Sunday, June 29, 2014

You are Located Here: Mapping the Ecclesiologies of Dispensationalist Christianity, and Inclusionist and Exclusionist Messianic Judaism

There are 3 basic views on the ecclesiological composition of the Body of Believers:

(1) Dispensationalist View:  The Church replaces Israel.  Dispensationalist George Eldon Ladd explains:

"The Greek word, ekklesia, is the word most commonly used in the Greek Old Testament to refer to Israel as the people of God.  The very use of this word [in the Apostolic Writings] suggests that our Lord purposed to bring into existence a new people who would take the place of the old Israel....In the Old Testament era, the olive tree--the people of God--consisted of the children of Israel....[in the New Testament era] a new community has been formed...The Church is the community of the Kingdom of God...," (pgs. 112-121 of The Gospel of the Kingdom:  Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God by George Eldon Ladd).

(2) Exclusionist View:  The Church is composed of Gentiles ("the Gentile wing of the Ekklesia") and Israel (the Jewish wing of the Ekklesia).  Gentiles are excluded from Israel.  Dan Juster (UMJC) explains via diagram:

(3) Inclusionist View:  The Ekklesia (Church) is the Messianic Kingdom of Israel, composed of Jews and Gentiles, who are equal partners in the covenants (see Eph. 2).

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Well, I don't really understand it but many thanks to all the visitors from around the world!  Don't forget to message me if you would like to guest blog or have a particular topic discussed.



This is the Way We Should Talk About Yeshua

...with the same passion as Mr. Rogers defending his program before the Senate in 1969.  Hope you at least make it to the 4:57 mark:


Two House Debates: A Quick Word About How to Structure Definitional Arguments

Whenever there's a debate about whether something is X or Y, that's a definitional argument.  Examples:

  • Is Johnny an alcoholic or non-alcoholic?
  • Is the living organism in the mother's womb a human or non-human?

There are two types of definitional arguments:  (1) elemental arguments and (2) applicational arguments.

If there's disagreement about how to define something (the elements of a thing) then you've got an elemental argument;  if there's agreement how to define something but disagreement as to whether it applies then you've got an applicational argument.

So the basic structure for a definitional argument looks like this:

(1) elements of the definition

(2) application:  examples of how the elements apply to the subject

I say all of this so that if someone wants to place a label on someone, to say that a person is a Two Houser for example, then in the interests of fairness, he really must define the category by listing all the elements and then show examples of how the person meets each element.  As followers of Yeshua, we should be fair in all of our dealings and show ourselves to be clear thinkers.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Liturgical Resource Links (Share 'Em If You Got 'Em)

So this post is for anyone to share links to nifty Jewish liturgical resources.  I'll start us off:

Siddur for Shabbat Service (Torah Resource)

Various Liturgical Resources (

Free Audio Recordings Made by Conservative Rabbi

Argument vs. Pseudo-Argument: Why Humility Matters

Some musings from earlier today...

An argument should be a dialogue that is reasonable (where claims are supported by evidence), intellectually honest, and built upon common ground (or potential common ground).  Why?  Because otherwise argument is not pleasurable or productive but rather a shouting match where the combatants are merely taking turns expressing their own infallibility.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Join the Fight: Reclaim the Core Value of Group Study Using Interactive Surveys from TNN Press

Each movement begins with an individual who notices a problem and does something about it:

  • The Natural Foods Movement:  a response to processed foods containing pesticides or GMOs
  • Civil Rights Movement (in America):  a response to racial violence and racist laws

In the same way, the Messianic Movement is a response to a perceived evil:  anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism, Liberal Theology, etc.  Or to put it more simply (and less nerdy):  we are fighting against Satanic deception.

We want the Truth!  

But how badly do we really want it? That Theological McDonald's food does taste pretty good after all...

But if you are interested in getting back to the Truth and emboldening and energizing others to do the same, you should consider leading/hosting a small group that utilizes the following INTERACTIVE workbooks from TNN Press:

Time is short, brothers and sisters.  Make no mistake: Satan will try to drag everyone you love down to hell.  Are you going to let him do that without a fight?

Sunday, June 22, 2014


I'm going to be updating and adding several sections to this blog.  Since there's now close to a thousand people a day viewing this blog, I'm going to add an "About Me" section (still keeping a low profile though).  Also, I'm updating the "Introduction"and "Frequently Asked Questions" sections.  

Stay tuned...

Trying to Obtain a Review Copy of This One...

The book is "Transformed by God" by David Peterson and is a comprehensive look at how Jeremiah 31:31-34 is treated in the Apostolic Writings.

