviated badly along the way, but did we ever deny His existence? Did we ever deny that He is our Father? NO.

belonging to GodShe believes the way for them/us to solve their/our “identity crisis” is not to worry about identity or belonging. We already belong. Yes, but to what or who?

To God, of course. Blom obviously “dings” Christianity in this paragraph saying that these former Christians had “deviated badly.” On the other hand, even people in the Church do not deny the existence of the Almighty and that He is our Father, the Father to all.

All we needed was a bit of a course correction, so to speak, a clearer vision of the goal we were pursuing.

According to Blom, we were loved by God and He was by our side when we were in our churches, and, again according to her, God is by the side of the Noahides as they have determined a better way of pursuing righteousness for the nations.

That might be a good lesson for we Talmidei Yeshua to learn as well, rather than banging and pounding away at the door of our identity screaming at the top of our proverbial lungs, “Let us in!”

Blom says we’re already in.

The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.

Psalm 145:8

If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.

-Oscar Wilde

Where Are All The Gentiles Who Are Drawn To The Torah?

A man with a brambly salt-and-pepper beard, a kippah on his head, and circular glasses balanced on his nose stood behind a podium, lecturing on the parasha, the weekly Torah reading, in a southern twang. He was not a rabbi. He wasn’t even Jewish.

In front of him, an audience of about 20 sat in rows, listening attentively. Some wore head wraps and dresses suitable for a wedding, and others looked like they came in off the street. One man boasted neck tattoos and a gauge earring.

I was the only Jew in the room, but everyone else was here to study Torah. I was here to study them.

-Ilana E. Strauss
“The Gentiles Who Act Like Jews”
Tablet Magazine

Given the nature of this blogspot’s audience, many of you may believe that this article is about non-Jews who practice their faith within the context of Messianic Judaism or the Hebrew Roots movement.

Not so.

They call themselves Righteous Noahides: non-Jews who believe in Orthodox Judaism. According to Jewish theology, there are laws that Jews must obey, the 613 mitzvot, but then there are seven laws for children of Noah—everyone else in the world. They are: Do not deny God; do not blaspheme; do not murder; do not engage in incest, adultery, pederasty, or bestiality; do not steal; do not eat of a live animal; and establish courts.

The group I visited, called Netiv, is a bustling 40-person community located in Humble, Texas—in the United States, Texas is the center of Noahide life. Some members travel over two hours each way, two or three times a week, for classes. They obey the Noahide laws, but they also take the concept further, endeavoring to obey other mitzvot and learn more from Judaism.

If this were a visual, I’d have just done a double-take. A group of forty people, all non-Jews, identifying as Noahides, meeting together regularly and studying the Torah…in Texas?

Up until now, I thought that any Noahide would be found within the context of a Jewish synagogue. Of course, Humble, Texas isn’t a very big place and the closest Orthodox Jew is probably 30 miles away in Houston.

And in reading the (rather lengthy) article, I was astonished to discover that the state of Texas is something of a hot bed for Noahide gatherings. Of all the places, why Texas?

But this movement isn’t limited to the U.S.

Noahidism now encompasses communities around the world, especially in Great Britain, the Philippines, Latin America, Nigeria, Russia, and the United States. According to Rabbi Michael Schulman, who runs Noahide website AskNoah.org, the Philippines may have the most developed community, with well over 1,000 adults and their children living in a collection of agricultural towns. They run Hebrew schools, community meetings, and even a national summit.

The RebbeHow did all this come to be?

But about 40 years ago, Chabad grand Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson launched a global “Noahide Campaign,” writing and speaking about the need for Righteous Noahide communities, believing Noahide laws would bring about peace and understanding and would hasten the coming of the Messiah. Some non-Jews listened. For example, in 1987, President Reagan signed a proclamation glorifying “the historical tradition of ethical values and principles, which have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws, transmitted through God to Moses on Mount Sinai.”

Here’s something that shouldn’t surprise you too much.

Bryant didn’t always teach Torah; he was a Pentecostal chaplain in the Army during the first Gulf War. He started a small study group in his house that got so large that it moved to a church. Around that time, Bryant began finding inconsistencies in Christian scripture, so he started digging into historical records.

The typical story goes like this: A person starts out Christian. (I’ve yet to meet someone who came to Noahidism from anything else. Bryant said one Muslim girl used to stop by, but her family found out and put a stop to it.) These seekers then find inconsistencies between the scripture and the priest’s or minister’s teachings. They start asking questions their religious leaders can’t answer to their satisfaction, questions like: “Why don’t we keep the Sabbath?” “Why do babies need to be baptized?” “If the Bible says God is one, why do we have a Trinity?”

