Sunday, June 30, 2013

Do Rabbinic Traditions Violate the Prohibition on "Adding" to the Torah? [A Refutation of Anti-Rabbinism]

In Matthew 23, Yeshua commands His disciples to obey the Scribes and the Pharisees (who sit in Moses' Seat).  So, for example, those Scribes and Pharisees taught how to make phylacteries.  Now, nowhere in Scripture does it command us on HOW to construct phylacteries.  This is something purely from Tradition.

Now...check this out:

We're prohibited from adding to the Torah:


"Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you," (Deut. 4:2)

Thus, it follows that Yeshua considered certain rabbinic traditions (e.g. phylacteries) to be ACTUAL TORAH (and NOT an invalid addition to Torah).

I say this for those anti-Rabbinic Messianics who reject everything rabbinic on the basis that it is COMPLETELY composed of invalid additions to Torah.  

Some readers are probably gasping and saying "But that completely contradicts your stance on Rabbinic authority!"

In reality, there's no contradiction in the following propositions:

(1) my position:  the Rabbis have secondary or "presumptive" authority but the Scripture has primary and final authority;

(2) also my position:  some Rabbinic rules, as Yeshua maintained, do not add to Torah but rather consist of the full authority of Torah (i.e. the same authority as Moses).

But, hey, if you have a different point of view then argue your point with me.  I'm open to anything reasonable! 



Friday, June 28, 2013

Messianic Tip of the Day: KAIROS

It's one thing to know how to speak persuasively (pathos, ethos, logos), but you also need to know WHEN to speak persuasively (kairos).  Kairos is knowing when to keep your mouth shut and also when to jump in there, seize the moment, and speak with authority.

It's tough for us Messianics!  The Christian will tell you, "We're not under the Law!" And the Exclusionist will tell you, "You're only bound to the Noahide law!"  

EXCURSIS:

A Messianic gentleman told me and my wife this week that we were only bound to the Noahide laws.  Fortunately, I have full confidence in my wife's understanding of Messianic Theology.  I didn't need to correct the gentleman.  I practiced KAIROS in the negative sense of refraining from speaking.  I could've easily refuted him.  The so-called "Noahide laws" are easily refuted.  But I held my peace.  

So, if you're Messianic, and you're interacting with Christians or Exclusionists this weekend, be sure to practice KAIROS:  know when to be silent and when to speak with conviction!  

Shabbat Shalom!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wednesday Night Church

So I talked with a Jewish guy who had an interesting story.  He grew up not knowing he was Jewish.  Funny thing was--he looked so Jewish!  He told me that they eventually located his grandparents immigration papers which is good for purposes of the Law of Return.

But so he grew up in Christian church, feeling out of place, not agreeing with a lot of the doctrines.  And, little by little, G-d gave him different signs and eventually led him into the Messianic movement.  He said that, in hindsight, there were a lot of clues that he was Jewish.  Friday night wasn't celebrated as Shabbat but it was still an important family night, etc.

Gotta run!

Shalom!

Peter



Comparative Analysis of the Denominational Approaches to Halachic Authority


More good stuff from Rabbi Zemer's "Evolving Halacha:

"The view of halakhic authority held by Orthodox Judaism is quite different from that maintained by Progressive Jews.  This latter term refers here to certain circles of rabbis and scholars affiliated with the Movement for Progressive Judaism (which goes by the names 'Reform,' 'Liberal,' or 'Progressive'), with the Masorti (Conservative) Movement, and with the Reconstructionist Movement, and a number of Modern Orthodox rabbis.  Milton Steinberg categorized the outlook of these circles as 'modernist' (a term I shall use frequently below), as opposed to the 'traditionalist' approach of Jews with a fundamentalist philosophy.  In fact, this difference is perhaps the major source of contention between Orthodox and non-Orthodox decisors.  The Orthodox stance is summarized in a brief submitted by the Chief Rabbinate Council in response to a suit brought by the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, asking that its rabbis be granted the status of marriage registrars and the right to officiate at weddings in Israel.
The Rabbinate's brief advanced two main arguments:  (1) The Torah given to Moses on Mount Sinai and the rulings of the Sages have absolute authority.  (2)  Nothing may be changed in Halakhah, whether in response to contemporary circumstances or to the urgings of individual conscience....
Although the Chief Rabbinate offered no textual support for its position that Halakhah is static and immutable because the Revelation on Mount Sinai was a one-time event valid for all generations, there are classical texts that may be interpreted as supporting this view.  Citing the verse 'these are the laws, rules, and instructions that the Lord established, through Moses on Mount Sinai, between Himself and the Israelite people' (Lev. 26:46), the Sage remarked that 'this teaches that the Torah--its laws, details, and interpretations---was given through Moses on Sinai' (Sifra, Behukotai 8:12).  In the Gemara, Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish holds that not only the Torah--that is, the Pentateuch--but also the Prophets and the Hagiographa, the Mishna and the Gemara, were all given at Mount Sinai (BT Berakhot 5a).
If everything was already revealed at Sinai, there is no room for innovation and change.  Indeed, the conclusion inferred from the concept of a perfect revelation at Sinai is that 'no prophet is permitted to innovate in any matter from this time on' (BT Shabbat 104a).  If prophets are so restricted, how much the more are rabbis and scholars:  'Even what a long-time student will one day expound before his teacher was already given to Moses at Sinai' (JT Pe'ah 2:4).  It is this fundamentalist position that leads most Orthodox thinkers to reject the historical and scientific view of the evolving nature of the Bible and rabbinic literature held by modernist Jewish scholars.
On the other hand, there are also many passages in which the Sages recognized the fact that Judaism changes.  Consider the well-known midrash that Moses visited the academy of Rabbi Akiba (early second century) but 'did not understand their discourse [about the Torah he had received] and felt faint.'  Only when a student asked Rabbi Akiba for the source of his teaching, and the Sage replied that 'it is a Halakhah given to Moses on Sinai,' did Moses recover (BT Menahot 29b).
For the British Rabbi Louis Jacobs, this midrash could be interpreted as follows:
"The Torah that Akiba was teaching was so different from the Torah given to Moses because the social, economic, political, and religious conditions were so different in Akiba's day that, at first, Moses could not recognize his Torah in the Torah taught by Akiba.  But he was reassured when he realized that Akiba's Torah was implicit in his Torah, was, indeed, an attempt to make his Torah relevant to the spiritual needs of Jews in the age of Akiba."
pg. 43 "The constant, dynamic changes in human society make it impossible to record the particulars of all customs and provide an account of all epochs to come.  Hence, the Oral Law includes general principles that make it possible for the wise schoalrs of every generation to apply them and interpret the Written Law for their own age.  One cannot help contrasting Albo's dynamic approach to the evolution of Halakhah with the position of those who believe that it all began and ended at Sinai."
pg. 43  "...liberal scholarship has reached the conclusion that 'long before the rise of modern criticism some of the Jewish teachers had a conception of revelation which leaves room for the idea of human cooperation with the divine.'
How is the divine will revealed in the Halakhah?  According to Jacobs,
'Revelation must be understood as a far more complicated and complex process of divine-human encounter and interaction and quite differently from the idea of direct divine communication of infallible laws and propositions, upon which the traditional theory of Halakhah depends.'
Evolving, modernist Halakhah, then, must be founded on such a reinterpretation of revelation."
pg. 44 "This theological-halakhic position has implications for the authority of traditional Halakhah.  For the non-Orthodox Jew:
'The ultimate authority for determining which observances are binding upon the faithful Jew is the historical experience of the people of Israel, since, historically perceived, this is ultimately the sanction of the Halakhah itself.'"

Where the Inclusionist Movement Will Deviate From Conservative Judaism on Matters of Halachic Principle

So I'm going to quote from Rabbi Zemer's "Evolving Halacha" (a Conservative position on halchah), and whenever you see a highlighted "NOTE" that's my opinion on whether we need to diverge from the stated "principle".  Also, some definitions:  (1) d'oraita refers to authority from Scripture; (2) d'rabbanan refers to what I feel is the lesser authority of rabbinic law (I feel it is a secondary authority and that all Scripture, including the Apostolic Writings, is the primary authority).

