Tag Archives: Temple

The Purpose of Torah in New Testament Judaism, Part 1

creative-torahJewish tradition holds that “Moses received the Torah from Sinai,” yet there is also an ancient tradition that the Torah existed in heaven not only before God revealed it to Moses, but even before the world was created.

“The Written Law: Torah”
Jewish Virtual Library

Last night was my regular Wednesday evening meeting with Pastor Randy in his office at church. Often our conversations take various twists and turns (last night was no exception) but we tried to stick to our task of discussing D. Thomas Lancaster’s book The Holy Epistle to the Galatians

Between last week and last night, we managed to cover chapters 6 and 7, but we keep running into a wall based on our different perspectives.

Paul had an ulterior motive for this trip to Jerusalem. He intended to use the opportunity for a private meeting with the apostles, those reputed pillars of the assembly under James the Righteous, the brother of the Master. James presided over the assembly of Messiah as the steward of the throne of David, so to speak. Paul wanted to present his unique interpretation of the gospel to James and the apostles – namely the version of the gospel that God-fearing Gentile believers need not become Jewish in order to inherit salvation, enter the kingdom of heaven, and obtain citizenship in the people of God; rather that faith in the Master was sufficient for even Gentiles.

-Lancaster, Sermon 6: The Big Meeting (Galatians 2:3-5), pg 60

One of the problems Paul had encountered was hearing of “false brothers” (Galatians 2:4) coming into the Messianic communities in Galatia, and convincing some of the Gentile believers that they could only be saved if they were circumcised and converted to Judaism. This was contrary to what Paul believed, but he needed his understanding of the Gentile role in Messianic Judaism confirmed by the Council of Apostles in Jerusalem (which it finally was in Acts 15).

Pastor Randy agrees with me that non-Jews don’t have to convert to Judaism and take on the full weight of Torah as the Jews in order to become disciples of Jesus. However, he believes the “false brothers” were not just convincing the Gentiles to be circumcised, but the Jesus believing Jews as well!

The underlying belief is that both Jews and Gentiles were being taught by Paul that no one must “keep the Torah” once they have come to faith in Jesus because Jesus fulfilled the Law (This contradicts Paul’s own testimony that he never broke any of the laws of Torah, which he repeated many times starting with Acts 21, including what he says in Acts 25:8).

(Note that I’m using the New American Standard Bible – NASB – for quoting Bible verses unless otherwise indicated.)

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

Matthew 5:17

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Romans 10:4

According to the Greek (according to Pastor Randy), the word “fulfill” in Matthew 5 gives the sense of to fill up, to complete, rather than “fulfilling prophesy” as in simply meeting the qualifications.

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.

Galatians 3:24

Pastor interprets this verse the way you might expect, that the Torah had one primary purpose and that when Jesus came, that purpose was completed and the Torah, for the most part, is no longer valid or at least not currently valid.

temple-prayersThis actually is a little complex because there are whole sections of Torah that have to do with the Temple and Priesthood that cannot currently be performed for obvious reasons. However, both Pastor Randy and I believe that there will be a third Temple and when it exists, some or all of the laws related to Temple worship will be re-established. We also agree that what Christianity calls “the moral laws” of the Torah remain, such as feeding the hungry and visiting the sick, and these are laws that apply to Christians and (believing and non-believing) Jews. You can’t eliminate all of the Torah without eliminating Christianity.

My assumption is from the opposite end of the telescope, so to speak. I believe that the Jewish believers including James, Peter, and Paul, would not have automatically assumed that the coming of Moshiach would have meant their Torah-observant lifestyles would have been changed or diminished in any way. In fact, I believe that their faith in Messiah would have given them a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in Torah.

You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law…

Acts 21:20

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Romans 7:7-12

There seems to be a duality in how the Torah is addressed in the New Testament, so we can each make a case for the Law being considered “good” or “bad” but what we are trying to determine is if the Torah retained a purpose for the Jewish believers after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. In order to do that, Pastor Randy and I need some sort of definition for “Torah” or more likely, a mutually agreed upon answer to the question, “What is the purpose of the Torah?”

Pastor believes that there is a purpose to certain portions of the Torah after the ascension but that those portions apply equally to both Jewish and Gentile believers, since believers are defined by faith in Jesus as the bottom line. I disagree and believe there is an additional differentiation between Jewish and Gentile believers based on Sinai and that the Jewish believers remain distinct, even among the larger body of Gentile disciples of Messiah.

My project is to try to investigate the purpose of Torah for Jewish people who are in Messiah. Pastor is going to approach it from his perspective starting with Calvin’s Purposes of the Law in the New Testament. While I think it’s necessary to look at such a viewpoint, my concern is that by definition, it will not take the possibility of continued Jewish Torah observance into account.

I think it is completely reasonable to say that believing Jews and Gentiles can still have differences in obligation and duty under the Torah, just as Levites and Kohens have different duties under Torah than other Jewish people. They are all Jewish and yet specific Jews have certain additional obligations based on who they are. In a community of Jewish and Gentile believers, they (we) are all believers, but the Jews have certain additional obligations based on who they are.

Even a casual Google search on the string, “What is the purpose of the Torah” turned up a vast number of what seems to be very compelling sources, too many to review and summarize in a single blog post. I know this conversation with Pastor Randy will go beyond next week’s meeting, but we both agree that we need to, if not settle the matter, at least have a better handle on it than we do now (we’re also covering Chapter 8 in Lancaster for next week).

torah-tree-of-lifeI may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, so to speak, but I’m not the dullest either. I know how to do my homework. On the other hand, I’m still only one person and as such, have the limitations of a single perspective. If anyone has something useful or can point me to a resource that can assist me in looking at the purposes of the Torah for believing Jews, both in the time of Paul and in the present age, I’d certainly appreciate you giving me a “heads up.”

