Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Historical origins of Christmas

What are the historical origins of Christmas?

In Rome, 300 years after the resurrection of our Lord, there was a yearly feast celebrating the Roman god Saturn. This time of celebration was always situated around the December 17th - 23rd time frame, which was also called the Winter Solstice. The pagan year is a period of days, months and times that revolve around the seasonal changes of the earth (winter, spring, summer and autumn). The Winter Solstice is a day or period of days in the winter when the days are shortest (light) and the nights longest (darkness prevails). This is usually a time in their festivities of drunkenness, revelry and debauchery (perversion). The Pagan Romans called this celebration "The Feast of Saturnalia," in honor of their god Saturn. This festival was celebrated from the 17th to the 23rd of December. It was a time of merrymaking, and on the last two days exchanging "gifts" from house to house in honor of Saturn.

"Saturnalia"-was the name of an ancient Roman festival given in honor of Saturn, the Roman harvest god. The festival began on Dec.17th and lasted for seven days. On the first day, public religious ceremonies honoring Saturn took place. On the second day, many families offered sacrifices of young pigs. The Saturnalia festival was a gay occasion. Schools closed and all public business stopped. Courts of law closed their doors, and no criminals could be punished. Families held their banquets and even slaves were free to attend the festival. The last days of the festival were spent visiting and exchanging presents. Some of the gifts were little clay images called "sigillaria", which means small images (idols) (source: World Book Encyclopedia)

Then on the 25th of December, they began the new Celebration of "The birthday of the unconquerable Sun" (Natalis Solis Invicti). The ancient pagans believed that the sun would die during the winter solstice and then rise again from death as the solstice ended and the days of light began to lengthen, with the sun climbing higher in the sky, regaining its dominance. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Persian/Iranian mystery god Mithras, the Sun of Righteousness, the god of light, the Grand Deliverer. The Sun God Mithras was a popular deity in the Old Roman Empire, whose cult penetrated the Roman world in the first century B.C. "This festival has been commonly believed to have had only an astronomical character, referring simply to the completion of the sun's yearly course, and the commencement of a new cycle. But there is indubitable evidence that the festival in question had a much higher influence than this--that it commemorated not merely the figurative birthday of the sun in the renewal of its course, but the birth-day of the grand Deliverer...the Sun-God and great mediatorial divinity." (source - Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons or The Papal Worship, Loizeaux Brothers, 1916, pp. 94, 97)

Mithra was known as Horus in Egypt, Tammuz in Babylon, and various appellations in other ancient mythologies: "In Egypt, the son of Isis, the Egyptian title for the queen of heaven, was born at this very time, 'about the time of the winter solstice.' The very name by which Christmas is popularly known among ourselves - Yule day - proves at once its Pagan and Babylonian origin. 'Yule' is the Chaldee name for an 'infant' or 'little child' and as the 25th of December was called by our Pagan Anglo-Saxon ancestors, 'Yule-day,' or the 'Child's day,' and the night which preceded it, 'Mother-night,' long before they came into contact with Christianity, that sufficiently proves its real character. Far and wide in the realms of paganism was this birth-day observed." (source - The Two Babylons, pp. 93, 94)

"Mother night", which today is called, "Christmas Eve", has nothing to do with Mary, the mother of our Lord, it was observed centuries before Jesus was born. Semiramis (Nimrod's wife) was the inspiration for "Mother night," and "Child's day" was the birthday of her son (Tammuz), the sun-god. Obviously Satan knew that Jesus would leave heaven and be born of a virgin to become the Saviour, and mediator between God and man, so he created a counterfeit Virgin and child, to confuse the people and take away their worship from God. The counterfeit Virgin was a beautiful witch named Semiramis. Constantine used religion as a political tool, and started to introduce the Babylonian mystery religions in 313 A.D. which then established a foothold with the holding of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.

In 375 A.D., the Church of Rome under Pope Julius I merely announced that the birth date of Christ had been "discovered" to be December 25th, and was accepted as such by the "faithful." The festival of Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithras could now be celebrated as the birthday of Christ, even though the early church fathers, including Origen, stated for the record that it was blasphemous to celebrate this festival. Following the lead of Rome, the Church at Jerusalem commenced the celebration of Christmas, around 440 A.D.

In scripture, G-d forbids mixing Darkness and Light. Even many early Church Father considered this celebration evil - "even though the early church fathers, including Origen, stated for the record that it was blasphemous to celebrate this festival". This then is the reason the Synagogue does not celebrate Christmas.

We encourage each person to read the above facts prayfully and ask, "What do we believe G-d would have us to do? "

No one is judging anyone on how they choose to follow or not follow this practice. It is my job to inform and educate. G-d is the One who convicts the heart.

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Extra-Scriptural sources?

Is it proper to use extra-Scriptural sources?

One area that confuses some people coming from an evangelical protestant view is the reference to the Rabbis, Talmud, and extra- Scriptural sources in Messianic Jewish teachings. The reaction varies from curiosity to hostility. This article is to help those that might not understand why these sources are used, their value, and the scriptural precedence for their use.

Lets discuss these in some detail:

Scriptural precedence for the use of extra-Scriptural sources
It may surprise some, but Scripture itself quotes extra-Scriptural sources. In the Renewed Covenant reference is made to the book of Enoch and other sources are alluded to. So if Scripture itself uses certain other writings, then study of those writings cannot be seen as condemned by HaShem.

The value of extra-Scriptural sources
Writings ranging from the Talmud to Josephus, numbering in the 100's, add considerable information of both the historical and cultural context of the writings of Scripture. Here are some examples:

* The Mishna (Oral Torah) for example, tells us many of the Oral Traditions followed during the time of Messiah. Many of these traditions the Master would have practiced himself as a fully Torah-observant Jew.
* Josephus's writings teach us much of the time period and many facts about both Jewish life and the destruction of Jerusalem. Much of this information is not available anywhere else.
* The Psuedoepighrapha contains many volumes, such as Enoch (mentioned above), that paint a vivid picture of common beliefs in the 2nd Temple era.
* Philo's work speaks of the Word of G-D being part of G-D.
* Targums (Aramaic Translations of Scripture) use specific wording that indicates common understanding of Scripture in the first century.

Why extra-Scriptural sources are used
These extra-Scriptural sources can provide valuable insight on how the Messiahs were understood to those He spoke with. They provide valuable understand as to the intended meaning of His words. They clarify difficult Hebrew idioms that we cannot understand today. This material is critical to maintaining a true picture of what the Master taught.

In Conclusion
Extra-Scriptural sources add meaning to the Scriptures and provide the proper framework for a proper understanding of their meaning. These extra-Scriptural sources should not be used alone for doctrine. They provide value when used along with Scripture to rightly divide the Word and give a true understanding of the doctrine our Master taught us to follow.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Prophetic Meaning of Hanukkah

The Prophetic Meaning of Hanukkah

A brief history of Hanukkah - from the Jerusalem Prayer Team

The annual festival of Hanukkah begins December 4th and is celebrated for eight successive days to honor the restoration of divine worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple had been defiled by the Syrian King Antiochus who removed the Temple treasures, and forbade the Jews to celebrate the holy days.

He further desecrated the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the Holy Altar, then dedicating the altar to the worship of Zeus. A small group of Hasmoneans led by Judas Maccabee mounted an attack on the Syrians, and drove them out. The altar to Zeus was destroyed, and the Temple was purified. A new Holy Altar using unhewn stones was erected and consecrated.

After the Temple was cleansed, only one small cruse of oil for use in the holy lamps was found. The decision was made to light the Temple Menorah, the seven-branched candelabra. To the total amazement of everyone, the Menorah burned brightly for eight days...until new oil was available.

The rededication of the altar is still observed with eight days of joy and gladness during the same season each year, beginning on the twenty-fifth of Kislev. The light of the Menorah is the symbol of the light of Adonai. At the heart of the celebration is not only the recounting of the revolt and renewal, but the miracle of the oil.

Prophetic Overtones?

So what does Hanukkah have to do with Prophecy? Many scholars & teachers believe in the story of Hanukkah we can see a picture of:

* The Anti-Messiah
* What conditions will be like during his reign of terror
* The destruction of the Anti-Messiah

Let' s look at each of these in some detail:

The Anti-Messiah

Antiochus is a picture of the future Anti-Messiah. He declared himself "Antiochus Epiphanies" which means "visible god". Daniel 7:8 says the same about a future Anti-Messiah, "While I was considering the horns, another horn sprang up among them, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. In this horn were eyes like human eyes and a mouth speaking arrogantly. 2Th 2:3 Don't let anyone deceive you in any way. For the Day will not come until after the Apostasy has come and the man who separates himself from Torah has been revealed, the one destined for doom. 2Th 2:4 says, "He will oppose himself to everything that people call a god or make an object of worship; he will put himself above them all, so that he will sit in the Temple of God and proclaim that he himself is God."

He made people bow down to his statues and if they didn't comply.....the consequence was death! From scripture we know the future Anti-Messiah will act the same way, declaring himself to be G-d: Rev 13:15 "It was allowed to put breath into the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could even speak; and it was allowed to cause anyone who would not worship the image of the beast to be put to death."

What conditions will be like during his reign of terror

Social and political pressures caused many Jews to follow Antiochus and they actually bowed down to his statues. Those that did not where killed in the most cruel ways possible. Mothers who had their babies circumcised where forced to watch their babies being murdered, then tied on their chest as they where hurled over the walls of Jerusalem to their death.

The future Anti-Messiah will likewise force all those who follow the G-d of Abraham , Isaac & Jacob to to choose: Death or worship him and take the mark.
Rev 13:15 "It was allowed to put breath into the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could even speak; and it was allowed to cause anyone who would not worship the image of the beast to be put to death. Rev 13:16 Also it forces everyone - great and small, rich and poor, free and slave - to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead Rev 13:17 preventing anyone from buying or selling unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name."