Here it is:


PRINCIPLES OF CONSERVATIVE HALACHAH

pg. 45  "The sections that follow review several principles and criteria for determining the halakhic attitude appropriate for modernist Jews.  These principles have been gleaned from the writings of many thinkers affiliated with various streams of Judaish--Reform, Orthodox, Conservative....Although these criteria are not stated explicitly in the codified Halakhah, they are implicit in it and can be deduced from it."

pg. 46 "Halakhah Is an Evolutionary Process....This concept of change and development may serve as a guide for modern Jews in assessing those mitzvot that evolved over time and are therefore relevant to our day."

NOTE:  No man has the autonomous authority to disregard mitzvot d'oraita.

pg. 46  "Halakhah is Pluralistic...Historical research proves that Jewish law was always  diverse in nature and certainly far from monolithic.  During the controversy between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai about forbidden marriages, the two schools did not refrain from intermarrying, even though a particular union might be forbidden according to the halakhic ruling of one school but permitted by the other.
Yitzhak Gilat, professor of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University, pointed out that in spirt of the great differences between the two schools, they came to the recognition that 'both [rulings] are the words of the living God' (BT Eruvin 13b) and that a person could act according to either view:  'Whoever wishes to conduct himself according to Beit Shammai may do so, and according to Beit Hillel may do so' (ibid., 10b).
This freedom of halakhic ruling was accepted in practice during the time of the Second Temple.  In the words of Prof. Gilat, 'every Sage was permitted to render decisions in his town and home according to his own tradition and in consonance with his judgment, on the basis of the deliberations in the rabbinic sources.'
....Pluralism can be found in many codifications and rulings--for example, the hundreds of disagreements between Maimonides and his most prominent commentator-critic, Rabbi Abraham ibn Daoud...
Maimonides and the tosafists disagreed as to whether Christians should be considered to be idolaters.  Maimonides, who spent all his life among Muslims, said they were.  By contrast, Rabbenu Jacob Tam, the most prominent of the tosafists, who lived in Christian France in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, ruled that Christians could be believed on oath because 'they have the Creator of Heaven in mind.'"

NOTE:  I agree.

pg. 49  "If a ruling is halakhic, it must be ethical.  If it is unethical, it cannot be halakhic."

NOTE:  this is fine with matters d'rabbanan but completely unworkable with d'oraita.

pg. 50  "The Commandments Embody Holiness...The litmus test of holiness should determine the value of every religious act in the daily life of Jews of our generation."

NOTE:  this is completely unworkable and inappropriate.    

pg. 50  "Internalizing the Commandments...Is there any place for inner identification with the commandments, or must we be like disciplined soldiers who obey without question or hestitation?
...What I am not yet able to accept may, in time, become acceptable, and therefore a commandment for me.  The criterion for the observance of a commandment is whether I can internalize and observe it with full inner devotion and intent.  This requires a constant effort of selecting commandments and trying them out."

NOTE:  this is fine for d'rabbanan but is completely unacceptable for d'oraita.  Does one say of his father's commandments, I'll see how I feel and then maybe I'll obey?

pg. 51 "The Critical Approach to Halakhah...The Sages were undoubtedly scholars of great intellectual power and moral giants, and sincerely devoted to the Torah, but they did not have the scientific tools that have given us access to archeological discoveries, documents from other ancient cultures, and documents from our own past, such as those form Cairo Geniza.
...The British Liberal Rabbi John Rayner has given clear statement to a principle of evolving Halakhah that is infrequently aired:

'There are whole vast areas of Halakhah...predicated on assumptions that are unacceptable to us, for instance, regarding the inferior status of women, the hereditary privileges of the priesthood, the desirability of sacrificial worship, the importance of ritual purity, the defiling effect of menstruation and the legitimacy in principle of capital and corporal punishment....We cannot accord to the classical literary sources of the Halakhah more than a presumptive authority, and therefore what they legislate needs to be weighed against the individual conscience, the needs and consensus of the community, and still other considerations including historical and scientific knowledge as relevant.'

These are among the factors that a modernist Jew should weigh critically when deciding whether to observe a particular commandment."

NOTE:  presumptive authority is fine for d'rabbanan authority---provided one engages in a critical evaluation.  However, final authority (not merely presumptive) must be given to mitzvot d'oraita.

pg. 53  "The Call of Individual Conscience...Modernist Jews may meticulously observe a large proportion of the precepts ot eh Torah and Sages with a clear conscience, but there are many other precepts that they cannot accept.  They are likely to discover that their consciences do not allow them to participate in the ritual of halitzah or the legal fiction of selling one's leavened products to a non-Jew for the duration of Passover."

NOTE:  This "principle" illustrates a difference between liberal values and traditional values.

pg. 53  "Responsibility for the Covenant Community...we must all ask ourselves not only whether a particular precept is compatible with our individual world view, but also whether observing it would harm or strengthen the Jewish people as a whole."

NOTE:  This is a valid principle.

pg. 55-56 "The Rationale for the Commandments...The nineteenth-century German Rabbi Zacharias Frankel reached two conclusions on the basis of his study of the rationale of the commandments and their significance:

[1] We must respect all the excellent customs handed down to us by our ancestors, while rejecting those that give of a whiff of superstition;

[2] We must continue organically the path of the Sages of the Middle Ages, whose regulations rejuvenated the face of Judaism."

NOTE:  it's fine to be critical of the rationale behind the minchagim and to use that in determining continued use of the custom;  it's quite another thing to be critical of the rationales of mitzvot d'oraita.

A Template for an Inclusionist Committee on Jewish Law

So we'll have to depart from the Conversative Movement's template in several ways (e.g. ours will not be halachic decisors or promulgators of a "Shulchan Aruch", but merely a committee to construct a non-binding guide on halachah for those in the Inclusionist Messianic Denomination), but this is a good template to observe for precedent:

 "Our Committee on Jewish Law must become the center of our activity.  It can do so only if boldly yet reverently it undertakes to formulate Halachah for Conservative Judaism.  Its technique must include at least six elements:

(a) a careful study of legal tradition with special concern for minority views;

(b) a survey of present practices within the various sections of Catholic Israel [i.e. all of Israel];

(c) an effort to establish optimum standards in terms of contemporary needs;

(d) wherever possible, the delimitation of divergent patterns of observance varying from minimum to maximum, and corresponding to the phrases frequent in the traditional codes' 'be lenient' or 'be stringent.'  These patterns would clearly point out the varying importance of the details of observance, indicating the basically essential, the optional and the tangential elements in each area of practice;

(e) the reinterpretation of traditional Halachah to validate those new practices found acceptable for today;

(f) the publication of guides for American Jewry in various areas of Jewish observance, which would indicate the specific values inherent in each rite, as well as the method for observing it.  A Guide to Jewish Practice for Conversative Judaism should combine the functions of a Sefer Ta'amei Ha-mitzvot, a rationale for Jewish observance, and a Shulhan ARrukh, a presentation of Jewish practice, couched in the modern idiom and sensitive to the human condition in our day," pg. 74 of Conservative Judaism and Jewish Law by Siegel

NOTE:  See the next post for examples of how our movement will deviate from Conservative Judaism's principles of halachah.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Rules of Halacha (Aryeh Kaplan)

CLICK HERE FOR LINK


The Definition(s) of Halacha


"In time, the term [halacha] came to denote several things:

1) 'a halakha', a law, the smallest unit of a halakhic collection, such as 'a halakha' from the Tosefta--involving the plural 'halakhot';

2) 'the halakha' as the accepted law, where different opinions exist, such as in the usage, 'A says....B says, but the halakha is...';

3) halakha (or 'halakhot') as an object of study and a literary genre, as opposed to aggada (aggadot);

4) 'the Halakha' as the legal aspect of Jewish life and the legal tradition of Judaism, in which one can distinguish, for example, between the halakha of the Sages and the halakha of Qumran,"  (from The Literature of the Sages Part 1, pg 121)



