Thursday, April 14, 2016

Positive Encounters with Christian Pastor

As Messianics, we can sometimes become cynical and downhearted after years of hearing Christian friends or pastors respond negatively when we talk about our own Judaic/Torah awakenings.  

But, just occasionally, things don't go as expected.

I'm seeing many positive things at a certain local church.  A brief back story:  my wife grew up in a Messianic synagogue and I was nurtured in pro-Jewish Roots environment and then I started visiting the Messianic synagogue where I met my wife.  Long story short, there was a falling out with the leadership there.  So then G-d had us start visiting a certain Baptist Church.  All I knew was that they were pro-Israel (they had a prominently displayed Israeli flag in the lobby, etc).  But I really wasn't sure why I was there.

  • And then the church started hosting Friday night Shabbat gatherings.
  • And then I heard rumors that the pastoral team had had some sort of "experience" whilst visiting in Israel.
  • And then the church started hosting a Messianic group on Saturdays.
  • And then I met with the pastor and, throwing caution to the wind, laid out all of my views on Torah.  And, not only did he not get upset, but, to my utter puzzlement, he said he agreed with everything I had said!  

The pastor actually encouraged me to visit with the Messianic group and I didn't really want to go because some of them were from the congregation that I'd had a falling out with.  But this past weekend I finally visited and it was very pleasant.  And the pastor is glad that I finally decided to visit with them.

I guess maybe because I've been hurt by certain groups before that I became pessimistic and overly guarded and missed out on some opportunities.  But maybe it's time to let my guard down a bit.  This seems to be a safe environment.  

I was also encouraged by the pastor's latest sermon which was broadcast on television.  He made such a wonderful defense of the Torah.  It reminded me of the post I wrote a while back about how some well-known Christian scholars are coming out in favor of the Torah of Moses (LINK).  He said "I'm not trying to be heretical..." and then make this argument that since all of Scripture is G-d-breathed by the Spirit and since the Spirit is Yeshua's Spirit that "The commands of Christ are as much in the Old Testament as in the New Testament."  He said something to the effect of, "Do we just observe everything in the red-lettered edition of the Bible?" (note:  the red-lettered edition is the one that highlights Yeshua's words in red).  And then he offered, "Honestly, it's more than the red letters."

The chutzpah on this guy!  To say such things to a large Baptist congregation!  (Not to mention those watching on television).

G-d is surely doing something in our time!  

Shalom and Blessings in Yeshua,


Monday, April 4, 2016

Pesach Delicacies (Reblogged from Natsab)


Just read this over at Natsab.  Wonderful set of Pesach recipies! 

I think I'm going to really experiment with matzah pizza this Pesach.  I think the secret will be getting the lowfat mozzarella and having good oregano...

Hey, feel free to share your Pesach recipies in the comments section.



Thursday, March 31, 2016

Interesting Thing Happened on the Way to Work

G-d did something interesting this morning.

So I felt compelled to give a Bible to this random guy--he was black, he had dreadlocks, and he was wearing a Jamaica jacket. 

"Hey, man!  I don't normally do this but I felt like I was supposed to give you this," I said as I smiled at him and handed him a little red Bible.

And he looked like he'd just seen a ghost.  He went on to explain to me that he was concerned about a difficult situation and he'd been praying for a sign from G-d--right before I walked up to him!

Thing is, I almost didn't talk to him.  I had been driving down the road and G-d had to pretty much force me to come back and talk to the guy. 

It turned out he didn't know any Believers, didn't know about Yeshua (I used the name "Jesus" in the conversation).  I explained to him how Yeshua loves us even though we're not perfect, that He provided the Bible as a set of instructions so we'd know the way to walk in life.

We sat down on a nearby bench and as I prayed for him, we both cried a little bit.  It was pretty obvious to us both that G-d was doing something.  Today was the day that this man called out to G-d and G-d responded!

