Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Art of Shabbat

For this week's pre-Shabbat meditation: I've been thinking of ways Shabbat is like art. Here's what I've come up with so far:
  • Art is not purely functional (i.e. a plain old door vs. a beautiful artistic door, a walk/don't walk sign on a street corner vs. the LOVE sculpture in the center of a courtyard).
  • Art elevates common things.
  • Art inspires and energizes (like a song that sticks in your head so that you can't stop singing it throughout the week).
  • Creating art takes practice and lots of learning.
  • Art points to an Artist.
Can you add any similarities between art and Shabbat to the list?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An interesting proposition...

...from Orthodox Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod (someone all Messianic Jews owe it to themselves to be familiar with). He writes:
Israel...should declare itself a constitutional monarchy ruled by a successor to King David, represented by a “regent safeguarding the Throne of David until such time that divine intervention identifies the rightful heir to the Davidic kingdom.”

I wish I was in New York to attend this lecture on "Jewish covenantal theology" at First Things from someone whom R' Meir Soloveitchik called "perhaps the most original Jewish theologian of the past half century."

For more on Wyschogrod, I highly recommend this essay by Christian theologian R. Kendall Soulen.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"Light Sabbath" and "Dark Sabbath"

From an article on the Sabbath Manifesto website:

Judith Shulevitz, author of the new book “The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time,” wrote in the April 16 Washington Post’s “On Faith” column that people have largely rejected the Sabbath because “there’s a light Sabbath and a dark Sabbath.”:

“The light Sabbath features community and festivity and what a famous professor of psychology once called ‘freedom from all slavery to the clock.’ The dark Sabbath bristles with rules and regulations, and at the extreme, fanaticism…Americans may recall the light Sabbath with a certain fondness, at least if they hanker after a calmer way of life. But they are mostly thrilled that over the past 50 years we’ve done away with the dark, coercive one.”

“But what if I told you that we could have some of the light Sabbath back, if we’d accept just a little bit of the dark one? We could have something to which we’d probably say yes–namely, more time for self and family and neighborhood–and all we’d have to do is let ourselves be governed by a few nos, a few rules about not working at a pre-arranged time. Conversely, if we don’t accept a no or two, then the kind of time that used to be protected by the Sabbath–time during which everyone leaves the office or factory and turns to one another for entertainment and sustenance–is in danger of disappearing.
Do you regularly find yourself exhausted and in need of rest? Do you struggle with overcommitting yourself, or feeling unfulfilled by many of the activities you have to do? If so, perhaps 'freedom from all slavery to the clock' would be a needed reprieve.

What do you think: is Ms. Shulevitz correct? Do we need a little bit of the "dark Shabbat" in order to regain the "light Shabbat"? What would that look like for individuals--what kinds of habits, practices, or rules? For communities?

Friday, May 14, 2010

I've Got A Feeling

Tonight I'm going to a cool Kabbalat Shabbat service in the city with my wife, my sister, and a friend. I'm really looking forward to it!

Here's a fun video in honor of Shabbat:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Shavuot and the book of Ruth

On Shavuot, it is traditional to read Megillat Ruth. Last year I discovered a great reading of Ruth by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi online. Here's the first part:

This Shavuot (next Tuesday night / Wednesday), get together with a few of your friends or with some people in your community and read through Ruth together. (Or better yet, watch this video!) Then try to learn from the redemptive themes of the story. Don't forget to discuss Ruth's role in the geneology of Messiah!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

UMJC National Conference in Seattle this summer

Do you ever feel like being Messianic is a lonely calling?

Of course you love your home community, but do you ever wish that you knew more people like yourself?

If so, I hope you will seriously consider going to the UMJC national conference this July 28-31. Not only will you have a chance to meet, eat, pray, and learn with other Messianic Jewish young people, but you'll get to see some of the diversity within the Messianic Jewish movement, and hopefully come away with a better picture of the future of Messianic Judaism and your calling within that future. Plus you'll get to experience the Pacific Northwest, Seattle-style!

Monday, May 10, 2010

"My kids"

So a certain Gathering Sparks reader (who may or may not be related to me) called me out for referring to "my kids" in my comment on Scot McKnight's blog. "Is there something you're not telling me?" she wrote.

So in the interest of full disclosure, I decided to write a tell-all blog post revealing the real truth about my "kids." When I came across this video, I knew that Bret and Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords put it better than I ever could:

powered by

So that's right, I don't have kids (yet). I do have a real wife though. (Promise!) What follows is my attempt to justify having "hypothetical" kids...