Boaz Cohen's Principles of Halacha

 "Cohen [former chairman of the Rabbinical Assembly's Law Committee] suggested the following basic principles of Halakhah:
1) The Law is of Divine origin
2) The Law is immutable, although liberal interpretations of the rabbis rendered the law viable and pliable.  Biblical law cannot be abrogated but it can be emended by interpretation.
3) The Law has developed historically.
4) The Jewish People--Knesset Yisrael--is one Community in regard to basic laws.
5) The primacy of the Talmud, rather than the codes, is acknowledged.
6) Ordained sages are authorized to rule on laws.
7) The principle of interpretation is affirmed to mean that 'modifications of ritual and ordinances required by new exigencies and contingencies should transpire through due process of Jewish law.'  But hands should be kept off family law, since that impinges on the Jewish People.
8) 'The determining factor in our decisions is the question whether we are preserving genuine Jewish religious values or not.'
9) The much-maligned Shulhan Aruch is not authoritarian, but utilitarian.  We need it because it restates the Talmud, it is the code of the majority, and it is convenient.
10) In seeking canons of interpretation, we should pursue the 'general aim and spirit of the Law,' accepting the consensus of codifiers and following the minority if need be.  We must also be attuned to the psychological consequences of our decisions.
11)  We must realize that some problems are simply irremediable within the Halakhah," pg. 186 of Four Paths to One God by Rosenthal


Now, he's from the Conservative movement.  But is there anything here that our movement can use as we move to articulate our stance on halacha?  On which principles do we agree, disagree?

Messianic Publications

Be sure to stay up-to-date with the great Messianic teachings over at Messianicpublications.com.  I just saw today there's a lot of new articles.  Go, learn, teach!

Some Thoughts About Today's Supreme Court Decisions on Gay Marriage


Jews in Church

So in the past few days, visiting a local church, I've encountered a large--even inordinate--number of Jews.

It's not surprising because G-d always draws me to wherever they are.  This happened during college a number of times.  Back then I handed out a lot of copies of Stern's "Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel."

So as I'm encountering Jews in Church, I'm trying to (1) ascertain why they're there; (2) if they need help getting back to Judaism.

Does it sound odd that I'm doing this?  To me it is second-nature.  I don't want them to assimilate into Christianity.

Unfortunately, due to the sensitive nature of these encounters, I can't really say anything more about them at this time.  I will say though that I love these people.  One is already a close friend.  Another seems like he'll be a very close friend--I'll be fellowshipping with this individual throughout the week.

Only one of them knows that we're Messianic and completely understands us.  Another individual, with whom I'll be fellowshipping throughout the week, doesn't know yet about our Theological position and movement affiliation.  And this might be problematic because he seems to be deeply rooted in Protestant theology.  Very deeply rooted.

Fortunately, Yeshua blessed me with a special skill set.  But, dear readers, please give me some prayer support this week!  And pray for hearts to be open to the Ruach even at the risk of paradigm shifts!

 Also, G-d is several steps ahead of me as He has created a non-UMJC Messianic fellowship IN THIS VERY CHURCH!  So now I have an alternative community to which I can direct them, a Messianic sphere of influence right there in the midst of the Christians.

G-d is awesome!!!

Has Anyone Else Experienced a Problem with the Comment System? (And a Note on the Niddah Post)


The Stated Positions of Jewish Denomination on Halachic Authority: A Look at the Statements of Movement Principles Issued by Various Institutions and Leaders of the Major Jewish Denominations

As the Inclusionist ("One Law") movement takes shape before our eyes, I'd like to pause to review all stated positions of Jewish denominations on halachic authority and then, perhaps, propose an articulation of the Inclusionist position on halachic authority.


REFORM DENOMINATION


From the Columbus Platform ("The Guiding Principles of Reform Judaism"):


"Reform Judaism recognizes the principle of progressive development in religion and consciously applies this principle to spiritual as well as to cultural and social life....Revelation is a continuous process, confined to no one group and to no one age...Being products of historical processes, certain of its laws have lost their binding force with the passing of the conditions that called them forth."


Isaac M. Wise, founder of the Reform movement's Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Hebrew Union College, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, wrote the following principles of the Reform movement:


[1] It is therefore our principle of reform:  'All forms to which no meaning is attached any longer are an impediment to our religion, and must be done away with."
[2] Another principle of reform is this:  'Whatever makes us ridiculous before the world as it now is, may safely be and should be abolished,' for we are in possession of an intelligent religion, and the nations from our precept and example should be led to say, 'This is a wise and intelligent people.'
[3]  A third principle of reform is this, 'Whatever tends to the elevation of the divine service, to inspire the heart of the worshipper and attract him, should be done without any unnecessary delay,'...
[4] A fourth principle of reform is this, 'Whenever religious observances and the just demands of civilized society exclude each other, the former have lost their power;' for religion was taught for the purpose 'to live therein and not die therein;' our religion makes us active members of civilized society, hence we must give full satisfaction to its just demands.
[5] Last, or rather first, it must be remarked, the leading star of reform must be the maxim, 'Religion is intended to make man happy, good, just, active, charitable, and intelligent.'"

CONSERVATIVE DENOMINATION


From "On Changes in Judaism" by Zecharias Frankel:


"...Judaism does indeed allow changes.  The early teachers, by interpretation, changed the literal meaning of the Scriptures; later scholars that of the Mishnah and the post-talmudic scholars that of the Talmud.  All these interpretations were not intended as speculation.  They addressed themselves to life precepts.  Thanks to such studies, Judaism achieved stabilization and avoided estrangement from the conditions of the time in various periods..."

From Rabbi Mordecai Waxman:


"Reform Judaism has asserted the right of interpretation but it rejected the authority of legal tradition. Orthodoxy has clung fast to the principle of authority, but has rejected the right to significant reinterpretations. The Conservative view is that both are necessary for a living Judaism. Accordingly, Conservative Judaism holds itself bound by the Jewish legal tradition, but asserts the right of its rabbinical body, acting as a whole, to reinterpret and to apply Jewish law," (Rabbi Mordecai Waxman Tradition and Change: The Development of Conservative Judaism

RECONSTRUCTIONIST DENOMINATION


The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College states (http://www.jewishrecon.org/resource/who-reconstructionist-jew) the following position:

Reconstructionism diverges from Conservative Judaism in terms of priorities. We believe that the basic tenets of Judaism need to be re-examined and restated for our age. We see this as a more pressing priority than the particulars of Jewish law. Jews need to know why they should be Jewish at all before they worry about how to change details of observance. Concerning observance, we differ specifically on the issue of how far one may go in amending Jewish law and who has the right to be involved in that process. We believe that rabbis and scholars should work together with committed lay members of the Jewish community formulating guides to Jewish practice for our time. These guides should reflect a desire to protect and preserve tradition as well as an openness to creativity and evolution as we face a new age in Jewish society.


EXCLUSIONIST MESSIANIC DENOMINATION (e.g. UMJC)



"Therefore, like Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist branches of Judaism we recognize that the new circumstances of the modern world require adaptation in traditional practices." (MJRC Standards) 
"As Messianic Jews we affirm the special precedence given to Scriptural law in Rabbinic Halakhah. However, we also affirm the Scriptural character of the Apostolic Writings. While the Torah is foundational in relation to the teaching of Yeshua and the Shelichim (Apostles), the writings that record that teaching (the New Covenant Scripture) are also inspired, and they offer us an entirely reliable guide to the meaning and intent of the Mosaic Torah.
In principle, Scripture always has highest authority in the halakhic process. However, in practice other sources play as significant or a more significant role. While all Halakhah is rooted in Scripture, the text usually provides limited information on how the mitzvot are to be lived out and how they are to be adapted to new circumstances. In order to add concrete substance to halakhic decision making, we must have recourse to the way the mitzvot have been understood and observed by Jews throughout history and in the present," [MJRC Standards] 


INCLUSIONIST MESSIANIC DENOMINATION


To be continued...


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rabbinic Misogynism

Did you know that in the Shulchan Aruch (kitzur), Rabbinic "law" says that the niddah is prohibited (by custom) from praying to G-d?

I find this to be incredibly offensive.  I understand that Leviticus 15 says no one should come into contact with a niddah or where the niddah has sat.  I even understand that a niddah traditionally refrains from attending synagogue except for, say, Yom Kippur or a special occasion.  All that makes sense.  But a customary prohibition on praying to G-d?

Feel free to label me "anti-Rabbinic" if you must--although I don't see how some healthy disagreement on certain points warrants such an epithet.  But things like this strike me as going too far.  It reminds me of the threefold blessing that includes thanking HaShem for "making me a man and NOT a woman".  It's absurd.  It would be fine of course to say thank you for making me a man.  But to use the formula "thank you for making me [desirable characteristic] and not [undesirable characteristic]" and to say that women are the undesirables, that is WRONG.

I hope everyone remembers to respect the rabbis but not to attribute undue authority to them.  Remember:  they prohibit Jews from accepting Yeshua for who He is--G-d incarnate.  That is an example of over-reaching.  They have no authority to issue a prohibition on accepting Yeshua for who He is!

And they have no authority to say explicitly that women are undesirable or to say that the Niddah can't pray to G-d during her time of impurity.

CONCLUSION

Your Abba is your Abba, no matter what your state of ritual impurity.  And He always wants to hear from you!!!

NOTE:  Here's the relevant quote from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch:  "During the time a woman is a niddah, during her menstruation period before the white days, it is customary for her not to enter a synagouge and not to pray," (chapter 153, section 16).

Monday, June 24, 2013

What's a Niddah to Do?

So you're a Niddah at Messianic shul or perhaps church.  A woman comes up to you to hug you.  Do you put up a hand to stop her and say, "I can't touch right now.  It's my time..."

Someone told me about a Niddah that said just that.  It turned out that the rejected woman felt offended.

QUESTION:

Was the Niddah in this situation correct?  Or did she have another option?  Was she being too strict?


When Is It Okay to Compromise on Kashrut In Order to Fellowship With Other Believers?

You're at a family cookout and other members of the family are not Messianic.  Someone brings you a plate with unkosher meat on it.  What do you do?

You're at the wednesday night meal at church and the meal consists of unkosher meats.  What do you do?

Do we "dig in" for the sake of fellowship and not offending anti-Judaic Christian sensibilities?  Or do we abstain and risk people thinking we're a "Pharisee"?

When is it permissible to compromise?  And when does compromising cause us to become compromised?

Discuss!

The Similarity Between the L-rd's Prayer and Traditional Jewish Prayer

So Limburg (Judaism: An Introduction for Christians) makes an interesting observation:

The main prayer in worship--often called simply 'prayer' (tefillah)--is the Amidah, recited while standing (which is the meaning of the Hebrew word).  It is also called the 'Prayer of 18 Petitions' (Shemonah Esreh), even though only the middle 13 blessings of the Amidah are petitions...Its content has many points of contact with the Lord's Prayer."

So let's take a look at Jewish prayer and see if this is true.

First, if you want to understand Jewish prayer, you don't have a prayer unless you read Donin's "To Pray as a Jew.

JEWISH PRAYER


Historical Background

Ezra fixed the "general outline of the basic prayers" (Donin, pg. 10, ibid).  But he didn't make everyone write down a siddur!

"It must be remembered that until about the eighth century C.E. prayers were always said by heart.  There had existed a fundamental resistance to writing down prayers (Shabbat 115b), just as there had been a tradition against writing down the Oral Torah.  The prohibition was eventually lifted, but is was not until the eighth century that written prayer books came into use.  The first formal siddur for year-round use, as we know it today, was compiled by Rav Amram Gaon (ninth century C.E.).  Before then it was necessary to memorize the prescribed prayers in order to fulfill one's religious duty," pg. 15 (ibid)

OUTLINE OF SIDDUR 



"The general arrangement of the services in most siddurim intended for daily year-round use and their identifying Hebrew headings are as follows:
The first part of the siddur is reserved for the weekday services.  These are arranged in the following order:
The Morning Weekday Service...
The Afternoon Weekday Service...
The Evening Weekday Service...
The next part of the siddur is reserved for the Sabbath services.  These are usually arranged in the following order:
Welcoming the Sabbath
Evening Service for Sabbaths and Festivals
Morning Service for Sabbaths and Festivals
Additional Service for Sabbath
Afternoon Service for Sabbath" (pg. 28, ibid)

OUTLINE OF AMIDAH


Introduction to Amidah

"The Shemoneh Esrei is the heart of every service.  It contains the basic components of prayer:  praising God, petitioning Him, and thanking Him.  Whenever the Talmud refers to tefilah ('prayer'), it means the Shemoneh Esrei, and not any other blessing, supplication, or psalm.  it is The Prayer....Shemoneh Esrei means simply 'eighteen.'  The prayer is so called because the original version consisted of eighteen blessings....This prayer is called by still another name--the 'Amidah,' which means 'standing.'  The prayer is called this because it reflects our having stopped to stand in the presence of God," pg. 69 (ibid)

Laws and Customs of Amidah

"LAWS AND CUSTOMS RELATING TO ITS RECITATION...The Shemoneh Esrei is said while facing in the direction of Eretz Yisrael..." (pg. 71, ibid)

Structure of Amidah


"THE STRUCTURE OF THE SHEMONEH ESREI....
INTRODUCTORY SECTION:  PRAISE OF GOD
Order and Name of Blessing
1  Fathers ('Avot') [Begins with the words 'Barukh atah']
2  Powers of God ('Gevurot') [Begins with the words 'Atah gibor']
3  Holiness of God ('Kedushat HaShem')  [Atah kadosh]
MIDDLE SECTION:  REQUEST OF NEEDS
A.  Personal Needs
Spiritual
4  Knowledge ('Binah')  [Atah honen
5  Repentance ('Teshuvah') [Hashiveinu]
6  Forgiveness ('Selichah')  [Selach lanu]
Physical, Material and Emotional
7  Redemption-Security ('Geulah')  [R'eh v'onyeinu]
8 Health ('Refuah')  [Refaeinu]
9 Economic Prosperity ('Birkat Hashanim') [Barekh aleinu]
B.  Needs of the Jewish People and Society
10  Ingathering of the Dispersed ('Kibbutz Galuyot')  [Teka bashofar]
11  Restoration of Justice ('Birkat Hamishpat')  [Hasiva shofteinu
12  Destruction of Israel's Enemies ('Birkat Haminim') [V'lamalshinim]
13 Prayer for the Righteous ('Birkat HaTzadikim')  [Al hatzadikim]
14  Restoration of Jerusalem ('Birkat Yerushalayim')  [V'liYerushalayim]
15  Coming of the Messiah ('Birkat David')  [Et tzemach David]
C. Summary Blessing
16  Hear Our Prayer ('Tefilah')  [Retzei]
CLOSING SECTION:  THANKING GOD
17  Worship ('Avodah')  [Retzei]
18  Thanksgiving ('Birkat Hodaah')  [Modim]
19  Peace ('Birkat Shalom')  [Sim Shalom]" (pg. 73, ibid)

THE L-RD'S PRAYER


So here's the L-r'ds prayer:


9 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.11 Give us this day our daily bread.12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Can you see the formulaic similarities?  



  • Number 2 in the Amidah (Powers of G-d) coincides with "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven"
  • Number 3 in the Amidah (Holiness) coincides with "Hallowed be Thy Name"
  • Number 5-6 (Repentance and Forgiveness) coincide with "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors")
  • Numbers 7-9 (Physical Needs) coincide with "Give us this day our daily bread"
  • Numbers 17-19 (Thanking, Praising, Peace) coincide with "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen")

I did those slightly out of order.  But at least you see that it matches.

CONCLUSION

The L-rd's Prayer is very Jewish!   : )







Saturday, June 22, 2013

First Friday Shabbat and Beyond!



