Tag Archives: unity

A Christian at Shauvot

the-joy-of-torahLast week, I had the opportunity to speak with a visitor to our website, a woman in her mid-50s. Sarah* was baptized as a child and grew up “in the church,” but always felt an affinity to the Jewish People. She even recalls mentioning to her parents that she wished she were Jewish, which they dismissed despite her maternal grandparents’ very Jewish-sounding last name.

Later in life, she developed an interest in genealogy, and began to research her family tree. Slowly but surely, the evidence became incontrovertible: she was, in fact, a Jew all along. It turned out that her grandparents had barely escaped the Holocaust, and with her parents had conspired to hide their Jewish identity from her siblings and cousins.

What is most remarkable about this story is not merely her discovery, but that her desire to learn more about Judaism had in fact preceded it. Now it is truly a journey of self-discovery as well. Her Jewish soul was calling to her, and over time it became impossible to ignore.

In just a week’s time, we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuos, which commemorates the giving of the Torah. But because Judaism teaches that the spiritual energies of each holiday return to the world each year at that time, it is by no means merely a commemoration, but a time uniquely appropriate for receiving the Torah, for increasing our knowledge and understanding.

-Rabbi Yaakov Menken
“Is it Time for More?”

In less than a week, I’ll be attending the First Fruits of Zion 2012 Shavuot Conference in Hudson, WI. In my case, it will be an interesting experience but not one like the situation described by Rabbi Menken. It is true that I am “attracted” to Judaism, its customs and traditions, its teachings and philosophy, but at the same time, I’m very conscious of how “alien” an environment it is. While I “borrow” a great deal of my source material from Chabad.org, I am aware, primarily through my wife, of how much of a “goy” I am, particularly in relation with my brief, periodic contacts with our local Chabad community.

So what am I doing here?

Believe it or not, I ask myself that question a lot. The simple and straightforward answer is that I have no where else to go. When I stop for a moment on my particular journey, and take stock of how far I’ve come and where I am now, I find that I’m swimming in some strange lagoon or tide pool off to the side of traditional Christianity and Judaism. Though you may not believe it, in many ways that body of water is fed more by Christianity, at least culturally, than by Judaism.

I was made particularly aware of that this morning when I read the part of Rabbi Menken’s missive that said:

So please take this as an invitation. The reason why we have these chat and e-mail services are so that people in distant locations, and people who are not ready to walk into a class, can make contact and get some guidance as to the next steps they might take. Rather than replying to this email, the best ways to reach us are via chat on Torah.org, or a question on JewishAnswers.org… or perhaps a comment, which you can tell us is not to be published!

I’ve met more than a few non-Jewish people in the Hebrew Roots movement who felt that their story was, or should be like, the one described by Rabbi Menken and, the fact that they were attracted to Judaism meant that they were some sort of “crypto-Jew” with hidden Jewish relatives lurking somewhere in their distant history. For the woman Rabbi Menken describes, this was actually true, but for most of us who lean more toward Jewish educational resources than the latest devotionals found in the local Christian bookstore, it is not.

So what’s the story for the rest of us?

I have no idea.

Oh, I can weave theories and engage in guesswork, but that’s all it is…theories and guesswork.

As I was reading this morning, I imagined that at the upcoming Shavuot conference, I would be doing this with the others in attendance:

Give thanks to Hashem, declare His Name, make His acts known among the peoples. Sing to Him, make music to Him, speak of all His wonders. Glory in His Holy Name, may the heart of those who seek Hashem be glad. Search out Hashem and His might, seek His Presence always. –Psalm 105:1-4 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

And yet given the mixed crowd of Jews and non-Jews present to give honor and glory to the Jewish Messiah, I wondered if the following was also part of the reason for me being there:

Thus said Hashem, Master of Legions; In those days, it will happen that ten men, of all the [different] languages of the nations, will take hold, they will take hold of the corner of the garment of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” –Zechariah 8:23 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

I’ve recently written on more than one occasion that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22), which are the Master’s own words. Given the amount of “push back” that I’ve received from the traditional Christian perspective, it’s hard to imagine a time when the prophesy of Zechariah 8:23 will come to pass, unless none of those ten men are Christian.

On the other hand, the prophet may have been speaking of a time when we will all realize that Christianity can no longer afford to be divorced from Judaism, and that Jews and Gentiles who are devoted to God and particularly those who are disciples of the Master, must find times to join together and “give thanks to Hashem, declare His Name, (and) make His acts known among the peoples.”

ShavuotAs for now, there are still many barriers between human beings and this kind of unity and peace. We should take advantage or those rare times when we, who have different backgrounds and traditions, can join together “in spirit and in truth” and give thanks to the glory of God together. I join my Jewish brothers and sisters, along with many other believing Gentiles on Shavuot, not to seek my Jewish soul or to imagine I’m someone that I’m not, but to summon some slender thread at the corner of the garment of Zechariah’s prophesy, take hold of it, and to allow the barriers that separate us to become the walls of the corridors that lead us all to Messianic peace and fellowship.

Nothing limits you, no force that holds you captive—other than a fiction of your imagination.

So you will say, “What, then, of the forces of nature? Of the constraints of a human body? Of the hard reality that slams against me when I attempt to stride through the barriers of life?”

Yes, they are there. But they are not what they seem to be.

They are not there to oppose you, but to carry you. As your soul pulls forward, those barriers force her inward, towards her deepest, strongest self.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Pushed From Behind”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

Vayakhel-Pekudei: The Missing Kahal

The Hebrew language does not lack synonyms, and there are several other verbs which could have been chosen to begin the verse: “And Moshe gathered together the children of Israel.” The word employed, vayakhel, is significant, for it implies the fusion of the people into a kahal or communal entity, far more than a collection of individuals.