Here is the chapter by chapter breakdown:


About the author (he's done his homework):


Convicted About Unforgiveness

So earlier this week my daughter was laughing and playing with one of her stuffed animals and, for no apparent reason, said the name of one of the individuals that I've been holding a grudge against.  I said, "Let me tell you a little something about ______.  Do you know that he said we should consider giving you to strangers?"

She looked shocked.

"Yes, it's true.  And not only him.  You know _____?"


"Well, he suggested the same thing.  I was very offended by that evil suggestion....and I still am.  That wasn't very nice of them to say, was it?"

And so my wife hears this conversation and steps in.  She said I should forgive these individuals and that she would pray that G-d would convict me about it.

I think I said to her, "But they didn't treat me like a brother!  Can you imagine [my brother's name] ever saying something like that?  No, because that's not how brothers act.  They treated me like an outsider--an enemy."

Flash forward just a few days...

Today we attended a prayer service at the church we visit.  Can you guess what the pastor asked for people to pray about?  You guessed it:  forgiveness.

Still I was absolutely convinced that didn't apply to me--these individuals are not repentant and we don't have to forgive someone who is not repentant.

And then this verses pops into my head:

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,"  (Romans 5:8)
Yeshua didn't wait for the world to become repentant.  While we were busy sinning, He was busy forgiving.

Yesterday I felt this urge to look up all the instances of hesed in the Tanak.  It was all very obsessive, painstakingly looking at every occurrence of the word.  Oh, and I also felt the need to do the same thing for the word "truth".  So I found verses like this:
"Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other," (Psalm 85:10)
"And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth," (Exodus 34:6)
Hesed v'Emet...over and over again HaShem was making me study these terms.  Why???

And then the pastor put up the following on a big projection screen:

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth," (John 1:14)
May HaShem pardon me for my unforgiveness and help me to be more like His Word, Yeshua who is full of hesed v'emet.  

I am a slow work in progress...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What an Amazing Christian Pastor!

So this just happened like twenty minutes ago (I'm doing some mobile blogging right now):

I arrive at the church, feeling excited and optimistic, which for me is rare when it comes to encounters with Christians.  But maybe times are changing (or I am).  I get buzzed inside and a nice lady directs me to the elevator that takes me to the waiting room.

The waiting room was so peaceful.  It was just an ordinary waiting room, very clean and tidy, sofa and a couple of chairs, some glass shelves with African instruments and things.  But I was a little nervous because why was I feeling so optimistic anyway?  This guy when he finds out I'm Messianic might tell my family not to visit there anymore.

Then a lady unlocks the security door and I'm lead through a little labyrinth of offices and then I see the books...  Was it the Pastor's office?  No, it was just the receptionist's office but it was filled with books. Turned out to be the overflow books from the pastor's office.

But then I'm led into the pastor's office, this big room with lots of windows and lots of books.  And there he was smiling and welcoming.

I felt completely comfortable talking about everything.  Maybe it was because a Messianic lady once told me, speaking in hushed tones like she was conveying very sensitive information, that this pastor had a "road to Damascus" experience when he visited Israel.  I took that to mean he was favorable toward the Messianic movement.  But I also got "the vibe" from him.  The "I'm Messianic friendly" vibe.

So he wanted my story.  And under normal circumstances, had it been any other Christian pastors office, I might have stumbled over my words or not known what to talk about.  But the Spirit just made me completely relaxed (and happy!  yes, I was happy for no apparent reason).  He got my story and all my perspectives of the Messianic movement--basically he got a crash course in all things Messianic.  I gave the personal story first then the Theological journey.

I explained at some point how there's two camps in Messianic Judaism, the Bilateralist camp and One Law camp, and what they teach. He recoiled at the Bilateralist notion that Gentiles are excluded from the New Covenant, excluded from Israel, and how Jews and Gentiles should be segregated into two distinct corporate bodies.  Then I described One Law teachings, how we believe that all Believers, both Jew and Gentile, have a membership in the Israel of G-d.  I talked about how we're preparing for the Prophetic vision of many nations joining to the L-rd and becoming His people, keeping Sukkot, Passover, Shabbat, streaming to Zion to learn the Torah, etc.

He said he agreed with everything that I had said.  And he actually meant that.

And at the end we both knelt before the L-rd and prayed.  And I could really feel that we were in the presence of the L-rd.  It was just such a great time to worship and be thankful.

Afterward, he explained that he must be obedient to the timing of the Spirit.  And he didn't have to say anything else.  I completely understood what he meant.


So I'd just like to encourage Messianics out there:  even as you go about building Messianic fellowships, make sure to keep your eyes open for bridge-building with Christian communities.  Maybe there's not many who are receptive.  But pray that G-d will direct you to the ones who are receptive.

Distilling and Clarifying the Issue: Are Gentiles New Covenant Members or Not?

Now, miscommunications aside, I think any One Law person out there believes that Gentiles are members of the New Covenant.  This is in contradistinction to the following expression that says that Gentiles are NOT members of the New Covenant:

"Admittedly, I was shocked when I first discovered that there was no direct covenant connection between “the Church” and God," (James Pyles, in a comment at

I for one believe that Gentiles have a direct covenant connection through the person of Messiah (direct because I believe that Yeshua IS Israel and that the New Covenant is LITERALLY in His precious blood).

So there are 2 distinct positions here:

POSITION 1:  Believing that Gentiles are NOT members of the New Covenant

POSITION 2:  Believing that Gentiles ARE members of the New Covenant.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Question for Dan [UPDATED AT BOTTOM]

[NOTE:  this post is going to be a little different.  I'm going to edit the post itself so that each new comment appears in sequence]

TO:  Dan

Do you actually believe that Yeshua's blood has not been offered to Gentiles?  Or are we just having a massive Hebrew-English communication breakdown?  

To briefly recap, you said I had no evidence for the proposition that the New Covenant includes both Jews and Gentiles and so after citing to 1 Cor. 11:25 and Eph 2:13, I cited to Prophecy (e.g. Joel 2) which indicates that G-d planned from the beginning to offer the blood of the New Covenant to the world because He loves the entire world regardless of ethnicity.  So let's resume our discussion.




[Dan begins by quoting from James Pyles:] "For the New Covenant was made with the house of Judah and the house of Israel, not the people of the nations, and it is only by coming alongside Israel rather than replacing her or co-opting her unique relationship with God, that we can enjoy blessings of the covenants God made with the Jewish people."

[Next, Dan writes:]

This is what James wrote and you disputed that. I called you on that and asked you to show me one place in Scriptures where it says that the NC is offered to the Gentiles. You have yet to do that. Gentiles are in because of the Abrahamic Covenant. (Gen. 12:3). The Gentiles are blessed through Israel, they don't take over. You need to drop this 2 house thing from your mind.



Dan, I have presented Scriptural evidence (1 Cor. 11:25, Eph. 2:13, Joel 2, Acts 2, 11:15) that the New Covenant was offered not just to Jews but also to Gentiles.  

Yet I asked you a direct question and you refused to answer.  I asked you "Do you actually believe that Yeshua's blood has not been offered to Gentiles?"  I have responded to your questions, please show me the same courtesy.



[RE:]  "Yet I asked you a direct question and you refused to answer. I asked you "Do you actually believe that Yeshua's blood has not been offered to Gentiles?" I have responded to your questions, please show me the same courtesy."
I thought I answered it on the other thread. It was not offered to the Gentiles. It was offered to Israel and the Gentiles receive it through Israel.

Where in 1 Cor. 11:25 does it say that the NC was offered to the Gentiles? You are reading your agenda into Scriptures.
Where in Ephes. 2:13 does it say that the NC was offered to the Gentiles? There is no offer there, only an after fact that NOW, by the blood of Yeshua.....
Who did Joel speak to? Who are the inhabitants of the land, and what land is it, Chicago?
Who did Peter spoke to in Acts 2? The NY Nicks?
Acts 11:15 is this a direct offer or and after effect?
You are reading your agenda into Scriptures.



Dan, you wrote that "[Yeshua's blood] was not offered to the Gentiles." And then, nonsensically, you wrote:  "…Gentiles receive [Yeshua's blood] through Israel."

So, pray tell me, how can Gentiles receive something that was never offered to them?

The reality is that a gift must be offered before someone can accept it.  Face it:  Yeshua offered the gift of the New Covenant to both Jews and Gentiles.  


"Yeshua offered the gift of the New Covenant to both Jews and Gentiles. "
Quote Him, can you?



I quoted Him by presenting His Scripture; you, in turn, presented a logical absurdity:  that the Gentiles accepted a gift which was never offered to them.  


UPDATE:  this discussion continues in the comments below but I have since distilled the issue in a subsequent post.  There are really 2 positions:   Position 1:  Gentiles are NOT members of the New Covenant or Position 2:  Gentiles ARE members of the New Covenant.  So, semantic or mechanic issues aside, those are the 2 positions--you're either one or the other.

Is the New Covenant Made Only With Israel?

The UMJC now promotes the teaching that Gentiles have no part in the New Covenant, that it was offered only to Jews.  But if the New Covenant is literally in His blood (1 Cor. 11:25) and one must have His blood to live and abide in Him (John 6:53-57), then where does the UMJC's proposition leave Gentiles?

The truth is that the UMJC has gone over to Satan and we must repudiate them as they have repudiated the Gospel.  The same is also true of First Fruits of Zion for this teaching is being taught by one of their very own teachers.