We need to have a series of intermediate steps, bridging Christian spheres of influence with Messianic spheres of influence.

EXAMPLE:

We've been going to a First Friday Shabbat event at a local Baptist church.  This is brilliant--having it once a month--because Christians have started hosting their own Shabbat fellowships in the interim!  They just can't wait a whole month!  For example, a lady at this past First Friday Shabbat invited us to the Shabbat fellowship at her house last night.

It turns out that this is not a UMJC thing or a FFOZ thing (in fact, the people who run this have left their local UMJC synagogue).  It has nothing to do with denomination.  It seems to be, as they say, a "G-d thing".  That's the expression people are using to describe it.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend the fellowship last night but my wife and daughter went and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It has actually plugged us into yet ANOTHER fellowship group.

PROPOSAL:  Test out the First Friday Shabbat approach for yourself.  See if it leads to home-fellowship groups.

Who knows?  Maybe home-fellowship groups will lead to larger institutions:

(1) Congregations

(2) Community Centers (have you all visited Jewish Community Centers?  They're amazing!  We could eventually make Messianic Community Centers!  Eventually...)

(3) Yeshivot (we already have a great one with Torah Resource!)

(4) Conventions to establish documents for the movement (e.g. core values of the Inclusionist Movement).  This will happen soon.

CONCLUSION

G-d is bringing people out of church.  He's using Messianics to do it.  And like it took many years to take the Egyptian out of the Israelite, it may take many years to take the Christian out of the Messianic.

But I'm up for it!!!  And I know you are too!

Hakahal Chukah Achat! (Numbers 15:15)

Friday, June 21, 2013

We Need a Council and a Set of Core Values

The Inclusionist Messianic movement (or whatever you wish to call it, "One Law") needs to start developing a set of core values and start working toward developing a council, something run by the people's representatives.

Let's discuss this but also be praying about it over the next few weeks.  We should look at the core value documents put out by all the other movements of Judaism.  I'll talk more about it after Shabbat.

Gotta run!

Shabbat Shalom!

My Spiel on Tongues

If you speak in tongues at your congregation, just consider these questions for a moment--that's all I ask!

(1) Categorization:  How do you differentiate the genuine gift of speaking in tongues from, say, a counterfeit (e.g. Satanic) version of speaking in tongues?  I.E. what criteria do you use to make sure that speaking in tongues is not actually some sort of demonic influence?

(2) Causation:  Are you aware that people are leaving because this gift is abused (e.g. when people speak more than one at a time--see 1 Cor. 14:27)?  Do you care what happens to them?  







 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Who Killed Yeshua?

Okay, so we know that Peter believed the Israelites killed Yeshua (see Acts 2).  And that's good enough for me.

That said...

It seems that Yeshua did commit treason according to the laws of Rome:


"When asked by Pilate whether he was the king of the Jews, Jesus replied, 'Thou sayest it', thereby virtually pleading guilty to revolting against the Roman emperor and the king recognized by him...There can be no doubt that a confession such as this was sufficient in Roman law for conviction of the defendant.  Nor can there be any doubt that it was this charge of claiming to be the king of the Jews that was the ground for conviction and sentence;  proof is furnished by the fact, reported by all the Gospels, that the words Rex Judaeorum were inscribed on the Cross, and the inscription on an offender's cross was prescribed by Roman law.
The (armed or unarmed) insurrection inherent in the claim to be king, without being appointed or recognized as such by the Emperor, was an offence against the Lex Julia Majestatis, enacted by Augustus in the year 8 B.C. The offence was punishable with death," pg. 88 of Jewish Law in Ancient and Modern Israel by Haim H. Cohn

It's also worth noting that the Sanhedrin lacked the authority to try capital cases:

"The fact that Jesus was tried by Pilate, presumably under Roman law, does not exclude the possibility that he had previously (namely, the night before) been tried by a Jewish court, presumably under Jewish law.  This sequence of events is that prima facie suggested in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke--except that Luke places the Jewish trial in the early hours of the morning).  The theory that the only 'real' trial took place before the Jewish court, and that Jesus was delivered unto Pilate for purposes of execution only, is now generally discarded.  It is also incompatible with the tradition of the Gospel of John, according to which the trial before Pilate was the only trial and that what preceded it was but an interrogation of Jesus by the HIgh Priest.  According to John, Pilate called upon the Jews to take Jesus and try him themselves and they replied that they could not lawfully try capital cases.  If that reply were correct, it follows that either no Jewish trial did in fact take place, or that it was a fact-finding trial only, without competence to pass sentence,"  pgs 85-86, ibid.
"....The Forty Years tradition is found in the Talmudic sources in two version:  one (the Jerusalemite) speaks of the cessation of captial jurisdiction ('forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the capital jurisdiction ('forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the capital laws were taken away from Israel.' Y. Sanhedrin 7,1);  the other (the Babylonian) speaks of the banishment, forty years before the destruction of the Temple, of the Sanhedrin from its hall of justice in the Temple precincts to a 'shop', where according to the law no Sanhedrial jurisdiction could be exercised (see Deuteronomy 17, 8-10)," (footnote 15, pg. 86)


I guess Peter meant that the Israelites were responsible for instigating the trial and for influencing the proceedings.

But, of course, Yeshua died for us all.  So we're all responsible.

Question from a Reader

So someone just sent me an email with a question.  I'm going to pass it along here in the hopes a discussion might shed some insight.  Here's a paraphrase of the question:

What should you do if you are a Messianic in need of fellowship but the only Messianic fellowship group available does the speaking in tongues and it makes you feel uncomfortable?

Does anyone have any suggestions for our sister in the L-rd?

I know that I would probably leave and never come back--that's just me.  But does anyone else feel differently?

Thanks to All the Commenters

I don't think I've said this before.  But I just wanted all commenters to know that I've really enjoyed the comments over the past week.  This really helps me to think through these issues and it's encouraging to know that others are puzzling over the same things.  I'm thankful for all of you!



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Holiness is Intimacy

These men in Messianic Judaism who say that Gentiles are not bound to the covenant, they have not only excluded Gentiles from the People of G-d but they have, perhaps more importantly, excluded Gentiles from a sense of intimacy with G-d.  Allow me to explain (and, briefly, since I've only got 10 minutes to write before I go to a church class tonight entitled "What is a Christian?"  Heaven help me to be silent tonight!)

The first time Kedusha is mentioned is in reference to covenant and being a holy nation:

"5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’" (Exodus 19:5-6)

My namesake, Peter, applies this to Gentiles in 1 Peter 2:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Okay, so why do I say that holiness is intimacy?  Because Exodus 19 shows that one must be in covenant to be holy for G-d.  Covenant is intimate.  

Before you can even be in covenant, you must reject idolatry.  This means not just rejecting idolatry but REJECTING ALL GENTILE WAYS (Lev. 20:23) because these will inevitably entice you to idolatry (Deut. 12:30).  

So, step 1 to intimacy with G-d, REJECT IDOLATRY and ALL GENTILE CUSTOMS (except those which are not rooted in idolatry and which have a logical use).

Step 2 is obviously joining the covenant.  All who accept Yeshua join the covenant (which is why Peter can apply Israel titles to Gentiles in 1 Peter 2).  

The so-called Noahide Laws are not intimate.  The fourfold decree in Acts 15 is not intimate.  So what IS intimate?

Following ALL the mitzvot in the covenant.  They are intimate because in them G-d has revealed something about Himself, about His love for His People.  

So what does all this mean?

It means that like the Jews, the Gentile Believers must start living apart from secular culture.  I'm preaching to myself as well.  I don't know how I'll be able to do this quite frankly.  But Scripture is quite clear:  if we follow the ways of the Gentiles (derech hagoy) then either we or our children will be pulled into "idolatry" (which can be many forms, not just worshipping an actual idol.  It can be materialism and humanism and secularism as well).

Well, I'm off to church to find out "What it means to be a Christian".  Heaven help me!









Can Anyone Recommend Good Jewish Children's Books?