And so on.

That’s very similar to what draws most of us non-Jews to either Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots. The only real difference is that these “inconsistencies” taught in normative Christianity are seen by Noahides as a problem with the beliefs spawned by the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) rather than a problem with how those scriptures are interpreted by the Church.

In other words (in my opinion), these Noahides have thrown out the baby with the bath water. They have certain issues with Christian doctrine and have determined that not only the doctrine, but the general theology behind it, is totally false and that only normative (in this case, Orthodox) Judaism is a valid expression of the worship of Hashem.

But it’s fascinating the similarities between these Noahides and that group I’ve come to call Talmidei Yeshua.

They obey the Noahide laws, but they also take the concept further, endeavoring to obey other mitzvot and learn more from Judaism.

And…

Some rabbis emphasize that Noahides should not perform any mitzvot designated specifically for Jews; they point to interpretations of Genesis 8:22 that argue it is forbidden for non-Jews to keep Shabbat.

Arilio Navarro understands these concerns, but he doesn’t abide by them.

“There are a lot of blessings that come with Shabbat, and I don’t want to leave them on the table,” he said. “I spent most of my life doing that; I don’t want to do that anymore. I have a Jewish soul.”

All the rabbis and Noahides I talked to agreed that Noahides don’t have an obligation to keep more than the seven laws. But the sort of people who go on a spiritual quest that leads them out of Christianity aren’t the sort who are typically satisfied with that. They want to do more.

Path of TorahLook at the last two sentences:

But the sort of people who go on a spiritual quest that leads them out of Christianity aren’t the sort who are typically satisfied with that. They want to do more.

That describes the drive in many non-Jews in both Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots contexts in terms of their preferred praxis. Even those Gentiles who understand and embrace the “bilateral” relationship between Jewish and Gentile disciples of Rav Yeshua tend to take on board more than the seven laws of Noah, and even more than what’s implied in the Acts 15 “Jerusalem letter.”

We all came from a church experience.

We all came to understand that Christian doctrine seemed less than satisfactory in explaining what we were reading in the Bible, particularly about Jews, Judaism, and the Torah.

We all started looking for someone or some group who/that could teach us a more Bible-consistent, Jewish-positive, Israel central interpretation of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Apostolic Scriptures.

But there’s one more thing.

And when Noahides show up at Chabad houses or synagogues, saying they want to learn Torah, they’re frequently turned away at the door.

“What about being a light to the nations?” asked Bryant, the Netiv leader. “Where else are they going to learn Torah? At church?”

One thing about Noahides: They really, really want to be accepted by Jews.

If, 40 years ago, Chabad grand Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson launched a global “Noahide Campaign,” it is baffling that Chabad houses would turn away the very Noahides that campaign created.

And it’s true, all of us, whether Noahide, Talmid Yeshua, or Hebrew Roots follower, in some manner or fashion want to be accepted by the Jews associated with our respective movements.

“Rod” Reuven Dovid Bryant
“Rod” Reuven Dovid Bryant, Netiv.net

If you visit the Netiv.net About page, you’ll find:

Currently meeting in Humble Texas, Allen Texas, Fayetteville Arkansas, Central Texas, Calgary Alberta, Canada, soon to be Kingsland Texas, and Nashville Tennessee. Netiv Center for Study of Torah was originally established to serve the greater North Houston area in 2010. It began with a hand full of individuals seeking the treasures of Torah knowledge, who are not connected to Jewish community. Rabbinical adviser Abraham Ben Yaakov graciously guides our communities spiritual learning. The center host [sic] people from all over the greater Houston area for weekly classes and lectures. Check out our photo stream on Facebook.

All people benefit from Torah study. The center is designed specifically for those desiring to study but have limited knowledge of the first books of the Bible. Netiv is an education center for Torah study, providing the student with Torah knowledge from it original sources. The classes are geared toward a non-jewish or non-religious jewish audience. Because we believe in the concept of Universal Torah for all peoples, this community is open to all. We welcome all to participate in the study of the Torah. If you are interested in joining our community we would love to have you visit. The environment is casual and full of joy. Join us in the study of the Word of G-d.