Oh, Pastor Randy reads my blog every day, so it’s not like I’m trying to pull a fast one or something.

One more thing. At the beginning of this blog post, I quoted from Jewish Virtual Library on part of the “identity” of the Torah. It’s interesting that Pastor Randy pretty much agrees with that definition. That is to say, he believes there is a “Word of God” that is independent of the physical object we call a “Bible.” There is a pure, refined, holy, transcendent Torah in Heaven that no man has access to. The Bible contains the Word of God, but the Bible isn’t actually that Word.

That belief lends itself to some very interesting possibilities about what happens when we study the Bible, but I’ll stop at this point rather than try to explore such a vast territory.

The Torah is a tree of life for those who grasp it, and its supporters are praiseworthy. Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace. Lengthy days are at its right; at its left are wealth and honor. Hashem desired for the sake of its [Israel’s] righteousness, that the Torah be made great and glorious.

-from the Siddur

I hope to continue contributing to this project on my blog with some regularity, not only because of my conversations with my Pastor, but for its own sake. I suppose I’m “reinventing the wheel,” and perhaps some knowledgeable scholars have already done some or most of the work for me. If that’s true and who know where I can access that work, don’t be shy. Let me know.

More questions and another perspective on Torah coming up in Part 2 of this series.

Gifts of the Spirit: Building God’s Dwelling Place, Part 2

tabernacle-sea-caveAnd Moses finished setting up the Tent of Meeting.

Exodus 40:33

…no place on earth is devoid of the Shechinah. Rabbi Joshua of Sikhnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, What is the Tabernacle compared with? With a cave situated on the edge of the sea. When the sea rises and floods it, the cave is filled by the sea, yet the sea is not diminished. Likewise, the Tabernacle was filled with the radiance of the Shechinah.

-Pesikta Derab Kahana 1.3

If you haven’t done so already, please read Part 1 of this “meditation” before continuing here. This is a continuation of my commentary on the teaching “For God’s Dwelling Place” presented at the First Fruits of Zion Shavuot conference at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship by Rabbi Carl Kinbar.

Yesterday, I suggested that there is no inconsistency between the Spirit of God dwelling within each of us as disciples of the Jewish Messiah and God dwelling among His people Israel in the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Holy Jerusalem. That’s not exactly traditional thinking for most Christians, and at least in the western world, we tend to think in terms of “either/or” rather than “why not both.”

But to borrow a little “rabbinic language,” to what can the dwelling place of God be compared?

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later. Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope.

Hebrews 3:5-6 (NRSV)

The end of the Book of Exodus records Moses finishing the work of setting up the Tabernacle and then the Divine Presence covering and filling the Mishkan. Moses was faithful in the construction of a dwelling place for God among His people Israel as God’s servant. But there is one who is more than a servant. He is a son. How much more faithful is the son over the house of the father than the servant?

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:4-5

Reading Hebrews and Peter’s first letter gives the impression of an “either-or” situation. Either God dwells in a Temple of stone or He dwells in a Temple of flesh and blood, with a flesh and blood Son being the cornerstone of the “structure.” But is this necessarily true in a permanent sense? It is true that there is no Temple in Jerusalem today, and it is true that the Spirit dwells within each of God’s people, that we come together as “living stones” and united, we form a “Temple” of God, the body of Messiah.

And it is true that today we offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Messiah.

The sacrifices God desires are a broken spirit; a heart broken and humbled, O God, You will not despise.

Psalm 51:19 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Not too long ago, I wrote about what it is to be broken in heart and in spirit before God and among other heartbroken people. These were the sacrifices we offered to God at Shavuot and His Spirit filled the synagogue in Hudson, Wisconsin during the days of the festival.

There is no Temple sacrifice that atones for murder and adultery, both of which David was guilty of, except on Yom Kippur. He must have known this when he wrote his famous Psalm. But what is the state of the heart of one who approaches God in abject humility on Yom Kippur? Is not every Jew heartbroken, contrite, and humbled? Are these not the sacrifices we make to God with our lives as we turn away from our sins and turn to Him begging for forgiveness?

Rescue me from blood-guilt, O God, God of my salvation, let my tongue sing joyously of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips that my mouth may declare Your praise.

Psalm 51:16-17 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

David seems to paint a portrait that is completely appropriate for the disciple of Jesus in the world today. No stone Temple is required when we turn to God and offer spiritual sacrifices of the heart. But then, David says something that doesn’t fit into the Christian template.

Then You will desire the offerings of righteousness, burnt-offering, and whole offering; then will bulls go up upon Your altar.

Psalm 51:21 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

The Jewish disciples of Messiah in the days of the apostles would have had no problem with Temple sacrifices, and it is said that under certain conditions, even the God-fearing Gentiles could offer sacrifices at the Temple through the Priests. It is only today, and especially with no House of God standing on the Temple Mount that Gentile Christians balk at the thought of “bulls going up upon God’s altar.”

jerusalem_templeAnd yet we know that there will be a physical Temple in Jerusalem again, and we know that each of the nations who went up against (who will go up against) Jerusalem in the final days, will be commanded to send representatives to Jerusalem for Sukkot each year (Zechariah 14:16). True celebration of Sukkot in the days when there is a Temple in Jerusalem require that sacrifices be made in the Temple (Leviticus 23:33-43).

