Monday, March 25, 2013

Have a Happy Passover!

Blogging will resume on April 3rd.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Upcoming Posts

So there's two posts I'm currently working on that may or may not be finished by Shabbat.  There's one about Abraham Chill's works explicating the rationales for the mitzvot/minhagim and then there's one that shows all the misconceptions and objections to Shomer Negiah then shows the rationales for Shomer Negiah.

Also, I hope everyone has made plans for Passover which starts next Monday evening.  Pray that this year many Jews and Gentiles will see that Yeshua is our Passover Lamb and that they'll eventually reject the lie of anti-Judaism that pervades the Christianities.  What's a Christian that rejects anti-Judaism?  A Messianic!  : )

Shalom,

Peter


Interesting Messianic Bios over at Messianic Publications

So Rob Roy asked me to do a bio to go along with my review of McKee's book (New Testament Validates Torah) to be used over at Messianicpublications.com.  To see how to write a bio I looked at the other bios (you have to click on an article and then click on the author's name to see the bio) and they are very interesting.  So I just wanted to let you know to check them all out.  Mine is completely uninteresting by comparison but can be seen at the following link:

CLICK HERE FOR LINK


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Abraham Chill: Quite Possibly the Chillest Rabbi in the World


Carl Kinbar's and Stuart Dauerman's Message to Gentiles "May You Never Have Shabbat Rest and May You Eat Swine All the Days of Your Life"


A Review of McKee's "The New Testament Validates Torah"

[The book can be purchased at Amazon.com:  CLICK HERE FOR LINK]


McKee begins NTVT with a proposition that must be very arresting for most Christians unfamiliar with  Messianic Judaism:
"Many Christians today are of the false impression that the Apostolic Scriptures tell us that the Law of Moses or the Torah is no longer to be followed and is relatively unimportant for today...they...have misinterpreted the Apostolic Scriptures...because they do not have a foundation in the Torah and Tanach."
This false impression of G-d's Law causes the following evil:
"...the Body of Believers today has lost much of its direction for the future.  There are many problems among those in our faith today.  The foremost of these problems is the widespread proliferation of sin and unbiblical behavior, which results in people having an ineffective spiritual walk and being unable to fulfill the mission of God in the world."
McKee's proposition in the book is that Believers, both Jew and Gentile, should follow:
 "[Yeshua's] commandments...[which] are not just vague concepts, but are instructions that we encounter within the first five books of Scripture, the Law of Moses or the Torah."  
At the close of the introduction, McKee makes a rather bold claim, that appreciating G-d's instructions (i.e. Sinaitic Torah) will:
"...help you in your walk of faith...enable you to know our Creator on a deeper level, as He has surely saved you by grace bud made you for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10)...[and] grow in your faith..."
In short, he begins his book with the bold claim that the Torah solution will (1) help in your daily walk of faith; (2) enable a deeper knowledge of the Creator; (3) help you to understand the complementary relationship between grace and good works.

Methodologically, McKee proceeds to show the typical Christian claims that the Law is invalid and then show the reality that the New Testament Validates Torah.  Here is a sampling of his methodology:


CHRISTIAN CLAIM:  

The Law makes us more sinful and is therefore harmful.  

Christians cite to Romans 5:20 for this point which reads, "The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more."  Along with this they cite Romans 7:8-9, "But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.  I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died."

REALITY:  

While McKee agrees that a consequence of the Law was that "...the people surely started breaking [it]...", he explains that this was merely one negative consequence outweighed by the benefit of having "...laws and injunctions to keep [the Ancient Israelites] in line..." and that, after all, the evil of an increased capacity for sin has been entirely negated by a super-abounding of grace.  The Law itself is not harmful but rather human nature.  In fact, McKee explains that the Law is wisdom (citing Deuteronomy 4:6; 26:18-19; 28:1).  And what could be more beneficial than wisdom?


CHRISTIAN CLAIM:

The Law was intended to be temporary until Christ.  

Christians cite to Galatians 3:19 as evidence:  "Why the Law then?  It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made."  G. Walter Hansen shows the common Christian interpretation of this verse, "The Mosaic Law came into effect at a certain point in history and was in effect only until the promised Seed, Christ, appeared...[T]he law was in effect for a relatively short period of time limited in both directions by the words 'added' and 'until'."

REALITY:

McKee disagrees that Paul meant the entire Sinaitic Law was temporary.  Rather, he agrees with Dunn's assessment of Galatians 3:19 "[T]he purpose of the law as it was generally recognized within the (OT) scriptures and the Judaism of Paul's time...[was] as a means of dealing with transgressions.  In other words, what was probably in mind here [in Gal. 3:19] was the whole sacrificial cult at whose centre was the provision of means for covering sin and removing guilt..."


CHRISTIAN CLAIM:

No one can keep the Law; therefore, no one should try to keep the Law.  

REALITY:

McKee uses Paul's own response, "Do we then nullify the Law through faith?  May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law," (Romans 3:31).


CHRISTIAN CLAIM:  

Hebrews 7:18-19 tells us that the Law was set aside.  

The passage actually reads, "For on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God."  



REALITY:

"This 'setting aside'...does not involve the Torah as a whole somehow being abolished, but rather...the Levitical priesthood being removed to the side, likely until Yeshua returns and the Temple service is restored in the Millennium with Him present (cf. Ezekiel chs. 44-48)....The very reason why this specific Torah instruction can be considered as 'weak and ineffectual' (NRSV) is because 'the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak' (Hebrews 7:28)--which is a human problem--not because God's instruction on the priesthood is somehow bad."  Also, the fact that the Law made nothing perfect does not mean that the Law was bad.  McKee quotes from Donald Guthrie who writes, "...It is characteristic of law--not merely Mosaic law, but all law--that it has made nothing perfect..."