If you, dear reader, are going through a tough time, please remember to call out to G-d.  If you genuinely seek Him, He will reach out to you.  He's your Father and He loves you very much!



A FIRST IN 2000 YEARS: Korban Pesach to be Made on the Temple Mount for Passover 2016!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tolerated Guests or Adopted Sons? Responding to James Pyle's Recent Post Entitled "The Non-Covenant Relationship with God"

"...Rav Yeshua's gentile disciples don't actually participate in any covenant whatsoever," Comment from "Proclaim Liberty" quoted by Messianic Gentile blogger James Pyles in the opening of his post entitled "The Non-Covenant Relationship with God", from:
"We [gentiles have] no formal relationship with [the God of Israel]....[W]e Gentiles are merely 'resident aliens' among Israel... We have no rights.  We are granted guest status just because God's a 'nice guy,' so to speak... That should make you feel a little insecure.  I feel a little insecure," James Pyles, from:

Given that Mr. Pyles' blog is promoted by the UMJC (, from time to time I feel the need to respond to certain posts.  So I'd like to briefly address 2 issues raised by Pyles:  (1) are Gentiles merely guests or are they actual members of the family? (2) do Gentile Believers have no rights or do they become citizens in Israel (i.e. the family of G-d)?


In ancient Hebraic culture, an adoption was a big deal.  It involved a covenant--a solemn agreement made before G-d whereby one person agrees to treat another person like family.  And you simply couldn't violate a covenant.  To break a covenant would be invoking the curse of death upon oneself.

Throughout Paul's writings, he talks about Believers being "adopted as sons".  Here's a few examples:
"4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.' 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. 8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods," Galatians 4:4-8

"4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Yeshua the Messiah, in accordance with his pleasure and will," Ephesians 1:4-5
"14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father'," Romans 8:14-15
Does that sound like mere guest status to anyone?  


In Ephesians 2, Paul uses the rhetorical technique of antithesis in order to contrast former pagan status with current covenantal status.  The negatives of the former status were as follows:
  • Separation from Messiah
  • Exclusion from citizenship in Israel (politeias tou Israel)
  • Unaffiliation with the covenants (xenoi ton diathekon)
  • The state of being hopeless
  • The state of being without G-d
  • The state of being far off
  • The status of being "foreigners and strangers" (xenoi kai paroikoi)
Now, a quick word about the above Greek terms.

Regarding "politeia", some have argued that this term should be translated as "commonwealth".  However, (1) there is no classical reference in which the term politeia refers to a commonwealth; (2) in classical references, politeia refers to citizenship and its cognate concepts; (3) Paul himself uses the term to refer to citizenship:  "The commander answered, 'I acquired this citizenship [politeia] with a large sum of money.'  And Paul said, 'But I was actually born a citizen,'" Acts 22:28.

Regarding xenoi (foreigner/guest), this is a word used in the Septuagint to translate nokri, a term for foreigner--literally someone who was unrecognizable.  Hence, we see a clever play on words in the Book of Ruth:
"Then she fell on her face, and bowed down to the ground, and said unto him: 'Why have I found favour in thy sight, that thou shouldest take cognizance of me, seeing I am a foreigner (literally not recognizable)?[veanokhi nakhriya]'" Ruth 2:10
Regarding paroikoi, this is a term that probably originates with the perioikoi of ancient Sparta, the conquered Peloponnessians who had no political rights, a term derived from oikiein "to dwell" and "para" which means "beside"--i.e. the paroikoi do not dwell in the "house" of the national family.

In the Torah, paroikoi would be those gerim (sojourners) who were not members of the covenant.  The lack of covenant status for these paroikoi is indicated as follows.  The Torah says that it's a sin for a ger to eat nevelah (Lev. 17:15-16);  Yet the Torah says a ger may indeed eat nevelah (Deut. 14:21).  This apparent contradiction was resolved by Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Torah written by the Sanhedrin).  The Septuagint translators, understanding that the Torah cannot contradict itself, reasoned that it must follow that there are 2 different types of gerim.  And to that end, in passages where the context indicated that the ger was not a member of the covenant, the translators used the term "paroikos" (literally "one who is outside of the house") to translate the term "ger".

