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"It is better to take refuge in Adonai than to trust in human beings; better to take refuge in Adonai than to put one's trust in princes." -Tehilah 118:8-9

Bully - Believers' Style

There hasn't been much activity on this blog as of late.  I'd like to chalk it up to the fact that life has been busy (which is true) but that isn't the main reason why posting has stopped.  Today I listened to a sermon by Karl Coke entitled Feed My Sheep.  An element of the sermon involve the things in your life that can easily distract you from following the call G-d has put on your heart.  Some of the distractions he listed - work, kids, bills, etc. - are common enough and certainly impact one's ability to follow through on G-d's call.  But, I thought, they aren't my reasons.  My reasons for not moving forward (whether it be with this blog or any other aspect of life that G-d has put a calling on) goes beyond personal responsibilities to something much deeper and more stressful than paying bills or trucking kids around town.  I stopped writing because I didn't feel like I could get anywhere.  Based on the communication I was reading from the believing world (whether online or in print) I was pretty sure the simple message of unity found in Scripture and touted on this blog went against the current trends in thinking popular within the believing community.  And, much like a beleaguered parent whose warnings are repeatedly ignored, I grew exhausted and simply gave up.

The scary thing is, I know I'm not alone.

A lot has been made of "bullying" lately.  I don't know why the mainstream media didn't give a crap about kids beating up on other kids when I was in school, but for some reason "bullying" has become the latest cause celebre in pop culture.  I'm pretty sure the believing community thinks they have the upper hand on this one because of the numerous amount of Bible Pix distributed in Sunday Schools around the nation that contain the oft-repeated teaching to "love your neighbor as yourself."  I can't help but laugh at the idea of it when I think back and realize that I was picked on more often by believers than non-believers and for as much as I may have been harassed in public school, I was equally, if not moreso harassed in the church world.  So much for Sunday School.

The real problem is that the bullying that happens in the believing world doesn't go away as believers get older.  In fact, it gets worse.  Congregations become enclaves for clicks, loaded with attendees who become members the way someone would join a golf club for an optimal tee time and free parking.  The ambitious ones seek out the leadership, aiming for their own positions of power and relish in the authority that comes along with counting the tithes, running the children's program, or managing social affairs.  In turn, they use their titles to cultivate little popularity clicks around themselves, aiming to weed out the wheat (the beautiful, the monied, the socially entrenched) from the chaff (the ugly, the poor, the unknown in the community) among the congregation.  Of course, the chaff gets stuck doing the dirty work (aka mopping the kids' puke off the bathroom floor) while the wheat gets all the credit (for running another successful year of Sunday School).

Of course, these clicks all function off the same principle:  We do things a certain way and if you go against that grain, you're out.  Speak your own mind and forget it.  Not a subscriber to GroupThink?  Pass GO and collect your $200, only to give 10% back before the door hits you in the tuchus on the way out.  Thanks for coming, buh-bye!

My own personal experience of congregational rejection, while rooted in this common foundation, goes much deeper than mere social exclusion.  The Bible states that the test of a true prophet is that the word they speak will come to pass.  In my experience, the test of a true prophecy is that, if it is true, those in authority will become so threatened by it that they will use it against you in order to drive you out of the picture.  You know, as if G-d uses prophecy to call out "popular" versus "unpopular"...because G-d, after all, is nothing more than the Captain of the Cheerleading squad at Heaven Central High.  "G-d spoke a word over you and not me?!?!  GAH!"

Bullying is so detrimental, not because of the act itself, but because of the emotional ramifications.  The emotional wounds suffered at the hands of a bully last much longer than any physical wound or memory of social torture.  Having grown up with two parents who were physically and emotionally abused as children, I can attest to the fact that the emotional scars remain fresh long after the incident is over.  Why?  Because human beings crave positive relationships and thrive on the giving and receiving of love.  What are the two most important commandments?  To love your G-d and love your neighbor.  The idea that our successful survival is based on the healthy development of properly contextualized loving relationships is Biblical.  It stands to reason then that bullying in the believing world is exponentially more detrimental than secular bullying since the believing community is supposed to be built upon the tenent of loving one another unconditionally. 

