Thursday, December 15, 2011

What about Gentile identity?

Adapted from a recent comment I made on Derek Leman's blog:

For a long time, Messianic Jews have been affirming that Jewish identity is not nullified in Messiah.  Many Gentile believers have heartily affirmed this truth as well.  However, when it comes to "Gentile identity," some are left with questions.  After all, Jewish identity seems (at least to some) to be easily identified as a rich heritage that is documented in the Scriptures and interwoven and extended through history and tradition.  "But what does 'Gentile identity' even refer to?" some ask.

I think that this is a very good question and would like to see more efforts to explore possible, Biblical answers. I do think that Paul explicitly affirms “paternity” (in a very Roman fashion, btw), when he writes in Ephesians 3.14-15:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family (Greek patria literally “ancestry” or “family,” from the word pater, father) in heaven and on earth is named…”
Roman societies organized themselves around family structures which had the father at the head. Here Paul seems to be building on that understanding with his claim that every “ancestry”is derived  from the Father by virtue of the fact that it is literally named after Him.*

There is a group of scholars within what is known as the Radical Perspective on Paul (i.e. Paul as a Torah-observant Jewish apostle to the Gentiles) who are asking similar questions specifically in the context of the Pauline corpus. William S. Campbell, Kathy Ehrensberger, and J. Brian Tucker are all exploring ways in which Gentile identity is both continued, transformed, and reinvented in Paul’s ministry as evidenced in his letters.

Campbell’s book Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity (pictured above) is a significant contribution to this effort and worth reading.**  Also, J. Brian Tucker has a book on the continuation of social identities in 1 Corinthians called "Remain in Your Calling" (pictured at right).

There are also a number of papers by J. Brian Tucker available for free on mjstudies.com:

While both Campbell and Tucker perhaps raise as many questions as they answer, they show that there may be much more to learn about Gentile identity in Messiah from the first-century apostle to the Gentiles.

* Paul goes on to address the Ephesians using a form known as a household code (see Eph. 5.21-6.9), a Roman religio-cultural value system which is structured around the father.  Some interpreters think Paul transforms the household code away from its normal patriarchalism in the way he gives specific instructions not only to wives, children, and slaves, but also to husbands, fathers, and masters.  To the degree that household codes are a particularly Greco-Roman way of addressing issues of order in families and households, this is relevant to the discussion at hand. 
** Don't trip up over Campbell's use of the term "Christian."  He is part of a cadre of Pauline scholars who are well aware of the anachronism.  Of course, you can if you want.  I'm just saying I think it would be counter-productive.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Amy-Jill Levine's "The Misunderstood Jew"

The following is a summary of The Misunderstood Jew by Amy-Jill Levine ---a self-described "Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Protestant divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt"---which I wrote up for a friend recently.  If you haven't read the book, it's definitely worth getting.  (It makes a good holiday gift too!)

Introduction (available online via Google Books) - Levine introduces herself and her background and explains why the Jewish background of Jesus and the New Testament (NT) is important to everyone.

1) Jesus and Judaism - Discusses Jesus's positive relationship to Judaism and debunks a number of common misconceptions about Jesus's practice and about the Judaism of his time.

2) From Jewish Sect to Gentile Church - Discusses Jesus's followers and the development of the church

3) The New Testament and Anti-Judaism - Addresses (and for the most part refutes) the accusation that the New Testament is anti-Semitic or contains anti-Semitic passages.

4) Stereotyping Judaism - Addresses seven all-too-common misperceptions/stereotypes/slanders of first-century Judaism.  These are things which are still taught from pulpits and in Bible studies!  Here's the list:

  1. The view that Jewish Law was impossible to follow, a burden no one could bear.
  2. The thesis that all Jews wanted a warrior messiah who would defeat Rome.
  3. The proclamation that Jesus was a feminist in a women-hating Jewish culture.
  4. The conclusion that Jews were obsessed with keeping themselves pure from the contamination of outsiders, whereas Jesus, especially through his parable of the good Samaritan, broke through purity-based barriers.
  5. The insistence that first-century Judaism was marked by a Temple domination system that oppressed the poor and women and that promoted social division between insiders and outsiders.
  6. The assertion that Jews are narrow, clannish, particularistic, and xenophobic, whereas Jesus and the church are engaged in universal outreach.
  7. The increasingly popular argument that the New Testament is not talking about Jews at all, but about "Judeans."
 5) With Friends Like These . . . - Discusses anti-Jewish prejudices in the church and its educational systems; focuses specifically on Liberation Theology, the World Council of Churches, the phrase "The Rabbis," multiculturally-oriented biblical studies which uses first-century Judaism as foil by which to criticize practices of the dominant culture, references to "the God of Judaism," and claims about "Jesus the Palestinian."

6) Distinct Canons, Distinct Practices - Discusses the different canons of Judaism and Christianity, as well as key differing interpretations and practices; then criticizes certain types of Jewish/Christian interfaith ventures (Christian Passover seders) while commending others (interfaith dialogue?).

7) Quo Vadis? - 26 (letters A. through Z.) specific suggestions for ways for Christians and Jews to think, talk, and behave that can help bring correction to all that's been discussed prior in the book.

Epilogue - "If Isaac and Ishmael, and Jacob and Esau, can learn to live together in peace, there is hope not only for the responsible and the prodigal; there is hope for church and synagogue as well.  And if the church and synagogue both could recognize their connection to Jesus, a Jewish prophet who spoke to Jews, perhaps we'd be in a better place for understanding."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chanukah: ENGAGE!

"Engage"- Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
When Captain Picard gave that order (or it is 'will give' since it takes place in the future? But I digress...) he was communicating "go ahead" or "fulfill the command I just gave".

I'd like to unpack a few definitions of the word "engage":
  1. To take part: PARTICIPATE
  2. To give attention to something
  3. To come together and interlock
    (via Merriam Webster)
We are quickly approaching Chanukah. With the first night being December 20th, it's less than 3 weeks away! That makes this the perfect time to begin to engage (give attention to) the story of Chanukah and prepare ourselves to engage (take part) in recounting the Chanukah story, lighting the Menorah and playing dreidel etc... Allow me to also point out that lighting the Menorah is a wonderful way to engage (come together with) the Jewish people worldwide and remember Hashem's mighty deliverance of his people, Israel.  

This year I was asked to to share some of my thoughts on Chanukah in an article for the Winter 2012 UMJC newsletter, and it made it on the front page!

I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Jewish Annotated New Testament

In case you haven't heard, the Jewish Annotated New Testament was just released.  This volume is a study edition of the NSRV translation of the New Testament with commentary and essays by Jewish Biblical scholars (including Jewish New Testament scholars) such as Marc Zvi Brettler, Amy-Jill Levine, Daniel Boyarin, and Mark Nanos.

