A search for Jewish Roots (Part 1)
A short while ago, a man of European origin visited the Caspari Center, seeking help. He had heard that we “promote Jewish roots” in our ministry, and had been (mis)informed that we might be able to help him discover whether he had Jewish ancestry. He told me his surname, deliberated over whether it might be a Jewish family name, and expressed an interest in genetic testing. I immediately clarified that this is not our area of expertise, nor is it what we refer to when talking about “Jewish roots”. This man and I proceeded to have a long talk about the policies regarding Aliyah (immigration to Israel). I don’t know if the man left us disappointed, but unfortunately, I was unable to support his dream.
It is possible that this man will ultimately discover that he has some Jewish blood. There are people who uncover things hidden from their families for generations, and come to the realization that they are descendants of Jews. Those who can prove their heritage to the satisfaction of the Ministry of the Interior might even be eligible for Aliyah. But vastly larger numbers of genuine Israel-loving believers chase after a secret, lost identity as members of the Chosen People, and they tend to find “evidence” of it in the most peculiar places. Reasoning in various ways, they find everything but legitimate proof. I often wonder: what are these people actually chasing after? Are they yearning for a feeling of belonging to a community? Are they searching for something more meaningful than what they already have as Christians? Deep down in their hearts, are they not convinced that they are truly chosen and loved by God?
Cultivating “Wannabe” Jews?
There is another group of Christians, which also causes me to scratch my head in perplexity, that doesn’t want to be termed “Christian”. Being “Christian” is not enough for these believers. To their minds, the Church has done nothing but mislead innocent people throughout the centuries. Simple faith in Jesus is not enough; the supposedly pagan background of Church teachings must be denounced, and the Jewish Law observed. This, despite the apostle Paul’s clear instructions to the Galatians (among other writings), where he specifically underlined the Gentiles’ freedom from observing the Jewish Law. The apostle also warned against Judaizing, when it is targeted at Gentiles. According to Messianic Jewish theologian David H. Stern, “Judaizing” Jewish followers of Jesus (encouraging them to live as Jews) cannot be heresy. But there are some Jews on the outskirts of the Messianic movement who teach this also to Gentiles as a kind of “Church revival”. Generally speaking in the Christian/Messianic faith, there is always a danger of letting our focus slide from Jesus to other less central issues, and this is especially true when Gentile believers get immersed into the religious and cultural world of Judaism.
For me, it was startling to realize how differently we can understand this matter of Jewish roots. Teaching Christians to value our Jewish roots is one of the main themes of our international courses here at the Caspari Center. But what do we mean by “Jewish Roots”? And how do we approach this topic in a balanced way?
Exploring the Context of the Bible
Our goal is to increase understanding of the bible and the Gospel message in the way the writers intended. The entire bible, including the New Testament, is a very Jewish book. Knowing the context and the circumstances of the writings can help the reader understand what the texts mean. There are instances where improper biblical interpretation has led to full-scale false spiritual doctrine. For example, have you heard teaching about “binding and loosing spirits in prayer”? This mistaken teaching can be found in certain charismatic circles in the Church. But what did Jesus really mean in Matthew 16:19 and 18:18, where he spoke about binding and loosing? “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18). The first-century rabbis were constantly asked to interpret biblical commandments. Rabbi Yeshua gave Peter and other disciples the authority to “bind” (forbid) and “loose” (permit), meaning they were authorized to interpret scriptural questions regarding spiritual and practical matters in the early Messianic community (Kaufmann Kohler, David H. Stern). Acts 15 includes a description of how the apostles exercised this authority in creating a new Messianic Jewish halacha (literally “way of walking”).
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to enter a time-machine and travel back to the days of Jesus and the disciples? When interpreting the bible, we will always question how to understand the words written almost 2000 years ago. Continuous academic research is needed to bridge the gap. And of course, the Church has its centuries-old hermeneutical traditions. After the first centuries, the ways of Judaism and Christianity parted, and the Church lost touch with her Jewish roots in many respects, or at least the awareness of them. The traditions and theologies in the Church often tend to be anti-Jewish. On the other hand, rabbinical Judaism developed its own biblical interpretations. Some of them are reactions to Christianity, and we cannot approve of them without reservations. Neither does rabbinical Judaism have direct access to the Second Temple period any more than does Christianity. But there is still much valuable heritage of bible interpretation to be gleaned from traditional rabbinical Judaism. By reading the New Testament, not only through Christian but also through rabbinical lenses, we can increase our understanding and shed light on the texts in a new way – or in a very old way.
