Hate-Fest in Ashdod

Feb 27, 2011 at 10:38 PM


Persecution against Messianic Jews has increased lately in Israel, and last Monday night, February 21st, nearly 1,000 protesters gathered outside a Messianic congregation in Ashdod to spew vicious hatred and lies. The event was organized by Yad L'Achim and was attended by many well-known rabbis who participated in delivering virulent speeches - spewing the typical epithets that Messianic Jews steal Jewish souls, prey on children, and equating us with Hitler. The following quote is taken from an eye witness to the events as they unfolded:

"Before I realized what was happening I had between 50-100 people surrounding me, calling me a missionary and asking me what I was doing in Israel. Boys as young as 6-7 years old were hissing at me, making hateful faces. The group closed in more and more trying to intimidate and I'll be honest it worked.

There was a heavy police presence in the area, but it took the police a while to notice (or want to notice) that suddenly I had become a topic of interest to many in the crowd …

The spirit of hate, the demonic spirit that just radiated off of them is hard to put into words. I tried to look some in the eyes, but I found only a cold, death-like gaze staring back at me.

After about 15 minutes of the crowd getting closer and closer and becoming more and more vocal, I knew it was time to go. I asked a police officer to escort me to my car and then left.

I felt so sick to my stomach. I wasn't really afraid. I was honestly just so sad. These are my fellow Jews, my fellow Israelis, my family ... and they wanted to kill me. I'm convinced that if the police had not been there, they would have tried."

We must pray, speak-up, and stand together with our holy brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael who are at the forefront and paving the way for the rest of us.

Update: Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 1st, hundreds of Ultra-Orthodox protesters are expected to stage a similar protest in Arad. Messianic Jews in that city have faced violent persecution for years. Please pray for the safety of our fellow Messianic Jews in Arad ... and we'll keep you posted.


A Tabernacle, Furniture, and the Presence of God

Feb 25, 2011 at 10:30 AM


Parashat Vayakhel

This week’s Torah portion gives further instructions concerning the building of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) and its furnishings. This raises an interesting question: For if the Bible’s overall theme is about G-d’s relationship with humanity through the Jewish people, then why is so much attention given to the details of objects? The answer is deeply connected to the purpose of the Mishkan, its furnishings, and the manifest presence of the Divine.

The Mishkan as Representation of G-d’s Presence

The Hebrew word for the Tabernacle is Mishkan (משכן), which means “to dwell” or “dwelling.” It comes from the root, shachan (שכן), which is also related to the word Shechinah (שכינה), meaning the manifest presence of G-d. They are all based on the same Hebrew root. Th Therefore, even the word Mishkan denotes HaShem's presence (the Shechinah) that would dwell among the people of Israel.

The Jewish sage, Ibn Ezra, comments that “while Moses was still on Mt. Sinai, G-d commanded him concerning the Tabernacle so that it would be a permanent place among the people for the glory that had rested on the mountain.” The author of Revelation writes that this continued presence of God will continue beyond the second coming of the Messiah and even into the “New Jerusalem.”

“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of G-d is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. G-d Himself will be with them and be their G-d (Rev. 21:3).’”

According to the Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman), “The secret of the Mishkan is that the Shechinah, which rested openly on Mt. Sinai, would dwell in the Mishkan in a concealed way … Thus, the Shechinah which appeared to them at Sinai continued to rest with Israel in the Mishkan.”

This idea is further supported by Ibn Ezra, who states: “While Moses was still on Mt. Sinai, G-d commanded him concerning the tabernacle so that it would be a permanent place among the people for the glory that had rested on the mountain.” As such, the Tabernacle served as a tangible assurance of the bond that G-d had forged with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai.

Each of us is a Portable Tabernacle

According to the great medieval Torah commentator, Abravanel, “When the Torah speaks about the Mikdash, it is not only describing a sacred building in which worship takes place but it also has in mind the body of each human being. That is to say, each human being is a sacred sanctuary.”

