Tag Archives: talmidei yeshua

The Life and Times of the Modern “Messianic Gentile”

It is imperative that every Jew know that he is an emissary of the Master of all, charged with the mission – wherever he may be of bringing into reality G‑d’s will and intention in creating the universe, namely, to illuminate the world with the light of Torah and avoda. This is done through performing practical mitzvot and implanting in oneself fine character traits.

Hayom Yom: 7 Adar I
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; free translation by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

According to the great medieval Jewish philosopher and legal authority Moses Maimonides, teaching non-Jews to follow the Noahide laws is incumbent on all Jews, a commandment in and of itself. However, most rabbinic authorities rejected Maimonides’ view, and the dominant halakhic (Jewish law) attitude had been that Jews are not required to spread Noahide teachings to non-Jews.

“The Modern Noahide Movement”
by Michael Kress
MyJewishLearning.com

This blog post was born out of my reading of another “My Jewish Learning” article called The Do’s and Don’ts of Talking to Converts written by Aliza Hausman. I started thinking that if there are “guidelines” for born Jews relating to “Jews by choice,” maybe there are also “guidelines” for Jews relating to Noahides (how that relates to my primary audience will become apparent, so keep reading).

The only reason I’m pursuing this is that there could be some application to the body of (Messianic) Jews relating to (Messianic) Gentiles within their midst.

I put “Messianic” in brackets in the paragraph above because I think the matter has more to do with Jewish and Gentile relationships in general than the peculiarities of that relationship within a Messianic context.

But before I get to that, I want to quote from the Hausman article. Oh, but before even that…

Aliza Hausman is a Latina Orthodox Jewish convert, freelance writer, blogger and educator. Currently working on a memoir, she lives in New York with her husband.

Now to the quote:

There are things I still can’t believe people have said to me. Fresh out of the mikvah, I heard, “But you’re not really Jewish. I mean I’m still more Jewish than you, right?” Oy vey. In the end, all converts want to be accepted as good Jews. We want to fit in. Possibly the reason Jewish tradition goes out of its way to tell you to be kind to us is that there are so many ways you can make us feel left out.

mikvahIf a non-Jew converts to Judaism, one mechanism to helping them “fit in” is for them to follow Jewish halachah, just like the other Jews in their community. But for Gentiles in Jewish community, it isn’t that simple…

…or is it?

Meet Jim Long. A documentary filmmaker with striking blue eyes, Long recites blessings in Hebrew before eating, peppers his conversation with Hebrew phrases–a “b’ezrat Hashem” (with God’s help) here, a “baruch Hashem” (praise God) there–and keeps a household that is, to the untrained eye, traditionally Orthodox. Only Long is not actually Jewish, nor does he have any plans to convert.

Oh, there’s more:

To Noahides, these seven laws are but a starting point, the foundation on which they’ve built a lifestyle of obligations and voluntary observances. The result is a life every bit as rigorous and all-encompassing as Orthodox Judaism, which guides and structures all aspects of their existence. While others drawn so intensely to Judaism would likely convert, these non-Jews have chosen to remain outside the fold, believing that life as a Noahide is an end in itself, a way to be partners–if not quite equals to the Chosen People–in the divine plan for the world.

Did you catch the key phrase? Let me quote it again.

…these seven laws are but a starting point, the foundation on which they’ve built a lifestyle of obligations and voluntary observances. The result is a life every bit as rigorous and all-encompassing as Orthodox Judaism, which guides and structures all aspects of their existence.

That sounds like it’s saying that it can be acceptable within Jewish community for Noahides to go above and beyond the seven Noahide laws and voluntarily add various observances to their day-to-day existence, resulting in “a life every bit as rigorous and all-encompassing as Orthodox Judaism.”

That’s saying quite a bit, and I don’t think a lot of Jews within Messianic Judaism would feel comfortable if their non-Jewish counterparts started living a life “as rigorous and all-encompassing as” an Orthodox Jew.

Kress echoes other articles I’ve referenced saying that many or most Noahides come from Christianity. He also mentioned that the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, believed it was incumbent upon every Jew to spread the word about the seven Noahide laws or “Sheva Mitzvot” to the non-Jewish world. He thought what would hasten the coming of Messiah was having both Jews and non-Jews doing God’s will.

He may have been alone in that thought as it remains controversial and, to the best of my knowledge, most branches of Judaism adhere to the halachah that Jews have no such obligation to non-Jews.