Academic research and education is required. Being a qualified theologian still doesn’t guarantee that you really appreciate the Jewish roots of the faith. If we say we are connected to the Jewish roots, it should have some implications in our theology, too. What kind of implications? How do we understand the relationship between Christianity and Judaism? I don’t have all the answers as I myself am still engaged in a happy struggle with this same question! We will continue to examine this very topic in a couple of weeks.
-David H. Stern, Messianic Judaism: A Modern Movement with an Ancient Past, 2007
-The Complete Jewish Study Bible – Insights for Jews and Christians, 2016
-Kaufmann Kohler in Jewish Encyclopedia, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3307-binding-and-loosing
-David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, 1992
This article originally appeared on Caspari Center, December 3, 2018, and reposted with permission.
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New seminar for believing singles probes important topics
The Yad Hashmona congregation hosted a two-day conference, led by a pair of Messianic counselors, on singleness and relationships last weekend for its unmarried congregants.
“We felt that there was a need to hear balanced principles that would help young people build relationships founded on the Rock,” said Sheli Myers of Yad Hashmona, who hosted the conference.
Thirty two young people between the ages of 17 to 35 attended.
“I left this conference strengthened and more cognizant of relationships,” one attendee said after the conference.
“I think this seminar should be a requirement because it really builds up people our age,” said another participant. “This ministry should be available to all the Body of Messiah for anyone who is considering entering a relationship in the future.”
The conference was led by Sasha and Lilian Granovsky who have an MA in counseling from Israel College of the Bible and have trained with Larry and Laurie Russell’s ministry, Shepherd’s Heart. They are offering this workshop to the Body of Messiah in Israel.
“We have a new service to offer – a weekend program that was first presented to the singles of the Yad Hashmona congregation: What I can do and how, even before I’m in a relationship, how to build a relationship in a way that leaves no room for remorse no matter which direction the relationship goes,” Lilian said.
The conference included six lessons, each 45 minutes long, in which Sasha and Lilian Granovsky taught professional material based on scripture. At the end of each lesson there was time for questions and answers. Four topics were presented at the conference:
Topic 1: What is true love? 1 Corinthians 13
“Before we can love our partner, we need our relationship with God to be founded on the Rock,” Sasha taught. “After that – love for ourselves. How can we love others if we don’t know and love ourselves? How can we know who is right for us if we don’t know ourselves?”
Lilian: “Who are we? God’s unique creation.”
Sasha and Lilian presented the young people with 21 questions to get to know themselves better including: How is my relationship with each of my family members? What from my past has affected me destructively/constructively? What unhealthy habits do I have? Why? What situations cause me to be defensive? What are my passions? And more.
Topic 2: Dating and evaluating the relationship
Sasha and Lilian asked each of the young people to think about their relationships and ask themselves, “Is the relationship constructive? Does this relationship bring us closer to the Lord? Is the relationship useful?” As is written in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
In addition, they discussed whether love at first sight is truly possible. “For God so loved the world, that he gave…” John 3:16. The meaning of true love was explained to the young people: love as not just an emotion but as an act. God Himself first loved and then He gave. Divine love is loving and giving without expecting reciprocation. Love is a daily choice, commitment and controlling of one’s actions.
“We should not let emotions guide us – we must guide our emotions,” Lilian said.
Other topics discussed included: How do I know whether I’m in a destructive relationship? How do I know whether I have difficulty committing? Why do I repeatedly find myself in unhealthy relationships? Is it okay for a woman to initiate a relationship? How do I cope with insecurity in a relationship? Is it okay to date someone I’m not planning to marry? How do I deal with the pain of separation?
Topic 3: How can we guard ourselves physically?
Sasha and Lilian spoke about restraint and self-control as a critical principle before marriage. They spoke frankly about the dangers of not observing appropriate physical boundaries.
“Sometimes jumping into a physical relationship is compensation for something we haven’t been able to attain emotionally,” Lilian explained.
Topic 4: Lifestyles
Sasha and Lilian challenged the young people to think about how they imagine their lives in the future and what they expect of marriage. They presented various lifestyle options so that participants would be able to identify with whom they could live and with whom they couldn’t.
Many of the participants said they were encouraged, learned a lot and would want to pursue deeper study of this topic.
“This seminar opened my mind to a lot of things I had not previously thought about regarding relationships,” one participant said.
