Thursday, December 24, 2015
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
by Jerusalem Institute of Justice
“Even if a Jew were to (renounce his Judaism), and even if every Christian priest in the world were to baptize such Jew into Christianity, he would remain a Jew”
Interestingly, the above quote is taken not from Messianic Jewish literature, but from a ruling handed down by a rabbinic court in Israel. The rabbinic court system has a reputation for being all over the map regarding many issues, and there is no matter which brings this phenomenon to light more clearly than the issue of conversion to Judaism. A new report recently issued by the “Itim” NGO has shed new light on the flawed nature of the orthodox-dominated conversion process in Israel – according to the report, conversions dropped some twenty percent in 2008; moreover, the conversion system is marred among other things by conflicting rabbinic opinions and unjust conversion annulments.
The statistics paint an interesting picture. Just 5,321 conversions were performed in 2008, as opposed to 7,280 in 2007. The crucial demographic of new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union saw a drop of some twenty percent, with less than 1,000 people successfully completing conversion in 2008. This may set back by several centuries the hopes of fully integrating the hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jewish descendents who are not recognized as Jews in Israel. Similarly, almost thirty percent less immigrants from Ethiopia converted during the same period.
During 2008, rabbinical courts attempted to annul a number of completed conversions for unjust and even ludicrous reasons. For example, a court in Jerusalem invalidated a conversion because the convert’s father was a Reform rabbi. In another case, a court in Ashdod unilaterally decided that certain rabbis in the rabbinic conversion establishment (of which said court is a part) were “unqualified” to perform conversions and consequently annulled a conversion previously conducted.
Perhaps most outrageous of all, however, are the conflicting rabbinic opinions cited in the report. Even though conversion annulments are regular, several justices at the highest rabbinic level believe that a conversion can never be annulled. According to a decision of Justices Brali, Tzarfati, and Bass:
“In the world of Hebrew jurisprudence there is no force capable of changing a Jew…into a gentile. Even if the Jew were to desire this, and even if every Christian priest in the world were to baptize such Jew into Christianity, he would remain a Jew. Moreover, if a convert to Judaism wishes to deny his Judaism, he will not be able to do so and return to his previous faith. He is and will always remain a Jew, and there is no way in the world to take this away from him.”
Many Messianic Jews would undoubtedly concur.
Ironically, Orthodox parties in the Knesset have consistently ignored rabbinic opinion when it suits their purposes – in other words, when they lobby for legislation aimed at delegitimizing those who do not conform to their radical worldview. The Law of Return, for example, was amended in 1970 by a coalition of religious parties to state that a Jew who has “changed his religion” may not immigrate
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
The Land and Scripture in History
14 Aviv| Master is tried, executed on cross, and buried (Matthew 26:57-27:61)
15 Aviv | Barley sheaves harvested in evening (Leviticus 23:3)
15 Aviv / 21 Aviv | Meal of Messiah (Traditional)
The Lamb of God
In this, the beginning of months, we will have many opportunities for practically living out the words of the Scripture. We will be able to prepare for Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and to begin the counting of the omer. We are also able to recount the time when the Lamb of God was sent to take away the sin of the world.
As stated above, there is so much that could be written about the month of Nissan (a.k.a. Aviv, which literally means ripe and by extension springtime). This eRosh will speak mostly of one aspect of the Passover Seder meal. Specifically, the four "I will" statements that the Holy One made as recorded in Exodus 6:6-7 will be mentioned.
Remember, in the book of Exodus, the children of Israel had cried out to the Holy One because they had become slaves in Egypt. Not only were their freedoms taken from them, but they were being brutally mistreated and abused. This was the normality for the kingdom in which they were in forced servitude.
The account continues to describe that despite the horrid treatment the descendants of Jacob held to a hope in the promise of deliverance. They knew that God would not forsake his promise to the patriarchs. At the appointed time, the Holy One would deliver them. He told Moses to tell Israel the following, which are listed by the corresponding cups in the Seder meal.
First Cup - I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. Second Cup - I will deliver you from slavery to them. Third Cup - I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. Fourth Cup - I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians
Just as the Israelites were in bitter bondage to Egypt and its wicked king, we find ourselves enslaved to a more fiercely cruel tyrant and the world. This makes the redemption even sweeter and more rich. If we look at each of the cups, we can catch the beginning glimpse of what our atonement through Messiah has produced for our eternal lives.
