Secular Judaism is an Oxymoron

One of my oldest, dearest and closest friends discovered she was Jewish on her mother’s side. This was a family secret that had been one since her mother was a child in Germany, born just before Hitler’s rise to power began. Her family converted and changed their name, which is what many Jewish families did during the late 1930s and early 1940s to protect themselves.

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Having a desire to know her Jewish roots better, she recently told me she is going to attend services at a local synagogue, which she explained to me is a Secular Jewish synagogue.

When she told me that I thought I heard her incorrectly, but she confirmed that this synagogue follows a humanistic theology.

Huh? Jews that aren’t centered on God but on humanism? That can’t be. But…it is.

Here is what I found on Wikipedia about Secular Judaism:

According to historian Shmuel Feiner, the onset of modernism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witness the appearance in Europe of Jewish communities who rejected the religious norms and discipline demanded by the rabbinical elite and whose identities as Jews were increasingly separate from beliefs and practices from the Torah or the commandments.

As far as I know, the Reconstructionist sect of Judaism is close to this description, although they do have some deist factions. Here is the Wikipedia definition of their theology:

Most “classical” Reconstructionist Jews (those agreeing with Kaplan) reject traditional forms of theism, though this is by no means universal. Many Reconstructionist Jews are deists, but the movement also includes Jews who hold Kabbalistic, pantheistic (or panentheistic) views of God, and some Jews who believe in the concept of a personal God.

To settle this confusion, one could simply identify what being a Jew means, or to rephrase my statement, we could ask, “What is a Jew?”  This is a question that seemingly has no one answer. Some say it is by birth, some by spiritual attachment to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Some say it is those who live a Jewish lifestyle, but that opens up an entirely new can of worms, for what is a Jewish lifestyle?  Is it being Torah observant? Is it celebrating all the holidays that are identified as “Jewish”, or just the ones God specified in the Bible? Is it wanting your son to grow up to be a lawyer or a doctor?

Frankly, there are as many opinions as to what a “Jew” is as there are people answering the question, but there is one thing that I do not believe any can argue against, which is that the Bible has told us God chose the Jewish people, meaning the direct descendants of Jacob (later called Israel) to be his nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) and gave them the Torah to learn, then teach to the rest of the world.

Yes- the Torah is for everyone because when you are a priest to the world that means you teach the world how to worship God.

So to be “Jewish” according to the Bible is to worship God as he said he should be worshiped, and to live our lives in accordance with the instructions he gave us in the Torah. Not that anyone can do that perfectly, but if we want to- if we try our best to live as God says to in the Torah- then we are, by definition, “Jewish.”

This means there is no way to separate Judaism from God, or vice-versa: God is the very foundation of Judaism, the roots of the Tree of Life, the rock upon which the house of David (Messiah) is built. According to the Bible, you cannot reject God or his Torah and still be Jewish.

You can reject much, if not all, of the Talmudic regulations, called Halacha (the Way to Walk) because they are man-made traditions and rules, but to reject God and his rules? No way, Jose!!

Judaism has been identified as a religion for thousands of years, but when God told Moses how we are to worship him and treat each other, it wasn’t a religion -it was how you were to live your life. The Torah is more than just a set of laws; it is a marriage certificate between a people and their God, it is the Constitution for a nation outlining the organization of the government, creating a justice system, establishing a penal code, and defining societal standards of behavior.

The idea of secular Judaism is an oxymoron. For me, you can’t be Jewish when you reject God as the way he presents himself in the Bible.

We will never know exactly what a “Jew” is, and that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how we feel towards God, other people, and how hard we try to live according to the instructions God gave to all human beings (through the Israelites) in the Torah.

Jews, the Torah, and God are inseparable.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Yom Kippur 2019 Message

Today I would like to share a message that I had given every Yom Kippur service when I was still living in Northeast Philadelphia and attending Beth Emmanuel Messianic Synagogue. For about 2 years we didn’t have a Rabbi and the Council members (of which I was one) kept the temple going, with me serving (pretty much) as Rabbi-pro-tem. The following is an updated version of the sermon I had been giving on this day.

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There is an undeniable relationship between Yom Kippur and Passover, and together they provide total atonement which allows us to have life everlasting. Yeshua is called the Lamb of God, the Pesach Lamb, and by means of his death and the blood he shed, we can find atonement for our sins. But, it wasn’t just as the Passover lamb that He accomplished this.

It’s important to know that the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, as we read of it in Exodus, Chapter 12, was not a sin sacrifice: it was a thanksgiving sacrifice. And the blood was not a sin atonement, but rather a kippur, a covering, which was meant to identify the people of God. It was spread on the sides and over the doorway of the house and as the identification of God’s people, it protected those people from being killed by the angel of death.

The blood from the sacrificed lamb on Passover provided protection from physical death for the people of God, and today Yeshua’s blood not only identifies us as God’s people, but also protects us from spiritual death. Yeshua’s sacrificial death may have occurred on Passover but is actually what the sacrifice of the Yom Kippur goats is all about.

The Yom Kippur goats (the one killed and the one released) together provide for our atonement (Lev. 16:9-10.) The scapegoat (which is the one released into the desert) had the sins of all the people transferred to it before being released into the desert, or as the Bible tells us, to Azazel. Let’s take a moment and talk a little about Azazel:

  • The Talmud interprets this word to mean a steep mountain, and for many years the scapegoat was not released into the desert but instead was thrown off of a steep mountain;
  • In the Book of Enoch, Azazel is a fallen angel. Of course, it is unthinkable that we would be told by God to sacrifice a goat to a god-like satyr in the desert;
  • According to Rabbi Hertz, the Late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, in his 1965 edition of the Chumash, Azazel is a rare Hebrew noun that means “dismissal”, or “entire removal”. The transference of the sins of Israel by the Cohen HaGadol onto the goat released into the desert symbolized the total removal of sin from the community of God’s people.

