Tag Archives: Torah

What Are We Looking For From God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But less than three months later:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a little more:

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

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

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

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

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

119 video
Screen Capture: 119 Ministries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jewish Values vs. Other Faiths

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

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

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

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

from the “Ask the Rabbi” column
Aish.com

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

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

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

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

Jewish ConversionYou either convert to Judaism or become a Noahide.

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

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

Good luck with that.

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

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

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

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

Why should our lives be any different?

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

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

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

But I also hope she never stops asking questions.

Do Christians Really Have 1050 New Testament Commandments?

There are 1,050 commands in the New Testament for Christians to obey. Due to repetitions we can classify them under 69 headings. They cover every phase of man’s life in his relationship to God and his fellowmen, now and hereafter. If obeyed, they will bring rich rewards here and forever; if disobeyed, they will bring condemnation and eternal punishment.

-from the Christian Assemblies International website

Jesus commanded us in the second half of the Great Commission to teach others to observe ALL that He has commanded us. We first need to know the commands ourselves well enough so that we can teach others to observe them.

-from the Biblical Research Reports website

1050Really, is this a thing? I first saw a reference to “1050 New Testament Laws” on Facebook (someone had shared this meme in my timeline) and I was really surprised. So naturally, I “Googled” it so see what else I could find.

Besides the two above-quoted websites, a number of other dodgy online “resources” showed up including discussion groups at City-Data.com, ChristianForums.com, and RedHotPawn.com. I didn’t examine any of these sites in-depth and I haven’t read each and every one of the 1050 “commandments” (if they are commandments), but at first blush, I suspect that the list consists of a combination of teachings found in the Torah (and as such, they aren’t unique to the Apostolic Scriptures) and individual exhortations of Paul’s offered to specific populations concerning unique situations (as opposed of 1050 eternal, universal commandments that are either added on to the Torah mitzvot or that are supposed to replace them).

I did, more or less, accidentally find one flaw at Christian Assemblies International. Under the category “Seven Things to Avoid,” item three says “False Science” and references 1 Timothy 6:20, which they quote as saying:

Oh Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.

“…oppositions of science?” I don’t remember that.

Ah, but that’s the King James Bible translation. My preferred translation, the NASB, states:

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge” …

Sorry. “knowledge” and “science” aren’t the same thing, so no sale KJV. In fact, the vast majority of other versions of the Bible translate the word referred to by the KJV as “science” as “knowledge”.

I suspect these so-called “New Testament Laws” are all equally bent, twisted, and mutilated to say what the Bible doesn’t really say.

But why? Why go through all the trouble? Isn’t it enough for mainstream Christianity to say that grace replaced the Law and all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you’ll go to Heaven?

under the lawA quick Google search couldn’t tell me who originally compiled this list and why, so I don’t have a definitive answer at my fingertips.

But even a quick scan of some of the other “commandments” tells me they suffer woefully from lack of context issues. For instance, under “Alcohol” on the Bible Research Reports page:

1Thessalonians 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet [sic], the hope of salvation. (emph. mine)

Most Bible translations do say “sober,” but some translate the same word as “clearheaded” or “serious” so it doesn’t automatically have to be sober as opposed to intoxicated. This does reflect a typical Christian bias against the use of alcohol in almost any degree, which again, makes me question the validity of the so-called “New Testament Laws”.

On the same website, under “Church Service,” I loved this one:

John 2:16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.

The Holy Temple in Jerusalem is not “church,” so I don’t find something Yeshua (Jesus) said about a very specific situation he encountered in the Temple to have a universal application to all non-Jewish Jesus worshipers (i.e. Christians) everywhere.

There was a section called “Commands — Old Testament” which listed exactly seven different passages, three from the Gospels and the rest from the Epistles. There’s no explanation accompanying this list, but I have to assume the writer/compiler intends that these are the only commandments from the Torah that survived Jesus “fulfilling the Law”.

Ironically, the list includes Matthew 5:17-19 which is the strongest evidence that Yeshua did not come to abolish (fulfill = abolish) the mitzvot but rather to illustrate living them (as a Jew) to their fullest. However, both Galatians 5:1 and James 2:12, taken out of context, seem to declare that the Torah is extinct post-crucifixion and resurrection, so they fit the traditional Christian doctrinal narrative.

communionThere’s a category for “Communion,” which, when the Gospels and Epistles were being composed, didn’t exist, not to mention one about “Denominational Differences”. I love this:

Mark 9:38-39 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbade him, because he followeth not us. (39) But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

Denominations, as Christianity understands the term, did not exist when the above-mentioned fellow was casting out demons in the name of our Rav, so this certainly illustrates a creative application of these verses.