Isn’t this exactly what the Shaliach Sha’ul wrote?

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from G-d, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify G-d in your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20).”

The ultimate example of this is Yeshua himself, who identified himself as an incarnation of the Temple:

“Yeshua answered them, ‘Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Judeans then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body (John 2:19-21).”

This is a powerful image! The same presence of G-d that was revealed to Moshe at Mt. Sinai, and which dwelled in the Sanctuary, resides within us. Each one of us, therefore, is a dwelling place for the presence of HaShem. May we, as followers of Yeshua, our Righteous Messiah, continue to live lives aware of G-d’s manifest presence, and may we continue to work to bring that Presence to the rest of the world – thereby affirming our calling to be a Light to the Nations.


*Originally submitted to the UMJC website's weekly Torah commentaries.


Quote of the Day

Feb 24, 2011 at 11:04 AM

“The great question of why God permits evil is usually treated in Judaism less as a “why” question than as a “what” question: Given the evil in the world, what do we do about it?

We can wonder about God’s role, but it is ultimately inscrutable. We cannot know. Imagine how little a two-year-old understands an adult. He cannot even understand what he does not know. The Jewish tradition conceives of the gap between humans and God as far greater than that between an adult and an infant. So how, ultimately, can we understand?

What we can do, is act. Faced with evil, we can choose goodness. In a weary world, mitzvot enable us to begin closing the breach between what is and what should be. Even in the most difficult circumstance, we can choose. As the great Viktor Frankl writes in Man’s Search for Meaning: “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.’”

-Rabbi David Wolpe - From a past edition of his weekly Off the Pulpit.


Are You the One?

Feb 21, 2011 at 11:08 PM

Matthew 11:1-19

John the Immerser often receives very little attention. Of course people talk about him as being important because he was a cousin and forerunner of Yeshua, but otherwise his role is largely reduced to a small mention in the introduction to a much larger narrative.

Hermeneutically, however, the Gospel writers place the greatest emphases on details they deem the most important to the larger story. Interestingly, all four Gospels mention the narrative of John. You can choose to skip over this fact – as most others do – or you can recognize its significance. Not even Yeshua’s birth narrative is mentioned in all four Gospels (it is only recorded in Matthew and Luke). As such, all four Gospel writers considered John’s narrative as having far more relevance to the larger redemptive story of Yeshua than even Yeshua’s birth. Think about that for a moment.

So who exactly was John? In addition to being Yeshua’s cousin, he was a cohen – a priest on both sides of his lineage and groomed from birth to serve in the Jerusalem Temple. Yet, it seems at some point he was either sent out, or banished to the desert.

In this Besora portion, John sends a message to Yeshua asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for someone else?” (Mt. 11:3) Jon is clearly asking, “Are you the Messiah?” Yeshua responds, saying:

“Go and tell John what you are hearing and seeing – ‘the blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are being raised and the poor hear the Good News.’ (Matthew 11:5 quoting Is. 61:1)”

What is so significant about Yeshua’s response?

It is a messianic quote from the prophet Isaiah. In Jewish thought, talk is cheap. Yeshua does not respond merely with words, but rather with a demonstration that he is indeed the promised Messiah. Yeshua wants John to know for sure. However, Yeshua, knowing John, adds a small detail he knew maybe only John would catch. In his quote of Isaiah, Yeshua adds “the dead are being raised,” a detail not actually found in Isaiah 61:1. The only other place this particular phrasing has ever been found is in the Dead Sea Scrolls (in scroll 4Q521). Because of John’s believed connection to the Qumran community, in my opinion this was a sort of personal nod or wink to John, adding even greater emphasis to Yeshua’s response.

John was the perfect candidate to be a forerunner for Messiah. John was an Elijah-type figure who would usher in Yeshua’s time on earth. As John himself states, “The reason I came immersing with water was so that [Messiah] might be made known to Israel” (John 1:31).