I had always wondered why we needed two goats. If all the sins were removed by the scapegoat why kill another one? It’s because sin can only be forgiven by the shedding of blood (Leviticus 17:11) so the goat’s blood had to be shed.  That still leaves me with the question, what did the scapegoat represent?

The scapegoat released into the desert represents our T’ShuvahIt represents our willingness to let go of our sinful desires and remove them totally from our lives. That is why all the people were present when the goat was released. It meant that we all were giving up our sinful ways and desires.

Atonement is a five-step process:

  1.  You commit a sin (after all, without sin there is nothing to be forgiven for);
  2. Recognizing and taking responsibility for that sin;
  3. Doing T’shuvah (repentance);
  4.  Shedding innocent blood to atone for the sin, and finally
  5.  Asking forgiveness from God by means of the first four steps we took.

Yeshua’s sacrifice was more than just as the “Passover Lamb”; his death fulfilled the meaning of the two Holy Days most associated with freedom from both physical and spiritual death: Passover and Yom Kippur.

On the execution stake, Yeshua took upon himself all our sins just as the Yom Kippur scapegoat does, and when he died, just as the scapegoat sacrificed to Azazel, he carried them not just into the desert but beyond the grave. He also fulfilled the role of the goat sacrificed on the altar, the one whose blood atoned for the sins and made it possible for God to forgive us.

The blood of the Passover lamb gave protection from death and the Yom Kippur blood allows forgiveness of sin. Passover and Yom Kippur, although two separate Holy Days, through Yeshua have become spiritually one and the same thing.

In the Acharit HaYamim (the End Times) when Yeshua returns and we are all gathered up into the clouds with Him, then will the ultimate fulfillment of both of these festivals be realized. Yeshua is both the Passover Lamb and the Yom Kippur scapegoat. When He said He was the beginning and the end it meant more than just some timeline: he is the beginning of our eternal life and the end of our sin.

Praise God for his goodness and mercy, and give thanks to Yeshua, ha Maschiach for his sacrifice so that we could all be saved.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and may you have an easy fast.

My Problem with the Gospel of John

In case you didn’t get the hint from the title, let me give a caveat to those reading this who are infatuated with the Gospel of John: you ain’t gonna like what I am about to say.

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Before we begin I want to point out that many scholars doubt the authenticity of the author of pretty much every book in the Bible. From my research, it seems most scholars agree that the Gospels were not written by the ones they are named for, and the true writers of the Epistles in the New Covenant are also subject to doubt. We know for certain that scribes interpreted the Codex’s and letters they had been given when formulating the New Covenant and that men decided which books and letters should be included, and which should be excluded (meaning not a divinely-inspired item), and those men were mainly Gentiles who had accepted Yeshua. I have found anything to indicate that there was a single Jewish person who was part of the group that decided what would be included in the New Covenant.

So is the Bible the exact word of God? Is it God-inspired teaching? Or is it the work of men writing what they think God meant? The answer is this: each of us must choose what we will believe.

Let me tell you a little something about me, so you know where I am coming from.

I was brought up in a Jewish home, am Jewish by descent, and over 20 years ago I accepted Yeshua as the Messiah God promised to send to the Jews, and then to the world.  I have been studying the Bible ever since; I have a Certificate of Messianic Studies and have served in two separate houses of worship (a Messianic synagogue and a Hebraic Roots church) on their Counsel and as one of the leaders of the Shabbat services. I say this to establish that I do believe in Yeshua (Jesus) and have a good, working knowledge and understanding of the entire Bible, which has been independently confirmed to me by more than just a handful of spiritually mature people.

Now, let’s talk a bit about the Bible so we are all on the same page.

The Torah (first 5 books) is more than just a set of laws: it is a historical narrative that tells us how God created everything, made mankind to be a steward of the world he created, and gave us free will so we could choose to love and worship him. He chose a man (Abraham) and told him his descendants would become a nation (“The Jews”) and be a blessing to the world (Genesis 22:18), and God told Moses that the Jews are to be his nation of priests to the world (Ex. 19:6.) For that to happen, God gave Moses the Torah, which is the instructions from God telling us how we are to worship him and how we are to treat each other; Moses was to teach the Torah to the Jewish people so they could teach it to the world.

Before Moses dies he tells us of one who will come to lead the people and will be a prophet like him, and throughout the books of the Prophets we read of God’s continual confirmation of this promise to send us a Messiah, who will gather the Jews back into their nation and, with them, all the Goyim (the other nations) into eternal communion with God.

The Old Covenant, which is misnamed “The Jewish Bible”, ends about 400 years before the coming of Yeshua, with the rebuilding of the Temple and the wall surrounding Jerusalem. The New Covenant is the continuation of this narrative, which begins with the Gospels, telling of the arrival of Yeshua, his ministry, teachings, death and resurrection which (along with the miracles he performed during his ministry) prove that he is the Messiah God promised to send.

The rest of the New Covenant is composed of one book telling of the events that occurred during the early years of the acceptance of Yeshua as the Messiah (Acts), followed by the letters written by Shaul (Paul) to the congregations of Messianic Gentiles he formed throughout Asia and the Middle East, as well as letters which were written by other disciples to both Believing Gentiles and Believing Jews. It ends with (in my opinion) the almost impossible to interpret or understand Book of Revelation, the spiritual vision given to John on Patmos of the End Times, known in Judaism as the Acharit HaYamim.

Now let’s get into the main point of today’s rather long message, and thank you for staying with me this far.

The first three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are called the Synoptic Gospels because they are fairly straight-forward in their style and writing. Matthew is the most “Jewish” identifying Yeshua as King (some 35 times), Mark identifies him as a servant, and Luke identifies him as the Savior. All three are written in a way that is easy to follow.

