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:

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!