Several of the attendees also recommended that every young person in the Body of Messiah attend such a workshop so they can get to know themselves better before entering a relationship.
“From a content perspective, this seminar was amazing,” another participant said. “It brought up a lot of questions that are good to know the answers to before you enter a relationship.”
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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Yad Vashem and Israeli Ministry of Interior have contradicting definitions for the question who is a Jew
Margarita Kishnav (a pseudonym) arrived in Israel in 2016, to connect with her Jewish heritage and officially commemorate the memory of her Jewish grandfather, Hans-Walter Hirschberg, a German citizen who was a member of the resistance during World War II. He undermined the Nazi regime and courageously helped save many Jews. Margarita approached our law firm in order to assist her in the process of contacting Yad Vashem in order to perpetuate his memory and to arrange her status in Israel vis-a-vis the Ministry of the Interior as the granddaughter of Righteous Among the Nations.
Walter Hirschberg – his life and work
Walter was born as a Jew, but lived most of his life as a faithful Christian. Today we might refer to him as a Messianic Jew, but at the time his preferred term for his denomination was probably a Christian or Evangelical Jew. In those days, many young German Jews chose to convert, either due to honest belief or a desire to advance in an anti-Semitic society. When the Nazis came to power, many Jewish families chose to save their children by delivering them to Christian friends for hiding. Some of these children discovered their Jewish roots as adults, long after WWII was over, and made Aliyah to Israel.
Mr. Hirschberg succeeded to advance in German society – reaching a senior position in the Berlin municipal attorney’s office – but he never forgot his connection to Judaism. He used his connections at the prosecutor’s office to save Jews who would certainly have been sent to the extermination camps without his aid. He helped Jews to fake passports, alter documents, and even cross the border into neutral countries in Europe. Walter did not limit his actions solely to saving Jews – he was part of an international resistance movement that operated against both the Nazis in Germany and the Fascists in Italy. His political views and his moral outlook convinced him that action must be taken to both save the innocents and strike against the murderous criminals.
Mr. Hirschberg was captured by the Nazi regime because of his past support for leftist politics and his resistance activities, rather than his Jewish heritage. He was sent to the Theresienstadt extermination camp in 1944. The testimonies of the survivors present him as a man who did not lose his courage, composure, and sense of empathy even in the darkest hour. He led the Lutheran Church in the camp, providing spiritual support as well as physical assistance to his fellow inmates. He himself survived World War II, described his experience in the camps in his memoirs, and actively participated in bringing the Nazi criminals to justice for their crimes.
Legal status in Israel for descendants of Righteous Among the Nations
Grandchildren of Righteous Among the Nations have the legal right to receive temporary residency status in Israel on the basis of a permit from Yad Vashem. Margarita wanted to perpetuate the memory of her grandfather as a Righteous Among the Nations as a matter of principle, regardless of practical implications.
Our law office contacted Yad Vashem with documents and testimonies about Walter Hirschberg’s impressive story, showing conclusive evidence that Walter was a member of the resistance, a rescuer of Jews, and a victim of Nazi oppression. Testimonies collected by officers of the Red Army, who had liberated the camp, as well as evidence submitted by fellow survivors who owed him their lives, proved the veracity of the story without question.
However, all these documents were dismissed as irrelevant by the Holocaust Martyrs ‘and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority. Jews – even Jews who converted to Christianity and are no longer considered Jews by the State of Israel – cannot be Righteous Among the Nations. The title “Righteous Among the Nations” is reserved only for gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Meanwhile Margarita’s request for Aliyah was responded by Ministry of Interior officials, stating that according to the Law of Return and Supreme Court rulings in Israel, the descendants of a Jew who converted to Christianity are not entitled to make Aliyah.
The result was utterly absurd. On the one hand, Margarita is not entitled to immigrate to Israel because she is considered by the Ministry of Interior to be a granddaughter of a Christian. On the other hand, Yad Vashem does not recognize him as a Righteous Among the Nations because he is considered to be a Jew. We would be happy to appeal this decision, but Margarita was so disappointed she decided to leave Israel.
Immigration to Israel should be open for Jews of all creeds and denominations
The Nazi attempt to annihilate the entire Jewish people did not discriminate between Jews. The Nazis sought to eliminate Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, Orthodox and Reform Jews, atheist and Christian Jews. The State of Israel and Yad Vashem include among the 6 million Jews who were victims of the Holocaust those who would not have been allowed to immigrate to Israel and become citizens by the Ministry of Interior these days.