These are just some of the examples of Christian claims to the invalidity of the Torah.  McKee systematically covers the other claims which are based on faulty interpretations of Matthew 5:17; John 1:17; Romans 3:20; 3:28; 4:5; 6:14; 6:23; 7:4; 8:2-3; 10:4; 11:6; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23; 2 Corinthians 3:14; Galatians 2:16; 3:13; 3:24-25; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2:14-15; Philippians 3:9; Colossians 2:14; 1 Timothy  1:9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5,7; 3:9; Hebrews 7:12, 18-19; 8:13; 10:1,9.

In Part II of the book, in addition to tackling the difficult Pauline concepts of "under the law" and "under grace", McKee presents some key Messianic views of the New Covenant:

(1) "...the New Covenant...does have continuity with the Sinai Covenant that preceded it (Exodus 19:1-24:11)....One of the essential realities of the New Covenant is God writing the Law onto the hearts of His people!...just as takes place with Jeremiah 31:31-34, [Christians tend to overlook] 'I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances' (Ezekiel 36:27)....It is unfortunate that among Christian commentaries, there is not a huge amount of reflection on Ezekiel 36:27, which clearly states how the work of God's Spirit will cause His people to obey His commandments.  This aligns with the Jeremiah 31:31-34 New Covenant promise of God writing His Torah onto their hearts,";

(2)  The New Covenant is a national covenant:  "The decree is issued that a time is coming when a new agreement will be made 'with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah' (Jeremiah 31:31).  These are nationalistic designations...";

(3) The New Covenant is inclusive of Gentiles.  "...the restoration of Israel is bigger than just the Jewish people, as the work of the Messiah has surely incorporated people from all nations who call upon the Creator God into the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16)."

One of the last sections of the book is entitled "How Do You Become Torah Observant?"  In this section, McKee says "There are three critical aspects of Torah obedience where most of the 'growing pains' and/or struggles for today's Messianic Believers are found.  They are obeying the command to honor the seventh-day Sabbath or Shabbat, celebrating the appoint times or moedim of Leviticus 23, and following the kosher dietary laws..."  He explain that the journey toward Torah begins with these first three steps.

He goes on to explain why these steps present difficulties, "You may see that as you commit yourself to a fuller obedience which many are unwilling to have, that you may lose friendships and relationships with people...This is because how you are practicing your faith convicts them, yet they are unwilling to make these changes...Yeshua tells us that this is not unique..."And everyone who has left houses or brothers and sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life' (Matthew 19:29).

Next, he addresses one of the most critical questions that a Messianic will face:  "Do you stay in church or do you leave?"  He answers diplomatically that "...as you commit yourself further and further to a path of Torah obedience...your time in your church will probably not last."  The reason he suggests is that "...the time will come when you are ready to move on because your church is not feeding you spiritually the way that it used to.  Have faith that the Lord will bring you new friends who will share your perspective of the Scriptures, and who are just as sincere in their faith as you are."

He also warns to be wary of congregations that exclude Gentile Believers, "...there are other Messianic congregations where only Jewish Believers are largely ministered to, and non-Jewish Believers are not considered to be a part of Israel along with them."  Yet he admonishes the reader to "Treat others with fairness and respect."

There's so much wisdom in this book that a meager book review cannot adequately cover.  I hope each of you will purchase two copies of this book:  one as a continual reference for your family and another to donate to a local pastor with whom you are building bridges.

Thank you J.K. McKee for all of your hard work in compiling this wonderful resource!  May G-d raise up many such workers in our fledgling movement!

Shalom,

Peter



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Will be Talking About These Books Later This Week

Both are by Abraham Chill:

The Minhagim:  the Customs and Ceremonies of Judaism, Their Origins and Rationale

AND:

The Mitzvot:  the Commandments and Their Rationale 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Avram's Fatal Exegetical Error: Failure to Engage in Textual Criticism of Acts 21

Avram argues that the New Testament actually prohibits Gentiles from circumcising (he says "Having said all that, the correct interpretation of what James meant when he said "observe no such thing" refers to the prohibition against Gentile circumcision").  Where does he get that?  From a passage that isn't actually in the Bible.  Allow me to explain.

If you read Acts 21 in Bible translations based on say Textus Receptus then Acts 21:25 reads like the following:


"But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

Yet if you look at a translation based upon older, more reliable manuscripts then it reads as follows:

"As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

See the difference?  That little gem of anti-Judaic scribal tampering is missing from the older text.  The more reliable text doesn't have "observe no such thing."  For evidence of what I'm saying, please refer to Acts 21:25 in the Codex Sinaiticus which is provided in the link in the previous post.

Avram has demonstrated what can happen when a scholar forgets to do a little textual criticism.  You've got to do your homework and read the oldest manuscripts.  The newer Bible translations have done this homework for you for the most part.  See the ESV, NIV, etc.  I'm pretty sure that they are all up to date.

To the Gentiles:  since you are part of the family, you really must get circumcised eventually (provided you understand that it is not circumcision which saves you).  Your reward for this is that you will be able to one day enter the Messianic Temple (a Temple which the Prophets say cannot be entered by those who remain uncircumcised in the flesh).  

The Oldest Bible Online FREE: The Codex Sinaiticus (INCLUDES ENGLISH TRANSLATION!)

CLICK HERE FOR LINK

Yet Another Perspective on Gentile Circumcision (Avram Yehoshua)

A few posts back, I provided you with a link to the Orthodox Messianic position on Gentile circumcision.  Here's a link to an article by a man with a different perspective.  I actually used to correspond with this guy (Avram Yehoshua) until he decided that I was "arrogant" for not holding to his views on circumcision (I guess you can't please everybody).  : )

Here's the article in which he argues against Tim Hegg's position:  CLICK HERE FOR LINK

Why Was the Techelet Supposed to be Blue?

CLICK HERE FOR LINK


Do You Need to Be Circumcised?

Just read this interesting article from the Jerusalem Council site:  CLICK HERE FOR LINK


Does Anyone Have any Thoughts About the Jerusalem Council Site?

There's a site that purports to be an association of Orthodox Messianic Believers from all around the world which you can visit here:  CLICK HERE FOR LINK.

