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