A Brotherly Exchange – A Review of Five Years With Orthodox Jews: How Connecting With God’s People Unlocks Understanding of God’s Word, by Bob O’Dell with Gidon Ariel

Question: if Christians and Jews each claim to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and each revere the same body of authoritative writings (namely, the Bible, or at least those books of the Bible each holds as scripture), then why have they been opposed to one another for nearly two millennia?

It seems that people on both sides are beginning to wrestle with that question. No one denies that there are fundamental differences in the beliefs of Christians and Jews, but in recent decades a growing number of people have made a concerted effort to look beyond the differences and see if there might be common ground on which to build enduring relationships.

Bob O’Dell and Gidon Ariel are two of those people. In 2014, they collaborated to established Root Source (https://root-source.com/), a forum in which Orthodox Jews and Christians of many streams come together in an attitude of mutual respect to learn from one another. The success of Root Source is what moved them to collaborate on Five Years With Orthodox Jews: How Connecting With God’s People Unlocks Understanding of God’s Word.

The book flows from O’Dell’s growing appreciation and understanding of the Orthodox Jewish approach to the scriptures. Most of its forty chapters were originally published as articles on the Root Source website. In these articles, he shares what his friendship with Ariel has taught him about the thought processes and perspectives of an ancient culture rooted in the Torah. To his great surprise, the Jewish perspectives not only coincide with his own evangelical Christian perspectives, but add depth and breadth to his Christian beliefs.

Looking at the same question from a different angle is revealing, as he relates in his chapter on Bethel, the site about ten miles north of Jerusalem associated with the vision of Jacob’s Ladder (Genesis 28:10-16). Christians traditionally view Bethel as the place where Jacob slept and had his dream of the heavenly ladder, but Jews believe that the Patriarch had this dream on Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. O’Dell presents not only a synthesis of the two views, but a spiritual application derived from the biblical account and the history of ancient Israel in later centuries. Specifically, he notes that Bethel was also one of two sites where Israel’s apostate Northern Kingdom built altars for the golden calf idols whom they held as representations of God. O’Dell describes Bethel as representative of the “conservative values of the Northern Kingdom,” while Dan, the site of the second golden calf, “would be the place to go if you were naturally biased towards liberal values.” The problem with both, of course, is that they were not Jerusalem, the place God had chosen for His temple and altar. Therefore, Bethel and Dan, while reflecting aspects of good things from the revelation of YHVH, are still not quite right. As O’Dell says, “But let us be clear, both liberal and conservative values have the potential to be defiled by idolatry.”

These are points O’Dell would never have grasped without the relationship he and Ariel cultivated over the years. Hence the point of the book: five years of learning and growing with Gidon Ariel and with other Orthodox Jews. This is where the book presents a fresh perspective on relations between these two halves of God’s people. O’Dell and Ariel not only demonstrate how Christians and Jews can find common ground, but where that common ground can take them.

This brings up another beautiful aspect of the book: Ariel’s commentary in many of the chapters. In essence, we get to read an Orthodox Jew’s thoughts about what a Christian has learned about Orthodox Jews. This is where we find input from the many sources that Jews consider Torah. Ariel gives us an explanation early in the book:

It includes the Pentateuch (the Five Books of Moses), the entire Tanakh [Old Testament], and the orally transmitted laws, stories and ideas given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai together with the Written Torah. It also includes any idea that any student comes up with related to any of these, from the time of Moses some 3,400 years ago to this day.

That definition alone is essential in Christian-Jewish understanding and cooperation. As we read what O’Dell shares, along with Ariel’s commentary, we find that neither is offended nor threatened by what the other holds as authoritative. Each seems equally comfortable referring to the other’s sources (the New Testament for Ariel; the Mishnah and other Jewish writings for O’Dell) to make or enhance a point. The lesson for the reader is that we can still regard as reliable and instructive those sources which the other person holds as authoritative (scripture, in the Evangelical sense of the word) even though we may not regard them on the same level of authority. Moreover, we can respect the other person’s regard for those sources, as well as the beliefs that flow from them. This certainly does not resolve our differences, but it does strengthen and broaden the foundation on which we can get along.

What happens when we do that? As Bob O’Dell relates in his 40 chapters, each side grows more confident in their own walk with the Creator, and the family of God is immeasurably strengthened. For example, he has several chapters under the heading, “A View Too Small,” in which he compares the traditional Christian views of Resurrection, Torah, Community, Secularism, Prophecy, and Punishment with corresponding Jewish perspectives. What he finds is that there are aspects to the Jewish perspectives that help Christians understand much better the basic tenets of their own faith. Readers may be surprised to learn not only how close the Jewish and Christian views are, but how the Jewish views tend to take in a much broader scope. While there is no perfect overlap, these chapters (in fact, the whole book) indicate that we can and should be engaged in intentional relationship building.