I was just curious if anyone knows them or has any opinions about this site/organization.

Cults at the Congregational Level: The Subtle Modes of Cultism That Pervade Christian and Messianic Congregations

If a cult is something evil and evil is defined as the absence of good then we should begin our discussion by defining a cult as the absence of a particular good.  But which "good" is missing from a cult?

The chief good of system of government is that it prevents corruption.  Men are male mammals and not angels.  If men were angels then we wouldn't need government.  We men are power-hungry, egotistical creatures.  We need checks and balances.  Each man needs a woman to balance him out (family level of governance).  Each community needs a council of elders (bet din).  Thus, the goal for communal governance, at least at the local level, is to allow each citizen of the community a voice as a rights-holder.

By contrast, a cult is the religious analog to a totalitarian regime in which the centralized authority is the sole rights-holder.  History has shown that totalitarian systems seek to control all aspects of public and private life.  Free thought is forbidden.  There is no "freedom of conscience."  The government is your conscience.

Now, of course, cultism like totalitarian forms of government takes many forms.  For example, you might have a government that is largely good except for a few totalitarian tendencies.  A local religious congregation might have the structure of a cult--one man in the sole position of authority--and yet in practice have an egalitarian community because that man in authority has arbitrarily decided to listen to his subjects and so give them a voice.  But how quickly that can change if the benevolent dictator is replaced with someone who is not so benevolent!

How do we prevent cultism?  We establish battei din (councils of elders) in each community.  But don't take my word for it:


"23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each congregation and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust," (Acts 14:23). 
"5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you," (Titus 1:5)


The Problem of Supposed Jewishness


Anyone who has been in the Messianic movement long enough has had someone come up to them and say something like the following:

"So I've been doing some research on my family tree and I think I have Jewish ancestry"

I've heard versions of this story literally each time I've visited a Messianic fellowship this year.  So what's going on?  Are there that many Gentiles descended from Jews?  Or is there another, more compelling answer?

I'd like to make the case that many of these people are suffering from the problem of supposed Jewishness.  First, let me explain why it is in fact a problem if a Gentile mistakenly thinks he is Jewish via supposed Jewish ancestry (I'm obviously not talking about the ones who legitimately have Jewish ancestry).

Identification with a group (e.g. Jews) is only helpful when the group accepts you.  Thus, misidentification (e.g. thinking you're a Jew when you're not) can lead to a relational conflict between yourself and the group with which you mistakenly identify.  In short, misidentification leads to rejection, confusion, and unhappiness.

Okay, so why is this problem occurring.  What causes supposed Jewishness?  I would like to suggest that supposed Jewishness occurs when a Gentile awakens to his/her identity as an Israelite and they fail to realize that Israel is composed of both Jew and Gentile.

What prevents them from realizing that New Covenant Israel is composed of both Jew and Gentile?  They either don't have access to that teaching or they are victims of misleading teachings on covenants in the Bible.

So how to we solve this problem?  We simply need to teach our brothers and sisters the reality:  that through Yeshua's blood, Jew and Gentile not only become family but they become joined to the New Covenant that effectively renews the Sinaitic Covenant along with Sinaitic Torah.  They need to understand that the covenantal community is a community of One Law.  This latter point is corroborated by all of the Sages of non-Messianic Judaism and by Scripture itself.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Behold How Pleasant: My First Visit to Zion's Sake Last Night

Before I tell you what happened, I just realized the video of the service can be seen at the following link:  CLICK HERE FOR LINK

It's funny because I didn't realize I was on camera.  If anyone is interested what I look like then message me and I'll tell you the time-mark.  :  )

MOVING ON....

Here's my thoughts about last night's service at Zion's Sake:


We had to drive for quite some time but we eventually arrived at the World Outreach Ministry facilities in Newport News around 8PM. As we were parking, I saw into the windowed lobby and smiled--the greeters were wearing prayer shawls.

So we went inside and I looked around:  they had a framed constitution of the modern state of Israel beside the door, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant above the door, several tables with brochures such as one providing info about the upcoming Passover Seder.  The friendly greeters greeted us with "Gut Shabbos" and then we went inside the sanctuary.

The sanctuary, shared with World Outreach Ministries (a church), looked much like a mid-size sanctuary that you might find in any Protestant church--but only for a split-second.

Then you see that many of the Jews and Gentiles--of all different ethnic backgrounds--are wearing garments associated with synagogue:  some female-headcoverings, some or most men wearing kippot and prayer shawls.  I even saw men wearing tzitzit.  Also, there were so many people!  I'd say well over two-hundred (which is larger than most Messianic synagogues that I've seen).

The room itself was slightly unusual for a Protestant Church.  The balcony curving around the room had been decorated with flags of the nations.  There were banners with stars of David.  One banner made me smile because it said "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"  Toward the front of the room, standing on the bimah, was an ark made of wood and glass, containing a Sefer Torah.

You know, it's interesting about the flags...  The church we currently visit, the one that is starting to lean toward Jewish Roots, it also has the flags of the nations--the lobby is completely encircled by flags.  Is this common for Jewish Roots congregations I wonder?  Anyway...

At a certain point my daughter needed to walk around and we went into the lobby.  It was fortuitous because it allowed me to meet some really great men of G-d and to hear their stories.

I learned much from one man in particular.  I asked what any One-Law Messianic would ask:  what's the policy regarding Gentiles and religious observances?  The answer was that they have a non-judgmental policy.  Also he had a story about that.

This man had attended one of their organization's conferences and said that one rabbi had stood up there and said that if Gentiles came to his congregation that he turned them away to the nearest church, explaining that "he had nothing to offer them."  According to the story, this rabbi was later confronted by leaders of the organization.  The point of the story was that that rabbi was an anomaly in the organization, that most congregations in the organization are inclusive of Gentiles.

However, another point of that story could be that there will always be a serpent in the garden.

I also learned about the Rabbi.  He is a gifted speaker and a former sub-mariner.  His spiritual mentor, from what I gather, is Sid Roth.