A group which gathers together can also move apart, and even while together, the union is not complete. A kahal, by contrast, represents an eternal entity that unites individuals in a new framework, highlighting the fundamental bond that joins them.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“More than Gathering Together”
Commentary on Vayakhel; Exodus 35:1-38:20
Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 250ff;
Sefer HaSichos 5749, p. 292ff;
Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel, 5752

This commentary should speak to those people who believe that the Jewish people no longer are a people before God. It should speak to those who believe that God divorced Israel and married the Christian church. It should speak to those who believe that God abandoned His people Israel and transferred His eternal covenants to the church as the “new Israel.” It probably won’t, but it should. Look at what Rabbi Touger is saying. He’s saying that the Jewish people are uniquely a people, a unity, a kahal. They were at Sinai and they remain so today.

But what about the church?

I’m sure I’ve written about this before (but the problem with writing so many “meditations” is that I can’t be sure when or where), but is Christianity “a people?” In the strictest sense of the term, the answer is “no.” One is only a Jew if you have a Jewish mother (though having two Jewish parents would be really great) or if you converted to Judaism using a formalized process in a recognized branch of Judaism (this last part is problematic, since Orthodox Jews don’t recognize converts who went through Conservative or Reform synagogues). On the other hand, anyone can be a Christian. All you have to do is profess faith in Jesus Christ. You can come from any language, nation, or tongue, and God will not withhold the grace of Christ from you. You will belong (actually, I’m still working on that “belong” part).

But will you be a “kahal?” Will you be an “eternal entity that unites individuals in a new framework, highlighting the fundamental bond that joins them?”

How many Christian denominations exist today? I can’t find any one statistic that is authoritative or definitive, but it seems to be in the tens of thousands. Tens of thousands of individual and unique Christian denominations.

That’s a lot. Are they all a unity together; an eternal entity together?

That’s hard to say.

I’m not just commenting on this week’s torah portion (which is a double portion that includes Vayakhel and Pekudei). I’m performing a minor comparison of Judaism and Christianity. This is extremely oversimplified and open to tons of criticism, but hear me out.

My friend Gene Shlomovich has written a couple of blog posts recently. One is 50 signs you may subscribe to Replacement Theology which, as you might imagine, highlights a series of factors that contribute to elevating the Christian church at the expense of Jews, both in society and supposedly in the eyes of God. The more recent blog that caught my attention though is Test of a true convert to Judaism. The test is an easy one. If you want to convert to Judaism but you find out that the next Holocaust is just around the corner, would you still convert?

This is one of the reasons that Jews do not evangelize and are very hesitant to accept converts. When the going gets tough, the converts may not see themselves as integrated with the Jewish kahal. If you are born a Jew, it doesn’t matter how you see yourself. Hitler’s Nazis took all Jews to the camps, religious or secular. It didn’t matter if they saw themselves as part of the kahal of Israel, they still suffered and died. A Jew is bound the the community body and soul.

But is a Christian?

I admit, the church probably has to work harder at it, since we come from such a diverse set of backgrounds, but it’s not impossible to become a unified entity under Christ. The problem is how we see the rest of the world. Unlike Judaism, Christianity has a mandate to speak to the rest of the world. We are directed by Christ to make converts of all nations (see Matthew 28:18-20). No man must be our enemy because he has the potential to be our brother in the Messiah, regardless of his former life.

I had a discussion on another Christian blog recently regarding the Coexist Bumper Sticker phenomenon. The writer of that blog (no, I won’t provide links) was generally against the bumper sticker campaign as he felt it was directing Christians to simply get along with those of different faiths or or no faith at all, denying our mandate to evangelize to those groups. He also felt the coexist bumper stickers denied this:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. –John 14:6 (ESV)

The blog writer separated the world into two camps…us and them. Those who are not part of us (Christianity) are against us. But if that’s true in an absolute sense, how will we ever be able to share the “good news” to people we hold in disdain? To be fair, he wasn’t really rejecting secular humanity, just resisting the “dumbing down” of Christian convictions for the sake of political correctness. But it reminded me of how many other churches erect extremely rigid barriers against the “unsaved,” and those of us who came to Christ late in life and with “a past.”

I’ve always been bothered by the arrogance and even apparent cruelty of these type of churches. This is particularly poignant for me, as I’ve mentioned, since I didn’t become a believer until my early 40s. If any of these folks had encountered me in those days, what would they have thought of me? Would they have thought I against them? Would they have thought I was their enemy? But weren’t we all enemies of Christ at one time?

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. –Romans 5:10 (ESV)

No one is born God’s “friend.” As we grow and develop and become aware of God, we each negotiate our relationship with Him. It may be different from a Jewish point of view, I don’t know. I suspect that although God has promised that all of Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26), that doesn’t give each and every individual Jew a free pass to ignore God or the Torah without certain consequences.

I don’t have all the answers, so don’t ask me to provide them.

But I do know that we, as Christians, cannot simply dismiss the Jewish people or Judaism just because it suits our “superiority” theology, and we certainly can’t spit on those who have not accepted Christ as Lord and Savior because we can only feel better about our salvation in comparison to other people’s state of being without God. There are plenty of people I don’t really like and maybe a few really bad people I’m absolutely against, but how can I be an enemy to someone who was once just like me? How can I refuse to speak to anyone who desires to hear the good news just because they aren’t already just like me?

For me, coexisting isn’t surrendering my convictions in order to get along with the political correctness of the world. It’s the willingness to walk and talk and live in the world around me in all of its diversity, to illustrate that a life lived as a disciple of the Master is not one lived in vain (no matter how many secular and religious people tell me otherwise). How can anyone come to a knowledge of the Messiah if we refuse to share that knowledge, in love and forbearance, with others?

Returning to Rabbi Touger’s commentary, we can’t forget that what God has promised His people Israel was long ago said and done, and we in the church (though I attend no church) cannot undo the will of God toward His kahal.

