The quest for Jewish authenticity
The two most noteworthy developments in the Kingdom of God over the last 50 years are evangelistic progress in the Southern Hemisphere and the emergence of the Messianic Jewish Congregational Movement. By comparison with the growth of Christianity, the Messianic Movement is relatively small. Yet, Jews turning to the Messiah in the context of Jewish oriented New Covenant Congregations is no less significant. These two developments are certainly intertwined and are signs of the
Three Important Conclusions
Over 45 years ago, when the Messianic movement was very small (only three congregations in North America), I wrestled with the issue of Jewish identity and faith in Yeshua. I came to a number of conclusions. The first two are:
- Jews who believe in Yeshua were called to maintain a Jewish lifestyle and identity
- The irrevocable gifts and call of God to Israel includes Messianic Jews (Romans 11:29)
Many Jews would come to Yeshua; however they would not do so in a context that was foreign to them. A Jewish context to see Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah was needed.
Indeed these two conclusions implied and brought me to the third conclusion:
- The most effective means of living out the convictions of conclusions one and two was through culturally Jewish congregations.
As they say, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” As we embarked upon this path in the early 70s, we saw fulfillment well beyond our expectations. The 80s was a special period of growth in America. In the 90s there was great growth in Russia and Ukraine. Today we see significant growth in Israel.
The Call for Jewish Authenticity
Recently, coalitions within the Messianic movement in Israel and America have called for greater Jewish authenticity. These voices are dissatisfied with what they perceive as a mere superficial gloss of Jewishness that is superimposed on a basically Evangelical sub-culture. To that end they are speaking out, writing articles and organizing convocations; all with a view towards establishing greater authenticity within the Messianic community. Authenticity implies a depth in conveying reality; in this case the reality of that which is good in Judaism. There are benefits and dangers in this call. The issues are not new; some forget how much we wrestled with these questions forty years ago.
Our theology has to be determined by interpreting the Bible in its original context. If many of our conclusions place us in accord with Evangelical Christianity or other types of Christianity, so be it. If a true interpretation of the Bible requires us to be distinct from Evangelical Christianity or other types of Christianity, so be it. The quest for Jewish authenticity must not produce an orientation that rejects something that is biblical simply because it is not presently embraced by the Jewish community! This is the greatest danger. Community is a powerful force for conformity. Integration into the Jewish community can produce such a desire to conform that it risks down-playing biblical truth.
A Biblical Approach to Jewish Authenticity
For over forty years I have argued that Jewish believers should be authentically Jewish. As I have studied the issues, my perspectives have changed concerning what constitutes authenticity. However, the more I study, the more I perceive the extent of mixture in what we know of as Judaism and Jewish culture. Sometimes, Judaism reflects biblical truths and values. Jewish traditions of interpretation and Jewish practices can be natural extensions of biblical truth. Creative development that reflects God’s truth, beauty and goodness is important for Jews to note, appreciate, and appropriate. Scripture admonishes us to give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). The biblical command to honor our parents has been interpreted to imply grandparents and ancestors by most Jewish and Christian interpreters. That is, those who gave such good to us and our families are to be honored.
However there is also much that is not in accord with the spirit of the Bible. In the quest for authenticity, we must first have a biblically renewed mind, centered on Yeshua. Only from this mind can we discern that which is good, beautiful and true (Philippians 4:8, Romans 12:2). Only from this mind can we discern that which is not good, and forgive our ancestors for this. We are to abandon that which is not good. This also honors our Jewish heritage.
Judaism has its legalistic minutiae that are not in accord with Yeshua. Some circles of Judaism accept kabalistic magic. There are interpretations and practices that are not in accord with the New Covenant. We must avoid a Jewish pride and idolatry of Judaism and Jewish ancestral teachers. This would lead to honoring everything Jewish as if it were all good and wonderful. In addition, for Jews today, we must emphasize that the way to salvation is only through Yeshua! I should note that living in Israel, speaking the language, and living in this Israeli culture is a step of authenticity (not fully adequate, but a big step). I also note that the principles we put forth here apply to the Christian heritage and to all cultures.
The Imagined Jewish Visitor
Sometimes, the quest for authenticity focuses on the imagined Jewish visitor. What will the average Jew or especially the religious Jew think if they come to our services? How will they respond to the evangelical projections of our speech? How will they respond to our lack of depth in the knowledge of Judaism? How will they respond to the poor reading of Hebrew in some congregations? Certainly, we can improve in all these areas. However, we can also place too much emphasis on these concerns. What is our motivation? Are we seeking to honor Yeshua or gain acceptance within the Jewish community?
