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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

Some Purim Halacha

Chag Purim Sameach!

Of course, Purim is a great holiday for many reasons.

1. We are reminded once again that we always win. Baruch haShem!

2. We are reminded once again that we work best together as a team. Sure, leaders are called out from among us, but victory requires unity.

3. Shiksappeal can't hold a candle to Yehudiyappeal. Sure, Mia Farrow may have snagged Woody Allen, but our girl got the Persian king. Can Annie Hall hold a candle to the winning over of a kingdom? I don't think so-- and the critics agree.

Favorite Verses from the Megillah:

"If Mordekai, before whom you have begun to fall, is a Jew, you will not get the better of him; on the contrary, your downfall before him is certain." (Zeresh, Haman's wife, to Haman, Esther 6:13)

"...the Jews resolved and took upon themselves, their descendants and all who might join them that without fail they would observe these two days..." (9:27)

"For Mordekai the Jew was second only to King Achashverosh; he was a great man among the Jews, popular with all his many countrymen. He sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all their descendants." (10:3)

Personal Observations:

New treat for this year's Purim: chocolate hamentashen from Israel. I've had fruit-filled from some of the finest (and not so fine) American bakeries, but I've never seen chocolate-filled before. Needless to say-- c'est tre bon!

Of course, Purim this year coincided with Easter weekend, which meant that everywhere I went people were wishing me a Happy Easter. I could have replied, "Happy Purim to you, too," but since I'm not a jerk, I just smiled and wished them the same.

Yay for being a minority!

Personal Purim Victory Story:

This week, my order from Andy Books came in the mail. I picked up a series titled, "Halacha: Walking with G-d" by Dr. Karl Coke. The series deals with the concept of Halacha in a Biblical context. In other words, drop the religious fa├žade, read the Bible, and live what it says. Think Torah observance as Yeshua lived it, not as the Rabbis teach it or as the Church ignores it.

For the past four years, I have become increasingly aware of the fact that as believers we often live two very separate lives. We have what my boss often calls, "work mode" where we go into our daily lives, to our jobs, interacting with other people, etc., with a certain attitude and a certain set of behaviors. This is often in complete opposition to "G-d mode" which is the pattern we fall into when we go to services, spend time with fellow believers, or even just come home after a long day out in the world.

Nowhere did the dichotomy between "work mode" and "G-d mode" become more apparent to me than in my job search. I happen to be a freelance writer who writes about Jewish things. I also happened to write about Jewish topics during my graduate studies. These works are included in my online portfolio I prepared to show potential employers. I'll never forget the day my brother basically told me that if I wanted to shop myself I should just not talk about or flash around anything that relates to being Jewish. In other words, not only should I omit the truth of who I am, I should also ditch half the work in my portfolio, lest my Jewishness become a hindrance in landing a professional career.


Intellectually, I understood that being Jewish was not a popular thing. But it seems like a part of me couldn't resist testing that notion in practice in the real world. I suddenly became very evasive about things when applying for jobs or going on interviews. Sometimes, I would just boil my thesis down to, "cultural studies," or neglect to pass along my business cards to people whom I thought wouldn't appreciate my writing portfolio. Suddenly, I found myself becoming very careful about expressing my Jewishness. And the more careful I became, the more frustrated I became, and the more I questioned whether or not I wanted a "career" in the "real world" after all.

The last job interview I went on was with a fairly large, well-known publishing company. The woman who interviewed me for a glorified secretarial position (think: "foot in the door, chance for bigger things" type-position) asked me what computer programs I was familiar with. Then, for some reason still unbeknownst to me, felt the need to ask me what blogs I read. (If you can tell me how my wpm count and my Internet surfing predelictions relate to one another in the context of interviewing to get someone's coffee every day, I'll give you five thousand shekels.) Taken slightly aback, I thought to myself, "Say 'Daily Kos.' NO! Don't associate yourself with those nutbags! What's a popular, mainstream blog? Uhm, uhm, she wants an answer. Oh, forget it!" before responding, "Israpundit."