Wow! A Universal Torah? There are no end of surprising parallels between these Noahides and some Gentile folks in either Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots. The desire to go “above and beyond” what is required of non-Jews by Hashem runs deep within those of us who are attracted to a more “Judaic” viewpoint and interpretation of the Bible, and particularly the Torah.

I didn’t find a nice, concise definition for “Universal Torah,” but I think the bio on that site for Rabbi Chaim Richman may be illuminating.

Rabbi Chaim Richman is the director of the international department of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, Israel. He is an internationally respected and sought after lecturer and teacher on the projects and research of the Institute, as well as the Torah and the Temple as it relates to both Jews and non-Jews. His programs feature his vast Torah knowledge and draw from the diverse resources of the Temple Institute.

The phrase, “…as well as the Torah and the Temple as it relates to both Jews and non-Jews” seems to be the nexus of interest for all of the Gentile groups who are drawn to Judaism. For Jews, their relationship to the Torah and the Temple is well-defined, but for the rest of us, not so much.

JerusalemOh we think it is, but without a thorough understanding of the relevant material from a Judaic point of view that addresses specific Gentile involvement in Torah and Temple, we are often lost and left to our own efforts to create that understanding.

I sort of see the appeal of certain groups (I found the link to this article in a closed Facebook group for “Messianic Gentiles”) to derive some of their identity from Noahides because there is obviously a lot more material available serving them than there seems to be for us.

No, I’m hardly disdaining those fine individuals and organizations who are providing educational materials for we so-called Talmidei Yeshua, but these Noahides and their Jewish advisors have perspectives on the intersection between Judaism and the Goyim that I haven’t typically found in my own experience and from my usual information sources.

For any non-Jew who is attracted to Jewish praxis as a way of drawing closer to Hashem, we have a few options. I’ve mentioned most of them.

Join a Hebrew Roots group.

Join a Messianic Jewish group.

Join a group of Noahides.

Convert to Judaism.

The article mentions that a number of Netiv attendees would like to convert, but there’s no Orthodox Jewish community nearby to support such a thing. My wife, who is associated with both the local Chabad house and our Conservative/Reform shul here in town says the Chabad Rabbi won’t perform a conversion, first of all because there’s no local Beit Din, but also because there isn’t an Orthodox Jewish community to support a convert.

The Rabbi at the other synagogue has performed both Reform and Conservative conversions, but if like the Noahides I’ve cited from the Tablet article, you are specifically attracted to Orthodox Judaism, that’s not an option, either in Boise, Idaho or in Humble, Texas.

Oh, becoming a Noahide or converting to Judaism both require denying Yeshua (Jesus) as our Rav, Messiah, and King. For most of us, that’s a deal breaker, but obviously, for these Noahides, they were willing to exchange a Christian faith for a “Jewish” one, at least “Jewish” as it applies to Righteous Gentiles.

I’ve previously mentioned that the advantage for Talmidei Yeshua is that we are more than Noahides. Through Hashem’s mercy and grace, and through Rav Yeshua who is the mediator of the New Covenant, we are allowed to have access to many of the New Covenant blessings, the dwelling of the Holy Spirit within us, resurrection in the life to come, and in the Messianic Kingdom, an apprehension of Hashem equal to or greater than the Prophets of old.

Yes, I understand Noahides merit a place in the world to come, at least as understood by the Talmud and the Sages, but I don’t believe that encompasses the other blessings Yeshua-disciples experience:

The Noahide laws, which are derived from passages in the Torah, were enumerated in the Talmud. In the Middle Ages, Maimonides urged their observance on non-Jews, writing, “Anyone who accepts upon himself and carefully observes the Seven Commandments is of the Righteous of the Nations of the World and has a portion in the World to Come.”

leaving churchBut after the Rambam’s proclamation, non-Jewish participation in any sort of Noahide movement was minimal to non-existent, at least up until about 40 years ago or so. Now it seems to be booming, but unless you have your finger on that particular pulse, you’d never know it (I didn’t).

Is the church bleeding members like a ripped artery, and are they flowing into some expression of Jewish theology and praxis more so than at any other time in the past twenty centuries? If so, there must be a reason. Maybe Hashem really is preparing His remnant of the people of the nations for the coming/return of Moshiach.

Noahides, Talmidei Yeshua, and Shabbos Observance Revisited

On Facebook, I found a link to a YouTube video titled Can a Noahide/Non-Jew Keep Shabbos? and naturally I was intrigued. I should say that I have a pretty good idea how an Orthodox Rabbi would answer that question, but I watched the video anyway.

