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.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

God's not the only one who wants Jews to keep kosher...