Who am IOf course, that hasn’t stopped the small but growing population of Noahides, but there is one glaring problem:

Despite the passion of committed Noahides, embracing seven laws of basic morality does not a lifestyle make. In some key ways, the Noahide movement is defined more by what it’s not than what it is: Not Jewish, not Christian, without a central organization, and with no clear consensus even on what the faith entails. Even the laws themselves–six out of the seven–are prohibitions. There’s little or no active spiritual life, no prescribed ritual and liturgical life for Noahides. There is, to borrow a phrase, “no there there.”

For many committed Noahides, that’s the biggest challenge the movement faces. Once they’ve given up their prior religious lives, immersed themselves in Jewish learning, perhaps even succeeded in hooking up with a local Jewish community, many Noahides speak of a lingering hole, the lack of an active and defined spiritual and ritual life.

This is exactly my point.

This is exactly the point for any “Messianic Gentile” or “Talmid Yeshua”. Like the Noahide, we do not have a lifestyle that is inherent to our faith. Like the Noahide, we’re not Jewish but we also aren’t traditionally Christian either, though we retain our devotion to Rav Yeshua (Jesus).

Like the Noahide, we have “little or no active spiritual life, no prescribed ritual and liturgical life,” unless we borrow it from Jewish praxis, but that comes with a lot of trap doors.

This is probably why so many in the Hebrew Roots movement are adamant that they are “obligated” to the 613 mitzvot of the Jewish people. They desperately want something that defines them relative to their faith, and they see those of us who believe the “one Law fits all” view is Biblically unsustainable as at least being in error if not actually hostile to the Torah.

I don’t think this is a new problem. In the Nanos and Zetterholm volume Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle, one or more of the articles it contains stated that the late First Century CE non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua likely suffered from a similar lack of definition.

If that’s correct, then one of the possible motivations for later groups of these ancient non-Jewish Yeshua disciples to split from the Yeshua-believing Jewish movement and manufacture the brand new Gentile-driven religion of Christianity, was the strong desire to be defined by their faith. They had no place in Judaism, so they created a place in a different religion.

Unfortunately, this was maladaptive and ended up being a total disaster as far as Jewish/Gentile relations are concerned. Worse, the Gentiles kicked the Jews out of their own party, so to speak, by radically redefining the Jewish Messiah as the Gentile Christian Savior, and astonishingly requiring Jews to stop being Jewish in order to become devotees of their own King.

judeo-christianReturning to the present, how do modern Noahides solve this dilemma? I quoted part of the answer above.

To fill the void–to transform this notion of Noahide law from a formless set of vague moral guidelines to a spiritually fulfilling lifestyle–Noahides have taken on themselves a host of what are known as “positive commandments,” the rituals and religious activities that infuse traditional Jews’ lives with structure, meaning, and spiritual foundation. These are not an inherent part of the Seven Mitzvot, but rather are voluntary observances to give their lives added spiritual meaning.

As a result, a committed Noahide lives a life of intense study of Jewish texts, not only on the Seven Laws themselves but also on all other aspects of a Jewish lifestyle, to discern which rituals a non-Jew may and may not perform. Theirs also is a life of prayer, which usually includes reading Psalms, composing original prayers, and reciting traditional Jewish liturgy, altered to remove or adapt all mentions of commandedness and chosenness, to make clear that it is only Jews, and not the Noahides, to whom those concepts apply.

They do just what has been suggested. They borrow from Jewish praxis, adapting ritual and custom for their own needs. There are two basic differences involved however. The first is that the practice is adapted from Jewish praxis rather than mirroring it identically. The second is the acknowledgment that said-observance is voluntary rather than obligatory.

Some hang a mezuzah on their doors, others don’t feel it’s appropriate. Ditto with tzitzit, the fringed undergarment worn by traditionally observant men. Shabbat looms large in the life of any traditional Jew, but all Noahides agree that they should not observe the Sabbath in the same strict way as Jews.

Since “observance” is voluntary, it makes sense that there would be variability of practice from one Noahide family to the next. Some might “keep” a form of Shabbos while others don’t. The same thing for mezuzah.

I was more than surprised to find a mention of tzitzit since I was unaware that any Noahide would elect to don a tallit katan.