A few words about Sid Roth.  I like him.  I've only read one of his books, however (The Last Lap).  It was very good.  I'll say this:  no one man has all the answers.  One should learn from a variety of teachers.  Even the UMJC can teach you something.  Each teacher has strengths and weaknesses.  Some men are gifted as planters/planners, some as scholars, teachers, etc.  Each is important.  And the Spirit uses each one in different yet equally important ways.

In summary, I hope this information will encourage Believers out there who have not attended a Messianic congregation.  There are others like you in the world (they just might not be geographically near to you).  But we ARE near in spirit.

May G-d strengthen Zion's Sake.  And may He strengthen all congregations that bring Jews and Gentiles (i.e. ALL of Israel) together.

P.S.  If you are interested in starting a congregation like Zion's Sake in your area, you might try contacting Rabbi Carlson through the website for Zion's Sake.  I believe it is zionsake.org.  It's the one located in Newport News, Virginia.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francis Co-Wrote Book with a Rabbi

CLICK HERE FOR LINK

New Pope Reaches Out to Jews

CLICK HERE FOR LINK

Reminder to Pray for Judah's Mother

Let's keep her in our prayers.  CLICK HERE FOR LINK


Plans for Blog Re-structuring

So as you can probably tell from the recent posts, I'm going to be restructuring this blog to add some resources for Messianic halachists.  I wanted everyone to know certain rationales for the mitzvot and have easy access to them.

The goal, of course, is to get Jews (and Gentiles) interested in Orthodox Messianic Judaism.  We also need to create Messianic Yeshivas.  But one thing at a time.


Rationales for the Primary Mitzvot

All of the following is from Maimonidies:

DAILY LIFE:


THE COMMAND TO PRAY:

"...the sacrificial service is not the primary object [of the commandments about sacrifice], whilst supplications, prayers, and similar kinds of worship are nearer to the primary object, and indispensable for obtaining it..."

"We are told to offer up prayers to God, in order to establish firmly the true principle that God takes notice of our ways, that He can make them successful if we worship Him, or disastrous if we disobey Him, that [success and failure] are not the result of chance or accident...For the belief of the people that their troubles are mere accidents causes them to continue in their evil principles and their wrong actions, and prevents them from abandoning their evil ways.  Comp. 'Thou has stricken them, but they have not grieved' (Jer. v. 3).  For this reason God commanded us to pray to Him, to entreat Him, and to cry before Him in time of trouble.  It is clear that repentance is likewise included in this class..."


KASHRUT LAW

"I maintain that the food which is forbidden by the Law is unwholesome.  There is nothing among the forbidden kinds of food whose injurious character is doubted, except pork (Lev. xi. 7), and fat (ibid. vii.23).  But also in these cases the doubt is not justified.  For pork contains more moisture than necessary [for human food], and too much of superfluous matter.  The principal reason why the Law forbids swine's flesh is to be found in the circumstance that its habits and its food are very dirty and loathsome.  It has already been pointed out how emphatically the Law enjoins the removal of the sight of loathsome objects, even in the field and in the camp; how much more objectionable is such a sight in towns.  But if it were allowed to eat swine's flesh, the streets and houses would be more dirty than any cesspool, as may be seen at present in the country of the Franks.  A saying of our Sages declares:  'The moth of a swine is as dirty as dung itself' (B.T. Ber. 25a)."



PROHIBITION NOT ONLY OF IDOLATRY BUT ALSO ALL RELATED PRACTICES:

"...we are warned not to adopt any of the practices of the idolaters...'And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation which I cast out before you' (Lev. xx.23).

Some examples:

The prohibition on rounding the corners of the beard.  "...because it was the custom of idolatrous priests." 
The prohibition on wearing garments made of linen and wool.  "...[because] the heathen priests adorned  themselves with garments containing vegetable and animal material..." 
The prohibition on wearing garments designed for the opposite gender.  "You find it in the book of Tomtom, that a male person should wear coloured woman's dress when he stands before Venus, and a female, when standing before Mars, should wear a buckler and other armour."
LAWS OF SHEMITTAH

"As to the precepts enumerated in the laws concerning the year of release and the jubilee (Hilkot shemittah ve-yobel) some of them imply sympathy with our fellow-men, and promote the well-being of mankind; for in reference to these precepts it is stated in the Law, 'That the poor of they people may eat' (Exod. xxii. 11); and besides, the land will also increase its produce and improve when it remains fallow for some time.  Other precepts of this class prescribe kindness to servants and to the poor, by renouncing all claims to debts [in the year of release], and relieving the slaves of their bondage [in the seventh year].  There are some precepts in this class that serve to secure for the people a permanent source of maintenance and support by providing that the land should remain permanent property of its owners, and that it could not be sold. 'And the land shall not be sold for ever' (Lev. xxv. 23).  In this way the property of a person remains intact for him and his heirs, and he can only enjoy the produce thereof."


TEFILLIN, MEZUZAH, TZITZIT

"Their reason is obvious.  The actions prescribed by them serve to remind us continually of God, and of our duty to fear and to love Him, to keep all His commandments, and to believe concerning God that which every religious person must believe."


CIVIL LAW

"The precepts of the fifth class, enumerated in the Section 'On Damages' (Sepher nezikin), aim at the removal of wrong and the prevention of injury."

CRIMINAL LAW

"It will thus be confirmed in the heart of every one of the Israelites that their camp must be like a sanctuary of the Lord, and it must not be like the camps of the heathen, whose sole object is corruption and sin; who only seek to cause injury to others and to take their property; whilst our object is to lead mankind to the service of God, and to a good social order."

