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What have I been studying?

Today I read a mashal (parable) from Rebbe Nachman. He says like this:
Once, an important trader was traveling with a consignment of fine Hungarian wine. During the journey his assistant and the carriage driver said to him, “Here we are, traveling with all this wine. It’s a very hard journey – give us a little taste of the wine.” He agreed to let them have a small taste.

A few days later, the assistant happened to be in a small town with some people who were drinking wine and praising it extravagantly. They said it was Hungarian. “Let me have a taste,” said the assistant. They gave him some, and he said, “This isn’t fine Hungarian wine at all!” They were most offended and told him to leave, but he insisted: “I know very well that this wine isn’t Hungarian, because I was with a wine merchant who had genuine Hungarian wine and he gave me some to try. I know what it really tastes like.” But they ignored him. Read More

“…Messianics are left with nothing but their own self-assertions for the authenticity of their religious identity. While Christians hope for the realization of Jesus as the messiah on the part of the Jewish world so that Jews will become Christians, Messianics hope for the realization of Jesus as an Orthodox Jew by religious Jews so that they themselves will be accepted in the Jewish world.” An excerpt from Yehudah Illan’s blog http://chizzukemunah.com. Click below for more!

Kosher Jesus, Treif Christianity.

via Kosher Jesus, Treif Christianity.

It’s one thing to behave kindly towards people of other religions, especially for a Jew living in galut (exile). It’s quite another to befriend them and engage in “healthy” dialogues in an apologetical way either in public or private debates and conversations.  To do this is perhaps a modesty issue; private matters such as one’s devotion to G-d or how one personally relates to Him within a larger religious group should remain within the social confines of that group. Is it really a Christian’s business what Jews think of Jesus? Rav Soloveitchik wrote the following in a letter to the Rabbinical Council of America in November 1964:

…We are, therefore, opposed to any public debate, dialogue or symposium concerning the doctrinal, dogmatic or ritual aspects of our faith vis a vis “similar” aspects of another faith community. We believe in and are committed to our Maker in a specific manner and we will not question, defend, offer apologies, analyze or rationalize our faith in dialogues centered about these “private” topics which express our personal relationship to the G-d of Israel. We assume that members of other faith communities will feel similarly about their individual religious commitment.

One of the topics Rav Soloveitchik mentioned specifically in his book Community, Covenant and Commitment was the Jewish attitude on Jesus. Read More

John the Baptist baptizes Jesus. The artist Ad...

For the last couple days, I’ve been curious to understand who Jesus was since I know now that he is not the messiah. The picture isn’t pretty, but it was one that I needed to see. Why? Perhaps I wanted some sense of closure to the past eight years of my life.

As I was researching, I remembered the initial charisma that I attributed to Jesus and the compassion with which it seemed he had toward me; the feeling that I mattered to him; that he cared about me and that he could save me from my lost and sinful nature. Today I see that Jesus was just a man who had some good ideas about righteousness and holy living. He was a teacher who maybe thought that he was the Messiah or maybe he imagined that he was just a prophet, or perhaps he thought he was just being a good Jew, like his cousin John the Baptist–we can’t really know because of the overlay the Church put on him over the years. But what I do know is the man Jesus did not think of himself as the god-man and redeemer that the church elevated him to after he died. Read More

So I’ve found my new, living, Orthodox Jewish, intellectual hero: Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb. He has his Ph.D. in mathematical logic, was Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University, and is a senior faculty member at Ohr Somayachin Jerusalem.

Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb

Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb

What turned me on to him? Simply because he wrote a paper entitled Coming Home and in it he said: “Teshuva is the greatest creative challenge a person will ever face: the challenge of recreating oneself. A person’s whole past – talents, training, experience, successes and failures – provides the materials from which his new identity will be forged. He does not turn his back on his past, but organizes it to fulfill its potential in a new way. It is a denial of Providence to regard any of his “unplanned” prior life as a loss. Everything which happened to him was planned so that he could fulfill his unique human potential and make his unique contribution (see Luzzatto’s Derech Hashem, Part II, Chapter 3). Later, he will see how his seemingly pointless past gave him the tools for his religious future.” These words of course are a great inspiration to me as I am definitely in the process of recreating myself.

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My wife and I have been listening to various debates by Rabbi Tovia Singer, Rabbi David Blumofe, and Dr. Michael Brown. The information has only been affirming for me and I think it is a fair way to present the arguments to my wife. Dr. Brown is a decent debater. R’ Singer is excellent as well. R’ Blumofe comes at the New Testament from a unique angle (with over 200 proofs against Jesus), more so than some other counter-missionaries.

It has also been affirming to hear from the many former messianics that my wife and I have known who have either converted, are in the process of converting or are currently doubting. I know that this phenomenon has happened commonly in the last few decades as Gentiles have turned to Torah but I suspect it will increase as more of us speak out about Jesus. Let the reader understand: I do not wish to convert others to Judaism. I am simply saying that as intelligent people study Judaism for Judaism’s sake, they may be naturally drawn to its ultimate conclusion: embracing the Sages and Tradition and letting go of the lies they have been taught.

English: Reading of the Torah, Aish Synagogue,...

Without Moses there can be no messiah. Without Torah, anyone can be a messiah. Jesus' existence and his failure are subsumed under both premises.

One could finger Judaism (or even Torah) as the great corrupter of Hebrew Christians; an accusation that I have actually heard with my own ears. But maybe another approach could be that the Torah is a holy purifier in whose fires Jesus, Yeshua, or Yoshke (whatever your preferred name for him is) cannot withstand and by whose illumination reveals that he is a false messiah.

Starting today I’m home from work for ten days as the Center closes for winter break. It’s always a nice (forced) vacation. But it is particularly timely because we can finish out the rest of Chanukkah unencumbered by work concerns and can donate our attention to family time and hopefully to discussions about our beliefs and where we will go from here.

So we’re getting ready for Chanukkah IV and Shabbat; cleaning, running errands, the norm. Then the thought occurred to me: I don’t have to prepare for anybody else other than myself and my family. There won’t be a houseful of people coming tomorrow. I can actually spend Shabbat with my family! I took a very easy deep breath of relief. I wonder if we’ll visit a shul or if we’ll decompress at home? Either way it will be a welcomed change of pace from the messy life of messianics.

Speaking of that, I was able to gently force a conversation with my wife last night about the book Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus. One small part of it touches on this scenario:

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