May all the Messianics out there rise up now to defend the Gospel of our L-rd and Savior, Yeshua the Messiah!

“53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me,” John 6:53-57 
 “25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me,” 1 Cor. 11:25 
 “13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ,” Ephesians 2:13

Monday, June 16, 2014

The UMJC's New Low: "Acknowledge That the New Covenant Excludes Gentiles or Bring a Curse Upon Yourself" [UPDATED]

The UMJC must now either repudiate James Pyles, the blogger they promote on the UMJC website or else show to the world that they accept the following:

"For the New Covenant was made with the house of Judah and the house of Israel, not the people of the nations, and it is only by coming alongside Israel rather than replacing her or co-opting her unique relationship with God, that we can enjoy blessings of the covenants God made with the Jewish people.To deny this on any level is to bring a curse upon yourself, but to bless and uphold the nation of Israel and the distinct nature and character of the Jewish people is to bring blessings upon yourself from God, who selected Israel for His own," from

 If the UMJC does not repudiate James Pyles IMMEDIATELY then let it be known to the world that the UMJC teaches that Gentiles are excluded from the New Covenant.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  I visited a UMJC synagogue recently and noticed a flyer at the welcome table.  In this flyer that's printed on official UMJC letterhead, it promotes the blog of James Pyles.  So the UMJC directs Gentiles to this man's teachings in various ways, not just the website

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Does It "Cheapen" Jewish Identity When a Gentile Practices the Torah of Israel?

James Pyles cracks me up.  In his latest post, he actually says the following:
"Also, living with a Jewish wife and daughter, I have a special appreciation for their own uniqueness as Jews and how my mimicking Jewish behavior in some sort of evangelical Jewish cosplay cheapens who they are and totally misrepresents me and all other Gentile disciples of the Master."
There are so many classic rebuttals to this attack.  Here's one of my favorites:

"Did it cheapen Judah's identity when the other tribes kept the Torah?"

Or how about:

"Did it cheapen Boaz's identity when Ruth kept the Torah?"

We could of course go on and on.  Okay, one more:

"Is G-d trying to cheapen Jewish identity when He writes in the Prophets that all people will keep Sukkot in the Messianic Kingdom or that all "flesh" will come to worship before Him on every Shabbat?"

Let's call this "bilateralism" what it really is:  RACISM.  It's the same affliction of the UMJC and IACMS--they're all a bunch of racists.  And I challenge any of them to a public debate on what the Scripture has to say on this matter!

To see an overview of the case for One Law, please read The Messianic Gentile Manifesto.

Church Update

Funny thing happened this morning at the church I visit.  The lesson was about how to distinguish deception from Truth.

I held my tongue till about five minutes before the class let out.  And then I thought to myself "well, why not..."

So I talked about how Constantine deceived generations of Believers by switching out Biblical holy days like Passover and Sukkot with Easter and Christmas.  I talked about how we need to use the Bible as the measure for what is True rather than relying on widely-held and long-accepted traditions of men. I also provided the example of how people think marriage licenses are acceptable even though they were originally created to enforce anti-miscegenation laws, that Adam didn't need a marriage "license" to marry Eve.  I also cited the example of how public schooling is actually a violation of the Freedom of Speech because government-run education is tantamount to forced speech, that before there were public schools the children were taught Christian lessons.  My point was that we can't something as true just because we've grown up with it our whole life, that we really need to search the Scriptures to see what's true.

And you know what the funny part about it was?  Even though I encouraged them to question Christian tradition, there were murmurs of agreement!

The Mourner's Kaddish in Jewish Tradition (Dedicated to My Grandmother)

My grandmother was a classic Italian woman.  She loved G-d, family, and food (in that order).  She was a tiny woman but I also got the feeling she could've thrown vehicles out of the way to protect me.  She knew how to cook desserts that would blow your mind--I'm thinking now particularly of her famous pound cake sprinkled with confectionary sugar...  It was because of her that I learned to love Italian culture.

And with her passing, I feel like I've lost a big part of myself.

So this post is dedicated to her.  What follows are some selected readings on the Mourner's Kaddish in Jewish Tradition:

To Pray as a Jew by Donin

"No prayer in all of Jewish liturgy arouses greater emotion than Kaddish.  No prayer instills greater reverence.  No prayer projects more mystery.  It is usually thought of as a prayer for the dead, but it is not that at all.  There are prayers for the dead, but Kaddish meaning 'sanctification' is not one of them.  Yet it is Kaddish that is recited by grief-stricken families at funerals and by mourners at memorial assemblies.  It is Kaddish that sons are required to recite for eleven months following the death of a parent.  Wherein lies the secret of this prayer's power and significance?  What does it mean--for the dead and for the living?
     Its opening words, yitgadal v'yitkadash (Ashkenazic pronunciation:  yisgadal v'yiskadash) were inspired by Ezekiel 38:23, where the prophet envisions a time when God will become great and hallowed in the eyes of all nations; they shall learn 'that I am the Lord.'  Its mood emanates from an awareness of God's infinite power and majesty.  Kaddish is a hymn that praises God and yearns for the speedy establishment of God's kingdom on earth.
     To sanctify God's name publicly has been the historic duty of the Jew....
     The simplest manifestation of Kiddush HaShem is a public declaration of our belief that God is great and holy, which elicits from others the response Yehei Shmei rabba mevorakh l'olam ul'almei almaya ('May His great Name be blessed forever and ever').  That is what we do when we say Kaddish, for the whole purpose of saying Kaddish is not merely to praise God...but to elicit the aforementioned response from listeners.  The response is the hear of the Kaddish and should be said aloud.
     Kaddish is therefore not said when one is praying alone.  Its very essence is as a public prayer.  If the minimum number of people that constitute a congregation ('a public assembly') is not met, the public nature of the sanctification of God's Name is missing.  And if there cannot be a public response, the reason for saying Kaddish disappears.
[This earliest version of Kaddish goes back to the period of the Second Temple:]

Magnified and sanctified be His great name in the world which He created according to His will.
And may He establish His kingdom
During your life and during your days, and during the life of all the house of Israel, speedily and in the near future, and say Amen.

(Response:  May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.)

Blessed, praised and glorified, exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all blessings and hymns, praises and songs that are uttered in the world, and say Amen.


The inspiration for mourners to adopt Kaddish as their special prayer, and the curious mystical hold it has had over mourners over the centuries, even though it was never codified, may have been based on a legend told about Rabbi Akiva who lived in the second century C.E.  It is said that he once saw a man struggling under a heavy load of wood.  Rabbi Akiva stopped the man and said, 'Why must you do this difficult work?  If you are a slave and this labor is forced upon you, I will redeem you from your master and set you free.  And if it is because you are poor and you must earn your livelihood this way, I will enrich you.'  But the man responded with obvious fright, 'Please let me go and do not detain me, lest I anger those in charge of me.'  The man's reply puzzled Akiva.  'Who are you and what is this all about?'  he asked.  The man replied, 'I am one of those unfortunate souls condemned to the agonies of hell-fire, and every day I am sent to bring my own wood for my own torment.'  Is there then no way for you to be relieved of this suffering?' asked Akiva.  'Yes,' the man answered.  'I heard it said that if my little son, whom I left behind, were to say in public Yitgadal v'yitkadash and the others would answer Yehei Shmei rabba mevorakh, or if he were to say Borkhu et Adonai hamevorakh and the congregation would answer Barukh Adonai hamevorakh l'olam va-ed, I would be set free from this judgment.'  Akiva then asked the man for the pertinent details and promised to locate his child and teach him Torah so that he could stand before the congregation and say Yitgadal in praise of God.  The legend goes on to describe how Akiva searched for the child, found him, taught him Torah, the Shema, the Amidah, the Grace after Meals, and prepared him to stand before the congregation to recite Yitgadal.  When the boy did this, the father's soul was delivered from its judgment and permitted its eternal rest.  The man then appeared to Akiva in a dream and thanked him:  'May it be God's will that you rest in peace for you made it possible for me to be at peace' (Netiv Binah I, pp. 367-368)."

Jewish Liturgy:  Prayer and Synagogue Service Through the Ages Edited by Posner, Kaploun, Cohen

"The practice that mourners recite the Kaddish seems to have originated during the 13th century, at a time of severe persecutions in Germany by the Crusaders.  No reference is made to it in the Mahzor Vitry, an early prayer book compiled by a disciple of Rashi in the 11th century."

The Mystery of the Kaddish by Charney and Mayzlish

"And in the following...Rabbi Steinsalz is our guide, phrase by phrase, the text with references to relevant excerpts from the Torah and other passages of the Bible.

