Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Yetzar Hara & Original Sin

Yetzar Hara & Original Sin

The Yetzar Hara is defined on Wikipedia as: Yetzer hara (Hebrew for "evil inclination") refers to the inclination to do evil, by violating the will of God. The yetzer hara is identified with Satan.

Hebrew4Christians.com defines Yetzer Hara as:
The yetzer hara represents the inner impulse or tendency within the human heart to gravitate toward selfish gratification (the word yetzer first appears in Genesis 6:5 where the wickedness of man is described as "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually"). The yetzer hatov, on the other hand, represents the inner impulse to do good.

Yetzer is also used in Scripture to refer to something formed or shaped, like pottery fashioned by the hand of a potter. Just as a potter purposes a shape in his or her mind before forming an object, so that which is intended within the mind will shape or form our character and disposition, especially with regard to our relationship with God.

The following prayer appeals to the LORD to help us love His Torah and His mitzvot and also to keep us from the power of the evil inclination within us that pushes us into sin, pride, perversity, temptation, and shame:
Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the universe, who removes sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids. May it be Your will, LORD our God and God of our fathers to accustom us to Your Torah and attach us to Your mitzvot. And do not lead us into the hands of sin, nor into the hands of pride or perversity, not into the hands of temptation, nor into the hands of shame, and do not let the evil inclination rule over us.

The Yetzer Hara has many striking characteristics that identify it with the evil desires of the heart that Yeshua taught about and to Rabbi Sha'uls teachings about the flesh (It is from these teachings that Gnostics who claim to follow Messiah, believe physical is evil). Let's ask a key question, is the Yetzer Hara what the Church now calls "original sin". When studying the Masters words, the concept of the Yetzer Hara appears to be the same as the flesh, or our fleshly desires. This corresponds with the Jewish concept of the Yetzer Hara.

So what did we actually inherit from Adam? Was it sin? If so that seems to violate the statement that the punishment for sin of the fathers is limited to the 3-4 generation (Adam was many more generations before Yeshua). Another explanation then seems to be in order. What was inherited was not the sin or punishment of sin (Original Sin); but the propensity (predisposition) to sin (rebel against G-d and seek our own will). This corresponds exactly with Sha'uls (Paul's) writings about overcoming the flesh! So thus we are not condemned because of Adam's sin: we are predisposed to seek our own way, not G-d's, which is sin.

The Yetzer Hara is opposed by the Yetzer HaTov (The good inclination). We will address the Yetzer HaTov more at a later date. This duality is seen well in children, as they will lie and do what they know is wrong; without being taught. It is only by teaching what is right that they learn to control themselves and not do wrong.

In Summary

What the Messiah's sacrifice did for us is it provided the sacrifice required for the sin offering; reconciling us to G-d. His sacrifice cleared the rebellion between us and G-d; He gave us a fresh start. Further His sacrifice provided a High Priest to make intercession for us in Heaven (see Messianic Jews). With His accession to G-d, the Ruach HaKodesh then was sent to us to give us the Torah on our hearts and the ability to rule over & overcome the Yetzer Hara. Messiah paid the penalty for sin; we are now responsible to live a life pleasing to G-d by walking in Holiness.

Blessings Rabbi Gavri'el

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Messianic Lifestyle - Prayer Pt. 3

Messianic Lifestyle - Prayer Pt. 3

How should our prayer be different as Messianics?

Prayer and Praise should be central in the life of any believer. Yet research shows this is not the case. The average Christian prays 30 seconds per day; the average Pastor prays 60 seconds. With a pray life that anemic, is it any wonder many believers lack power and a sense of G-d in their lives.

Prayer involves not only uttering words; but preparation , praise, and an intimate communication with Adonai. Let's look into the elements of Prayer.


Many from a Church background look with misunderstanding, and sometimes even contempt at the preparation involved in Jewish Prayer. There is little understanding as to why these prayers are said each day, often several times. Why the hand washing, the Tallit (Prayer shaw), and the Tefillin (bindings on head and arm). The fact that prayers are said often in Hebrew, and that they are formal written prayers leads to charges of legalism.