Each of us has a role similar to John. We need to prepare the world for Messiah’s return, and become participants in ushering in the Messianic Age. It is a great task. However, our role has also been divinely selected. G-d has chosen each of us in this particular time for a certain reason. G-d needs you. Only when working together can we experience the long awaited return of our beloved Messiah Yeshua – may it be soon!


*This commentary originally appeared in the Set Table.


A Golden Calf and a Plea for Mercy

Feb 18, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Parashat Ki Tissa

The two most dramatic elements within Ki Tissa are clearly the sin of the Golden Calf and Moshe’s following plea before HaShem for mercy.

Regarding the sin of the golden calf, the people of Israel grew agitated with Moshe and took matters into their own hands:

“They gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Get busy and make us gods to go ahead of us; because this Moshe, the man that brought us up from the land of Egypt - we don’t know what has become of him.’” (Exodus 32: 1)

Aaron cooperated. Whether his actions were the result of fear or an attempt at appeasement, many authorities agree that Aaron’s accompanying actions were his biggest failure. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz states that Aaron’s participation in creating the golden calf was “the worst failure of his career.” This assessment is supported by Nehama Leibowitz who sees within the narrative not only the failure of Aaron and the sin of the Israelites, but a deliberate warning that human beings are capable of acting nobly at one moment and ugly at the next.

Upon seeing the people singing and dancing before the golden calf, Moshe became enraged:

“He threw the tablets he had been holding and shattered them at the base of the mountain. Seizing the calf they had made, he melted it in the fire and ground it into powder, which he scattered on the water.” (Exodus 32:19-20)

Moshe confronted his brother Aaron, pleading “What did these people do to you to make you lead them into such terrible sin?” Aaron replied with one of the sorriest excuses in the Torah:

“My lord should not be so angry. You know what these people are like, that they are determined to do evil … I answered them, ‘Anyone with gold, strip it off!’ So they gave it to me. I threw it in the fire, and out jumped this calf!” (Exodus 32:22-24)

Not only does Aaron deflect responsibility by pointing the finger at the people, but he makes an excuse, as though his participation was only passive – “I threw it into the fire, and out jumped this calf!”

Afterwards Moshe went back up the mountain to plead with HaShem not to destroy the Jewish people. G-d agrees and Moshe requests to see G-d’s glory. Placing Moshe in the cleft of a rock, HaShem allowed His presence to pass by Moshe. Moshe then cut two new stone tablets, and HaShem descended upon the mountain in a thick cloud and proclaimed what has come to be known as the Thirteen Attributes of G-d.

Within these two dramatic events we see two very different responses to responsibility under pressure. Aaron gave into the desires of the people, and when confronted made an excuse. Moshe, when confronted, took on the responsibility for the actions of the Jewish people. Instead of making an excuse and passing the blame on the people, he stood before the presence G-d and pleaded for mercy.

G-d is not looking for perfect people. Rather, G-d is looking for people who are humble and obedient. Humility requires that we not only seek to do HaShem’s will, but when we fall short, to come humbly in repentance, and take responsibility for our actions. Let us stop making excuses for the tasks at hand and let us walk humbly together, like Moshe, and prepare the way for the return of Mashiach!


*This week's parashah commentary was originally submitted to, and appears in, this week's Set Table.


Quote of the Day

Feb 17, 2011 at 5:16 PM
"Since the 1960's, the Messianic Jewish Movement has talked about revival - an act of G-d - while too often we have instead seen revivalism - more of an act. A movement calling itself the Messianic Jewish Movement has increasingly become the Messianic Jewish-style Movement, with a decreasing Jewish demographic presence. But what is most telling is that what we are seeing in the Messianic Jewish Movement bears little if any resemblance to what the Bible would lead us to expect: a movement of observant Jews at the heart of the Jewish community, empowered by the Spirit, demonstrating the authority of the risen Messiah - as a sign, demonstration, and a catalyst of G-d's consummating purposes for Israel, the nations, and the entire creation."

-Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann - from his soon to be released book, Son of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Jewish Movement (Wipf & Stock Publishers).


Learning as Worship

Feb 15, 2011 at 11:01 AM

Learning within Judaism is more than studying ... it is a form of worship. This just may be one of the primary differences between Judaism and other faith traditions. We have nearly 3,000 years worth of texts, layers of conversations, building upon the previous generations in order to grapple with our most sacred Scripture. For us Jews, learning is an essential part of our devotional lives. In addition to prayer, and righteous living, Judaism teaches a concept of תורה לשמה Torah Lishmah - the study of Torah for its own sake.

My friend and colleage, Rabbi Carl Kinbar, recently started a new blog called, The New Messianic Jewish Learning. In his first blog post, Rabbi Kinbar explains the important difference between study and learning from a Messianic Jewish perspective:
"Let me distinguish between learning and study. Study involves the acquisition and mastery of facts and their interconnections. Because followers of Yeshua are directed to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, our learning involves more than acquisition and mastery. It involves all four faculties—heart, mind, soul, and strength—and becomes for us a consuming act of love and worship. Learning is an embodied spiritual practice that enables us to cleave to God and one another.

Learning is worship. While this is no truer for Messianic Jews than for others, our years of involvement in Jewish life taught us that this view of learning is particularly Jewish. It has been carried forward by Jews for about two thousand years now. Sadly, it is not yet embedded in Messianic Jewish life, where learning is more like study, an acquiring of information (even revelation) that is necessary to walk closely with God—but not worship. The new Messianic Jewish learning insists that these writings of our people—the Tanakh, the Brit Hadashah (New Testament), midrash, Talmud, and more—are not valuable only for what they contain and describe but because they enable us to worship God specifically as Jews."


New Books to Check Out

Feb 13, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Two new books have just been released - hot off the press and worth checking out!

Israel's Messiah and the People of God
By Mark S. Kinzer, Edited by Jennifer M. Rosner

Dr. Mark Kinzer's newest title is an excellent follow-up to his book Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, published in 2005. It is a collection of essays, including several pieces never before published, edited by Jennifer M. Rosner, a doctoral candidate at Fuller Theological Seminary. The book gives an an even deeper understanding into the thinking of one of Messianic Judaism's most ground-breaking theologians. The collection of essays spans a period of nearly 30 years of work and demonstrates both the continuity within Kinzer's thinking over time, as well as how his thoughts have evolved and developed.

Jennifer Rosner's introduction is an excellent addition to the text, and gives greater clarity into the thought and work of Mark Kinzer, and ties it all together. I just recently picked-up the book at the Hashivenu forum in Los Angeles and am excited to delve further into it. This is a book that every serious student of Messianic Judaism should have on their book-shelves.

The book is available through Wipf & Stock publishers, or through Amazon (it is cheaper through Wipf & Stock).


Son of David
By Stuart Dauermann

Dr. Stuart Dauermann's most recent release is also a must for every serious student of Messianic Judaism. A quick read (only 49 pages), he delves into healing the vision of Messianic Judaism through the role of Yeshua as the Son of David. A visionary work from another one of Messianic Judaism's great thinkers and visionaries. I also just picked this up at the Hashivenu forum.

The book is published by Wipf & Stock, and is not yet released (but will be soon!). I'll keep you updated.


Egypt, Israel, and the Meneptah Stele

Feb 9, 2011 at 2:29 PM

Egypt plays a central role throughout the Bible, and particularly in the foundational narratives of Joseph, the Israelite enslavement, and the Exodus of the Israelites. With the influence these narratives have on the shaping of not only of Judaism and the Jewish people, but on western culture and religion as a whole, one would expect to find ample evidence for the existence of Israel in Egypt during the Bronze Age. Yet, despite the centrality of these events, there is no direct evidence outside of the Bible to support the existence of Israel in Egypt.