Anyone who is familiar with the history of the question “who is a Jew”, may be reminded of “Brother Daniel”. Shmuel Rufeisen was also born as a Jew, was given to a Christian family at a tender age, and grew up to become a Catholic priest who risked his life to save Jews during World War II. In the well-known High Court of Justice case, from 1962, it was decided by a majority verdict that he had no right to make Aliyah to Israel.
Eventually, Brother Daniel received the right to live in Israel as a permanent resident, rather than the right to immigrate to Israel and acquire citizenship under the Law of Return. It is possible that Margarita would have been given some status had we taken the case to court. But that would change things for an individual appellant, rather than cause a reconsideration of the absurd and infuriatingly Kafkaesque standards as a whole. There is no doubt that the State of Israel is required to do a sincere soul-searching regarding the way it decides to define and limit Judaism, even for heroes from previous generations.
Advocate Joshua Pex is a partner at Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh law firm in Jerusalem. He specializes in immigration to Israel.
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Health update on Pastor Santoro
As I reported in the last update, the results of the MRI which I took in October was very positive. At my most recent doctor’s appointment this past week, the oncologist said that this was the best MRI I have had in a year! There was no evidence of the cancer! The doctor always assures me that it will certainly come back but we praise God that it is gone today and by his all powerful grace and all of our prayers, it will never come back. Amen!
As a result of all that my brain has endured and continues to go through- the two surgeries and treatments including this current one that I take every three weeks, there has been damage, especially in the memory area. We are believing that healing includes not only the eradication of the cancer but a restoration of all that has been lost. God is able to give back what the locusts have eaten! Please stand with us in agreement for total restoration of every damaged part.
We are forever grateful for each day that He has given us and we look forward to many more in which to serve him and bring forth his Kingdom in this nation.
The Amazing Good Works of God
It was August, 2015 that I originally became aware that something was not right in my brain. The scripture declares that our God works all things together for the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. In those days, as Satan endeavored to destroy me, God worked to bring a wonderful new reality filled with good fruit into my being.
For the first time, I had to deal with the reality that my life on this earth might be finished shortly and that the time to go home could be coming upon me. As I spent time pondering these two realities, I came to see that either would be an incredible blessing. To live in and with Messiah, either in this world or in heaven were both wonderful. Although I was able to accept leaving, I also knew that my heart was to stay and so I chose life. By God’s grace, as I did this, I came into a new place in God. Both Jackie and I began a journey of faith, growing in the knowledge of his heart of love and in his goodness, which manifests in his desire to heal us and our part in cooperating with him on this path.
I came to know that His life and power within me can destroy the work of the enemy. The doctors still say that the cancer will kill me soon but we stand in our God and proclaim a mighty NO! I will not die but live and declare the works of the Lord.
I share all this to say to you that those of us who love God are locked into battles with the devil. I want to encourage you today that no matter what you are fighting, God is with you and there is only victory as we trust in him. We all face challenges but the overcoming power that is ours in Yeshua is far greater. Turn to him. Trust in him and He will make a way for you. Trust in His infinite power and love. We may lose a battle but ultimate victory has been given to all of us who believe. In Yeshua, we win! Apply this reality in your life. You will not be disappointed!
This article originally appeared in Zion’s Glory Update, December 2, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Eddie and his wife, Jackie, are senior leaders of Ahavat Yeshua Messianic Congregation in Jerusalem and also serve in positions of senior leadership in Revive Israel.
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How I was saved and called by God to make aliyah (Part 1)
Knowing that many Jewish people may read this article, I have decided to write my story on how I was saved, and later why I made aliyah to Israel in 1995. I write this especially for the many unsaved Jewish people, to share how I, as an American Jew came to know Yeshua as the real Messiah and my Savior when I was 29. I am now age 75, and I have lived in Jerusalem since 1998.
My parents were both first generation American Jews born from Russian Jewish parents. Neither of my parents believed in God. God was never mentioned in my home, nor the name Jesus except as a curse word. A few times while I was growing up my parents would take us four children to different relatives homes to have a Passover seder. As a secular Jew growing up in Chicago, I knew almost nothing about my Jewish history or about Jewish religion.