The destruction of the Anti-Messiah

The defeat of Antiochus and his army is a picture of a future fight in which the forces of Messiah will destroy the forces of the man of sin.

The revolt began by one person, a G-dly priest named Matathias and his sons standing up for their belief in the one true G-d of Israel. As the revolt began, Matathias cried "Whoever is for the Lord, follow me!". The war was waged for over 2 years, and many died.

The war against the Anti-Messiah may begin in a similar manner, as those who are true to G-d stand-up to the Anti-Messiah; but unlike before, victory will not come until the armies of G-d descend with the trumpet of G-d and King Messiah enters the battle. As King Messiah enters the battle, the forces of the Anti-Messiah will be decimated and Jerusalem will be delivered.

With the final destruction of the Anti-Messiah, the real Messiah, who brought this great victory, will restore Israel to her place as the priestly nation of the world. The Temple will be restored and sacrifices will resume.

From Jerusalem Messiah will reign to the Glory of Adonai. The earth will be healed, and all the nations of the world will come to Jerusalem to worship their King.

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What is the meaning of Hanukkah?

What is the meaning of Hanukkah?

Bringing of Light, the festival of Hanukah is held in December. On each day of the festival a new candle is lit on the menorah, a nine branched candlestick. Candles are place into the menorah from right to left, with the center "Shamash" (servant) candle and the right most candle being used the first night. The candles are lit left to right, so the Shamash candle is lit first, then all other candles. It is tradition to light the candles before the festive meal each night.


Hanukah or Chanukah means "dedication", referring to the rededication of the Temple after a great Jewish military victory in 165 BCE This feast did not originate with Moses, nor is it even mandated in the Bible. It is found in the books of First and Second Macabees in the Apocrypha, the books written in the 400 year "silence" between the Tenach (Old Testament) and B'rit Hadashah (New Testament). God was not silent in these years however. He was still at work fulfilling His promises and preserving His people. Furthermore, there are good Biblical reasons to celebrate this feast. The first is that Yeshua observed this holiday:

John 10:22-23 "Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter and Yeshua was in the Temple area walking in Solomon's colonnade."

Secondly, the events at Hanukkah were prophesied centuries before by Daniel:

Daniel 11:3-4 "Then a mighty king will appear, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. After he has appeared, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others." The "mighty king" was Alexander the Great. Then Daniel goes on to describe another person who would succeed Alexander...

Daniel 11:21-28 "...a despicable person....and his heart will be set against the Holy Covenant..."

Daniel 11: 31 "His forces will desecrate the sanctuary and do away with the regular sacrifice, and they will set up the abomination of desolation." This prophecy accurately describes Antioch IV who reigned 175 - 164 BCE. His reign was one of many throughout history that tried to wipe out the Jewish people. The survival, however, of the Jewish people is a firm testimony of God's faithfulness...

Genesis 12:3

"...All peoples on earth will be blessed through you." Yeshua, the Messiah of all mankind, would come through the Jewish bloodline.

Antiochus wanted everyone to be united under Greek Hellenism, thus he was not at all tolerant of the Jews.

Daniel 11:36 "Then the king shall do according to his own will. He shall exalt and magnify himself above all gods and speak blasphemies against the God of Gods."

The king called himself "Antiochus Epiphanies" which means "visible god". He made people bow down to his statues and if they didn't comply.....the consequence was death! Social and political pressures caused some Jews to follow Antiochus and they actually bowed down to his statues (doesn't sound Jewish to me).

Daniel 11:32 " smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the Covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action."

Many Jews took the easy way out and tried to "go Greek". Others understood that assimilation and elimination of Jewish worship, sacrifices and traditions would be the destruction of Judaism itself...making God a liar! The Jewish people faced persecution. Antiochus' heavily armed soldiers were sent out to force people to worship the king and make sacrifices (pigs) on the holy altar. This was the "abomination" that Daniel spoke of. The penalty for resistance was death. Antiochus' actions foreshadowed Hitler's axiom toward the Jews:

First: "You can't live among us as Jews."
Then: "You can't live among us."
Finally: "You can't live.">

In 167 BCE soldiers came to Modin outside Jerusalem to force Greek worship on an influential Jewish family led by Matathias and his 5 sons. Matathias would not forsake his faith. He tore down the Greek altar and drove off the soldiers with the battle cry, "Whoever is for the Lord, follow me!" This was the beginning of the Jewish rebellion. The Jewish people knew they were up against great odds, but their banner was "Who among the mighty is like Thee, o God?" ("Mee Kamocha B'aleem Adonoi!") The name for the Jewish heroes of Hanukkah comes from using the first letters of these Hebrew words to form "Macabee". Matathias' oldest son was nicknamed "Judah Macabee"....the hammer....because he fought so hard. The battle was difficult for untrained Jewish farmers against the well equipped Syrian soldiers.

Daniel 11:32 says: "...the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits."

The real miracle of Hanukkah is that a few, with God on their side, triumphed over a multitude of powerful enemies. Remember: "God's people + God = VICTORY!

Zechariah 4:6 "...not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." (Haftorah reading for Hanukkah Shabbat)

On the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the date we celebrate Hanukkah, the Macabees won back Jerusalem and the Temple that had been desecrated by Antiochus. This date was also prophesied

Daniel 8:13-14 "How long will it be until the daily sacrifice is restored again? How long until the desecration of the Temple is avenged and God's people triumph?' He replied: "For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the Holy Place will be properly restored." This is a great confirmation that God's word is true: Historically accurate from the start of Antiochus' persecution of the Jews in 171 BCE until the restoration of the Temple in 165 BCE......

6 years, 3 1/2 months = 2,300 days!!

How did the tradition of the 8 days and lighting 8 candles begin? When the victorious Macabees began cleaning up the Temple, they found only one small jar of oil for "ner tamid"...only enough for one day. They sent a messenger for more. Meanwhile, the small amount of oil burned miraculously for 8 days. Another explanation for the 8 day observance is that some Rabbis believe it was a delayed celebration of the fall feast of Sukkot, which also lasts for 8 days.

During the time of Yeshua (in John 10:22), people's minds were focused on themes of deliverance and rededication, oil and light.

John 10: 27-28 "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." Yeshua was promising His people deliverance from sin and death...not just for a season, but for eternity!

Earlier in John 8:12, Yeshua proclaims "I am the light of the world...he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." The people listening to Yeshua understood what He was saying...they knew what God had promised through the prophet:

Isaiah: (9:2) "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined."

Psalm 27:1 "The Lord is my light and my salvation." ("Yeshua" in Hebrew means salvation.) Hanukkah is referred to as the "Festival of Lights" (Hag Haorim) and it was during this season that Yeshua described Himself as the" light of the world".

A future Hanukkah is described in 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-8 where Paul writes about the second coming of the Lord:

1. Many will turn away from God (as some Jews did who followed Antiochus' Hellenism).
2. The "son of perdition exalts himself above God" (as Antiochus Epiphanies did).
3. But the Lord will destroy him with the "brightness of His coming"... ( this victory we can all think of when we gaze at the lights of our Hanukkah menorah).
4. The Lord will usher in His millennial kingdom with the overthrow of the "lawless one" in a miraculous way. (A miracle to think about when we retell the Hanukkah story.)

The shamash or "servant" is the candle used to light the other candles of the Hanukkah menorah. Yeshua is our shamash...

. Matthew 20:28 "...the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many..."

Other traditions:

1. Display your menorah in the window to show God's miracle to the world.

2. So eat some latkes and donuts already! Oil (the symbol of the Ruach) is associated with the Hanukkah miracle. Fry the latkes in oil and don't think about the calories....think about the miracle!

3. The draydel: The four Hebrew letters mean "a great miracle happened there". (nes gadol haya sham) Children play a game with the draydel and each letter has an assigned value: nes (nothing), gadol (all), hayah (half), and sham (put in).

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What is the Importance of Community? - Part 3

What is the Importance of Community? - Part 3 ...continued from last week

I'd like to continue our discussion of Community by discussing behaviors that hurt the Community and its members.

We discussed ways to build Community last week. Those methods can make a real difference if we put them in practice and use them consistently. Those alone will not build Community if we do not address activities that hurts individuals and Community. What are these behaviors that tear down Community:

* 1. Unfriendliness
* 2. Cliques
* 3. Envy
* 4. Anti-Semitism
* 5. Thinking better of ourselves than others
* 6. Rushing / snapping
* 7. Not keeping promises
* 8. Vain disputes
* 9. Looking for offense
* 10. Unforgiveness

Let's discuss each of these in some detail, and see how to correct and prevent each of these behaviors.

* 1. Unfriendliness - How do we treat each other? Do we smile and say hello to each other at the Congregation? Do we ask how people are? Do we genuinely want to get to know one another? Do we greet visitors? Are there people you avoid and do not speak too? I'm sure I'm guilty of all of the above at some time or another. We all need to slow down and make sure we greet each other, say hello, shake hands, and hug one another (if you're comfortable with that). If there are people you avoid, make that extra effort and greet them warmly. In doing this we will be exhibiting the love of Messiah.

* 2. Cliques - We all have our friends, and there is nothing wrong with that, but cliques can destroy a Congregation and are not of G-d. Do we find ourselves excluding others from conversations? Are we spending 90% of our time only with those friends? If so, we may be building a clique. Cliques are most destructive when we exclude others from it, limit ourselves just to the clique or in the worst case, and talk about others if they are not in our clique. If you find yourself wondering if you are in a clique, then you might well be. We each have a responsibility to breakout of these artificial groups and spread out into the wider Synagogue. Remember, the Master even befriended sinners; He obviously would not want us in cliques.

* 3. Envy - If love of money is the root of all evil, then envy is a close second. Envy is very destructive and can cause division faster than any other behavior. Gossip, strife, and slander usually result from envy. Are you envious that someone sings better, seems more spiritual, etc. Are you envious a person seems to have more spiritual gifts? Scripture commands us to not be, as envy is from ha-Satan (the adversary). The cure for envy? Be thankful for what G-d has given you. Thanklessness or ingratitude to G-d for what He has done is the root of envy. Thanklessness, ingratitude, and jealousy are very serious sins and need to be repented of immediately.

* 4. Anti-Semitism - With a mixed family of many peoples coming from all walks of life, many of whom are not Jewish by birth, we need to be careful how we speak. Some old phrases from the past can pop up causing unintentional harm. We all need to be wary as certain phrases used by our Sunday brothers. Comments like "the Jews killed Yeshua" are factually incorrect and very offensive. A general guideline to follow is anytime we want to say "the Jews" we need to remember that includes many of us, by either birth or conversion. It includes all of us as Hebrews grafted into Israel. So think about that and maybe it is better to say "our people" instead.

* 5. Thinking better of ourselves than others - This one I suspect most are guilty of to some extent. I confess that I too can fall prey to this. Scripture commands that we think better of others than ourselves, yet many do the exact opposite. This often shows when people enter Ministry. They fail to understand that time is needed to mature; instead they want it all now. This same behavior is seen in marriages. One test to see if you might be doing this: Do you cut people off when they are talking? If you do, you might be seeing a sign that you consider what you have to say to be much more important than the other person. So how do we address it? First, we must be sober in our assessment of our own abilities. Second, we must see and appreciate the abilities of others. Third, we must be willing to let people grow. Fourth, remember the Master's Words about the wedding feast where the person who exalted himself was embarrassed when he was asked to give up his seat to a more honored guest.

* 6. Rushing / snapping - We all are busy, especially right before service, or when getting ready for the Shabbat dinner. This can lead to rushing around and snapping at one another. We need to remember this is the Shabbat, it is supposed to be peaceful and calm. Efforts should be made to ensure all is ready before Shabbat begins to minimize rushing around. We also need to remain calm, seeking the peace that Adonai gives to us. If we do snap, be quick to apologize. If someone snaps at you, let them know gently; you'll most likely find they did not even realize it.

* 7. Not keeping promises - One area that also causes distrust and hurt feelings is when we say we are going to do something and then fail to follow through. I myself am guilty of this one. We need to follow through with commitments as that builds trust and shows caring.

* 8. Vain disputes - Lets face it, we like to discuss with passion. There is nothing wrong with good discussion and passionately expressing our thoughts. It is when it becomes vain disputes that it becomes harmful. We need to learn to agree on the majors and not sweat the minors. That Yeshua is Messiah we agree on. On the exact day He was crucified, that is subject to differing beliefs. I teach Thursday, but if someone does not agree, does it really matter? We need to learn to love one another even if the person does not agree with everything we do or say. Arguing past the point of either side learning or exchanging information is a waste of time. Arguing over the color of the carpet is meaningless. Remember love and unity is important in the body.

* 9. Looking for offense - Unfortunately there are times when people seem to be looking for something to get upset about. This looking for offense takes the form of interpreting words, events, or actions in such a way as to find offense when none was intended. This is the famous example of the person saying, "Good Morning," to someone and the person responding, "What did you mean by that?" We should all try hard to not take offense at another's words or deeds.

* 10. Unforgiveness - Unforgiveness may be one of the biggest causes of mental illness. When a person refuses to forgive another individual, it hurts the person not forgiving more than the person they will not forgive. Unforgiveness is the root of much strife and bitterness. The Master made it clear: we are commanded to forgive our brother (or sister) up to seventy times seven. The Rabbis teach failure to forgive a person who asks your forgiveness is a major sin! If there is a person you haven't forgiven, it is commanded in Scripture to forgive that person. If we don't, it is ourselves we are hurting.

How do protect ourselves and the Congregation from these behaviors or attacks? By loving one another, forgiving each other, and committing to being at Synagogue to worship Adonai. So many times people come in the door with the attitude 'What can the Synagogue do for me?' Is this the proper way to approach G-D? John F. Kennedy once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country." We should adopt a similar attitude, "Ask not what the Synagogue can do for us; but how we may serve the Living G-D!" Remember, "They shall know you by your fruits" and "By your love for one another."

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hanukah - It's meaning and how to celebrate

In seeking a practical expression for this holy day, believers in Messiah Yeshua can incorporate many beautiful traditions. The observance is centered on the hanukiyah (9 candle menorah) and what it represents. Each evening during Hanukah family and friends gather to light the hanukiyah with the appropriate number of candles. The branches of the hanukiyah represent the eight days of Hanukah, plus one shamash candle used to light the others.

Note: the appropriate numbers of candles are placed in the hanukiyah from right to left, yet they are kindled by the shamash from left to right.

On the first night of Hanukah, after sundown, the shamash (servant) candle is lit, which in turn is used to kindle the first candle in the Menorah. The second night, we light the shamash again and use it to light the two right candles. This continues through the eight nights of the Hanukah.

During the lighting of the shamash and the appropriate number of candles, the following blessings are chanted:


Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments, and commanded us to light Hanukah lights.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha-olam, ah-sher kid-shah-nu b'mitz-voh-tayv v'tzee-vah-nu l'had-leek ner shel Hanukah.

Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our fathers in those days at this season.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha-olam, she-ah-sah ni-seem la-ah-vo-tay-nu ba-ya-meem ha-hem baz-man ha-zeh.

(Messianic version)

Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us holidays, customs, and times of happiness, to increase the knowledge of God and to build us up in our most holy faith.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha-olam, ah-sher nah-tan lah-nu cha-gim, min-ha-gim, oo-mo-ah-dim l'sim-cha, l'hag-deel et da-at Adonai, v'liv-not oh-tah-nu b'emunah ki-do-shah v'na-ah-lah.

Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our fathers in those days at this season.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha-olam, she-ah-sah ni-seem la-ah-vo-tay-nu ba-ya-meem ha-hem baz-man ha-zeh.

(On the first night you can add)

Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who granted us life, sustained us and permitted us to reach this season.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha-olam, she-he-che-yanu v'kee-ma-nu v'hi-gee-ah-nu laz-man ha-zeh.

Note: Traditionally, the candles are lit from right to left. The first candle is placed on the right side of the Menorah, and the second one placed directly to the left. But lighting them starts from the left and moves to the right. Thus the first candle that is lit is the new candle added for that day. The Shammash candle (the tallest) is used to light the others.

Meaning of the Candles

Shamash (Servant) Candle

Messiah Yeshua stated in Mark 10:44-45:

Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be the servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

First Candle

Genesis 1:3-4 describes the creation of the

first light: God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

Second Candle

Exodus 13:21-22 reveals that God is the source of Israel's light:

And the Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Third Candle

King David reminds us in Psalm 27:1 and Psalm 18:28 that God Himself is the source of our own individual light:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? For You light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness.

Fourth Candle

Psalm 119:105 and Psalm 119:130 describe the light that comes from God's Word:

Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.

Fifth Candle

Messiah Yeshua is the greatest light of all:

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:4-5). As Messiah Yeshua was in the Temple in Jerusalem watching the illuminating lights, He declared: "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). Aged Simeon was promised by the Lord that he would not die until he saw Israel's Messiah. When he saw Yeshua as an infant in the Temple, he knew that this One was the light of Israel and the Nations. Simeon declared: "My eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel" (Luke 2:30-32). For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Messiah (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Sixth Candle

After we come to know Messiah, we are to be a source of light for the world. King Messiah tells us in Matthew 5:14-16:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Seventh Candle

The prophet Isaiah speaks of the future glory of a restored Israel in Isaiah 60:1-3:

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you... And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Eighth Candle

Revelation 21:22-27 gives us a description of our glorious eternal dwelling place in the New Jerusalem:

And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it. And in the daytime (for there shall be no night there) its gates shall never be closed; and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.


Potato Latkes


2 eggs
3 cups grated, drained potatoes
4 Tbls. grated onion
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbls. cracker or matzah meal
1/2 cup oil or butter

Beat the eggs and add the potatoes, onion, salt, pepper and meal. Heat half the oil or butter in a frying pan and drop the potato mixture into it by the tablespoon. Fry until browned on both sides. Keep pancakes hot until all are fried and add more oil or butter as required.

Serves 8. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

How to Play Dreydel

The Hebrew letters Nes, Gadol, Hayah, Sham, mean "A miracle happened there." Those are the letters on the dreydel.

Game Instructions

1. Give each person the same amount of candy or nuts.
2. Each player puts one piece in the pot.
3. The first player spins the dreydel and does what the dreydel says.
4. After a player gets a Gimel, everyone puts one more piece into the pot.
5. Everyone gets a turn. When you are finished playing, you can eat your candy or nuts.

Gimel-take all
Hay-take half
Shin-add 1 to pot
Nun-take nothing

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What is the Importance of Community? ...continued

What is the Importance of Community? ...continued from last week

So, how do we build Community?

Building community when members are geographically spread out is difficult; but with some imagination and commitment, we can make this happen.

Some steps to build community:

* Regular Attendance - As simple as it sounds, the first step is being at the Synagogue on a regular basis. We have many activities and services which a person can take part in. Being at Synagogue allows everyone to get to know one another.
* Fellowship - We offer both Oneg on Friday Night, and dinner on Saturday specifically to allow people to sit together and to get to know one another. These times should not be skipped as they are the best time to build relationships and a sense of belonging.
* Prayer - liturgy during service, the corporate prayer during worship, and individual prayer during the week help build community as we lift up each other and the Synagogue to Adonai.
* Helping Hands - Caring for each other. This is done by individual acts of kindness, Synagogue support for those needing emergency assistance, and Synagogue scheduled events to assist someone (such as our Habitat for Humanity work)
* Care groups - 4 care groups exist, led by Louise & Curt, Amado & Maria, Mario & Sarah, and Michael Bugg (single men). This groups are being realigned to make sure all people are included. Care groups contact people for prayer and are your individual contact point if you have any issues or needs. They may also schedule additional fellowship activities.
* Counseling - While we do not have professionally trained counselors on staff, we do assist people struggling with issues. This is done by listening, trying to offer both spiritual guidance and practical suggestions. If necessary, we can refer them to professional counselors

While we all may look for the day we can live in close proximity to the Synagogue; we can take concrete actions to build community today.

Try it today, reach out to someone and talk to them, try to establish a relationship with them. In doing that, you will be keeping one of the greatest commandments - to love your neighbor as yourself.

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What is the Importance of Community?

Many today long for a sense of belonging, from children & teenagers to young adults & adults. This sense of belonging explains why many from a church background see the Jewish community and long to be part of that community. The Amish Community is similar in many ways.

Prior to World War I, many towns had a similar sense of Community. As more people moved to urban areas, this sense of community was lost. The 60's & 70's stressed individuality over community, resulting in the acceleration of loss of Community. This left many individuals lost and alone, with little or no support.

So, why is this longing so important, and how can we increase a sense of Community?

Community provides stability, social interaction, protection, support, a sense of belonging, and knowing how the person "fits in." The Community provides many answers to the basic questions a person needs to know: who they are and how they relate to the world. The Community also provides a high sense of worth.

For teenagers and young adults, the Community often seems restrictive. As they seek to determine their place, they often push against Community values. While this is to be expected, it is important the teen or young adult understand what the Community provides. They may choose to reject the Community short-term, but most return once they realize the allure of the world is a vapor.

So, how do we build Community?

... to be continued

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Monday, October 29, 2007

Our Relationship to the Torah - Pt 2

Our Relationship to the Torah - Pt 2

Continued from last week

So who should be Torah observant, and how Torah observant they should be? How do you personally fit into this picture? As part of a Messianic Synagogue, we will predominately come face to face with the last 4 groups, believing Gentiles - Jews. Each of these has a unique relationship to Torah. To understand, let's discuss 1 group at a time.

Believing Gentiles - previuosly we stated they are to follow significant parts of Torah. Exactly which parts, and how much is an area of serious debate. First, I think we must agree to take into account the level of light given to the individual. Second, based on 1st Yochanan 3, and Yeshua's own words, "if you love me, you'll keep my commands" there is some level of commandments that are required. Some in the Church refer to it as the "Law of Christ". This group is predominately our friends in the Sunday Church. It is not reasonable to require them to keep kosher, keep Shabbat (Friday evening, Saturday), have Mezuzah, or wear Kippa. None of these conditions are required for a relationship with G-d through Messiah. This can be verified by the ruling of the Jerusalem Council seen in Acts 15. It should be noted, we do believe G-d does reveal more to individuals as they walk with him. This seems to be addressed in verse 21 where is says "for Moshe is taught in the Synagogues each Shabbat". We believe this to mean that as Believers grow, they will learn more of G-d's commands. Thus we should never judge our brothers for not practicing as we do (nor should they judge us). Ultimately, how much of Torah G-d wants our Sunday friends to keep is an open question. We do know according to the B'rit Chadasha, all believing Gentiles are somehow grafted into Israel; ultimately it is G-d's responsibility to show the person the way through His Ruach (Breath or Spirit).

Ger Toshav (sojourners at the Gate) - this group comes along side Israel, and follow some but not all of the commands. We typically would see these persons as visitors who are beginning their walk with Messianic Judaism. Often this group expresses a deep love for Israel (the nation). Since their walk is just beginning, they are walking in unfamiliar territory, unsure where they fit in, and not sure what to do. We need to be loving and patient; there will be many questions that sometimes come across as challenges to what we practice. Most Ger Toshav will migrate towards one or other of the surrounding positions, either choosing to return to our Sunday Friends, or becoming a Ger Tzaddik. This group faces one of the most challenging tasks of determining their level of Torah Observance. Many will adopt many aspects of Jewish practice. Again, we must not judge our brothers for not practicing as we do. To this group we need to be able to explain our position, without causing offense, leaving to G-d how they ultimately practice.

Ger Tzaddik (Righteous Gentiles)
are also known as G-d fearers. This group chooses to follow all (or most) of the commands of B'nai Israel (children of Israel) except circumcision. Ger Tzaddik would keep kosher, keep Shabbat, and many other Jewish practices. These are not converts; but are following so closely to Israel, they can almost be seen as one group. This group demonstrates a love for the land of Israel, and also her people. Ger Tzaddik are very important to our Messianic Jewish Synagogue as we have a significant number of this group, and they form significant portion of the backbone of the Congregation. How much of the Torah should they follow: should they wear Tzitzit? Have Bar / Bat Mitzvah? Again, each person responds to the light G-d places on their heart. So we should help, support, teach and exhort; but never judge that person based on perceived observance.

Converts / native born Jews - are in many ways the easiest to define. Nowhere in scripture are Jews released from the special relationship to Torah assigned to our people. This special relationship applies to both native born Jews and converts. Based on the Conversion process, a Convert is not a Ger Tzaddik (Righteous Gentile) but is fully a Jew; with all rights and responsibilities. The Rabbi's in the Talmud forbid calling a convert a Ger, that still holds true today in the Conservative & Orthodox writings. This person is a son or daughter of the commands, whether they Bar/Bat Mitzvah or not. This person follows a Jewish lifestyle and is part of B'nai Israel. Within the Jewish Community there are varying standards of observance. So we need to be aware that we will not all practice the same way. The rule again is to not judge people.

Hopefully based on the above list, we can see where we each fit into the body. While we may not all agree with how we've broken this up, I sincerely hope each definition is broad enough so that all may find their current comfort level. Note we said current, for Adonai expects us to grow. Following G-d's commands are not a burden; they are a joy. We each need to seek that joy and follow Him with all our heart mind soul and strength.

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Monday, October 22, 2007

Our Relationship to the Torah

I was recently reading Messianic Congregation Leader Derek Leman's Blog (Messianic Musings - In the last several days he has been addressing the relevance of Torah to Gentiles. As I was reading his blog, I thought it worthwhile to state our view, as a Synagogue, on this important subject.

So who should be Torah observant, and how Torah observant they should be? How do you personally fit into this picture?

There are (in my opinion) 5 groups of people in the world:

* Non-believing Gentiles,
* Believing Gentiles (We refer to these as former Gentiles as they are now part of the Common Wealth of Israel per Rabbi Sha'ul),
* Ger Toshav (sojourners at the Gate),
* Ger Tzaddik (Righteous Gentiles),
* Convert / native born Jews.

Each of these groups has a ordained relationship and method of obeying the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Let's take a look at each one of these groups and try to define what level of obedience they were initially called to. Please make sure you understand, we are not talking about Yeshua's sacrifice, or forgiveness of sins; but only what defines sin and to what level is the person to walk at.

Groups of people and their required level of obedience to G-d

* Gentile non-believers - Noachide laws are the only measure they are held to.
* Believing Gentiles - Significant parts of Torah, based on the light given. This is based on 1st Yochanan 3, and Yeshua's own words, "if you love me, you'll keep my commands". Some may call this the "Law of Messiah, or Law of Christ"; either way, it relies heavily on Torah.
* Ger Toshav (sojourners at the Gate) - originally resided within Israel, and thus where subject to many of the so called "civil" commandments due to being in the land.
* Ger Tzaddik (Righteous Gentiles) - These are the G-dfearers, following all commands of B'nai Israel (children of Israel) except circumcision. These Gentiles would keep kosher, keep Shabbat, go to Synagogue (from exile on), etc.
* Converts / native born Jews - Torah is the measure (note converts take on the entire Torah).

So how does this affect you and I? As part of a Messianic Synagogue, we will predominately come face to face with the last 4 groups, believing Gentiles - Jews. Each of these has a unique relationship to Torah. To understand, let's discuss 1 group at a time. To be continued next week.

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Replacement Theology

Replacement Theology - an excerpt from a Christianity Today article titled Interview with a Pharisee-and a Christian How two believers of two faiths talk to one another with conviction and civility.

Rabbi Gavri'el

Christianity Today held an interview with Pastor R. T. Kendall and Rabbi David Rosen about their book - The Christian and the Pharisee (Warner Faith).

For 25 years, Pastor R. T. Kendall was minister of Westminster Chapel in London. He is a unique blend of the Reformed and charismatic streams of evangelicalism.

Rabbi Rosen is the former chief rabbi of Ireland and has lived in Jerusalem for the past 22 years. He represents the American Jewish Committee internationally in the area of inter-religious affairs.

This discussion shows the widely divergent views on Replacement Theology, and the damage it has done to our Traditional Jewish brothers and sisters.

Jews have traditionally been insulted by "replacement theology"-the idea that the body of Christian believers has taken the place of the Jewish people in God's covenant.

Pastor Kendall: Romans says all Israel will be saved. The olive tree in Romans 11 means you, a natural Jew. But I reject replacement theology.

Rabbi Rosen: So you're saying, that I, as a Jew, have an eternal destiny; I just at some stage have to open my eyes and be delivered from this blindness.

Pastor Kendall: I don't say that you can do it without the help of the Holy Spirit. But I hold that this blindness that is on Israel will be lifted prior to the Second Coming. Like a stack of dominoes falling all over the world, in New York and Miami Beach as in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, there will be a large-scale lifting of the blindness of Jews. It will be a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.

Rabbi Rosen: Replacement theology is a form of anti-Judaism. It says you just basically have no place-other than perhaps with Augustine's clever argument that the only reason you survive is that your humiliation and homelessness are a testimony to the truth of Christianity.

That attitude, which leads to the teaching of contempt toward the Jews and Judaism, is a direct product of replacement theology. For those that have that theological outlook, R. T.'s avenue is critically important, because it's a way to redeem themselves from the sin of anti-Judaism.

I would like Christians to [have] an attitude that is reflected more within mainline Protestantism and within the Catholic church, which is to say that there are at least two ways of articulating the covenant-and that these two are complementary. Christianity is part of God's destiny for humanity, but Jews do not have to relinquish their own particular Jewish worldview in order to be able to be part of God's design.

What is our position at CBHM?

We as Messianic Jews categorically deny Replacement Theology, considering it unscriptural and bordering on heresy!

The question of Dual or Multiple Covenant is more complex. We at CBHM do not believe there are 2 ways to G-d. Yeshua is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. However, for our traditional Jewish brothers and sisters who are counting on G-d for salvation (which is what believers count on also); we believe G-d retains His covenant with the children of Israel.

Sha'ul (Paul) himself, by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh, says "All Israel will be saved"! How this exactly will work, no one really knows, though there are many opinions. For now, hopefully it is enough to rest on G-d's promise that our people will be delivered.

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

To read the entire article from Christianity today

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ask the Rabbi - Authority

Authority - Do we follow Sha'ul (Paul), Kefa (Peter), or Yeshua

One of the greatest impediments to believers today may well be one that was addressed almost 2000 years ago. Who are we to follow?

1Co 1:12-13 I say this because one of you says, "I follow Sha'ul"; another says, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Kefa"; while still another says, "I follow the Messiah!" Has the Messiah been split in pieces? Was it Sha'ul who was put to death on a stake for you? Were you immersed into the name of Sha'ul?

The above verses make it totally clear that Sha'ul is not the Messiah, that he did not die for us. He did not claim equality with the Messiah. Quite the opposite, he referred to himself as "the least of the Emissaries (Apostles)."

Why is that important? Because today, 80-90% of all teachings in most fellowships center on Sha'ul. Derek Leman, when he accepted Messiah, did so having only read the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). Upon entering the Church, he was shocked to hear a full 90% of the teachings being from Paul.

These 13 (or 14 if your believe Messianic Jews is from Paul) letters make up less than 10% of scripture and dominate modern beliefs and thought. Very often to the exclusion of the teachings the other Emissaries.

Sha'ul calls himself the least of the Emissaries; this is not merely humility, but is in fact a true understanding of his standing and place in the Apostles. This can be verified by reviewing the selection of Matthias to replace Judas. The criteria for being on of the Emissaries was: Had been with Yochanan the Immerser, had been with Yeshua from the beginning, and had walked with him on His earthly Ministry.

As much as it may shock us, Sha'ul (Paul) did none of those things, and would not have been even considered as a replacement for Judas.

If the above is true, and it is. Why then are Sha'uls writings preferred over the other, more Senior Emissaries? When Yochanan says clearly - "1Jn 3:4 Everyone who keeps sinning is violating Torah - indeed, sin is violation of Torah. and in 1Jn 3:6 So no one who remains united with him continues sinning; everyone who does continue sinning has neither seen him nor known him" these same thoughts are echoed by all the Emissaries (including Sha'ul).

Why then do some many claim the Torah is no longer valid. Is Sha'ul right? As He himself would say, G-d forbid. It isn't Sha'ul, but people misapplying his teachings that lead us to say the Torah is obsolete.

Today, in the Jewish world, Yeshua is being more and more regarded as a good Rabbi, a good Jew. This is quite a change in perception. It is now Sha'ul (Paul) who is seen as the enemy, a self-hating Hellenistic Jew who started a new religion, Christianity.

With the current emphasis on Paul, and it's accompanying misunderstandings and teachings, is it any wonder why our Jewish Brothers & Sisters think that.

Who do we follow? Sha'ul, or the one who was sent by Adonai to die for our sins, and is the living Torah?

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

D'vorah joins B'nai Israel

Last Shabbat Rabbanit Dee Dee joined B'nai Israel (The Children of Israel) by conversion. Her Hebrew name is D'vorah Rachel bat Isra'el.

Her conversion follows an intensive period of study, declaration of faith, appearance before a Beit Din to answer questions, and was finalized in her Mikvah.

She also culminated her Bat Mitzvah studies by reading the weekly Torah portion from our new Torah.

Mazel Tov to D'vorah on this important moment in her life.

Hoshana Rabbah, Shemini Azaret & Simchat Torah a time of our rejoicing

Hoshana Rabbah, Shemini Azaret & Simchat Torah a time of our rejoicing.

Succot is the most joyous feast of the year. With Hoshana Rabbah, Shemini Azaret & Simchat Torah providing the capstone to our joy. So what is Hoshana Rabbah, Shemini Azaret & Simchat Torah?

Rosh Hashanah is the 7th day of Succot. During this celebration the four species are held and waved during processions around the Synagogue. These processions commemorate similar processions around the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem. While the procession is made, we recite "Hosha na!" (please save us!). On Hoshana Rabbah seven circuits are made. For this reason that day is known as Hoshanah Rabbah (the great Hoshanah). After the circuits on Hoshanah Rabbah, we beat the willow branches against the floor five times, shaking loose some or all of the remaining leaves. The rainy season in Israel begins in the fall, and the leaves falling from the willow branch symbolize our desire for beneficial rainfall.

Shemini Azaret means "the assembly of the eighth (day)." Our Rabbis explain the holiday as: Adonai is like a host, who invites us as visitors for a limited time, but when the time comes for us to leave, He has enjoyed himself so much that He asks us to stay another day.

Another related explanation: Sukkot is a holiday intended for all of mankind, but when Sukkot is over, the Creator invites the Jewish people to stay for an extra day, for a more intimate celebration.

Simchat Torah means "Rejoicing in the Torah." This holiday marks the completion of the yearly cycle of weekly Torah readings. Weekly we publicly read from the Torah, starting with Genesis Ch. 1 and working through to Deuteronomy 34. On Simchat Torah, we read the last Torah portion, then immediately begin again at the first chapter of Genesis, reminding us that the Torah is a circle, and never ends.

This completion of the Torah is a time of great celebration. Processions carrying the Torah scrolls around the synagogue with singing and dancing.

As many people as possible are given the honor of an aliyah (reciting a blessing over the Torah reading); in fact, even children are called for an aliyah blessing on Simchat Torah. In addition, as many people as possible are given the honor of carrying a Torah scroll in these processions. Children do not carry the scrolls (they are much too heavy!), but often follow the procession around the synagogue, sometimes carrying small toy Torahs (stuffed plush toys or paper scrolls).

"L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" (or to women, "L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi"), which means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." Rabbi Gavri'el

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Torah & Ark Arrive


Adonai has blessed our Congregation with a new Kosher Torah, Ark and Bema. This is espically exciting as Dee Dee is doing her Bat Mitzvah & Conversion to B'nai Israel this weekend. This Torah joins our Holocaust Survivor Torah and will be used for Holy Day, Conversion, and Bar / Bat Mitzvahs.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Succot and the Messianic Jewish Lifestyle

Succot and the Messianic Jewish Lifestyle.

Succot is the most joyous feast of the year. This feast remembers the 40 years in the wilderness when Adonai dwelt with His people and cared for them. It celebrates the Harvest and our Thanksgiving for all that G-d has provided. Succot also celebrates the Shekinah of G-d, Yeshua, coming to dwell with man. Finally, Succot celebrates G-d's final redemption of Man, and His coming to dwell with His people in the New Jerusalem.

As important as this Holy Day is; it is amazing that most believers in the Church will never celebrate it (during this lifetime).

What is more amazing, and frankly disturbing, is that many Messianics do not make attending Synagogue a priority during this time. If we as Messianic & Messianic Jewish Believers do not make keeping G-d's Appointed times (Mo'edim) a priority, how are we any different than other non-Messianic believers.

Keeping G-d's Mo'edim must be a priority in our walk, as it is commanded by G-d, were kept by the Master (Yeshua), were kept by His Talmidim, and are a sign of who we are.

Please pray about this and determine today to make G-d's Appointed Times a priority in our lives.

"L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" (or to women, "L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi"), which means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." Rabbi Gavri'el

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The significance of Yom Kippur.

Why is Yom Kippur so important if Messiah has already come and made the sacrifice for us?

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. It is the Shabbat of Shabbats. It was commanded to be kept forever (or until the end of the age depending on individual interpretation). It is about redemption and forgiveness.

Many non-Messianic believers think Yom Kippur has been nullified (done away with) by Messiah's sacrifice. This is not the case. Yom Kippur and the associated time of repentance (Elul and the Days of Awe) are still vibrant and meaningful events in the life of believers. As we wrote about last week (see newsletter Sept 15, 2007) repentance is still required for one to be in union with G-d. This repentance is not a one time act when a person accepts the ruler ship of G-d and His Messiah; but is continual and ongoing. 1st John chapter 3 makes this perfectly clear. Continued sin without repentance leads to death and separation from G-d.

Similarly Yom Kippur is still a totally valid Mo'ed (appointed time). Yom Kippur has many aspects which point to the sovereignty of G-d and the criticality of redemption from sin and Ha' Satan (the adversary). We will address this more fully in the Yom Kippur Synagogue teaching (if you cannot attend service, please visit after Sunday Sept 23rd to hear the teaching). Thus in Yom Kippur we see three aspects of Messiahs Ministry:

* To be the sacrificial goat to make peace with G-d (reconciliation, removing sin from between us and G-d).
* To be the scapegoat for Azazel (or Azazzel), on which the sins of the people have been placed. The scapegoat was lead outside the city to be shoved over a cliff so the sins of the people could not return.
* To be the High Priest (like King David, Messiah performs both Kingly and Priestly functions) to take the offering into the Most Holy Place to present to G-d.