However, as has often been noted, the absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence. There is much that is absent from the historical record in Egypt. Furthermore, there is actually indirect support for the existence of Semitic peoples and influence in Egypt during the Bronze Age that may or may not corroborate the accounts recorded in the biblical text. This indirect support includes the Amarna letters, Tale of Two Brothers, Papyrus Harris, Beni Hassan tomb, Karnak reliefs, possibly the stele of Ramesses II, and various scarabs and inscriptions.

Although this evidence does not directly support the accounts recorded in the Biblical text, they do help establish credence for some historical details that may have been retained in the collective memory of Israel and later recorded in the Biblical accounts.[1]

EGYPTIAN EVIDENCE FOR ISRAEL

The issue of direct evidence all changes by Iron Age I, when the Israelites (or proto-Israelites)[2] are already settling in Canaan.

During this period we begin to find direct archaeological evidence for the existence of a particular people group, the early Israelites, in the central Judean hills, and the development of a uniquely ‘proto-Israelite’ material culture;[3] which includes enclosed settlements with ‘Four Roomed Houses,’ collared rimed pottery, hewn cisterns, terraced farming, and other material culture in addition to a unique ideology.

This is important because it establishes the reality of a people known as the Israelites in Canaan by the 1200’s BCE. Furthermore, cultures do not crop up overnight. So if one can find direct evidence for Israel in Iron I, it is quite plausible to assume the existence of the Israelites at least back into the Late Bronze Age.

MERNEPTAH STELE

The earliest and most direct reference we have to Israel outside the biblical narrative is the Victory Stele of the 19th Dynasty Egyptian king Merneptah.[4] Also known as the “Israel Stele,” it was erected in Thebes around 1210 BCE and records the victorious exploits of an Egyptian military campaign in Canaan, and lists specific enemies that were defeated. The Merneptah Stele is a black granite slab over 7.5 feet high,[5] and was discovered in 1896 in an expedition led by early archaeologist, Sir William Flinders Petrie. The particularly relevant portion of the Stele reads:

Plundered is Canaan with every evil;

Carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer;

Yanoam is made as that which does not exist;

Israel is laid waste, his seed is not;

Hurru is become a widow for Egypt!

All lands together, they are pacified.[6]

Whether the events described are fictive or real, what is clear is that by the 13th century BCE, a people called Israel existed, and that the king of Egypt not only knew about them, but felt it was worth boasting about their defeat.[7]

Additionally, the specific way Israel is mentioned is also significant. According to Hershel Shanks, “Unpronounced signs, called determinatives, attached to the place names in this section of the stele indicate that Ashkelon, Gezer and Yonoam were cities and that Canaan was a foreign land; the determinative for Israel, however, indicates that the term referred to a people rather than a place.”[8]

Archaeologist William Dever further explains[9] that the existence of the Merneptah Stele is of extreme importance and tells us four things:

  1. By 1210 BCE there existed in Canaan a cultural and political entity called “Israel” that was known to the Egyptians by that name.
  2. Israel was well enough established to be perceived as a threat.
  3. This Israel did not comprise of an organized state like others in Canaan, but was considered a loosely affiliated people group.
  4. Israel was not located in the lowlands, but in the more remote central hill region.

In summary, the Merneptah Stele contains a wealth of information, and is the earliest evidence we have outside the Bible for the existence of a people known as Israel in the 13th century BCE.





[1] Baruch Halpern, "The Exodus from Egypt: Myth or Reality?" The Rise of Ancient Israel (Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1992), 89-91.

[2] William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 194-200.

[3] William G. Dever, “How to Tell an Israelite from a Canaanite.” The Rise of Ancient Israel (Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1992), 30.

[4] William G. Dever, What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 118.

[5] Hershel Shanks, “Defining the Problems.” The Rise of Ancient Israel (Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1992), 17.