The Leveling Power of the Holy Spirit
One of the clear conclusions I have embraced is that the Holy Spirit is the great leveler in human effectiveness. The simplest person operating in the power of the Spirit is easily a match for even the most authentically educated and sophisticated Jew.
Some thirty odd years ago, I visited an unusual Messianic Congregation. The culture and faith expression of the congregation was notably Pentecostal. I am not just referring to theology. Their whole cultural projection was a mixture of Jewish elements and this particular Christian subculture. The Hebrew was poorly pronounced. Pentecostal hymns were sung along side the new Messianic movement’s music. I have to admit I was embarrassed and perhaps even a little indignant at what I perceived as an incongruous cultural mix (This is not to say I do not appreciate Pentecostal culture – I certainly do).
Yet, there were more Jews in this congregation than most Messianic congregations at that time. Why? The Spirit was moving in power. Jews were being healed of diseases. Miracles and answered prayer were commonplace within this ministry. Word got around. What a lesson! This did not make me want to return to Washington and adopt a more Pentecostal culture. Yet, I was chastened. Yes, only the real power of God in Yeshua centered preaching, worship and personal witness will bring our people to the knowledge of the truth.
In our quest for authenticity, we must never forget this. The Holy Spirit gives his power to simple, ordinary people who have faith and love. Through Him they can do mighty deeds with an anointing that draws people to Yeshua. May the Messianic movement fully embrace this truth and never depart from it. Such is our goal in Tikkun within and outside of Israel.
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, April 14, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
Pray for single parents
This last week my wife joined her father for a trip to Russia to see some relatives, leaving me to look after our two sons by myself. It was a tremendous blessing because it gave me an opportunity to bond with my children and it also helped me understand what it’s like to be a single parent. I learned many lessons from this experience and some of them would be hard to put into words, but here are some basics.
First, it was a huge shock to me just how time consuming it was to be responsible for literally everything that needed to be done, from laundry and dish washing to packing lunches for my sons and getting them both to school in the morning before going to work and then picking them both up on the way home. My wife and I usually share these tasks and I used to think that they took a lot of time out of my day. But when I was only doing roughly 40% – 60% on a day-to-day basis while my wife did the same, it turns out that it took up much less time than when I was doing 100% all by myself every single day.
A related issue is how utterly exhausted this left me when the day was over and my boys finally fell asleep and I was able to go to bed myself. I used to think I knew what the word “tired” meant but this has left me with an entirely new appreciation for that word.
These two related issues produced another lesson about how difficult it is to take care of one’s physical health by eating right and exercising. I managed to keep us fed this past week only by taking advantage of the pizza place down the street, highly processed pre-cooked food like frozen schnitzel, hot dogs and the like. We certainly didn’t eat the kind of “real” food we usually eat when my wife is home and she actually cooks. As for exercising, I just didn’t get much done because I was too tired and wanted to sleep every possible second I could, not get up early to work out like I usually do.
As a footnote, some bills arrived this past week which my wife usually pays out of her salary and although I was able to put them aside to give her when she returned, it made me think about how difficult it would be if there was only one salary out of which everything had to be paid.
What allowed me to make it through this difficult but highly enlightening week without my wife was a few different things. First of all, my sons behaved better than I could have ever hoped and I have no doubt this is because my wife and I prayed fervently in the weeks before her trip that they would.
Second, we had friends from our fellowship who came alongside us and helped in many ways. We spent time at the park with one family we’re particularly close with and the daughters of this family spent the entire time playing with my sons, which gave me a break, gave them a quasi-mommy experience which helped tide them over till their own mommy was back and in general helped manage the situation. Other friends helped in many ways and many other people prayed for us.
So, here’s my takeaways.
First, it is a fact of life in 2019 that there are single-parent families in nearly every fellowship of Believers and they are the modern-day manifestation of the “widows and orphans” that were so common in Biblical times (See James 1:27). So if you’re a pastor or leader of a prayer group, set aside time to pray specifically for these families.
Even if you’re not a pastor or congregational elder, just take a moment to look around the next time you’re at your meeting and see if there’s a single parent family you can pray for and otherwise assist. Invite such families over for dinner or to an afternoon at the park, the mall, or whatever to give the single parent a break from preparing meals and also to give them and their children a fun break from their normal routine. Ask them if it would be okay for your children to over and play with their kids and while you’re there, help them clean up around the house. There are many other ways single parent families need help and there’s many ways you and I can help them without damaging their dignity.