     Yitgadal veyitkadash-- 'Glorified and sanctified be...' 
The main concept underlying the Kaddish is to be found in Moses' prayer (Numbers 14:17), 'And now, I pray you, let the power of the Lord be great, as You have spoken,' which is both a prayer and a request that God's power be magnified and revealed in the world.  The two-word combination, yitgadal veyitkadash, is based on a verse in Ezekiel 38:23, vehitgadalti vehitkadashti--'I will be glorified and sanctified...and they will know that I am the Lord.'
     Shemei rabbah--'[God's] great Name.'  This is found in 1 Sameul 12:22, Shemo hagadol--The Lord will not forsake His people for His great name's sake.'  The word 'great' is one of respect and esteem in regard to God's name....
     Be'al'ma di'vra chirutei--'Throughout the world which He has created according to His will.'  This parallels Psalms 135:6, 'Whatever the Lord wished, He did,' namely that God created the world as He wanted it to be, and only He rules it and can change it in whichever way He wishes.
     B'chay-yeichon uv'yomeichon--'In your lifetime and during your days.'  We ask that God's name be glorified and sanctified, not in the distant future, but in the lifetime of the worshippers...
     Uv'chay'yei d'chol beit Yisrae'el--'and within the life of the entire House of Israel,' the assurance that all will live to see God's ultimate redemption of the world.
     Ba-a-gala uvizman kariv--'speedily and soon.'  This is a new request, building upon the previous one.  Not only do we ask for redemption at some point in the lifetime of the congregants, in the distant future, but we ask for it to take place very soon (see Psalms 69:18, for example:  'Do not hide Your face from Your servant; for I am in distress; answer me speedily').
     V'im'ru:  Amein--'and say: Amen.'  There are many places in the Bible where praise of God is followed by 'Amen,' as, for example, Psalms 106:48, 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting, and let all the people say:  'Amen.'  Everyone is asked to say 'Amen,' so that all will take part in the prayer...
     Y'hei sh'mei rabba me'vorach...--'May His great name be blessed...'  When the congregation answers, 'Amen,' it also adds, 'May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.' ...
     L'olam ul'ol'mei olma-ya--'forever and to all eternity.'  The literal translation of this passage is 'from one world to the other world.'  This is similar to 1 Chronicles 29:10, 'for ever and ever' (literally, 'from one world to the other world').  The double use of 'world' implies both this world and the World to Come, the world in which we live and the World on High.  
     Yitbarach v'yistabach...--'Blessed and praised...' The underlying idea of this sentence is to be found in the verse (Nehemiah 9:5), 'Let them say:  'Blessed be your glorious Name that is exalted above all blessing and praise.'...
     L'ei-la min kol birchata v'shirata...--'beyond all the blessings and hymns....' We find this idea in Nehemiah 9:5, 'Exalted above all blessing and praise....' As Ibn Ezra explains it, 'No creature can possibly praise Him or exalt Him in accordance with His greatness and elevation, for He is greater and more exalted, to the extent that no mouth can express it.'...
     Birchata v'shirata, tushb'chata v'ne-che-mata--'blessings and hymns, praises and consolations.'  According to Kabbalah, each one of these four words is linked to one of the four letters of God's ineffable name, and thus each has special significance."

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dangerous Food or Harmless Food? Question on Paul's Instructions in 1 Cor. 8-11

Here's something I've been wondering about (yes, I'm pleading ignorance which should be fine considering that even Peter the Apostle said Paul's writings were difficult to understand).

On the one hand, Paul makes it seem like idol food can't harm you and that you can eat "whatever is put before you" (1 Cor. 10:27)--in short, that such food is harmless;  but, on the other hand, he says that to eat such food is like taking communion with demons, that it provokes the L-rd to jealously--in short, that such food is dangerous.

So which is it?  Dangerous food or harmless food?

Any thoughts?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Surprising Background of the Apostolic Decree: Pig Sacrifice

Some musings from today...