I can see why some groups of Messianic Gentiles draw a comparison between themselves and Noahides. Not only are our struggles remarkably similar, but Noahides seem to have a leg up on how to successfully address said-struggles:

Many people are working to give structure and clarity to Noahide life. In other words, to give the movement its “there.” Chabad and other rabbis, together with Noahides, are creating a Noahide siddur (prayer book) to standardize prayers, and a liturgy of lifecycle rituals, such as funerals and baby-naming ceremonies. Also in the works is a Noahide Shulhan Arukh, a comprehensive book of law pertaining to non-Jews, which will spell out specifically how Noahides should live, which mitzvot are acceptable for them, and which aren’t. There are also numerous Noahide organizations popping up, aimed at uniting Noahides, providing support, and spreading their teachings.

I couldn’t help but notice that one such project to develop a Noahide Shulchan Aruch didn’t do so well. Perhaps Chabad will be more successful.

noahide guide We Messianic Gentiles, Talmidei Yeshua, or whatever you want to call us, could probably use the same siddurim and other supportive materials utilized by Noahides, with some adaptation to include our faith in Rav Yeshua who will return as King Messiah, but there’s something missing. I’ll pull it out of the paragraph I just quoted above:

There are also numerous Noahide organizations popping up, aimed at uniting Noahides, providing support, and spreading their teachings.

For Messianic Gentiles, not so much. They/we are too fragmented, our theology, doctrine, and praxis are too variable. Unlike Noahides who, at least in an ideal sense, have Chabad as a Jewish authority upon which to depend, Messianic Gentiles have no central Jewish organization that can help to unite us under a single standard collection of resources.

I suppose this could be a good reason why some Messianic Gentiles leave their faith and either join the ranks of Noahides or convert to Judaism.

Frankly, although people are free to make their own decisions, I don’t think either option is advisable and certainly not necessary. Neither is co-opting the Torah for Gentile use without so much as a by your leave to the Jewish people.

…the Jewish vision for the idealized, messianic future does not call for a world full of Jewish converts…

There are numerous mentions in both the Tanakh and Apostolic Scriptures saying the Messianic future will contain both Israel, that is, the Jewish people within their nation, and the people of the nations of the world, that is, the rest of us.

For prophesy to be fulfilled, there has to be “the rest of us,” there has to be a body of non-Jews who worship Hashem, the God of Israel, and who are devoted to Rav Yeshua as the coming King.

It’s incredibly easy for non-Jews to get lost in the world of Judaism and mistake it for the focus of our faith. I periodically quote my friend Tom who said, Don’t seek Christianity and Don’t seek Judaism, but rather, seek an encounter with the living God.”  Although ritual and custom help to define our lifestyle as Talmidei Yeshua, they are just the means by which we practice our faith, they are not the target. God is.

But like converts to Judaism and like Noahides, we just want to fit in and be accepted by our “parent” Jewish community (those of you who have one). However, the way to do that isn’t clearly understood, either by Jews or non-Jews in Messiah-faith. That means there is no one defined reality for our lived experience, at least in the realm of ritual and tradition.

But it’s nice to know we’re not alone.

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Why Do All These Gentiles Want To Go To Synagogue?

Lately, I’ve been making a few comparisons between that group of people referred to as Messianic Gentiles or who I sometimes call Talmidei Yeshua and non-Jews called Noahides, a group that Orthodox Judaism believes to be “righteous Gentiles” based on their adherence to the Seven Laws of Noah (see Genesis 9 for the original source material).

I got an email notification recently from a blog called Cozy Kitchen Chats stating that they had “reblogged” Where Are All The Gentiles Who Are Drawn To The Torah. I always feel honored when another blogger feels my content is worthy of posting on their blogspot, so I went to take a look…

…only to find that not only did the reblog not exist, but that it pointed to a different blog altogether: The Torah Way.

Now I was really curious, but the blog’s About page and the associated profile yielded no useful information.

I did find one blog post that seemed illuminating: Leaving Christianity. My guess is that this blog author reblogged my content without having read it thoroughly and thought it was a pro-Noahide commentary. Once he/she discovered more about me, he/she deleted it and moved on.

This person’s “story” seems similar to the other formerly-Christian Noahides I’ve referenced in other blog posts. They read the Bible, compare it to traditional Christian doctrine, and find a massive disconnect between the promises Hashem made to Israel in the Tanakh (Torah, Nevi’im [Prophets], Ketuvim [Writings]) or what Christians call the “Old Testament,” and what seems to be presented in the Apostolic Scriptures (“New Testament”).