This unfortunate reaction is caused by lack of understanding. Prayers can be said in English, Russian, Hebrew, or any other language. Yet Hebrew is preferred due to 2 important factors: Most Jews regardless of country of residence, know the prayers in Hebrew, and the scripture most of the prayers quote or are derived from where written in Hebrew (G-d gave the scriptures (Tanakh) in Hebrew). Hebrew is also a common tie that binds the Community together (see Community below).

The Tallit and Tefillin server a distinct purpose in prayer. The act of putting them on places a person in an attitude of prayer. The steps involved are all scripturally based and in all likelihood the Messiah wore both Tallit & Tefillin. This emulation of the Messiah, and the purposeful preparation to approach El-Ohim helps a person focus on the importance of prayer, and of approaching the King of the Universe. We sometimes spend so much time thinking of G-d as "Daddy", that we forget He is King. When Yosef (Joseph) went from prison to Pharaoh did he not stop to bath and prepare to go before him? Should we respect G-d less than Pharaoh?

Additionally there are many prayers and Psalms readings that are preparation for saying the greatest of all prayers the Amidah & Shema. As there are also prayers in preparation for reading the Torah. These have been added as time has passed to prepare a person to step closer and closer to Adonai's presence in Prayer.

Perpetration to go into G-d's presence should not be confused with legalism. Preparation is a sign of tremendous respect for our Creator G-d and His Messiah.


The fixed pattern of prayer also has many confused. Yet this fixed pattern has many opportunities for individual expression and petitions. One primary goal of a fixed pattern is that it provides the basis to begin the communication with G-d. Think about it, how many times have we said, "I don't know how to pray", or "I don't know what to pray". A fixed pattern gets the prayer moving in the desired direction and opens the communication path. It also servers to cover all aspects of prayer. Many pray "G-d give me this, or do that", is that the proper attitude before our Creator? He knows our needs, and will supply them. Prayer is not asking for things, it is communication, praise, and fellowship with G-d.

One often cited complaint in fixed prayer is not "spiritual", or somehow less than spontaneous prayer? Really? Then why did Yeshua's Talmidim ask Him to teach them to pray? What was His response, a liturgical fixed prayer "Our Father who art in Heaven, Holy is your name". If fixed prayer was the model the Master used, it should be good for us also.


Jewish & Messianic Jewish Prayer incorporates both private and public prayer. Many prayers are designed to pray alone, but the majority are meant for community prayer. Community, like family, is taught, nurtured and strived for in the Jewish & Messianic Jewish faith. That is why most prayers are in the plural using our Father, our King; not singular my Father, My King.

Many prayers can only be recited aloud if 10 adults (bar Mitzvah age or older) are present. So why is this minyan (10) required (opening the Torah for reading out load at the Synagogue also requires 10 people)? The answer is simple; 10 represents a community of believers in the one true G-d. Many might be surprised that we actually count to make sure we have 10 on Friday nights (if a small crowd) in order to pray the Amidah. Is this legalism? No it is community!

Object of Prayer

This should be self-evident, but in fact it may cause some discomfort to people. Please consider these word's fully and verify if what is being said is true.

We should pray to Adonai in Yeshua's name, not to Yeshua. Yeshua Himself said to pray to the Father. All examples in scripture show praying to Adonai (the Father). Praying to Yeshua is not taught in scripture.

Yeshua made it clear, He came at the Fathers command, and did and said what the Father instructed. Yeshua totally submitted Himself to the Father. We should be very careful to follow His lead. Yeshua is part of G-d, He is not greater than the Father.

So, in summary, Messianic prayers leave room for spontaneous prayers, ; but are built around a liturgy that is 100's or 1000's of years old. Many of these prayers Yeshua said in the Synagogue and heard in the Temple. They are based fully on scripture and serve to encompass both praise and prayer to our El-Ohim. They encourage preparation to approach the King and involve not only the person but the entire community.