Where will this lead? Ideally toward the Kingdom of Heaven manifested on earth. That is the ultimate hope of both Jews and Christians. What has been lacking up to now is an environment where they can compare notes and make ways to work together toward that shared hope. Bob O’Dell and Gidon Ariel have demonstrated that this is possible. Five Years With Orthodox Jews is the report on their progress so far. Having demonstrated the potential of Christian-Jewish cooperation and understanding on a personal level, they point the way toward replicating their results on a much greater scale. Let us hope that their readers take up the challenge of doing so. The world is sorely in need of the healing that this will bring.

Bob O’Dell

Five Years With Orthodox Jews: How Connecting With God’s People Unocks Understanding of God’s Word is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. It is also available through Root Source at https://root-source.com/.

An Havdallah Experience, by Angus and Batya Wootten

via An Havdallah Experience – B’ney Yosef North America 

[Editor’s note: Did you ever consider the connection between mercy and sacrifice? Messiah Yeshua did, as we know from this exchange with the spiritual leaders of His day:

When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why does this Teacher of yours eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard this, Yeshua said, “Those who are healthy have no need for a doctor, but those who are sick do. Now go and learn what this means: ‘Mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.’ For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but the sinful.” (Matthew 9:11-13 TLV)

This is an interesting and complex contrast between two very different concepts. When Angus and Batya Wootten wrote this article in 1995, they provided a piercing observation about that contrast, saying, “those who concentrate on ‘sacrifice’ are looking to ‘the letter of the Law.’ . . . However, the man who makes ‘mercy’ his focus, that man is directing himself – and others – toward ‘life.” They came to that beautiful conclusion through a series of encounters with Jewish families in Jerusalem. That is the background of the wise counsel they present here.]

An Havdallah Experience
By Angus and Batya Wootten – July 1995
We want to share an experience with you. It took place in Jerusalem years ago, and it changed our lives. It is a story about Believers, a Jewish family, a Jewish tradition, and a hope.It begins as we are on our way to Israel, to finalize plans for an upcoming House of David tour to the Land. We had been to Israel several times, taking small groups that joined with other tour groups, but now we wanted to host our own tour. And so there we were, flying on El Al Airlines, going back to our “homeland.”

Batya: “Father, I ask that You please lead and guide us on this trip,” I was praying silently. “With all my heart I want You to do a work in and through us. And while we have a lot of ideas about our tour itinerary, we have no set plan for this ‘planning’ visit. . . . ”

The prayer in my heart trailed off. I felt a little anxious, a little foolish. We had no real itinerary, we were just going to Israel, our primary purpose being, so we thought, to work out a tour that would be “different.” So I went back to my prayer, to almost pleading, “Please Father, I really want You to do a work in us. I really want You to guide us. . . . ”

I had plenty of time to get lost in my quiet time with the Father because Angus, who was sitting next to me, was totally engrossed in conversation with the man seated next to him. And so I sat there praying, and rejoicing in the fact that we were having the opportunity to return to Israel.

After a bit, Angus introduced the man to me, “Sweetheart, this is Uzi Wexler,” he said, “He lives in Jerusalem.”

“Hi,” Uzi said, “Let me be the first to officially welcome you to Jerusalem.”

“Thank you,” I replied. I also commented on his exquisite gold lapel pin, a lion poised on hind feet, as if taking a stand, ready to defend if necessary. My comment about his “lion” led him to explain that it was an “official logo” and that he was the Treasurer of the City of Jerusalem.

“Well, Angus certainly got an interesting seat mate,” I thought. However, it was hard for me to enter into their conversation because of the noise on the plane, and so l just tried to keep my excitement at getting closer to Israel at a reasonable level, and watched the Orthodox men as they gathered together on the eastern side of the plane to pray.

When we arrived at the Ben Gurion Airport, Uzi invited Angus and me to join his family in a few days, in what he called, their “little family Havdallah celebration.” We readily accepted the invitation.

Uzi also said he Wanted to help us to see a bit of Israel, so he arranged for us to join a brief tour that was being hosted by none other than the Israeli Minister of Tourism.

So it is that the next day we joined a private group of very wealthy Jewish people who were helping to fund the State, and, among other things, were being given a private showing of some new excavations in Jerusalem, such as the Tower of David. They also were meeting with the current Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir.