In the days of the Temple, will the sacrifices of the heart no longer be required? Hardly. Read Psalm 51 again. Once our hearts and spirits are broken before God as spiritual sacrifices, then will the offerings of bulls be accepted upon the Temple altar.

And God will once again dwell among His nation Israel and in the hearts of His devout ones, first the Jew and also the Gentile who is called by His Name.

But let’s take a closer look at what’s happening now.

So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Ephesians 2:17-22 (NRSV)

Notice that we Gentiles who were far off were brought near and united as members of God’s household through the Spirit and not by the Torah mitzvot in the manner of the Jews. Rabbi Kinbar says that the phrase referring to Gentiles “who were far off” literally describes being “outside the house” in Greek. He also said, according to my notes, that the reference to “house” both means “house” as a structure and also the process of “building the house.”

Gentiles are brought near to Israel, bringing us inside the house, but we also join Israel in the process of building the house of God with Messiah as the cornerstone. Jewish and Gentile disciples of the Master are all part of a single household; a holy Temple of God. Jesus is the house and the house is also in him. Jesus is pre-eminent and pre-dominant in the house.

For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it.

1 Corinthians 3:9-10 (NRSV)

However, Rabbi Kinbar suggests that we should be careful what materials we use to lay upon the foundation stones of the house. A quick look at the condition of “the church” today, at least in the United States, suggests that many Christians aren’t using the finest materials for the construction job. In fact, sad to say, many churches are using sub-standard materials, flimsy and faulty wood, stone, and tools. Precious stones were used in the construction of the Jerusalem Temple. Should we use anything less in the Temple where we are the stones?

Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church…So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church…What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

1 Corinthians 14:4, 12, 26 (NRSV)

These are all images of building up the house of God as members of the house, the body, the community of faith. We build with our spiritual gifts, we build with prayer, with hope, with love, with faith. 1 Corinthians 12:11 says that we are all one by the same Spirit but each one of us individually has specific gifts. We’re not all alike. We each have something unique to contribute, just as Bezalel and Oholiab and “every skillful one to whom the Lord had given skill” had unique talents they used in making the elements of the Tabernacle (Exodus 36:1-3).

I’ve said previously that we are a work in progress as a body of faith. God has not yet written his Torah on our hearts, nor have our hearts been fully transformed from stone to blood-pumping hot flesh. We still cry out to one another, “Know God!” (see Jeremiah 31; Hebrews 8; 10).

Receiving the SpiritRabbi Kinbar finished his presentation by stating something I consider remarkable about our “living house.” God is actually living in the dwelling place we are constructing while it is still in the process of being built. This is completely unlike His dwelling in the Tabernacle and later, the Temple, because those projects had to be fully completed before the Divine Presence filled them. For He lives within us as we are still measuring and hammering and raising wooden beams and laying precious foundation stones.

The plans for the Tabernacle and the Temple were exquisitely precise and each and every piece of stone and wood was of the finest quality, constructed by exceptionally skilled craftsmen. Not so God’s living house today. We stumble half blind to draw and redraw the blueprints, reach for any tool handy, and much of the time, employ shoddy workmanship and poor materials in our efforts. And yet God is tolerant of us and what we’re doing. He continues to live among us and to live in us as we build and rebuild ourselves as believers, striving forward, falling back, but never taking our gaze from the soul of our Master.

The dwelling place of God is past, present and future all at once. Just imagine when the house if finally complete, when the imperfections have been burned away like dross, leaving only a precious and perfect product. When that day comes, then our King will be evident in the house, and he will be one and His Name one. And God will dwell within us as the Presence dwells in the Jerusalem Temple. And Messiah will walk among His people again.

But He’s also in His house now, and we are here too, united in His Spirit as His Spirit unites us.

“One who romanticizes over Judaism and loses focus of the kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a carpenter who is infatuated with the hammer, rather than the house it was meant to build.”

Troy Mitchell

119 days.

Gifts of the Spirit: Building God’s Dwelling Place, Part 1

creation2And there was evening and morning: one day.

Genesis 1;5

R. Samuel b. Ammi said: From the beginning of the world’s creation the Holy One, blessed be He, longed to enter into partnership with human beings… When did the Holy One, blessed be He, compensate them [those below for not partnering with them at that time] there? At the erection of the Tabernacle, as it says, “And he that presented his offering the first day” (Num. 7:12), meaning, the first of the world’s creation, for God said, “It is as though on that day I created My world.”

-Genesis Rabbah 3.9

Rabbi Carl Kinbar’s notes for his teaching “For God’s Dwelling Place” presented at the First Fruits of Zion Shavuot conference at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, Wisconsin begin this way. It’s really a two-part lesson that Rabbi Kinbar managed to offer to us in a single session on Shabbat (I’ll write it as a “two-parter” presenting the second part tomorrow).

You may be put off by the Talmudic references and I’ve been avoiding them until now, knowing how Christian audiences sometimes react to the teachings of the Rabbinic sages. On the other hand, it is sometimes helpful to access Jewish commentary on the Word of God and the Spirit of God in order to re-insert what we are learning back into it’s “natural Jewish habitat” (as D.T. Lancaster puts it).

But what does the act of creating the world and building the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert have to do with “gifts of the spirit?”

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

Exodus 24:15-18 (NRSV)

Rabbi Kinbar told a story about how this verse was once taught in a class. One woman in the class responded that it must have been incredibly boring for Moses to sit up on that mountain for forty days and forty nights with nothing to do.