"Oh, I've never heard of that one," she answered. "What news sources do you read?"

At this point, I knew the cat was out of the bag. "The Jerusalem Post," I replied, adding, "The New York Times," to soften the blow.

"Oh, you follow the news over there, then. That's a personal interest to you," the comment came with a slightly shocked expression, followed by a slightly patronizing grin and chuckle. She then proceeded to skewer me about my lack of publishing experience, and had no problem cutting me off when I answered her questions.

That night, when I got home, I made sure the link to my writing portfolio was included in my thank you email to her.

Nearly three weeks went by. The friend who referred me for the job was shocked that I hadn't heard anything, because she knew for a fact that her boss needed a new assistant, pronto. Finally, after weeks of waiting and feeling confident I wasn't going to hear anything, I got a call.

"Oh, we'd love to offer you the position. Just name your start date!"

Cool, okay. I asked some questions and when she said she'd have to obtain the answers from HR, I told her I'd call back in 24 hours with an answer.

But something shook inside of me. Later, my father and my brother would both ask me if I was excited when I got the offer, and I had to honestly respond, "No." It wasn't that this was a bad job, or a bad company. Something just didn't feel right. But, I reasoned, an offer is an offer, and after three years of working dead-end jobs and looking for the "career-position" that everyone wanted me to have, I had no right to say no.

"G-d," I prayed out loud, "I love you, and I want to do what is right by you. Please, if you want me to take this job, talk to me. I will listen and obey if it is what you want." I listened, but I didn't get any response.

So, the next day I called back. It happened to be Friday. It happened to be Shabbat. And, it happened to be Purim. My questions were answered, and I accepted the position. Then, we got to talking about the start-date. Suddenly, "name your date," turned into a patronizing lecture about how she felt no need to get with me sooner, because she was sure I would be available any time (despite knowing that I am currently employed). My date was not good enough, so she named a date. Then, in the next breath she changed her mind; the date she had stated wasn't good enough because she was travelling, so I'd just have to be in sooner.

This wouldn't have allowed me to give a full two weeks notice to my current employer. I stated as much, and she then implied that I hadn't communicated my situation clearly, saying she "thought" and she "assumed" I would be available any time, so she didn't feel the need to ask about my schedule. I asked her if I could call her back on Monday morning, to which she replied, "Well, we'll really need to know by then, because if this isn't going to work, we can't keep wasting our time. We'll have to start the process of looking all over again."

I played it cool, told her I had to make a phonecall and would call her back. Then, I hung up the phone, baffled. It made no sense. The woman who had been so sweet the day before, saying I could name my date, suddenly barked at me as if it was my fault that she neglected to ask me a fairly important question. Something wasn't kosher. But, at the same time, I felt like everyone was counting on me to get a "career" and get going with my life.

At that point, my family had arrived and was ready to celebrate Purim and Shabbat. So, I took the opportunity for a quick conference before I called this woman back. "Well, do you want the job, Sis?" my brother asked.

"Not really," I replied.

"Well then, don't take it," my brother and parents responded in unison. "Don't do something that's not going to make you happy."

It was as simple as all that. And, suddenly, it clicked. I called the woman back and politely declined the offer. She was stunned.

When I hung up the phone, the full impact of what I had just done hit me. Four years later, I had turned down a solid career offer, a chance to establish myself in the professional world. I couldn't believe myself.

That night, after everyone went home, I prayed about it and a peace I hadn't felt all week came over me. Determined to set it all aside, I made it a point to focus on HaShem, on Shabbat, and on the holiday at hand. As I praised HaShem, the peace increased and I felt a new strength grow within me.

The next day, my mother and I talked about it, and I commented that I couldn't just leave my current employer (who has been very good to me, and who also enjoys the fact that I am a Jew like him) without a full 2 weeks notice.

"No," she answered, "you couldn't do that. It wouldn't be right. And you have to do the right thing. She wanted you to do the wrong thing, and that's her problem, not yours."

Being Jewish, for me, isn't about flashing a Magen David, or claiming that I'm a Chosen One, or pushing a portfolio in people's faces. Being Jewish is about doing the right thing. How many times have we been asked to do the wrong thing when we're in "work mode"? How many times have we pushed our relationship with G-d to the backseat because we're in "work mode"? Every week, my boss's daughter comes in with her baby son to say hello, and every week, my boss says to her, "I can't stop now, I'm in work mode." The other week, the baby who just turned one, came in the door, spied his grandfather and said, "Pop pop!" He reached for my boss in excitement, something my boss would later remark, "was pretty cool."

Life isn't about "work mode." Life is about walking with our G-d. If I had conceeded to this woman's demands, I would have done the wrong thing by my current employer. And what would it have gotten me? A career? Maybe. The chance to work under someone who operates in confusion? The chance to work in a politically correct environment where conversations about my G-d, my faith, and my identity would not be considered kosher? Definitely.

We struggle so much with who we are supposed to be in this world. On the one hand, we're taught that degrees, careers and subseqent money and possessions mean nothing. Yet, on the other hand we're taught that to achieve respect and status, we are to become educated, establish a career, and earn a lot of money. Tele-preachers and megachurches today thrive on the "prosperity doctrine" of men, claiming that if you throw all your money into building funds for new stadium-like sanctuaries, G-d will rain fortune down upon you. Yet, G-d is no respector of persons. He chose fruit pickers, shepherds, and working class fishermen to teach and preach the Truth to the world. He uses the simple to confound the wise. We know all of this, yet we race to earn more status in the professional sphere so that we can earn more money which will earn us more status with those around us-- whether they are our neighbors, our peers, or even our religious leaders. And, all the while, we're sending a message to G-d that reads, "I don't have time for you now, I'm in work mode."

There is nothing wrong with having a career, or being successful at it. The motivation to achieve and succeed, however, becomes wrong when it is not motivated by the Truth of the Word of G-d. Ever since I was a child, I was instructed by teachers that since I had a brain and could get A's on tests, I was supposed to obtain a career that would make me rich. My gifted and talented peers now have myspace pages where they brag about how much money they make and all their subsequent social opportunities and chances for promotion as doctors, lawyers, politicians, you name it. You never see one of them bragging about how many people they healed, or how many innocent people they defended and saw acquitted. When I interviewed with this woman, she asked me why that particular publishing company interested me. I responded that I respected the fact that they specialized in medical publishing, and that working for a medical publisher would allow me to contribute in some small way to the betterment of the world around me. Her response was, "Oh, that's interesting. I never really thought of it that way."

In the most famous passage from the book of Esther, Mordechai warns his niece, "Don't suppose that merely because you happen to be in the royal palace you will escape any more than the other Jews. For if you fail to speak up now, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from a different direction; but you and your father's family will perish. Who knows whether you didn't come into your royal position precisely for such a time as this?" (4:12-14)

Just because you may win the world's favor, doesn't mean you'll escape their wrath when they turn on you. If you fail to do the right thing, in accordance with your covenant with G-d, G-d will still see that His promises are fulfilled. You, however, will have written yourself out of the picture. Here's your test: Are you going to do the right thing by G-d, and honor your covenant with Him, or are you going to do what the world thinks you should?

When Yeshua said no slave could serve two masters, He meant it. "Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me, and the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him." (John 14:21)

When "work mode" overrides the one Source that should impact your decision-making process, you are losing out. You may be gaining a "good" grade, a "great" career, or a "fabulous" friend, but you are losing the opportunity to walk with G-d. You are losing the opportunity to be a part of the picture. You are losing the opportunity to have Him reveal Himself to you. So, what have you truly accomplished?

Chag Purim Sameach. And if you celebrate Easter, I don't really know what flowers and candy bunnies have to do with Messiah's rising from the dead, but have a nice time with your family-- and don't forget to spend time with the Messiah you're celebrating today. Only, I'd skip offering Him any ham. For some reason, I don't think it'd go well with the hamentaschen.