“Wow! Talk about getting a Tour Guide.” I said to Angus after we left the group. “This sure is the way to see the City!”

The short tour had had been both inspiring and lots of fun with nice people. “And,” I thought, poster tube in hand, “The Tourism Minister gave each of us some decorative posters as mementos.”

The next day, Uzi arranged for us to meet one of the leading artists in Israel, Yossi Stern, a man who had been painting pictures in Jerusalem for more than a quarter of a century. As Yossi said, he painted portraits of the Prophets, and of “The people of the Book.”

“I cannot escape a constant recognition of the great heritage of this place and our people. It cries out from every corner of this City of David and the Prophets,” he told us.

Angus Wootten as “Gabriel,” by Yossi Stern.

Yossi really liked Angus, joking that he looked like one of the Prophets, or like a great Angel that had come to make an announcement from on high. Jokingly, he nicknamed Angus “Gabriel.” In addition, Yossi also painted as he said, “With the people of Israel.” Meaning, at his art shows he would have an individual unknowingly scribble on a piece of paper, then he would amaze them as he turned their scribbling into a caricature of the individual. And, he graciously did caricatures of both of us, after he told us to, “Just scribble something on a piece of paper.”

That day, Yossi also blessed us with complimentary autographed gift copies of books of his artwork, some black and white prints, and that night he even had an employee hand deliver autographed prints of two of his pictures of Jerusalem, with a little note to “Gabriel and Mrs. Gabriel.” Since we had shared briefly with him about the “two houses of Israel” and about how “Ephraim also needed to come home,” Yossi encouraged us to “Come and be his neighbor” and to, “Make Israel your permanent home.”

Batya Wootten as “Mrs. Gabriel,” by Yossi Stern.

That particular trip to Israel was filled with unusual experiences and wonderful encounters, but the most moving experience was celebrating Havdallah with the Wexler family.

In Jewish tradition, both the beginning and the end of the Sabbath day is celebrated. Havdallah is an end of Sabbath ritual that consists of a brief ceremony wherein blessings are recited over a cup of wine (to be shared), over a braided candle (to be lit) and aromatic spices (to be passed and sniffed). In Hebrew, Havdallah, means, “division, distinction.” Used as a rite of separation, it serves to separate the holy from the mundane, marking the end of the holy Sabbath and the beginning of the commonplace workweek.

During the service, some fill the wine cup to overflowing, to symbolize their hope of a coming week that is overflowing with blessings. For this reason, goblets that are especially designed for Havdallah usually come with a small saucer.

The Havdallah candle is a braided candle, having more than one wick, to correspond with the plural “lights” in the proscribed benediction. Woven in colorful strands, the most popular color combination is blue and white.

The spicebox (hadas) used in the ceremony is often an object of decoration, some being very ornate, and crafted in silver, brass, ceramic, wood, etc. Frequently, these spice boxes are family heirlooms. Whether passed down from generation to generation, or brand new, these boxes usually are filled with a mixture of cloves, nutmeg, and bayleaf.

According to the Dictionary of the Jewish Religion, by Isaacson and Gross, “Spices were used extensively in ancient times,” and, “It was customary to burn spices after a meal and recite a blessing before smelling them,” which they say, “Is the probable origin for sniffing spices at the Havdallah service” (page 153).

Also, in The Jewish Book of Why, by Alfred J. Kolatch, we are told that, “The origin of this ceremony is attributed to the fourth and fifth century B.C.E. Men of the Great Assembly (Berachot 33a)” (page 178).

To this ancient tradition, some add their own touches. Such as, during the celebration the wife may utter a farewell to the Sabbath in the form of an old Yiddish hymn:

Dear Sabbath Day doth now depart-

May the coming week be blessed

With good fortune and good deeds.

And, since our particular Sabbath in Jerusalem was quickly departing, Angus and I hurried to Uzi’s, or rather, to what we later learned was the Wexler family compound.

You see, Uzi’s father had commanded the Israeli Army forces in Jerusalem during the War of Independence in 1948. And the majority of his family lived on the very hill that he had battled for, and taken. There, Mr. Wexler and family had built their family compound. Further, the elder Mr. Wexler, who, along with his wife, also was present for the Havdallah celebration, had since become one of the leading publishers of Judaica in the State of Israel.

Uzi’s wife, too, was present, she being a Supreme Court Justice for the State. His sister likewise was there, minus her husband, a Texas oil developer who had to be away on business. Also present was Uzi’s youngest brother, who was being groomed to take over the family publishing business. And then, there was Uzi’s other brother. The one who greeted us at the door. He was one of the leading brain surgeons of the world – and also a painter – one who specialized in stark, telling, painful, black and white Holocaust paintings.