Then in the spring of 1973 at age 29, I picked a Bible for the first time in my life, and I took it home to read. I began reading from Genesis. Suddenly a Scripture came alive off the pages of that Bible into my heart with the most wonderful and incredible love of God, like an ocean of love. And I just cried, and cried, and cried. I had never experienced such love like this in all my whole life. And so I couldn’t put that Bible down, and continued reading it day and night. After a while of having these wonderful daily experiences of divine love, I knew it was God from Heaven who was making His Words of Scripture come alive from off the pages of that bible and into my heart with this divine love. And this experience of those Scriptures coming alive with Love kept on continuing every day. Those Scriptures which came alive from the Bible pages with God’s Love were all the Old Covenant Messianic Scripture prophesies about the coming Messiah of Israel.
And this experience of God’s divine Love happening to me continued for the next three months. And during that time I lived and walked in a most wonderful and amazing dimension not of this world, that seemed like ecstasy, perhaps something of Heaven.
It was only the God of Israel who made those Scriptures about our Messiah come alive from off the pages of the Bible, and into my heart with His divine Love every day for about three months.
Later during that time God directed me to also begin reading the first four books of the New Covenant … Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I soon discovered that Jesus, Yeshua, in the New Covenant is the One who is the fulfillment of all those Messianic prophetic Scripture prophesies of the Old Covenant which had come alive with God’s wonderful divine Love. And then I gave my life to Yeshua, repenting of all my sins, and was saved by God’s Word and by His Holy Spirit in 1973.
One day, later during those three months, Yeshua spoke to me, as He planted three divine Living Words deep into my soul, while I was reading from the 21st Chapter of the book of John. Yeshua said to me, “Feed My Sheep!” And I said to Him, “Yes, Lord!” (John 21:17)
My life was changed forever, never to be the same.
It was the God of Israel who made His Words come alive from the Bible concerning His promised Messiah, Yeshua, proving to me, and also to thousands of other Jews that Yeshua is truly God’s Messiah, the Savior of our Jewish people. The Israeli government has passed unrighteous laws to deny to many Jews who believe in Yeshua their God given rights to make aliyah, to return to Israel, God’s promised Land. What can we do to change this situation?
The Israeli government has closely followed Orthodox religious Jews, who deny their Messiah Yeshua, and have left the Tanakh as their main study, instead primarily studying an Oral Law. Religious Jews believe that God gave Moses both the divine written Word and also a divine Oral Law at Mount Sinai. But God’s written Word in the Tanakh explicitly commands not changing God’s written Word. So many Israeli’s have become deceived by Jewish oral religious tradition, and have left the Word of God, putting their primary focus on an Oral Law. Therefore is it not surprising that Israeli Orthodox religious Jews cannot see, or perhaps even refuse to see Yeshua as their true Messiah and Savior, found repeatedly in their Hebrew Holy Scriptures.
Rejecting God’s written Word will blind you from seeing Truth.
I have found over 225 places in the Tahakh where our Jewish Messiah can easily be seen in the prophesies. What can be done to help our Jewish people see the Truth about their Jewish Messiah?
After I got my Israeli citizenship in 1995, and made Aliyah, and moved to Israel in 1998, one day the Holy Spirit directed me to take those many Messianic Scriptures that God had made come alive with Love off the pages of the Bible, and put them into little 12 page brochures. The first one was done in English, using the top 70 most important Old Covenant prophetic Scriptures about the Messiah. These brochures were made to be freely handed out. The next was done in Hebrew, using the 86 most important Messianic Scriptures taken from the Jewish Orthodox Hebrew Tanakh. These free brochures now go out as handouts to many people in Israel for Israeli’s to just study the Word of God from their own Scriptures. They are now available free in 15 different languages, in the main languages which Jewish people have been returning home to Israel.
These brochures are now in English, Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch, Ukrainian and now also in Amharic (Ethiopian). These brochures are all available free on my website, to download as PDF files, and to send out to others.
My website is www.FeedMySheepJerusalem.com
Also for almost 40 years my hobby has been nature photography, where I take great photos that God has given me, and then combine each photo with the bible Scripture that God has shown me to use.
God has taught me that this is an excellent way to both help people and also to fight our enemy with God’s Creation and His Holy Word.
There are now over 300 choices of these great Scripture nature photographs that God has given me, in nine different categories on the website, all free to download and send out to others, to help encourage believers in their walk with the Lord. Here are just a few samples of this work.
RIchard has served the Lord full-time from Jerusalem since 1998, having made Aliyah to Israel in 1995. He been a writer for the Lord Yeshua since 1982. All of his books, including the newest one, ‘King Priest Yeshua from the Seed of David and Aaron’, along with other writings are free to read and download from his website.