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Messianic Lifestyle - Holiness Pt. 2

Messianic Lifestyle - Holiness Pt. 2

What characterizes our beliefs as Messianics?

Our lifestyle should glorify G-d by how we speak and act. This should touch all parts of our life, not just when we are in the Synagogue. Let's examine several areas of life in which we, as Messianic Jews & Hebrews, should take great care in letting His light shine in us:

In The Home

The home is a "mini temple" of G-d. Our homes should reflect our beliefs, and honor G-d. What about our homes should speak of G-d? Just about everything can speak about our relationship to Him. From the Mezzuzah, when we walk into the house, to the decorations. One key part we need to strive for is Shalom in the house (not just watching Shalom in the Home TV series). Our homes should be refuges of peace and tranquility. Today, most parents are so stressed out working, running children to and fro, and other activities that the home is not at rest.

We need to slow down, remove clutter in our lives, and stop being a virtual taxi running to and fro. The table is considered a type of alter, not of sacrifice; but of consecration to G-d, where the family gathers together to eat, talk, and fellowship. Is the TV on non-stop? TV has become an idol to many. Constant noise drowns out the still quiet voice of G-d speaking through our spirit. Turn the TV off, and rest in G-d.

We need to ask ourselves this question, if a visitor comes into our house, will they see or precieve anything different about us? Do our beliefs show through in our home?

In our words

Scripture likens the tongue to a sword, for it can cut, maim and kill. It likens it to a rudder on a great ship, where it steers the ship, even though it is very small. Our sages teach us the tongue is to be guarded; that is why we have two gates, the teeth and the lips, to control when it is allowed to speak. Many a marriage has ended due to the inability of one or both partners being unable to control their tongue.

LaShon Hara - the evil tongue, is a concept we need to understand and follow. Speech can hurt. Repeating information about someone "gossip" is a sin. Gossiping and trying to cover it by saying "we only said it so we could pray for the person" is not a valid excuse. Often times we go to others to "make our case" or garner support before approaching someone on an issue. This is questionable, as it is often veiled gossip. Scripture says "go to your brother", not talk to 10 people to figure out if we should go to our brother.

Remember, a kind word turns away wraith.

In our deeds

Our actions, from visible actions like wearing Tzitzit and helping others; to our behavior and honesty in dealing with people, have a lot to say about us as believers. Do we act in a way that is representative of what we believe? Do we treat others with love and respect? Are we honest? The world looks at these things and they form an opinion both about us, and about the G-d we serve, based on those actions.

Once, when I worked for a company that sold to Christian Bookstores, I was appalled at how poorly these people viewed Christians. When I dug a little, I found this opinion was formed by how badly the Christian Bookstores paid their bills. Assoc. Rabbi Michael told me about a prominent Christian leader (had been a business leader in private business) who was shocked how poor believers work ethics were compared to the secular workforce.

Are we rude, do we run out after service to the local restaurants and treat the people there as serfs? Ask waitresses about the Sunday lunch crowd, coming from church, and stand back, you will get a very unflattering response. Comments will range from rude, impatient, cheapskates; to hypocrites.

One of my personal weaknesses is how I drive. I suspect others may also be guilty. Moving with the flow of traffic is a necessity in the area; but we should not get upset if we are the one the policeman pulls over. Do we make hand gestures, yell, cut people off? To my embarrassment, I am realizing that having a bumper sticker proclaiming a Jewish Messiah is not a positive if I'm acting like the devil.

So in summary, Messianic Beliefs should lead to a Messianic Lifestyle. That lifestyle should encompass our homes, how we act, and how we speak. Many are content to be 2 hour believers. They give G-d 2 hours a week, and thats about it. He does not fit into their hectic daily lives. That is not what G-d wants, or frankly, demands. He demands committed believers, who are trying to walk in the path of the Messiah - everyday. Will we mess-up and fall short - sure! That is what is so wonderful about Grace & Mercy. The Master made the way, all we need to do is follow Him.

Audio Teaching Messianic Lifestyle - Holiness

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Messianic Lifestyle - Holiness

What characterizes our beliefs as Messianics?