As one commenter at discussion group quipped, “It is impossible to keep 1,050 commands let alone 613 O.T. ones that you can’t do!”

Of course, he’s wrong that you can’t perform any of the 613 mitzvot. There are a subset of some 200 odd mitzvot that observant Jews perform today. However, I’d tend to agree, if the general Christian position is that God gave the Torah commandments to the Jewish people just to prove no one can be righteous by the performance of good deeds because there are just too many of them (and this is a complete distortion of the focus and purpose of the Torah), then expecting “saved by grace” Christians to perform 1050 commandments is just insane.
Mitzvah
I am truly at loss as to why any corner of the Church would make this stuff up, but if any one out there is frustrated that non-Jewish Yeshua disciples don’t have commandments of their/our own, it looks like you have enough, according to the sources I’ve cited, to stuff a proverbial Christmas goose.

Personally, I’ll stick with the simplicity of a life of holiness. It provides quite enough to keep my hands full, and I’m convinced I’ll never do it very well.

Should Non-Jews Study the Torah?

“Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Acts 15:19-21 (NASB)

So, should non-Jews who are “Judaicly aware” and seek to honor the centrality of Israel and the primacy of the Jewish people in Messiah study the Torah?

For most of you, the answer probably seems like a no-brainer. After all, the Torah, at least in one sense, is the first five books of the Bible, and Christians study the Bible every day.

On the other hand, should we study the Bible using Jewish, including Messianic Jewish, published materials?

Again, that might seem like a ridiculous question to most of you. After all, there are Messianic Jewish publishing groups that produce a vast amount of Torah study materials aimed right at the non-Jew. At least some of these works are designed to reach traditional Christians in their churches and illuminate them regarding the aforementioned centrality of Israel, and how King Messiah will come first to redeem Israel (and not “the Church”) and through Israel and the Jewish people, the people of the nations of the world.

But then we enter the “blurry” area of the status of a non-Jew within Jewish religious and community space through the use of Jewish produced (though some of it is written by non-Jews working for Jewish publishers) educational materials.

Let me get something out of the way first. I frequently read and quote from articles at Aish.com and Chabad.org and both of these websites provide information that is exclusively written by and for Jews.

Nevertheless, I find the insights provided by both these organizations to be helpful from time to time, but again, I am not unmindful of the fact that they are not intended to be consumed by a non-Jewish audience, namely me.

So let us return to the above-quoted passage from Acts 15 with which I began this missive. It’s part of the larger “Jerusalem letter,” the legal edict issued by the Council of Leaders and Elders of the Jewish Messianic sect once known as “the Way”. It was meant to be a formal and binding decision of the status of Gentiles within Jewish communal and covenantal space, outlining, albeit briefly and with little detail, a Gentile’s responsibilities within that context.

Over two-and-a-half years ago, I covered the content and my understanding of this legal decision in my multi-part series Return to Jerusalem (you can start at part 1 and click through to part 6 for the details).

Rolling the Torah ScrollOf specific interest for this “meditation” is the rather mysterious meaning of verse 21, which I touched upon in Part 5 of the “Jerusalem” series:

“For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Acts 15:21

Although generally the Hebrew Roots movement interprets this single verse to mean that Gentiles should study the Torah and obey all of the mitzvot in the manner of the Jews, it’s not that easy to derive a definite and concrete interpretation from a single sentence.

Let’s consider not the Gentile God-fearers of that day who already were spending much time hearing Torah read and taught in their local synagogues, but the person who is a pagan Greek and who has just heard the good news of redemption though the Jewish Messiah. Many would have absolutely no background or appropriate context to even begin to fathom the teachings of Rav Yeshua or the Jewish apostles and disciples. They’d be clueless.

After all, it was in Lystra, where the population was largely ignorant of Jewish teachings, that Paul was considered to be Hermes and Barnabas Zeus because they did miracles. To counter this, Paul quickly gave the crowd a crash-course in ethical monotheism (see Acts 14:8-18), hoping to get them to see the light, so to speak.

To even begin to understand anything about what Paul was preaching, it was first necessary to have some sort of background in Judaism and the Torah. In fact, we see this example in the proselytes and Gentile God-fearers who heard Paul’s teachings on Messiah in the synagogue at Pisidan Antioch (see Acts 13:13-43).