To sum up, the terms paroikoi and xenoi convey a negative former status in which one was outside of the covenant, outside of the house/family--literally they were unfamiliar to G-d.

And so we've looked at the negatives of the former status.  Now let's look at the positives of the new status:
  • Nearness to G-d via the blood of Yeshua as opposed to being far off from G
  • Fellow citizens (sympolitai) as opposed to being excluded from citizenship in Israel
  • Members of the household (oikeioi tou Theou) as opposed to being outside of the house (paroikos) 
  •  Affiliated with the covenants of promise as opposed to unaffiliation with the covenants (xenoi ton diathekon)
  • Hopeful as opposed to hopeless
  •  Being recognizable as family as opposed to being unrecognizable foreigners

When we consider the covenantal language that Paul uses, the "adoption as sons", the nearness via the blood of Yeshua, a reference to "the new covenant in my blood" (1 Cor. 11:25), the fellow citizenship in Israel, the explicit statement that Gentile Believers are now included in the covenants of promise, it's astounding that James Pyles, the UMJC's apostle to the Gentiles, can say something as blatantly anti-Scriptural as "We [gentiles have] no formal relationship with [the God of Israel]....[W]e Gentiles are merely 'resident aliens' among Israel... We have no rights.  We are granted guest status just because God's a 'nice guy,' so to speak... That should make you feel a little insecure."

May the UMJC one day come to its senses and stop sending people like James Pyles to discourage us, literally telling us to feel insecure, that we are excluded from the People of G-d. 

Blessings and Shalom to the True Brothers and Sisters in Yeshua,


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Shadows of Yeshua in the Writings of the Rabbis: A Brief Survey of Passages Reflecting the Underlying Belief That the Image (Demut) of the Glory (Kavod) of the Hidden G-d is Anthropic

Recently I was reading a chapter in Wolfson's "Through a Speculum That Shines" which was entitled "Israel: The One Who Sees God --Visualization of God in Biblical, Apocalyptic, and Rabbinic Sources".  I think the title of the chapter is fascinating by itself--the idea that only Israel can see G-d.  But I wanted to focus on a different aspect of the chapter...

Friday, February 12, 2016

Should the Jewish People Have Expected a Divine Messiah?

It's not uncommon for modern Orthodox Jews to assert that the idea of a Divine Messiah goes completely against Scripture.

But is there really no basis in Scripture for a Divine Messiah?

Let's look at few passages and find out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Early Rabbinic Belief That G-d Has a Body: A Look at Genesis Rabbah

The more I learn about early Rabbinic Judaism, the more I'm coming to realize, despite protestations from modern Orthodox Judaism, that it is very Jewish to believe that G-d has a body.  To that end, here is a midrash I was reviewing this morning in which the angels mistook Adam for G-d since Adam was made in the image of G-d:

A.  Said R. Hoshaiah, 'When the Holy One, blessed be he, came to create the first man, the ministering angels mistook him [for God, since man was in God's image,] and wanted to say before him, 'Holy, [holy, holy is the Lord of hosts].'
B.  'To what may the matter be compared?  To the case of a king and a governor who were set in a chariot, and the provincials wanted to greet the king, 'Sovereign!' But they did not know which one of them was which.  What did the king do?  He turned the governor out and put him away from the chariot, so that people would know who was king.
C.  'So too when the Holy One, blessed be he, created the first man, the angels mistook him [for God].  What did the Holy One, blessed be he, do?  He put him to sleep, so everyone knew that he was a mere man.
D.  'That is in line with the following verse of Scripture:  'Cease you from man, in whose nostrils is a breath, for how little is he to be accounted' (Is.2:22).' (Gen. R. VIII:X)," as quoted in "The Incarnation of God" by Jacob Neusner

Friday, January 29, 2016

Sukkah as Divine Body of the Moshiach: Latent Incarnational Teachings in Rabbinic Judaism

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....And the Word was made His sukkah among us, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth," John 1:1,14

The Apostolic Writings record in the Besorah of Yochanan (Gospel of John) that G-d made His sukkah (tent) among mankind by becoming flesh--by being born as a little Jewish baby on the festival of Sukkot in a town called Bet Lechem.