Afterward, I looked up the source, EmunahChannel.com, and discovered that the Rabbi answering the question on the video is Rav Dror Moshe Cassouto. According to the site’s About page:

Rav Dror Moshe Cassouto brings to us rare honest pure Emuna principals of Rabbi Nachman. Our hope is that our Torah Videos will bring you closer to the Bore Olam (Creator of the Universe) and to serve Him with joy, faith, and trust (Simcha, Emunah and Bitachon).

Learn the real meaning of life, the real purpose in life available to you today! Find Fulfillment, Acceptance, Purpose for your life. Discover the good points in yourself and others, and Finding how to serve God with every aspect of your being: Your mind, Your talents, Your emotions.

Breslov teachings from Rabbi Dror Moshe Cassouto, Jerusalem, Israel. Torah Shiur / Shiurim.

There’s more, but you can click the link I provided above and read all of the content for yourself.

Recently, I wrote a blog post called Not a Noahide, in which I was reminded in the comments section, I probably should have called “More than a Noahide.” I also wrote a companion piece titled Talmidei Yeshua which addresses what we Judaicly-aware Gentiles in Yeshua (Jesus) should call ourselves and what that’s supposed to mean (an ongoing process of self-definition).

They both were inspired by a source that attempts to draw parallels between Noahides and we non-Jewish “Talmidei Yeshua,” or a population that’s more commonly known as Messianic Gentiles.

ShabbatI mentioned the “ongoing process of self-definition” above, but this is also a process of trying to understand the role of the non-Jew in Jewish religious and communal space. A Noahide’s role is well-defined by the various branches of Judaism, but not so the role of the “Talmidei Yeshua” in Messianic Jewish space.

But, unless you’ve already looked at the nearly seven minute video of Rav Cassouto’s response to the question at hand, you probably want to know what he said. Here are my rough notes, which I typed into notepad as I was listening to the Rav speak.

Halachically no. Must violate some portion of shabbat.

Any Gentile who does observe Shabbos must be punished horribly.

Not that they don’t want us to keep shabbos, but it was a gift to Israel from Hashem.

To do so, they must convert to Am Yisrael and the converts are loved in six ways, and born Jews are loved in five.

The purpose of our life is to be humble and me must be humble that we are not Am Yisrael. A Gentile can believe in the One God, but may still not believe that God chose the people of Israel as the chosen nation and they have certain priorities and privleges that other nations don’t have.

We can enjoy shabbos but need to violate Shabbos in a minor way like turning on a light. Not allowed to receive the Shabbos like Am Yisrael. The purpose is to be humble.

Be humble and crown Hashem and to serve Him. Gentiles level of doing this is less than Am Yisrael. If you convert, your level is elevated to Am Yisrael.

Rav Dror Moshe Cassouto
Rav Dror Moshe Cassouto

These are rough notes, so they may seem a tad disjointed. The bottom line is that halachically, Gentiles are not to observe the Shabbat in the manner of Am Yisrael because we are not Am Yisrael. We cannot claim to have fulfilled the mitzvah of Shabbat observance in the manner of the Jews.

However, if we not only acknowledge the existence of the One God but also that He is the God who chose Am Yisrael to be elevated above the nations, then we can appreciate the Shabbat in a similar manner to Am Yisrael, as long as we violate the Shabbat in some sense, such as turning on and off a light switch. Seems simple enough as far as it goes.

To truly be able to observe Shabbos and fulfill the mitzvah, a Gentile must convert to Am Yisarel. The Rav also said that Hashem loves the convert even more than the born Jew, which is interesting.

But I don’t believe Gentile Talmidei Yeshua are only Noahides by another name. I believe we are more. If I didn’t, then I’d have to admit that faith and trust in Yeshua is meaningless. If that were true, why did the Apostle Paul (Rav Shaul) approach the Gentile God-Fearers in the synagogues of his day and reveal to them the good news of Rav Yeshua? They were already God-fearers. What would have been the point?

The matter of halachah and Shabbos observance by the Gentile Talmidei Yeshua has been a hotly debated topic in the Messianic blogosphere and many other venues over the years. I’ve commented on this many times, including in Messianic Jewish Shabbat Observance and the Gentile.

I doubt we can draw a direct parallel between Rav Cassouto’s commentary and the various opinions on the same topic in the Messianic realm. It’s difficult to reconcile this with what we read in Isaiah 56, although I’ve certainly tried.