Now we come to the Gospel of John, called the Spiritual Gospel. It is anything but easy to follow, using many series of verses that are so circular that by the time one is done reading it one forgets what the point was. Another difference is that the other three show Yeshua to be human endowed with power from God, but in John, we are told that Yeshua and God are one. This is a significant difference between John and the other Gospels and has been misinterpreted (or purposefully misused?) to provide the basis for forming the Doctrine of Trinity.

John isn’t just different from the other three Gospels, it is in opposition to them; let me give you some examples.

In the three, Yeshua does not make public the fact that he is the Messiah.

After cleansing men of their diseases:

Mark 1:43-44Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

Matthew 8:4…Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 

After exorcising demons:

Mark 1:23-25… Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”

Luke 4:41...Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.

After Kefa (Peter) proclaims he is the Messiah:

Matthew 16:20…Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

However, in John Yeshua publically announces he is the Messiah on more than one occasion:

With the woman at the well:

John 4:25-26The woman said, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

In the synagogue:

John 5:46…If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.

At the temple in Jerusalem:

John 7:28-29Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”

One exception is in Luke 4 when we read how Yeshua, after reading from the scroll of Isaiah about the Messiah, tells the people there that what he read to them is now fulfilled.

One other major difference between the three and John is that in the three, Yeshua never claimed to be divine, yet in John, he constantly claims to be one with the Father, implying he is the father. In the three, here are examples of where he talks of the father as a separate entity:

Matthew 11:27…All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Matthew 26:39…Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Luke 23:34…Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Matthew 18:14…In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Yet in John, Yeshua constantly claims he is divine and that he the Father are the same:

John 10:30…I and the Father are one.”

John 8:58Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!
                    (In Judaism, God is often referred to as “the great I am!”)

John 1:1…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

I am sure we can find more such examples within the Gospels, but I am not trying to overload people with biblical quotes, only to show the difference in the intent of these Gospels: the first three show Yeshua to be a man empowered by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and who tells no one (except his Disciples) that he is the Messiah, and never claims to be God. Whereas in John’s Gospel, Yeshua constantly makes a public announcement that he is the Messiah and claims to be equal with God.

How much more in opposition can you get?

A more subtle issue I have with John is John 8:17, where Yeshua is arguing with the Pharisees and says, “In your own Law (some versions have Torah) it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true.” Now, at the very beginning of this Gospel John tells us that Yeshua is the Torah come to life (John 1:14) so why then does Yeshua say “your law”? Why didn’t he say “in the law”? Or better yet, because he is Jewish, say “in our law”? The way this verse is worded is a subtle implication that separates Yeshua from the Law (Torah), which became one of the foundation stones on which the early “church” built the teaching that Yeshua and Christians are separate from Judaism, altogether.

And THAT is my major problem with the Gospel of John – its wording and the constant reference to Yeshua and God as one entity is so far afield of Judaic thought that I cannot believe it was written by a Jewish follower of Yeshua.

We also have to consider that it is the youngest of the four Gospels, written probably at the very end of the First Century, certainly not by the same John that lived with Yeshua, and during a time when the (now called) Christians, composed mainly of Gentiles, began to separate themselves from the mainstream Jewish population. John was written around the same time Ignatius of Antioch proclaimed Sunday as the Sabbath and that Christians and Jews cannot possibly be together.

These were the days when the Gentile Messianic congregations, who were initially converting to Judaism (since there was no other religion except the Roman one) wanted to be seen as separate from the Jews in Judea. They didn’t want Rome to come after them like they were going after the non-believing Jewish population, which was in a political rebellion.

The separation between followers of Yeshua and Judaism was made complete at the Council of Nicene when Emperor Constantine created the dogma, traditions, holidays, and doctrine that is modern Christianity.

My opinion is that the Gospel of John was written by Gentile Believers who wanted to turn followers of Yeshua away from Judaism.

If it was up to me, I would take the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, the Book of Acts and the Book of Revelation, add them to the Tanakh and that would make the Bible complete. It would be a homogeneous narrative of God and his works, from creation through mankind, their failures and their successes, the Messiah coming and the final Judgement.

The letters from Shaul and the other items aren’t really necessary for the completion of the narrative God gave us through Moses and the Prophets.  The letters from the apostles were all written mostly to Gentiles converting to a form of Judaism who were confused and having troubles within their congregations. These letters speak of God and his laws, and of Yeshua and his teachings, but they have nothing “new” in them. And because Gentiles back then didn’t understand the cultural nuances and forms of argumentation that Jews use, and also (as I mentioned earlier) because they wanted to separate themselves from the Jews Rome was persecuting, they misinterpreted these letters and  have taught this wrongful understanding throughout the centuries, so that today Christians believe the Jews have their Torah and Christians have Jesus.

I don’t think the letters of the Apostles are valid as scripture and I would get rid of the Gospel of John, too, which (from my experience) many Christians I have known find to be the “best” Gospel for new Believers to read. And I can see why- it confirms Trinitarianism and separates Jesus from Jews. Add to that the traditional Christian misinterpretations of the Epistles and you come up with the “Jesus nailed the Law to the Cross” and the “Once saved, always saved” lies, leading people away from God’s instructions and into lawlessness.

So there you have it! Label me a heretic!

You have to decide if you think I have a valid point or not, and if you want to discuss it I am open to discussion, but I can tell you right now that you will not change my mind about this. I have prayed an awful lot on it, and if I am doing John, God or Yeshua an injustice, then that will be between them and me.

Today I wanted to share with you my misgivings about the Gospels of John, and that is what I have done.

Thank you for being here and especially for staying through this message, one of the longest I have ever given through this ministry.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

 

 

Message for Yom Teruah (Rosh HaShanah) 2019

This coming Sunday evening, September 29, 2019, begins the Holy Day of Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpets.  This holy day, meaning a day specified by God to be a festival to him, is also a holiday (meaning a man-made celebration) called Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.  The first two days are to be a holy convocation, although this festival is not one of the three where we are required to go to where God placed his name, which was the Temple in Jerusalem.