Further, rather than just take Paul or any other Jewish teacher at his or her word, a knowledge of the scriptures was not only necessary, but vital. The Bereans (Acts 17:10-15) are the classic model of this principle. Of course, verse 10 does say that Paul and Silas went into “the synagogue of the Jews,” however verse 12 states “…many of them [Jews] believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men,” so it appears these prominent Greek women and men were at the synagogue, either studying the scriptures or listening to the Jewish Bereans do so, and thus benefiting from the study of Torah, including coming to faith because of these scriptural proofs.

But as I said above, Christians study the Bible every day, and yet (in my opinion) they do not always employ the correct hermeneutics that would render an interpretation of scripture largely consistent with what Paul intended to teach (or as close as we can get to it some two-thousand years later).

That’s why, like the Greeks in the Berean synagogue, it is not only helpful but necessary to study Torah with more knowledgable teachers who are familiar with a (again, my opinion) Messianic Jewish view of the Bible.

pathsBut Messianic Judaism isn’t a single entity. There are many different streams, and I’m not even including Hebrew Roots when I say this.

In the past, I’ve referenced quite a number of resources that the “Judaicly aware” Gentile may access including the MessianicGentiles.com website, so all you really have to do is search my blog and or click the link I just provided in order to get started.

But what about a non-Jew who has been studying from that perspective for a number of years and wants to dig a little deeper? After all, when an Orthodox Jew speaks of “studying Torah,” he or she is actually meaning “studying Talmud.” Is it permissible for a Gentile to study Talmud? While it’s not illegal, immoral, or even fattening, is there a benefit for us to study Talmud, especially when the sages wrote against Yeshua being Messiah and in some cases, wrote against Yeshua-believers?

The prohibitions against a Gentile studying Talmud (Torah) are from more traditional Jewish sources and not necessarily from any of the Messianic Jewish groups. Still, I found an interesting discussion on the topic in a closed group on Facebook (I can’t post a link both because you have to be invited to join and I don’t have the permission of the participants to do so).

Unless you are already a qualified scholar and have studied Talmud previously with a qualified scholar, you are going to get a very limited understanding from Talmud. Also, unless the tractates being read are speaking to the non-Jew, it’s again a matter of reading material written by Jews for Jews. In other words, even if you are at the educational level to comprehend what you are reading (which usually also requires fluency in Hebrew), the Talmud, for the most part, has nothing to do with you.

Of course, you could say that about the vast majority of the Bible, since most of it was written by Jews for Jews, but going back to the examples I’ve already presented from Luke’s “Acts of the Apostles,” we see that some form of study of the Jewish scriptures is absolutely necessary in order to understand the teachings of Rav Yeshua and of the Apostle Paul and how they apply to we non-Jewish disciples.

So although in-depth study of Talmud for the Gentile may be somewhat up in the air depending on education, circumstances, and communal context, more general study of all of the Jewish scriptures (and even the Apostolic Scriptures should be considered Jewish scriptures, although they include significant mention of Gentile initiates and disciples) seems not only warranted, but absolutely required.

So we’re back at what to do with a Gentile who finds it necessary to learn in a Messianic Jewish context? How is said-Gentile to be integrated, and more importantly, how does that Gentile not get swept up in Jewish practice and identity, but instead is able to establish and maintain an identity of their own, one that does not result in self-denigration or diminished esteem?

That is a question that has been under discussion for years, probably decades, and as far as I can tell, has no current, practical resolution. The emphasis in Messianic Judaism on Judaism, the centrality of Israel, and the primacy of the Jewish people in God’s redemptive plan is good and correct, but it contains the problem of what to actually do with the majority of the world’s population.

praying aloneWhich is why Gentiles need to find a way to study the Bible through a Messianic lens, so to speak, but also find a way to learn how and why we are important and loved by God, too.

I know this must seem like I’m beating the proverbial dead horse, but to the degree that non-Jews do sometimes feel alienated in Messianic Jewish space, to the degree that some factions of Messianic Judaism find it necessary to be a movement by and for Jews, and to the degree that some Gentiles become so confused between the goals of Judaism and the Messianic Kingdom that they choose to abandon Yeshua and convert to (usually Orthodox) Judaism to resolve their dissonance, I think the issue is significant.

Gentiles need to find a way to study the Bible in a manner honoring to the Jewish people and Israel and at the same time, one that renders a message of the value of non-Jews in God’s redemptive plan as well.

Ultimately, we can’t let a movement define who we are to God. We need to study the Bible and find out what we mean to God from Him…if we can.