Being the first study Bible of its kind, it's getting some attention on the web; here are some of the articles I've come across so far:

The Rosh Pina Project blog posts a review by Mark Oppenheimer entitled "'The more I study New Testament,' Dr. Levine said, 'the better Jew I become.'"

An article by Reform Rabbi Larry Bach entitled "My New, New Testament," in which he writes, "the New Testament — this New Testament, in particular — is a book that belongs in every Jewish home."

Rebecca at the Mystical Politics blog, who herself contributed the JANT article on diving beings, points to a New York Times article on the JANT quoting Amy-Jill Levine and herself

Said New York Times article.

John Hobbins from the Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog asks in "Jews Reading the New Testament": "Is that just another way of saying, 'Jews behaving badly'?"

And the most extensive review I've seen, by Messianic Jewish rabbi/author Derek Leman.

Feel free to post further reviews in the comments section as you come across them.  (It looks like this volume might make a great holiday gift!)

Disclaimer: I have not received a free copy of the Jewish Annotated New Testament.  However, I would welcome one!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Quote of the Day: Daniel S. Nevins on "Rebranding Tzedakah" (from Sh'ma Journal)

From Sh'ma Journal:
Tzedakah today exists in a fallen state much more akin to "Charity" than to the obligatory actions of righteousness idealized in rabbinic sources.  We have created a philanthropic culture that lavishes honor upon donors who have the "vision to invest" in chosen initiatives.  Meanwhile, ordinary communal needs such as poverty relief, elder care, and subsidized Jewish education suffer from benign neglect.

Part of our failure is cultural.  we have internalized Western concepts of individual agency and patronage, wherever they lead, and largely abandoned the Jewish ideal of obligation. But other aspects of the failure are our inability to develop a coherent sense of priorities in Jewish spending and our graduated expectations of giving based upon financial capacity. Even as they seek to accommodate the demands of "donor relations," Jewish professionals should define and project a countercultural ideal of tzedakah, not as charity, but as the responsible and righteous use of resources.

One way to do this is to reclaim ancient categories that align with a broad set of Jewish obligations.  This is not a list of charities, but of sacred spending that is mandatory for a religious Jews.
  • Peah, shikhecha v'leket -- emergency food relief for the local, regional, and global poor. This is a mitzvah that the rabbis say has no limit, yet they advise that at least 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent of income from field crops be surrendered to the poor. So, too, should contemporary wage earners give a tangible amount to support the hungry and vulnerable in their community and around the world. From the behavior of Boaz toward the Moabite woman Ruth, we see that such gifts are not limited to the Jewish poor.
  • Teruma u'ma'aser -- a tithe (10 percent?) for religious services. In ancient times, this supported the landless priests and Levites who ran the Temple, taught Torah, and represented the community. Today, we could apply these funds to the religious organizations needed by the Jewish community: synagogues, day schools, seminaries, and summer camps, which sustain and deepen Jewish identity.
  • Ma'aser Sheni -- a second tithe amounting to 9 percent, most of which was reserved for a family pilgrimage fund, while the rest was distributed to the local poor. In our day, such money could be allocated to a family's own ritual expenses (sukkah, seder Israel travel, synagogue dues, etc) and to increase donations to ameliorate the poverty of elderly, ill, disabled, and isolated individuals.
  • Machazit Ha-Shekel -- a final flat poll tax whose purpose is truly communal in that it supports central welfare organizations that serve the entire Jewish people.

- Daniel S. Nevins, "Rebranding Tzedakah: From Charity to Sacred Spending"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Jewish Thanksgiving?

With so much hardship across the world, and even here in the USA we have so much to be thankful for. Here are just a few (from the 2001 AJC Thanksgiving Haggadah):

We are thankful for the freedom from hunger.
We are thankful for the freedom to worship.
We are thankful for the freedom to challenge our minds.
We are thankful for the freedom to change our minds.
We are thankful for the freedom to chart our lives.
We are thankful for the freedom to work for a better world.
We are thankful for the freedom to celebrate this day.
Did you catch that? Go back and read it again. Yep: A Thanksgiving Haggadah.
"Wait...isn't the haggadah for Pesach?"
Yes...traditionally...however:
Thanksgiving is truly an American holiday. Whether your family came to this country 200 years ago, 20 years ago, or 2 years ago, it’s a celebration that’s easy to embrace. Sharing a meal and a feeling of gratitude transcends racial, ethnic and social boundaries. We may all eat different foods, we may speak a multitude of dialects and languages, but on this day, we share in the best that is America…For American Jews, it is another opportunity to share in a meal similar to the Passover Seder. And similar to that Seder, in which we tell the story of our people’s journey out of slavery in Egypt, on this night we tell the story of our own journeys to this country. Because of its lack of religious particularity, this is an excellent opportunity to share the feast with both Jewish and non-Jewish family and friends.”  - Rabbi Phyllis A. Sommer (author of the 3 different Thanksgiving sederim provided in the first link below)
Jews have a very distinct way of living, of praying and even of celebrating. Here are few different resources to help make your American Thanksgiving a bit more Jewish:
The official Reform blog offers 3 different Thanksgiving sederim (based off of the Passover Haggadah).
Click here to download this year’s American Jewish Committee’s Thanksgiving reader (interfaith, interracial and inter-ethnic in design).
And lastly, here is a short Thanksgiving seder using siddur Sim Shalom.

May your time with loved ones be full of blessings and wonderful memories.

“Happy Thanksgiving” from us here at Gathering Sparks!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Free Hanukkah Music Sampler from Craig Taubman


Last summer, Jewish musician Craig Taubman released a free high holiday music sampler.

Well, Craig's done it again: you can download Lights, Vol 2. A Hanukkah Sampler for free from Amazon.

Check it out!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gilad comes home


.ברוך אתה ה' אלוקינו מלך העולם מתיר אסורים

Blessed are you, Adonai our God,
Sovereign of universe,
who releases the captive.
 

Also worth reading: this moving article by Messianic Jewish blogger Abba Lazarus:
"Our children understand that ten thousand terrorists cannot take away our love for them."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Building a sukkah

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Quote of the Day: Dwight Pryor on Sukkot

A beautiful insight on Sukkot from the late Dwight Pryor.  (This selection begins with a quote from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin):

“On Sukkot our desires [“to dwell in the House of the Lord” (Ps 27:4)] are answered. In effect, God is the bridegroom and we, the Jewish people, are the bride called upon to enter the bridegroom’s home. The seven days we sit inside the sukkah correspond to the seven days that a marriage is celebrated.”
At Mt. Sinai, Israel became a bride that accepted Adonai as her Sovereign Lord with the confession: “Na’asei v’nishma!” (“All that the LORD has spoken, we will do and we will obey.” [Ex 24:7]) Thereafter He faithfully fulfilled the duties incumbent upon any husband, to provide food, shelter and intimacy to his bride.
The Lord rained down manna and brought forth water for His beloved, and made Israel to dwell in booths (sukkot). During the journey, the covering Clouds of Glory protected His bride in the desert, and the portable Sanctuary (Mishkan) availed intimate access to His very Presence.
The Feast of Tabernacles commemorates those Clouds of Glory as well as the booths that Israel dwelled in securely on their way to the Land of Promise. It prompts us therefore to remember and rejoice over God’s goodness and passion toward His betrothed Israel.
Read the full article here.