I'm looking for children's story collections that reinforce the good traits and proper values.  Does anyone have any recommendations?

I might just go ahead and write some children's stories myself, maybe using talking animals, that teach the following Jewish character traits/values:

Ahavat Yisrael (Love of Israel)

Tzniut (Modesty, Inner Beauty)

Chesed (Kindness)

Chochmah (Wisdom)

Daat (Knowledge)

Dan l'Chaf Zechut (Give the benefit of the doubt)

Derech Eretz (Civility)

Dibuk Chaverim (Cleaving to friends)

Din v'Rachamim (tempering justice with mercy)

Eino Machazik Tova l'Atzmo (Refraining from taking personal credit for what is good)

Emet (truthfulness)

Emunah (faith)

Erech Apayim (being slow to anger)

Hachnasat Orchim (being hospitable)

Hakarat haTov (seeing the good in others)

Kavod (being respectful)

Kedusha (being holy, set apart from the ways of the nations)

Kehillah (valuing community, particularly Jewish community)

Kibbud Av v'Em (Honor your father and your mother)

Lo Maygis Libo B'Talmudo (Don't be arrogant with the things you know)

Lo Tachmod (don't covet)

Ma'asim Tovim (Do good deeds)

Ma'amido al haEmet (Set others on the path of truth)

Ma'amido al haShalom (Set others on the path of shalom)

Machrio l'Chaf Zechut (Influence others to be virtuous)

Malachah (be industrious, never idle)

Machrio l'Chaf Zechuf (Judge others favorably)

Michshol Lifnei Iver (don't place stumbling blocks in front of the blind)

Miyut Sichah (minimize small talk)

Miyut Ta'anug (minimize worldly pleasures)

Nedivut (be generous)

Ohev et haTz'dakot (love for charitable deeds)

Ohev et haMaysharim (love of being straightforward)

Ohev et haTzadakot (love righteous ways)

Rachamim (compassion)

Shmirat haGuf (take care of your body)

Simchah (happiness)

Tikkun Olam (repairing/healing the world, ushering in the Moshiach)

Tochechah (rebuke those who are sinning so that you will not bear their sin)

Tzarchei Tzibbur (respond to the community's needs)

Yirat HaShem/ Yirat Shamayim (showing reference at all times for G-d in Heaven)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Priority or Enemy?

Paul seems to say two different things:

(1) Jews are enemies as regards the Gospel:


"As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers," (Romans 11:28)

(2) Yet the Gospel is to the Jew first:

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile," Romans 1:16

The frightening thing is that Israel's heart has been hardened which is the same thing that happened to Pharaoh:

"16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden," (Romans 9:16-18)


Does this mean that a judgment is coming to Israel?  And what will this judgment mean for Messianics that have been grafted into Israel?

I'm just asking.  Don't get mad at me for asking.

Responses to Jewish Objections to Yeshua

CLICK HERE FOR LINK


Michael Brown Reviews "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus" by David Klinghoffer

CLICK HERE FOR LINK


Monday, June 17, 2013

The Rabbi Had a Point

So I can't get it out of my head, the look of vulnerability, pain, frustration on the Hasidic rabbi's face when he heard that my family comes from a Messianic Judaism background.  His shoulders slumped and he looked down, shaking his head, "Messianic Judaism is NOT Judaism!" he said.  "Those rabbis are ordained in Baptist churches!"  And he went on to say, in so many words, that Messianic Jews were deceitful because they appeared to be Jewish but were really agents of Christianity.

Here was a man who loved his people.  He believed with utmost conviction that his people would assimilate if they didn't return to a traditional Jewish lifestyle.  That was why he devoted his life to the synagogue and the aleph-bet preschool.  He even opened his home from week to week to those who were exploring Judaism again.  He would invite them to his tish (table), share an intimate meal with them, discuss Torah.

Yet what were the fruits of his labor?  Endless crowds of Jews who had been willing to set aside modern ways to return to the traditional ways?  No.  Not by a long shot.  He was one of the few who had not surrendered to a modern, Western lifestyle.

I wish I could've said, "Oh, but rabbi you're mistaken!  Messianic Jews don't assimilate or intermarry.  They keep the traditional lifestyle."  But, from my personal experiences, I could never have truthfully said something like that.

I knew the rabbi had a point.

The Messianic movement has something of infinite worth:  the real Messiah.  Yeshua IS the Messiah.  He is perfect.  But we are not.  Our movement has a long way to go.  We MUST develop institutions that will preserve traditional Judaism.  What are the Jews supposed to do?  Accept the gospel then return to non-Messianic community?  No, they need to fellowship with other Believers ("neglect not the fellowship of the Brethren").  But where will they find Believers living traditional Jewish lifestyles?  At Baptist church?



 

Searching for a Hidden G-d

So in the story of Esther, as you know, we never directly see G-d intervening on behalf of His People.  The Jews were enslaved, their Temple destroyed, and King Ahasuerus signed an order that all Jews should be killed.  Yet G-d placed Esther in a position close to the King and, through her, G-d destroyed the architect of destruction (Haman--BOOOO!) and saved the entire Jewish race.

G-d really wasn't very well hidden when you think about it.  He left all sorts of clues to His presence.  And He leaves them all throughout Jewish history, not just in the story of Esther.  Let's look at some of the other existential threats to Jews:


  • During the time of Ezra, Babylonian assimilation threatened to destroy the Jews.  So G-d led Ezra to create the Knesset ha-Gedolah and the traditionalist Sopheric movement.  
  • During the time of Alexander the "Great", Hellenistic assimilation threatened to destroy the Jews.  So G-d led the Maccabees to retake Jersualem and spearhead a traditionalist movement.
  • During the rise of Christianity, Christian Rome dissolved the Sanhedrin (the replacement of the Knesset ha-Gedolah).  So G-d led individual communities throughout the Diaspora to build miniature Sanhedrins (boards of 10 zekenim selected from the principal householders or "ba'alei batim" served as the Executive Branch and batei din of three judges served as the Judicial Branch).  These kehillot (communities) in turn established regional institutions (e.g. Yeshivot, ha-Va'adim) that kept Israel functioning as a federal entity.  
  • During the rise of the Haskalah movement, Jews were again encouraged to assimilate.  So G-d led a Zionist movement and a separate, traditional movement (e.g. Agudat Yisrael) which culminated in the rebirth of the State of Israel.  Now Israel has a new Knesset, a Nasi (President), batei mishpat (civil courts), batei din (religious courts with concurrent civil jurisdiction), a council of the chief rabbinate, and various yeshivot.


So is G-d really so hidden?  We see Him in faithful Jews who, like those in Esther's day, refuse to assimilate, and stubbornly cling to the Jewish traditions that make them a target to virtually every people on earth.










Sunday, June 16, 2013

I Visited the Haredim Again

Yestereday I went to a Haredi synagogue.  I didn't take my family.  Just went by myself.  I was mentally arranging Yiddish songs and my daughter looked at me and laughed and said, "Daddy, what are you doing?"  I think I probably had an intense expression.  But I smiled at her and said "I was just thinking of music."  And before that I'd been reading a book "Defenders of the Faith" which documents life in Haredim communities.

So as cheesy as it sounds, I just followed my heart to a Haredi synagogue.  I arrived a little late.  Grabbed a siddur.  Davened.

There was a great drash.  I hadn't been keeping up with the parsha cycle to be perfectly honest and last night just randomly was telling my daughter about Moshe hitting the rock rather than speaking to it...and sure enough that's what the drash was about.  I might talk more about that later.

Then there was a sponsored kiddush.  I saw someone I knew, a Messianic Jew (UMJC)....but he was very cold to me.  So either he's no longer Messianic (which I can see that an Orthodox Jew might eventually leave the UMJC to be with Jews who practice the halacha) or maybe he knows about me...  I hope he hasn't rejected Yeshua.  That's the vibe I got.  I think he was afraid I would blow his cover.