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The traditional reading from the Torah on the first day is Genesis Chapter 21, and for the second day, Genesis 22; this chapter is known as the Akedah -the binding of Isaac. What is interesting is that these two chapters are more than just the story about Abraham’s sons; they also give us the reason for the continuing wars in the Middle East.

Chapter 21 tells us of that after Isaac is born, when Ishmael is 14 years of age, Ishmael makes fun of Isaac. Sarah, knowing that Ishmael is not her son and as Abraham’s firstborn would be the inheritor, tells Abraham to send Ishmael away. God confirms to Abraham that this is acceptable to him, as it is Isaac who is the son of the promise, and God also (knowing Abraham’s love for his son, Ishmael) promises Abraham that Ishmael will grow and become a great nation because he is a son of Abraham.

Hagar and Ishmael are given some provisions and ejected from the camp, left to live or die in the desert. When their provisions run out and Hagar is crying because she knows she and her son will die, an angel comes to her and shows her a well, where she gets water. The boy grows and does become a father to 12 tribes.

At the beginning of the next day’s reading, Chapter 22, we are told that after these things happened God called to Abraham and told him to take Isaac and offer him up to God. We don’t know how much time had elapsed from the ejection of Ishmael and this testing of Abraham, but most scholars believe that Isaac was a man by now, probably in his early 20’s or even older. We all know the story: Abraham faithfully takes Isaac the very next morning to where God leads him, Mount Moriah (the eventual site of Solomon’s Temple), ties him up and is about to kill him when an angel calls out to stop Abraham. Abraham is told that his faithful obedience will be rewarded with blessings and that his descendants will be a blessing to the entire world. Abraham sees a ram stuck in a bush, and sacrifices that to God.

For this reason, we use the horn of a ram for the Shofar, as a memorial to that ram which replaced Isaac on the altar.

Abraham is the patriarch of both the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 tribes of the Ishmaelim (descendants of Ishmael), who have been enemies from that time until now. The sons of Ishmael are today the majority of the Arab nations. I did a quickie Internet search and didn’t find anything that tells me exactly which current Arab nations are direct descendants, but it appears that the Assyrians, Babylonians, possibly the Philistines, and other tribes located throughout the Middle East all are descendants of Ishmael.

We also have to take into account what God told Hagar when she ran away from Sarah (Genesis, Chapter 16.) Hagar did this because Sarah was treating her poorly out of jealousy for Hagar having conceived by Abraham, even though Sarah gave her to him to bear a child Sarah could have for her own. God told Hagar to return to Sarah because the child she is carrying will become a great nation, but he will be a wild donkey of a man, with his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him. (Gen. 16:12)

I said earlier these two chapters give us the origin of the reason for the continuing war in the Middle East, and now I will explain why.

Ishmael is the firstborn of Abraham, and according to the ancient rules of inheritance he would normally be entitled to inherit from Abraham all that Abraham had. However, God told Abraham that Isaac should be the one who inherits, rejecting the rule of the firstborn. This may be the first time we see this happening, i.e. the firstborn not receiving the proper inheritance according to tradition, but it won’t be the last. Jacob is second born but will end up with the blessing and rights of the firstborn, as well as Joseph, who was far from being firstborn but was given those rights. Also, we see this happen between Ephraim and Manasseh, and many years later Solomon is given the kingship over his older brothers.

The constant battles in the Middle East, not just between the Arabs and the Jews, but within the Arab nations, Arab against Arab, are still about inheritance. The desire for the property and wealth of the land is what is behind these battles, although we who see the spiritual side know that it is really a battle of powers, not of people. It may be that the rhetoric is all about rights to the land, but in truth the land represents wealth. People may think that the Arabs are well off because they have all the oil, but Israel has water, fruit, produce, technology, and the best land available outside of the fertile belt in Egypt.

Sarah did not want Ishmael to inherit from Abraham, and that is still the basis for the Middle East wars, today. This is why no matter what people try to do to make peace there, it cannot be. The descendants of Ishmael are, by God’s decree, never going to be at peace with anyone. And Israel, by God’s decree, will possess all of the land that God proclaimed they should own, sooner or later. They have never had the entire territory God gave them to possess to themselves, although they came closest during the time of King Solomon. That is not God’s fault- the Israelites did not destroy the people living there when they should have so these indigenous inhabitants never really left.

The children of Ishmael may lay claim to the land by reason of their constant habitation, but the truth is that even though they have lived in the area, they never worked the land, never cared for it, never settled permanently, and were supposed to have been totally ejected when Israel first entered the land under Joshua. They are not there because they have a right to the land, they are there because of the incompetence of the Israelites when they entered the land, which has been a thorn in the side of Israel for thousands of years.

Rosh HaShanah is usually celebrated as a joyous time, but it is to be a memorial and ushers in what is called the 10 Days of Awe, during which we reflect on the past year and how well (or how poorly) we have lived according to the instructions God gave us in the Torah. We are to take it as a serious time for inner reflection and humble contrition.

However, most Jews will celebrate it as a happy time and greet each other with “L’shanah Tovah” (to a good year) and share foods that are sweet, to signify the hope for a sweet year to come.

I hope that you will celebrate this festival as God intended, but if you prefer to have a happy time, enjoy! But don’t forget to reflect and prepare for Yom Kippur because even though our sins can be forgiven through the sacrificial death of Yeshua, we still need to come before God humbly and contritely to ask for his forgiveness.

I will end today’s message as I always do, thanking you for being here, and asking that you remember to subscribe to this website and to my YouTube channel, as well. So, until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Which is More Important?

Like many people, I get my best ideas when I am doing something totally different than working, such as when I am in the shower or riding my bicycle.