(And get the lovely ketubah design by Miriam Karp above here.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Days of Awe...

...is the name of a beautiful piece by R. R. Reno at First Things' On the Square.

Reno writes (on Kol Nidrei):
...this odd petition, presented in the legal context of formally constituted court, comes by way of heart-rending chants. There is not the slightest legalism in the music, which is among the most cherished in the Jewish tradition. Instead, it rings with desperate pleas. The chants sigh and sob. Jews do not kneel to pray; they stand. But in haunting melody of the Kol Nidre, I’ve found my Christian soul driven to its knees.

Therein, perhaps, lies the resolution to the paradox. It is as if the cantor and congregation were saying, “O Lord, I am a precipitous, presumptuous, impetuous fool. Please see that my eager spiritual efforts in the year to come are as likely to be motivated by vanity as obedience, self-interest as devotion.” As far as this Gentile can tell, the spiritual meaning of the Kol Nidre petition accords with the petition I make before I approach the altar to receive communion: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
And the conclusion:
I am Christian and not Jewish. I have no real grasp of Hebrew and I only vaguely follow the prayers in my wife’s synagogue. Yet, in the final moments of Yom Kippur I have felt a terrible anguish, yearning to move, and yet immobile, wanting to rush to God’s side and yet nailed to my worldly life. I have shuddered as cantor cries out: “The doors are closing; the doors are closing.” For in those haunting words I hear Jesus saying: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Read the full post here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On making things right with God and our fellow human beings

So if you are offering your gift at the Temple altar and you remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift where it is by the altar, and go, make peace with your brother. Then come back and offer your gift. If someone sues you, come to terms with him quickly, while you and he are on the way to court; or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer of the court, and you may be thrown in jail! Yes indeed! I tell you, you will certainly not get out until you have paid the last penny. 
Matthew 5:23-26 
The sin towards God, the Day of Atonement atones for; but sins toward man, the Day of Atonement cannot atone for till the neighbor has been appeased.
Mishnah Yoma 8
Then Kefa came up and said to him, "Rabbi, how often can my brother sin against me and I have to forgive him? As many as seven times?"
"No, not seven times," answered Yeshua, "but seventy times seven! Because of this, the Kingdom of Heaven may be compared with a king who decided to settle accounts with his deputies. Right away they brought forward a man who owed him many millions; and since he couldn't pay, his master ordered that he, his wife, his children and all his possessions be sold to pay the debt. But the servant fell down before him.
`Be patient with me,' he begged, `and I will pay back everything.' So out of pity for him, the master let him go and forgave the debt.
"But as that servant was leaving, he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him some tiny sum. He grabbed him and began to choke him, crying, `Pay back what you owe me!' His fellow servant fell before him and begged, `Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'  But he refused; instead, he had him thrown in jail until he should repay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were extremely distressed; and they went and told their master every thing that had taken place.  Then the master summoned his servant and said, `You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt just because you begged me to do it. Shouldn't you have had pity on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' And in anger his master turned him over to the jailers for punishment until he paid back everything he owed.  This is how my heavenly Father will treat you, unless you each forgive your brother from your hearts." 
Matthew 18:21-35


Shanah tovah, dear readers.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Happy Shabbat, Everyone"

A cool pic tweeted by my brother-in-law from our Shabbat table. (Yes, he got the irony later.)


HT: getthebikes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

October 2 - a day to disconnect



HT: Netzer Chosid.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Messianic Jewish scholar launches new online resource

Messianic Jewish New Testament scholar David Rudolph has launched a new online resource: MJStudies.com.  The site is described as "a gateway to post-supersessionist New Testament scholarship."

What is post-supersessionist interpretation? A page on the site explains:
Messianic Jewish (MJ) post-supersessionist interpretation maintains that the New Testament writers affirmed (1) God’s covenant fidelity to the Jewish people, (2) that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah and participated in the unique identity of the God of Israel, (3) that Jesus-believing Gentiles were full members of God’s people without becoming Jews, and (4) that Jesus-believing Jews should continue to live as Jews in keeping with Israel’s calling to be a distinct and enduring nation.
Already the site is burgeoning with references to post-supersessionist books, essays, journal articles, conference papers, lectures and videos.  I intend to use it as a go-to reference to scholarly works on various scriptural and theological issues.

The next time you find yourself looking for a commentary on a book or passage in the Apostolic Writings / Brit Hadasha, you can go to mjstudies.com and see what's been published from a post-supersessionist vantage point.  And if you come across a resource which isn't on the site, you can suggest it via the site's contact form.

So check the site out by clicking below!  Or better yet--follow the MJStudies blog to stay up-to-date on the latest resources!


On a related note, last month Tikvat Israel Messianic Synagogue of Richmond, Virginia welcomed Dr. Rudolph as their new rabbi.  I, for one, am very glad to have Dr. Rudolph back on the east coast (and not too far from the D.C. area!).  Given his history of providing helpful resources for the Messianic Jewish movement and beyond, I am excited to see what Dr. Rudolph will bring to Tikvat Israel, which is already a dynamic Messianic Jewish community.  Mazel tov!

Update: Robin Parry of Theological Scribbles now has a blog post up highlighting the new site.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Quote(s) of the Day: "Lost Tribes," Codices, and the Jewish Jesus

Some interesting recent links from BAR:



The Ten Tribes of Israel Aren’t Lost (and never were)

Archaeologist, award-winning auther, and department chair at George Washington University, Dr. Eric Cline gave a presentation summarized as follows:
Speculating on the whereabouts of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel has been popular for longer than the search for the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. Suggestions for where they ended up have ranged from America and Britain to India and Africa, and virtually every place in between. However, few proper investigations of this “mystery” have been conducted. Now, utilizing three separate and completely independent sources—the Biblical account, the contemporary Neo-Assyrian inscriptions, and the archaeological remains from both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah—it can be confidently shown that the Ten Tribes of Israel were never lost.
The Power of the Codex
Sometime in the first few centuries C.E., the first bound books—termed codices—revolutionized the way people read the words of prophets, kings, scribes and thinkers. . . In an article for the New York Times Sunday Book Review, author and book critic Lev Grossman reflects on the remarkable technological shift that occurred nearly 2,000 years ago and whether the growing popularity of e-readers will mark a similar shaft in how we read.
 A great quote from Grossman's article:
Something very important and very weird is happening to the book right now: It’s shedding its papery corpus and transmigrating into a bodiless digital form, right before our eyes. We’re witnessing the bibliographical equivalent of the rapture.