Having kids may seem pretty far off. Right now you're probably thinking more about finishing school, or figuring out your major, or finding a job--not to mention finding someone you'd actually want to have kids with!

The Torah commands us to "teach [God's commandments] diligently to our children" (Deut. 6:7). In fact, this command follows immediately after the command which Yeshua called "the greatest commandment"--to love God with all our heart, soul, and might. That means it must be pretty important, right?

Is there anything we who don't have kids yet can do about this commandment right now? A few ideas come to mind:
  • Invest in your own spiritual growth. (This will one day benefit your kids, since you will be one of their main teachers.)
  • Invest in your community. (You may end up raising your kids there!) If you want your kids to have a strong Jewish identity and strong faith in Yeshua, then having a strong community to reinforce both of those things is essential.
  • Help out with childcare in your community. (Something of a combination of #1 and #2...)
Can you think of other things to add to this list?

Friday, May 7, 2010

What is your ideal Shabbat?

This week I was talking with someone close to me who called me out for always posting quotations from other sources on my blog. Guilty as charged. :-D So in the days to come I'll be making more of an effort to share from my personal perspective.
In this morning's blog post "What about a Sabbath?", Scot McKnight asks his (primarily Christian) readers about the practice of Sabbath. He writes:
The secret to Sabbath, so it seems to me, or at least one of the secrets, is the habit of setting apart a designated period of time and keeping it no matter what else beckons. And over time how that designated time begins to deepen and grow and lengthen and create memory.
He closes by asking for feedback: "What is your ideal 'Sabbath'? What are your thoughts?" The following is my response:
Great question, Scot.! Three things come to mind.

First, Gen. 2:3 tells me that the reason God sanctified (i.e. set apart or made sacred) the seventh day was because on it he rested from all his (creative) work. When I look at myself, I see this proclivity towards and passion for creating, for forming, for building and shaping. Sometimes it seems like there is no end to the work that needs to be done. A Sabbath on which I cease from creative work means taking an entire day (plus an extra hour or two, in my Jewish tradition) to stop, to enjoy, to wonder, to be thankful to God for the creation that he already brought into existence.

Second, I notice in myself the tendency to use technology to try to extend my influence indefinitely. Communicating with friends around the country, interacting with people I've never even met--technology has made all of this possible. A Sabbath from this kind of technology forces me to concentrate on the people who are right in front of me, the most important people in my life: my wife, my kids, my local community. Since I'm not creating, I'm really focusing on them and on being with them, on learning, worshipping, and growing together.

Finally, Jewish tradition teaches that the Sabbath is a foretaste of the world to come. The New Testament author of Hebrews affirms the same thing when he writes (in Heb. 4:9) "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God." By practicing Sabbath, I begin to shape myself to the way of the world to come; if possible, I experience a foretaste of that ultimate rest, in the here and now.

And when, paradoxically, even resting from work seems like work sometimes, I again take encouragement from the Hebrews: "Let us make every effort to enter that rest." Regularly practicing Sabbath is exactly that: a regular "practice" run for, and a reminder of, the ultimate Sabbath rest of God--the World to Come.
What do you think--was this a good answer? How would you answer Scot's question? Do you feel like one day a week of resting from all work is a good idea? If so, in what ways to you try to put this into practice?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Uncertainty...or possibility?

Came across this here:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jewish views of the afterlife

Do you think the New Testament's vision of the afterlife is compatible with traditional Jewish views? Monique from Yinon says yes:
the New Testament writers' vision for the afterlife is a deeply Jewish view ... lets call it a "renewed" Jewish view of HaShem's master plan for creation. Renewed by the knowledge that Mashiach has come and is in the process of returning ... and by the anticipation of partnering with HaShem in the world to come (AKA "the new heavens and the new Earth").
Examine the evidence for yourself by reading Monique's entire post. If you're still not convinced, post your questions in the comments section!

Summer reading ideas

One of my favorite things about the hot season is summer reading. I guess MCPL's summer reading club worked---thanks, Mom!

Anyways, if you're looking for some good Jewish fiction, check out Derek Leman's upcoming selections for JBOM:

The May selection will be The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendehlson.

The June selection will be As a Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg.

The July selection will be Chaim Potok’s The Promise.

The August selection will be The Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz-Bart.
I scored a sweet vintage hardback copy of Andre Schwarz-Bart's The Last of the Just on Amazon for only $4.99 plus shipping; it looks like this: