Thursday, April 26, 2007

How did Judaism, Messianic Judaism and Christianity split? Pt.1

One of the most challenging issues of our time is how Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity drifted so far apart. How did the split occur? This week we will address the split with Judaism.

Most Rabbi's, Scholars, & Pastors would agree that all three began with the same root: namely with the Patriarchs and the G-D of Abraham, Issac & Jacob.

From this beginning, all three branches move forward to Moses and Mt. Horev. All agree on Moses and the giving of the Torah to Isra'el.

Next came the Prophets, then Kings, captivity, and finally the silent years (no recorded Prophets, but definitely not silent for these 400 years). During the silent years, Isra'el saw Alexander, revolted against Antiochus, and were occupied by Rome.

During these silent years, Judaism begin to split into several factions: Sadducees (Priests who followed only the Torah), Pharisees who followed Torah, Oral Torah, and the other writtings of the Tanakh (1st Testament), Zealots who mainly wanted freedom from Rome, Essenes who believed the entire Temple Priesthood was corrupt, and other smaller groups.

Splits even developed between Pharisees, with some following the teachings of Rabbi Hallel, and others following Rabbi Shammai. Additional splits occurred geographically between Jerusalem and the Galilee.

Into this mix, we must add a high expectation for the coming of a deliverer - Messiah! The deliverer would throw off Roman occupation and restore righteousness to the House of Israel.

About 5 BCE, in a small town outside of Jerusalem, a young women gave birth to a small child. This seemingly insignificant child would shape the history of all mankind.

The life of Messiah is well documented in the Gospel accounts, and is referenced in both Roman writing and the Talmud. This Child, Who grew up into a Man, Who was crucified by the Romans for crimes He did not commit, created the beginnings of the split.

The first split occurred gradually between 29 CE (AD) and 135 AD. At issue were three key points: the resurrection, the Messiahship, and the divine nature of Yeshua Ha'Nazret (of Nazareth).

The early followers were all Jews, numbering in the 10's of thousands. While some isolated persecution existed, for the most part they continued to live within Jewish society, worshiped in the Synagogues, and even made sacrifices in the Temple. These believers lived a fully Jewish lifestyle.

Several events began to widen the rift: the influx of Gentiles into Messianic Judaism (belief in Messiah), the teachings of Rabbi Sha'ul (Paul) and the First Jewish Revolt.

The influx of Gentiles brought up the issue of whether Gentiles had to proselytize to Judaism to be saved, including circumcision.

The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 set-up 4 minimal conditions for fellowship with believing Gentiles (no fornication, no eating things strangled, no eating blood, and no idolatry). They then expected the new believers to go into the Synagogue and learn the Torah (see verse 21). By not requiring formal conversion (including circumcision), it became much easier for Gentiles to join into Messianic Judaism. This led to a rapid expansion of believing Gentiles and resulted in many Jews becoming increasingly uncomfortable with these new uncircumcised believers.

Rabbi Sha'ul's teachings came about during this critical time. His writings were very favorable toward Gentile converts, and He defended their not having to be circumcised to be saved. His writings were interpreted by some as being against Torah observance. This cannot be the case as we see in Acts 21 where Sha'ul goes to Jerusalem where he is accused of telling Jews not to be circumcised, a charge that is fully denied. Sha'ul then goes to the Temple to complete a Nazarite vow, which includes sacrifice. To this day, many Jews have a favorable opinion of Yeshua, but see Sha'ul as starting a new religion called "Christianity"

The revolt against Rome in 68-70 CE resulted in the split widening more. Having been warned by the Messiah to leave Jerusalem when they saw armies camped about it, the Messianic believers (through a great miracle) literally walked out of Jerusalem. This led the Zealots, and many other Jews to label them as traitors (even though the Pharisees actually survived by Rabbi Yochanan escaping Jerusalem disguised as a dead man).

The split between Judaism & Messianic Judaism worsened with the Council of Yavneh and the Bar Koshba (Bar Kochba) revolt.

In 90 CE, the Council of Yavneh altered the Amidah (18 benedictions) to include a 19th benediction against Heretics. This benediction when recited would result in a believer issuing a curse against themselves and other believers.

The Bar Kochba revolt of 135 CE placed the label of traitor on all Jews who believe in Messiah. The initial revolt met with some success. When Rabbi Akiva named Bar Koshba (son of a liar, changed to Bar Kochba, son of a star) Messiah, believers in Yeshua could no longer fight for him. Thus, they were labeled traitors for not following a false Messiah.

The final split occurred not because of the debate between Judaism and Messianic Judaism, but due to the new emergent Gentile-controlled Church. Calling themselves Christians (Greek for followers of the anointed one or little anointed ones), the Church issued a series of council decisions that forbade all Jewish observances (we will discuss more in part 2 next week). This lead traditional Judaism to reject all ties to belief in Messiah Yeshua, labeling it a new, non-monotheistic religion (this view is no longer held by most Jews).

Next week we will address how Messianic Judaism and it's Jewish root became separated from the Church.

Shalom - Rabbi Gavri'el

Planned Itinerary to Israel Tour 2008

Our planned Itinerary to Israel has now been largely determined. The plan is:

Day 1: Depart US from Atlanta by air.

Day 2: Arrive Israel - One night in the coastal area near Tel Aviv.

Day 3: Caesarea, Megiddo & Nazareth - Overnight lodging for the next two nights in the Tiberias area on the Sea of Galilee.

Day 4: Capernaum, Dan, Caesarea Philippi & Mount of Beatitudes.

Day 5: Jordan River Baptism Site, Beth Shean & Dead Sea - Our lodging for the evening is at the Dead Sea - the lowest place on earth. Spend time in the special spa and enjoy a dip in the Dead Sea for a relaxing float before dinner.

Day 6: Masada, Ein Gedi, Dead Sea Scrolls, John the Baptist's Cave - We arrive in Jerusalem late this afternoon and check in to our hotel which will be our lodging for the next four nights.

Day 7: Around Jerusalem, Bible Times, and the Holocaust Museum - In the afternoon we will enjoy a detailed tour of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, were we will be reminded of what the Jews have suffered as a people.

Day 8: Yeshua' Steps, the Last Days, Messianic Lecture - We will visit the Wailing Wall and then the fascinating Rabbinical Tunnels leading us through the Second Temple era. The tunnel and exhibit give a clear understanding of the amazing construction of the Temple Mount, giant stones, water supply and Roman street where our L-RD was led to judgment. Before exiting the tunnel we see the immense cornerstone rejected by the builders.

Day 9: Way of Suffering, Garden Tomb, Pentecost - We will have a free afternoon for our leisure to shop or explore Jerusalem on our own.

Day 10: Home - very early morning departure for the Tel Aviv Airport for our flight homeward will allow for arrival home by early afternoon.

Egypt Extension
(the Egypt extension is $400 and requires 10 people)

Day 10: Red Sea & Mt. Sinai - Depart Jerusalem and travel to the Red Sea and retrace the route of the Exodus.

Day 11: Mt. Sinai (traditional), Suez Canal, Cairo - Arrive in Cairo, our place of lodging for the next two nights.

Day 12: Cairo - Pyramids and Museum - An entire day of exploring the ancient treasures of Egypt including: the pyramids, Sphinx and Egyptian Museum.

Day 13: Homeward early today we depart Cairo Airport for our flight home.

If you are interested in the life changing trip, please email Rabbi Gavri'el at

Israel Tour 2008

Isra'el Trip March - April, 2008!
Wailing wall

We have exciting news, next March-April, (2008) we will be leading a Messianic Tour to the Holy Land. This tour will last for 10 incredible days and will include 8 days in the Land of Promise.

Imagine touching the pavement where our Master walked, sitting on the steps our Master climbed, or riding a boat on the sea of Galilee.

We will visit Galilee, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Qumran, and the Dead Sea. Each day we will have teachings at special locations and nightly we will have a short time of teaching and fellowship as we reflect on the days events.