Was Jesus a Jew?

The answer, of course, is yes.  Anthony J. Saldarini writes quite powerfully:
To wrench Jesus out of his Jewish world destroys Jesus and destroys Christianity, the religion that grew out of his teachings. Even Jesus’ most familiar role as Christ is a Jewish role. If Christians leave the concrete realities of Jesus’ life and of the history of Israel in favor of a mythic, universal, spiritual Jesus and an otherworldly kingdom of God, they deny their origins in Israel, their history, and the God who has loved and protected Israel and the church. They cease to interpret the actual Jesus sent by God and remake him in their own image and likeness. The dangers are obvious. If Christians violently wrench Jesus out of his natural, ethnic and historical place within the people of Israel, they open the way to doing equal violence to Israel, the place and people of Jesus. This is a lesson of history that haunts us all at the end of the 20th century.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

For the seasons they are a-changin’

It’s a wonderful time of year. While I love the summer, I really enjoy the change from summer to autumn. Sure, I miss summer, but every season has it’s time and offers specific opportunities that we don’t get in the others. In autumn we get the slightly cooler weather (though you can still where shorts and flip flops), rain (a different kind of rain than summer rain) and of course, the leaves changing colors.

Summer is waning. It is practically over. Think for second about all that has transpired over the last few months: The great stuff and even the not so great stuff. Think about the opportunities taken and the ones missed. Have you ever considered that how we choose to remember our past can directly guide our future?


So summer wanes….And here we stand on the cusp of a new season; one full of brisk mornings that sharpen our senses making us more aware. 


“Fantastic, Jon...That’s quite a revelation.”


I know, I know. What am I getting at? 


We are one week into the month of Elul. This is the time for those cold mornings to sharpen our senses…to sharpen our memories as we probe the actions of our past and look for places us where we need to adjust; to consider our words and attitudes. It’s a time to proactively seek out forgiveness and be willing to grant it. 


Earlier today Yahnatan forwarded me this article on electronic Lashon Hara (literally “evil tongue” though it issued as a term for gossip). I was immediately struck by how slow we can be to consider our behavioural shortcomings with those whom we interact with online.
In the article Rabbi Marc D. Angel writes "Modern technology makes it easy to dehumanize others...." I've seen this to be true. It's easy and even convenient to forget (or to not know) the faces and people behind the words for the sake of "making a point" or "winning the argument". I've heard it said"if you can't beat them with logic then beat them with rhetoric". No thanks. Do we hold ourselves to the same level of relational standards as we do when we interact with our families and friends face to face, or do we give ourselves some kind of special dispensation to say what we want, how we want and when we want?


I can think of no better time to consider these things carefully and to awaken ourselves to the need for us to be reconciled to those whom we may have hurt through our hasty responses and/or harsh words here online.
Nu?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Free High Holiday Music Sampler from Craig Taubman


Jewish musician Craig Taubman has made Jewels, A High Holiday Music Sampler, available for free on Amazon.com as part of his JewelsOfElul program.  Check it out!

UPDATE: in order to get the songs for free, you need to buy them each individually.  (If you buy the entire album with one-click, it will cost you $7.99.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hebrew prepositions chart!

From Chris Heard at the Higgaion blog:
Heard writes: "I posted a diagram of the chief Biblical Hebrew prepositions...as an aid to help students learn the prepositions without porting them through English."

If you've studied Hebrew before, you may find this diagram to be a helpful reminder.  If you're scratching your head though: never fear, http://www.hebrewmadesimple.com/ is here to help you learn Hebrew.  The founder is a good friend who is welcoming to all students.

What are you waiting for?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Random adventures in buying kosher


One day a couple years ago, my wife and I were shopping in Giant, when in the meat section we unexpectedly came upon a few packages of kosher meat (Empire) on the shelf.  We bought them, and the next time we came back (seemingly in response to our purchase), there was a small kosher section at one end of the meats shelf.  (That's my Giant!)

Bringing us up to the present: my wife and I had to move houses this summer, and with God's help (and a lot of help from our friends and family too!), we were able to buy a home. Our nearest Giant doesn't seem to have much in the way of kosher selection yet.  However, we're much closer to Trader Joe's, which, after KosherMart, seems to have the best selection in the way of kosher meats.  (A leben ahf dein kep, Trader Yossi!)

Also, we were doing a lot of late night trips to Target to get things we needed for the house.  One night we wandered over by the food section, where I stumbled on this:

An entire end cap of kosher items!  And not just the typical sandwich meats and pickle jars (Batampte, anyone?), but a whole bunch of kosher cheeses as well.  So kudos to Target.

For more tips on buying kosher, check out http://kosheronabudget.com/.  Feel free to post other kosher tips and links in the comments section!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quote of the day: "Genuine understanding" of Jewish tradition


It will never do for messianic congregations to simply imitate “authentic” Judaism(s). To maintain integrity with Hashem’s commission, let alone gain legitimacy -or at least validity- in the eyes of other Jewish communities, genuine understanding of the reasons for decisions on practice and the ability to articulate that understanding need to be prevalent among the movement’s members. The school of Hillel could articulate Shammai’s position, and could explain why they went with a different ruling.
Erica, commenter on "What's the Point?" at Drschiffman's Blog.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

WSJ on Kaifeng Jews (and a Messianic Jew!)

A fascinating article by Bob Davis appeared in today's Wall Street Journal about the group known as the Kaifeng Jews and the challenges they face identifying with a community they've been estranged from and learning traditions long-forgotten.  The subtitle says it all: "Divided and Diminished: In Eyes of Judaism as Well as Beijing, Tiny Kaifeng Community Isn't Quite Kosher."  A few quotes:
The Kaifeng Jewish population is thought to have peaked at around 5,000, but by the early 1900s, none could read Hebrew and the community's Torah scrolls were sold to collectors. Jews were called "the Muslims with the blue caps," referring to the color of the yarmulkes some still wore.

"In our family, we didn't eat pork, that's for sure," says Nina Wang, a 24-year-old Kaifeng native who now lives in Israel and underwent orthodox Jewish conversion. The family had menorahs and Sabbath cups, she said, "but we didn't know what to do with those things."

I didn't expect to discover a reference to a Messianic Jew, but lo and behold:
These days, many in Kaifeng turn to Timothy Lerner, who calls himself a "messianic Jew"—meaning he was born Jewish but believes in Christ as the Messiah—to learn Hebrew and Jewish customs. Mr. Lerner acknowledges that his visa was revoked by the Chinese government in 2006 for evangelizing, but says he doesn't try to convince anyone to follow his religious beliefs. He says he set up the "Kaifeng Israel School" to help Kaifeng Jews "learn the Jewish lifestyle" and move to Israel, where about a dozen of them have taken up residence, thanks largely to funds from Shavei Israel, an Israeli group.

Devoted to Destruction?

