Monthly Archives: May 2010

JBOM: The Lost – Part I

JBOM stands for Jewish Book of the Month Club. This is a book club that was started in March by Messianic Rabbi Derek Leman www.derek4messiah.wordpress.com. The motivation behind starting this book club was to get a group together within the greater Body of Messiah reading, getting educated and sharing our thoughts on Jewish works with those who might not normally come in contact with such (like myself ). Currently there are over a dozen bloggers participating along with a few congregations and a few more individuals on board as well. The JBOM selection for May is The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn.

Ok, so it’s the last day of May and this is my first post on the May book The Lost. I hope to have this book completed by the end of June (currently on p.191 out of 516) and plan at least one more post when I’m done. I got a bit of a late start on this one (May 7? I think) though I’ve made up some ground and I’m keeping a good pace now. The JBOM selection for June is As A Driven Leaf  by Milton Steinberg, which I plan to start by June 2 (not bad, eh?).

The Lost is part memoir, part historical account and part mystery shrouded within a mystery of Daniel Mendelsohn’s search for details and explanations in regards to Six of his family members who were Killed by the Nazis, a phrase which led Mendelsohn on an exhaustive lifelong search to bring life and give meaning to the otherwise ambiguous and generic phrase that he had heard so many times growing up about his dead great-uncles family (husband, wife and four beautiful daughters). Mendelsohn intricately weaves stories within stories throughout his search which are funny, shocking, head-shaking, melancholy and candid about himself, his family (both close and extended), his Jewish culture and Biblical ancestors. Mendelsohn also reveals his fascination as a kid with those cultures such as the Egyptians and Greeks who we’re oppressors to the ancient Hebrews that he himself thought to be much more exotic and cool than those poor Hebrews who were always getting either killed by God or conquered and taken captive by other nations. It wasn’t until Mendelsohn was in his mid-twenties that he started to take his Hebrew and Biblical heritage seriously. One of the most interesting things to me about this book is the way Mendelsohn follows the Biblical narrative of Bereishit’ (Genesis) and the chronological Torah portions to set up each chapter and includes commentary on the portions from Rashi, the 11th century French scholar who many consider to be one of the Bibles all-time greatest commentators and modern Rabbi Richard Elliot Friedman who brings a contemporary yet distinct view from Rashi on the text.

This book was a bit slow for me to start with and trudge through until I got to somewhere around p.50-55 and then I was hooked and just got engulfed in the story and the mysteries that were starting to unravel albeit very, very slowly as Mendelsohn would start to reveal and uncover snippets of valuable data and evidence. See the title of this book The Lost is much more revealing than the meta-narrative of Mendelssohn’s Lost  family members. One of the most poignant moments comes at the end of Chapter 2 when Daniel realizes that all the unanswerable questions, all the mysteries, most of everything he has spent his adult life searching for, had all been within his grasp and in many cases right in front of his face while he was growing up into his late teens but he had failed to realize it at the time. It hadn’t yet occurred to him in those moments (most of which while they were present he dreaded) that most of the family members and “old” people he was in contact with had a lot of the answers he would one day travel around the world to find.

Shalom Aleichem!

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Identity, If you are raised with Christ

Here are my notes and reflection from the last two weekend sermons at The Village Church by Matt Chandler. Pastor Matt has been taking us through Colossians verse by verse since the beginning of this year. Listen at www.thevillagechurch.net

 

Colossians – Part 10: Identity

Primary Text: Colossians 2:9-2:23

9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. 20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

A constant theme in Colossians is our identity in Christ. Our identity is not external in such things as our career, house, family, ect…..but internal in Him.  Colossians 1:16-22, 2:3-15, 3:20, 4:7 and 4:17.

God by his grace has called us out as His own. This calling is not due to anything that we have done, not according to our righteousness but according to His righteousness.  Deuteronomy 9:4-6

“The Gospel in its simpliest form is that we are reconciled to God through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

Religious observance in and of itself doesn’t make you a believer or bring you into right standing with God. What God is after is your heart and religious observance should be an external expression of what has been transformed internally.  Isaiah 1:11-15

On the other end of the spectrum, listening and observing rules that have a human origin and not a origen from God can get you off track Spiritually and Biblically and must be considered and discerned prayerfully. See the primary text above.

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Colossians – Part 11: If you are raised with Christ

Primary Text: Colossians 3:1-4

3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

“You can only be sanctified, if you have been justified”

This text is speaking to those who find their identity in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Those who have been justified by and through Him alone, are then to begin to grow into maturity in Him (sanctification).

“Actions don’t lead to love, love leads to action”

What are some things that are from above: Scripture, Prayer, Meditation, Sabbath, Community, ect……………

We also need to be aware of things which may be Biblically neutral and yet can either stir up our affections for Christ or rob us of those affections for Christ.

May we who have been called by Him, find our identity in Him Who has been raised in power and glory forever and ever. Amen!

Shalom Aleichem!


JBOM: Visions of the Fathers – Part II

JBOM stands for Jewish Book of the Month Club. This is a book club that was started in March by Messianic Rabbi Derek Leman www.derek4messiah.wordpress.com. The motivation behind starting this book club was to get a group together within the greater Body of Messiah reading, getting educated and sharing our thoughts on Jewish works with those who might not normally come in contact with such (like myself :-)). Currently there are over a dozen bloggers participating along with a few congregations and a few more individuals on board as well. The JBOM selection for April was Visions of the Fathers by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. Rabbi Twerski is a Torah Scholar as well as a Psychiatrist who has treated and helped thousands of those with substance abuse problems. This will be my last post for Visions for the time being as I’m currently enthralled in May’s selection The Lost and plan to post on it soon.

It has been a little over a month since my first post on Visions of the Fathers and with Shavuot (Pentecost) being this past Wednesday or …………. today, depending on where you land in the calendrical issue of counting the Omer beginning on the day after the first Festival Shabbat of Pesach or the weekly Shabbat during Pesach week. Anyway the reason I bring up Shavuot is because Visions of the Fathers is a commentary on the classic Mishnah text Pirkei Avos, which is traditionally read on the weekly Sabbath afternoons between Passover and Pentecost, as well as continued by many on those so-called lazy days of summer.

I hadn’t ever read any Talmudic literature before being introduced to this book but I quickly found myself connecting parallels between Pirkei Avos and Rabbi Twerski’s commentary and the Apostolic writings of the NT (I hope to write on these at some point in the future :-), God willing). I had also heard and seen many of the texts quoted from Pirkie Avos over the last couple of years without specifically realizing where they were from. Visions of the Fathers is a heavy read and not something I would suggest reading through quickly but rather taking it slow and letting it simmer and set in to experience the depths and layers that on the surface are practical and ethical high standards of living and yet on another level can have far-reaching effects on the “neshamah” that part of your soul or being which is limitless and eternal and created in the image of God.

I had planned to read this book through in a month or so until I actually started reading the book and realized that this would be much better spaced out over a couple of years, maybe and re-read many times over. It’s advice and anecdotes are useful in practically any setting including: Spiritual Discipline, Physical Discipline, Parenting and Relationships to name a few. Here are some of my takeaways from Chapter 2:

Whatever [path] is a credit to himself and earns him the esteem of fellow men- Why should a person behave in a way to evoke praise from others? Is this not being motivated by vanity, by a quest for admiration? The intent of this mishnah is not that one should elicit glorification from others, but rather that one should act in a manner that will cause people to respect the principles which he represents. The Talmud clearly demands a higher standard from those who represent Torah observance.

Know what is above you; a watchful Eye, an attentive Ear and all your deeds are recorded in a Book- If you wish to avoid doing wrong, our mishnah tells us, consider the frailty of your perceptions. To see and hear correctly may be above and beyond you, because you perceptions are subject to distortion. Your eyes and ears are not as much under your control as you think. If you wish to do what is right, allow your actions to be guided by what is written in the Torah (and in fact all of Scripture). The Torah is the Manufacturer’s guide to proper and optimal operation of the apparatus He created.

Torah study is acceptable together with an occupation, for exertion of them both makes sin forgotten– Twerski relates this funny story to help illustrate this mishnah:  A man once came over to a Rebbe complaining that his business was failing. He had inherited a store, but while his father had done a brisk business, the man’s fortunes were not good. Although nothing had changed in the business, there was dearth of customers. ” Nothing has changed, you say?” asked the Rebbe. “Tell me, what do you do when there is a lull in the store, and there are no customers?” “I read the newspaper and catch up on what is happening in the world.” the man said. “Aha!” said the Rebbe. “There is your problem. When things were quite, your father would pick up a Mishnayos and learn, or recite Psalms. This irritated Satan to no end. In order to distract your father from his Torah study and prayer, Satan would urge people to go to his store. This way, his brisk business would interrupt his study and prayer. “You, on the other hand, idle away your free time, which is just what Satan wishes. Why should he bother sending customers to distract you?”

Nullify your will in the face of His will– It is only necessary to recognize that our own will is unreliable, and to be wise enough to substitute God’s will for our own. We can then be certain that God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Do not separate yourself from the community– We must therefore be careful to avoid the separatism that will result from vanity and arrogance, of insisting that one is right, and not be willing to subject one’s position to critical analysis. Truth will stand up under scrutiny. It is only falsehood that must be protected against any challenge that will disprove it.

The more possessions, the more worry– Solomon was so right. “The sleep of the laborer is sweet, but the abundance of the wealthy does not let him sleep [peacefully]” Ecclesiastes 5:11

If you have studied much Torah, do not take credit for yourself, because that is what you were created to do– This mishnah cautions us not to allow our excellence in any field, even Torah study, to inflate our ego.

Let your fellow’s honor be as dear to you as your own– The Torah requires a person to be most respectful when disagreeing with a parent or a scholar. This is equally true when disagreeing with one’s spouse.

…..apply yourself to study of Torah– Hillel summed up the Torah by saying “Love your neighbor as yourself; that is the whole of Torah. As for the rest, now go and learn it”. Torah is much more in-depth and complex than just morality or humanism between mankind.

And let all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven– Rabbi Mendel says ” Let us not forget that all one’s actions, even the things that are done for the sake of Heaven, must be done for the sake of Heaven”.

Be meticulous in reading the Shema….– There are some concepts in Judaism that may appear to be logically contradictory, yet which must be accepted on the basis of faith. For example, we believe that God has infinite foresight, and knows everything that will occur until the end of time. We also believe that a person is totally free to make moral decisions. Whether he does right or wrong is not predetermined, but rather his free choice. Inasmuch as God knows what I am going to do, how can I be said to be free in deciding what to do? Can I do other than what God knows I will do? Does not Divine foreknowledge constitute predetermination? We believe that everything that God does is for the good, and that God never does anything that is wrong. Even those happenings which appear to us to be dreadful are fo an ultimate good.

Be diligent in the study of Torah, and know what to answer a heretic–  All the necessary philosophic concepts of God and the universe can be found in Torah literature (and in fact the whole of Scripture).

The day is short, the task is abundant, the laborers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master of the house is insistent– There is much to do and relatively little time to get the work done. Although one is not expected to complete the entire task, one has no right to be indolent, and one is obligated to do as much as he can. While there is great reward for being diligent in the work, the full payment is not to be received in one’s earthly life.

“And know that reward of the righteous will be given in the World to Come”. 

Shalom Aleichem!


Al Pi Yochanan – From the Mouth of John

Last weekend I attended a two-day mini-yeshiva (bible study) on The Gospel of John given by Dr. Brad Young and hosted by Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue www.baruchhashem.com. Dr. Brad Young is the graduate professor of Judaic-Christian Studies for Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Ok. Dr. Young received his B.A. from ORU and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is also the founder of Gospel Research Foundation www.gospelresearch.org and Hebrew Heritage Bible Society www.hebrewheritagebiblesociety.org. Dr. Young has been working on a new translation of the NT from various canonical Greek manuscripts (of which there are over 5,000) for the past 15 years and hopes to have it released by late 2010 or early 2011. This new translation called The Hebrew Heritage Bible Translation seeks a Hebrew literal dynamic equivalency, going from the Greek text into Hebrew linguistics and culture, and coming back into modern English. The majority of modern versions are still heavily influenced by the King James Version which consisted of many different translations. As an interesting side note, due to the conflict of the Church of England and the Congregationalist movement of the 16th century “ekklesia” Greek for “community” or “congregation” was translated as “church” to solidify the church/states bias. Although the Gospel of John was originally written in Greek, Jewish thought and Hebrew linguistics can give insight and bring fuller meaning to the text. This translation seeks to give the ancient meaning to the text and message the way a first-century disciple would have understood and applied it. Dr. Young has released The Gospel of John as a stand-alone to help fund the costs of publishing and producing the entire NT Hebrew Heritage Bible Translation.

Here are some of my notes from my time with Dr. Young on The Gospel of John:

The fourth Gospel is about faith and the action connected to that conviction which leads to a life of “ever-increasing abundance” John 10:10. This Gospel could also be called the “I Am” Gospel from the multiple “I Am” statements made at 6:35, 8:12, 10:7, 10:11, 11:25, 14:6 and 15:1. The “I Am” statements harken back to Exodus 3 when God told Moses “I Am” which could also be translated as “I will be what I will be” ” I will cause to be all that is needed to be” or “I will meet every need because I am with you always”.

Love is also a supreme focus in this Gospel “For God so love the people of the world that He gave His only Son…” 3:16. Irenaeus and Jerome both witness that John wrote his Gospel while at Ephesus with Jerome recording a common saying by John to the congregation “Little children, love one another”. Faith’s experience with God’s love provides strength for hardship, adversity, and persecution. The theme of how the followers of the Lord will manage without the physical presence of Yeshua is a powerful teaching motif in this Gospel. They will need the Spirit of Truth sent by the Father to remind them the teachings of Jesus and help them apply the message in a new and more strenuous situation. Encouragement in prayer and unity is highly valued.

A theme explored throughout this study was the Hebraic backdrop and cultural reality of the 1st century.

 Pope John Paul II said “Whoever meets Jesus meets Judaism” (April 28, 1980).

 Luther taught “The wisdom of the Greeks, when compared to that of the Jews, is absolutely bestial; for apart from God there can be no wisdom, understanding and insight”.

Abraham Joshua Heschel observed “The vital issue for the church is to decide whether to look for roots in Judaism and consider itself an extension of such or to look for roots in Hellenism and consider itself as antithesis to Judaism”.

In John’s Gospel readers discover a more general term “hoi youdaioi” in Greek which is usually translated as “the Jews”. This translation could create a difficulty in understanding the different types of Jews found in this Gospel.  “The Jews” usually refers to the group of Jews who reside in Judea, that is the Judeans, though it is also applied to the disciples at times and the Jewish people in general as well. The other primary groups discussed in the Gospels are of course the Pharisees and Sadducees which historically have been a bit distorted as well. Early Jewish literature notes that there are 7 types of Pharisees and that 1 of the 7 put heavy yokes and burdens upon the people. The Qumran sect, who are associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls, viewed the Pharisees as a whole as being to laxed or soft in their Torah interpretation. On the other hand the Sadducees, who are also known as the Bethousians were at odds with the Pharisees. Josephus called the Sadducees “the most heartless of all Jews”. One of the main reasons for this difference between the Pharisees and the Sadducees was the acceptance of the Oral Torah and included therein the teaching of the Resurrection.

For myself the timing of this fresh translation of the Gospel of John was great since I’m starting on John this week in my bible readings. I encourage all to check-out the resources on Dr. Young’s websites and consider adding this translation and hopefully soon the whole NT translation to your library.

Shalom Aleichem!


Week of 05/09/10

Shabbat Shalom!

Whew…………. the last few weeks have been jam-packed with all the activities a family of four could partake in and including being extra busy at work. It’s good to be back after missing the last few weeks.

Here are some of my thoughts and reflection from my Scripture readings this week:

B’midbar (Numbers) 1:1-4:20

B’midbar means “In the desert/wilderness” and is the Hebrew name for the Book of Numbers. Appropriately titled Numbers as well, this book gets right off to it with genealogies, a census of Israel and a division of the camps.  In Chapter 2:34 Israel’s obedience is noted, they get it right here.

Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 21:1-25:12

Chapter 21:9 contains the prophecy about Babylon falling which Revelation quotes at 18:2. As I read the “prostitutes song” in 23:15-16 for some reason I could hear Dylan or Springsteen singing this as a raspy folk song. 24:5 relays a common theme amongst all the Prophets about The Land being defiled due to Torah being forsaken and the Covenant being broken. 24:13-16 has people from around the world honoring the name YHVH the God of Israel and singing “Glory to the Righteous One!”. 24:23 harkens back to Chapter 2 with The LORD of Hosts ruling on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem during the Messianic era. 25:6-10 ends with the great banquet celebration on Mount Zion with rich food, wine and death being swallowed up forever in the world to come.

Tehillim (Psalms) 127-133

Psalm 127 was my reading for Mother’s Day and it contained “Children too are a gift from ADONAI; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” 127:3

Psalm 128  How happy is everyone who fears HaShem and lives by His ways.

Psalm 129  HaShem is righteous and His yoke is light

Psalm 130  With Him there is forgiveness, so that He will be feared. Grace is found with HaShem and with Him is unlimited redemption.

Psalm 131  Israel, put your hope in HaShem from now on and forever!

Psalm 132  HaShem has chosen Zion and wanted it as His home. He calls it His resting place forever and will live there because He really wants to.

Psalm 133  How good and pleasant it is for brethren to live together in harmony.

Luke 19:1-24:53

19:1-9 Salvation had come to Zakkai’s house in more ways than one, as well as the restoration or declaration of Zakkai’s sonship of Abraham by Yeshua.

19:41-48  Yeshua experiences sadness and zeal for the city He so dearly loves.

Chapter 20 has Yeshua taking to task and schooling some of the religious leaders of  His day.

22:16 The Passover of which now we only see in part will be brought to its fullest meaning in the Kingdom of God.

22:30 The disciples will sit as authorities over the twelve tribes of Israel in the world to come.

23:38  THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS

24:52-53 This sect of the Nazarenes returned to Jerusalem after the Resurrection and spent all their time in the Temple courts, praising God.

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Shalom Aleichem!