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posted by Shoshana @ 10:40 AM

Freedom's Current Crisis (Or, Messianic Politics 101)

I grew up with an intense desire to avoid political discussion at all costs. I was raised in a home that functioned on an intense undercurrent of conservative politics. However, certain things were not considered polite dinner table conversation. When I told a visiting professor, who happened to be a Communist non-practicing Jew, that our family did not discuss G-d, sex, or politics publicly, I had to scrape his jaw off the table. But, it was true. My grandfather ruled the larger roost and when it came to topics that could be perceived as divisive, we were quickly told to, "Cut it off." Outside of a few screaming memes from my mother, who anxiously shouted, "Liars! Anti-Semites!" at the occasional CNN reporter, or my father's random disparaging remarks about the Clintons, I was fairly unexposed to political dialogue. I preferred it that way. Politics were ugly and divisive, and besides, as a kid I was part of the disengaged non-electorate, anyway. I had better things to focus on-- like Torah, Judaism, and Israel.

I didn't truly begin to become aware of the tight-knit relationship between real life and politics until my first graduate seminar in the fall of 2002 when, in an introduction to film theory, my professor informed us that, "Everything is political." At first, I didn't believe him, but I came to see quite clearly that this was true: film theorists and academics in general would strive to attach political meaning to the most benign actions imaginable. Films about out of work actors doing summer stage became tomes rife with communist innuendo (at least, according to communist theorists). Suddenly, everything I encountered had a political platform. Everyone was trying to shove some ideology down my throat. And, nine times out of ten, that ideology ran completely against the moral foundation upon which I was raised.

My first year in graduate school was a nightmare. I couldn't make heads nor tails out of what my professors were trying to teach me. Fortunately, there was an "oddball" in my class, the avowed conservative libertarian among a bunch of unaffiliated liberals who had no problem speaking up and speaking sense into classroom discussions. I may not always have been able to follow him to the T, but thanks to his commentary, I could clearly see that the complex, nonsensical theories of my professors were based in dangerous ideological territory and, consequently, had far-reaching, disastrous implications. For that first year, I sat and listened-- a lot. I did what my grandfather had always taught us to do: I kept my eyes and ears open, and my mouth shut.

I still recall that night reality finally hit home. Walking up the steps to my apartment after class, it suddenly dawned on me: I'm not the one that's wrong-- they are. I realized that the moral foundation I was raised with was the right one. I also understood very clearly that, not only was I allowed to have my own opinion, I should be allowed to express it, openly and honestly. But, as I watched my conservative peer catch guff time and time again, I knew that if I wanted to complete my program successfully, it would be better for me to keep my opinions to myself. So, I did. I muddled along and became the only one in my class to graduate on time with honors.

When I arrived home, as exhausted as I was, I knew I had work to do. This time, I set my sights on studying everything I wasn't permitted to research as a student at a public university. I poured over books by conservatives, beginning with Slander by Ann Coulter, and working my way from there, first with media commentaries (authors like Bernard Goldberg) since that was my arena of study in school, and then expanding into government and history. Naturally, I gravitated towards political texts regarding Israel and the Jewish people-- books like The War Against the Jews and The Abandonment of the Jews that my mother had read in her Holocaust history course worked in naturally with books I had read for my thesis, like Hollywood: An Empire of their Own. Eventually, thanks to one of Coulter's references, I picked up Whittaker Chambers's Witness, which led me to John Loftus's The Secret War Against the Jews.

At the same time, I began to follow political news online, reading both mainstream sources as well as independent conservative blogs like Israpundit. Thanks to these blogs, I tuned into authors like Ken Timmerman (Preachers of Hate) and Ben Shapiro (Brainwashed). I also immersed myself in conservative talk radio, taking my summer off to listen to Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and my personal favorite, WABC's Mark Levin. And, I made it a point to listen to Israeli talk radio via Arutz Sheva-- the conservative, religious-Zionist "renegade" station that broadcasted off the shores of the Promised Land.