When I heard him describe this woman’s comment I immediately thought, “Sure, if he were alone!” Rabbi Kinbar kindly suggested to his class, “Let’s assume that God is exactly as the Bible describes Him.” Apparently, it doesn’t occur to some folks to take the Bible at face value and to believe God is as He is described in the pages of His own Word.

But let’s “assume” that He is and that at Eden, He desired to dwell among people. In Exodus, He desires to dwell among His people.

I will meet with the Israelites there, and it shall be sanctified by my glory; I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate, to serve me as priests. I will dwell among the Israelites, and I will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God.

Exodus 29:43-46

But it’s more than just God living in the human world. God wants something special from people, something that He doesn’t want from any other portion of creation. He wants to be partners with us. He want us to work with Him, not just for Him. He wants more than servants, He wants sons and daughters to help in building His dwelling place; building the Kingdom of God.

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”

Luke 17:20-21

looking-at-heavenWe tend to think of the “Kingdom” as either Heaven or the future Messianic era, but Jesus is talking about it in the present tense: “…the kingdom of God is among you.” When he says it’s near, he doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right around the corner or that it’s coming soon, he means that as we pursue our partnership with God and perform the mitzvot necessary to help repair our broken world, we are drawing nearer to the Kingdom, we are building little bits and pieces of the Kingdom every time we perform an act of kindness, charity, or justice.

I don’t mean that God just wants to “dwell” with us in some abstract or metaphoric sense.

Moses did everything just as the Lord had commanded him. In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was set up. Moses set up the tabernacle; he laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars; and he spread the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering of the tent over it; as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Exodus 40:16-19

As far as I know, there’s nothing in the Hebrew text that suggests Moses had help when he built the Mishkan for the first time and Midrash states that Moses built the entire structure single-handedly. Moses “partnered” with God in constructing God’s dwelling place. All of the Children of Israel who either directly participated in making the elements of the Mishkan or who donated funds and materials for the work “partnered” with God in constructing God’s dwelling place among them.

And when the Divine Presence descended upon the Mishkan so that even Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting (Exodus 40:34-38), it was possible for the first time to make offerings to God directly in His presence and God dwelt among His people Israel. In fact, it was not possible to make sacrifices to God unless the Divine Presence was in the Mishkan. And this, according to the Sages, was God’s compensation for the lack of human participation in the creation of the world; allowing human participation in the construction of God’s Mishkan and God dwelling directly within Israel and her legions.

In the Garden, God comes down to human beings. At Sinai, when God gives the Torah, God comes down to human beings. And when the last element of the Tabernacle was constructed, God comes down to human beings.

And God came down to human beings in the form of a human being, not in the totality of all that God is (for the Divine Presence is not the totality of all that God is, for even the earth is His footstool, see Isaiah 66:1, Acts 7:49) but God came down to us and dwelt among us as living, breathing flesh.

No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

John 3:13

Most Christians have a difficult time understanding what the Temple means to the Jewish people. Most Christians don’t understand what the big deal is about Jews praying at the Kotel (Western Wall, Wailing Wall). Most Christians don’t get the importance of Exodus 40 because they (we) believe that now that we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God lives in us more than ever, and who needs the Temple anyway?

We do.

The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I mentioned in a previous blog post about the conference, that the Holy Spirit has always been moving among humanity and particularly among Israel. The Spirit didn’t show up for the first time in Acts 2. If we can say there’s any sort of difference between the time of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Apostolic Era, it was that the Spirit did not previously dwell upon literally every man and woman in Israel, but after the first Shavuot post-ascension, the Spirit does dwell upon each person who has come to faith in God.

Two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, had remained in camp; yet the spirit rested upon them — they were among those recorded, but they had not gone out to the Tent — and they spoke in ecstasy in the camp. A youth ran out and told Moses, saying, “Eldad and Medad are acting the prophet in the camp!” And Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ attendant from his youth, spoke up and said, “My lord Moses, restrain them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you wrought up on my account? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord put His spirit upon them!” Moses then reentered the camp together with the elders of Israel.

Numbers 11:26-30 (JPS Tanakh)

“Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord put His spirit upon them!” Wow.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Acts 2:1-4

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God.

Acts 10:44-46

Wish granted, Moses.

jewish-temple-messiahAnd even beyond that, there will still be a Third Temple in the Messianic Age, and it is in the Temple that Messiah will be enthroned as King over all.

And it will be God’s House and He will dwell among humanity again.

It’s not an either-or proposition. We can have both. We can build both in partnership with God. But we in the church must never forget that our “connectedness” to God is wholly dependent on Israel’s “connectedness” to God. We are made partners through Israel’s partnership with God.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its towns when I restore their fortunes:

“The Lord bless you, O abode of righteousness, O holy hill!”

No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Thus says the Lord,
who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord of hosts is his name:
If this fixed order were ever to cease
from my presence, says the Lord,
then also the offspring of Israel would cease
to be a nation before me forever.

Jeremiah 31:23, 34-36

This set of verses is meaningful in at least two ways. It teaches us that we are not “there” yet. It was quite obvious to me as I was sitting in a conference listening to a Rabbi teach me about God’s partnership with humanity that I still needed to be taught about God. Teachers were still saying “Know the Lord.” We are still in the process of building. God’s finger is still in the process of writing His Word on our hearts, of turning our hearts from stone to warm and beating flesh.