SPECIAL TIMES:


SHABBAT

"The object of Sabbath is obvious, and requires no explanation.  The rest it affords to man is known; one-seventh of the life of every man, whether small or great, passes thus in comfort, and in rest from trouble and exertion.  This the Sabbath effects in addition to the perpetuation and confirmation of the grand doctrine of the Creation."  [Note:  the Sabbath also reminds of HaShem's deliverance of Israel from slavery]

YOM KIPPUR

"The object of the Fast of Atonement is evident.  The Fast creates the sense of repentance; it is the same day on which the chief of all prophets came down [from Mount Sinai] with the second tables, and announced to the people the divine pardon of their great sin; the day was therefore appointed for ever as a day devoted to repentance and true worship of God.  For this reason all material enjoyment, all trouble and care for the body, are interdicted, no work may be done; the day must be spent in confession; every one shall confess his sins and abandon them."

PASSOVER AND SHAVUOT

"The Feast of Weeks is the anniversary of the Revelation on Mount Sinai.  In order to raise the importance of this day, we count the days that pass since the preceding festival, just as one who expects his most intimate friend on a certain day counts the days and even the hours.  This is the reason why we count the days that pass since the offering of the Omer, between the anniversary of our departure from Egypt and the anniversary of the Lawgiving.  The latter was the aim and object of the exodus from Egypt, and thus God said, 'I brought you unto myself' (Exod. xix. 4).

"Passover teaches us to remember the miracles which God wrought in Egypt, and to perpetuate their memory...man ought to remember his evil days in his days of prosperity.  He will thereby be induced to thank God repeatedly, to lead a modest and humble life.  We eat, therefore, unleavened bread and bitter herbs on Passover in memory of what has happened unto us, and leave [on Sukkot] our houses in order to dwell in tabernacles, as inhabitants of deserts do that are in want of comfort."

"The reason of the prohibition that the uncircumcised should not eat of [the Passover meal] (Exod. xii. 48) is explained by our Sages as follows: -- The Israelites neglected circumcision during their long stay in Egypt, in order to make themselves appear like the Egyptians.  When God gave them the commandment of the Passover, and ordered that no one should kill the Passover lamb unless he, his sons, and all the male persons in his household were circumcised, that only 'then he could come near and keep it' (ibid. xii. 48), all performed this commandment..."

ROSH HASHANAH

"New-Year is likewise kept for one day; for it is a day of repentance, on which we are stirred up from our forgetfulness.  For this reason the shofar is blown on this day, as we have shown in the Mishneh-torah.  The day is, as it were, a preparation for and an introduction to the day of the Fast, as is obvious from the national tradition about the days between the New-Year and the Day of Atonement."

SUKKOT

"The Feast of Tabernacles, which is a feast of rejoicing and gladness, is kept seven days, in order that the idea of the festival may be more noticeable.  The reason why it is kept in the autumn is stated in the Law, 'When thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field' (Exod. xxiii. 16); that is to say, when you rest and are free from pressing labours."

NOTE:  living temporarily in a nomadic-style hut reminds one to be thankful.

FESTIVALS IN GENERAL

"The use of keeping festivals is plain.  Man derives benefit from such assemblies:  the emotions produced renew the attachment to religion; they lead to friendly and social intercourse among the people."






Talmud and Rambam Speaking on the Topic of One-Law

So as I've explained before, the way to read the Decree and Dicta in Acts 15 is to note (1) the Greek terms employed refer specifically to pagan cultus and (2) the ancient Jewish procedure for conversion was two-stage:  turning from pagan cultus followed by turning to Israeli cultus ("kingdom of priests").

The Talmud says that COMPLETE renunciation of idolatry leads inexorably to One-Law:

"Hence we learn that those who follow idolatry deny as it were their adhesion to the whole Law, and those who reject idolatry follow as it were the whole Law,' (B.T. Kidd, 40a).

By the way, lest anyone fall for the lies of Derek Leman and the UMJC, note that the One-Law principle (the principle that those People bound to the Sinaitic Torah were bound to a general law or, as I like to put it in lawyerly terms:  within Israel, all common citizens of the same gender are bound to the same mitzvot) is taught by the Sages.  As I've already shown this to be the case with Rashi, here is Rambam on the subject:

"For this reason it would not be right to make the fundamental principles of the Law dependent on a certain time or a certain place; on the contrary, the statutes and the judgments must be definite, unconditional, and GENERAL in accordance with the divine words:  'As for the congregation, one ordinance shall be for you and for the stranger' (Num. xv. 15); they are intended, as has been stated before, FOR ALL PERSONS AND FOR ALL TIME," (The Guide, part III, chapter XXXIV).

We've also previously discussed how Maimonides (Rambam) explains the two-stage process of conversion in Part III of the Guide in which he discusses the rationales for the mitzvot (I'll do a post on that in just a few more minutes).  For example, he says:

"The knowledge of these [pagan] theories and practices is of great importance in explaining the reasons of the precepts.  For it is the principal object of the Law and the axis around which it turns, to blot out these opinions from man's heart and make the existence of idolatry impossible,"


And:

"It is the object and centre of the whole Law to abolish idolatry and utterly uproot it..."


And:

[After quoting Deut. 6:24] "He thus says that even every one of these 'statutes' convinces all nations of the wisdom and understanding it includes."

And:

"...[G-d] gave the [mitzvot] as a means of securing His chief object, viz., to spread a knowledge of Him [among the people], and to cause them to reject idolatry."

And:

To sum up Rambam, the Torah is given to (1) totally eliminate idolatry and (2) show everyone (Deut. 6:24) that the Torah contains wisdom "for all persons and for all time".





Thursday, March 14, 2013

Might be Visiting This Congregation Tomorrow...

Zion's Sake


Christian Outreach

Anyone have any suggestions on the best way to inform Christian pastors about Messianic Judaism?