As I’ve said before, people like me attribute the disconnect to a horribly inaccurate interpretation of the Apostolic Scriptures originally crafted by the early “Church Fathers” (and later, expanded upon by other Christian movements including the Reformation) in order to totally remove anything Messianic and Jewish about Rav Yeshua (Jesus) from devotion to him, creating a completely new Gentile-driven religion called “Christianity”.

Noahides, on the other hand, believe that the disconnect is because there is absolutely no validity in any of the content of the “New Testament,” no validity to the belief that Yeshua will return as King Messiah, and that non-Jews have no access to the blessings of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36) whatsoever (which is easy to understand since only the House of Judah and the House of Israel are named participants in the covenant).

leaving churchFrom that point of view, the only “in” for non-Jews with Hashem is through the Noahide Covenant (which is actually made with all living things, not just all human beings).

The unknown author’s blog post begins:

Leaving Christianity was extremely easy, yet most difficult at the same time. It was easy when I would weigh everything upon the Word of My Creator as I used Deuteronomy Chapter 13 as a balance in the scale of TRUTH. Difficult only in losing the community and camaraderie Christianity brings.

As I studied what is properly known as the Torah, (that which is called in vulgarity the “old” Testament). I fell in deep love and fascination with the God of Creation, the God of Sinai, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

There are a number of things here that parallel the history and attitudes of the “Judaicly-aware” folks of which I am one.

The non-Jewish Christian reads the Torah and discovers TRUTH that is not taught in the Church, and in fact, a truth that seems in direct contradiction to what is taught in the Church.

The non-Jewish Christian experiences an attitude of “vulgarity” or some other negative attribution toward the Torah expressed in the Church.

The non-Jewish Christian “falls in love” with the beauty of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings that is unique and precious.

The non-Jewish Christian feels driven to leave the Church and find a “home” elsewhere; some community of Gentiles who can live by more Torah-driven values, at least as much as portions of Torah apply to non-Jews.

However…

This is a lonely place to be, not a believer in Christianity, and not a “Jew” by any known bloodline. What does a believer, devotee and seeker of the God of Israel become? We don’t believe the Seed of Jacob will be replaced with another people, We don’t believe that God’s beautifully designed Laws and Standards are done away with, nor do we believe we are to pretend to be Jewish, yet to quote Rabbi David Katz, we long to be “Jew-ISH.”

This is very close to what New Testament scholar Mark D. Nanos refers to as Acting Jewishly But Not Jewish.

Nanos attributed this quality to the First Century C.E. non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua, particularly those who were taught by Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul).

Glasses on Open BibleIt’s funny how, no matter to what degree our individual conclusions differ from one another, when we discover this discrepancy between Christian doctrine and the actual Biblical text, we pour mind, body, and soul into study to discover the “truth,” trusting only in the Spirit of God to lead us to that “truth.”

Therefore, when I would try to calibrate the teaching of Paul to this Master Being’s Commands, Decrees and Standards it was clear to see to whom my loyalty would reside and to Whom I would choose to entrust my very soul. I applied myself to deep study of the Actual Scripture, turning off Television, Cable and Facebook, unplugging from everything and asked from a sincere heart for this God, this Creator to open my eyes to His Truth, no one else’s, to not allow me to go astray, or be misled. I put my faith in Him alone and held strong to the words of Solomon, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”

But although the process of “leaving Christianity” for a Talmid Yeshua and a Noahide may have some similarities, the results are quite different.

I have to remind myself that one Jewish person taught me that Noahides, along with national Israel and we non-Jews in Messiah, may all have some status before Hashem. After all, Isaiah 56 doesn’t map out exactly how a “foreigner” is to attach himself (or herself) to the Lord (Isaiah 56:3, 6-8).

I admit, this area of thinking is more than a little fuzzy, but I learned some time ago, that the Bible operates at a large number and wide variety of levels, and some of the information encoded within is very tough to reach. I’m convinced that there is data in the Bible that, once our Rav returns and interprets it for us, we will be amazed that we missed it so completely.

But back to the musings of this anonymous Noahide:

I found Laws, Commands and Standards that seem so perfect, so regal, so wise that I envy these special children, these special People that have been chosen to follow them. Yes, I envy these standards. Saddened to think I wasn’t chosen or found special enough to be asked to live by such self-discipline and refined practices.

reading torahAnother strong parallel. A Gentile who longs to observe the mitzvot in the manner of a Jew and who realizes that the mitzvot, for the most part, don’t apply to us (though some non-Jews in the Hebrew Roots movement will strongly disagree).