The most complete expression of this oneness will come in the Era of the Redemption, when “a great congregation (kahal gadol) will return there.”Jews from all over the world will stream together to Eretz Yisrael. This ingathering will be more than geographic in nature. G-d will “bring us together from the four corners of the earth.”But more importantly, there will be unity and harmony among us, and this unity will embrace all existence. “The world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed.”

These are not merely promises for the future, but potentials that can be anticipated today. The massive waves of immigration that have reached Eretz Yisrael in recent years are obvious harbingers of the ultimate ingathering of our nation. And even as the physical reality of the Redemption is coming to pass, so too we can have a foretaste of its spiritual elements. We have the potential to establish a new harmony within ourselves, and to spread that harmony among others. And by these efforts to anticipate the Redemption, we will help make it a reality.

We cannot live in arrogance, taking the place of the groom at the wedding feast (Luke 14:7-11) when we have been commanded to sit down at the lowest place. Not if we expect to be a part of the harmony of which Rabbi Touger speaks. If God wants to honor us, He will move us to a more distinguished seat. It is not up to us to automatically occupy the head of the table.

If Christianity wants to be a kahal of God, unified under our Master and Savior, we must emulate him in being loving to others, as he was to the woman at the well (John 4:7-26). He was not dishonest with her, nor did he “soft pedal” his message to her, but he did not send her summarily away, either.

AbyssI tried to explain my point of view on the aforementioned blog, but the blog owner and I continued to talk at cross purposes (forgive the small pun). Eventually, I was inspired to write today’s Torah commentary, such as it is, not speaking to the blog writer as such, but to all Christians in the hope that someone will listen with a softened heart.

Lately, I’ve been writing about my own spiritual journey, which admittedly has become interrupted “at the bottom of a well.” I’m focusing on prayer as the means by which to respond to being “stalled in traffic” so to speak. I understand that a great many things I object to today, I’ll eventually have to accept and let them be. One of them is the idea that I can always have fellowship with other Christians. I want not to be hostile or anxious or upset with those people who are different than I am. Unfortunately, if the church, or some of its members, are circling the wagons and defending themselves against anyone who is even slightly different, then what fellowship do I have with them?

I should say at this point that we are all doing our best to understand and obey God, so I can’t really be upset or angry at the blog writer I’ve been referencing. I know he’s sincere and really does want to help others, but where he may see enemies such as Stalin, Haman, Hu Jintao and Ahmedinijad, I see my next door neighbor, my co-workers, and my family.

I may have to accept that the church is not my kahal and that such a unity will never exist for me. My closeness and unity to God may be found, not within the walls of a church or synagogue, but in the slender pages of the Bible and in solitary prayer. But then, not every Christian blog has the same response to the “coexist” bumper stickers, so who knows what the future may bring?

Good Shabbos.

The Empty Sukkah

The empty sukkahRabbi Pinchas of Koretz was a spiritual giant in his generation. At first, his greatness was mostly unknown to his contemporaries, but he had no regrets; indeed, it suited him just fine. He spent his days and nights in Torah-study, prayer and meditation. Rarely was he interrupted.

But then, the word began to spread, perhaps from fellow disciples of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, that Rabbi Pinchas was very, very special. People began to visit him on a regular basis, seeking his guidance, requesting his support, asking for his prayers and beseeching his blessing. The more he helped them, the more they came. The trickle to his door became a stream and the stream became a daily flood of personal stories and requests for help.

Rabbi Pinchas was overwhelmed. He felt he was no longer serving G-d properly, because he no longer had sufficient time to study, pray and meditate as he should. He didn’t know what to do.

-Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles
“The Unpopular Tzaddik”

Rabbi Tilles goes on to tell the story of Rabbi Pinchas and the disastrous results of his desire to, in essence, be left alone with God. Rabbi Pinchas forgot that he was put into a world full of people and as much as people can be distracting at times, we ignore them at our own peril.

As the story goes, Rabbi Pinchas asked for and received a boon from Heaven, that people no longer be attracted to him in the slightest. However, there is a saying: “Be careful what you ask for.” Sukkot is a terrible time to be alone for a Jew.

In those days in Europe, people desiring an invitation to a meal would stand in the back of the shul upon the completion of the prayers. The householders would then invite them upon their way out, happy to so easily accomplish the mitzvah of hospitality. Rabbi Pinchas, unfortunately, did not find it so simple. Even those without a place to eat and desperate for an invitation to a sukkah in which to enjoy the festival meal, turned him down without a second thought. Eventually, everyone who needed a place and everyone who wanted a guest were satisfied, except for the tzaddik, Rabbi Pinchas.

He trudged home alone, saddened and a bit shaken up at the realization that he might never have another guest, not even for the special festive meal of the First Night of Sukkos. Alas, that too was part of the price of his freedom…. It was worth it, wasn’t it?

Wasn’t it? Rabbi Levi Avtzon tells a different story about Sukkot, why it exists, and why we are here.

Thousands of Chabad rabbis and students go out to the streets in Sukkah Mobiles to meet fellow Jews and offer them the opportunity to shake the Four Kinds (“Please don’t shake them too hard!”), grab a bite in the sukkah, and just have a nice friendly chat (“You’re from Australia? How awesome! I have a cousin there. Do you know him?”). Unity.

At the core of the almost seven billion human beings walking the beautiful earth is a quest for unity: unity and harmony within ourselves, unity with our fellows and environment, and unity with our Creator. This quest can be covered with dust, concealed by hate and stigma, obscured by ego, and masked by bloodshed—but the quest never dies, and never will die until we bring peace and harmony to our world.

For seven days a year we dedicate ourselves to bringing unity to our world. On this holiday, united we sit.

What could have been more wrong than for Rabbi Pinchas to create a situation where he was completely denied unity and fellowship with other Jews at so joyous a season? And yet, was there a silver lining to his cloud? For a moment, it seemed so.