Looking specifically at the fourth cup, we can see that the Holy One has done all to ensure a relationship with His people. To be certain, this is not just a casual relationship, but an intimate relationship as close as a husband and wife (Hosea 2:19-20). As such, the Holy One has called for us to live as called and brought out people.
So as you partake of the Passover Seder this month, may you call to remembrance the deliverances and great calling that Hashem has done on your behalf and may you be blessed in the grace and knowledge of our redemption through Messiah Yeshua, the Lamb of God that took away the sin of the world.
Finally, those in Messiah are blessed to join with John, the beloved, and offer praise "to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" Revelation 1:5-6.
Chag Pesach Sameach!
Shabbat Chol HaMoed of Passover
Torah : Exodus 33:12-34:26
Haftarah : Ezekiel 37:1-14
Thought for the Week
Passover is an opportune time to break with our past and start over as new creatures in Messiah. Passover is an annual reminder that we must leave the old culture behind. Every Passover is a chance to start over. At Passover we remember that we have left our spiritual Egypt. We are free from the past, and we need to set aside those things in our lives that continue to enslave us. After all, starting over is what it means to be born again.
The Torah explains the significance of unleavened matzah bread in that the children of Israel did not have time to let their bread rise before they had to leave Egypt. They were in such a hurry that they only had time to bake the dough before leaving. To commemorate the exodus, leaven is removed at Passover and unleavened matzah bread is eaten for seven days.
Matzah refers to a special type of flat, cracker-like bread. In order to be Passover matzah, the bread dough must be baked less than eighteen minutes after the flour is moistened with water. If the dough is not baked within eighteen minutes of being moistened, it begins to ferment from the naturally occurring leavening agents in the atmosphere.
In ancient times, there were only two ways to leaven bread dough. One way was to mix the flour with water and let it stand until it began to ferment naturally. More typically, a small batch of already leavened starter dough left over from the previous day's batch was tossed in with the flour and water. The old culture of leaven in the starter dough quickly spread through the new batch of dough. As the saying goes, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump" (1 Corinthians 5:6). By means of this method, a single culture of leaven was passed on from loaf to loaf to loaf, day to day. This is how sourdough bread is still made today.
The commandment to remove all leaven prior to the festival makes this second method of leavening impossible. The starter dough would have to be disposed of prior to the festival because it is already leavened. This is the imagery that the Apostle Paul is referring to when he says, "Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). The old starter-dough leaven represents our old way of life. It is sin, godlessness, bad company, bad habits and all the things that taint our lives. Like an old culture of leavened starter dough, those things continue to leaven our lives from day to day, conforming us to our past. Paul urges us to make a clean break with the old culture and to start over as a new batch, like unleavened bread.When the children of Israel left Egypt, they were leaving behind their old culture. While in Egypt they had absorbed much of the wickedness and idolatry of Egyptian society. The unleavened bread symbolized a new beginning. They were starting over.
1. March 27th
The Biblical New Year begins with the sighting of the new moon after sunset. Itâ€™s the First of Aviv (Ex. 12:2). This is not a Sabbath.
2. April 10th
The 14th of Aviv. In ancient times the Passover lamb was slain in the afternoon. This is not a Sabbath.
3. April 11th
The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The 15th of Aviv. The first annual Sabbath (Lev. 23:7). The Passover Meal is eaten the evening before on Friday night the 10th of April.
4. April 12th
First Sheaf. This is not a Sabbath but the day that the High Priest waved the barley grain (Lev. 23:9-11), and the day of Yeshuaâ€™s ascension (Jn. 20:17).
5. April 17th
The 7th day of Unleavened Bread. The second annual Sabbath. The 21st of Aviv (Lev. 23:9).
6. May 31st
Shavuot (Feast of Weeks/Pentecost). The third annual Sabbath (Lev. 23:15-21; Acts 2).
7. September 21st
The Feast of Trumpets. The first day of the 7th month. The fourth annual Sabbath (Lev. 23:24).
8. September 30th
The Day of Atonement. The 10th day of the 7th month. The fifth annual Sabbath (Lev. 23:27-32).
9. October 5th
Sukote. The 15th day of the 7th month. The sixth annual Sabbath (Lev. 23:34-35).
10. October 12th
The Eighth Day. The 22nd day of the 7th month. The seventh annual Sabbath (Lev. 23:39).