Deuteronomy 7:17, 26 ESV:

"And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction."

Romans 9:22-23 ESV

"What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory...?"

Anyone think there's a connection between these two verses?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Second Helsinki Conference on Jewish Continuity in the Church

Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see much noise in the Messianic blogosphere about the Second Helsinki Conference on Jewish Continuity in the Church. If you recall, I posted last year about the first such gathering, including a link to the statement released by the conference participants (see my post from last year, Helsinki Conference on Jewish Believers in Jesus).  Well, thanks to Hebrew Catholic blogger Athol, I read about the second such conference in the conference press release, including quotes (underlined) from Dr. Mark Kinzer and Fr. Antoine Levy on the interconnectedness of the Jewish people and the Christian Church: 

"PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 6 July 2011

Second Helsinki Conference on Jewish Continuity in the Church Affirms the Significance of Jewish Believers in Jesus

The second Helsinki Consultation on Jewish Continuity in the Body of Messiah met in Paris, France June 24-28, 2011. Building on the 2010 Helsinki Statement (see below) Jewish scholars from France, Germany, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, belonging to Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Messianic traditions, deepened their relationships and advanced in their discussion of crucial issues concerning the relationship of the Body of Christ to the people of Israel.

The conference was jointly organized by Messianic Jewish Theological Institute (MJTI), the Paris Istina Centre for Ecumenical Studies and the Helsinki Studium Catholicum. The participants issued a statement on “Am Israel – Our People” affirming the increasingly significant presence of Jewish believers in Jesus for both the Church and the Jewish people. The papers presented are due to be published in the journal ISTINA, the academic journal of the Dominican study centre in Paris where the conference took place. A similar event is planned for 2012.

Dr. Mark Kinzer, author of Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, Senior Scholar and President Emeritus of MJTI, said “The identity of the Christian Church is inseparable from that of the Jewish People, and the identity of the Jewish People is inseparable from the person of its crucified and risen Messiah, Yeshua of Nazareth. It follows that the Jewish people and the Christian Church are so intimately bound together that it is impossible to adequately understand one without also understanding the other. We have met to deepen our own understandings of these realities, and to encourage our people and our churches to reflect further on their mutual interdependence.”

Father Antoine Lévy, OP, Director of the Helsinki Studium Catholicum, called forgreater recognition and encouragement for Jewish believers in Jesus at an ecumenical level. "Like the interaction between men and women, the interaction between Jews and Gentiles pertains to the spiritual dynamism of the whole Church. It embraces and pervades local congregations and Church organizations. Accordingly, I see no reason to prevent Jews from developing a distinct life of worship within the Universal Church. Wherever they are, whatever their Church affiliation may be, I believe that Messianic Jews should gather and build a home within Am-Israel, a home for themselves as well as for their fellow Jews who would be willing to join." 

Here is the statement produced by this year's conference:

CONFERENCE STATEMENT

The theme of this year’s consultation was “Am Israel – our People”. As the many papers demonstrated, the identity of the Jewish People is complex, consisting of historical, familial, ethnic, cultural and spiritual components that are all essential and inseparable. The paradoxical nature of Jewish identity challenges us to avoid reductionist interpretation and to explore further the mystery of our people.

As Jewish believers in Jesus, we affirm our identity as part of both the people of Israel and of the Body of Christ. We recognise the pain this affirmation may cause to some of those of our people who do not believe in Yeshua. We are also aware of the misunderstanding that can occur in the Church when we state that we continue to be part of the Jewish people.

Nevertheless, we believe that we are a living witness to the mysterious and invisible bond which persists between the Church and Israel. Our dual membership brings us into a unique relationship with one another, and also entails weighty responsibilities and formidable challenges. Our two communities have been separated but belong together. We bear witness to the tragedy of their division and herald the hope of their future reconciliation.

We are exploring how this unique relationship to one another as Jewish believers in Jesus might take visible form as a wider fellowship dedicated to the service of the Jewish people and the body of Messiah.

Speakers from Europe, Russia, Israel and the United States included Father David Neuhaus, SJ, Patriarchal Vicar General for Hebrew speaking Catholics, and Boris Balter, Researcher in Physics at the Russian Academy of Sciences and member ofthe Judeo-Christian circle "Bridge of Friendship". Conference papers were given in English, FRENCH and Russian...

It seems to me that Messianic Jews were well represented at the conference: alongside Dr. Kinzer were Dr. Richard Harvey, Lisa Loden, Rabbi Vladimir Pikman, Rabbin Emmanuel Rodriguez, and Jennifer Rosner. It'd be great to be able to get a copy of the conference proceedings, as I'd love to read any and all of these papers.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Artist spotlight: Leonardo Gonçalves

Just over six years ago (inspired either by the discovery of his own Jewish ancestry or perhaps that of a friend), Portuguese-speaking Brazilian gospel artist Leonardo Gonçalves embarked on a music project different from anything he had done before.

The result is Avinu Malkenu, a twelve-song album from Sony Music sung entirely in Hebrew.  Some of these you will instantly recognize (Avinu Malkenu, Adon Olam, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, L'cha Dodi, V'haer Enenu), while others are settings of beloved texts like Jeremiah 33:10-11 ("a song shall be heard in the cities of Judah..."), "L'shana ha'ba'ah b'Yerushalayim," and Yeshua's prayer (Avinu Shebashamayim).

I would venture to say that the quality of musicianship on this album is equal to anything I've heard, and Gonçalves's voice soars exultantly on top of it all.  His arrangement of "L'cha Dodi," in particular, is my favorite I've heard.

Here is a live rendition of Gonçalves singing "Avinu Shebashamayim":



If you read Portuguese, you can glean some more background knowledge on Gonçalves from this interview at GospelPrime.  You can also follow him on Twitter or talk to him directly there.

As for me, I'm hoping Stuart Dauermann can somehow get Gonçalves on Shalom Talk so we can hear a more extended interview (in English!).  I'm especially interested in what what motivated Leonardo to do this project (which obviously took a lot of time an effort).  In the above interview Gonçalves also reveals his hopes that the album will go beyond simply being a curiosity for Evangelical Christians, but perhaps even open the door for a possible "artistic-musical" dialogue between Jews and Christians.  Sounds like Shalom Talk kind of material to me!

Regardless of Gonçalves's success in furthering artistic collaboration among people of faith, I'm hoping he finds another unexpected result--a warm ambrace of his music in the Messianic Jewish community.