If we raise our children to believe that G-d loves them for who they are and they walk into an arena of believers only to be treated like Daniel in the lion's den, what does that do to that child's faith in G-d, in themself, in the purpose G-d has for them?  How clever of the Devil to know G-d's tenants and pervert them through our own human nature.  And we allow it by pursuing judgemental attitudes and detrimental behaviors towards others!

I can't help but wonder how many believers are out there, in Messianic congregations, churches, even home study groups or chavurim, putting the purpose G-d has for them on the back burner of their life because they're afraid that if they pursue G-d's purpose, they'll be shunned.  How many young people have been geared away from what G-d had for them by leaders who were threatened by the visible hand of G-d at work in these young lives?  How many believers hop from congregation to congregation, looking for a fresh drenching of the Spirit and feeling like they have lost their way, all because they put too much creedence into earthly figureheads instead of the Heavenly source from which all authority comes?

Or, how many believers, like me, have given up on congregational life altogether because they're tired of being bullied into a corner for seeking and following after the will of G-d?

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posted by Shoshana @ 2:28 PM

The Book is Online!

We have finally found a new free server to host The Unified Body.  You can now find the original booklet online at:!

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posted by Shoshana @ 10:02 AM

Messianic Jewish Equality

Via The Shmooze Blogger:

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin's recently published article ("Dialogue: The Messianic Movement," Jerusalem Post, 8-27-2010) describing his assessment of Messianic Judaism demands a thoughtful response by someone who is part of this community.

Rabbi Riskin is well-respected in both Christian and Jewish circles. He is dynamic, intelligent, spiritual, and has great leadership abilities. We respect him as well for those qualities.

Furthermore, there are many issues in which we are in total agreement.
- He promotes dialogue between Christians and Jews.
- We should emphasize common ground in interfaith dialogue.
- Cooperation between Israel and the Church is a national duty.
- Pioneers of reconciliation face a barrage of criticism.
- We are under attack from Islamic Jihad and secular materialism.
We Messianic Jews are not asking anyone in either Orthodox Judaism or Christian Zionism to agree with us. We believe our position is correct, just as they do. We ask others to examine our beliefs with the same respect that we give to theirs.

Having said that, there are certain points in which we would disagree with Rabbi Riskin's statements.
While he says that he does not believe our community has been persecuted, we know otherwise. Our community is not persecuted by the State of Israel. However, it cannot be ignored that a fringe minority of Ultra-Orthodox Jews do execute pre-meditated attacks against us.

Please consider:

1. The Ortiz family whose son Amiel miraculously survived an attempt of murder upon his life.
2. Mrs. Conforti, whose bakery business in which she has worked from pre-dawn to post-dusk for years was deliberately destroyed.
3. The Beer Sheva Messianic congregation was ransacked by a mob (an attack recorded on film).
4. The smaller Messianic congregation in Arad has been physically attacked repeatedly.
5. Dozens of new immigrants have been denied citizenship simply because of their faith (all of whom are Jewish enough to have been slaughtered in the Holocaust, and have relatives who were).
6. Numerous Messianic Jews have been beaten, attacked, kidnapped, spit upon, cut off from families, and so on.

The list could go on, but this should be enough to make the point that one should not be "astonished" (in Rabbi Riskin's words) when asked about persecution against Messianic Jews. These attacks were perpetrated by extremist elements of the Ultra-Orthodox (who do not represent mainstream Judaism in our eyes). The ONLY reason these attacks took place was because the victims were Messianic Jews.

Rabbi Riskin compared us with the Mormon Church in America, which is not received by most of the Evangelical Christian community. The example, however, is not relevant for two reasons: First, Judaism is not solely a religion; it is also a people group. Secondly, Orthodox Judaism has religious monopoly in Israel, which Evangelicals do not have in the United States.

While many Evangelical Christians would not agree with the tenets of the Mormon faith, they would not deny their right to be Americans, nor their right to be part of the religious spectrum that exists in the United States. Mormons have full legal rights to conduct all religious and social duties, from birth to burial. Riskin has denied our God-given right to be Jews. We are denied legal rights to perform religious duties necessary within our community. Therefore, the comparison to the Mormons is not at all parallel.