We celebrate Hanuka and Purim at the same time that the traditional Jewish community does because both of these festivals arenâ€™t holy days or times, but holidays. Therefore, thereâ€™s no biblical need to have their dates line up with the new moon sightings.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Tetzaveh - תצוה : "You shall command"
Torah : Exodus 27:20-30:10
Haftarah : Ezekiel 43:10-27
Gospel : Mark 12
Thought for the Week
"For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest [i.e. the Messiah] also have something to offer. Now if [Messiah] were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Torah; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things." (Hebrews 8:3-5)
Then bring near to yourself Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the sons of Israel, to minister as priest to Me—Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons. (Exodus 28:1)
Not long after separating from Judaism, Christianity developed a clerical class responsible for shepherding the people, officiating at services and conducting the sacraments. The clerical class of presbyters came to be called priests. However, the various priesthoods of Christendom are different from the priesthood of the Bible. The biblical priesthood is unrelated to the priesthood that operates within Christianity.
What is a biblical priest?
The Hebrew word for "priest" is kohen (כהן). If you are Jewish and have a last name like Cohen, Kowen, Kahan or Koen, you are probably a descendent of Moses' brother Aaron and his sons. Your ancestors served as priests in the Tabernacle and in the Temple in Jerusalem.
In the Bible, only the descendants of Aaron could be priests. They were born into the position. Priests did not undertake vows of celibacy. Instead, priesthood was passed on through families. The descendents of Aaron have attempted to preserve their family lineage through the generations. The priests are a special family group within the Jewish people. Most Jewish communities have several families that belong to the priesthood.
Priests and rabbis are not the same. A rabbi is someone who has gone to rabbinical school (yeshivah) and received rabbinic ordination by an official ordaining body within Judaism. Any Jew can become a rabbi, and a single Jewish community often has many rabbis.
To this day, the priests retain their priestly status in Judaism. Descendants of the Aaron are still subject to special restrictions and laws of Torah that applied to the biblical priesthood. Moreover, the priests enjoy special privileges in the synagogue and serve in certain ritual functions. For example, if a priest is present on Sabbath, he is given the first opportunity to read from the Torah scroll. At the end of the Sabbath prayers, he is called up to offer the priestly blessing over the congregation. Priests are also responsible for ritual functions in the community like the redemption of firstborn sons.
Despite these modern functions, the Aaronic priesthood isn't what it used to be. In the days when the Tabernacle (or Temple) stood, the priesthood was a crucial component in the service of God. They were responsible for worship services. They handled the sacrifices and took care of the altar fires, lit the menorah, burned the sacred incense, baked the bread of the Presence and did all the service of the Tabernacle. They carried out the divine service on behalf of the entire nation of Israel. Moreover, they were responsible for teaching the people Torah.
The priesthood illustrates our relationship to God. Like the common Israelite in the days of the Tabernalce, we are unable to enter directly into the presence of God. Instead, we need a go-between—an intermediary. In the Tabernacle and the Temple, the intermediaries were called priests. They facilitated the relationship between God and the people of Israel. In a similar way, we disciples of Yeshua regard our Savior as our intermediary with God. He is the go-between who acts as a priest for us in the heavenly Temple. However, the priesthood of our Master is a spiritual one, and does not supplant the worldly, eternal priesthood promised to the sons of Aaron.
The priests have been out of work since the destruction of the Temple, but they could be called back to work if the Temple was ever rebuilt. The priests today await the rebuilding of the holy Temple in Jerusalem, when they will be called up for duty. One day they will be. According to the prophet Jeremiah, God's promise to restore the Aaronic priesthood is inseparably linked with his promise to send the Davidic Messiah:
Thus says the LORD, "If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers." (Jeremiah 33:20-21)
Thursday, January 22, 2009
There are several days that are commanded in Torah, but the first and foremost is the Shabbat, also known as the Sabbath. This day is not only the most popular, but it is also the day of observance that is celebrated more than all others. The Shabbat happens on the seventh day of every week, starting from the Gregorian Friday evening at sundown to the following Saturday evening at sundown.
There are those that have gone full-blown into celebrating the Sabbath within a matter of a week to a month, while many others for various reasons take their time. Both are acceptable; YHVH knows your heart and your capacity. And as long as one is looking to Him and obeying Him in all things including how, when and to what degree each holy day be observed, then all is heading in the right direction.