The other thing it teaches is that Israel will not cease to be a nation before God as long as there is a Sun by day and a Moon by night, as long as the waves of the sea continue to come to the shore. Only when this “fixed order” stops will the offspring of Israel stop being a nation before God.

Israel by design and the people of the nations who are called by the Lord’s Name by being grafted in have a job to do. We must continue to build God’s dwelling place among us. How do we do that? By obeying the will of God for our lives, by loving God with all of our being and loving our neighbor as ourselves. By feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, comforting the grieving. By studying His Word, by living the life that God has provided for us in accordance with His wishes. By loving and by humility.

praying-at-the-kotelThe generation of Israelites in the desert weren’t circumcised. The consequence of not obeying the commandment of the brit milah is to be cut off from among the people. This is a serious consequence. Why didn’t God cut off that entire generation that came out of Egypt?

According to Rabbi Kinbar, it was because of God’s love and humility. We don’t often think of God as being humble, but we do know that even Moses was considered the most humble of all men (Numbers 12:3). Maybe Moses, as a “disciple” of God, was imitating his Master.

I want to mention two more items before I end my “meditation” for this morning. Remember the woman Rabbi Kinbar told us about, the one who thought spending forty days and forty nights on the mountain with God would be boring? Another woman responded to her after Rabbi Kinbar suggested we could accept what the Bible tells us about God at face value. The second woman said she heard from God. It was just after her husband died and she was feeling intensely grief-stricken. The woman didn’t say what God told her, but the implication was that His presence was very comforting and very real…and not boring at all.

The last thing I want to say is that Rabbi Kinbar suggested something I hadn’t considered before. Is the Birkat Kohenim (the Priestly Blessing) a blessing for the Messianic Era?

May the LORD bless you and guard you – יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
May the LORD make His face shed light upon you and be gracious unto you – יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
May the LORD lift up His face unto you and give you peace – יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

I’ll pick up Rabbi Kinbar’s lesson in Part 2 tomorrow.

120 days.

The Broken Soreg

0 RBut now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Ephesians 2:13-16

Paul states that the Messiah abolished the “enmity” between Jew and Gentile. This is not the same as saying he abolished the Torah. Instead, the Messiah abolishes the requirement for Gentile believers to undertake circumcision and the covenant signs of Israel (the Law of commandments contained in ordinances) before they may be regarded as one body with the Jewish people.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Commentary on Acts 21:15-22:30 (pg 689)
First Fruits of Zion’s Torah Club
Volume 6: Chronicles of the Apostles
Reading for Torah Portion Shemini (“Eighth”)

I’m sure most Christians will find Lancaster’s interpretation of Ephesians 2 to be very creative but not very convincing. The traditional Christian interpretation is that Jesus took down the wall by abolishing the Torah. Jews and Gentiles are identical in Christ and there are no distinctions based on Jewish observance of the Torah of Moses.

I’ve looked into Ephesians 2 before, but at the behest of someone who had the exact opposite opinion of this scripture. He said:

Ephesians 2 establishes gentiles as now part of the covenants, which I wonder how you deal with such, as I have never seen you address Ephesians.

This interpretation is probably just as startling to most Christians as Lancaster’s, since it declares that all believers, Jewish and Gentile alike, are obligated to the full observance of the Torah. In discussing the Hebrew Roots interpretation of Acts 15, Lancaster has this to say:

Hebrew Roots teachers often claim that the apostles only gave the four essentials to Gentile believers as a starting point. After that, the Gentiles were expected to learn the rest of the Torah in the synagogue every week. Eventually, they would be responsible for keeping all the laws of the Torah in the same manner as their Jewish brothers and sisters.

Acts 21:25 indicates that the apostles understood their ruling differently…Instead, the apostles viewed the four essentials as a standard for the God-fearing Gentile believers. They did not require a gradual process by which the Gentiles adopted the rest of the commandments.

-Lancaster, pg 686

I covered Acts 15 and its implications in much more detail in my multi-part Return to Jerusalem series so I’m not going to revisit that material here. I just wanted to briefly provide the different interpretations that could be applied to Ephesians 2 and where Lancaster stands on the matter of Jews vs. Gentiles and Torah observance.

But what about this “dividing wall of hostility” Paul mentions? I’m about to suggest something a little radical.

In the course of his massive remodeling of the Jerusalem Temple, Herod the Great extended the Temple Mount platform significantly by constructing a retaining wall and adding fill. A balustrade made of stone lattice work (soreg) marked off the original holy precinct. The balustrade functioned as a perimeter fence that kept Gentiles from straying into the sanctified area. The Mishnah reports the lattice work wall stood ten handbreadths (three feet) high. Josephus recalled it as slightly taller at three cubits (five feet) height. The people referred to the courtyard outside of the barrier as the Court of the Gentiles because Gentiles were allowed to congregate and worship in that courtyard, but they could not draw nearer than the balustrade. The Levitical guard posted plaques on the balustrade forbidding Gentiles from trespassing beyond that point.

-Lancaster, pg 688

middle-wall-partitionTo the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in the written Torah that mandates such a wall or a “Court of the Gentiles” on the Temple grounds, however especially during the days of Jesus and afterward, until the destruction of the Temple, there was much existing halachah that kept Jews and Gentiles apart. We see evidence of such in the vision Peter had in Acts 10 when Jesus makes clear to Peter that the halachah requiring that a Jew never enter a Gentile’s home was incorrect. God did not make the Gentiles an “unclean” people.

But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction.

Acts 11:9-12

Could Paul be using the idea of the soreg metaphorically in Ephesians 2?