For a variety of reasons I’ve written about at length previously, I don’t particularly keep a Shabbat of any sort. I certainly don’t want to attempt anything that would approach the level of observance of my Jewish spouse, and her’s isn’t what you’d call “Orthodox” (and I’ve been chided by her in the past for trying).

As I write this, she’s preparing to go to shul for Shabbos services, which pleases me.

MessiahI suspect that in Messianic Days, the people of the nations will likely keep some sort of Shabbos, but how that will compare to Jewish observance, I cannot say. In spite of the opinions of many and what they teach, I think the specific details aren’t definitively available.

That said, I suspect that, just as the Acts 15 Jerusalem letter to the ancient Gentile “Talmidei Yeshua” defined a less stringent level of observance than that incumbant upon Am Yisrael, our Shabbat observance, even in the Kingdom of Heaven, will still not be quite the same as that of the Jews.

So perhaps in the present age, we have a bit of latitude as to how we choose to honor Hashem on Shabbos. I know when I say that, I drive certain people nuts. Especially in religious terms, we like to have our lives well-ordered and highly specified. We want the rules and then we want to either obey those rules as Holy edicts from Heaven, or to adapt those rules and then say to ourselves that our adaptation is the Holy edict from Heaven (as opposed to the “man-made rules” of the Rabbis, who we are nonetheless sourcing).

We are more than Noahides, but what we are remains indistinct, at least as an overarching set of standards for we “Talmidei Yeshua.” According to the Nanos and Zetterholm volume Paul Within Judaism, there may not have been a definitive set of standards and roles, even for our ancient counterparts.

That’s also something that drives people nuts, but we can’t reasonably fill in the gaps in our knowledge with our imagination (although a great deal of theology and doctrine in certain circles does this to one degree or another).

All I’m doing here is attempting an honest (however brief) examination of the topic from the perspective of an “average guy”. Face it. I’m no scholar, leader, teacher, or pundit. I’m just a person trying to figure it all out who happens to write about that journey.

shabbatWhat does that mean to you as the non-Jewish disciple of Rav Yeshua (Jesus Christ)? Right now, it can mean whatever you want it to mean in terms of your own conscience and your understanding of the message of the Bible.

The Bible is highly biased toward Israel and the Jewish people, so we only have certain portions that directly speak to the nations. Interpreting those correctly, particularly within a Jewish document defining a Jewish context and covenant relationship with Hashem, is no small task.

Neither is our individual relationship with God. We progress one step at a time with the understanding that our movement is not at all linear. We learn by doing.

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Aid the oppressed. Uphold the rights of the orphan. Defend the cause of the widow.

Isaiah 1:17

Not a Noahide

I periodically “lurk” in a private Facebook group for “Messianic Gentiles.” I was actually surprised to have access to this group, but discovered that a friend of mine, who was already a member, added me as a member as well (I guess ordinary group members can add anyone they want without having to go through a moderator).

Anyway, I peek in every now and then to see what people are talking about. As it turns out, there are a lot of comparisons being made there between these Messianic Gentiles and Noahides. Some of the recent references have been posts originating at the Noahide World Center, specifically a free e-book download of a Siddur for Noachides as well as the same siddur as an app for Android.

I too have wondered in the past if there’s a favorable connection between being a non-Jewish disciple of the Jewish Messiah King and being a Noahide, at least relative to a non-Jews’s status and role in Jewish religious and communal space.

To that end, I began to peruse the AskNoah.org forums and even, at one point, exchanged messages with a Rabbi.

That didn’t end well and I concluded that my journey into considering myself a “Ger Toshav” with an unusual Messianic twist had hit a brick wall.

I took another look at their forums just now but can’t quote anything because each one displays the disclaimer:

All material posted to this forum becomes the exclusive copyright property of Ask Noah International Inc., and may not be published or re-used elsewhere without the express permission of Ask Noah International Inc.

OK. I’ll respect that.

So let’s go to the source:

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Genesis 9:8-17 (NASB)

NoahAccording to numerous sources including Jewish Virtual Library, the seven general laws for all of humanity derived from this portion of Genesis 9 are:

  1. Do Not Deny God
  2. Do Not Blaspheme God
  3. Do Not Murder
  4. Do Not Engage in Incestuous, Adulterous or Homosexual Relationships.
  5. Do Not Steal
  6. Do Not Eat of a Live Animal
  7. Establish Courts/Legal System to Ensure Law Obedience

Whether or not God holds the entire human race to these standards in the final judgment we’ll just have to wait and see. However, is this applicable to the non-Jewish disciple of Rav Yeshua (Jesus)? Does our devotion to our Rav not distinguish us at all from a non-believing world of secular atheists?