Pausing just inside the entrance to his sukkah, Rabbi Pinchas began to chant the traditional invitation to the Ushpizin, the seven heavenly guests who visit every Jewish sukkah. Although not many are privileged to actually see these exalted visitors, Rabbi Pinchas was definitely one of the select few who had this experience on an annual basis. This year, he raised his eyes and saw the Patriarch Abraham–the first of the Ushpizin and therefore the honored guest for the first night of the festival–standing outside the door of the sukkah, keeping his distance.

Rabbi Pinchas cried out to him in anguish: “Father Abraham! Why do you not enter my sukkah? What is my sin?”

Replied the patriarch: “I am the embodiment of Chessed, serving G-d through deeds of loving-kindness. Hospitality was my specialty. I will not join a table where there are no guests.”

The story of Rabbi Pinchas ends on a happy note. After much prayer, Heaven hears and answers and “throngs of people were again finding their way to his door; seeking his guidance, asking his support, requesting his prayers, and beseeching his blessing.” While by nature, Rabbi Pinchas was a solitary and studious person, thanks to Father Abraham, the interruption of his most cherish activities was no longer seen as a problem.

Chabad's mobileI find it interesting that Rabbi Avtzon characterized Sukkot as symbolic of “seven billion human beings walking the beautiful earth is a quest for unity: unity and harmony within ourselves, unity with our fellows and environment, and unity with our Creator.” This illustrates that somehow, it is not only the Jewish people who seek God, it is not only the Jewish people who seek His shelter, and it is not only the Jewish people who seek unity. Sukkot represents the quest for world-wide unity under God, and yet like Rabbi Pinchas, some of us will sit in our sukkah alone.

Rabbi Pinchas created his own problem and thanks to a lesson from Heaven, he also resolved it. Tonight begins the seven days of Sukkot (I put up the family sukkah in my backyard last night) and the world’s population of Jews (and a few Gentiles like me) will be entering a sukkah somewhere, taking meals, hopefully sharing company with many guests, and maybe even sleeping within their make-shift tents, relying on God to keep out the wind and rain in memory of the same shelter He provided to the Children of Israel in the desert.

The empty sukkah of Rabbi Pinchas was a bitter thing and even Abraham would not enter, but for those who are alone through circumstances or by choice, there is still some benefit in being an open and empty container.

The beginning of all paths and the foundation of all ascents is to open yourself to receive from Above.

And how do you receive from Above? By being empty—because a full vessel cannot receive, while an empty vessel has a hollow to be filled.

That is why we must run from depression; because a depressed person is so filled with his own self-pity, there is no room left to receive anything, no opening for life to enter.

But a humble, open spirit is vibrant with joy.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Joyful Emptyness”
Meditations on Happiness”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

Chag Sameach Sukkot!

And if you’re wondering about the “Sukkah-on-wheels” as shown in the second image in this blog post, learn about the world’s largest mobile sukkah at COLLive.com (rumor has it that even Spider-Man gets into the swing of things).

The Death of the Tzaddik

Torah at SinaiRav Zalman Sorotzkin, zt”l, taught the extent of the oneness of the actions of all Jews from the prohibition of slaughtering a mother animal and her calf on the same day. “The verse states, ‘It and its progeny you shall not slaughter on the same day.’ The word for ‘slaughter’ is plural to teach that if one Jew slaughters the mother and a second Jew slaughters the child, this violates the prohibition. He explained, “We can learn a very important lesson from this.

We see that there is a very special connection between the actions of one Jew and the actions of his fellow. Our mission as a nation is to be a light unto the nations and we can only do this if we are united. Whether we know it or not, every Jew is part of one collective Jewish soul. This explains the unreasonable tendency of the non-Jewish nations to blame all Jews for heinous acts done by unworthy individuals. It is surely strange that they do not judge other nations this way. But when we consider that every Jew is part of a single whole, this begins to make a strange kind of sense, at least on a cosmic level…”

When Rav Chaim Vital, zt”l, noticed the Arizal saying a tearful heartfelt vidui during davening he wondered about this. “Why are you saying vidui? Surely you have never violated any of the heinous sins mentioned.”

The Arizal admitted that he had not violated the sins listed. He said, “Nevertheless, I must at least repent for all of them. Although I have never transgressed, what about my fellow Jews who have?

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Parts of a Whole”
Chullin 81

I sometimes despair over the lack of unity in the body of Christ or in the larger collection of people of faith. We seem so fragmented and disorganized for a group of human beings who supposedly all worship the same God and who all long for the coming of the Messiah (for Christians that’s “second coming”). Despite the lesson we see off the Daf, it seems as if even the Jewish people are not unified in their approach to and understanding of God, the Torah, and even whether or not a Jew must believe in God to be a Jew.

Yet if we look at the Sinai event, the Torah wasn’t given to each Israelite individually but to Israel as a single body.

Moses went and repeated to the people all the commands of the Lord and all the rules; and all the people answered as one man with one heart, saying, “All the things that the Lord has commanded we will do!” –Exodus 24:3

Rashi comments that the Egyptians were pursuing the Jews “With one heart, like one person.” This comment is interesting because Rashi makes almost the same exact comment in next week’s parsha, when the Torah describes the Jewish people camping at the foot of Mt Sinai. There too, the Torah used the singular tense to describe the Jewish people, “and Israel encamped there opposite the mountain” (Exodus 19:2). On that verse, Rashi describes the powerful unity the Jews felt as they were about to receive the Torah, that they were “Like one person with one heart.”

-Rabbi Leiby Burnham
Parasha Perspectives
Torah Portion Beshalach – 5769
Partners in Torah

While modern Judaism may not function “like one person with one heart”, at least on the surface, we see that when the nation of Israel was formed and the Torah was given at Sinai, Israel accepted the Law of God “with one heart”. That was God’s intent and I believe that the Jewish people will return to complete unity under God in the days of the Messiah.