I told you it was a radical idea. I’m not saying that this is even a valid interpretation of the text, but it is an interesting idea. In order for Paul’s mission to the Gentiles to be successful, one of the things that had to be broken down was Jewish hostility toward Gentiles. In the diaspora, by necessity, Jews had to interact, at least to a degree, with Gentiles, but in Israel and especially in Jerusalem, this was not the case (with the exception of forcibly having to “interact” with the Roman military occupation).

We see recorded in Acts 21:37-22:21, Paul apparently successfully defending himself against his Jewish accusers after the near riot he endured at the Temple when he was falsely accused of speaking against the Jewish people, the Torah, the Temple, and bringing a non-Jew past the Court of the Gentiles and into the Temple (Acts 21:28-29). It’s only when he mentioned the Gentiles, did his Jewish listeners go quite berserk:

And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this.

Acts 22:21-24

I’d certainly call that a “wall of hostility.”

So one interpretation of having “broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances” is doing away with all Jewish Torah observance, which was apparently what was causing the separation and bad feelings between Jewish and Gentile believers. Except the Torah doesn’t say that. First century Jewish halachah said that and the lesson Peter learned was that such separation was incorrect halachah.

Another interpretation is that the wall being broken down was the wall that kept Gentiles out of membership in national Israel, and once broken down by their being “grafted in” (Romans 11:11-24), Gentiles gained full covenant relationship with God and Israel by essentially becoming Israel and thus, required to observe all of the Torah mitzvot. The only thing they didn’t have to do was convert to Judaism, but otherwise, they certainly looked like converts. That makes even less sense if the wall was broken down by “abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.” Nothing is abolished, the Gentiles are just added into the “law of commandments expressed in ordinances.”

Lancaster suggests that what Jesus broke down in his flesh when he was executed was how Gentiles were prevented from covenant relationship with God and the Jewish people without converting to Judaism. The legal requirement for conversion was the law that was abolished. This makes a bit more sense because it is through Messiah that we among the nations can become disciples and we are not required to convert to Judaism. But then, where does all the hostility come from that was preventing Gentiles from entering into covenant?

If what went away was a faulty interpretation and application of Torah that promoted an extreme hostility of Jews against Gentiles (which is not too hard to understand given that the Jewish nation was at that time being occupied by a harsh and cruel Gentile imperial army), Ephesians 2, especially when compared to Acts 10, begins to make more sense.

I’m sure my amateur interpretation can be criticized on a number of levels and again, I’m not saying that my little theory has much, if any, weight of evidence to support it, but I want you to think about it. I want you to consider the possibilities, especially in light of how Jewish audiences took less exception to the message of Jesus as the Messiah, and much more exception to the idea that such a message required doing away with the Torah, the Temple, and including unconverted Gentiles as equal covenant members.

infinite_pathsPaul was fighting an uphill battle and he was never entirely successful during his lifetime. In fact, after his death, the hostility between Jews and Gentiles continued to grow until Christianity was no longer a branch of religious Judaism, but instead, represented an entirely new theological discipline…one that was actually opposed to Judaism.

To the degree that Judaism and Christianity are still separate religions, with neither one wanting to have anything to do with the other for the most part (there are noteworthy exceptions), that wall of hostility still exists today. Part of why I write this blog is to offer avenues at, if not deconstructing the wall, punching a few holes in the “soreg” so we can see each other more clearly and even have a bit of a conversation.

When the Messiah returns, I believe he will finish what Paul started. I believe he will finish removing the wall we continually rebuild. I believe he will show us how to live with each other in peace. And Jews will remain a distinct people and nation as Jews. And Gentile believers will remain distinct from the rest of the world as non-Jewish disciples of the Master. And the different parts will truly act as one within a single body.

The Loving Nazirite

john-the-naziriteAfter this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow.

Acts 18:18-19 (ESV)

In the days of the Temple, if a man or woman desired to take a special vow of separation to the LORD, he or she could take a Nazirite vow. The Torah lays out the specifications in Numbers 6. People undertook Nazirite vows for a variety of reasons, including healing, safe return, prayer for another, and simply to observe a time of sanctification. Rabbinic literature attests to the popularity of the vow in the late Second Temple period. The Mishnah dedicates an entire tractate to the subject. Nazirites were not uncommon among the disciples of Yeshua. John the Immerser and James the brother of the Master were lifelong Nazirites. Later in the book of Acts, Paul completes a second Nazirite vow along with four other disciples.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Ki Tisa (“When you take”)
Commentary on Acts 18:11-23, pg 539
Torah Club Volume 6
First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)

I know that over the years, there have been many commentaries written about the meaning of Paul’s vow and whether or not it was a Nazirite vow. Lancaster seems to think so and he has plenty of company. But why should you care and why am I writing about this now?

A lot of Christians are invested in de-coupling Paul and the early Jewish apostles from Judaism and Jewish practices. I think it’s important to “re-couple” the first century Jews in the Messiah with their Judaism and Jewish practices and then ask ourselves why would the next generation of “Messianic Jews” give up being Jews? The answer is, they wouldn’t. Why should they? Although Paul was accused of preaching against the Torah of Moses (Acts 21:28), it was a total lie. Paul never did such a thing (contrary to some theologies running around out there) and he certainly never admitted to doing so. We also don’t find Paul saying that his Jewish contemporaries were to keep Torah but their children and grandchildren would give it up.