This week, Havdallah would take place at Dr. Wexler’s place, and it seemed that almost immediately we were in his lower level studio. There, he was showing me his brutally frank Holocaust paintings.

Looking around, I could feel both his anger, and his desire to be polite, even hospitable, to one whom he regarded to be a “Christian.”

“How would you explain the Holocaust?” he asked me after viewing some of his lithographs.

I could feel his inner turmoil. I also felt as though he were almost “baiting” me. “I believe words fail when one tries to explain the Holocaust.”

I answered quietly. I really wanted this man to know that I felt I did not have a right to speak in this matter. I had not been there. I had not lost family members. I did not have a favorite aunt that had been forced to be a “field whore,” and then to be hung when drunken, pawing men tired of her. I did not have little cousins that had been forced to help dig a mass grave, only to be shot and thrown in with hundreds of others. None of my family had been forced to wear the “yellow star” that marked millions for incarceration and death.

Wexler Holocaust prints presented by the artist to Angus and Batya Wootten.

Dr. Wexler watched me go through the fifteen piece set several times, each time being no less shocking, no less telling, than before.

“Would you like to have a set of the prints?” he asked me.

It touched me that this man who had experienced so much grief seemed to be reaching out to me. “I would be very honored to have them,” I said.

He put the prints in their printed packet and handed them to me. “Let’s go up for Havdallah,” the Doctor said, pointing up the steps.

I could feel his change in demeanor, and followed him up to the living room, carrying a package that spoke volumes under my arm.

There, we all chatted for a while, getting acquainted. Everyone was asking us questions, about our faith, and our family.

Since Angus and I had years before put our two families together, I told them, “We came home from our honeymoon to a house full of seven children, and the fireworks started.”

“Yes. But so far, we’ve survived.” Angus chimed in.

Everyone laughed as we told story after story about our children.

After a time, Uzi called the grandchildren in from their play for Havdallah. Excitedly, they all gathered around their Grandfather, each one vying for a spot closer to him. Shotglass size servings of wine were poured for all, including the children. The senior Wexler lifted his glass and said the Barucha. Again, he said a blessing and lit the candle. Another blessing and he passed the spices for all to smell.

I watched as this beautiful, lively, family blessed the God of Israel, thanking Him for giving them the blessing that is the Sabbath. Then, at the Grandfather’s leading, everyone lifted their glasses, drank, and then shouted, “Shavu’a Tov!”

“Yes,” I thought, “This fine family will have a ‘Good Week!’”

I was truly moved by their “family faith.” I knew that, while they did not know Messiah, they were praying to the same Father God to whom I prayed. And I could feel His pleasure in the closeness of their family.

After their brief “ceremony,” in true Orthodox fashion, all the men began to gather around the dining room table, and the women to moved toward the living room.

As we were taking our seats, everyone was talking at once. The men were asking Angus questions, and the ladies wanted me to tell them more about Angus’ third daughter, Linda.

“Linda is our ‘miracle child,’” I said, taking a seat on the sofa. Then I told them how she who had so little hope – in having to face the many battles that came with her very premature birth and resultant cerebral palsy – had experienced many answers to prayers that so many had been made in her behalf to the God of Israel.

For one thing, Linda had met Marsden, a big, good looking guy, who happened to work in the hospital she stayed in when she had to have yet another of her more than twenty operations. Though the need for another operation appeared to be a curse, the Father used the opportunity for Marsden and Linda to meet.

“Linda always had to wear leg braces and a lift on her shoe,” I said “And she was asking God to heal her so that she wouldn’t have to wear them any longer. And, at her wedding to Marsden, the pastor tried to get her to come in the back door, by the altar. ‘So she won’t have very far to walk,’ the pastor said.”

“But Linda said ‘No. All my life I’ve dreamed of walking down the aisle on my Father’s arm,’ she told the pastor. ‘And nothing is going to steal that dream from me.’”

“Believe me,” I told the Wexler ladies, “When Linda walked down that long aisle, holding onto her Father’s arm, there was not a dry eye in the place. Because they all knew her story.”

Now I must admit that while I was very happy to be able to share about all the wonderful things that had happened to Linda, truthfully, I must say that I have never been so double-minded in my life:

I found that I wanted to both talk and listen at the same time! Because, when I began to talk about Linda, at the same time, I could hear Mr. Wexler saying to Angus, “Now Angus, tell us. . . .”

Angus: “Angus, tell us what the House of David is all about.”