Finally, if you’re a single parent yourself, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Ask for prayer and practical support, and give these things to those other single parent families you’re in fellowship with whenever you can. If we all carry each other, the load on everyone is lighter.
Aaron is a member of Jerusalem Assembly, House of Redemption.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
Reflections of redemption in Nisan, Part 3
As noted in Part 1, immediately following the first command to Israel as a nation (Exod.12:2) – which is more like a statement of fact – are the commands (v3-ff) concerning the Pesach, the Passover lamb. Why was Israel to “take a lamb” of all things? The traditional answer, that it was to judge one of Egypt’s gods, is illogical. All the other judgments on those gods involved YHVH striking them down, not enshrining them in a holy ceremony for all generations! No, there’s a better reason. In order to fully appreciate it, we will make a side-trip into some unique rabbinic customs for Nisan
During the entire First Month, no one is allowed to fast for a parent’s Yizkor (Yahrzeit, or anniversary of death), or to call for mourning or a public fast (source: Shulhan Aruch). The Tachanun, the petitioning prayer in the Amidah (daily prayer) is omitted for the month as well. The reason given for all this: The continual burnt offering (Hebrew: the Olat Tamid) was established in Nisan (“Be’er Hetev” to Shulhan Aruch, Orach Haim, 429 – Jewish Encyclopedia).
Suspending public petitions, fasting and mourning because of the Tamid’s arrival implies that it is one of God’s greatest redemptive acts, overriding the most intimate sorrows and troubles. Even more curious, to command this prohibition centuries after the Tamid could no longer be offered in Jerusalem is to imply that this supreme Redemptive act is still ongoing somewhere else. But if such an admission exists in rabbinic writings, we haven’t found it.
The Tamid and Redemption
These associations are remarkable to begin with, seeing that Torah gives no explanation for what the Tamid sacrifice actually accomplishes (Exod. 29:38-42). But we know from one commentary (Bamidbar Rabba 21:21) that the sages understood the Tamid to provide forgiveness for unconscious sins committed by the nation: the evening Tamid for sins committed in the day, and the morning Tamid for sins committed in the night.
Hebrews declares that Yeshua offered up Himself as a sacrifice “once for all” (Heb. 7:27), as it’s generally translated. But this verse first mentions the Temple sacrifices offered “daily…for the sins of the people.” Since written Torah mentions no “daily” sacrifice for the nation’s sins, this may be evidence that the apostles had the same understanding of the Tamid’s purpose as the rabbis.
That understanding would explain why Hebrews 7:27 is contrasting the daily sacrifice with Yeshua’s sacrifice of Himself “אחת ולתמיד/Achat uletamid,” as it’s rendered in the modern Hebrew version. This is translated as “once and for all [time]”, but if we read it literally (“One, and for a Tamid”), we solve two riddles about the Tamid: Two lambs being called one Olah/sacrifice (beginning with Exod. 29:42 and recurring throughout Torah), and its name implying one continuous offering (“Tamid” means “always”) despite being repeated daily. The comment in Hebrews makes the two offerings into One, and the daily repetition into Once for Always – just as the Torah Hebrew describes it.
This explanation is reinforced by the apostle John’s report that Yeshua’s sacrifice was already underway before the Mishkan was commanded, and indeed before man had heard of it: “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8, original word order). This has huge implications for Israel’s sacrificial system. If the original Tamid is in Heaven, then it was ALWAYS this Lamb that provided forgiveness of sin while the earthly copies were operating – and also while they weren’t… or aren’t.
As a Heavenly offering occurring outside of time, the Tamid was/is continually able to cover all those who apply its redemptive power, everywhere, in every age. Sure enough, Heaven’s residents from all nations directly connect this sacrifice with their redemption: “You [the Lamb] are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood…” (Rev. 5:9)
We also know that Yochanan (John the Baptist) publicly identified Yeshua as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Since most believers interpret this as the Passover lamb, anti-missionaries are fond of pointing to this as a New Testament blunder – the Pesach was not a sin offering. Actually, the blunder is in the Torah-illiterate assumption (both ours and theirs) pasted over the passage.
Yochanan was from an active priestly family. He knew better than we that the Pesach did not remove sin. He also knew that Torah doesn’t explicitly mention any “lamb” at all that can be offered for sin. He must have been referring to the Tamid; in contrast to the one that takes away the sin of the nation, this Tamid is effective for the entire world.