But then again, we have this:

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Hebrews 8:13 (ESV)

You could certainly spin that into saying the Jews were in the process of giving up their “obsolete” practices and replacing them with ones based on the New Covenant. The problem is, the New Covenant primarily reaffirms and expands upon all of the previous covenants God made with the Jews, including the Sinai covenant. If anything, the New Covenant should have strengthened Torah observance among the Jews, not deleted it.

So why does Christianity fight that interpretation and fight the idea that Paul could have possibly taken a Nazirite vow?

Many writers argue against Paul taking a Nazirite vow on the basis that the vow required the Nazirite to make animal sacrifices. These teachers are reluctant to think about Paul bringing a lamb, a ewe, and a ram as burnt offerings, sin offerings, and peace offerings. Contrary to that objection, James the brother of the Master later encourages Paul to complete his own Nazirite vow and pay the expenses of four other disciples in order to demonstrate that he walked “orderly, keeping the Torah” (Acts 21:24).

-Lancaster, pp 539-40

Sounds pretty Jewish to me.

Of course, post-Temple, there is no way to take a Nazirite vow or to perform the sacrifices, so many of the Torah mitzvot are unable to be observed by Jews today. We know that the Torah was originally given as a sort of “national constitution” of ancient Israel, defining all of the laws, social mores, and traditions of the Israelites in the Land. We know that when Messiah returns and builds the next Temple, that at least some of the Torah commandments related to the Temple sacrifices will be restored.

But what is the purpose of the Torah in Judaism in the meantime?

That’s like asking, what’s the purpose of a marriage license between a couple when the couple have to endure a lengthy physical separation say because of military service. Just because they can’t be together for a period of months or even years doesn’t mean they aren’t still married. It doesn’t mean that their marital obligations are completely done away with, even though some aspects of the relationship cannot be performed while they’re apart. The relationship endures between one period of togetherness and the next. Both husband and wife continue to wear their wedding rings. They both still refer to the other as “husband” and “wife.” They both stay faithful and do not enter into intimate relationships with other people.

Yes, I’m describing a pretty ideal situation relative to a separated married couple, but let’s look at the analogy. If a married couple who are forced to be apart, even for an extended period of time, are expected to remain faithful to one another and to practice specific behaviors based on their marital faithfulness, how much more should the Jewish people continue to remain faithful to God and to practice specific behaviors, the Torah mitzvot that can be performed in this day and age, based on their faithfulness to God?

The surest way to lose a skill or a relationship is to not practice it. The surest way for a Jew to lose faithfulness to God is to not practice the mitzvot, even though they can only practice a limited set of mitzvot due to “temporary separation.”

one-of-ten-virgins-oilBut the “couple” are getting closer again. Since 1948, there has been a Jewish homeland, Israel, in existence. Jews can make aliyah. They can return home. Yes, the Temple isn’t there yet. The Priesthood isn’t there yet. But then again, the bridegroom hasn’t returned home yet. When he does, he’ll rebuild the house, and the couple will move back in. But under certain provisions of the Abrahamic covenant that have been enhanced by the New Covenant, the “bride” won’t be only the Jewish people.

The analogy gets pretty hard to maintain at this point, but there’s a reason that the body of unified believers is called “the bride of Christ.” There’s a reason why the Gospels are full of “Jesus as bridegroom” imagery. Some of the details are still a little fuzzy, but we know that the bride and groom, who have been apart for so very long, are coming back together again.

The Jewish bride and the Jewish bridegroom will once again take up housekeeping. They have been faithful in their vows and faithful in performing all of the acts related to their marriage that were possible to keep while the house has lain in ruins. When the house is rebuilt, when David’s fallen sukkah, the Temple, is reconstructed by Messiah on the Holy Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the world will see just how vital the Torah of Moses is in the lives of the Jewish people, and the Torah will be perfect as taught and practiced by the perfect Messiah.

But until then, the Jewish bride does what she can to faithfully keep the mitzvot and to show her Jewish husband that she loves him with all her heart.

Messiah and the Temple of God

tallit_templeThe re-building will begin when the Messiah comes. This Third Temple will be on the Temple Mount, exactly where it previously stood. In fact, Maimonides writes that one sign that the Messiah is the real Messiah (and not an imposter) will be when he re-builds the Temple on the Temple Mount.

“Rebuilding the Temple”
Commentary on Tisha B’ Av

Belief in the coming of the Messiah has always been a fundamental part of both Judaism and Christianity. The Hebrew word for Messiah, Mashiach or Moshiach, means anointed, as does the Greek word, christos. Thus in Christianity, Christ is just another word for the Messiah. Much has been written about Jesus as the Messiah within the Christian realm, but little information has been publicized to the uninformed Jewish community concerning the coming of a Messiah, whom all we know about is that he will be a direct descendant of king David. Although Jesus has been proposed by Christianity to be such a descendant, Judaism does not accept Christ as their savior or king. Because the Messiah cannot be separated from God’s Third Temple and because God’s Third Temple is destined for all people…

“Coming of the Messiah”

“For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.”

Jeremiah 33:17-18 (ESV)

In some parts of religious Judaism, one of the very strongly held beliefs is that when the Messiah comes, he will rebuild the Temple on its original site in Jerusalem. In fact, Jewish “anti-missionaries” use the current lack of the Jerusalem Temple as “proof” that Jesus couldn’t have been the Messiah (since if he was, he would have rebuilt it 2,000 years ago).

More than that, according to the Judaism 101 website, the Messiah will do many important things.

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

Also, according to AskNoah.org, Gentiles will be able to worship in the rebuilt Temple.