A Life Like That

I wrote this blog post some months ago wondering if I’d ever publish it. Given recent events, now seems like a good time.

The final verse of this parashah uses the words…[which] literally [mean]: “This is the Torah,” in reference to the laws of tzaraas. Sifsei Kohen understands this to be teaching us an important remedy: if one has brought down upon himself the Divine punishment of tzarras, he must cleanse himself through the study of Torah. The Torah is a fire of ruchniyus, spirituality, and fire has the capacity to purge impurity (as we see in Bamidbar 31:23). However, simply learning the Torah is not sufficient; one must absorb the Torah into his very being…Even if one learns the Torah, his task is not yet complete. If he internalizes what he has learned, he will come to purity; but if he does not, the potential for tumah still lurks.

-from “A Mussar Thought for the Day,” p.177
for the Shabbos study of Parashas Tazria
A Daily Dose of Torah

I realize this was written with a Jewish audience in mind and the concept of elevating oneself by the study and internalization of Torah isn’t meant to be applied to me, a non-Jew. Nevertheless, I think I can take a wider principle out of this lesson. Please bear with me.

I think what I quoted above is what separates me from the friend I have coffee with on alternate Sundays. He has been urging me to push myself further in my relationship with Messiah. But when he describes his own experiences, the spiritual depths he explores, and even the periodic visitation by the presence of Hashem, I’m flabbergasted.

I’d make a very poor Pentecostal. It’s difficult for me to process statements such as “…and then God talked to me and told me…”

Over eighteen months ago, I wrote a blog post called Standing on the Jewish Foundation of the Bible. I wrote it in response to some of the conversations I was having back then with the head Pastor of the church I used to attend. He was also pushing me, but in his case, to adopt a more classic Christian identity and understanding of the Bible.

As it turns out, I make a very poor Fundamentalist or Evangelical too. It’s not where my head and my heart lie. In my reviews of the Nanos and Zetterholm volume Paul Within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle, I’ve been reminded of how a more Judaically-oriented view of the scriptures makes a great deal more sense to me than what Christianity has to offer.

studyThis is why I study the Torah and the rest of the Bible from the perspective of the “Messianic Gentile,” or at least I have been up until now.

But as the above-quoted passage and my friend attest, studying is not enough. Knowing but not doing is probably a bigger sin than mere ignorance or even being on the wrong track.

In the review I mentioned above, I hope I’ve shown that the traditional way the Church understands Paul represents the “wrong track.” Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve rendered this option. But at least many people within the Church are behaving from their convictions, performing acts of charity, feeding the hungry, giving comfort to the grieving, all the “weightier matters of Torah” the Master valued so highly.

Even if you (or I) believe we possess “the truth,” or at least a more historically and culturally accurate and factual interpretation of Paul and the writers of the rest of the Bible, what good is it if you (or I) don’t do something about it, and don’t allow our personalities, our very souls to absorb, integrate, and radiate the lived experience of Torah?

I think a life like that looks like this:

The Torah gives us an important rule in relationships: Even though you are suffering, you have no right to cause suffering to others. Whatever your distress, you still need to speak and act with respect. If you are ever in a bad mood, be especially careful not to speak or act to others in a way that will be distressful for them.

(see Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler – Michtav MaiEliyahu, vol.4, 246; Rabbi Pliskin’s “Consulting the Wise”)

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Be Respectful, No Matter What”
Daily Lift #320
Aish.com

It must also look like this.

I think the litmus test for whether or not you (or I) have integrated Torah principles into our identity and lived experience is stress. Even the morning commute into work can be abundantly revealing (I know it is of me). A person who has internalized Torah principles; internalized the teachings of the Master, will react to various stresses in a different way than one who studies but has not absorbed that study.

James (Ya’akov), the brother of the Master, said it well:

But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:6-8 (NASB)

faithDoes faith have something to do with whether or not one internalizes what he or she has learned of Torah? I think so. Think of it more like faithfulness or especially trust. I think we all encounter circumstances where we find it’s hard to let go. Like the character Marlin in the film Finding Nemo (2003), our fears overwhelm our ability to trust, even Hashem, and to let our God open His hand and provide for our every need. If we don’t trust completely, then we can still study Torah and be illuminated, but we will never become the illumination.

The Master said to his followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16), but our light will not shine if we cover it over with doubt and distrust. On some level, I must not be letting go. I’m comfortable with the study but not with what comes after it. I like my spiritual plateau, but I will never be who Hashem wants me to be unless or until I let go, trust my Master’s teachings, and let them truly transform every area of my life.