As the sacrifice to G-d, most people can readily identify with this, as it is similar to Messiah being the Passover Lamb. Similarly, Messiah acting as both High Priest and King is a concept easy to grasp as it was seen in King David. It is the scapegoat for Azazel which we want to focus on for the moment.

The scapegoat is said to be for Azazel:

Lev 16:8-10 Then Aharon is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for ADONAI and the other for 'Az'azel. Aharon is to present the goat whose lot fell to ADONAI and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat whose lot fell to 'Az'azel is to be presented alive to ADONAI to be used for making atonement over it by sending it away into the desert for 'Az'azel.

Our Traditional Rabbi's usually see this word (Azazel) as being "God strengthens", or according to the Talmud (Yoma 67b) the name of a cliff over which the goat was driven in the atonement ritual for Yom Kippur. This understanding was cited by Rashi, who took "azazel" to mean "rough ground" or "cliff,". This understanding was accepted by many Rabbis who wished to avoid contamination of the Torah by belief in demons.

There is, however, another possible meaning which seems to be supported by the context of the verses above. Azazel may not be a cliff, or a reference to G-d, but a reference to a Demon (or Satan). The book of Enoch (referred to in scripture but not included in the Hebrew or Christian canon) calls Azazel a Chief fallen angel:

1 Enoch 2:8, where God says, "On the day of the great judgement he {Azazel} shall be cast into the fire. [---] The whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin."

If Azazel were to actually be a Chief Demon, or even a Ha-Satan figure, the meaning of the scapegoat would have even greater meaning than normally attributed to it bearing our sin (and by type, Messiah bearing our sin). If Azazel is a Chief Demon than the scapegoat would have actually been a blood price redemption to cancel Ha'Satan's claim on man. This theme is exactly the setting seen in the book (and movie) Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis who wrote it as part of the Narnia series. In the book, the Messiah figure Aslan, must be turned over to the Witch (Ha'Satan figure) to be killed as a Blood price to redeemed the fallen boy (figure of fallen man).

In Summary

In Yom Kippur we clearly see 3 types of Messiahs role and sacrifice: High Priest, Sin / Peace offering, and scapegoat. In the scapegoat we can witness the blood redemption for each of us. As that redemption, Messiah bought us back, as a kinsman redeemer, from Ha'Satan. Ha'Satan who had legal claim to us because of our willful sin and rebellion from G-d.

Yes - Yom Kippur still has full meaning for believers in Messiah, as our High Priest took His own Blood as a Peace Offering to G-d and redeemed us by His sacrifice from the adversary.

"L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" (or to women, "L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi"), which means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." Rabbi Gavri'el

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Yeshiva Graduation

Congratulations to Rabbi Gavri'el for completing his Masters in Messianic Theology from Yeshiva.

Messianic Jewish Rabbinic Council Halacha


I was very heartened to see the beginnings of a firm Messianic Jewish Halacha being agreed upon by the Messianic Jewish Rabbinic Council. This is badly needed and long over due.

The MJRC website url is Messianic Jewish Rabbinic Council

Our Congregation will be adopting this in large parts as our Halacha.


The Meaning of Rosh Hashanah

The Meaning of Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah (Yom Teruah) - The day of the Shofar sounding, the date we appear before the judge, the day of Messiah's return!

Rosh Hashanah was originally called Yom Teruah, the day of the Great Blast. On it we are commanded to assemble and hear the Shofar sound. The Shofar is customarily heard 30 times each at the early services, and a final 40 times at the final service, for a total of 100.

The notes sounded are:

* Tekkia - Long blast rising upward at the end
* Shavarim - sobbing sound
* Teruah - Alarm blast of 9 short notes
* Tekkia Ha'Gadol - All above blasts ending in a very long note with a final upward rise at the end

The command to hear the Shofar is directly related to two events. One Rabbinic tradition, the other firmly stated in scripture.

Rabbinic Tradition

The Rabbinic tradition says the Shofar sounds our appearing before the Judge of the world. It singles the Book of Life, The Book of Death, the Book of Words, and the Book of Deeds being open. Our fate for the coming year is then inscribed in either the Book of Life, or the Book of Death.

The 10 Days of Awe, from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, give us space to repent and seek to have our names written in the Book of Life.

Scriptural Reference

In Scripture, Rabbi Sha'ul (Paul) clearly uses the Shofar as the sign of the L-rds regathering of His people to Himself and their being removed from the world. This event is commonly referred to as the Rapture (snatching away).

A Theory, based on the wedding customs our Messiah taught about, suggests the "snatching away" will occur the same way a Bride was claimed in Yeshua's time.

As the wedding party approached to claim the unaware bride, the "Best Man" (In this case probably the Angel Gavri'el), would sound a trumpet blast, the Teruah (Alarm Blast) to alert the bride her Betrothed was near and coming for her. This fits perfectly with the parable of the 10 virgins, other parables, and parallels taught by the Master (Messiah).

As Messianic Believers, we do not need to fear this time. The Book of Death has no power over us as we are inscribed in the greatest book of all, The Lambs Book of Life. There on those pages, written in blood, are our names.

May we live our lives following G-d's Torah, inscribed in the Lambs Book of Life, ready at any moment to hear the sound of the Shofar!

May we all respond to G-D's Word with our sincere repentance and supplications during these High Holy Days..

"L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" (or to women, "L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi"), which means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." Rabbi Gavri'el

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Special Prayers and Special Offerings (Korban) for the High Holy Days

Why are Special Prayers and Special Offerings (Korban) given on the High Holy Days?

As we enter into the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Succot, it may not be clearly understood why both Special Prayers and Special Offerings (Korban) are given.

As Messianic Jewish Believers in Messiah, lets look at each of these and see how they relate to us today.

Special Prayers

As we can see from the full schedule over the next month, many additional services have been added to our normal Shabbat schedule. These services correspond directly to the additional services, sacrifices and offerings given during the High Holy Days in the Temple, as commanded by G-D.

Prayer was a key ingredient during the High Holy Days of the Temple and should still be for us today. These prayers glorify ADONAI and seek His presence amongst His people. Prayers of repentance, supplication, and intercession arise like the incense that was offered in the Temple.

The additional services will give us many opportunities to seek ADONAI's face and offer up our incense of prayer & praise. Thus we will fulfill the giving of additional prayers during this time by attending these additional services.

Special Offerings

One often mis-taught belief in Scripture was that Yeshua's death did away with all sacrifices. This comes from a very poor understanding of the difference types of sacrifices and their purpose. Only 20-25% of sacrifices were for sin; these were the ones that were directly replaced by Yeshua. The remaining sacrifices were Thanksgiving offerings, Peace offerings, etc.

It should be noted that the Apostles continued to sacrifice after Messiah was resurrected. Even Sha'ul (Paul) paid for sacrifices for a Nazarite vow in Acts 21. All text and historical sources show the Apostles still participated in Temple worship in Jerusalem.

Why would the very followers of Yeshua continue to offer sacrifice? There are several reasons: Identification with the people, fulfilling the commands of G-D, and remembering the sacrifice of Messiah. Interestingly, in the Millennium Kingdom, sacrifices are restored. Why? Identification with the people, fulfilling the commands of G-D, and remembering the sacrifice of Messiah. Thus, we see the same worship we saw historically by the first Believers in Messiah will return in the Kingdom to come.

So what does all that have to do with a Believer in Messiah today?

Quite a bit, for we are much like the early followers of the Messiah in that we worship Him in a 1st century manner as Messianic Believers (both Jew and grafted-in G-D Fearer's). But unlike then, we have no Temple, thus we cannot make animal sacrifices. Instead we bring our special offerings into His sanctuary of the synagogue. These offerings are replacing the Thanksgiving, Praise and Peace offerings made during this Holy Time.

May we all respond to G-D's Word with our sincere Special Prayer & Special Offerings for these High Holy Days.

Rabbi Gavri'el

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Purpose of Repentance, Elul, and the Days of Awe

What is the purpose of Repentance, Elul, and the Days of Awe?

As we enter this 40-day period in preparation for Yom Kippur, it may not be clear what the significance of Repentance, the month of Elul, and the Days of Awe are to a Messianic Jewish Believer in Messiah. Lets look at each of these and see how they relate to each other, and to belief in the Messiah.


Scripture says:
1Jn 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1Jn 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

Note carefully verse 9 - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

This is key to understanding our relationship to G-D. David Jeremiah in his daily commentary says, "Just like a car battery must have a alternator to recharge it, or it will soon go dead, we must have the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh), or we too will be powerless." Thus the Holy Spirit keeps recharging us to do the works and live the Faith we are given.

David Jeremiah goes on to point out that one of the main causes for a car battery to die is not the battery itself, but that the alternator is not charging it. Spiritually, our "battery" can go out if the alternator (Holy Spirit) is unable to recharge us.

What can keep the Spirit from recharging us? Unrepentant sin.

Unrepentant sin acts like a short circuit or a broken connector to G-D's power. With that short circuit, we cannot be recharged. Saying it another way, by having unconfessed sin, we are breaking fellowship with Him, and not allowing Him to work through us.

The Cure:

Looking again at verse 9 - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," we see the answer: confession and repentance. It should be noted in context that confession here includes turning away from the sin and, if possible, making it right.

So what does that have to do with Elul and the Days of Awe?