Torah Law holds that Gentiles are allowed to bring burnt offerings to G-d in the Temple when it is standing in Jerusalem. There is a specific commandment to let us know that an animal (sheep, goat or bullock) offered in the Temple by a Gentile must be unblemished, to the same degree as the offering of a Jew. (Leviticus 22:25)

The same website citing the prophet Isaiah, declares that in the days of the Third Temple, Gentiles will be able to take on a greater role than in previous eras.

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

Isaiah 2:2-3

But why am I writing about this?

It’s come up on more than one occasion at the church I attend, that certain things have changed because of Jesus. Since I’m kind of sensitive to the spectre of supersessionism (also called “replacement theology” or “fulfillment theology”), what has and hasn’t changed always gets my attention. Both in the Pastor’s message and in Sunday school, one piece of information I’ve heard is that before Jesus came, worship of God was confined to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, worship of God was no longer confined to a specific, geographic location.

You can see that this might present a problem if you also believed the Messiah was supposed to rebuild the Temple upon his return. Would that mean a step backward? Would our “freedom” to worship anywhere be revoked and Jerusalem once again become the locus for religious control and sacrifice to God?

old-city-jerusalemWell, yes and no. Frankly, it’s not that clear cut. We know that even during the Second Temple era, synagogues and centers for prayer (not always the same things) were available for Jews. After all, Jewish people were scattered not only all over Israel in those days, but across the civilized portions of the Earth. Recall the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) who likely was a Jew on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It would have been difficult for most of world’s Jewish population to travel to the Jerusalem Temple every time they wanted an encounter with God. It was very likely that there was provision for both individual and communal prayer for Jews, so the Temple wasn’t literally the only place of worship.

Of course to obey the mitzvot, Jews were obligated to travel to Jerusalem on certain occasions including the moadim and particularly for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but while extremely important, it wouldn’t have been possible for all Jews because it would require leaving home and undertaking lengthy journeys several times a year. While we don’t have much information on him, it’s likely that the Jewish Ethiopian had made only one 1,200 mile long trip between his country to Jerusalem when Philip encountered him. In those days, a trip of such length over land could have taken up to two months, so it wasn’t the “quick dash” it would be by car or plane in our day and age.

Also, looking forward, we have this.

Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.

Zechariah 14:16-19 (ESV)

It would be very difficult for the representatives of all of the nations of the world to observe Shavuot (Feast of Booths) in Jerusalem if there were no existing Temple.

It is true that John writes in Revelation 21:22 that he saw no Temple in the city, presumably New Jerusalem, but there are vast periods of time being described in his recording of his vision, so we can’t use that one verse as evidence that the Third Temple will never be built by Messiah after his coming (return).

So what’s the big deal?

Only that the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Messiah may not have (permanently) changed as much as we might think it did. The church may ultimately have to integrate a more Jewish perspective of Messiah than we previously have. Yes, many of us think we’ve done a pretty good job at “rediscovering the Jewish Jesus,” but I don’t think the majority of us have truly engaged the reality of what that actually means.

I’m not criticizing Pastor Randy or anyone at the church I attend (and I know Pastor Randy sometimes reads my blog), but I am suggesting that at least in this one area, Christ may not have changed what we think he changed. Unfortunately, many Christians take the idea of what Jesus did to Judaism a little too dogmatically and treat Jews, Judaism, and Jewish Holy sites quite poorly, as this commentary I received on Facebook attests.

I have been at the Wall, Jews Holiest Place, and seen bus loads of tourist arrive. Even I cringed at the sight of shorts, halter tops, men with out shirts, cameras and water bottles in tow. I have seen the garbage left behind. I have heard the ‘chatter’ at the Face of the Wall and observed the frivolity of trying to place a paper prayer ‘for a friend’ in the highest unreachable crack. (a paradise for rock climbers). I have heard prayers for ‘the Jews to be saved”….I have stood by women ‘claiming the place in the name of Jesus”.

Jerusalem, to include the Wall, is not an International place of holiness. Once the sacredness of the place is removed it becomes one more place to be trashed. The fact that the Reform movement, Women at the Wall and other such groups are irritated that ‘they’ can not make the rules and regulations simply indicates their dislike for the Ultra-Orthodox. One side may be Extreme but the otherside opens the door to Liberal attitudes and the slippery slope to “so what, this is just another wall!”

christian-at-the-kotelThe analysis seems kind of harsh but then again, it’s probably justified given how casually and callously some people treat this Jewish Holy place.

To you and me, the Kotel may not have the same meaning, but for most religious Jews (and Jesus and all his apostles were and are religious Jews), it is all that’s left of where once the Divine Presence of God dwelt among His people Israel. It is also a symbol of hope in the coming of Messiah, the redemption of Israel (which doesn’t mean quite the same thing in Judaism as it does in Christianity), and the return of hope, life, and peace for the Jewish people and in fact, for all the nations of the Earth.

If it also happens to be the site of where the Christ will rebuild the Temple and establish his reign as our King, shouldn’t we at least try to respect it’s holiness? I know that in Christianity, we consider each believer to be a “Temple” containing the Holy Spirit, and we tend to look at ourselves as replacements for the physical Temple, but this “human Temple” imagery doesn’t preclude the future existence of a Third Temple. We tend to think that something is either this or that, left or right, one or the other, as if we are computers communicating in binary language, but since we’re dealing with God here, is it too difficult to believe we can be (metaphorically) a “Temple” and the physical Temple will one day be rebuilt by Messiah? Is it too much to ask for both?