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: 


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:


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!