But what about Christians? We are sometimes called “the body of Christ”, implying that we are a unified group or collective, but is that really true and was it true from the beginning? Particularly in Western culture, the value of the individual is considered paramount and we tend not to respond well to being treated as a group under the authority of a Pastor, Rabbi, or other governing body. We each demand the right to determine what the Bible says for ourselves, which often results in the Bible saying many different things to many different people.

I won’t quote the various New Testament examples because there are far too many, but Paul’s mission to the Gentiles to preach the Good News of Christ was carried, by necessity, to individual Gentiles, families, or small groups. It would have been impossible to deliver the Gospel message to “the nations” as a unified whole, if only because the world is so big and Gentiles, even in the Second Temple era, were so numerous. There could be no “Sinai event” for us the way there was for the Children of Israel, and maybe that represents a fundamental difference between Jews and Christians.

Even though the various branches of religious Judaism (as well as secular Jews) don’t see eye to eye, when you take away the differences and distill the Jewish people down to their very essence, there is a very basic “Jewishness” that cannot be removed, erased, or diminished beyond a certain point. A Jew will always be a Jew. When push comes to shove, the Jews are a people as established by the will of God.

Not so a Christian.

We are not born, we are made. More accurately, we make a decision; becoming a Christian is a choice. Becoming not a Christian is also a choice. There really is no such thing as an “ex-Jew”. Even for Jews who convert to Christianity, the Jewishness is still there. That isn’t true for Gentile believers. There is a point where you can reduce the Jews down to a common denominator where they are all one (as God is One), but Christians are not “one”, we are many.

I wonder if that’s our problem?

Mount SinaiI can only imagine that, in the end, God will gather the faithful together and we will all be “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15) as, in theory, we are supposed to be right now, but we’re not there yet. In my own little corner of the world, exploring a path rarely traveled by any other Christian, I feel very much alone most of the time. That’s probably by choice as well, although I feel like there’s a bit of wiring and programming inside of me that will not let me seek a different road and will not let me blend in with the masses of the Messiah’s sheep in their Christian sheepfold.

I wonder if that’s my problem?

(Actually, I don’t feel that odd anymore. I just read an article about how Koreans, both in their native country and in the U.S., are fascinated with Talmud and its wisdom. Korean translations of Talmud and books about Talmud are common in Korean bookstores.)

Can we be one? Is Christian unity an illusion? How are we to gather together under the One God and be a unique body, set apart in holiness?

…so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. –Hebrews 9:28

The murder of Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, the “Baba Elazar,” on Thursday night saved the people of Israel from other tragedies, leading rabbis said Friday.

“Harsh punishments were decreed on the people of Israel, and he wanted to nullify them,” said the slain rabbi’s brother, Rabbi Baruch Abuhatzeira, also known as the Baba Baruch, speaking at Rabbi Abuhatzeira’s funeral.

by Maayana Miskin
“Rabbi Abuhatzeira Bore the Burden of Evil Decrees”

God is One and His Name is One. As Christians, we believe that the Son of Man came to die for the sins of many. Although Judaism traditionally does not believe that one person can die for the sins of another, the Kabbalistic perspective states otherwise:

The Bible is clear, and it is consistent. One person cannot die for the sins of another. This means that the guilt from the sins committed by one person cannot be wiped out by the punishment given to another person. First, in Exodus 32:30-35, Moses asks God to punish him for the sin of the Golden Calf, committed by the people. God tells Moses that the person who committed the sin is the person who must receive the punishment. Then, in Deuteronomy 24:16, God simply states this as a basic principle, “Every man shall be put to death for his own sins.” This concept is repeated in the Prophets, in Ezekiel 18 “The soul that sinneth, it shall die… the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

-Rabbi Stuart Federow
“Jews believe that one person cannot die for the sins of another person”
What Jews Believe

“… suffering and pain may be imposed on a tzaddik as an atonement for his entire generation. This tzaddik must then accept this suffering with love for the benefit of his generation, just as he accepts the suffering imposed upon him for his own sake. In doing so, he benefits his generation by atoning for it, and at the same time is himself elevated to a very great degree … In addition, there is a special, higher type of suffering that comes to a tzaddik who is even greater and more highly perfected than the ones discussed above. This suffering comes to provide the help necessary to bring about the chain of events leading to the ultimate perfection of mankind as a whole.”

Derech Hashem (The Way of God)
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
As translated and annotated by Aryeh Kaplan
Feldheim Publishers
Jerusalem, 1997, p. 122.
Quoted from Yashanet.com

It’s with a certain amount of irony that I find the only “reasonable” explanation for how a person, a tzaddik, can give his life to avert the “evil decrees” of an entire people (without admitting that God accepts human sacrifice), is within the confines of Jewish mysticism (you’ll find Judah Himango struggling with the issue of Leviticus 27 and human sacrifice at Kineti L’Tziyon).

If Christianity can be said to have a “Sinai event” it is the crucifixion (or can we also include the resurrection?). Not that we were all there. In fact, the vast majority of people who were in the general vicinity were Jews, who came from every corner of Israel and the diaspora for the festival of Passover.

On the other hand, every Jew, even today, is to consider himself or herself as having stood personally at the foot of Sinai to receive the Torah. Why not (and this is just my imagination speaking) consider every Christian and every disciple of the “great Rebbe of Nazaret”, the most righteous tzaddik of all generations; why not consider us all as having stood at the foot of his execution stake personally, each of us as a witness to his bloody, sacrificial death on our behalf?

The Death of the MasterWe sometimes call Jesus our “living Torah” since he embodied the lifestyle of one who was fully human yet fully obedient to God and without sin. If the giving of the Torah at Sinai to the Jewish people unites them as one, does not the giving of the blood of the living Torah at Golgotha, the place of the skull, unite the disciples of Christ?

There’s a problem of two separate people groups under God and two separate events. Do the Jews have Moses and the Gentiles have Jesus? Are there two “Messiahs”? Not ultimately, for we all spring from a single root (Romans 11) and we are all branches on the same tree. More than that, Jesus came for the lost sheep of Israel and Paul went first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. The Jewish Moshiach came for the Jews and also came to unite all of humanity under God.

But every year, when they sound the shofar at Rosh HaShana it is revealed, a new revelation of infinite life is drawn to the world, beginning with the Land of Israel (see Tanya, pg. 239).

That is why the Torah says G-d’s eyes are on the Land of Israel from the beginning of the year to the end; it is referring to this new flow of life begun each Rosh HaShana.

And why will the Patriarchs be revived in Israel? Because as the ultimate Jews they will link and reveal the holiness of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel.

But this will only happen through our efforts to transform the entire world into holiness NOW — that is, to make Israel everywhere and prepare the world for Moshiach.

Because ONLY Moshiach will bring the Jews to Israel when the Great Shofar will be sounded by HaShem Himself.

We just have to do all we can in thought, speech, and action to bring . . .

Moshiach NOW!

-Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
Commentary on Parashat Eikev (5766)
Ohr Tmimim

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. –Revelation 22:1-5

Divergent Branches

Cutting BranchesThe Jewish people have no monopoly on G-d and spirituality. In fact, Judaism’s core desire is that the world perceive G-d’s presence in their lives, and grow spiritually. What’s curious then is the wording of what is arguably Judaism’s most famous expression: “Shema Yisrael… Listen Israel, G-d is our Master, G-d is One (Deut 6:4).” If this eternal message relates to all mankind, why is it addressed only to Israel? Would not the One who created and sustains all mankind, by definition, be the Master of all?

-Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
“Note from the Director”
Torah Portion Vaeschanan
Director, Project Genesis

This is part of a brief commentary that Rabbi Dixler wrote for a newsletter to which I subscribe. Previously, I wrote a blog post called The Sons of Noah which asked how non-Jews can develop a relationship with God from a Jewish point of view. A day later, I answered that question from a Christian perspective with the blog article Children of God. Still, there’s more to the issue than I’ve chronicled so far. Although Judaism and Christianity have a common root, we have developed into religions that are light years apart.

For instance, when the Rebbe, Rabbi M.M. Schneerson characterizes the Noahide laws for the Gentiles, (as recorded in Rabbi Tzvi Freeman’s book, Bringing Heaven Down to Earth), he expresses the first Noahide commandment this way:

Acknowledge that there is only One G-d who is Infinite and Supreme above all things. Do not replace that Supreme Being with finite idols, be it yourself, or other beings. In this command is included such acts as prayer, study and meditation.

Look at the Rebbe’s wording. He warns not to replace the One Supreme God with “other beings” and applies it to acts of “prayer”. But in traditional Christianity, Jesus is God as much as God the Father is, and God the Holy Spirit. Also, how many Christians pray directly to Jesus as opposed to God the Father? It’s actually confusing who we should pray to:

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. –John 14:13-14

The Rebbe (and Judaism in general) characterizes God as One, the Unique and completely self-contained One that cannot be subdivided into any smaller parts or units. God isn’t a molecule that is one thing made up of many smaller components, He is an indivisible, irreducible, complete wholeness. There’s no way to turn that into the concept of the Trinity from a Jew’s point of view.

I’m bringing all this up because there may be an assumption running around out there that Jews can accept Christians as “righteous Gentiles”; as Noahides…but the Christian imperative to view God as both one and as three makes that impossible. Rabbi Dixler ended his letter last week emphasizing this very point:

Rashi’s classic commentary solves the puzzle: G-d might appear to be the Master of only the Jewish people, those who received and accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The nation of Israel got direct instructions on how to live from the Master Himself — “Israel, G-d is our Master.” However, “G-d is One” — we wish and hope for the day when every soul universally recognizes the Al-mighty’s intimate involvement with all, when the spirituality hidden beneath every surface becomes abundantly clear.

I didn’t feel like Rabbi Dixler or Rashi, as his commentary was presented here, really answered the question, so, since there was the option to ask the Rabbi questions on the Project Genesis site, I posed this one:

Thank you for your insightful message, but I must admit to not quite seeing how Rashi’s commentary, as presented in your letter, solves the puzzle. G-d did indeed give direct instructions to the nation of Israel on how to live, but I don’t see where the rest of humanity receives the information that G-d is One.

I’m aware of the Noahide Laws as recorded in Genesis 9, but they don’t resonate from Noah to the rest of the nations in the same sense as the unbroken chain of Torah does from Moses and Sinai to the Jews of today. There’s a unified link between G-d, Moses, and the Israelites who stood at Sinai that can be traced from 3500 years in the past all the way to the present-day Jewish people. When you say that “we wish and hope for the day when every soul universally recognizes the Al-mighty’s intimate involvement with all”, how do you believe this will happen? Will we only become aware of the “spirituality hidden beneath every surface” when the Messiah comes?

I received Rabbi Dixler’s prompt reply thus:

James, You make a great point. He did give instructions to the rest of the world, but not to the level He gave to the Jewish people. It would seem that the discrepancy would give the appearance of Him acting as Master over the Jews, while exhibiting less mastery over the non-Jews. The point of the message was to say that He has as much a desire to have that relationship with the non-Jews, if they reach the required level of recognition of Him. While Jews may not always act at that level of recognition, they are the descendants of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs which gives them an advantage.

The recognition of the non-Jews has been happening throughout history and it will certainly reach it’s zenith at the time of the Messiah. The spread of the belief in monotheism to most of the civilized world was likely the greatest manifestation of this that we’ve seen so far.

Rabbi Dixler stopped just short of referencing Christianity and Islam when he mentioned the “spread of the belief in monotheism”, but without those two non-Jewish religious traditions, there would be no awareness of ethical monotheism, as Jews understand the concept, among any non-Jewish people.