In short, I became consumed with all I had sought to ignore in the world. In a matter of three months, I had read somewhere between 30 and 40 books and spent countless hours online or next to a radio. I studied what was going on in Israel and America, with a special focus on how the media portrayed conservatives, conservative issues, and everything related to Israel and the Jewish people. In doing so, it became very clear to me that the agenda marketed by the media was the same agenda shoved down my throat in graduate school: anti-Israel, anti-G-d, and anti-everything associated with Him. Comprehending this allowed me to understand one other thing very, very clearly: In possessing these attitudes, the media and the academy, the institutions I had believed I would devote my life's work to, were against me.

And that is when I got angry.

"If the world hates you, understand that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would have loved its own. But, because you do not belong to the world, on the contrary, I have picked you out of the world therefore the world hates you. Remember what I told you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too; if they kept my word, they will keep yours too. But they will do all this to you on my account, because they don't know the One who sent me." (Yeshua, Yochanan 15:18-21)

I had always known Scripture to be true. But I had never experienced the hatred of this world, so until I did, I could not fully understand the Truth I had been given. I knew that the situation I was confronting-- this battle Ronald Reagan had so easily boiled down to the fight "between good and evil"-- was bigger than me, and had been going on longer than I had been around, longer than my parents or grandparents had been on this earth, for that matter. I wanted to go back down the line, to understand how we had arrived where we were at that point in time.

First, I went back to Chambers's book that detailed the infiltration and influence of communism on the American government in the 1930s. That, I knew, had resulted in the persecution of Jewish Americans in Hollywood, as well as a lack of American response to the Holocaust. Therefore, it was clear to see that communism was an anti-Israel ideology. The next step was to read Marx for myself, as well as to research the existence of Marxism in its various forms around the globe-- Cuba, Russia, China, all anti-Israel in nature. Cuba, in fact, was the first government to establish ties with Yasser Arafat and even open a "Palestinian Embassy" on their soil. Many of the communist terrorist organizations of the 60s and 70s had strong ties to the PFLP, the PLO, and the other muslim Arab terror organizations Israel fights today.

Learning this naturally led me to study the connection between Islam and Marx. Two years before it even started to become public via the blogosphere, I knew and understood that the relationship between communism and Islam went further back than Castro and Arafat, straight to Hitler and the Mufti. Hitler, it seems, wasn't so much about the promotion of the aryan race as he was about the destruction of the Jewish people, and he found an ally in a proponent of the oldest Israel-hating religion on the face of the earth: Islam. One night I found a Koran in an old book shop, and sat there copying verses about killing Jews onto scrap paper I found in my purse. I couldn't bear to buy the book and actually have it in my home, so I scrawled notes and proceeded to bury the text back on the shelf. My research was complete. I knew, then, for sure that the battle I was witnessing had been, and always would be about the existence of Israel.

In October of 2004, five months after I had graduated, I began writing down everything I had learned over the summer. I wanted the text to be brief and basic, but strong enough to substantiate the claims I was making. The original goal was to get down on paper everything I knew to be true for my own self, lest I forget all the wonderful knowledge I had just been given. In the end, however, I realized that my brief could be a great source for people like me-- the average, hard-working, middle class reader, who wanted to understand what was going on in the world, but who lacked the time to read 40 books and sit by a radio for six hours a day.

I completed the work in less than a month. After that, life changed. I entered the working world and set this particular work aside. A few weeks ago, I pulled it out and looked at it. Four years later, it was a dated, but not out-dated piece. So many things have happened since October of 2004. Bush was re-elected on a pro-Israel platform, only to turn around and force Israel to evict 9,000 citizens in the name of "peace." Ariel Sharon, the lion of the settlements, is now comatose while 75% of the residents of Gush Katif still wait for permanent housing.

A month after the eviction, Hurricane Katrina smacked into New Orleans and evangelical preachers proclaimed it a judgement of G-d. John Hagee formed Christians United for Israel, forcing liberals into hissyfits over neocon influence and the "power and control" of the "religious right". Condi Rice and the State Department have morphed into an anti-Israel cabal bent on the division of Jerusalem by the end of '08, something the Israeli government of Olmert and Livni are more than willing to do. Eight students from the ages of 16 to 28 studying Torah at the heart of religious Zionism in Jerusalem were murdered by a muslim terrorist. Now, the disenfranchised religious Zionists are ready to take justice into their own hands.