Cue the scoffs from many Orthodox Jews: Our Rabbis tell us that G-d would never dwell with mankind in a sukkah of flesh!

But what do the Rabbis really say?

First, it should be noted that the Rabbis say that the Word of G-d (i.e. the Torah) corresponds to the form of a man:
" 'The end of the matter, when all is said and done:  fear God and guard His commandments, for this is all of a person.'  'The end of the matter' is Adam, who was created last.  And the first in thought is the last in deed.  He was created at the end so that he could include everything in his image and likeness.  He was created with 613--248 limbs and 365 sinews, corresponding to the positive and negative commandments.  'Fear God' refers to the negative commandments 'and guard His commandments' refers to the positive commandments.  Thus it is written, 'for this is all of a person.'  For a person is constructed from limbs and sinews," Isaiah Horowitz, The Generations of Adam, pg. 216
Next, the Rabbis say that the sukkah represents the Divine Glory of HaShem:
" 'Rabbi Eliezer says--they were actual booths; R. Aqiba says--[they were Clouds of Divine Glory]," (Sifra Emor, Ch. 17)
This argument considers two positions:  one claiming that sukkot are meant to replicate and therefore symbolize the booths in which the Israelites dwelled in the desert following the exodus, and the other asserting that the ritual sukkot....symbolize the 'Clouds of Glory'--the Clouds of Divine Glory that protected the Israelites in the desert during the daytime hours (while a pillar of fire did so at night; see Ex. 13:21-2)....
    The tannaitic midrash, the Mekhilta d'Rabbi Ishmael...preserves a different version of the opinion attributed to R. Aqiba above.  Commenting on the biblical report that 'they travelled from Sukkot' (Ex. 13:30, where 'Sukkot' is clearly the name of a place) the midrash says, 'R. Aqiba says:  'Sukkot' is none other than the Clouds of Divine Glory.'  This association is partly suggested by the fact that the very next verse in the torah describes the children of Israel as travelling during the day with protection of the clouds.  But the simple meaning of 'Sukkot' leaves no room for doubt; it is unambiguously a place (the version of the midrash at pisha 14 records such an opinion explicitly).  So what we have here is an early tradition insisting that 'sukkot' should be seen as the Divine Clouds--protectors of redeemed Israel both in the past and, as the midrash goes on to teach, in the future.  This insistence shows the power of this interpretive tradition at the earliest level of rabbinic interpretation.  In fact, after having reviewed the traditions in detail, Rubenstein concludes that this interpretive 'the dominant or at least majority opinion' in the rabbinic setting (Rubenstein, 1995, p. 243, n. 15)," David Kraemer, Rabbinic Judaism:  Space and Place
Next, consider that the Rabbis say that the "sukkah" in Amos 9 ("the fallen sukkah of David") refers to the Moshiach:
Nachman said to R. Isaac: “Have you heard when Bar Nafli will come?” “Who is Bar Nafli?” he asked. “Messiah”, he answered. “Do you call the Messiah Bar Nafli?” “Yes”, he responded, as it is written, “on that day I will raise up the fallen Sukkah of David.” (Sanhedrin 96b-97a)
So the sukkah represents both Moshiach and G-d Himself.  But this is not the first time that Moshiach has been identified with G-d in Rabbinic writings.  Observe:
"We conclude this section with a quotation from Genesis Rabbah 2.4.  Commenting on Gen. 1:2, R. Simeon b. Lakish is credited with saying, 'And the Spirit of God hovered':  this alludes to the 'spirit of the Messiah', as you read, 'And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him' (Isa. 11:2)...." McDonough, Christ as Creator
Here we see that the Rabbis equated the "Spirit of G-d" with the "Spirit of Moshiach."  