ForebodingThis leads me to my next question. If in the first century, non-Jews were brought to an awareness of Jewish monotheism through the life, death, and resurrection of the Jewish Jesus of Nazareth (and certainly most Jews would take exception to my wording here) and that word of this “Good News” was spread in the diaspora to the Greek and Roman speaking peoples of that time by the disciples of the Jewish Jesus, why didn’t the “Universal Message”, as Rabbi Dixler calls it in the title of his missive, start and continue right then and there? Why didn’t the Jewish and non-Jewish worshipers of the Jewish God (and remember that the original worshipers of Jesus were almost all Jews) remain united? Why did a journey that started out with so much promise and light enter into such darkness?

OK, I know what you’re thinking. Most people are aware of the history of the first three centuries of the church and how a variety of events resulted in an ever-widening gulf between the Jewish and Gentile worshipers of Jesus, until what was once a Jewish sect with Gentile members became two separate and fully independent religions. On his blog yesterday, Derek Leman commented about the change in perception of Christianity from the martyr Stephen in Acts 6, to the Justin Martyr, who actively rejected the law of Moses for anyone, Jew or Gentile, who was a disciple of Jesus (Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho the Jew, ch. 11).

It has occurred to me more than once that for Gentiles to be able to experience a fully-realized relationship with God, we couldn’t do it as a part of Judaism. It’s probably the same reason why the landscape isn’t flooded with “synagogues” of mostly Gentile Noahides who fully embrace the Seven Laws as their core “Torah” and worship the God of Israel on that basis. Rabbi Dixler’s commentary seems to suggest that it should work this way, but he doesn’t operationalize it; that is, he doesn’t say how to make it work this way, particularly since Judaism has no mandate to “evangelize” to Gentiles. The only such mandate that I’m aware of was issued in Matthew 28:19-20 and the program it instituted, as least as administered by Jews, lived and died at the end of the first century. Gentile worshipers of the Jewish Jesus were only able to carve out their own identity as worshipers of the God of Abraham by separating themselves from Judaism altogether.

Today, Christians bristle at the thought that they could learn anything from the Jewish people (especially since Jews reject Jesus) and many still hold fast to supercessionism or the theological belief that the church has completely replaced the Jews in the covenant promises of God. The idea of Jews and Christians co-existing as God’s people, albeit at different levels of responsibility, is abhorrent to many Christians and Jews. Judaism has Moses as the lawgiver and Christianity has Jesus as the “law-taker-away”. As they exist in the minds of their followers, trying to make these two religions work and play well together is like trying to get the National Organization of Women to endorse Sarah Palin for President.

It’s not going to happen. In fact, here are three of the comments people made in response to Rabbi Dixler’s letter that punctuate my point:

I’m a Chab Jew and I have experienced the disdain of other Orthodox jews, some Chassidim. If we cannot be one how can we expect to have the goyim in the boat?

For your remarks. Perhaps no issue is so easily misunderstood as that of particularity or election. As a stranger come into the faith, I still, occasionally, wonder if I have crashed the party. during my morning prayers, for the longest time I changed one to “Thank you for making me a goi.” Even now, every time I recite the prayer, I think that God has remade me. This, however, does not stop the occasional flinch that perhaps I was dissatisfied with the state of my original creation and that I did God a disservice by converting to Judaism.

There is no way to get around the particularism of Judaism. We are “Am Segulah” the special precious possession of Hashem. We are meant to be a light unto the nations, but the nations themselves have no part in the Torah. Non-Jews who feel that they are spiritually close to the Jewish people must go the way of Yitro and Ruth and become part of Am Yisrael.

Without Christianity (and short of having all the Goyim convert to Judaism), there would have been no mechanism for non-Jews to come to faith and trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And yet, as a result of Christianity, an enormous wedge has been hammered between Jews and Christians.

Another thing. The Rebbe, when responding to a question about secular and religious Jews, said…

You categorize them as religious Jews and secular Jews! How dare you make such a distinction! There is no such thing as a secular Jew. All Jews are holy.

The Rebbe’s words seem almost an echo of Paul when he said “and so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:16). You may still choose to debate this conclusion, but there’s no way around the inexorable unity that joins all Jews, even those who passionately disagree with each other, together at an extremely fundamental, “DNA” level. The Rebbe put it this way:

The Jewish people are one. A Jew putting on tefillin in America affects the safety of a Jewish soldier in Israel.

Soldier praying with TefillinI haven’t experienced this kind of unity within the church and doubt that even the most devout Christians can claim a bond with each other that is so complete as one Jew has for another. Is this what Sinai did? No one chooses to be a Jew unless you convert, but the vast majority of the world’s Jewish population were “born that way” (to quote a popular entertainer). No Christian is “born that way”, we all make the choice independently, even if we are born into Christian families.

Where did we go wrong? Why do we struggle between our two faiths when God is One? Rabbi Dixler tries to answer those commenting in his newsletter, and maybe even my own question, with these words:

An issue that has been raised by a few is that this message somehow dilutes the idea of the Chosen Nation and that the commandment to love is only towards others Jews. To be clear, the Jews were chosen by G-d to be the recipients of His Torah since they are the children of the the Patriarchs and Matriarchs – those who discovered G-d’s presence for themselves, devoted every ounce of their being to Him, and introduced the pagan world to what it means to have one G-d. At the same time, the mission of Jews that they’ve been chosen for is to spread the knowledge of G-d’s presence to all of humanity, by acting as a light to the nations. Built into this mission is the concern that all of humanity appreciate G-d and the spiritual relationship we have with Him.

Unfortunately, “all of humanity” appreciating God and the spiritual relationship the Jews have with Him has necessitated the separation of the Jews from those of us who were “first called Christians at Antioch” (Acts 11:26).

I had asked Rabbi Dixler if, in his opinion, the unity between the Jews and Gentiles under the One God would only happen when the Messiah comes (a second time, from the Christian viewpoint). He replied that while God has as much desire to have a relationship with non-Jews as he has with Jews, the recognition of God by non-Jews “will certainly reach it’s zenith at the time of the Messiah”. From Christianity’s vantage point, we already have that recognition through Jesus Christ. But it’s the Christian theology and dogma of 20 centuries that has been wrapped around the teachings of Christ and his early Jewish followers like a thick blanket that has both kept us warm in the love of God and isolated from the Jewishness of our Master.