Study is supposed to lead to transformation, but not unless I first break down the wall. I know that wall is mine to break down and not God’s. The next move in this little chess game is mine, not His. But just like the Knight in Ingmar Bergman’s classic 1957 film The Seventh Seal, I find myself at the losing end of that game and the inevitable consequence is my extinction. However, unlike the Knight in the film who, like many of the other players, dies in a plague and goes off into eternity dancing with a personified death, my end is not the end of life, but the end of any attempt at community and belonging.

the seventh sealThere is no going back. What I think is one thing, but what I feel is something beyond my abilities to grasp. I will post a general reivew of the Nanos/Zetterholm volume on Amazon rather than finish writing my essay-by-essay reviews here.

Frankly, given the last few blog posts and especially this one, I think it’s best for me to take some sort of hiatus, at least from blogging if not from any sort of involvement in Messianic Judaism as a social venue online or otherwise. While I still think it’s the most Biblically sustainable method of study, as far as me, an individual human personality goes, I don’t think I belong here anymore than I belong in a church.

If God still wants anything from me, He knows where to find me. I seem to be making a mess of finding him, at least through any method I’ve attempted thus far.

For any individual or group I have upset or offended, I apologize and ask forgiveness, though I don’t expect I deserve it. I wish you well in your endeavors, but I seem to need to travel a different path than yours.

It’s time for me to reduce my search to simply me, the Bible, and prayer. After that, let God make his judgment.

Listening for the Spirit Within Us

Hashem descended in a cloud and spoke to him, and He increased some of the spirit that was upon him and gave it to the seventy men, the elders; when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, but did not do so again.

Two men remained behind in the camp, the name of one was Eldad and the name of the second was Medad, and the spirit rested upon them; they had been among the recorded ones, but they had not gone out to the Tent, and they prophesied in the camp.

Numbers 11:25-26 (Stone Edition Chumash)

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Acts 2:1-4 (NASB)

As at least some of you may know, the first quote is from Torah Portion Beha’alotcha, which was read in synagogues all over the world last Shabbos.

The second quoted scripture is the famous Pentecost event when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit of God and began speaking in many different languages, languages they did not normally know.

As Christians, we are taught that anyone who comes to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) immediately receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit will guide us in all things. Yeshua said something to this effect.

These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

John 14:25-27

However, in each and every scripture I’ve quoted, the objects of receiving the Spirit and the audience of Yeshua’s words are Jews. So far, all we know (if we knew nothing else) is that Jews receive the Holy Spirit under certain circumstances, perhaps like the seventy elders and the Apostles, to prepare a specialized population for a highly specific set of duties.

But then there’s this:

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

Acts 10:44-48

cornelius
Peter and Cornelius

Obviously the Roman (Gentile) Centurion Cornelius and all those other Gentiles in his household received the Holy Spirit. Peter and the Jews who were with him were direct witnesses to the event and it was something that was obviously apparent to them in a physical manifestation.

“These six brethren also went with me and we entered the man’s house. And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”

Acts 11:12-18

Peter reported all this to the “apostles and the brethren” in Jerusalem, and after hearing his testimony, they glorified God saying “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”

This was even confirmed later by Peter at the legal proceeding held by James and the Jerusalem Council for formally establishing the status of Gentiles in Messianic Jewish community:

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.”

Acts 15:7-9

Clearly, God intended for non-Jews to enter into the community of faith and be saved in a manner identical to the Jews, receiving the Holy Spirit, just as the Jewish believers did.

More than that, it was foretold long before these events that many nations would turn to the God of Israel:

Many nations shall become a people unto Me, but I will dwell among you — then you will realize that Hashem, Master of Legions, has sent me to you.

Zechariah 2:15 (Stone Edition Chumash)

Every Knee Shall Bow
Photo credit: art.jkirkrichards.com

The Tanakh is replete with prophesies regarding the nations turning to God at the dawning of the Kingdom of Heaven, a Kingdom Yeshua’s advent inaugurated into our world, but I’ll only quote this one as it was part of last week’s Haftarah portion.

It seems my last blog post caused a disturbance among some of my non-Jewish readers relative to the uncertainty of our status in modern Messianic Jewish community. It was never my intension to upset or disturb anyone. Actually, quite the opposite.