[6] James B. Pritchard, Ed. The Ancient Near East (Princeton Press, 1973), 231.

[7] Ibid. Shanks, “Defining the Problems,” 18.

[8] Ibid. 18.

[9] Ibid. 206.


Why Be Jewish?

Feb 7, 2011 at 12:43 PM

“I’m 17 now, and as lazy as it sounds, I’m indifferent to being Jewish. My mom doesn’t like the idea very much … But what makes me a Jew? We don’t go to temple, we don’t celebrate Shabbat, and we barely talk about Judaism … On top of [it], my family provides me with lots of reminders about how hard it is to be Jewish …

As a teenager I’m deciding who I want to be, but when I think about Judaism, it doesn’t even make the list. Nor do I feel guilty about it. How un-Jewish is that?”

-Joshua Raifman – Youth Radio (March 31, 2010)

We now live in a world where Jewishness is no longer a given.

“Why is being Jewish important?” many young Jews ask. “Because it just is!” their parents answer. The failure of this message to satisfy deeply rooted human longings for purpose and vision is in evidence in the pews of nearly every standard issue suburban synagogue – a handful of mostly retirees and Boomers, with their children in attendance only for obligatory occasions or B’nai Mitzvah preparation.

The New American Jew

The New American Jew is a category that encompasses three primary generations – young Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Millennials (Gen Y). According to Rabbi Sidney Schwarz,[1] the New American Jew is identified by three unique identity markers: They were born after the Holocaust and the birth of the State of Israel; they were raised without significant experiences in anti-Semitism, and raised in relative affluence and prosperity. The result is that the New American Jew is less inclined to build his or her identity around Israel or the Holocaust, and the rallying cry ‘Save the Jews!’ is less likely to resonate with them. Above all, remaining Jewish is no longer a given. Being Jewish is a choice.

Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, in his book, ReThinking Synagogues, recalls a particular experience from a weekend retreat that may be helpful to this discussion:

“A couple at the back of the room stood out. As the only people under forty, they had sat quietly for all of Shabbat, somewhat ignored by the others … Hesitantly, one of them raised a hand … ‘We came here not knowing what we would find … but it seems to me that none of the questions asked so far has any relevance. The only question that counts for us is ‘Why be Jewish?’ That is what we came to find out.’

After a momentary hush, the room erupted in one denunciation after another – all quietly delivered, as if the crowd of older attendees were disciplining children. How could these young Jews be so callous …? The reason for being Jewish is self-evident, isn’t it? How dare they even question that, [especially] after what happened in Europe?”[2]

For far too long the question of “Why be Jewish?” has remained largely unanswered and primarily dismissed within both the wider Jewish community and the Messianic Jewish Movement. However, if we are to have any sort of impact on a new (and ongoing) generation of Jews, we must recognize this as a legitimate question.

We often spend too much time trying to come up with answers to questions most Jews are not really asking. Our ability to reach our people depends solely on our ability to relate and engage them spiritually. In reality, the particular question of why be Jewish happens to be far more pressing for most American Jews than their questions about Yeshua. We do not have to see this as a threat, however, but rather a challenge.

A great number of our people are currently moving toward a spirituality that can answer their deep-felt spiritual needs. It is really no secret. What we Jews are seeking today is the same thing Jews have always sought – to simultaneously connect with G-d and to find our place within thirty centuries of Jewish history.

Because Jewishness is no longer a given, and viewed as a choice, the New American Jew is seeking a spirituality that is compelling. If we want to engage new generations we’ll need to think out of the box, considering multiple “entry points” into community life and into faith. Our people are looking for something to believe in. Although many may not recognize it as such, they are looking for faith. But, they are seeking a faith that can engage them spiritually, intellectually, socially, and Jewishly. Our ability to reach our people, and ultimately communicate the message of Yeshua depends largely on our ability to communicate from within our community, and through a vibrant Jewish Spirituality, infused and renewed by our Divine Messiah.