Was his declaration made in the month of Nisan? Quite possibly, since the Passover is recorded as arriving soon afterward (John 2:13). This would explain how Yochanan’s disciples could be so sure that they had found the Messiah King (John 1:41, 45, 49) just on the strength of that “Lamb of God” announcement. They had been taught that the Tamid symbolized the greatest Redemption of all time, which would be revealed in Nisan
The teaching that Yeshua is indeed the Lamb of God rests on the above Torah foundation linking the Mishkan with the Tamid. This linkage supports Yeshua’s promise that through Him we will become dwelling places for God (John 14:17). And when we consider the timing of His sacrificial death, coinciding with both the Passover lambs and the evening Tamid – we have proof that both Nisan lambs were pictures of Him.
The proof, however, doesn’t end there. The Tamid’s effect is for “always”: a continual process producing permanent spiritual results. We are “living stones” being built into “a spiritual House for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua the Messiah” (1 Pet. 2:5). Since both Yeshua and the Father will make Their dwelling place with/in us (John 14:23), we also understand that God has made His Son equal with Himself in this Redemption process
The Interceding Lamb
As mentioned, Torah doesn’t say that the Passover lamb brought forgiveness, or even redemption. Nevertheless, Torah teachers understood it to provoke God’s compassion, which leads to both: “Of all of God’s creations, the lamb possesses the innate ability to arouse mercy by its voice.” (Sefer HaYetzirah, commenting on the miracles of Nisan)
This idea becomes intriguing when we realize that God brought Israel redemption before they offered any lambs – even before they called on His name. While He remembered their forefathers, they were simply groaning over their troubles:
And the sons of Israel sighed from the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help rose up to God from the bondage. And God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. And God saw the sons of Israel, and God knew. (Exod. 2:23-25, from the Hebrew
Now Torah clearly states that God heard and saw “the sons of Israel.” But the final statement, “and God knew,” has no object – the word “them” is inserted by translators. Whatever it was that He “knew” here, it signaled the time for Israel’s first redemption. But was it really Israel’s crying that aroused His mercy? Or was it the Tamid being offered in Heaven on their behalf? When “God remembered His Covenant” here, was it perhaps the part that testified, “God will provide for Himself the Lamb”? (Gen. 22:8)
If so, it explains why the Passover redemption centered around a lamb. For God it was a symbol of the Tamid that He “knew”, which as yet Israel didn’t know. Moreover, the mercy aroused by this lamb was so powerful it extended beyond the heirs of the Covenant to anyone who would obey the command, even if they didn’t know this YHVH.
In the same way, the Tamid-Pesach Lamb was heard to intercede for the world as He embedded His eternal sacrifice into earthly history: “Father, forgive them – for they do not know…!” (Luke 23:34) Surely “God knew” compassion even in that awful hour when we rejected His greatest gift… because “the Lamb possesses the innate ability to arouse mercy by His voice.”
This Lamb, Conqueror of Death yet appearing as though freshly slain (Rev. 5:6), now sits at the Father’s right hand, still interceding for us and for Israel. How can anyone doubt that the spiritual Redemption of the entire nation is only a matter of time?
Intercession is also symbolized in orthodox Jewish wedding customs for Nisan 1. According to halacha, a bride and groom are normally required to fast on their wedding day, in supplication to have their sins forgiven as they enter their new life together. But if the wedding is on a Rosh Hodesh, they are forbidden to fast because honor of the new month takes priority. Yet on Nisan 1, they ARE supposed to fast (Shulhan Aruch, Rav Moshe Isserles), and the reason for this turnabout was considered a “great wonder” (Hafetz Haim). It was because they were representing God and Israel as Groom and Bride.
Yet there was no explanation as to why the marriage of God and Israel should be mirrored by a wedding couple through a custom of fasting only on Nisan 1. We must assume the influence of some shadowy, mostly forgotten tradition from earlier times connecting the Tamid, cleansing from sin, the promise of God dwelling within man, and Rosh Ha-Hodashim.
We, the Bride of the Lamb, knowing that our Groom is continually interceding with great compassion for His people, can easily relate to these concepts. If we are one Spirit with Him, we feel the heart of our Promised Husband yearning, as the earthly memorial of His atonement approaches, to bring about that final Redemption which even the blinded sages of Israel knew would eventually come. The blindness, says Paul (Rom. 11:25), has always been partial and temporary.