I wanted to emphasize that even though, as we saw in the passage I quoted from Zechariah, God will dwell among Israel, even as He rules the entire world, Gentile lives matter, too. We’re not just an afterthought in God’s redemptive plan. We are not just God’s left-handed, red-headed step-children, the ones you hide in the closet when company comes over. We have a very specific purpose in the Kingdom.

But it’s sometimes easy to get the idea that Gentiles are indeed an afterthought given all the emphasis on Jews and Judaism on Messianic Jewish websites and blogs, and in such publications, and sermons.

However, I also brought up some uncomfortable ideas regarding our existence in my previous article: we don’t have a very exact roadmap regarding mitzvot or lifestyle, at least nothing as detailed as do the Jewish people.

I decided to focus on the Holy Spirit in today’s “morning mediation” for a few reasons:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My spirit within you, and I will make it so that you will follow my decrees and guard my ordinances and fulfill them.

Ezekiel 36: 26-27 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

This is part of the New Covenant promises Hashem made to Israel, the giving of the Holy Spirit, which we saw fulfilled in Acts 2 when it was given to the Jewish Apostles, and in Acts 10 when Peter witnessed it being given to the faithful Gentiles in the household of Cornelius.

But it’s interesting that a promise made exclusively to Israel somehow was transmitted to those Gentiles who came to faith in Yeshua as the foretold Messiah.

Actually, we have another giving of the Spirit that needs to be included.

Then Yeshua came from the Galil toward the Yarden to Yochanan, to be immersed by him. But Yochanan tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be immersed by you, and yet you come to me?” Yeshua answered and said to him, “Permit me, for so it is appropriate for both of us to fulfill the entire tzedakah,” so he permitted him. When Yeshua was immersed, he quickly came up out of the water. Heaven was opened to him, and he saw the spirit of God descending in the likeness of a dove, and it rested upon him.

Matthew 3:13-16 (Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels)

hebrews_letterPart of what I learned in listening to D. Thomas Lancaster’s sermons on the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews is that Yeshua, as the arbiter of the New Covenant, came, in part, to deliver “samples” of the New Covenant blessings to Israel, and apparently through them, to the Gentiles. This was to be evidence that God will indeed keep His promises to Israel (and somehow some of those promises also apply to the nations) at the appropriate time.

We see the New Covenant promise of the giving of the Holy Spirit in Ezekiel 36, we see Yeshua receiving the Spirit in Matthew 3, the Apostles receive the Spirit in Acts 2, and some faithful Gentiles receive it in front of Jewish eyewitnesses in Acts 10.

This should be pretty encouraging to some of the people who were dismayed at the content and discussion regarding my chopped liver blog post.

There’s just one problem:

The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.

Acts 8:34-39 (NASB)

The Ethiopian eunuch (a subject worthy of his own study), who was (in my opinion) most likely a Jew, did not receive the Holy Spirit, or at least Luke didn’t record it. But why, if he received the Spirit, would Luke have omitted this important point? If it was just assumed by Luke, then why did he include that the eunuch was baptized, which also could have been assumed?

Furthermore:

It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.

Acts 19:1-6

Apparently it’s possible to come to faith in Yeshua, to receive a water baptism, but not to receive the Holy Spirit.

tongues of fireI’m just shooting in the dark at this point, but as a believer for many years, while I can recall the moment I came to faith, no specific physical event occurred indicating that I had received the Holy Spirit. I was baptized in the Boise River along with my wife and children in August of 1999, but nothing like the Acts 2 or Acts 10 events occurred (although Acts 10 does not describe what Peter witnessed that told him Cornelius and his household had received the Spirit except that they spoke in tongues  and praised God).

Is it possible in the community of faith for some of us to possess the indwelling of the Spirit of God and others to not possess it? Further, with no physical evidence of the Spirit resting upon us as described in the multiple Bible quotes I’ve offered, how can we say the Spirit is on us or in us at all? Did you speak in tongues and utter prophesies? I didn’t.

I know that there’s a general consensus in Evangelical circles that the “age of miracles” ended when Christian Biblical canon was closed, but there are all sorts of anecdotal stories other Christians tell of spiritual manifestations and even miracles that happen all around us (though they seldom if ever make it into mainstream news reports).

I don’t have a definitive answer to all this. Maybe someone out there does. I have to take it on faith that I do possess the Holy Spirit, only because Christian tradition says I must if I’m a believer.

On the other hand:

Not everyone who says to me, “My master! My master!” will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but rather the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. It will be that on that day many will say to me, “My master, My master, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name do many wonders?” Then I will answer them, saying, “I have never known you. Depart from me workers of evil!”