But to continue quoting:

We, as a small family realized, we are not Jewish, we are not to replace the amazing Jewish People. We do believe that Their God is the ONLY GOD, We believe that His Ways are Rich, Rewarding and Righteous. Even though we as gentiles are not commanded to follow His Laws given to the Children of Jacob, we can clearly see the blessings, health and provision that almost immediately follow implementing them brings.

This is pretty much identical to the thoughts and feelings of a lot of non-Jews who, in some manner or fashion, have become associated with Messianic Judaism.

But this final quote is unique to those non-Jews who feel in order to leave normative Christianity, either for the Messianic Jewish/Hebrew Roots movements or into Noahidism, have to denigrate their former association with the Church:

We have found that seeking His Kingdom, His Will, His Truth, His Words have elevated us way beyond the falsehood Christianity (AKA Baal worship or idolatry).

Yikes. I suppose this person has disconnected not only from Christianity, but from those people in his/her former church who really did live a life of holiness, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and paying homage to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Sometimes going through a “divorce” is painful and that pain can turn into a terrible anger.

This writer says to the blog’s audience, “…you are NOT alone. I will soon post information on resources that are available.”

I’ve taken a look at this blog and there are only two subsequent write-ups present (as of this writing), neither offering further resources for the Noahide or potential Noahide.

This blog writer is correct in saying that the journey of a non-Jew circling the peripheral boundary of Judaism is lonely. We don’t quite fit into anyone’s definition of anything. We do what we do because only the centrality of Israel in God’s overarching plan of redemption makes any sort of sense once taking a holistic view of the Bible.

This is what has resulted in me giving up the identity crisis and concentrating on the core values of what defines a person of God. I don’t have to be concerned about how to enter community, Jewish or otherwise, if my primary connection to my faith is through Hashem.

Man aloneBut as I mentioned here, even Noahides are sometimes (often?) turned away from Orthodox synagogues and Chabad Houses when they show up wanting to learn Torah.

The difficulty of non-Jews gaining access to Jewish teaching, wisdom, and knowledge goes all the way back to Shaul’s/Paul’s Gentile communities in the diaspora. No one in Judaism, regardless of the “flavor,” knows what to do with us, largely because we don’t fit into  any “Jewish-friendly” template within Jewish community.

Well, that’s not entirely true:

Carolyn is Baptist. She always will be. And she comes to my synagogue regularly.

By regularly, I mean she comes to everything. Friday night services, Saturday morning Torah study, holiday celebrations, Adult Ed. Everything. Although she brings her Bible and her faith in Jesus along with her to every synagogue function, she doesn’t come to evangelize. And she’s not interested in converting to Judaism. She’s just interested in what Judaism has to offer.

-Rabbi Rachael Bergman
“Who are the Jewcurious?”
MyJewishLearning.com

This Jewish website is very liberal and so is Rabbi Bergman. I’ve mentioned her before, and she seems incredibly open to non-Jews and even Christians associating with her synagogue, probably because more Gentiles than Jews are attending the classes she teaches:

In my small, coastal Georgia community, 90 percent of the participants in the classes I teach are non-Jewish, whether it is a class in Hebrew, Kabbalah, or Judaism 101. Last fall I taught a class on Israel and had just over 100 attendees every week for six weeks. I took a survey of the 90 or so non-Jewish participants. Each person identified with a particular Christian faith group so there were no “nones.” The majority are currently affiliated with a church which means very few “nons.” This tells me it’s not only unaffiliated seekers who are Jewcurious, it is also the church-going, faithful filling the pews.

synagogueIt seems that there are a lot of non-Jews interested and even fascinated with Judaism. These aren’t just Noahides or people like me, but Christians who have no intention of leaving their churches. Some of the Christians, such as the aforementioned “Carolyn,” attend synagogue on Shabbat and church on Sunday, and in fact, she attends every function the synagogue offers.

Other non-Jews like Carolyn come to synagogue regularly. Some are looking to be closer to Jesus, some come to enhance their understanding and connection to their own faith, and some just come to understand themselves. Something about Judaism provides an access point to spirituality and meaning. Regardless, Carolyn and her cohort take what Judaism has to offer on Friday night and Saturday morning to one of the many churches down the street on Sunday.