Limited copies of Avinu Malkenu are available from Amazon.com, so get yours now!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Remembering Manny Brotman

Today (25 Tammuz) Last Friday (20 Tammuz) marked the yahrtzeit of Manny Brotman, one of the founders of the modern Messianic Jewish movement.  One of his many contributions to the movement was his instrumental role in founding the Young Messianic Jewish Alliance (YMJA--originally YHCA).  Carol Harris-Shapiro writes:
Beginning in 1965, a youth branch of the HCAA begun by Manny Brotman, a young Spirit-filled Hebrew Christian, grew rapidly as more and more Jews who accepted Jesus through the youth movement entered into the organization.  In 1967, Manny Brotman attracted third-generation Jewish federal employees and professionals to [Messianic Judaism] in the Washington, D.C., area. (Messianic Judaism, 26)
Here is one example of what was happening in the hearts of these young Jewish people. (This took place at the June 1969 HCAA conference in Asheville, North Carolina--yes, THAT Asheville):
A delightful though disturbing crisis occurred one day, when we were waiting in the cafeteria for lunch.  Someone from our group said, 'Let's sing a song!' In response, we all began to sing, Havenu, shalom aleichem, an old Hebrew folk song, the older Hebrew Christians present would all surely remember from their childhood. And sing it we did, with energy, enthusiasm and joy. Abruptly, some of the old Hebrew Christians' Gentile wives accosted us. 'Why are you singing that? Don't you know you shouldn't sing Jewish songs!' Their sudden anger amazed us. What could be wrong with enjoying a simple, little song familiar to all Jewish people from ages past? After all, we were still Jews. But the older Hebrew Christians were embarrassed and rushed to suppress our singing. (Cohn-Sherbok, Messianic Judaism, 59. Story told by Yohanna Chernoff, another significant contributor to the movement.)
Cohn-Sherbok quotes Manny Brotman:
We were all discovering the abundant Jewish life at the same time. The joy of celebrating a Passover, Hanukkah, and other holidays was a new experience. There was a birth of a Messianic community. The revival that was born in the youth movement didn't come from the adult Alliance. It came from the youth who were filled with the Spirit. They had a zeal and vision for evangelism. This invigorated the whole Alliance. (Ibid, 58)
Of his own experience of Messiah, Manny wrote the following (from Sid Roth, They Thought for Themselves, pp. 227, 229):
Since that day in Philadelphia, over 40 years ago [when he believed the good news about Yeshua], the Messiah has not left me. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Everything that God has promised in His word has come true--love, peace, joy, forgiveness, happiness, guidance, purpose, and so much more! 
. . .
Today, there are tens of thousands of Messianic Jews and hundreds of Messianic Jewish synagoguges and congregations where Jewish believers worship . . . What a joy to be involved in this end-time Messianic Jewish spiritual awakening that God promised our people in Hosea 3:5:
Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king [referring to the Messiah]; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.
There are so many more wonderful things that the Messiah has done in our lives--answers to prayer, miracles of provision, healings of illnesses, supernatural guidance, and much, much more. It would take volumes to write about it.
I cannot encourage you enough to invite Messiah Yeshua into your heart and life.
O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him (Psalm 34:9, verse 8 in some versions). Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered [saved] (Joel 3:5; 2:32 in some versions).
May we all be blessed with a zeal for Messiah, like Manny.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Sometimes silence is the best answer"

There is an old proverb that says “Sometimes silence is the best answer.”
This is a hard one for me. I like to talk. Hang out with me for a few minutes and you learn this.
Ask my wife. She has a hard day at work…maybe something didn’t go as planned. What’s my first response? To ask questions and and tell her what she can do to try to correct it now or at least make sure it doesn’t happen again. Good intention? Sure…but is it always the right thing to do???

Our society is getting louder and louder. People are increasingly talking about everything and nothing all the time with little relief. You can’t turn on the TV without being inundated by talking heads talking over each other…politics, business, sports, celebrities, court cases…So instead you turn on the radio: politics, business, sports, celebrities, court cases…and maybe a little music thrown in there.

You don’t even have to turn on the tv or radio. Go online! You’ll find plenty of people sounding off on every subject imaginable.

Obviously, I am not suggesting that talking is wrong. Some situations require it, but there is a balance to be found…I’m talking about the wisdom of speaking carefully and thoughtfully and the discipline of silence. Knowing when to talk and when to be silent.

Even in our weekly service here we have a time of silence when we recite the Amidah.

“Sometimes silence is the best answer.”

Silence is generally something we try to avoid. We aren’t comfortable with it. Think about the awkward silences we’ve each encountered and how often our response is to say something. We have a need to break the silence and perhaps too often we ignore the actual need FOR silence.

It’s traditional when visiting people sitting shiva to wait for the mourners to say something…and if nothing is said to simply sit there in silence. My mom calls this “sitting in the mud together”. Sometimes words are not appropriate and harm more than they help.
In his blog Rabbi Dr. Michael Schiffman wrote this:

"When my grandmother passed away, we were sitting “Shiva” (traditional mourning period in Judaism) at my parent’s house. One of my grandparent’s neighbors came to “cheer up” my grandfather. She sat with him and told him he was very lucky to have had my grandmother for so long and that she was not in pain anymore and in a better place. My dad and I were in the kitchen listening in, and I was relating to my dad what our “visitor” was saying. I told him she was making my grandfather cry. My father asked what we should do. I suggested throwing her off the balcony, but my dad shook his head. I went in and said we had to get ready for something and told our visitor she needed to go. She left feeling like she did a mitzvah, and my grandfather pulled me aside and thanked me. It wasn’t that she said anything bad. They were things we all thought ourselves. The problem was that she was having the effect of pouring salt into an open wound."

You know, this past Tuesday was the 17th of Tammuz. We remembered the breach of the walls of Jerusalem. The next few weeks are a time of mourning and introspection for the Jewish people which culminate on Tisha B’av…a day where the Jewish world sits together mourning the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel.

In todays NT passage we witness Yeshua’s silence. In many other places the gospel writers recorded His words. He always had the right words for the situations, didn’t’ he? This time however, was different. He didn’t say anything. Or did He? Perhaps His silence said more than words could have.

In the latest issue of The Set Table Ben Ehrenfeld had this to say:

"Yeshua’s silence in this week’s portion is almost unbearable. How could he, with the authority to cast out demons, raise the dead, stop storms, change hearts, and renew minds stay silent while Roman guards made a mockery out of him and his people?
Furthermore, Yeshua endured the cross out of obedience to his Father’s will. Yeshua did not know all of what would ultimately transpire in this world. There is at least one thing he did know. He did know hard days were coming and he must have realized he was experiencing a manifestation of what Rome would ultimately do to the Jewish people. He was taking the hit for a people who, for the most part, were too scared, angry or indifferent to care.

Why doesn’t he open his mouth?! Every time I read this passage I want to hear something that reminds that he is a man, only to be left with that same deafening silence. This is no way for the manifestation of God to be treated. This is no way for a man to be treated. He’s treated like an object: five verses that show he was so robbed of his humanity that he couldn’t even carry his cross himself. The son of God, the Son of man, treated like a scapegoat for every misguided fear and hate that ever entered into the human mind."

He goes on to say:

"Abraham Joshua Heschel would sometimes speak of God in terms of the “meaning beyond absurdity.” Such a view can be very helpful when encountering passages like this week’s Besora portion.

