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!