The Apostolic Decree says:
"But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols [alisgematon ton eidolon] and from fornication [porneias] and from things strangled [pniktou] and from blood [haimatos]," (Acts 15:20)
The only other place in the New Testament that I know of where a version of “pniktou” occurs in here:
“And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked [pnigo] in the sea.”
According to Philo (Special Laws), the pagans used to choke the sacrifice and drink the blood:
“'But some men, with open mouths, carry even the excessive luxury and boundless intemperance of Sardanapalus to such an indefinite and unlimited extent, being wholly absorbed in the invention of senseless pleasures, that they prepare sacrifices which ought never be offered, strangling their victims, and stifling the essence of life [Leviticus 17:11], which they ought to let depart free and unrestrained, burying the blood, as it were, in the body.
The ancient pagans—even back to the Canaanites—loved to sacrifice pig:
"A people who continually provoke Me to My face, Offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks; Who sit among graves and spend the night in secret places; Who eat swine's flesh, And the broth of unclean meat is in their pots," Isaiah 65:3-4.
They would funnel pigs blood into caves where the gods were thought to dwell:
"The religion of Canaan...Thus at Gezer, under the level belonging to the first Semitic period, Macalister found, in connection with certain caves, rock-cuttings and other things which suggested to him that these caves must have played some role in the sphere of religion.  
1. One cave had, leading into it through the roof, an orifice which was connected with a rock-hewn channel four feet long
for the evident purpose of conducting fluid offerings within.  Besides this channel there were "two or three circular depressions in the rock, built around with stones set on edge, but so arranged that they drained into the opening." Beneath the orifice and on the rock floor of the cave below the earth containing finds of the first Semitic period were found '*a number of pig bones" in a contracted mass which clearly bore evidence of sacrifice," (Journal of Biblical Literature Volume XXXY, 1916).
A variant of this practice survived to Roman times:
"My discussion of the Mysteries [of Demeter and Kore] necessarily focusses on purification rituals of the mystae and especially the sacrifice of pigs as part of these....A central rite in this process of purification was the sacrifice by each initiate of a piglet, after the initiate bathed in the sea with it.
The Thesmophoria does not stand in such a close relationship with the Mysteries, nor was its celebration restricted to Eleusis or Agrai.  This festival was held in Pyanopsion (October/November), the month of sowing, and its central rite was the throwing of piglets into underground chambers (megara).  After two or three days the rotting remains were retrieved and then mixed with seed to bestow fertility in the sowing soon to follow...It is likely that with the throwing of pigs into the megaron there were sacrifices that in turn may have been eaten:  Farnell reports that it is attested of the festival that worshippers at pig's flesh and took 'very probably...a sacramental meal.'
     Three other aspects of this festival are of particular relevance....its sexual themes are very likely connected to the fertility themes...associated with the festival are sacrificial cakes made into the shape of phalli, which also were thrown into and brought out of the underground chamber...."
"The excavations of the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore on Acro-corinth add the weight of evidence...Also found were chthonic elements and symbols, torches and lamps strongly suggesting pannycheis, evidence of sacrifice of pigs, pits perhaps serving as megara..."  (Dangerous Food:  1 Corinthians 8-10 in its Context by Gooch)

It's also important to note that there was always a link between cultic sacrifice and orgy (porneias):
"Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality [eidolothuta kai porneusai]," (Rev. 2:14) 
"Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols [porneusai kai eidolothuta]" (Rev. 2:20)

In conclusion, I don't think the Apostolic Decree is necessarily about pig sacrifice specifically.  But I do think that pig sacrifice and its associated rites (choking the animal, drinking the blood, committing sexual immorality) were the ultimate form of the evil that the Decree was addressing.  

Terrorists Lay Claim to Iraq

This isn't going to be pretty...


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Best Messianic Album of All Time? Perhaps...

Looking for a good worship CD that's entirely in Hebrew?  Well, look no further:


Wow!  (I especially like tracks 1 and 4).  

We'll Have to Respond to This...


Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Little Drash on Ruth

First QuestionWhy was there a famine in the opening of the story of Ruth?
"He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD," Deuteronomy 8:3
And what proceeds out of the mouth of G-d?  The Word (i.e. the Memra, the Torah, etc)

Interesting that when the famine ended, Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem which literally means "House of Bread".  But the drash here, the deeper meaning, is that the real "Bread" is Yeshua, the Davidic Messiah.  And this bread is the Word of G-d.  And so it is also interesting that a Targum of Ruth says:  
"4 Just then, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the Memra of the Lord be your sustenance.” And they said [to him], “The Lord bless you,'" (Ruth 2:4).
Second QuestionWhat Initiated Ruth into the Covenant of Israel?
  • The answer from Rabbinic Judaism:  formal procedures and/or through marriage.
  • My answer:  Ruth was initiated by faith into Israel regardless of human marriage.

She had the choice to "return" (Hebrew:  shoov) to Moabite gods, or "return" along with Naomi to Israel.  If we look at the deeper meaning of "return", the Bible associates it with covenant.  Ruth had the faith to choose covenant with the G-d of Israel.

But was Ruth's choice recognized by HaShem?
"May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge,'" Ruth 2:12
She had already come under the "wing" of HaShem; later she comes under the "wing" of Boaz:
""Who are you?" he asked. "I am your servant Ruth," she said. "Spread the corner of your garment (Heb: "wing") over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family."" (Ruth 3:9).
Both verses use the Hebrew word "kanaph" (wing).  And this word is loaded with meaning:
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp [yahaziqu] the garment [kanaph] of a Jew, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you,'" Zechariah 8:23
Just as Ruth's grasping the "wing" of Boaz was a metaphor for her grasping the "wing" of HaShem, so also is Ruth's "cleaving" (note: davaq is also a covenantal term--there are so many in Ruth!) to Naomi a metaphor for cleaving to HaShem:
"...but Ruth clave [davqa] unto her," (Ruth 1:14)
"6 Therefore, be very strong [vehazaqtem] to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left,so that you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them. But you are to cling [debaqu] to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day," Joshua 23:6-8  
If Ruth had not been converted, she never would've done the things she did.  She wouldn't have cleaved to Naomi, showing chesed (over-abounding love and kindness).  She wouldn't have "turned" from the Moabite gods and her family there and "returned" to Israel along with Naomi.  She wouldn't have invoked death upon herself if she should ever violate this covenant (see Ruth 1:16-17, also note the formulary similarity with Ittai's oath in 2 Sam 15:19-22).