Elul is the Hebrew month preceding Rosh Hashanah; with the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur being referred to as "The Days of Awe." During this 40-day period, the shofar is sounded every morning to remind everyone to remember and confess their sins. It is a 40-day period of repentance (t'shuvah).

The Days of Awe are the final 10 days of repentance and are especially somber as we more diligently seek G-D's forgiveness, and our fellow man's forgiveness.

So what does all that have to do with a believer in Messiah?

Quite a bit, actually. Please note the passages quoted were from 1 John. Written by the Apostle Yochanan, "the one Yeshua loved," they are key to understanding how to maintain a right relationship with G-D. Please note verse 10 - "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us." The Word not being in us can mean two things: We are out of fellowship, or we are not saved. Either case is serious, with not being saved clearly being the most serious.

Thus, Elul and the Days of Awe provide a vivid, yearly reminder that we must repent and confess our sins, one to another, or the truth is not in us.

May we all heed G-D's Word and respond to it.

Rabbi Gavri'el

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Shabbat Rest

Shabbat Rest

Many people today suffer the effects of a hurried, stress filled life. This is often seen in our yearnings for simpler times and even in our nostalgia. Retro automobiles, remakes of old TV series and comic book characters all speak of our desire for a more peaceful, less hurried life.

The toll we pay for living in this fast paced society is tremendous, in terms of health issues, depression, and broken relationships.

Scripture tells us G-d wants us to have life and to have it (experience it) abundantly. So how come we are suffering so much stress, ill health, depression, and relationship issues?

The answer may surprise, and the cure certainly will.

Our fallen nature, along with many temptations of the adversary, have created an environment which breeds stress, depression and discontent.

Why you ask?

The reason is simple, if he can get us stressed out, overworked, tired, depressed, and discontent, he can keep us from hearing G-d and living the life G-d calls us to.

The Cure

We all must slow down and take a breath. We must regain the ability to hear that small still voice that G-d speaks to us with. The first step to achieving that breath is the Shabbat.

Yeshua said, "The Shabbat was made for man". We get so hung up on the second part "not man for the Shabbat" that we fail to recognize a great truth. G-d gave Shabbat as a blessing, not a curse.

That is why to observant Jews and Messianic Jews, the Shabbat is not a burden, it is a precious jewel.

Imagine, stopping one day, no TV, no running around busily from place to place, no running off to the store. Just a day to sleep late, study scripture, pray, enjoy family, and worship G-d.

I remember in my previous life, leaving worship and rushing to a restaurant to stand in line to eat. As I look back, that was not rest. Running home to cook and clean-up is certainly not rest for the one cooking and cleaning. Running children from place to place (the Mom & Dad taxi company) certainly is not rest.

I was listing to the radio driving to work Tuesday (I work by the Airport so its a good hour drive) and I believe G-d brought a very important point to my mind.

"Even the Master (Messiah) after His crucifixion rested on Shabbat"

As I thought about it, and checked it against scripture" it began to dawn on me that it was very true. Messiah kept every Shabbat of His earthly life. While many try today to say He broke Shabbat, they are sorely mistaken, for had He broken Shabbat, He would have broken Torah and thus not be the Messiah.

We know scripture states over and over Messiah went to the Synagogue on Shabbat. Scripture even notes, as He was accustomed to do. That means He did it consistently. While He did heal on Shabbat, that is not one of the 39 prohibited classes of actions forbidden on Shabbat, thus He kept Shabbat perfectly.

Now moving forward to His crucifixion, we know He died on either Thursday (our teaching) or Friday (traditional teaching) either way, before sundown. Thus He was in the tomb from the beginning of Shabbat through the end of Shabbat. With the resurrection clearly occurring sometime after dark on Saturday, or before dawn on Sunday (remember it was still dark when they found the tomb empty).

Yeshua said "It is Finished!" on the cross as He completed His work of redeeming us. He entered His rest awaiting His Glorious resurrection.

If our Master kept His Shabbat rest in both life, and in death, should we not learn from His example and strive to do the same? Remember the Shabbat was made for man, not man for the Shabbat. We should not be slaves to this world, with all it's associated stress. We should be yoked to the Master, observing His rest, and resting in His finished work.

Rabbi Gavri'el

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Our Synagogue: What is it; what should it be?

As I look back at how far ADONAI has brought us in the last 4 years, it seems appropriate to take stock of where we are as a Synagogue, and where we should be.

Where we are

It is amazing to see the changes that have occurred. Since humble beginnings doing Passovers in Churches 5-6 years ago, ADONAI now has in our own building, reaching tens of thousands on people in a single year via the internet. In those beginning years, if we where able to reach a couple hundred people, it was considered a great success. Now we reach over a hundred in just the Synagogue alone (members + visitors). Passovers account for another 400-500 people. Add to that the internet and the count jumps quickly into the thousands and tens of thousands, and that does not take into account the TV Holy Days shows. Certainly ADONAI has blessed us as Mishpachah (extended family).

The Synagogue is an accomplishment on it's own. We've grown from a Friday-only Service to meeting 4 times per week + Beit Midrash. We have the new Yeshiva with roughly 20 people going for advanced Ministry training. Our Bar / Bat Mitzvah class has more than a dozen regularly attending. Most Houses of Worship do not have their own place for 10 years. We moved into ours in 4.

Truly G-D has blessed us.

Where we should be

With all the wonderful blessings G-D has bestowed, we need to be very careful not to lose our way. The Congregation was founded on a simple premise - to make Talmidim (disciples). All Synagogues exist for three purposes: House of Study (Beit Midrash), House of Assembly (Beit Knesset), and House of Prayer (Beit Tefilah). In most cases one aspect becomes the chief focus In our case, in order to accomplish the calling of the Master (to make disciples), we focus on discipleship (study or teaching). This does not mean we ignore the other 2 functions, but it does mean study takes precedence.

Based on our current teachings, Beit Midrash, and Yeshiva, it seems reasonable to conclude we have done well at our primary focus.

We are blessed with a prayer wall, liturgy, corporate prayer time, anointing of sick, and deliverance prayers. Thus we are, I believe, not neglecting the Prayer portion of the Synagogue. Praise & Worship are also forms of prayer that fulfill this function.

A House of Assembly (Beit Knesset) is the social, family, portion of the Synagogue. It is where we love one another, help one another, and to be very blunt, overlook one another's faults. In any kind of close group, friction can develop, nerves can chaff, and tempers can flair. This is human nature. That is why our Master said, "They shall know you by your love one for another." Yeshua knew hurt feelings, tempers, and anger are all part of man's fallen sin nature (the yetzer hara). That is why He called us to be more than human, He called us to be divine. How dare I say we are to be divine? This is how: In our flesh we are human, but in our spirits we are Sons of Elohim, made in the image of ADONAI, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. When we are wronged, we are commanded to forgive. We are not to hold grudges, we are to reach out and carry the hurt. We are required by Torah to forgive. Caring and loving one another is hard. Sometimes, we are not very lovable. But Yeshua said that to love those who love us, even the tax collectors do that. No, we are called to more. We are to love even when the person is unlovable. If we have an issue with a brother (or sister) we are to go to that person in love. Sha'ul even went so far as to command that we not take each other before secular authorities, but to judge within the body. This is hard to do; but none the less, it is commanded.

As a House of Assembly is the one area we clearly need to improve. I am speaking of myself as I am guilty of these transgressions. This is very appropriate as we come to the High Holy Days. As part of Yom Kippur, I have to confess my sins to the Congregation. It seems reasonable to start now.

Hopefully we all can learn from my confession.

Rabbi Gavri'el

Monday, August 13, 2007

Plant a Tree in Israel

"I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, consider and understand, that the hand of the L-RD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it."
Isaiah 41:19

You can help to fulfill prophecy by causing the desert areas to re-bloom by planting a tree in Israel. Plant a tree to honor a special occasion or in memory of a loved one. Make a lasting legacy by observing life's milestones with the planting of a tree.

What a wonderful way to pay tribute to those occasions but also bless Israel in the process. Your tree will be planted in our own forest in Israel (Congregation Beth Ha'Mashiach & Beth Adonai are teaming up to plant an entire 1,000-tree forest)! For a donation of $25.00 per tree, which includes shipping of the certificate, a tree will be planted in Israel. We will send you a beautiful, full-color 8.5" x 11" (ready for framing) certificate.
Plant a tree in Israel

WATC 57 High Holy Day TV Schedule

G-D has granted our Congregation a great opportunity. We have been given three 1-2 hour segments during the High Holy Days to explain their meaning to our Christian Brothers and Sisters. Most Christians have little or no knowledge of G-D's prophetic calendar as told in His Feasts. This prophetic calendar is one reason G-D commanded they be kept forever.

Our schedule is: Yom Teruah - Feast of Trumpets - August 27th
Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement - Sept 19th
Succot - Feast of Tabernacles - Oct 1st

Shows air from 7-9 pm locally on Channel 57, cable, Dish network, and Direct TV. Consult your local listings for the exact channel.

Rabbi Scott will be on one hour and Rabbi Gavri'el will be on one hour. The slot (7-8 or 8-9) is not yet known.

Make sure to tune in!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Messianic Jewish Conversion?

Why Messianic Jewish Conversion?

With the recent decision to allow Messianic Jewish Conversions in our Synagogue, some people have expressed confusion as to why we are allowing this. Others believe the practice may not be allowed in Scripture or creates a "middle wall of partition" and is thus divisive.

We'd like to take a moment to discuss what conversion (to proselytize) is, and is not.

To proselytize (conversion) means to become a Jew. All traditional sects of Judaism allow conversion. As a Messianic Jewish Synagogue, allowing conversion is a natural step consistent with our direction as a Synagogue. Additionally, the MBI Yeshiva and Messianic Bureau International (which we work actively with and is the Yeshiva Rabbi Gavri'el graduated from) both allow conversions. The Messianic Alliance of Metro Atlanta has discussed the issue, with 2 of the 3 Rabbis being in agreement that conversions be allowed.