Current costs are expected to only be around $2,400-$2,500 each, which includes all airfare from Atlanta, 4 star hotels, private transportation, visas, admission to all sites, tour guide, and 2 meals per day. The only additional expenses you will be responsible for are: your passport (if you don't already have one), 1 lunch per day (less than $10), $6 in tips per person per day for the driver, guide, hotel, etc. and any items you purchase. Congregational Members will receive a special member discount for this trip, see Rabbi or Rebbitzen for details. A small deposit ($100 per person) will need to be collected within the next 4 weeks (by April 30th) to reserve your spot. For those needing a passport, you will need to apply for this within the next month or two. We will provide assistance with paperwork as needed. In September we will need to collect an additional deposit. This trip requires a minimum 15 persons to make the above price.

Special Egypt Extension:
(the Egypt extension is $400 and requires 10 people)

Stay 3 more days and travel to Egypt. You will cross the Sinai, go through the Suez Canal, and end in Cairo where you will see the pyramids and the Egyptian Museum. (See above for more details)

This is truly an event of a Lifetime, and will make the Scriptures come alive like nothing else can.

Why a Messianic tour vs a Church tour?
Simply this, we will bypass, or spend little time at the "traditional" locations such as the Via Dela Rosa and Church of the Holy Sepulcher, instead spending the majority of our time at the locations of the events seen in Scripture. All teaching will be from a Messianic prospective and will emphasis the cultural and historical context of the events as they unfolded in our Messiah's earthly ministry.

We currently have 24 people who have expressed a strong desire to go. Let us know if you would like to be part of this opportunity of a lifetime.
Holy Land Tour Information & Itinerary

Jonathan Settel - Live May 18th

Congregation Beth Ha'Mashiach is blessed to be able to host one of the most renowned Messianic music artists in modern history. On May 18th, Jonathan will lead our Erev Shabbat Worship service

Jonathan's vocal style are truly a blessing from the L-RD. His deep baritone voice, along with a rich tonality make each note a treasure, leaving the listener wanting to hear more and more. Jonathan also has an unusually wide vocal range as well, not found in most baritone voices.

Please call or email to RSVP your seat at this wonderful occasion. We expect a full house and a Special Offering (apart from the normal Congregational First Fruits Offering) will be taken up for Jonathan.

Jonathan will lead us in an extended Praise & Worship time. Normal Liturgy and teaching will also take place.

His recent releases include:
I Believe
Kol Ba'Midbar
Arise and have Mercy

Plan to bring friends to this wonderful time of Praise & Worship! Don't forget to RSVP. Those with RSVP's will be given first choice of seating. In the event we exceed the facilities allowable seating (per the Fire Marshal), those not having a RSVP will not be able to participate in the event.

Under no circumstances will people be allowed to attend only the praise & worship portion of the service. Please make sure all guests you invite are aware of this.

This is not a concert, but part of our weekly Erev Shabbat service. Persons wishing only to participate in the Praise & Worship are not showing proper respect for ADONAI's word.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Is your blood redder?"

Is there still value in understanding Jewish Religious rulings like ""Is your blood redder?"

Often those coming from a Church background view the ancient Rabbis as old men, who rejected the Messiah, and thus have no value for believers?

To say this view is disrespectful, if not downright prideful, is a gross understatement. Jewish Law, when viewed correctly and with understanding, has tremendous value for today. This value is not only for Jews, but for all followers of the G-D of Israel.

How so you ask? We will be looking at some of these legal rulings based on Torah to see how consistent they are with the Masters teachings, and how we can learn from them.

"Is your blood redder?" is our topic of discussion for this week.

What does "Is your blood redder?" address: valuing oneself over others. An example: you are running late, and jump in front of other cars waiting to go onto the interstate. What we have done in the above case is to say that we are more valuable than the people in the cars we jumped in front of.

Another example is from the Holocaust: A father had a teenager son who was rounded up along with 1399 other teenagers to be murdered by the Nazi's. The father went to the rabbi in the concentration camp and told him he had diamonds hidden with which he could bribe a guard to free the boy. The only problem was that another boy would be then arrested to make-up for the missing one.

What would you tell the man? Save your son? But that would result in another being killed in his place. The rabbi did not answer. By that the man determined the truth, to save his son, at the cost of another, would be wrong.