Simplified Interface for Basic Halacha (Daily Life and Special Times)

So to make things easier for those of you seeking to learn and implement some basic halacha, I've created a simple interface that divides the traditional halacha between Daily Life and Special Times.  Most of it is from Shulchan Aruch except for the halacha for Shabbat which is from Mishneh Torah.  Enjoy:

DAILY LIFE


Tefillin

Mezuza

Tzitzit

Praiseworthy Traits

Speech

Kashrut

SPECIAL TIMES


SHABBAT

Shabbat

Eruvin

ROSH HODESH

Laws of Rosh Hodesh

PASSOVER

Preparations for Passover

Order of Passover Seder

Counting the Omer

ROSH HASHANA

Rosh Hashana

YOM KIPPUR

Erev Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur Evening

SUKKOT

Laws of Sukkot

Dwelling in the Succah

The Four Species (1)

The Four Species (2)

HASHANA RABBA, SHEMINI ATZERET, AND SIMCHAT TORAH

Hashana Rabba, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah

HANUKAH

Hanukah

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Why Every Believer (Jew and Gentile) Should Care About the Talmud [UPDATED]


What would happen if all the Talmuds in the world were destroyed in a single day?
Some might say, "No big deal.  It preached against Yeshua anyway."

But what if there is more to the Talmud than its statement relating to the Gospel?  What if it has the potential to be helpful despite its flaws?

Some might say, "The destruction of the Talmud would be bad but not catastrophic so long as the halachic Codes remain such as Shulchan Aruch and Mishneh Torah."  

But what if the Talmud was much more than a legal commentary on the Mishnah?  What if, aside from the halachah, the Talmud contained something priceless?

Some might say, "The destruction of the Talmud would be bad for the Jews but it wouldn't affect me as a Gentile Believer."  

But what if your ignorance of the practical instructions for community-building and mitzvot-observance was already affecting you?  What if your ignorance of Jewish traditions was already preventing you from reaching your full potential?

So these three objections are based on three false beliefs:

(1) the belief that one cannot learn something from a book that is flawed;
(2) the belief that the Talmud is merely a book of legal commentary;
(3) the belief that Gentiles have nothing to gain from studying the Talmud.
The reality is as follows:

(1) Yeshua taught that it was possible to learn from imperfect/flawed teachers: 
"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you," (Matthew 23:1-3) 
(2)  The Talmud contains roughly one thousand years of Jewish thought:  culture, tradition, philosophy, wisdom, experience, aggada (folklore), hermeneutics, rhetoric.  There's so much more to it than halachah.  (And yet it also is a source for halachah).  
(3) The Talmud contains proven wisdom--I say proven because it was only the Diaspora communities that respected and studied Talmud that resisted assimilation.  And, as it happens, the Gentiles are sorely in need of wisdom: 
"O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say: “Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit," (Jeremiah 16:19) 
And the prophet's words are corroborated by history:  wars, oppression, immorality, idolatry (including modern idolatry:  humanism and materialism).  The book that Gentiles so liked to burn throughout European history contains the very sort of wisdom that they so desperately need!
Yet there are legitimate risks associated with Talmudic study.  We need sound doctrines, strong communities, a set of hermeneutical rules for Messianic halachic interpretation, etc.  But that's for another post.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Supersessionism and a Recent Encounter with Mormons

Thought I'd discuss this briefly since the topic came up recently in the comments.

What is supersessionism?  It's kicking Jews out of their seat.  There are several ways to do that:  (1) say that the seat (i.e. Sinaitic Covenant and Law) is abolished or (2) say that Gentiles have replaced Jews in the Covenant.

On Shabbat, I went for a walk with my family (wife and daughter).  We found a path leading into the woods and so we took it.  As we climbed a hill, I looked and saw two young men in white shirts approaching, pushing their bicycles.  I knew right away that they were Mormons.

The conversation went something like this:

Some initial small talk, then:

Mormon:  What church do you attend?

Me:  We visit a Christian church but we believe in Messianic Judaism.  Have you heard of Messianic Judaism?

Mormon:  I don't think so.

Me:  It's the belief that Yeshua--that's the Hebrew name for Jesus--that He taught that the Torah is still valid for Jews and for Gentiles.  Yeshua said in Matthew 5:17-19 that He didn't come to abolish--

Mormon:  Right, he came to fulfill--

Me:  No.  "Abolish" and "fulfill" cannot be synonymous in that statement.  If they were, the statement would read "Don't think I came to abolish the Law, I did not come to abolish but to abolish" and that is ridiculous.  He said that those who do and teach the Law will be called greatest in the kingdom.  If, as you say, the Law is abolished then the covenant with Israel is abolished.  This is anti-Judaism and can lead to anti-Semitism.

Moses said that a prophet is someone who teaches Torah.  Thus, Yeshua as a true prophet taught people to follow Torah.  We believe that He is also the Messiah and will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  If the Torah is abolished then what's to stop someone from trying to build his own temple?

Mormon:  We actually have a temple.

And then I wrapped things up, explaining where we fundamentally disagree (Christology) but explaining that we both share a love for ethics and good manners.  I also expressed a desire to be good neighbors to them.

So why do I mention this story?  Because Mormonism is a shining example of supersessionism.  They teach the Law is abolished (and thus, logically, the Jewish people are illegitimate and unnecessary as a distinct people).  In point of fact, they constructed their own "Temple" out in Utah.  What they have done theologically is to (in theory) kick Jews out of their seat.

That's supersessionism.

This is only a problem when the superesessionist movement is imperialistic (i.e. they believe in making others into what they are).  So it's also an issue within the Christianities.  Most forms of Christianity teach that Jews need to stop practicing Torah (i.e. stop being Jewish) and convert to whichever form of Christianity.  This coercive imperialism has and continues to drive Jewish assimilation into Christianity resulting in the extermination of Jewish identity.

Does any have any thoughts to add?  Agree or disagree with my assessment?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Talmudic Table of Contents: An Easy Way to Find Things in the Talmud

So we use tables of contents for books and it is helpful, yes?  So why not for the Talmud.  Here you go:


FIRST ORDER


Seder Zeraim (First Order Dealing with Seeds).  Agriculture.  Laws concerning blessings.

Berakhot (Blessings).  Shema, Amidah, Grace After Meals, miscellaneous blessings.

Pe'ah (Corner of the Field).  Harvest owed to poor.

Demai (Doubtfully tithed).  The laws of tithing produce purchased from someone suspected of tithing improperly.