We are also accused of "proselytizing" (a claim we deny by our very insistence to remain Jewish and live a Jewish lifestyle). Disseminating our beliefs is a basic right of freedom of expression, thought, religion, and the press. In fact, we do not disseminate our faith as many Ultra-Orthodox missionaries do, who approach cars in the middle of traffic, ask people to lay tefillin in shopping centers, and drive mission-mobiles around the city with loudspeakers in their "proselytizing" efforts.

Rabbi Riskin accused us of being "deceptive." Yet our beliefs are openly stated to anyone who asks. There is no hiding or pretending. It is virtually impossible to join our gatherings for more than a few moments and not understand who we are. Expressions of Jewish practice, from circumcision to Shabbat to Feasts of the Torah to Bar Mizvah to Chuppa, are an essential part of our faith. There are differing levels of expression of those customs within our communities. However, each person's religious expression is inherent to his or her faith. We have stood with integrity for those values despite criticism from both Christian and Rabbinic circles.

Finally, if our view of the Messiah is said to put us out of the realm of Judaism, then what about the Chabad movement which has invested millions of dollars in advertising campaigns to proclaim that their Rebbe is the Messiah? (Their "Meshichist" stream even believes that he was raised from the dead and answers prayers of his followers from heaven.) Are Lubavitchers not Jews? What about the Tel Aviv "Messiah?" What about those who proclaim that reciting the name of Nachman brings world redemption? What about professors of Tanakh in Israeli universities who do not believe in God? What about Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism, New Kabbalah and New Age? All of those above differ from Orthodox Judaism "mainstream." Are they also “out of the realm of Judaism?”

My point here is not to try to convince anyone to believe what we believe. We simply wish to stop the "de-legitimizing" of our community. We are Jewish by birth and Jewish by choice. We pay taxes, serve in the army, believe in the God of Israel, the Torah of Israel, and the Messiah of Israel.

Asher Intrater Congregational Leader – Ahavat Yeshua, Jerusalem
Love of Yeshua Messianic Congregation

posted by Shoshana @ 3:31 PM

Identity & Faith

From the JPost's most recent interview with Natan Sharansky:
I was speaking just a few days ago to a group of Americans, all religious, who made aliya in the last year. They asked me, how is it that you, who made such a difficult aliya and fought to come for so many years, are now shifting from a focus on aliya to Jewish identity.

I told them, “You know what, you know that the Kadosh baruch hu [God] gave the order – ‘lech lecha [Go].’” If there are Jews who don’t want to hear the voice of God, do you think that they will hear a shaliah [emissary] from the Jewish Agency telling them to make aliya?

It’s impossible to force our emissaries to compete with God and try to shout even louder than Him to make the message heard. You can’t be louder than God.

So what we have to do is help the Jews hear the voice of God. And how do we do that? By strengthening their feeling of Jewish connection, of Jewish pride and tradition, and their connection to Israel. That’s our function. Our function is not to impose on them what God doesn’t succeed in imposing, but to make them hear the voice.

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posted by Shoshana @ 5:33 PM

Confluence of Cultures: Evangelicals Addressing Birthright on Zionism?

Gordon Robertson to Speak at Birthright Alum Event
Last year, Birthright said it wouldn’t permit Messianic Jews to take advantage of its free trips. "There is unanimity in Jewish life that individuals who choose the Messianic path have chosen a path that separates them from the accepted parameters of Jewishness in contemporary Jewish society," Birthright's CEO, Gidi Mark, said at the time. The alumni network says it’s not troubled by that disconnect. "We're not asking him to come and talk about Christianity or Jews trying to get Jews to believe in Christianity. It's not the topic," a Birthright NEXT official told the Jewish Week.
I just want to make one thing perfectly clear: The day there is "unanimity in Jewish life" is the day the pigs stop flying and land on our Passover dinner plates.

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posted by Shoshana @ 4:53 PM

Who Am I? What Am I Doin' Here?