Jewish people from France are making aliyah in record numbers while conditions for Jews all over Europe continue to worsen. Jewish students at UC Berkeley and Temple University, among other schools, have been physically attacked and pro-Zionist students all over North America are facing growing anti-Israel, pro-muslim bias on campus. At the same time, the Christian Church is dividing into pro- and anti-Israel camps, with evangelicals touting Genesis 12:3 on one hand and various denominations divesting from Israel on the other. In the midst of it all, a growing number of gentile Christians are seeking to understand the history of their own faith and, in doing so, are acknowledging and embracing the fact that their Messiah is and their forefathers were all devout, practicing Jews.

Yes, many events have taken place since October, 2004. But the text of Freedom's Current Crisis still stands as a record of everything that led up to this point in time. Yeshua taught us, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light," and so it is, this truth of our history. What frustrated me so much about academia was that everything they taught as truth was, in reality, confusing, twisted, and non-sensical. Shortly after I returned home, I was given these verses from Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in Adonai with all your heart; do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him; then He will level your paths." The world likes us to believe that truth is a hard thing and knowledge is impossible to achieve. The world likes us to believe that you have to possess a great deal of accredited education and associated wealth to be able to understand how life really works. This is a lie. Truth is free. G-d is free. And you cannot put a dollar value on trust. Anyone can understand, know, and live the truth. They just have to want it badly enough.

I pray that the frustration I was driven to will not be what leads you to seek out the truth for yourself. And I pray that, in its own humble way, Freedom's Current Crisis will pay honor to G-d's promise: "The truth will set you free."

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posted by Shoshana @ 12:37 PM

Jewishness: A Badge of Honor (For Everyone Involved!)

"You did not choose me, I chose you..." -- Yochanan 15:16

One of the questions that plagues many people born into the Tribe is, "Why would anyone want to be Jewish?" A modern Jewish identity carries with it over 2,000 years of oppression, disillusionment, and hatred from the outside world. If you're European, a Jewish identity is enough to get you kidnapped and left for dead. If you're Israeli, a Jewish identity is enough to get you accused of hate crimes by the United Nations. If you're American, a Jewish identity is enough to leave you scarred by Woody Allen-esque neuroses and the threat of being termed a JAP. And, no matter where you live, being Jewish implies that you're constantly failing to hold up your end of the bargain with G-d. Why, oh why, would anyone choose to be a Jew?

Yet, if you've grown up or been immersed in a Messianic circle you tend to view the Jewish identity with a certain amount of admiration, bordering on holy awe-- especially if you're a gentile. If Israel is the promised land, then the Jews are the promised people: They are, therefore, to be respected, revered, and even imitated with reverence.

Now, more than ever, a growing number of gentile believers in Messiah are seeking to look like, act like, and even live like Jews. I've seen footage of various evangelical powerhouses with 7 branched menorahs cut to look like Chanukias, with congregants in talits blasting shofars and doing their best to dance like King David in the 6"x6" space in front of their chairs. Entire ministries have cropped up, devoted to teaching and preaching about the Jewish roots of Christianity; for the first time ever, major bookstores like Barnes & Noble are selling books by Christian authors with titles like Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography.

We live in a world where kids studying Torah in Jerusalem are being murdered by muslim terrorists, and Christians in America are suddenly deciding that they want to be Jewish, too. Having grown out of the Messianic movement, I can understand and appreciate their admiration for my people. Also, having gone through the very literal transition of understanding that I am Jewish-- both genetically and spiritually-- I can relate to their zeal at discovering and embracing their true selves. However, as a somewhat seasoned Messianic Jew who has lived outside of a congregation and in the real world for roughly 8 years now, I can also look at these nascent Messianics and think, "Wow, they really don't know what they're in for."