In conclusion, Messianic customs for Rosh Ha-Hodashim could be powerful in bringing together “treasures old and new” (Matt. 13:52) for the Kingdom. It’s strange that none were ever instituted by either church or synagogue. But maybe it was God’s plan to hide these riches until the time of Israel’s final ingathering and spiritual Redemption.
To be continued….
Hannah Weiss lives in Israel with her husband Hillel, their three children and two grandchildren. Besides writing on issues relevant for followers of Yeshua, she also works as an English writer, editor and translator for Israeli exporters and academics. Hannah is part of a small home fellowship, Restorers of Zion, which serves the Body of Messiah by focusing on neglected or dysfunctional areas of Scriptural teaching and practice.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
Watch your words
We live in a world filled with talking: talk radio, twenty-four-hour news channels, Facebook, Twitter. We are surrounded by the noise of communication. Much of that communication, unfortunately, is cruel, hurtful, untrue, and demeaning. People hide behind their computers to give others “a piece of their mind” or “put them in their place.” It’s their divine right after all in a digital world.
Two thousand years ago James recognized the peril of human communication. Its unbridled ability to harm and destroy.
“And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself…It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth…Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs?” (James 3:6-12 NLT)
“Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.” James sees it as an impossibility that we can both bless God and curse those made in His image. In our world where people are paid to give their opinions, and social media exists so anyone can give theirs, we often find our communication filled with deadly poison, even when we think we are defending God. God does not need our defense if it comes at the expense of hurting another person, made in His image, with our words.
We have become so accustomed to criticism, opinion, and saying our peace that we no longer ask, should we say that? Does what I am saying convey the truth and edify others? Is what I’m about to say going to poison one created in the image of God? Maybe instead of focusing on the critical and corrective, we should give our attentions to the creative and constructive.
Our words hurt. They damage. And, they ultimately reflect the genuine quality of our relationship with God. We cannot curse one made in His image and bless Him. Perhaps in a world filled with talking, our silence is the greatest testimony to our faith in God.
Father, today, keep my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile. And, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
This article originally appeared on CBN Israel, April 6, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Since its establishment in March 2012 CBN Israel has helped thousands of people through its various operations. As the foundation of Project Light Shine, CBN Israel gives help to the community through three avenues; Humanitarian aid, education and economic development. CBN Israel serves with a spirit of humility and love. Their mission is to prepare the Land and the people of Israel for the coming of Messiah Yeshua and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The vision of their work is to see the hungry fed, the needs of the needy met, businesses established and to improve the spiritual, physical and financial situation of the local body.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
The poem of God
There is a beautiful word in Greek that is used only TWO times in the entire New Covenant scriptures. It is the word poema, from which we derive the word “poem”. It can be translated as “workmanship, artistry, craftmanship, creation, creativity…”
It is somewhat parallel to the Hebraic concept of מְלֶאכֶת מַחֲשָׁבֶת, m’lechet makhshevet, which means “well-thought out workmanship” – referring to the craftmanship of the great artist Bezalel in building the Tabernacle ornaments (Exodus 35:33, cf. Ephesians 2:21, II Kings 16:10).
Natural Creation Revealing
The first use of poema is referring to physical creation.
Romans 1:20 – The invisible character of God, His power and divinity, are clearly seen and understood from the time of creation, through the things that were created…
In this verse “the things that were created” are poema. The creativity of the creator is seen in His creation. The heart of any artist is seen in his artwork. The stunning beauty of natural creation is the poem of God. It is His song.
God’s Genius Work
The second use of poema is referring to God’s genius work in changing us from rebellious and lustful sinners into vessels of grace and glory. Through the creation, God shows His divine power. Through the work of the cross, He shows His astonishing love. We are the ultimate artistry of God’s genius.
Ephesian 2:10 – for we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand…
If we will submit to God’s work in our lives, He will transform us into a beautiful piece of artwork. As the physical creation was “good” and the creation of man was “very good,” so will the new creation of God in our hearts be “excellent.” In fact, it will be awesome.
We together will be more beautiful than the priestly garments of the tabernacle, and more glorious than a shining rainbow. As we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will become God’s song, His “poem.” We are the picture that God is painting.
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, April 10, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Asher Intrater is the founder and apostolic leader of Revive Israel Ministries, and oversees Ahavat Yeshua Congregation in Jerusalem, and Tiferet Yeshua Congregation in Tel Aviv. Asher was one of the founders of Tikkun International with Dan Juster and Eitan Shishkoff, and serves on the board of the Messianic Alliance of Israel and Aglow International.