Nevertheless, we only have five verses and all they speak of is absurdity.

Maybe it is worthwhile to sit with the absurdity for just a bit, lest we numb ourselves to think that injustice and malice are “normal.” Maybe we have to face the pain of knowing the terrible cost for the redemption of the world.
"
One last quote from Rabbi Schiffman:

"We are exhorted to let our deeds be many and our words few. Words can comfort and heal, but words can also be no more than noise. We need to be intentional about how we use words, and make sure we aren’t just creating noise. We are intended to have a healing effect on the world. Much of that healing is done in silence."
There is an old Jewish proverb that says “If a word is worth 1 coin, silence is worth 2.”

Certainly, we see that Yeshua’s silence here was worth much more than 2 coins. His silence initiated with authority the reconciliation of The Creator with His creation in a fullness not previously seen.

May the words of our mouths AND the meditations of our hearts…those times spent in silence, not be mere reflections of that proclamation, but tangible evidences of it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Last of the Jewish cowboys

A few years ago, my Jewish grandma discovered that we have Jewish relatives in Argentina--several distant cousins who headed from Europe to Argentina at the beginning of the 20th century.  That means we may be related to Jewish cowboys.
Photo (c) Washington Post - all rights to them.

A recent article in the Washington post described this fading tradition:

On Argentina’s endless plains, only a few Jewish cowboys still ride. Synagogues once filled with pious congregants now stand forlorn on the edge of soybean fields.
Yet the collective memory of Jewish leaders here — of the stories their grandparents told of arriving in this remote land to build a vibrant Jewish enclave — remains fresh. And the ones who feel the links to the past deep in their bones, as Jaime Jruz, 65, passionately puts it, say they owe a debt to their ancestors to keep the old traditions alive.
“This is a story we have to treasure, that we have to keep alive for our grandchildren,” Jruz, one of the last of the Jewish gauchos, or cowboys, said on the same farm his grandfather first settled. “I cannot abandon this knowing the sacrifices they made.”
Today, the story of their arrival in Argentina’s outback is all but a footnote in the history of the Jewish diaspora. But in the 1890s, as whole towns of Eastern European and Russian Jews began packing, the offers of a new life in the New World seemed like providence.

Read the article here, and make sure to check out the fantastic photo gallery.

Friday, July 1, 2011

What is freedom?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”i











 
“…for the only person who is truly free (“ben horin”) is one who occupies himself with Torah study…”ii

i. Thomas Jefferson (primarily), “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States
of America” (Philadelphia, 1776). Available at: http://www.ushistory.org.


ii. Avot 6:2, translated by Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks in The Koren Siddur (Jerusalem: Koren Publishers, 2009), pp. 676-677.


 As we head into this weekend of U.S. Independence Day, I thought it would be worthwhile to share this essay by Cheshy Kopel from YU's Kol Hamevaser on similarities and differences between the American concept of liberty and the Jewish value of herut:


In Search of Liberty: An Important Interaction of Hazal's Values and Mankind's Unalienable Rights

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lancaster on Galatians 2:15-18?

I've always struggled to make sense of Paul's statements in Galatians 2:15-18, particularly the last statement: "For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor."  What was being torn down and then rebuilt?  The following quote from D. Thomas Lancaster's recent book The Holy Epistle to the Galatians (which I discovered via a post from James at Morning Meditations) immediately brought clarity to this long-time question for me:
“We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that [whether Jewish nor Gentile] a person is not justified by the works of the law [i.e., conversion, circumcision, etc.] but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we [the Jewish believers] also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavour to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners [by eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles], is Christ then a servant of sin? [In other words, does becoming a believer mean we forsake Torah? Is eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles really a sin against Torah?] Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. -Galatians 2:15-18

That is to say to Peter, “If you of all people, Peter, rebuild a sharp division between Jew and Gentile by removing yourself from table fellowship with Gentiles, you are rebuilding the barrier that you originally tore down. If you refuse to eat and worship with them, you rebuild the barrier that you originally tore down. You yourself were the first of the apostles to tear that separation down. If now you are putting it back up, then you are admitting that you were wrong in the first place, and you are proving yourself to have been living in sin and transgression.”
Anybody else find this interpretation convincing?  Has anyone else read it somewhere else before, or come to similar conclusions from reading the letter?  If so, please comment--I'm curious.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Robert Alter on continuity in Genesis

In response to scholarly descriptions of the story of Judah and Tamar as "a completely independent unit...[having] no connection with the drama of Joseph, which it interrupts...", Robert Alter employs literary analysis to craft a compelling argument for a strong connection between the two stories. Among numerous points made in the opening chapter to his The Art of Biblical Narrative, I found the following:
It is instructive that the two verbal cues indicating the connection between the story of the selling of Joseph and the story of Tamar and Judah were duly noted more than 1500 years ago in the Midrash: "The Holy One Praised be He said to Judah, 'You deceived your faith with a kid. By your life, Tamar will deceive you with a kid.' . . . The Holy One Praised be He said to Judah, 'You said to your father, haker-na.  By your life, Tamar will say to you, haker-na' " (Bereshit Rabba 84:11,12).
Nice.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Paula Frederiksen on sacrifice and sin

In a recent video shared at the Rosh Pina Project blog, N.T. Wright muses out loud about a need for  more study of sacrifice actually meant.

I thought I'd also point out that Paula Frederiksen's 3-part lecture series on the concept of sin in the ancient world is really excellent--and quite relevant, I think, to Wright's point.

HT: Carl Kinbar of Midrash, Etc for telling me about these lectures last fall.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's coming...

My new favorite t-shirt:


Find out more here or here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dual Covenant theology?

Recently a friend asked me about dual covenant theology.  As I see it, dual covenant theology starts with two Scriptural premises:

1) That God's covenants with the Jewish people are enduring/eternal.
2) That God has acted to benefit the world through Yeshua of Nazareth and the new covenant he instituted.

The first premise is generally understood as the revelation preserved in the Jewish tradition, while the second premise has been preserved within the Christian tradition.

Dual covenant theology is an attempt to simultaneously affirm both of the above premises.  Specifically, it does so by asserting that the "new covenant" established by Yeshua was and is specifically for the Gentile nations (who, until then, had been without a covenant relationship with God), while, for the Jews, the way of salvation is by remaining faithful to God's revelation in Judaism (i.e. the Torah, Moses, etc).  In other words, Dual Covenant theology says that Jewish people have no need for the gospel of Yeshua since they already have a relationship with God.

While it seems to me that Dual Covenant theology has received most of its attention due to the Jewish-Christian dialogues of the past 50 years, many see its antecedent in the views of the medieval Jewish sage Maimonides, who affirmed the possibility that both Christianity and Islam were being used by God to bring the Gentile nations to monotheism.