Matthew 7:21-23 (Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels)

That’s rather sobering.

Think about it. There’s a class of believers who are capable of performing actual supernatural acts, apparently in the name of Yeshua, and yet, the Master does not know them and even calls them “workers of evil”.

How about this?

But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”

Acts 19:13-15 (NASB)

I’m not sure this is an example of what Yeshua was talking about, but just paying the Master lip service, so to speak, doesn’t seem to be enough to get you “into the club,” as it were.

So what do we do as faithful Yeshua-followers?

Yeshua said to him, “Love HaShem your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your knowledge.” This is the greatest and the first mitzvah. But the second is similar to it: “Love your fellow as yourself.” The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two mitzvot.

Matthew 22:37-40 (Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels)

I know Yeshua was speaking to a Jewish audience, but I think that it is appropriate to consider this a commandment that also applies to us, that is, we non-Jews in Messiah. Why shouldn’t we also love God with all of our resources and love other human beings as we love ourselves? It would seem this “Torah” is one that also forms the core of our existence as disciples of the Master and worshipers of Israel’s God.

I still feel like I’ve opened a can of worms I can’t seem to close again. With all of this, what are we supposed to do next, particularly if we, in some way, exist either directly or tangentially in Jewish community?

That might take a long time to find out. Certainly an inventory of each and every instruction Paul gave in his epistles to the Gentile disciples, as viewed from a Paul Within Judaism perspective, would be in order.

109
Messiah Journal 109

Actually, back in February 2012, First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) published an article written by Toby Janicki in Messiah Journal issue 109 called The Gentile Believer’s Obligation to the Torah of Moses. Unsatisfied with my original review which I wrote at the time, I wrote another one over a year later (which was nearly two years ago now).

It doesn’t answer the conundrum regarding the Holy Spirit or how some people could sincerely believe they were serving Yeshua and yet be so horribly wrong, but as far as getting some sort of handle of who Gentiles are supposed to be in what is essentially, a Jewish religious form, it might be a good place to start, at least for those of you who are experiencing a crisis of community.

The rest will have to come along by the by.

What am I, Chopped Liver?

For the conductor with the neginos, a psalm, a song. May God favor us and bless us, may He illuminate His countenance with us, Selah. To make known Your way on earth, among all the nations Your salvation. The peoples will acknowledge You, O God; the peoples will acknowledge You — all of them. Regimes will be glad and sing for joy, because You will judge the peoples fairly and guide with fairness the regimes on earth, Selah. The peoples will acknowledge You, O God; the peoples will acknowledge You — all of them. The earth will then have yielded its produce; may God, our God bless us. May God bless us, and may all the ends of the earth fear Him.

Psalm 67 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Forgive the somewhat whimsical title for today’s “morning meditation” along with the equally whimsical “featured image.”

When I read the above quoted Psalm on Shabbat, I was reminded that God has a redemptive plan, not just for Israel, the Jewish people, but for all the people of all the nations of the earth, that is, the Gentiles.

I suspect God has had this plan since before the creation of the universe, but we definitely know He had it when this Psalm was written, long before the birth of Yeshua (Jesus).

I strongly advocate Jewish return to the Torah mitzvot, whether they are Jews in the Messianic movement or otherwise. I strongly advocate for Jewish places of congregation and worship in Messianic Judaism, synagogues and communities by and for Jewish disciples of Messiah. I strongly believe in and advocate for the idea that without God’s plan of redemption for Israel, there can be no hope of redemption for the goyim.

All that said, there are times when I feel all of that Judaism weighing heavily upon me. In advocating for the Jewish right to cleave to their Messiah King and to have possession of their own Land and their own Torah, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that God also recognizes and loves the rest of humanity, a non-Jewish humanity.

prayingGranted, there’s nothing in that Psalm that directly says “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), but it does say that the (Gentile) regimes will “be glad and sing for joy” because God will judge among us fairly. We will all acknowledge the God of Israel and the “earth will then have yielded its produce.”

The harvest is great, but the workers are few.

Matthew 9:38 (Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels)

Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

1 Corinthians 15:18-20 (NASB)

“Produce.” “Harvest.” “First fruits.” It seems that it is not only the Jews who are counted among the harvest, but the rest of us as well, all of us who trust in the promises of God as demonstrated by Messiah.