So it really shouldn't come as a shock to Orthodox Jews that the Apostolic Writings say that the Word of G-d made His sukkah with mankind, revealing the Divine Glory in the form of Yeshua, the Davidic Moshiach.  The Rabbis have already said that the "sukkah" represents the Divine Glory and that the "sukkah" represents the Moshiach ben David!  :  )

May G-d reveal His Glory to all Israel in our day!  May G-d bless the city of David and shelter it with His Peace!



Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hebrew Tip for Men

For us non-Jewish Messianics, it's sometimes difficult to remember all the rules of Hebrew.  For example, with the shin, if the dot is on the left side then the shin is pronounced with an "s" sound;  if the dot is on the right side then the shin is pronounced with a "sh" sound.  How can we as men remember the rule that a dot on the right means "sh"?  Use the following sentence as a memory device:

"She is always right."

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Does G-d Really Want a Blood Sacrifice?

Ever since the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., there has been an attempt in Rabbinic Judaism to downplay the importance of blood sacrifice.  It has been argued that sacrifice can be replaced with "comparable" means of atonement:
"It once happened that Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai was leaving Jerusalem and Rabbi Yehoshua was walking behind him, when the latter saw the Temple in ruins.  Said Rabbi Yehoshua:  'Woe to us that this is in ruins, the place where the sins of Israel were expiated!' He [Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai] replied to him:  'My son, be not grieved, we have a comparable means of atonement.  Which is this?  It is [acts of] loving kindness, as it is said, 'For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, [Hosea 6:6]'" Midrash Avot D’rabbi Natan 4:5
The following verse is invoked to assert that G-d doesn't even want burnt offerings:
"For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings," Hosea 6:6
But were the Prophets really trying to overturn Torah?  Were they trying to turn people away from establishing the Temple with its system of blood sacrifices?  Heschel has the following insights:
"Sacrifice, the strength and the measure of piety, acts wherein God and man meet--all this should be called obnoxious?
     Of course, the prophets did not condemn the practice of sacrifice in itself; otherwise, we should have to conclude that Isaiah intended to discourage the practice of prayer (Isa. 1:14-15).  They did, however, claim that deeds of injustice vitiate both sacrifice and prayer.  Men may not drown out the cries of the oppressed with the noise of hymns, nor buy off the Lord with increased offerings.  The prophets disparaged the cult when it became a substitute for righteousness.  It is precisely the implied recognition of the value of the cult that lends force to their insistence that there is something far more precious than sacrifice..."  Heschel, The Prophets
Now the deepest mystery regarding blood sacrifice is that the blood represents the bond of kinship.  So all of these blood sacrifices serve as a metaphor for a bond of kinship.  But kinship with whom?  In Genesis we have a clue:
"Vayomer Avraham Elohim yir'eh-lo haseh le'olah beni vayelchu shneyhem yachdav," Genesis 22:8
"And Abraham said: 'God will  a provide Himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.' So they went both of them together," Genesis 22:8 (Jewish Publication Society)
Israel broke the covenant because in the Old Covenant there is no way to perfect the heart.  So the Prophets speak of a New Covenant in which G-d perfects our hearts so that we will want to follow the Torah.  Our own hearts are desperately wicked.  We need the heart transplant that only the New Covenant provides.

The Prophets tells us that G-d wants both the sacrifice and the right heart attitude.  Only in Yeshua can we have both.  In Him G-d has provided the sacrifice--the blood of kinship--and created a way to change our hearts.