However, dual covenant theology is hardly a unanimously affirmed position among participants in Jewish/Christian ecumenical relations.  Other Jewish and Christian scholars recognize that the original message of Yeshua and his apostles was directed to both Jews and Gentiles and that to frame it as "God's message only to the Gentile nations" is to distort the original message of the New Testament authors.

That last sentence sums up my position--at least according to how I've defined Dual Covenant theology.  However, this is one of those topics that can be confusing to talk about and requires a lot of defining of terms.  (This is usually the case with discussions about "covenants".)  I see Dual Covenant theology as a flawed attempt to harmonize the two Scriptural ideas above.  Messianic Judaism encompasses an alternative approach.

Unfortunately, many Christians mistakenly see any affirmation of the Torah's enduring covenantal significance for the Jewish people as necessarily a form of Dual Covenant theology.  This is, in my opinion, a miscategorization (probably stemming from the mistaken conviction that the only proper Christian perspective towards the Law is one of supercession/abrogation.)

However, if Yeshua of Nazareth lived as a Jew faithful to the Torah of God and taught his apostles to do the same (Matt 5:17-20), then it seems today's followers of Yeshua ought to also affirm the continued place of the Torah as "the inheritance of the assembly of Jacob." (Deut. 33:4) And if the apostle Paul was able to say, about unbelieving Israel, "to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever" (Rom 9:4-5), then today's adherents to Paul's gospel ought to also strive to affirm the enduring nature of God's covenants with the Jewish people.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A song for Sefirah

I find this song by Ari Goldwag, based on a text from Eikha (Lamentations) particularly appropriate for this season of counting the omer.



From Ari Goldwag's website:
07/26/2009 Years ago I composed a song whose words come out of the kinnos of Tisha B'av. They are עד אנה בכיה בציון ומספד בירושלים תרחם ציון ותבנה חומות ירושלים - How long will there be crying in Tzion and eulogy in Jerusalem? Have mercy on Tzion and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. When I have had difficulty getting emotional on Tisha B'av, I will inevitably turn to these words and this song, and the tears come. I hope it will inspire you too. The song is A capella - there are no instruments, just voices.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A friendly question to anyone from Chosen People

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Pesach with family, friends, and community. I was just reading an article emailed to me from Chosen People Ministries, "Frequently Asked Questions About Passover."  Under the question "Is it appropriate for Gentile Christians to celebrate Passover?", I read:
"...after many Gentiles had come to faith in Jesus the Messiah (Acts 11:19-26), the issue of Gentile believers' obligation to the Jewish Old Testament law became a major concern (Acts 15:5). The disciples gathered at what became known as the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:6ff) and determined that the Gentiles should not feel obligated to observe the law (with a few requests, nonetheless). They further noted that the teachings of the law and its benefits would be available in the synagogues every Sabbath."
 The article rightly observes that the issue at hand at the Council of Jerusalem was whether the Gentile Yeshua-believers were to become circumcised and keep the law.  My question is this: does this passage [edit: i.e. Acts 15] assume continued observance of the Torah for Jewish believers in Yeshua?

Any takers?

Disclaimer: I'm going out on a limb by posting this question in hopes of having a friendly discussion...perhaps something different than the usual polemical tones from both sides.  I'm not trying to trap anyone into debating me; I'm simply interested in learning how others read this passage and what they think about my question.  I'd like to think that in that regard I might even learn something new.  So share your answer to my question in your friendliest tone, but no fighting!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

No lamb on Pesach: the real reason

Recently I presented an argument for why Jews shouldn't eat lamb on Pesach.  This morning I realized I forgot to highlight an essential gloss on the traditional argument...from my very own family.  This one comes from my Grandma:
The wise [son], what does he say? "What are the testimonies, the statutes and the laws which the L-rd, our G-d, has commanded you?" You, in turn, shall instruct him in the laws of Pesach, [saying] `one is not to eat any dessert after the Pesach-lamb.'*
To this passage my Grandma always comments: "And that's why we don't eat lamb!"

Hag Pesach Sameach, friends.

(* My family always uses the Maxwell House haggadah; since I didn't have mine handy, the quote is from Sichos In English.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Jewish Roots of Passover

A holiday classic (HT Aaron Eby).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Shalom Sesame: Pesach edition

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reminder: Donate your Chametz!

"The Mitzva to destroy Chametz can be fulfilled with a bare minimum of Chametz; preferably with leftovers that nobody would be able to use. Usable Chametz can be donated to various charity organizations which will distribute it to the needy."

HT: Danny Schoemann, "Halocho a Day"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What's an eruv?

Sitting around the Erev Shabbat table with some friends recently, my wife observed the connection between the mitzvah to observe the Sabbath and the deliverance from Egypt.  Specifically, she noticed the following line in the Erev Shabbat kiddush:
כי הוא יום תחילה למקראי קודש, זכר ליציאת מצרים.
For this [Shabbat] is the foremost of the holy days,
a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt.
(Az Yashir Moshe: A Book of Songs and Blessings)
We started talking about the connection between deliverance from slavery and the institution of a day of rest.  Then one friend raised a good question: when God first commanded Israel to observe the Shabbat, how did they know what the word Shabbat meant (and consequently how to keep it)?

Someone pointed out that the Torah actually does give details to the Israelites about what it means to observe the Shabbat: things like not doing any melakha (Exodus 31:12-17), not kindling fires (Exodus 35:3), and not leaving your place (Exodus 16:29).  That last command ("Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.") might be less familiar in our Messianic circles.  However, in Jewish tradition it became the foundation for the halakha of the eruv.  Historian David Rotenstein has the background:
Blues guitarist Buddy Guy frequently tells interviewers that when you stretch a string, you are stretching a life. When Orthodox Jews stretch a string to build an eruv, they are creating a community. Eruv is a Hebrew word and in English it means “to mingle.” An eruv is symbolic space created by Orthodox Jews to enable them to carry and push things on the Sabbath as they move around their neighborhoods and travel to and from synagogue. (Mapping MoCo's Jewish Courtyards -- the Eruvim (Updated)).
Also notable to Messianic Jews is the mention of this commandment in the Acts 1:12 reference to "a Sabbath day's journey."

For a more humorous take on the eruv (and a contemporary controversy over erecting one in West Hampton, Long Island), here's the Daily Show's hard-hitting investigative reporter Wyatt Cenac:

(HT: Rabbi Jason.)

While this video ends up being a commentary on the sad irony occurring when people from the same religion can't agree, it's even more ironic that the object of controversy is something which was originally intended to help promote community -- by creating a shared "place" where everyone can congregate.  To me, this is the real value of the eruv: it helps us to think more deeply about what it means to be in community and challenges us to observe the Shabbat in more holistic ways.

(Finally, for more on the connection between Yetziat Mitzrayim and Shabbat, check out Rabbi Joshua Flug's article in YUTorah's Pesach-to-Go 5771.)