The other day, as I was riding along on my bike and praying, I started to think about which would be more important for us as Believers to do: is it more important to not sin or is it more important to repent of our sin?

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The answer seems obvious- just don’t sin. If we don’t sin, then we have nothing to repent of and nothing to be concerned about because not sinning is the pathway to salvation.

I know- you are saying that we are saved by faith, not works, but the truth is if we lived a sinless life, we would be demonstrating perfect faith, wouldn’t we? In fact, if we lived a sinless life, as Yeshua did, we could be certain of salvation.

Of course, it then struck me that there is a significant fly in the ointment with regard to living a sinless life, which is this:  no one can live a sinless life.

TIME OUT

There are just too many places where the Bible tells us that we all sin, so I am not going to quote chapter and verse. If you need to verify that we all sin, do the research. It will be a good experience for you.

TIME IN

I often say “We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less“, and that is how I try to live out my life, but even that is hard to do. So what is left to us? Repentance, and trying harder.

The obvious answer is not the right answer because even though living a sinless life is what we want to do, it is not possible, so the most important thing to do is to repent. And I mean REAL repentance, not just saying”

 

 

and going on with our life as if we did nothing wrong, thinking a simple apology is enough.

It isn’t. God sees and knows the heart and minds of everyone, so if you are not really sorry for having sinned against him- and every sin is first and foremost a sin against God- he will know. He won’t accept insincerity and he can’t be fooled.

And it gets worse: many, many people have their religious leaders telling them that if they confess their sins they can be forgiven. Well, that is biblically accurate, but the truth is that we have to really feel bad about sinning, not just confess we did it and continue to sin. Unrepentant repentance may get you absolved by a Priest or given the “OK” by your Pastor, but it won’t hold water with the Big Guy upstairs. As for mainstream Jews, meaning Jews who haven’t accepted Yeshua yet, repentance is necessary but they also have to accept Yeshua as their Messiah because, without him, there is no means to be forgiven since the Jerusalem temple is gone, and that was the only place (according to the Torah) where a sin sacrifice could be accepted.

Without Yeshua’s substitutionary sacrifice, no one (Jew or Gentile) can be forgiven of their sin.

Therefore, the answer to my original question is this: it is more important to be truly repentant than it is to not sin because we cannot avoid sinning but we can always be repentant. And when we really feel bad about something, it motivates us to better discipline ourselves to not do that something, again. True- it doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s no excuse to stop trying.

That old cop-out “I am what I am” may be OK for Popeye, but not for those who want to please God.

Thank you for being here and please remember to subscribe. Also, I am going to have to wind down my campaign to send Bibles and Bible study materials to poor Ugandans who follow this ministry, so please send something to help me to help them at the link below:

Ugandan Ministry Appeal

Please help- I don’t usually send money through the Internet, but this is a legit cause, and I barely have 1/3 of what I need. I will end up paying for the copies of my books they want out of my own pocket, so please help with money for Messianic Bibles and prayer shawls, and especially just to help defray the exorbitant cost of mailing these items.

Remember that God blesses those who bless others.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Do You Know Why You Believe?

Are you a Believer? Do you believe in God as the creator of the Universe and Judge of the world? Do you believe that Jesus (Yeshua) is the Messiah God promised to send to the Jewish people, who also made salvation available to both Jews and Gentiles, alike? Do you believe that Yeshua is the son of God and that he will return to establish his kingdom and eternally rule over all the Earth?

You do? That’s good! Now for one more question…do you know why you believe this?

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

Maybe I should start with an easier question? How about this: do you know why I am asking if you know why you believe?

I grew up believing Jesus Christ is not the Messiah the Jews have been waiting for, and that he was a traitor to Judaism and created Christianity, which either wants to convert Jews or kill them. And after believing this for more than 40 years of my life, when I started to question why I believed it the answer came to me.

I believed it because I was told to believe it.

I have met many Christians, both “Born Again” and mainstream, all of whom believe Jesus Christ is the son of God (Christianity seems to stay away from the title “Messiah”) and that if they are a good person they will get to go to heaven. When I have asked them why they believe this to be true, their answer often comes down to “because it’s true.”

Frankly, that’s not much of an answer, is it? That answer means they believe because they have been told to believe. They have not really accepted Jesus as their personal savior, or as the Messiah which he was sent to the Earth to be, or even as a real person. He is just “Jesus”, you know, that guy on the cross at the front of the church.  Many Believers (Born Again or not doesn’t matter) don’t know the Bible, they don’t know about Jesus’s Jewish roots, they don’t even know that he is not the one who created the dogma, tradition, holidays, doctrine or rhetoric that they have had forced down their gullet their whole lives!

They believe in Jesus as their savior because they have been raised to believe in Jesus as their savior, just as I was raised to reject Jesus as my savior.

So let’s go back to the original question: why do YOU believe?

Is it because you want to be in heaven? Not good enough- the Enemy will promise you heaven on earth, and ask you why wait until you are dead? If heaven is your reason for believing, then you will be turned from the truth.

Do you believe because your parents, grandparents, friends, and acquaintances all believe? Then you are just another sheep in the fold, following blindly and being led to slaughter.

Do you believe because you have read the Bible- the entire Bible from Genesis through Revelation- and after praying to God for guidance and discernment have come to your own conclusion that Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah God promised to send to the Jews, DID send to the Jews and then through the Apostles was made available to the Gentiles? Is your belief based on your own choice, not dependent on anyone else’s choice?

If your answer is “Yes, I choose to believe in Jesus as my Messiah!” then you are in good shape. Your faith in him is firm and you will not easily be led astray because your faith is founded on your own choice.