*Adapted from a paper I presented at the second Borough Park Symposium in April 2010.



[1] Sidney Schwarz, Finding a Spiritual Home (Woodstock: Jewish Lights, 2003), 14.

[2] Lawrence A. Hoffman, ReThinking Synagogues (Woodstock: Jewish Lights, 2007), 60.


Divine Presence

Feb 3, 2011 at 5:39 PM

Parashat T'ruma

What is the connection between the construction of the Tabernacle, its furnishings and the Presence of G-d among the people of Israel?

This week’s Torah portion, Parashat T'ruma, centers on the instructions concerning the building of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) and its furnishings. This raises an interesting question. For if the Bible’s overall theme is about G-d’s relationship with humanity through the Jewish people, then why is so much attention given to the details of objects? The answer is deeply connected to the purpose of the Mishkan, its services, and the manifest presence of the Divine.

The Torah states, “They shall make for me a Sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them (25:8).” The Hebrew name for the Tabernacle is mishkan, which means “to dwell” or “dwelling.” As such, even the word mishkan denotes HaShem's presence that would dwell among the people of Israel.

The Jewish sage, Ibn Ezra, comments that “while Moses was still on Mt. Sinai, G-d commanded him concerning the tabernacle so that it would be a permanent place among the people for the glory that had rested on the mountain.” Further, Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch notes that the key to the Tabernacle is directly related to Israel’s calling in verse 8. The Sanctuary represents Israel’s obligation to sanctify itself in its personal life. When the nation carries out that primary responsibility, G-d responds by dwelling among them.

G-d has always desired to tabernacle among His people. And the purpose of the Mishkan was to be a constant reminder of G-d’s presence residing among the Jewish people. The mishkan represents G-d’s shechinah (from the same word as mishkan) – G-d’s manifest presence on earth.

The author of Revelation writes that this continued presence of G-d among the Jewish people will continue beyond the second coming of the Messiah and even into the “New Jerusalem.”

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of G-d is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. G-d Himself will be with them and be their G-d (Rev. 21:3).’”

This promise echoes passages from the Torah in which G-d promises that He will be Israel’s G-d, and that they shall be His people. This promise of Israel’s unique relationship will continue into the Olam HaBa – the World to Come. May we, as followers of Yeshua, our Righteous Messiah, continue to live personal lives aware of G-d’s manifest presence, and may we continue to work to bring that Presence to the rest of the world – thereby affirming our calling to be a Light to the Nations.


Hashivenu Review

Feb 2, 2011 at 2:36 PM


Last night was the conclusion of the 13th annual Hashivenu theological forum, held in beautiful Agoura Hills, CA, outside of Los Angeles. The forum brings together scholars, leaders, and thinkers from around the world to discuss issues pertaining to Messianic Judaism. The theme this year was Community - a very practical topic for the future of our Movement.

Sunday

The forum began Sunday afternoon with a journey paper presented by Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann. It was followed by two excellent book reviews as an introduction to the topic of the forum.

The first review was presented by our good friend, Benjamin Ehrenfeld on the book, Empowered Judaism by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer. The book explores the recent phenomenon of independent minyanim, and what we can learn from them about building vibrant spiritual communities. Benjamin did a great job in not only describing the book, but its application within a Messianic Jewish context.

The second book review was presented by another friend and colleague, Rabbi Derek Leman (also read Derek's blog posts on the forum). He reviewed the book Counseling and Community by Rod J.K. Wilson which explores community and its relationship to counseling. Derek also reviewed the book on his blog linked above.

One of the highlights of each Hashivenu forum is our praying together. It is always powerful to pray together in a room full of other Jewish believers committed to Jewish life renewed in Yeshua.

The final event of the evening was a screening of the movie Avalon, which depicts the life of an immigrant Jewish family in Baltimore beginning at the turn of the century, and their assimilation into American society over a couple generations. The movie was followed-up with a group conversation facilitated by Dr. Ellen Goldsmith on its relevance to the the topic of community.