These examples point out the value of the Jewish concept "Is your blood redder?" Valuing one over another is not our right. This plays heavily in the thought process of whether it is right for the many to sacrifice the few.

From a Messianic prospective, this has some worthwhile parallels and points to consider.

Yeshua said, "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first." He also said to be great one must be a servant. Is this the same ruling as "Is your blood redder?" Does "Is your blood redder?" not help us understand Yeshua's saying about laying our life down for a friend? I believe it does.

It is interesting to note, Caiaphas said, "It is better for one man to die (speaking of Yeshua), than the whole nation." When he spoke, it was himself and the other Roman appointed priests he was worried about. In his comment, we see the exact opposite of the point of "Is your blood redder?" In effect, Caiaphas was saying his blood was worth move than the Messiah's.

Next time we are tempted to think better of ourselves than others, ask ourself this question "Is my blood redder?" I think we all know the answer!

Shalom - Rabbi Gavri'el

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ask the Rabbi - Bar & Bat Mitzvah

What is Bar & Bat Mitzvah?

"Bar Mitzvah" literally means "son of the commandment." "Bar" is "son" in Aramaic. "Mitzvah" is "commandment" in both Hebrew and Aramaic. "Bat" is daughter in Hebrew and Aramaic. Technically, the term refers to the child who is coming of age, and it is more correct to refer to someone as "becoming a bar (or bat) mitzvah." However, the term is commonly used to refer to the ceremony itself, and you are more likely to hear that someone is "having a bar mitzvah."

Under Jewish law, children are not obligated to observe the commandments, although they are encouraged to do so as much as possible to learn the obligations they will have as adults. At the age of 13 (12 for girls), children become obligated to observe the commandments. The bar mitzvah ceremony formally marks the assumption of that obligation, along with the corresponding right to take part in leading religious services, to count in a minyan (the minimum number of people needed to perform certain parts of religious services), to form binding contracts, to testify before religious courts and to marry.

A Jewish boy automatically becomes a bar mitzvah upon reaching the age of 13 years, and a girl upon reaching the age of 12 years. No ceremony is needed to confer these rights and obligations. The popular bar mitzvah ceremony is not required, and does not fulfill any commandment. It is certainly not necessary to have a bar mitzvah in order to be considered a Jew! The bar or bat mitzvah is a relatively modern innovation, not mentioned in the Scriptures nor is it recorded in the Talmud, and the elaborate ceremonies and receptions that are commonplace today were unheard of as recently as a century ago.

In its earliest and most basic form, a bar mitzvah is the celebrant's first aliyah. During Shabbat services on a Saturday shortly after the child's 13th birthday, the celebrant is called up to the Torah to recite a blessing over the weekly reading.

Today, it is common practice for the bar mitzvah celebrant to do much more than just say the blessing. It is most common for the celebrant to learn the entire haftarah portion, including its traditional chant, and recite that. In some congregations, the celebrant reads the entire weekly Torah portion, or leads part of the service, or leads the congregation in certain important prayers. The celebrant is also generally required to make a speech, which traditionally begins with the phrase "Today I am a man." The father traditionally recites a blessing thanking G-D for removing the burden of being responsible for the son's sins (because now the child is old enough to be held responsible for himself).

In modern times, the religious service is followed by a reception (given by the celebrant's parents) that is often as elaborate as a wedding reception.


One of the most common questions is: do you give gifts at a bar or bat mitvah, and if so, what kind of gifts? Yes, gifts are commonly given. They are ordinarily given at the reception, not at the service itself. The bar mitzvah is incorporated into an ordinary Sabbath service, and many of the people present at the service may not be involved in the bar mitzvah.

When in doubt, it never hurts to ask the parents or the Synagogue's rabbi what is customary within the community.

Shalom - Rabbi Gavri'el

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Ask the Rabbi - The evil tongue!

What is La Shona Hara and why is it forbidden?

Followers of Messiah must be intensely aware of the power of speech and of the harm that can be done through speech. It should be noted that the universe itself was created through speech.