A person who comes to Torah on his own volition does so because of the beautiful and elevated ideas he hears about Torah principles. He made his decision on the assumption that those who follow the Torah will act towards him in accordance with all the Torah laws pertaining to interpersonal relations. If someone cheats him financially or in any other way wrongs him, he will not only suffer a monetary loss. Rather, he might also feel disillusioned with his decision to accept Torah as a way of life.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Act with love and kindness towards converts,” discussing Bamidbar (Numbers) 5:6
Commentary on Torah Portion Naso, p. 312
Growth Through Torah

While Rabbi Pliskin is discussing converts to Judaism in this above-quoted statement, and while I don’t believe we “Messianic Gentiles” are called to Torah obligation in the manner of the Jewish people, I don’t think it’s entirely inappropriate or inaccurate to say that, in a way, we also come to the Torah, as it applies to us, “because of the beautiful and elevated ideas” expressed in the “Torah principles.”

I don’t feel put upon or mistreated by any Messianic Jews as such, but I do need to remind myself periodically that we non-Jews also have a role to play. More than that, I need to provide some much-needed perspective to who we non-Jews are in Messiah.

While I recently wrote that the identity of the Messianic Gentile, both in ancient and modern times, may be ill-defined by design, I’ve also offered my opinion on what I think we’re here for.

desert islandBut in addition, I believe that even one non-Jewish disciple of Yeshua could be stuck on a deserted island with nothing but his or her Bible, yes, adequate food, water, and shelter, but no other human companionship, Jewish or otherwise, and still have a relationship with a loving and caring God because of the faithfulness of Messiah. I think there are times when Messianic Jews should advocate for Gentile devotion to God and express the clear knowledge that God does cherish even the goyim. I believe the door should swing both ways within the ekklesia of Moshiach.

It is easy to focus on the differences among people and to consider yourself as separate from others. Truly no two people are exactly alike. But there are many common factors among people. By focusing on the fact that every human being is created in the image of the Almighty you will have greater identification with others and this will lead to greater unity.

-Rabbi Pliskin
“With unity there is a blessing,” p.316
Commentary in Torah Portion Naso, discussing Bamidbar (Numbers) 6:24

I suppose when Rabbi Pliskin wrote “differences among people,” he could and probably did mean “differences among Jews,” but in saying that “every human being is created in the image of the Almighty,” he opened the door to all of humanity, Jews and Gentiles alike.

While I have advocated for a strong recognition of the covenant distinctions between Messianic Jews and Gentiles, we also must counterbalance that knowledge with our unity in Messiah’s ekklesia. We may be in many ways separated from each other by those covenant distinctions, but while we are not a homogenous population, there aren’t two Messianic ekklesias, there is one, just as God is One and yet has many diverse names and many distinctive qualities.

Recently, Derek Leman wrote what I consider to be a pair of “bookends” on his blog: Why Non-Jews Are Drawn To Messianic Judaism and On Messianic Judaism As A Home For Jewish Believers.

Each blog post advocates for its named subject, Gentiles in one and Jews in the other.

In both Jewish and non-Jewish zeal to promote and elevate the Jewishness of Messianic Judaism, I’m glad to see some noteworthy Messianic Jewish writers and teachers specifically addressing both sides of the coin.

I think one of the reasons Gentile believers exited Jewish community nearly twenty centuries ago and why there are some Hebrew Roots promoters in the modern age who not only advocate but demand equal obligation to Torah as some sort of right, is as an attempt to create a significant and meaningful Gentile identity in the body of Yeshua-believers.

In the end, the first and second century believing Gentiles may not have been able to find that identity in Jewish community, so they made the worst possible decision and not only separated from the Jews, but “demonized” everything Jewish, reimaging the Jewish Messiah as the Gentile Christ, and warping everything ever taught by Yeshua and the Apostles, specifically Paul’s teachings.

the crowdI believe that many so-called “One Law” advocates cling to their views because the dissonance of differing and distinct roles and identities of Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic ekklesia is too difficult to bear. This probably also explains why a number of we Messianic Gentiles have mistakenly converted to some form of Judaism, Messianic and otherwise, in an attempt to find meaning and purpose in the service of God among Jewish community.

However, as a non-Jew and a devotee of the Jewish Messiah King, I do have meaning and purpose in the redemptive plan of God for our world. Yes, it’s first to the Jew and only afterward, to the Gentile, but it is to the Gentile at a specific point in that plan.

The plan has already entered our world and it has been slowly unfolding for the past two-thousand years. That plan has included an untold number of Gentiles and as important as Jewish Torah observance and devotion to Moshiach is, the plan will never be complete without the rest of us.

I just needed to remind you and especially me by saying all this. Thanks for reading.