An interesting post on Messianic Jewish identity and blogger discussions thereof caught my eye. In it, the author writes:
Let me say it again: Messianic Judaism will never be a legitimate form of Judaism as long as Yeshua is Lord.
Which leads me to ask a series of questions:

The author argues:
There's a great inferiority complex in Messianic Judaism. Some of its leaders are trying very hard to make it fit in with greater Judaism, even to the point of alienating its own gentile friends and abandoning the New Testament model of joint, equal fellowship of Jews and gentiles.
Which leads me to ask why a Messianic Jew is defining a desire to relate to other Jews as a method for destroying relationships with gentiles? In the context of his argument why are the Jewish people still the scapegoat to be blamed for the "problems" of Jewish-Goyim relations?

Even more importantly, in the context of this conversation, why are Messianic Jews pinning one group against the other? And why is a Messianic Jew using Judaism as the fall guy?

One of the bloggers cited by this author writes:
by our own fault, and the simple overwhelming number of non-Jewish followers of Yeshua, the result of Messianic Judaism has largely been reduced to being a Torah revival for Christians.
To which I ask, what kind of "Torah revival" encourages gentile believers to continue behaving like gentiles, when the true purpose of Torah is to create a viable, sustainable, holy (a.k.a. "set aside"/"different") culture known as Judaism? If these goyim are truly adhering to Torah, doesn't that render them goyim-no-more? Aren't they, according to Rav Shaul, Jews in the sight of G-d?

Then again, I suppose that argument depends on whose eyes are G-d's, and that itself is dependent upon...who? The masses? The leadership? The blogger publishing a post? This blogger cites that "Nearly 95% of all Messianic congregations' websites state the purpose of a Messianic congregation is 'to be a congregation of Jews and non-Jews worshiping together.'" So, I suppose then that the difference between Jew and goy reside in the methodology that brings the most people in seats and the most money in the collection plates. Nothing much has changed; just ask the Guy who knocked over the merchants' tables for turning His Father's house into a "den of theives."

This particular blogger goes on to say:
It is not faith in Yeshua that is largely the stumbling block keeping us from effectively being a home to Jewish believers and seekers – it is our own hang ups.
This is absolutely true. The psychoses of the Messianic world are unmeasureable, unfathomable, and oftentimes so ridiculous and absurd it is a wonder that there is any functioning Messianic world at all, but for the mercy of HaShem Himself. The Messianic world has become a group of glorified navel-gazers, obsessed with seeing demonic forces around every corner and behind every sling and arrow shot our way. In short, they are trying so hard to be holy that they've forgotten how to be human. Didn't our Messiah dwell on earth to do exactly that--to illustrate the marriage between human and divine, to emphasize our inability in order to strengthen our faith in His ability?

Yet another blogger cited in the original complaint argues:
God, as I see it, was moving the hearts of Jews not only to follow Jesus as the long-promised Messiah, but also to identify as Jews and eventually to return to Judaism.
Which again, leads me to ask:

And, also:

This blogger continues:
Increasingly, however, in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Messianic Judaism became a haven for non-Jews looking to find a restoration of a perceived early church or some alternative to a church that had grown soft on Biblical practice and strong on revivalist tradition.

In other words, something God had been doing amongst Jewish people became a predominantly Gentile movement.

We could stop here and ask a lot of questions:
–What are some good reasons for Gentiles to be involved in Messianic Judaism?
–What are some less than helpful reasons for Gentiles to be involved?
–How can Messianic Jewish synagogues encourage the right Gentiles to stay and the wrong ones to move on and form their own movements?
Whether or not that is the reason for increased gentile involvement, I cannot say. But the questions this blogger asks are cheeky, at best, and completely ignorant of prophecy, at worst. Since when did Messianic Judaism become the "He-Jews Goyim-Haters Club"? Perhaps since it has become populated largely by Americanized, gentilized, Christianized people with absolutely no connection, no history, and no truly expressed interest in anything perceptively culturally Jewish outside of tallitot and shofarim that can be sold off to investors who phone in their donations by credit card.