Monday, December 28, 2015

Staying "Put" in the Garden of Eden: The Deeper Meaning of Shabbat According to Genesis Rabbah

This past week I saw something that encouraged me and something that discouraged me--both in regard to Gentiles observing Shabbat.  The encouraging thing was to read a friend's Facebook post about his Shabbat preparations--in particular that he had a crockpot full of venison.  Now that's a good way to delight in Shabbat!

But then I read James Pyles' post entitled "Noahides, Talmidei Yeshua, And Shabbos Observance Revisited" which was about how Gentiles shouldn't keep Shabbat and I found it to be very discouraging. 

So to encourage myself I reflected on what the Torah has to say about the universal appeal of Shabbat.  To that end, let's look at a midrash that discusses how Adam experienced the rest of Shabbat while in the Garden of Eden.  The passage addressed by the midrash is as follows:
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it,” Genesis 2:15
The midrash focuses on the language of "put him in the Garden":
“ A. ‘And he put him’ (Gen. 2:15) means that he gave him [Adam] the religious duty of observing the Sabbath [linking ‘put’ to the meaning of ‘rest,’ which the same root yields].  B.  This is in line with the following verse of Scripture:  ‘And he rested on the Seventh day’ (Gen. 20:10).  C. ‘To till it’ (Gen. 2:15).  ‘Six days shall you till’ (Ex. 20:9).  D.  ‘And to keep it’ (Gen. 2:15). ‘Keep the Sabbath day’ (Deut. 5:12),” Genesis Rabbah as quoted in Neusner’s “A Theological Commentary to the Midrash
Here we see for the first time in Torah that it is not enough for man to have a time of rest but man also needs a place of rest--needs, in fact, the Garden of Eden--the place where G-d rests and dwells.  But now that the Garden of Eden is lost, how is man to find the dwelling place and resting place of G-d?  Torah provides a clue:
“We will go into his dwelling place: we will worship at his footstool.  Arise, O LORD, into thy resting place; thou, and the ark of thy strength.  Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy. For thy servant David's sake turn not away the face of thine anointed.  The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.  If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore.  For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.  This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it,” Psalm 132:7-14
“This is what the Lord says:  ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.  Where is the house you will build for me?  Where will my resting place be?  Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the Lord,” Isaiah 66:1-2
"The LORD replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest,'" Exodus 33:14
So the Temple of Israel becomes the new Eden.  There's all the main elements of Eden found in the Temple--the Tree of Life (Menorah), the river of life (Ezekiel 47:1), the Cherubim, etc.  But until such time as we have the House of the L-rd in Israel, we have something almost as good:  we can turn our homes into Eden:
“…one [finds] the definition of forbidden labor [on Shabbat] in those activities required for the construction and maintenance of the tabernacle, which is to say, God’s residence on earth.  The best statement, predictably, is the Talmud of Babylonia Shabbat 39a:
‘People are liable only for classifications of labor the like of which was done in the tabernacle.  They sowed, so you are not to sow.  They harvested, so you are not to harvest.  They lifted up the boards from the ground to the wagon, so you are not to lift them in from public to private domain.  They lowered boards from the wagon to the ground, so you must not carry anything from private to public domain.   They transported boards from wagon to wagon, so you must not carry from one private domain to another.’
….Hence to act like God on the Sabbath, the Israelite rests; he does not do what God did in Creation…
What then takes place inside the walls of the Israelite household when time takes over space and revises the conduct of ordinary affairs?  Israel goes home to Eden.  How best to make the statement that the Land is Israel’s Eden, that Israel imitates God by keeping the Sabbath—meaning, not doing the things that God did in creating the world but the things God ceased to do on the Sabbath—and that to restore its Eden, Israel must sustain its life—nourish itself—where it belongs?...Israel’s Eden takes place in the household open to others, on the Sabbath, in acts that maintain life, share wealth, and desist from Creation,” Jacob Neusner, Judaism When Christianity Began
May G-d bless all of you, my brothers and sisters, with a miniature Eden next Shabbat!  May you all experience His perfect peace, rest, and joy!