And then I got into it briefly with one of the rabbis.  The dreaded profiling.  I knew it was coming.  So when he came and sat down with me, I told him all the demographic info he needed to know before he could even ask:  Messianic Judaism background, attending Baptist Church, not identifying as Christian.   As you can imagine, he was very frank with me about his views on Messianic Judaism.  "Messianic Judaism is not Judaism!"  he said at one point.

But I met a nice Israeli man and had a good chat.  And there were a couple other guys that I really got along with.  So, overall, it was a good experience.

I gotta run but I'll talk more about this later...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Advanced Communal Intelligence: A Look at Jewish Religious Communities

What is intelligence?  At its most basic level, intelligence involves problem-solving (planning, adapting, etc).  And what is the basic problem of existence?  Survival.

Of course there's more to it than that.  But ability to survive is a handy indicator for group intelligence because it is observable.  So conclusions may we make from this observation?

As the oldest surviving (though constantly evolving) traditional community, religious Jewish communities seem to have a profoundly advanced group intelligence.  Dawkins talks about memes as the fundamental units of culture and memeplexes as a meme-collective (e.g. a religious community), a synergy of culture units, a perfect recipe for cultural transmission.  So it's kind of like how the human brain, a conglomeration of functionally-differentiated neural systems, is able to produce the remarkable by-product known as consciousness.  Jewish communities have found a functional grouping uniquely adapted to life on this planet and particularly within human society.

Of course there are other, non-Jewish, religious communities that have demonstrated survivability (though none have had the longevity of the religious Jewish communities) and so communal intelligence doesn't really tell us a whole lot about whether a religion is True.  It's just...interesting.




Thursday, June 13, 2013

Conversion Question for Dan

So, Dan, not to put you on the spot but you used the phrase "illegal conversion" earlier today.  Maybe you could talk about (1) how you define the types of conversion in Messianic Judaism (i.e. spiritual vs. legal); (2) whether there is (or should be) such a thing as a "legal" conversion in Messianic Judaism.

I'll be offline for the rest of the evening but look forward to discussing this tomorrow since I'm off all day tomorrow.

Shalom,

Peter

Compromise or Compromised? When Compromise is Helpful and When It is Harmful

With any issue you have to evaluate the stakes.  If the stakes are low then compromise is a good option in order to get along with someone.  A low-stake issue is something like "should we go to the Italian restaurant or to the Mexican restaurant?"  No big deal.

But obviously if the stakes are high then you really need to be careful.  It could be something like, "Should I go on the overnight business trip with my female accountant?"  Well, if your female accountant is not your wife then that's a bad idea.  Compromising on morals is usually a bad idea, right?  Another example:  should Israel compromise with its Land?  Land for "peace"?  NO.

Recently, a commenter suggested that the Inclusionists (e.g. Torah Resource, TNN Online) and the Exclusionists (FFOZ/UMJC) just find some common ground and get along--basically compromise.  If we were arguing over the color of wallpaper for a bedroom then I'd say "sure, let's compromise."  But since the false teachings of FFOZ/UMJC send people to hell, compromise is just not an option.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Is Unclean Meat Really Safe? Medical Doctor Don Colbert vs. Derek Leman

"Pork is not more dangerous to your health than beef,"  --Derek Leman
[from:  http://www.derekleman.com/musings/noah-and-the-clean-and-unclean-animals-issue/
Derek seems to know an awful lot about human health....but does he know as much as medical doctor?  

Let's get a second opinion:

In "What Would Jesus Eat?", Don Colbert, M.D., begins by explaining the difference between clean and unclean meats:

"Animals that chew their cud are known as ruminants....By having these four chambers, ruminants are able to eliminate bacteria, toxins, parasites, and other vermin that might otherwise end up as part of the animal's flesh," pg. 13, ibid.

So a non-ruminant animal such as a pig will often have bacteria, toxins, parasites and "other vermin" in its flesh:

"I disagree [that pork is safe to eat].  Pigs eat enormous amounts of food, and this dilutes the hydrochloric acid in a pig's stomach.  This in turn allows toxins, viruses, parasites, and bacteria to be absorbed into the animal's flesh,"

He goes on to say,

"...swine are also extremely filthy animals.  They will eat garbage, feces, and even decaying flesh.  Pigs readily harbor parasites including Trichinella, the pork tapeworm, and toxoplasmosis....Aside from the diseases routinely carried by swine, pork is also a very fatty meat.  The toxins in pork are held especially in the fat..."

So let's review the evidence:

(1) Derek Leman offers no evidence but preaches that pork is safe to eat;

(2) A board-certified medical doctor has presented scientific evidence that pork is dangerous to eat.

I'll leave it to the readers to decide who is more credible.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Encouraged

Just had a very positive email correspondence with a local pastor.  It felt like I was talking with a fellow Messianic!  A lady told me recently...hinted that these guys had some sort of "road to Damascus experience" while in Israel.  Well, I basically told him everything about what I believe and my experiences and perspectives with the current state of the Messianic movement including specific organizations...  I half-expected him to reply:  "don't come back here anymore."  I was pleasantly surprised by the response.  :  )

G-d is at work!


Does Yeshua Mediate for Those That Do Not Know Him?

We know that Mark Kinzer (a leader of leaders at the UMJC) teaches in the "unrecognized mediation" of Yeshua via the Abrahamic covenant--the idea that Jews are saved even without knowing Yeshua.  We also know that no one has come out in the UMJC to repudiate this false teaching.

But let's examine this claim that Yeshua mediates for those who do not recognize Him.  First, let's hear Paul in Romans 10:


(1) Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 
(9)That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 
(10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 
(14) How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 
(15) And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
Now let's hear Kinzer's own words:

"I do believe that the Abrahamic covenant offers Jewish people access to God in and through Yeshua. That does not mean that all Jews, by virtue of being Jews, have a right relationship with God. It does mean that God's favor still rests upon Israel, and He makes a way for humble and faithful members of His people to enter His presence through the unrecognized mediation of Israel's Messiah," [from:   http://www.jewsforjesus.org/publications/havurah/7_1/letters]
Let's break this down.  Kinzer teaches that you don't need to believe that G-d raised Yeshua from the dead in order to be saved--you don't even need to be aware of Yeshua at all!  According to Kinzer, a Jew can be completely incognizant of Yeshua and still receive Yeshua's mediation!  That's a complete reversal of Paul's words in Romans 10!

Why does this evil organization suffer a man like Kinzer to be president emeritus of anything, much less the leadership wing of the organization?  Why allow his input on their rabbinic council?

Why isn't anyone protesting this evil?!



Rudolph to Christians: Don't be a Rebellious Korach; Give Your Money to the UMJC

[NOTE:  You can find his sermon entitled "That's Not Fair" at this LINK.}

He begins by talking about Korach's rebellion.  Then he defines supersessionism as "the spirit of Korach" and implies towards the end that Christians who don't support UMJC congregations such as Tikvat Israel have failed to prioritize the gospel "to the Jew first."  The implied message is that if you, Johnny Gentile, don't give your money to congregations like Tikvat that you have the spirit of Korach in you.  Listen for yourself.

There's a lot of hidden presuppositions in that message that I find very disturbing.  For example, if Christians are Korach-followers in this scenario then who is Moses? Is it Rudolph?  Who is it?  All Messianic Jews?  The UMJC?  He doesn't say!  The guilt-ridden Gentile is left to wonder.

I hate power-plays, especially the ol' "You are a follower of Korach if you don't support us!" routine (a la Boaz Michael)!


Sunday, June 9, 2013

One-Law Midrashim

Before we look at two classic midrashim, note that if it weren't for the Torah, Israel would be no different than all of the other nations:

"Yet for all that, in spite of their sins, when they have been in the lands of their enemies, I have not rejected them utterly' (Lev. XXVI, 44).  All the goodly gifts that were given them were taken from them.  And if it had not been for the Book of the Law which was left to them, they would not have differed at all from the nations of the world.  (Sifra 112c.)"


MIDRASH #1:  The Torah is for Man

"R. Jeremiah said:  Whence can you know that a Gentile who practices the Law is equal to the High Priest?  Because it says, 'Which if a man do, he shall live through them' (Lev. XVIII, 5).  And it says, 'This is the Law [Torah] of man' (II Sam. VII, 19).  It does not say:  'The Law of Priests, Levites, Israelites,' but, 'This is the Law of man, O Lord God.'  And it does not say, 'Open the gates, and let the Priests and Levites and Israel enter,' but it says, 'Open the gates that a righteous Gentile may enter' (Isa. XXVI, 2); and it says, 'This is the gate of the Lord, the righteous shall enter it.'  It does not say, 'The Priests and the Levites and Israel shall enter it' but it says, 'The righteous shall enter it' (Ps. CXVIII, 20).  And it does not say, 'Rejoice ye, Priests and Levites and Israelites,' but it says, 'Rejoice ye righteous' (Ps. XXXIII, I).  And it does not say, 'Do good, O Lord, to the Priests and the Levites and the Israelites,' but it says, 'Do good, O Lord, to the good' (Ps. CXXV, 4).  So even a Gentile, if he practises the Law, is equal to the High Priest. (Sifra 86b (cp. San. 59a (cp. [418]; Bab.K. 38a).)", (pg. 564, A Rabbinic Anthology)

MIDRASH #2:  The Nations Will See the Wisdom of the Torah and Pursue It

" 'They shall call the peoples unto the mountain; there shall they offer righteous sacrifices' (Deut. XXXIII, 19).  The peoples and their kings will come together on business to Palestine, and they will say, 'Since we have troubled ourselves to come hither, let us look at the business of the Jews, and what its nature is,' and so they will go to Jerusalem, and they will observe how Israel worships One God only, and eats one sort of food only, while of the nations, each worships different gods, and the food of one is not the food of the other, and they will say, 'It is well to join this people,' and they will not budge from Jerusalem until they are made proselytes, and they will offer sacrifices and burnt offerings.  (Sifre Deut., Berakah, [subsection] 354, f. 147a (cp. Moore, I, 336, n. I).)", (pg. 564-565, ibid)
For those who are new to this blog, check out some more One-Law Midrashim from Mekhita de-Rabbi Ishmael:

CLICK HERE FOR LINK


Mikraot Gedolot--NOW IN ENGLISH

Mikraot Gedolot is a version of the Tanak that has all the commentators right there on the same page.  Now there's an English translation.  Here's a review:

CLICK HERE FOR LINK


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Mass Exodus from the UMJC in Progess

So for the past several months I've been hearing about how the Spirit has departed the UMJC--or at least certain congregations.  I'd heard this from a number of sources.

But this past Friday I heard some more details about it--and from people who've been in the UMJC for decades.  I'm not going to go into the details here.  HOWEVER, I will say that I'm seeing that this mass-exodus is producing several positive things:

(1) greater unity between Christians and Messianics, rooted in a love for the state of Israel and the Jewish People;

(2) Shabbat fellowships that meet from house to house (several ladies my wife knows invited us to up-coming gatherings).

So thanks for your prayers.  G-d is definitely working behind the scenes.  As always, I don't understand the scope of what's happening.  But I see that things are happening.  And...that we're not alone.

 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

KAHN!

So I just read The Three Blessings by Kahn.  Learned two things:

(1)  The way to interpret Gal. 3:27-29 is by viewing it with its "cognate" or parallel passages:

"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews and Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit' (1 Cor. 12:13)

Paul isn't saying that practical differences are erased but rather that all may "drink of one Spirit" or as Kahn says, "[1 Cor. 12:13] does not suggest that the original distinctions are erased, only that all can access the sacred," [Emphasis added].

I like how he puts that.

(2)  The Three Blessings in Jewish liturgy probably come from ancient Greek thought.  And when I say "probably", the Rabbis basically borrowed this directly from the Greeks:


pg. 9  "In its best-known form, the statement was attributed to Socrates, who is reported to have said:

'[T]here were three blessings for which he was grateful to fortune:
First, that I was born a human being and not one of the brutes;
Next, that I was born a man and not a woman;
Thirdly, a Greek and not a barbarian.'"

pg. 10  "The earliest source for a parallel Jewish text to the Greek aphorism is in the Tosefta, the collection of early rabbinic texts attributed to teachers who lived before the year 200 CE.  Tosefta Berakhot 6:18 reads:  'Rabbi Judah says:  A person must bless three blessings every day:  'Praised [are You Eternal...] who did not make me a gentile, praised [...] who did not make me a boor, praised [...] who did not make me a woman.'  A slightly different version is recorded in the Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Menahot."

pg. 12  "Several Palestianian-influenced liturgical texts preserve Jewish parallels identical to the Greek's 'affirmative and not negative' style.  Although there were many variations circulating, the following arrangement found in a Genizah fragment is typical:

'Praised are You Eternal our God King of the Universe who
created me
a person and not a beast
a man and not a woman
an Israelite and not a gentile
circumcised and not uncircumcised
free and not a slave.'

This example contains five paired identity statements...the Genizah text exactly mirrors the Greek version as recorded by Diogenes."


CONCLUSION

When we also factor in Rabbinic midrash like the following we see that the Three Blessings were formulated as "thank you for making me X [desirable thing] and not Y [undesirable thing]":

"9.  Tosefta Berakhot 6:18...R. Judah says:  Three benedictions a man is required to recite each day:  Blessed [are You O Lord...] that You did not make me a Gentile.  Blessed [are You O Lord...] that you did not make me an ignoramus.  Blessed [are You O Lord...] that You did not make me a woman.  A Gentile--as it is written, 'All the nations are as nothing before him;  they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness' (Isa 40:17)." (Parables of the Sages by Notley and Safrai)



So the Three Blessings are really very negative.  That said...I can see the other point of view too.  There's nothing wrong for thanking G-d for something that you enjoy.  If you enjoy being a man, why not thank Him;  If you enjoy being a member of Israel, why not thank Him? Etc.





Update

So I just read Trebilco's book;  now I'm going to read The Three Blessings by Kahn ["KAAHHN!!!!"...A little Star Trek reference there].  I'll post more today if I find anything interesting in there.

I hope everyone is having a great week and learning lots of Torah!

Shalom,

Peter

Why Does Luke Delay in Calling Gentiles "Brothers" Until Acts 15?

I came across some fascinating One-Law evidence today in Trebilco's "Self-Designations and Group Identity in the New Testament."  It turns out that the term "brethren" (adelphoi) is used to refer to members of the people of Israel (see Barrett, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles).

ALSO...

Luke purposefully calls Gentiles something other than Adelphoi prior to Acts 15.  He doesn't call them brothers until Acts 15!!!

Check this out:

"The use of [adelphoi] in the NT is in continuity with OT usage for members of the people of Israel [footnote 115]....But as von Soden notes, 'There can be no doubt, however, that [adelphos] is one of the religious titles of the people of Israel taken over by the Christian community,[footnote 117]'", pg. 39.

Footnote 117 reads:  TDNT I: 145.

Also:


 "So why does Luke delay using [adelphoi] of Gentile Christians until 15:1 and 15:23?  
It seems clear that this should be connected to the Apostolic Council of Acts 15 and is one of Luke's ways of emphasizing the significance of that Council.  Now that the Jerusalem Council has expressly affirmed the legitimacy of the salvation of Gentile Christians without them being circumcised and keeping the whole law, and thus has affirmed that they can be fully part of the new movement (see 15:5, 7-11, 13-21), Luke can use [adelphoi] of both Jewish and Gentile Christians.  Now, for the first time, they truly are [adelphoi] together.
Accordingly, [adelphoi] carries significant theological freight for Luke.  [Adelphoi] can be used for Gentile Christians, and so for mixed groups of Jewish and Gentile Christians, only in conjunction with and after the Jerusalem Council.  This also underlines the point that, for Luke, the key background context of usage of [adelphoi] is the OT and Jewish usage for members of God's people, as his ongoing use of it as a term for Jews bears witness," pg. 52.

I'll be adding this to the list of One-Law evidences as soon as I've cross-referenced Barrett's commentary.