Ruth's conversion was by faith.  

And it was this faith (not anything else!) that motivated all her future actions and earned her the merit to be an ancestor of Messiah Yeshua.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Summary of Shavuot Traditions

Happy Shavuot!

If you're wondering about Shavuot traditions, check this out:


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Why Sinai?

Musings from today...

As we draw closer to Shavuot, I've been thinking about (what else?) Mount Sinai.  And today I wondered:

why did G-d choose that mountain out of all possible locations?

The funny thing is that Jews don't care about the location of Mount Sinai--they had the Torah and that's all that mattered.  Why look back?  And, indeed, the real name of Mount Sinai is Horeb which means "desolate" and "all dried up".

Perhaps that's what was special about Sinai--it was the least special mountain.


The Ten Commandments by Solomon Goldman

pg. 103, " 'Desert of Sinai.'  Targum Jonathan, omitting Sinai:  'A Wild and desolate region which occupies the very center of the peninsula...a wilderness of shaggy rocks of porphyry and red granite, and of valleys for the most part bare of verdure...secluded from the world, in the wild and sublime amphi-theatre of rocks....Whatever may have been the scene of the events in Exodus I cannot imagine that any human being can pass that plain and not feel that he was entering a place above all others suited for the most august of the sights of the earth....(Stanley, Sinai, pp. 71 f., 75).  'There is nothing else like it in this or any other part of the peninsula; the long, wide plain sloping down to the mount, the noble amphitheatre of hills all round, and the bold precipices of the Ras Sufsafeh--the 'brow' of gebel Musa--overlooking and seen from every point in the plain below, the more imposing as it is by far the most conspicuous feature in a landscape where all is grand.  The Ras Sufsafeh has a grandeur peculiarly its own--a look of stately...grandeur, which has stamped it on our minds as by far the most remarkable mountain front in the Sinai Desert.  In gazing on that noble cliff and spacious plain at its base, it needs no effort or enthusiasm to recognize their peculiar fitness for the events described in Scripture as having attended the promulgation of the Law' (cf. Palmer, Desert of the Exodus, chap. vi)."

pg. 104, "Bent on homiletics rather than on geography and scenic beauty, the rabbis played on the similarity of the name Sinai to the root sna, 'hate.'  The mountain of Revelation was called Sinai, they said, because God's hatred of the heathen is due to their refusal to accept the Torah when it was offered to them; because the heathen hate the Jews out of sheer envy for having received the Torah; because from that hill hatred descends upon all who violate the Torah."

The Shavuot Anthology by Philip Goodman

pg. 30, "From the day when the heavens and the earth were created, the name of the mountain was Horeb.  When the Holy One, blessed be He, was revealed unto Moses out of the thornbush, because of the word for the thornbush (seneh) it was called Sinai (Sinai), and that is Horeb.  And whence do we know that Israel accepted the Torah at Mount Horeb?  Because it is said, the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb (Deuteronomy 4.10).  Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer 40,41."

pg. 31 "Man should always learn from the mind of his Creator; for behold, the Holy One, blessed be He, ignored all the mountains and heights and caused His Divine Presence to abide upon Mount Sinai, and ignored all the beautiful trees and caused His Divine Presence to abide in a bush [similarly, man should associate with the humble].  Sotah 5a."

pg. 32 "...the Holy One, blessed be He, considered all mountains and found no mountain on which the Torah should be given other than Sinai.  Leviticus Rabbah 13.2."

pg. 32 "The idol worshipers received their sentence from there, as it is said, those nations shall be utterly wasted--harov yeheravu (Isaiah 60.12), from Horeb they shall be destroyed (yeheravu).  Sinai--because hatred (sinah) descended to idolaters thence [as they hated Israel for accepting the Torah].  Exodus Rabbah 2.4"

pg. 32 "While what was its [real] name?  Its name was Horeb.  Now they disagree with R. Abbahu who said, Its name was Mount Sinai, and why was it called Mount Horeb?  Because desolation (hurvah) to idolaters descended thereon.  Shabbat 89a-b."

pg. 33 "Blessed by the Merciful One who gave a threefold Torah [Pentateuch, Prophets, and Hagiographa] to a threefold people [Israel, consisting of Priests, Levites, and Israelties] through a thirdborn [Moses, born after Miriam and Aaron] on the third day [of their abstinence from their wives] in the third month.  Shabbat 88a]