In other words, Messianic Judaism suffers from the same cultural influenza that has been plaguing Diaspora Judaism since its inception in 70 C.E.: It is battling for cultural freedom against an opposition that is larger, stronger, and more overwhelming in nature than any one person or group could ever seemingly consume.

The reason Messianic Judaism is suffering an identity crisis is not because it favors gentiles over Jews or vice-versa. Messianic Judaism is suffering an identity crisis because it is a Biblical faith displaced into a world gone mad. Messianic Judaism is "in the world, but not of the world".

As to Messianic Judaism's relationship to and with Judaism at large, I'll revisit the questions I've been asking since the beginning of this post:

And, also:

The simple fact of the matter is that as long as Messianics continue to draw lines between Messianic Judaism, Rabbinic/Mainstream Judaism, and the gentile world, they will continue to "other" themselves into an ineffectual corner. It is also true that they cannot survive if they seek to imitate anyone else--Jewish or gentile alike. Messianic Jews must simply spend less time trying to be defined and more time defining themselves--not in light of the way everyone else thinks, but in light of the way G-d has always meant us to be.

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posted by Shoshana @ 3:35 PM

I Missed Yom Haatzmaut...Blame my Israeli BF

I've been run ragged with outside projects. Sorry for slagging off.

Fortunately, today I've been afforded an hour to catch up on Israeli bloggers--

Great Yom Haatzmaut post here:

61 more things I love about Israel

I'd list my favorites from his list, but I'd be copying and pasting for 20 minutes. It's great stuff.

YAY ISRAEL! Thank G-d for a place to call home. I will celebrate you to the hilt at the ISRAEL DAY PARADE in NYC on MAY 31!

Be there or be goy.

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posted by Shoshana @ 2:08 PM

We Made it to the Front Page

Religious Affairs: Jesus's Zionists in today's Jerusalem Post is a pretty even-handed article that portrays Messianic Jewish Israelis in a favorable light regarding their Zionism and military service.

It's interesting to note the confluence of culture evident in the paper's interpretation of Messianic Judaism, as well as in the Messianic Jewish Israeli expressions of faith. For instance:

"As believers, we are obligated to love and respect our enemies. But we are also citizens of Israel, which obligates us to serve in the IDF."

Why is there a but in that comment? Why is it automatically assumed that military service implies hatred and destruction of your enemies? Since when does the IDF fire on any of their opponents without first being provoked and then taking every precaution to avoid conflict and unnecessary casualties?

"Days are coming when the Jewish people will be forced to realize that Yeshua is the only solution to all our troubles," said Bar-David, using the Hebrew name for Jesus.

The sense of eminent apocalypse expressed by the Messianic believer here is interesting. I was recently at a dinner with an Israeli doctor who told me of his two jobs and his wife's three. When I commented on his insane workload, he said it is the same for all Israelis- they work all the time to keep their mind off the constant stresses of living in what is essentially a 24/7 war zone. Why would an Israeli believer in Yeshua, who lives in this war zone on a daily basis, focus his apocalyptic vision on days that are coming instead of the ones he is already living?

Moreover, why would you ever use the term "forced" when talking about coming to faith in Messiah? That is the antithesis of faith-- it cannot be forced. What? Trauma will worsen to such an extent that Israelis will be "forced" into believing in a Messiah in order to obtain salvation from the horror? That mindset assumes 1 of 2 things:

1. A forced belief in a false Messiah, since true faith cannot be forced, and if Messiah is Truth, then there can be nothing false about faith in Him, or;

2. Tying in the apocalyptic vision, this belief that Israelis will be "forced" into faith rings a note all to similar to the ones being sung by the Evangelical Christian Church in America, which--excuse the phrasing--is hellbent on being raptured so they can see the "Jews" duke it out in the tribulation until "Jesus" comes back to save His chosen.

Strange. Especially coming from an Israeli. Could it be that the translation from Hebrew to English wasn't that great, or does Christian eschatology have the same kind of influence on Israeli Messianic Judaism that it does on American Messianic Judaism?

Still, though, a fair report coming from the largest-read English daily in Israel on the eve before Shabbos. Should be interesting to see what the Messianic world thinks.

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posted by Shoshana @ 1:30 PM