No one has to proselytize, nor do we actively encourage proselytizing. Since Scripture teaches all Believers are equal before G-D through the sacrifice of Messiah, proselytizing is not required for salvation nor a relationship to G-D (this too is consistent with traditional Synagogue teachings as the Rabbis teach non-Jews are required to only keep the Noachide commands to have Eternal Life).

Scripture clearly does not require conversion, nor does it forbid it. Common passages about the "wall of partition" and "legalism" clearly do not apply as they were about forced conversion or conversion for salvation. Timothy was ½ Jewish and was circumcised by Sha'ul. I believe we all agree that was not legalism.

Thus in a real sense, proselytizing is not a religious decision. To proselytize does not save, does not make anyone a super (higher level) Believer, or make them more holy or righteous.

So why allow a person to proselytize? Three primary reasons come to mind: Heart, Identification, and Peoplehood. Let's look at each of these individually:
1. Heart - Some Believers feel a strong heart attachment and longing to be part of the Jewish people. Their heart's desire is not only to be grafted-in (similar to G-D-fearers in Yeshua's time), but to take that final step and become a Jew.
2. Identification - Closely related to Heart, Identification is the desire to identify with and be identified as part of the Jewish People.
3. Peoplehood - Peoplehood is the desire to become part of the Jewish people and adopt their ways, history, and if necessary, persecution.

If you say these all are the same, in many ways they are. It is looking at the same desire from 3 different prospectives. These can best be characterized by Rut (Ruth) of the Scriptures. Ruth said "Your people shall be my people, and your G-D shall be my G-D."

Some common reasons people choose to proselytize are: Marriage to a Jew (existing or future), Children are Jewish, Jewish Ancestry but was not raised a Jew, and the above described hearts desire.

Since this is not a religious decision, it should in no way be considered divisive. No current leadership position in the Synagogue requires one to proselytize.

This decision is a very personal one between the person and G-D. No one should make it lightly, nor should anyone be denied the right to fulfill the desire of their heart. The conversion process follows the Conservative model and will require approximately 1 year for study including 3-4 books. The person must have been participating in Messianic Judaism for at least 1 or more full Jewish yearly cycles. The final step is an interview by the local Beit Din, circumcision (if male), and Mikvah. Traditionally a special offering is made by the Ger tzedek (proselyte, this practice comes from the Korban or special offering given in the Temple by new converts). The proselyte will then be considered fully a Jew with no distinction between being born a Jew or conversion.

Will these conversions be accepted by others? Yes and No. They will be considered as valid as Reform conversions are to Orthodox sects (which are not considered valid). To many individual Jews, and to most others, the convert will be considered Jewish. These conversions are not currently eligible to make Aliyah to Israel. In the interest of full disclosure, both the MJAA/IAMCS & UMJC do not currently perform conversions.

I'd like to close by quoting Messianic Rabbi Derek Leman's article he recently had published in the Messianic Times - "Gentiles who are not called to live as Jews should not be treated as second-class or left out of leadership positions. Neither should Gentiles like myself be forbidden to have a ceremony formalizing in the community the way we are already living."

To that I say Ahmain!

Rabbi Gavri'el

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Doesn't Yeshua declare all meats clean in Mark 7?

Doesn't Yeshua declare all meats clean in Mark 7?

This article is provided by Assoc. Rabbi Michael.

Mark 7:18-19 reads in the NASB,

And He said to them, "Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.)

This passage is one of those that I believe the NASB has gotten completely wrong. First, notice the italicized words above-this is the NASB's (and many other translations') way of telling you that theses words are completely interpolated by the translators; that is, they do not appear in the original Greek. Moreover, the word "declared" does not appear in the original Greek either; rather, the literal translation is, "because it doth not enter into his heart, but into the belly, and into the drain it doth go out, purifying all the meats" (Young's Literal Translation).

On what basis can we say that a command of Torah has been done away with when we have to interpolate a whole clause into the sentence in order to do so? That would be like someone translating Romans 6:1-2, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be that we fail to! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" No honest Biblical scholar would let such a translation stand unchallenged, let alone admit the validity of an exegesis made upon it!

Interestingly, the Complete Jewish Bible agrees with the NASB reading here, translating the end of the verse as a parenthetical, "(Thus he declared all foods ritually clean.) " Stern is clear in his translation, however that the subject is not kosher, but rather "ritual purity as taught by the Oral Torah in relation to n'tiat-yadayim"-that is, ritual hand-washing, per vv. 2-4-"not kashrut at all!"[7] Since the subject of whether kosher had been annulled never even comes up, we perform eisegesis (reading our own opinions back into the text) not exegesis when we use this verse as justification for rejecting kosher.

Stern summarizes Yeshua's intent as follows:

Yeshua is continuing his discussion of spiritual prioritizing (v. 11&N). He teaches that tohar (purity) is not primarily ritual or physical, but spiritual (vv. 14-23). On this ground he does not entirely overrule the Pharisaic/rabbinic elaborations of the laws of purity, but he does demote them to subsidiary importance. . . Yeshua here is making Messianic halakha.

This interpretation follows Matthew's rendering of the conclusion, which is to say that "to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man" (Mat. 15:20).

Why then does Stern follow the practice of interpolating "Thus he declared" into the text? He writes that he believes the "one meaning this passage can have" is that "it is Mark's halakhic summary of Yeshua's remarks." He admits, however, that many hold to the interpretation that we favor here. I would argue that our interpretation holds more firmly to the text.

Some may object that I have thus far cited only one Messianic commentator. Such people would be surprised to learn that many Christian commentators have come to similar conclusions:

The word "purging," here, means to purify, to cleanse. What is thrown out of the body is the innutritious part of the food taken into the stomach, and leaving only that which is proper for the support of life; and it cannot, therefore, defile the soul.[8]

and goeth into the draught; בית הכסא, "the private house", as the Jews call it, without going into the heart at all:

purging all meats; that which it leaves behind, is pure and nourishing; and whatever is gross and impure, is carried with it into the draught, so that nothing remains in the man that is defiling.[9]

Now, the meats are all purged out of your body; they don't defile you in a spiritual sense. And of course, we're talking about ceremonial washing. The meat that you eat doesn't defile you. Now, it can make you sick or it can do things, but spiritually it doesn't defile you. There's no spiritual defilement in it, because it passes through your body.[10]

Note that none of the above commentators remark at all on kosher, but understand that the passage is dealing with "ceremonial washing." Indeed, some Christian commentators utterly refute the idea that this passage abrogates kosher:

Of course, Jesus did not mean at this time to abrogate the Mosaic law of legal uncleanness. These uncleannesses worked no spiritual defilement, but were merely typical of such; for the food in no way touched or affected the mind or soul, the fountains of spiritual life, but only the corporeal organs, which have no moral susceptibility. The Pharisees had erred in confusing legal and spiritual defilement, and had added error to error by multiplying the causes of defilement in their tradition. By thus showing that legal defilement was merely symbolic, Jesus classed it with all the other symbolism which was to be done away with when the gospel reality was fully ushered in (Col. 2:16-17). In saying, therefore, that Jesus made all meats clean, Mark does not mean that Jesus then and there repealed the law.[11]

To be sure, there are also many commentaries that do see in this passage the end to the kosher laws. However, given the universal (among Christians) belief that kosher is no longer valid, it is surprising to find so many sources failing to find their justification here. Indeed, seeking to find justification for an end to kosher puts Yeshua in the role of having a double-standard, as Fisher explains:

Many have interpreted the next section, Mark 7:17-19, to mean that Yeshua set aside the food laws. But by doing so he would have contradicted himself. His detractors had just accused him of not observing their traditions, and he had responded that they did far worse; they did not observe the commandments of the Torah (vv. 9-13). To choose this time to set aside other commandments of the Torah would have undercut his whole response. It would have left him open to the charge they made, and which he implicitly denied. It would also have shown him to be inconsistent.[12]

It also would have left Him subject to a charge of being a false prophet, based on Deu. 12:32-13:5 (see here). Indeed, if He had been teaching His disciples not to keep any part of the Torah, His enemies could hardly have missed the opportunity to bring that up at His trial! It would have negated the whole need for false witnesses!

So then, we return to the following key facts about this passage:

1. There is little to no justification for interpolating in the words, "Thus He declared" into v. 19.
2. Regardless of the translation one prefers, the subject of whether non-kosher meats, like pork, were now allowed never even came up.
3. Even many Christian commentators admit that there is no justification for overturning kosher in this passage.
4. The anti-Torah interpretation makes Messiah out to be double-minded, castigating the Pharisees for annulling a direct commandment of Torah by their tradition in one breath, and annulling a direct commandment of Torah Himself in the very next!


The command to discern between the clean and the unclean meats is a direct commandment of Scripture (Lev. 11:47). Against this very clear commandment, Christian commentators have three passages which are propertied negate it; Romans 14, Acts 10, and Mark 7. Romans 14, we have proven elsewhere, does not refer to kosher, and neither does Mark 7. The vision of Acts 10 uses non-kosher meats as a symbol of the Gentiles, to prepare Peter to accept Cornelius and his house as full brothers in the L-rd, as Peter himself interpreted it. Where then do we find any Scripture which negates the Torah on this matter?

Nowhere. The simple fact is that while one can make a case that Gentile believers are not required to keep kosher from the Torah itself (as explained at the beginning of this article), there is nowhere in Scripture that either releases Jewish believers from the command or which discourages Gentiles from joining them in keeping it, provided they do so with the right heart.

Shalom - Rabbi Gavri'el
To read the complete article and footnotes, click here!