These people who are discovering themselves in their faith have to not only love the Jewish G-d, the Jewish land, and the Jewish people; they have to love being Jewish. I recall very recently attending a study being led by an ordained Pastor regarding the Hebrew roots of Christianity. Essentially, this pastor was teaching a group of gentiles that, by putting their trust in Messiah Yeshua, they were Biblically considered Jewish. However, he didn't quite put it that bluntly. Privately, he had no problem identifying himself as a Messianic Jew. During the lecture, however, key terms of identity were placed in a grey area. The concentration remained on the Hebrew roots, or history of the Christian faith, rather than the direction in which this knowledge was propelling the movement. The pastor was not someone who minced words, or practiced on the pretext of pleasing his audience; therefore, I found his ambiguity rather odd-- until I took a good look around the room.

Here were a bunch of gentiles, who were in various stages of leaving the organized Christian church, studying about first century believers and how they practiced their faith and lived their lives as Jews... but no one was willing to call themselves "Jewish." They were anxious to study Torah, to read Hebrew, and to observe the High Holidays... but they weren't anxious to call themselves "Jewish." One guy there was so zealous in his studies that he carried with him the works of various Rabbis, but was careful to pad out his comments with, "It isn't important how you practice, as long as you believe in Jesus... I mean, you know, this is all really helpful and important, but it isn't important, you know, what you call yourself, as long as you believe." These people were, for the most part, in a self-imposed Purgatory of Identity. They weren't this, but they weren't that, either. It was as if they'd found themselves in a fantastic bargain basement sale, but couldn't decide whether or not they really wanted to buy.

It was strange, and the cynical, kicked-around-Jew in me felt offended: You want what I have, but you don't want me-- you want what I can give you, but you don't want to work for it. Judaism is a template for you, but somehow, in the end, you still think you can do it better. At the same time, I also reminded myself to approach these newbies with a great deal of grace. It isn't any easier to suddenly be Jewish than it is to suddenly be Chinese or Italian: you don't start whipping up dim sum or planning a move to Sicily on your first night out. Sure, you may be seen in G-d's eyes as a Jew the minute you proclaim faith in Messiah, but that doesn't mean you know how to live a Jewish life. After all, the nascent nation of Israel needed a do-over just to get the Top Ten without having G-d crack it over their collective skull.

In the end, I walked away from that meeting sensing that there was something missing in the believing community-- not on the part of these gentile believers, but on the part of Messianic Jews. After all, aren't we the ones who know what being Jewish is all about? Aren't we the ones who are supposed to be excited about our faith and our identity in Messiah?

Every day I say to myself, "Wow, I love being a Jew." I don't want the world's hatred of the Jewish people and Israel to impact this growing movement of believers hungry to learn about and live out their Jewish identity. I do, however, want to see Messianic Jews get excited about their Jewishness, and pass that excitement along to these newbies to the Tribe. As Yeshua said, "You did not choose Me, I chose you; and I have commissioned you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last; so that whatever you ask from the Father in My Name He may give you. This is what I command you; keep loving each other!" (Yochanan 15:16-17)

Be encouraged: Be encouraged to love being a Jew. There is no greater identity on this earth.


Because our G-d always wins.

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posted by Shoshana @ 7:56 PM

This is Terrorism

Today, my boss walks by the TV at work and stops. "Whoa, whoa, whoa, what's this? A bomb in Times Square?"

"Yeah, didn't you hear about that?" I answered. "A guy threw a bomb in the army recruitment office at 3 a.m. Nobody was hurt or killed."

"Oh, so this isn't any crazy Shiite thing. This is just one guy angry at another."

"Yeah. The crazy muslims usually feel the need to strap bombs to their chests and walk into crowded pizza parlors before blowing themselves up."

An hour later, I look up at the now-muted TV and see that a crazy muslim entered a Jerusalem yeshiva and opened fire on a number of students eating dinner after evening prayers. Seven dead, 35 wounded and counting. "That," I said, "is terrorism."

The Israel National News article Arab Terrorist Attacks Jerusalem's Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva: 8 Dead has powerful photographs from the scene. You need to see them. You need to bear witness.