A lot of non-Jews are interested in Judaism and believe that in some way, Jewish teaching is meaningful to them, even though they have no intention of actually converting to Judaism.

I don’t know what it means. Maybe this has always been a trend but isn’t often noticed, or maybe (and I think I’ve said this before) God is preparing His remnant from among the nations for Moshiach’s return and the unfolding of his Kingdom here in our world. Maybe it’s important for representatives of the nations, including those who are church-attending Christians, to begin to understand that King Messiah and Israel will be ruling the nations of the earth, not the Church.

The day is coming. We must be ready…no matter who we are.

What Defines The People of God?

Chosen People Racist?

What’s behind the whole concept of the Jews as the Chosen People? Isn’t this idea racist?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

All human beings are God’s people, as it says that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. Further, the great prophet Malachi said, “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us?” (Malachi 2:10) The Talmud likewise points out that one reason the entire human race descends from a single set of parents, Adam and Eve, is so that no one would be able to claim his ancestors are greater than his fellow’s (Sanhedrin 37a). Judaism does not believe there is an inherently superior race of human beings.

-From the “Ask the Rabbi” column
Aish.com

Yesterday, I posted a blog article called Giving Up the Identity Crisis, which was based on material I reported on in Where Are All The Gentiles Who Are Drawn To The Torah?; a comparison between modern Noahides and their communities, and we “Messianic Gentiles” or, if you prefer, Talmidei Yeshua (Gentile Disciples of Jesus).

I’ve been pondering the ramifications of giving up the identity crisis and becoming more comfortable with who I am. Relative to our relationship with God, there’s only really one thought to consider: you’re either Jewish or you’re not.

new heartThe Jewish people, the modern inheritors of the covenants Hashem made with the Children of Israel, are the only named participants in those covenants. For the rest of us, by attaching ourselves to the Jewish Messiah, we attach ourselves to Israel and thus by God’s grace and mercy, we are allowed to benefit from some of the blessings of the New Covenant.

But as the quote from the Aish Rabbi states, if the Jewish people are not inherently superior to the rest of humanity, and if we’re all created in the image of the Almighty, then why are there distinctions between Israel and the people of the nations at all?

Historically, however, the world slipped away from its relationship with God, and eventually the entire world was worshipping idols. Approximately 4,000 years ago, Abraham re-discovered the one God, and chose to accept the challenge of spreading the ideas of monotheism and morality to the world. Through his dedication and willingness to give up everything for God, he was chosen – and his descendants after him – to become the guardians of God’s message.

In other words, Abraham chose God, and thus God chose Abraham.

Abraham then passed this responsibility to his sons Isaac and Jacob. That mission was formalized 3,300 years ago at Mount Sinai, when God put these ideas into a written form (the Torah).

Oh, that.

Yes, Israel became the keepers of the Torah of Moses for many, many centuries as well as the only nation on the planet that paid homage to God and obeyed His laws and statutes.

the crowdOf course, in that time, there were a number of non-Jews who, seeing the wisdom and beauty of the Torah, attached themselves to Israel and eventually, after the third generation, assimilated completely into Israel, leaving behind their non-Israelite lineage.

But God didn’t desire that humanity either have to convert to Judaism (which is how modern Jews view the ancient assimilation process) or be out of relationship with Him. And while modern religious Jews believe that humankind is born into a relationship with the God of Israel through the Noahide covenant (see Genesis 9 and AskNoah.org), God had a better plan.

That plan was absolutely not to replace Israel and Judaism with Gentile Christianity. That plan was and is for the people of the nations to benefit from God’s ultimate redemption of Israel by redeeming us as well, at least those of us who accept that Moshiach is the mediator of the New Covenant, trust in him and obey God’s commandments as they apply to the Goyim.

We aren’t born into this covenant relationship, but we are grafted in essentially as “alien residents” among Israel (symbolically, since most of us don’t live among the Jewish people in national Israel) so that the barriers that previously separated us from Israel have been resolved.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all Christians and all Jews get along. Quite the opposite in some cases. But it does mean that the Gentiles and Jews who revere Rav Yeshua (Jesus) within the context of the ekklesia (which does not mean “church”), and trust in Hashem to save, are part of a larger Messianic community that will be fully realized upon Moshiach’s return.

I’ve said all this before in one way or another, so why am I repeating myself (yet again) now?

jew and gentile
Martin Luther King Jr. in the front line of the third march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama with Rabbi Joshua Heschel, March 21, 1965

Because (and this is a gross oversimplification) once you learn that the only two identities you can have are “Jewish” and “Other” within the devotees to Israel’s God, there’s not much else to be concerned about.