My faith is strong because not only did I choose to accept Yeshua as my Messiah, but because I felt like I had to betray some 5,700+ years of Jewish ancestry to do it. My choice to accept Yeshua came before I even understood the truth of his teachings or the fact that modern Christianity is mostly from Constantine and Gentile misinterpretation. What I had always been told to believe was created by Jesus, when I decided to find out for myself, I found out that it wasn’t. And when I learned the truth, my choice to believe was confirmed, my feeling of betrayal was wiped away forever, and my faith has become rooted in cement.

And beyond that, my choice to believe has been confirmed by the many blessings I have received after I chose to believe, which I KNOW are from God and a reward for my faithfulness.

What you need to do, no matter how strong you believe your faith is in God and Jesus, is to look into the mirror and ask yourself, “Why do I believe in Jesus, really?”  Pretend someone is attacking your faith and you have to tell them why you accept Jesus as the Messiah. And if you can’t come up with justification you can show is based in the Bible, in your life experience, or in your own personal study, then you need to re-evaluate your faith. You need to realize that maybe, just maybe, you haven’t really chosen to accept Yeshua on your own. Maybe your acceptance is nothing more than just going along with the crowd and you don’t really know where you are going?

That is a dangerous position to be in. So please!- ask yourself why you believe, and if the answer is anything like “because” or “I guess I always have” or “I don’t know- I just do” then you are in trouble, and your salvation is unsure because your faith is not your own.

The only true faith is the one you choose to have, and if you haven’t made the choice to accept Yeshua/Jesus as your Messiah totally on your own, then you don’t really believe in anything.

Thank you for being here, please share me out to your friends and family and subscribe.

Also, please check out my Gofundme campaign to help send Bibles and prayer shawls to three rural Ugandan Messianic Synagogues. So far we have only raised $175 of the $650 we need- if everyone reading this message gave only $10 we would have enough money to help these Believers, who have chosen to believe despite the religious persecution in that country. Here is a link to that site:

Ugandan Messianic Synagogues

I will be out of the country on a family trip to Ireland all next week and will not be posting again until the end of this month, so until then L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

What is the Talmud, Really?

The Talmud is a wonderful book of Jewish wisdom and biblical exegesis. Wikipedia describes it this way:

The Talmud has two components; the Mishnah (c. year 200 CE), a written compendium of Rabbinic Judaism’s Oral Torah; and the Gemara (circa year 500 CE), an elucidation of the Mishnah and related Tannaitic writings that often ventures onto other subjects and expounds broadly on the Hebrew Bible.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

The origin of the Talmud begins with the origin of the Torah- both were given to Moses on Mount Sinai, the difference being that the Torah was written down and the Talmud was passed down orally. Within Judaism, the Talmud is extensively used by the Orthodoxy and is often given more importance than the Torah, itself. The study of Talmud starts at about the same age as the study of Torah, between 6 and 9 years of age, and the Talmud is considered to be scripture by many Orthodox Jews.

The Mishna is where we get Halacha (The Way to Walk), which are the rabbinic rules that Jews live by. These are traditional activities that stem from the rabbinic interpretation of how we are to follow the laws God gave in the Torah. For example, the Torah tells us to treat animals humanely and which animals we can use for sacrifice, but nowhere in the Torah does it tell us how to humanely kill the animal. The Talmud explains how to perform the Shechitah, which is the traditional way to kill the sacrifice: it is quick, nearly painless and very humane. This is just one example of how the Talmud “fills in the gaps” in the Torah regarding the manner in which we are to live according to God’s instructions.

The Talmud is, as I stated above, a wonderful book. But it is not scripture, and here is the simplest proof I have of that- God’s word never changes; it is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. However, within the Talmud, you would be hard pressed to find any two opinions that match.
Here is a sample of a page from the Talmud:

This page has at its heart the Torah, which is surrounded by rabbinic interpretation and commentary, which is itself surrounded by other rabbinic interpretation and commentary.  At one point in Jewish history, there were two schools of Talmudic interpretation: the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel. They both lived during the time of Messiah, being born in the last century BCE and dying sometime in the first century CE.  Their two “houses” had very different thoughts, but together have been critical in the shaping of the understanding of Talmud, today.

Now, let’s get back to the original question: what is the Talmud, really?  The Talmud, really, is a commentary on the Torah. That’s it.

It starts with what God tells us in the Torah then expands and expounds on it, telling us what the Rabbi making the commentary believes the Torah portion he is interpreting really means, and how we should go about living that instruction in our daily life.

There are many other things in the Talmud, as well. There is mythology, superstitions, and demonology. Some examples of the superstitious traditions within Judaism that come from the Talmud are the breaking of the glass when getting married, spitting three times when hearing bad news, and placing salt in the corner or rooms and pockets to ward off evil spirits.

The main purpose of the Talmud is to help us follow God’s instructions properly, and that is, in my opinion, its saving grace. Despite the traditions it creates, the superstitious activities and the confusion, it is a good book to have and to study in order to better understand the Jewish mindset. And the wisdom of the Elders that it contains is of immeasurable use for all those who want to understand both Jews and God better.

The Talmud is an important book, full of wisdom and tradition which define the Jewish mindset and lifestyle. Use it for your Bible study and to better understand the basis of the traditions of Judaism; respect the wisdom and ignore the drek.

In the end, though, the Talmud is a nothing more than a commentary and, as such, must be taken with a grain of salt: you can use some of the salt in your pocket.

Thank you for being here, and please share me out to your friends and family. Subscribe to the website and my YouTube channel, and please don’t hesitate to comment on what I say: all I ask is that you be nice.

Also please check out the Gofundme campaign I am currently running to help send Bibles, prayer shawls and Bible study materials to three Messianic Synagogues in rural Uganda. Here is the link:
Help Messianic Ugandans

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Choose to Believe

All through my early years, I felt that something was missing when I went to Shul on Shabbat or for the High Holy Days services. I recited the prayers but always wondered why I needed to speak to God using someone else’s words. Couldn’t I pray to God from my heart? Why did I have to repeat what someone else wrote in order to have God hear me?