Kilayim (Mixtures).  Law prohibiting various mixtures of plants, trees, cloth, animals.

Shevi'it (Sabbatical Year).  The laws of the sabbatical year.

Terumot (the priests' portion of the harvest).

Ma'aserot (Tithes).  Tithes for the Levi'im.

Ma'aser Sheni (Second Tithe).  Laws of the second tithe.

Challah (Dough).  Laws of separating challah for the priests.

Orlah.  Forbidden fruits.

Bikkurim.  Laws relating to brining first fruits to the Temple.

SECOND ORDER


Seder Mo'ed (Second Order Dealing with Appointed Times "Festivals").  Laws regarding Shabbat, other Festivals.

Shabbat.  Prohibited work on Shabbat, laws of Hannukah.

Eruvin.  Sabbath boundaries, laws of carrying from one domain to another, laws of moving beyond the Sabbath boundary.

Pesachim.  Laws relating to Passover Festival:  Matzah, Chametz, Paschal sacrifice.

Shekalim.  Temple tax.

Yoma (Day of Atonement).  Temple service, fast, prayers all relating to Day of Atonement.

Sukkah (Booth).  Laws of Sukkot.

Betzah (Egg).  This tractate should be called "Yom Tov" because it deals with laws applying to all the Festivals.

Rosh HaShanah (New Year).  Dating of Rosh HaShanah, shofar, the service of Rosh HaShanah.

Ta'anit (Fast).  Laws relating to communal fasting days, prayers for rain.

Megillah (Scroll).  Laws of the Purim Festival, reading the scroll, laws of reading the Sefer Torah in general, laws relating to Synagogues, writing a Sefer Torah, mezuzot, tefillin.

Moed Katan (Minor Festival).  The intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot.

Chagigah (Festival Offerings at Temple).  Laws of ritual purity, impurity, various offerings made at the Temple.

THIRD ORDER


Seder Nashim (Third Order Dealing with Women).  Marital obligations.

Yevamot (Sisters-in-Law).  Levirate marriage and chalitzah.  Laws of forbidden relationships.  Some miscellaneous laws on conversion.

Ketubot (the Writ of Marriage).  Marital obligations.

Nedarim (Vows).  Laws relating to vows (topic is broader than vows made by women).  

Nazir (Nazirite).  Laws relating to Nazirites.

Sotah.  Laws of the Sotah (woman suspected of adultery).

Gittin.  Writs of Divorce.  Some agency law.

Kiddushin (Betrothals).  The betrothal aspect of marriage.

FOURTH ORDER


Seder Nezikin (The Fourth Order Dealing with Damages).  Civil and Criminal law.

Bava Kamma (The First Gate).  Tort law.  

Bava Metzia (The MIddle Gate).  Lost and found property, criminal law, contract law, employment law.

Bava Batra (The Last Gate).  Contracts/Sales, Partnership law, Wills and Probate, Property law.

Sanhedrin.  Civil procedure relating to capital punishment.  Aggadic sections dealing with Theology and Eschatology.

Makkot (Lashes).  Laws of corporal punishment.

Shevuot (Oaths).  Oaths relating to civil procedure; miscellaneous laws relating to when an impure person is prohibited from entering the Temple.

Edot (Testimonies).  Miscellaneous laws transmitted via testimony.

Avodah Zarah (Idolatry).  Limiting contact with Non-Jews; Prohibition of various idolatrous practices or practices associated with idolatry.

Avot (Fathers).  "Ethics of the Fathers".  Ethical teachings.

Horayot (Rulings).  Remediation of legal errors, discussion of Rabbinical courts.

FIFTH ORDER


Seder Kodashim (The Fifth Order Dealing with "Holy Things").  Laws of Temple Sacrifice.

Zevachim (Animal Sacrifices).  Foundations of halachic exegesis;  forbidden mixtures;  the Temple sacrificial system.

Menachot (Meal-offerings).  Tzitzit, Tefillin, and Meal-Offerings.

Chullin (Non-sacrificial ritual slaughter).  Dietary laws; non-sacrificial ritual slaughter of kosher animals.

Bekhorot (Firstlings).  Laws related to firstborn male animals (including humans).

Arakhin (Valuations).  Vows of valuation.

Temurah (Substitution).  Substituting one species for another (sacrifice).

Keritot ("Karet", Excisions).  These are the intentional sins punishable by being "cut off" (Hebrew:  "karet").  

Me'ilah (Sacrilege).  Laws defining sacrilege regarding Temple property.

Tamid (Daily Offerings at Temple).  A day in the life of the Temple sacrificial system.

Middot (Measurements).  All the measurements of the Second Temple.

Kinnim.  Bird Offerings.

SIXTH ORDER


Seder Teharot (Sixth Order Dealing with Purity).  Laws of ritual purity and impurity.

Kelim (Vessels).  Ritual uncleanness of utensils (of all kinds).

Ohalot (Tents).  Ritual uncleanness of tents caused by corpse.

Nega'im (Tzara'at).  Laws of leprosy, quarantine, purification.

Parah (Heifer).  Laws of the red heifer, related ceremony.

Teharot (Purifications).  Impurities which continue until sunset.  General principles of ritual impurity.

Mikvaot (Ritual Baths).  How to make a mikveh; Tevilah (immersion or "baptism").

Niddah (Ritually impure woman).  Laws of taharat hamishpochah (family purity).

Makhshirin (Preparations).  Foods and ritual impurity concerns.

Zavim.  Secretions which render the person ritually unclean.

Tevul Yom (Immersed During the Day).  Laws relating to mikvaot and delayed ritual purity.

Yadayim (Hands).  Ritual hand-washing.

Uktzin (Stems).  Ritual purity concerns relating to fruits and plants.

THE MINOR TRACTATES ("EXTERNAL TRACTATES")


Avot of Rabbi Natan.  Ethics supplement.

Soferim (Scribes).  Sefer Torah laws.