But like I said, this is a gross oversimplification. People love labels and love to differentiate between groups by those labels and what they think those labels mean.

However, what we call ourselves and what we tell ourselves that means is probably less important than what we actually do about it. Is the non-Jew who says he or she “observes the Shabbat” any more or less loved by God or created in His image than the non-Jew who volunteers at the local food bank, donates clothing to the local homeless shelter, or who spends time with hospitalized friends and relatives because tzedakah (charity) was made part of our obedience to our Rav and thus to God?

Don’t get me wrong, I think the blessing of lighting the Shabbos candles is very beautiful, and so is inviting God into the home to share our rest, but the Shabbat is a unique sign of the Sinai covenant, a covenant Hashem made exclusively with the Children of Israel (and the mixed multitude present who would assimilate into the Israelites within three generations).

Once we acknowledge that we are either Jewish or not and we learn to be OK with that, our identity problems go away for the most part.

I am a (non-Jewish) disciple of my Rav.

Another person might say “I am a (non-Jewish) Christian,” and essentially mean the same thing.

OK, there are differences, but if I obey my Rav by donating to my local homeless shelter and the Christian obeys Jesus by donating canned goods to the local food bank, are we not both being obedient and following his commands? Are we not both being faithful in the same way to the same Master?

churchSure, you might say that Christians believe in supersessionism, or deny that the Jewish people are still attached to God through the commandments and the Torah, or that they believe that Jesus “nailed the Law to the cross,” but which of us has a theology and doctrine that is 100% correct from Hashem’s point of view?

Probably no one. And yet with an imperfect understanding of the Bible, our Rav, and our God, we can still do good in His Name. That very likely describes 100% of Christians and observant Jews.

One Christian denomination rails against another spending a lot of time and resources to do so. One branch of religious Judaism rails against another spending a lot of time and resources doing so. And good grief, just look at those of us who live, study, and worship “outside the box,” so to speak. We waste a lot of time arguing about distinctions this and distinctions that.

Isn’t there a better way to use our resources and to obey our Rav?

There is once you let go.

Someone on a closed Facebook group recently asked non-Jewish group members why they became Messianic Gentiles and what was the biggest obstacle they had to overcome in entering into Messianic Jewish community.

I know these are important questions and answering them facilitates a sense of community among those who participate, at least a virtual community since these people (potentially) live all over the world, but in some ways, making that distinction also facilitates the identity crisis.

Inner lightWho is a Messianic Gentile and what does that mean? What’s a Messianic Gentile’s relationship with Messianic Jewish community and how (or if) do we fit in? There are a bunch of other questions attached to those and there is no one unified answer.

But what if those aren’t the most important questions to ask and asking the right question gives us a better answer?

We are all created in the image of God. The Aish Rabbi said that the Jewish mission is to be a light to the nations. My interpretation is that Rav Yeshua is that light (John 8:12) and by becoming his disciple, we too become lights to the world (Matthew 5:14-16).

Maybe all we really have to answer is the question, “How can I better shine my light onto the world?” That’s a totally inclusive question because it applies to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike. Sure, the answer is somewhat different depending on whether you’re Jewish or not, but not as much as you think.

Both the Jew and the Gentile are commanded to do kindness and give charity. Both the Jew and the Gentile pray. Both the Jew and the Gentile give thanks to God for what He provides us from His grace, mercy, and generosity (Psalm 145:16).

I’ve stopped worrying about what to call myself (this is a lot easier for me because I’m not part of a religious community that has a label and expects that label to mean something specifically defining). I suppose there are any number of words that others use to define me. My Jewish wife for instance, considers me a Christian. From her point of view, she’s probably right.

Who am IBut what about God’s point of view? Maybe the identity He assigned us, the person He created each of us to be, is based less on some theological system of belief and more on what we do about it.

If you behave like the person God created you to be, and strive each day to become a truer realization of that person, who cares what people call you? Who cares what you call yourself? It matters most of all how God sees you and your (our, my) response to Him.

Who am I? What do I call myself? Why, I’m “me”. I’m doing my best to be the person God created me to be. Or like Batman said, “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

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.

The Spiritual Responsibility of the Church to Israel

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

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

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

It’s not always easy to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 25:34-40 (NASB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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