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

In 1996, after having gone through multiple issues in my life, including a failed business resulting in personal bankruptcy, then a failed marriage, I decided that it was time to make up my mind about God, and this Jesus guy I had heard so much about, both good (from friends who were saved) and bad (from every Jewish person I ever knew.)

God helped in that he sent people with spiritual maturity who understood how hard it is for a Jewish person to hear about Jesus, and when someone gave me a Messianic Bible with the entire New Covenant bold-printed where it quoted from the Old Covenant (which was on every single page), I began to realize that what I had been taught about Jesus, who is really this Jewish guy named Yeshua, was all wrong.

In 1997, I decided I would accept that Yeshua is the Messiah, but praying to him (as most of the Christians I knew did) just didn’t seem right, and I was still uneasy with the whole idea, so I chose to be faithful. I remembered once hearing that if you smile, even if you are sad, just by smiling you will become happier. I thought, “Maybe this can work with prayer, as well?” so I started to pray to God, just as if I was a “true” Believer, and I also looked for a place to worship.

As with praying to Jesus, going to a church just didn’t seem right- I am Jewish, and Jews don’t go to church, so I went to the best source for finding things- the Yellow Pages. As I looked through it I came upon an entry that said “Messianic Synagogue”; there were two of them in my area, so I chose the one closest, called the Rabbi and made an appointment with him.

The synagogue was called Beth Emanuel, and I started to go there on Shabbat. It was VERY different than any synagogue I had ever been in. After attending for three months or so, I still hadn’t had any “revelation” or “divine intervention” in my life, and I was still waiting to be swept up in the Spirit or to have a miraculous intervention, as others I talked with had happened to them. Finally, at the end of one of the Shabbat services, the Rabbi asked anyone who wanted prayer to come forth. I went up and when he placed the oil on my head, I felt the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) enter my body. Really!  I felt it, a wisp of air (the proper translation of “Ruach” is “breath”) and a physical sensation of being totally ethereal came over me.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized my choice to believe was the leap of faith which God recognized and rewarded with his gift of his indwelling Spirit. I chose to reject what I had been told by my Elders and respected teachers my whole life and decided for myself what I would believe in. That was not so much a decision as it was a choice. I chose to be faithful, I chose to believe, and because my faith is based on a choice, I believe it is stronger than someone who believes based only on a miraculous event.

How can I say that? Isn’t a miracle more powerful than a choice? Well, maybe. But I believe someone who has been influenced by a miracle can be influenced by another miracle. In other words, if a miraculous event in my life made me believe in something, then another miraculous event could change my mind.

And we know that the Antichrist will perform many miraculous events.

I was not influenced by a miracle- I chose to believe. And because I am quick to make decisions and slow to change them (this is, according to Napoleon Hill, an indicator of good leadership), it will take more than just a miracle to convince me I should worship anyone other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or accept anyone else as his Messiah other than Yeshua.

No one, no matter what they tell me or what miracle they perform, will change my mind.

This is why we must all learn the Bible, so that we know who God is and what he expects from us, and will be able to recognize his teachings and instructions when we hear them. The Son of Perdition will not teach God’s ways- oh, he may start that way, but he will change.  It is when that subtle change occurs that those who know the true meaning of God’s instructions and who have chosen to worship God will not be fooled into apostatizing.

Why do you believe in God and the Messiah? Is it because you are afraid of going to hell? That’s not enough reason to keep you from following the Enemy.

Is it because you want to be loved and accepted? That will be a stumbling block to you and you will be lured into accepting the Enemy’s lies because he will tell you how wonderful you are and all the rewards you will receive for following him.

Is it because you have been told you have to? If you believe because that is how you were raised, then you have no root in the Messiah or God. You may be a “good (whatever)” but your faith is rootless and when the Enemy comes, you will be told to believe in him. And, since that is how you have been trained to believe, you will accept his mark because all your life you have been told what to do and who to follow and how to follow him, without ever choosing for yourself.

The Enemy is powerful and he knows human weaknesses. The way not to be fooled is to know God’s instructions and to worship God because you want to! You must believe because you CHOOSE to believe, otherwise your faith is weak and the roots of your salvation are spread thin in loose soil.

Review your reasons for believing and make sure that it is your choice. And then choose not to believe anyone else. Faith is strongest when we are certain of our choice, and I believe that once you choose to accept God as your God, and Yeshua as your Messiah, then the miraculous events will come to you, and they will not be something to make you believe, but to confirm your choice.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share me out to all your friends and family.

Currently, I am trying to raise funds to send prayer shawls, Messianic Bibles and copies of my published books (which they have requested) to three Messianic Synagogues who are subscribers to my ministry and live in a rural part of Uganda. Here is the link to my GoFundMe campaign for this- please help these new Believers who are so poor they don’t even have computers or even Internet access:

Help Ugandan Believers

 

Thank you, again, and please don’t hesitate to comment…just be nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Christian or Constantinian?

Wait a minute! Isn’t Constantine the guy who ran the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, where some of the modern Christian doctrines were first formalized?  Didn’t they say Christ was divine there? Didn’t they set up the Christian holidays, such as Easter?

(Actually, they had Easter but couldn’t decide what day to celebrate it.)

So if we are asking whether someone is Christian or Constantinian, isn’t that the same thing?

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

To answer this, let’s go to the Cloud and ask Wikipedia.

Here is what it says about Constantine (I have condensed this to save space):

Constantine was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. Although he lived much of his life as a pagan, and later as a catechumen, he joined the Christian faith on his deathbed, being baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia. He called the First Council of Nicaea in 325, which produced the statement of Christian belief known as the Nicene Creed. He has historically been referred to as the “First Christian Emperor”, and he did heavily promote the Christian Church.