Monday

Monday began with a great Shacharit and Torah service. Then a journey paper was presented by another friend, Jon C., from Southern California. The most heimish part of his paper was a story he shared about a comment his young son recently made while watching him lay tefillin. After Jon explained what they were and why he was doing it, his son asked, "daddy, where's my tefillin?" This cute story emphasized the importance of Jewish continuity and demonstrating a Jewish lifestyle to our children.

The first major paper was presented by Dr. H. Bruce Stokes, titled, "Establishing A Relational Community: A Theology of Community for Messianic Jews and Judeo-Christians." Dr. Stokes, a behavioral anthropologist and theologian, explored kinship systems similar to our own communities and discussed in greater detail the concept of community from an anthropological perspective. This was followed by his recommendations for building community, and he used his own congregation as an example.

The first response paper to Dr. Stokes was from Dr. Annie Priest, a historian from England. She presented a response that delved into the Haskalah and specific Jewish thinkers (particularly Franz Rosensweig).

The second response paper was presented by none other than my wonderful wife, Monique. She gave a well-thought out response and addressed a couple concerns she had with specific proposals within Dr. Stokes' paper from the perspective of a young Jewish woman, and as a human rights attorney.

Dr. Stokes gave a rejoinder which was followed-up by a period of discussion. We then davened Mincha together the end the afternoon session.

Monday evening included a very special meal together which was first introduced last year - a communal HaZikkaron meal. Developed by Dr. Mark Kinzer's congregation, HaZikkaron is constructed around the partaking of "communion." The liturgy and meal is specifically meant to give an additional emphasis on this meaningful ceremony. It was led by Rabbi Paul Saal who additionally introduced thoughts and quotes to meditate upon over dinner. Following the meal and the partaking of the wine, we were asked to go around the room and say something we were grateful for. Although this seemed like it could be really hokey, it was actually a very wonderful time of giving credit to some great leaders and colleagues, including the honoring of Dr. David Stern, and his wife Martha. I enjoyed the HaZikkaron meal and really like the basic idea of this communal and reflective meal, and would like to someday adapt a similar meal within our own. In fact, I would like to introduce something similar within my own community in the future.

Tuesday

After davening Shacharit together Tuesday morning, the session was kicked-off with a journey paper by David N. from Boston. Then the second major paper was presented by Rabbi Dr. Mark Kinzer, whose paper was titled, "Messianic Jewish Community: Standing and Serving as a Priestly Remnant."

Dr. Kinzer is always thought provoking and articulate. His primary thrust was that from his perspective we currently have our roles reversed. In his proposal, the Jewish remnant needs to primarily focus on its priestly role, rather prophetic role. For when we do so, the prophetic role will be a natural outflow. It is not neglecting one for the other, but proposing that our priestly role be the priority.

The first response paper was presented by Rabbi Russ Resnik, and the second response paper was presented by Rabbi Tony Eaton. Both papers addressed what they saw missing in Kinzer's paper, which was how outreach fits into the proposed model.

A rejoinder was given by Dr. Kinzer followed by significant interaction and discussion on the practical implications for building community. The forum ended with a concluding d'var Torah by Dr. David Rudolph, who brought together much of the conversation over the last three days.

Conclusion

Although I thoroughly enjoy every forum, I have especially enjoyed both this year's forum as well as last year's forum due to their very practical applications. In addition to the forum itself, one of the best aspects is always getting to see friends and colleagues I often only get to see once or twice a year. So we often schmooze into the early morning hours discussing very nerdy theological and Jewish topics ... texts ... or just whatever ... and often over a good cigar, a glass of scotch, or a good beer. It is truly the encouragement of my dear friends and colleagues which inspires me to keep doing what I am doing, and reminds me why it is so important to continue building this thing we call "Messianic Judaism."

We're already looking forward to next year!