Mercaz Harav hit by worst terror attack since April 2006 [JPost]: "The 8:45 p.m. shooting at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood broke a two-year lull in terror in the capital and sent students scurrying for cover from a hail of gunfire - a reported 500-600 bullets - that lasted for several minutes.
At Shaare Zedek Medical Center, which is only a few minutes' drive from the yeshiva, the most seriously wounded student - who had bullet holes in many parts of his body - was rushed to the operating room. Spokeswoman Shoham Ruvio said he looked about 18 years old. Two other wounded students were in moderate condition, while four were lightly wounded. The age of the wounded was estimated at 16 to 28.
The Mercaz Harav Yeshiva is considered the leading national-religious yeshiva in Israel, with hundreds of elite students. Among its thousands of graduates are leading public figures including senior rabbis and IDF officers. It was founded in 1924 by mandatory Palestine's first chief rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook. Its longtime head, Rabbi Avraham Shapira, died in September 2007.

Rabbi David Stav, one of many prominent graduates of the yeshiva, which has produced the bulk of the spiritual leadership of religious Zionism in Israel, said that the attack had been directed at the heart of religious Zionism.

'Mercaz Harav is the flagship of the entire religious Zionist movement,' said Stav. 'The terrorist targeted a place that symbolizes love for the land of Israel, love for the people of Israel and love for the Torah. No Jewish soul can remain indifferent to the horrible thought that a despicable terrorist attacked a group of young men who were busy studying the holy Torah.'"

Commentary from the JPost An assault on the heart of Zionism by Calev Ben-David: "In striking the flagship institution of the religious Zionist movement, a Jerusalem landmark whose history is linked with the founding and fulfillment of the Jewish national home in the Land of Israel, the gunman aimed his weapon at the heart of the Zionist enterprise.
The grief and fury in particular of the religious-Zionist sector will be beyond measure at this violent desecration of the cradle of their movement. The current efforts by the government to reach an accommodation with the settler leadership on the removal of outposts will have been in vain for the time being, as any spirit of compromise will be buried with the victims of this atrocity." Read the whole thing. He believes negotiations of any kind will be halted, and Olmert will be one step from being ousted. Let's hope so. Let's hope that part of the Israeli response is the collapse of the coalition and an immediate demand for new elections.

Israel Matzav has a series of up-to-the-minute posts with links to Israeli TV coverage of the attack. Yitzack Dadon, a 40-year old yeshiva student and IDF Reservist, was able to get to the roof of the Yeshiva and shoot the attacker twice. He told the Israeli media: "Shimon Peres gave him the [Kalachnikov] that he used and now Olmert wants to give them more. We are walking around like blind people feeling their way in the dark." Apparently, the comment was edited out of later broadcasts.

Info on How to Help from Treppenwitz: At Least 8 Dead in Jerusalem Terror Attack with links to American Friends of Magen David Adom, Friends of Mercaz HaRav, and ZAKA USA

Amazing commentary from Israeli bloggers who blog in English:

What it feels like to be Israeli @ Aliyah: It's as easy as opening a bank account...

On a Night Like This @ Blogs of Zion

They just announced on the news that the body count is up to 10 murdered, and Jerusalem is (of course) on high alert. What we need right now is another Ariel Sharon, pre-Gush Katif eviction: the Ariel Sharon that marched onto the Temple Mount and got in the terrorists' face and didn't budge.

It is seriously absurd that we can't even pray in peace in our own capitol. If we can't life in peace in Jerusalem, how can we expect to live safely anywhere else in the State, let alone the world?

Some more places to send your money, your prayers, and even yourself:

Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces
Mahal2000 Assisting non-Israelis who want to volunteer for the IDF
PizzaIDF Feed your soldiers!
Israel Service Organization [ISO] Entertain your soldiers!
IDF Surplus Store Wear your support!

Tonight, we mourn. Tomorrow night, we Shabbat. The next night-- [hopefully] we fight back.

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posted by Shoshana @ 7:01 PM