Semachot (Joyful Occasions).  Laws of mourning.

Kallah (Bride).  Tzniut (modesty), Laws of Domestic Relations (i.e. Marriage Law).

Kallah Rabbati (Long Tractate on Brides).  Manners.

Derekh Eretz Rabbah (Long Tractate on Courtesy).  Manners and ethics.

Derekh Eretz Zuta (Short Tractate on Courtesy).  Manners befitting scholars.

Gerim (Converts).  Laws regarding converts.

Kutim (Samaritans).  Special laws regarding the Samaritans.

Avadim (Slaves).  Laws for slaves.

Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll).  Laws of writing Torah scrolls.

Tefillin (Phylacteries).  Laws of Totafot (Phylacteries).

Tzitzit (Fringes).  Laws of Tzitzit.  

Mezuzah.  Laws of Mezzuzah.  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Upcoming Posts About Talmud

So after Shabbat I'll be doing a series of posts on the following topics:

The Nature of the Talmud

Talmudic Study

Talmudic Terminology

Rules of Halacha

These posts will cover information from the following books:


Invitation to the Talmud; a teaching book.
by Neusner, Jacob, 1932- Published 1973 
The Talmud; an analytical guide to its history and teachings.
by Unterman, Isaac, b. 1889. Published 1971 
The Talmud : what it is and what it says
by Neusner, Jacob, 1932- Published 2006 
Understanding the Talmud
Published 1975 
Learn Talmud : how to use the Talmud--the Steinsaltz edition
by Abrams, Judith Z. Published 1995 
Essential papers on the Talmud
Published 1994 
The Talmudic argument : a study in Talmudic reasoning and methodology
by Jacobs, Louis. Published 1984 
The study of Talmud : understanding the halachic mind
by Rabinowitz, Abraham Hirsch. Published 1996 
What is Talmud? : the art of disagreement
by Dolgopolʹskiĭ, S. B. Published 2009

Ecclesiological Composition of the "Israel of God" in Galatians 6:15-16

TEXT:  {6:15} For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. {6:16} And as many as walk according to this rule, peace [be] on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

I'm very slow to add evidences to the on-going list of One-Law evidences.  But this one is a candidate because it seems to group both the circumcised and uncircumcised in the "Israel of God."

Does anyone have any thoughts?  Agree?  Disagree?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rudolph's Response to My Email

The good news:  I received an email reply from Rudolph, responding to the previous post.  The bad news:  he asked that it be kept private and not be shared on this blog.  So I'm going to respect that.

Derek Strikes Back, Summoning Resnik and Juster to Attack the Inclusionist Messianic Movement (i.e. One Law)


I was saddened to hear that Rudolph’s new book (the so-called “Introduction to Messianic Judaism) contains the UMJC’s paper which mischaracterizes the One-Law movement (CLICK HERE FOR LINK).  So I’ll respond briefly and invite Rudolph (we keep in touch via email) to respond since that is only fair to allow him the opportunity to respond after I completely crush his argument to smithereens and demonstrate how the UMJC paper blatantly mischaracterizes the One Law position.  Without further ado…

The UMJC paper bases its entire argument on the following assertion:


“Only through circumcision can [a Gentile] be incorporated into the people of Israel and their Torah.”

Resnik and Juster support this conclusion by saying that Acts 15 only binds the Gentiles to the Noahide laws:

“By the time of Yeshua, an interpretative tradition was developing concerning the requirements for Gentiles. These later became formulated as the Noahide laws, binding on all people and rooted in the covenant with Noah….As has been noted, [the fourfold decree in Acts 15 is] very similar to the Noahide laws.… The passage assumes a universal morality.”

In fact, the Noahide interpretation of the fourfold decree has been thoroughly refuted by modern scholars:

“The similarities between the prohibitions and the Noahic precepts are not as close as they may seem at first glance.  For example Genesis 9 has only one clear correspondence to the prohibitions (eating meat with blood in it).  The only other command relates to murder, and while [haima] can be used as a metonymy for murder, the earlier examination of this term has shown that this meaning is unlikely.  It is also problematic that [pniktos] does not occur in the Noachic precepts…as Wedderburn has noted, there is no evidence that the Noachic precepts were in use in the first century…Contextually the Noahic view seems difficult to sustain.  For one thing, very little in the immediate context would bring Noah to the reader’s mind.  The first mention of the prohibitions in Acts 15:20 makes reference to Moses, not Noah,” Savelle (see also Schnabel, 2012).

In reality, the terms used in the fourfold decree refer specifically to pagan cultus (i.e. the pollutions involved in pagan temples of that time):

Proctor:  “ ‘Idol sacrifice’ (eidolothuton—15:29; 21:25) means meat eaten in a pgan temple in connection with a religious ceremony, ‘or at least in temple precincts where the god’s power and presence were thought to abide.’  The other word used for this term is ‘pollutions of idols’ (alisgemata ton eidolon—15:20), and the root alisgein consistently refers to food or drink in usage of the period (for example in the LXX of Dan. 1:8).”

Savelle:  “In 15:29 and 21:25 the adjective [eidolothuton] replaces the phrase [alisgemata ton eidolon] of 15:20.  The basic meaning of the term is ‘something offered to a cultic image/idol.’  This word is used seven times elsewhere in the New Testament (1 Cor. 8:1, 4, 7, 10; 10:19; Rev. 2:14,20).  In each of these passages the context involves food sacrificed to idols.”

Callan:  “the content of the Noachian laws differs from that of the Apostolic Decree…[additionally the] prohibition of pnikton has no obvious counterpart in any of the Noachian laws.”

So, now that the UMJC’s case has been shown to be thoroughly destabilized, let’s return to their fundamental assertion:

“Only through circumcision can [a Gentile] be incorporated into the people of Israel and their Torah.”

Rather than re-state the entire One-Law case, I’m going to provide you the link to my previous post that summarizes the entire One-Law case:


I'll send Rudolph an email now and we'll see if he responds.  I'm guessing he won't respond but you never know.