Granted, a non-Jew who becomes a self-declared Noahide is not an atheist, since he or she is professing faith in the God of Israel, but then again, the seven basic standards a Noahide adopts are also the standards that the rest of humanity will be judged by. No difference in expectation, except the Noahide voluntarily acknowledges those expectations while the non-Noahide either couldn’t care less or has some other moral/ethical/religious orientation that may or may not embrace some or all of the Noahide laws.

To be fair, I don’t think the private Facebook group I mentioned above sees non-Jewish Messianic disciples as wholly equivalent to Noahides in all respects. I think it’s a model for attempting to construct a relationship between (Messianic) Gentiles and Jews in (Messianic) Jewish religious and communal space.

It may also be an attempt to equip said-Gentiles with a set of tools and resources that are at once consistent with (Messianic) Judaism and also specifically crafted for the Judaicly-oriented non-Jew (hence the siddur for Noahides).

MessiahHowever, I think we need to be exceptionally clear that we take on board more as disciples of Yeshua than what the Noahide receives. While we non-Jews are not named participants in the New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31:27), through Hashem’s great grace and mercy, we non-Jewish devotees of our Rav are granted access to many of the blessings of the New Covenant, which includes the indwelling of the Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection into the world to come.

These are blessings identical to what the named participants of the New Covenant, that is, the Jewish people…Israel, will receive in Messianic Days. God made the covenant with them, but He also is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

The plain text of Genesis 9 really only promises that God won’t destroy all life by flooding again. It’s not even made exclusively with human beings, but with every living species. There’s no mention of attaining a spiritual knowledge of Hashem through His Spirit dwelling within us. Nor does this covenant speak of forgiveness of sins, and certainly not of everlasting life in the Kingdom of Messiah.

However, these blessings are all well documented in the New Covenant language we find in Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36 and elsewhere in the Tanakh (what Christians call the “Old Testament”).

I prefer to think that being a disciple of our Rav gives us a different role and status than the Noahide, although there certainly can be some overlap.

I’ve been approached online, both in the comments section of this blog and privately by email, to “come over to the Noahide side, we have cookies.” Both Jews and Noahides have attempted to induce me to abandon Rav Yeshua, and while I don’t doubt their motives are sincere, I have asked them to respect my wishes and my faith and desist.

I know there are non-Jews who consider themselves Noahides in the two synagogues in my local community. More power to them. We don’t interact, mainly because I don’t have a connection to local (or remote for that matter) Jewish community.

isolationBut even in isolation, once we have declared our devotion as disciples of our Rav, we have an obligation to stay the course, regardless of the personal difficulties involved. Who said a life of faith was easy? Who said you’d be accepted by everyone or anyone?

If I were a “standard” Christian, going to church each week and being in Christian community would serve my needs (but not my family’s needs), however those of us who view God, Messiah, and the Bible through a more “Jewish-focused lens,” are really neither fish nor fowl. We don’t fit in the Church and it would be disingenuous of us to attempt to enter Jewish community in the guise of a Noahide.

The aforementioned Facebook group is an attempt to offer the “Messianic Gentile” some sort of interface into Jewish community on their own grounds and using their own resources to define their roles, both among Jews and among themselves. That’s probably a good thing, though no one group can meet the needs of everyone who may identify as one of them (or something similar).

However, at the end of the day, you need to know who you are in relation to God and what that means (and doesn’t mean) for your life. Assimilating into a church as a Christian might be the easy way out, but it’s not who we are. Assimilating into a synagogue (Messianic or otherwise) as a Noahide might be the easy way out, but it’s not who we are (and forget about converting to Judaism, Orthodox or otherwise…the people of the nations are to have a role in the Kingdom).

WaitingWhether the rest of the Christian and Jewish world likes it or not, we were granted a unique place and role in relation to God and his plan of redemption, first for Israel, and then for the rest of us. Our particular perspective takes into account the primacy of Israel, the Jewish people and nation, in God’s plans, but it also acknowledges the special and specific place Rav Yeshua has as the mediator of the New Covenant and what that means to both Israel and the nations.

Traditional Christianity does (somewhat) the latter but not the former, while Noahides in Jewish community do the former but not the latter.

We do both…even if we have to do it alone.