As for the definition of Christianity, Wikipedia says:

Christianity is divided between Eastern and Western theology. In these two divisions, there are six branches: Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Assyrians. Restorationism is sometimes considered the seventh branch.

To add to what Wikipedia says, within these major divisions there are many sects, such as Amish, Mennonites, Anabaptists, etc.  In all, there are over a dozen different religions that call themselves “Christian”, even though some Christian religions have beliefs in opposition to other Christian religious beliefs.

For the record, Judaism isn’t too far behind, with Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Messianic (although the other sects of Judaism would not recognize Messianic Jews as being Jews.)

Getting back to the original question, let me set some ground rules. Christianity is, for the purposes of this discussion, following the teachings of Jesus Christ, who is Yeshua ha Mashiach. A Constantinian is someone who follows the doctrines of “The Church”, meaning the doctrines established at the Council of Nicaea and at Ecumenical councils since then. A Constantinian is someone who celebrates Christmas, Easter, Sunday Sabbath, ignores the Torah because it is just for Jews, fasts during Lent, obeys the 8th-day baptism, goes through Catechism, etc., and so forth.

Now we need to identify what is different, if anything, from the teachings of Yeshua and the doctrines of the “Church”, which I will refer to as Constantinian doctrine.

(Yes, I know Constantine did not create all the doctrines of the modern church, but for the purposes of this discussion we will use the term “Constantinian” to refer to modern church doctrine.)

Well, this is actually pretty simple to understand. If Christianity is following the teaching of Yeshua, then whatever is in the Old Covenant is Christianity because Yeshua didn’t teach anything else. In truth, there was nothing else to teach from- even the Talmud wasn’t written down in its complete form at that time. The Talmud is composed of the Mishna and the Gemara; the Mishna was written in 200 CE and the Gemara in 500 CE.

Everything in the New Covenant was not written until well after Yeshua was resurrected and raised back into the heavens; the earliest versions of the Gospels and letters from Shaul (Paul) to his newly formed Messianic congregations throughout the Middle East and Asia were not written until sometime around 50-60 CE. So, because there was no New Covenant, Yeshua could not have taught anything from it.

You might be thinking, “Well, DUH! Steve. Of course, he didn’t teach from the New Covenant, because what he taught became the New Covenant.”  I would say that makes sense, except for one thing- it is wrong.

Within the New Covenant, we have the Gospels, which are eye-witness accounts of the life and ministry of Yeshua, and the letters that were written by the Apostles, ending with John’s Revelation. Nearly 2/3 of the entire N.C. is made up of the letters from Shaul to the congregations he formed, and their intent was to help these newly converted Believers to stay on the course he set them upon, with regards to learning how to follow the teachings of Yeshua, which (as I stated earlier) are the instructions in the Torah.

The major source of confusion between Christianity (following Yeshua) and modern church doctrine (Constantinian) is that Shaul’s letters were not written to become doctrine, but were only meant to help guide these neophyte Believers in learning how to go from the gluttonous, sinful, sexually perverted lifestyle that they lived their whole lives as worshipers of paganistic gods to righteous, humble and self-controlled followers of God and Messiah. That’s quite a paradigm shift, and no one could do that “cold turkey.”  Shaul’s letters were never meant to be absolute and permanent doctrine but instead just “stepping stones”, designed to help get his congregations past their immediate problems and further along the pathway to living (what we would call today) a Jewish lifestyle.

When we compartmentalize God’s instructions in the Torah as “Jewish worship” we are restricting what God wanted to give the whole world to only about one-fourth of one percent of it. The Torah was given to the Jewish people to learn so that they, as a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) could bring it to everyone.

God has no religion, only those instructions for how to worship him and how to treat each other, and that is what Yeshua taught. The Pharisees had been teaching only the written word or the literal meaning of the Torah (called the P’ shat) but Yeshua taught us the spiritual meaning (called the Remes) so that we would know not just what God wanted us to do, but why we should be doing it.

For me, the answer to the original question is that “true” Christianity is the religion which follows what Yeshua taught, which means following the instructions found in the Torah, which the world would call Judaism.

That means Christianity is Judaism, but with one difference: Christians accept that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised to send, and the “mainstream” Jews do not. Given how many doctrinal differences there are just between Orthodox and Reform Jews, one would think that this difference (Yeshua being the Messiah) would not keep us that far apart, but it does. The reason is because of how Constantinian doctrine has become known as Christianity, which separated itself from Judaism so much that they became totally different religions.

If you call yourself a Christian but ignore the instructions in the Torah, you are a Constantinian. If you are a Gentile who accepts Yeshua as your Messiah and lives according to the Torah (i.e., a “Jewish” lifestyle and worship), you can call yourself a Hebraic Roots follower, a Messianic Gentile, or a Christian, but you are not a Constantinian. And, if you are Jewish (by blood), live according to the Torah and believe Yeshua is the Messiah, you are not a Christian or a Constantinian- you are a Messianic Jew, which means you are still a Jew.

There you have it.  A Constantinian will follow the modern day Christian doctrines, but a “true” Christian will follow the Torah. Also, a “true” Christian and a Jew should worship and live the same way, and only disagree on the matter of Yeshua.

One day, when the Messiah comes to straighten this whole “religion” thing out once and for all, we will have no more religions, no more doctrines, no more confusion, and no more hatred and bigotry. We will only have God, Messiah, and eternal peace.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Thank you for being here and please remember to subscribe. Comments are always welcomed, so long as you can be nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

This Speech is Worth Listening to

I received this through an email from the Israel Video Network and although it is almost 14 minutes long, I ask that you listen to it.

This woman is telling the United Nations the truth about Israel and Muslim tactics, which is not to destroy just Israel but to destroy Democracy and freedom throughout the Earth.

Brigitte Gabriel defends Jews in one of the best speeches the UN has ever heard