To our Sunday brothers & sisters, true Messianic Judaism can seem foreign and unfamiliar. Many assume that Messianic Judaism is Church with a few Jewish symbols thrown in, a little Hebrew to spice things up, and some really good music. That is exactly what we strive not to be.

There are many Messianic groups who do fit the above description, so why are we different? The difference is much deeper than symbols, some Hebrew and music: it is about a lifestyle.

We do not believe a Congregation can call itself a Messianic Synagogue if they do not advocate a Torah observant lifestyle. Thus Congregations where people wear Tzitzit, kippa, play Paul Wilbur, and blow Shofars are not Messianic Synagogues if they do not recognize the Authority of the Torah. Additionally, beyond recognizing the Authority of Torah, there needs to be an emphasis on living out the mitzvah (commands). Why is living out the mitzvah important? It is not, as some say Messianics teach, "To be saved"; as salvation is a gift from Adonai. It is following the words of Messiah Yeshua, and keeping His commands. The commands He gave were the Torah.

So why is Torah so important? In a single word - Holiness. We are called to "be Holy for I am Holy". Messiah said, if you love me, keep my commands.

* 1st Yochanan (John) Chapter 3:4-6 says "Everyone who keeps sinning is violating Torah - indeed, sin is violation of Torah. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and that there is no sin in him. So no one who remains united with him continues sinning; everyone who does continue sinning has neither seen him nor known him."

So G-ds word clearly identifies belonging to Him with keeping Torah, and the Master said the very same words!

So keeping the Torah, observing the mitzvah, are not for salvation, as we know from the Shaliach (Apostles) and from the Tanakh itself. This can be clearly seen in the Yom Kippur Prayers, where we pray 'we have no deeds' that reconcile us to G-d. It is for a life of Holiness, as it is said "It's ways are ways of righteousness, and all it's paths are peace."

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Audio Teaching Messianic Lifestyle - Holiness

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2007 in retrospect

2007 has been both challenging and rewarding.

On the challenging side
we lost 2-3 families over issues of doctrine, practice, or personality issues. Finances due to the new location and the loss of two Sunday groups renting the facilities have also created a budget shortfall (One church ceased to function, the other broke the lease). This $800 to $1200 monthly shortfall hopefully will be corrected by bringing another Church in on Sunday.

While the loss of any family or person is to be mourned; we must realize that when a body strives to live and teach as our Messiah lived and taught, some will not make the transition. The transition to being truly Messianic Jewish, as opposed to being a Church with some Jewish symbols thrown in, is a difficult one. We should not look down on those who chose to move on; but instead wish them well. We hope and pray Adonai leads them to a place of peace.

On the positive side
, we have gained new families and what I believe is a renewed sense of purpose and direction. We have moved from being a Hebrew Roots body to a Messianic Jewish Synagogue in both practice and beliefs. Let's recap some other key blessings that have occurred (We means the Synagogue as a whole):

* We occupied the new Building
* The addition of the Prayer Wall
* The wall hangings from Israel
* The Sanctuary Menorah
* The Mikvah was completed
* The new bookstore was completed and a much larger stock on items are now available
* We acquired a second Torah
* We acquired a Bema and Lectern
* We graduated our largest Bar / Bat Mitzvah class
* We redesigned the Bar / Bat Mitzvah class to be more in-line with other Bar Mitzvah classes (materials covered)
* We began our Congregational Yeshiva (we are beginning the 4th Qtr)
* We held several Sisterhood Meetings
* We held our first Messianic Jewish conversion
* We increased the Liturgy and added Hebrew Torah readings
* We had 138 people at our Congregation Passover
* We lead several external Passovers for more than 500 people
* We had 5 televised events reaching approximately 1 million people each
* Our Internet sites reached over 300,000 people yearly.

When weighed on equal scales, the good clearly outweighed the challenges we faced. During a time when our Sunday Brothers in the Church saw a 25 million reduction in attendees (source Barna Group), that we have remained relatively steady and where able to grow in key spiritual areas is a blessing from Adonai.

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el