The Talmud tells that the tongue is an instrument so dangerous that it must be kept hidden from view, behind two protective walls (the mouth and teeth) to prevent its misuse. The harm done by speech is even worse than the harm done by stealing or by cheating someone financially: money lost can be repaid, but the harm done by speech can never be repaired. For this reason, some sources indicate that there is no forgiveness for lashon ha-ra (disparaging speech). While we do not agree with that point of view, it illustrates the seriousness of improper speech.

An ancient tale that vividly illustrates the danger of improper speech: A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the rabbi. Later, he realized the wrong he had done, and began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything he could to make amends. The rabbi told the man, "Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds." The man thought this was a strange request, but it was a simple enough task, and he did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, "Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers."

Speech has been compared to an arrow: once the words are released, like an arrow, they cannot be recalled, the harm they do cannot be stopped, and the harm they do cannot always be predicted, for words like arrows often go astray.

There are two mitzvot in the Torah that specifically address improper speech:You shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among your people (Lev. 19:16), and you shall not wrong one another (Lev. 25:17, which according to tradition refers to wronging a person with speech).

Tale-bearing is, essentially, any gossip. The Hebrew word for tale-bearer is related to a word meaning trader or merchant. The idea is that a tale-bearer is like a merchant, but he deals in information instead of goods.

The person who listens to gossip is even worse than the person who tells it, because no harm could be done by gossip if no one listened to it. It has been said that lashon ha-ra (disparaging speech) kills three: the person who speaks it, the person who hears it, and the person about whom it is told. (Talmud Arachin 15b).

In Jewish law, all things are considered to be secret unless a person specifically says otherwise. For this reason, you will note that in the Torah, G-d constantly says to Moses, "Speak to the Children of Israel, saying:" or "Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them:" If G-d did not specifically say this to Moses, Moses would be forbidden to repeat his words! Nor is there any time-limit on secrets. The Talmud tells the story of a student who revealed a secret after 22 years, and was immediately banished from the house of study!

The gravest of these sins of tale-bearing is lashon ha-ra (literally, "the evil tongue"), which involves discrediting a person or saying negative things about a person, even if those negative things are true. Indeed, true statements are even more damaging than false ones, because you can't defend yourself by disproving the negative statement! Some sources indicate that lashon ha-ra is equal in seriousness to murder, idol worship, and incest and adultery (the only three sins that you may not violate even to save a life).

It is forbidden to even imply or suggest negative things about a person. It is forbidden to say negative things about a person, even in jest.

One who tells disparaging things that are false is referred to as a motzi sheim ra, that is, one who spreads a bad report. This person is considered to be the lowest of the low.

It is generally not a sin to repeat things that have been told "in the presence of three persons." The idea is that if it is told in the presence of three persons, it is already public knowledge, and no harm can come of retelling it. However, even in this case, you should not repeat it if you know you will be spreading the gossip further.

When Tale-Bearing is Allowed

There are a few exceptional circumstances when tale-bearing is allowed, or even required. Most notably, tale-bearing is required in a court of law, because it is a mitzvah to give testimony and that mitzvah overrides the general prohibition against tale-bearing. Thus, a person is required to reveal information, even if it is something that was explicitly told in confidence, even if it will harm a person, in a court of law.

A person is also required to reveal information to protect a person from immediate, serious harm. For example, if a person hears that others are plotting to kill someone, he is required to reveal this information. That is another reason why the commandment not to go about as a tale-bearer is juxtaposed with "you shall not stand aside while your fellow's blood is shed."

Wronging a Person through Speech

Leviticus 25:17 says, "You shall not wrong one another." This has traditionally been interpreted as wronging a person with speech. It includes any statement that will embarrass, insult or deceive a person, or cause a person emotional pain or distress.

As you can see, Torah is very clear about improper speech. Many people and Congreagtions have been damaged by persons commiting La Shona Hara. We need to guard our tongue carefully, and if we see a brother committing La Shona Hara, we need to confront them, in love.

Shalom - Rabbi Gavri'el

Passover was a huge success.

Thanks to many of you the Passover was a huge success. Thanks to all who helped out. We had 130 people, making it our largest Family Passover ever.

Combined with the TV outreach and other passover seders planned, the Congregation will be reaching over 450-500 people physically and up to 1 million electronically.

Praise Adonai, for He alone does great things!