Paul said in Romans 11 that Jewish branches were temporarily broken off the root to make room for Gentile branches but how long will it be until we can both be part of the root again? How long until the Jews and the Christians can share an awareness and a love for our common God and put aside 2,000 years of enmity?

How long?

Walking Together to the House of Prayer

Walking TogetherUnfortunately, intolerance among Jews can be found in all directions. Shortly after Kristallnacht, a Reform synagogue in Rhode Island conducted a special service to which they invited recent Jewish refugees from Europe. Many of those refugees came to the service wearing hats or kippot, which at the time was against Reform practices. A prominent member of the congregation demanded that everyone remove their head coverings. Although the rabbi of the congregation was extremely upset by the man’s behavior, he felt too intimidated to do anything.

Similarly, there are some Orthodox Jews who too easily brand their less observant coreligionists as “heretics” or “non-believers.” Yet, prominent sages such as Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and the Chazon Ish have ruled that we live in a time of God’s concealment and therefore cannot apply the religious laws concerning heresy to modern-day Jews who question their faith. Furthermore, it is wrong to harm those who deny even Judaism’s most basic beliefs. Not only should we not hurt such people, we should help them if the situation ever presents itself.

from the Lev Echad blog
“E Pluribus Unum”

While blogger Asher aptly illustrates how different groups of Jews can be less than generous toward each other, this isn’t exclusively a Jewish issue. Certainly different groups in humanity have distrusted and harmed each other throughout history, and this can also be seen in various faith groups, including Christianity. The difference here is that, as I mentioned the other day, being Jewish isn’t just a matter of holding to a collection of beliefs or a certain faith. Jews are tied to each other and connected to God in a way no other people group can claim. Any Christian can renounce his or her faith, but a Jew is always a Jew.

I suppose it’s rather tragic for me to say that “any Christian can renounce his or her faith”. It makes it sound as if our commitment to Christ is too easily ignored or broken, and we see this sometimes. We also see, as Asher points out in Judaism, that the different denominations or groups of Christians cling to their own specific religious views and can take shots at each other, believing that if you don’t believe, say, and do as they believe, say, and do, you are not really a Christian and you are not really saved.

Christianity can be very “tunnel-visioned” in its approach to God and the Bible, especially for those groups that have a very literal understanding of what the Bible says (in English, ignoring the original languages and contexts involved). How Asher ended his blog article suggests another way that we Christians can look at each other, at Jews, and at the rest of humanity:

It takes a considerable amount of humility and tolerance to refrain from forcing our beliefs upon others, but that’s exactly what we should strive for. To do so, objective ethical standards must be upheld, while the more subjective areas of life can be left to the individual. It’s ironic that people tend to focus so much on the subjective when it is really the objective that matters most. For example, some regard those with whom they disagree politically or religiously as bad people, instead of simply judging their overall behavior to determine what kind of person they are. This needs to change if we are to produce a better world.

One of the unique aspects of Judaism is learning about all the different roads people take that lead them to God and a life of goodness. While this is certainly a fascinating phenomenon, it can also be a great impediment to how we treat one another. Therefore, our goal in life should not be to turn all our fellow Jews into ideological and/or religious replicas of ourselves. Rather, it should be to guide – not force – others into a life of serving God and His children in a way that best matches their individual personality.

Christians tend to look at the world as made up of two groups: saved and unsaved, us and them. While we are mandated (see Matthew 28:19-20) to go and make disciples (not converts, disciples) of the unbelieving people around us, we also sometimes see the unbelieving people around us as “the enemy”. It’s pretty difficult to convince a non-believer of the love of Christ if we don’t even like non-believers. It’s even harder to show the unbelieving world Christ’s love if they see that we don’t even like each other due to our different theologies.

Asher might suggest that we try to put our differences aside, both between different groups of Christians and between Christians and everybody else. Try to look at people the way God sees people:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. –John 3:16-17

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. –Romans 5:9-11

The opportunity to be reconciled to God is universally applied to all people everywhere. All we have to do is accept it and start living the life that God designed for us. He didn’t offer reconciliation to only a favored few and He didn’t extend His love only to a select group. It is true that God chose the Children of Israel, but it wasn’t because they were the best, the brightest, or the most numerous:

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. –Deuteronomy 7:7-9

House of PrayerWe also know that God’s love is not limited to Israel but extends to the whole world (John 3:16) and that what He created in Israel was to be a light to the nations, so that we could all call the House of God, a house of prayer:

In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. –Isaiah 2:2-4

And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” –Isaiah 60:6-7

So here we are, fighting and bickering with each other without considering how God sees us all. He’s like a Father who watches His small children argue and fight about who He loves the best, but in truth, He loves us all, just as we love all of our children, even though they are different from each other, and even though they sometimes act foolishly.

I read something written by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman which he applies to the Jewish people, but I think we can also adapt it for the rest of us:

The sages tell us that our father Jacob never died. “Since his children are alive, he is alive.”

Each and every Jew is the personification of his father Jacob, and the heart of each and every Jew is alive and beating strong. To say about any one of them that he is spiritually dead is to pronounce our father Jacob dead. If to you it appears that way, the fault is in you, not in the Jew you observe.

G-d sees only good in them. He will make great miracles for them and they will be safe.

We could say that our “Rebbe”, Jesus the Christ, the Jewish Messiah, lives in the heart of each of his disciples. He died but has risen and he sits at the Father’s right hand. He is alive in us and he makes us alive in him so that through him, we can be sons and daughters of the Father. We absolutely must remember though, that God sees the good in all people and He will make great miracles for everyone, and accepting God, we will all be safe in Him.

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song. –Psalm 95:1-2