This is the question put before me by the Patriarch of the Wexler clan. Personally, as a retired Army Colonel, I appreciated this man who, in the 1948 War of Independence, had commanded the forces of Israel that had battled to keep a portion of the City of David in Jewish hands, and, at the end of the ’67 war, had seen the entire city once again in the hands of the descendants of David.

As I searched for an answer to give this orthodox Jew, and his sons, a multitude of thoughts raced through my mind. To begin with, I felt presumptuous even being in this place and talking to these men about restoring David’s fallen tent. I was well aware of the deep division between Christians and Jews, and here, in the City of David, I, a son of Joseph, he being the son who had received the birthright and the double portion, I was talking to sons of Judah, the son who had received the promise of the “scepter,” the son who became the progenitor of David, the king, from whom came Yeshua, the Messiah. I also knew of the chasm that was created when Yahveh divided Israel into the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel, the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel. Almost three thousand years had passed since that fateful division, and over twenty-seven hundred years had passed since the last vestige of Israel, or the Lost Ten Tribes as they are popularly known, had been absorbed into the Gentile nations, in fulfillment of the punishment of which the Prophet Hosea had forewarned: “You will become a people who are not a people.”

While the punishment of Israel, meaning of not knowing who they were, and of not understanding their roots, had been extremely effective over these long centuries, it was obviously coming to a close. We knew first-hand that there were now people around the world who were having the blindness removed from their eyes: They were beginning to see and understand their own heritage as part of the people of Israel, and to experience a “knowing” like the “knowing” one has of their personal relationship with the God of Israel.

And so now, here, a son of Joseph, through his son Ephraim, an Ephraimite, one who knew who he was, had just finished celebrating the close of the Scriptural Sabbath with men of Judah, men who knew very well who they were as sons of Judah. And, this had taken place in the City of David.

I thought back to the time when all Israel had gathered at Hebron to turn the kingdom of Saul over to David, in fulfilment of the word of the Lord. I remembered that of the 300,000 plus men of Israel who gathered at Hebron to make David king of all Israel, only 6,800 were from Judah. So I was confident that in the restoration of David’s kingdom and the return of His Greater Son, the other tribes (other than Judah) would once again play a significant role. And, I perceived that the playing out of that role had commenced.

I also knew that even though my Grandmother was Jewish, because I believed in Yeshua, the Wexlers saw me as a Christian, though not the run-of-the-mill tract distributor whose mission was to convert Jews to their particular denomination. Further, on the plane, in my conversation with Uzi, I had made it clear that we were not missionaries, at least not in the usual sense. “Our mission is not to convert Jews,” I told him, “Our mission is to restore relationships between the two houses of Israel. Not by having one house convert to one of the many doctrines of the other house, but rather, by reestablishing the fact that we are ‘family.’ And, as a united family it will be much easier to have a united belief in the Holy One of Israel as He is revealed in the fulness of His Glory.”

Uzi had seemed to receive what I said on the plane, but now, I wondered, “How do I convey all of my thoughts in my answer?” The elder Wexler’s question, “What is the House of David all about?” hung in the air. Drawing a deep breath, and asking the Holy Spirit to speak through me, I answered: “We believe that Scripture clearly shows that there were and still are two houses of Israel, Ephraim and Judah. Further, remnants of these two houses exist today not only among the Jewish people, but also among those who are called Christians. The mission of House of David is to identify that remnant, especially among Christians, and to encourage them to return to their Hebraic roots, which we believe is a prelude to the reunion of all Israel into one united house. Last, but certainly not least, we seek to encourage members of both houses to have the personal relationship with the God of Israel that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had.”

The smiles on their faces, and comments like, “We certainly agree with that” told me the Wexler men had no problem with my answer. They also were in agreement that many from the Northern Tribes of Israel had been scattered among the nations, and would, one day, in fulfillment of Scripture, be regathered. They applauded the goal of modern-day Israelites having the same relationship with the God of Israel as did the Patriarchs. Additionally, they appreciated our interest in, and participation in, the Havdallah celebration that closed out the Sabbath day.

“It seems that, rather than man-ordained feast days that once honored pagan gods, the members of the family of Israel should keep the feasts of Israel. Especially since they are the feasts given them by the God of Israel,” I told them.

The bottom line of how they felt was that House of David had a “more challenging” job in trying to present its message to the Christian community, than it did to the Jewish people.

After a while, Batya and I thanked the Wexler family for an enjoyable evening and began to make our way to the front door.

Uzi followed us. “Feel free to call on me if ever you need me for anything,” he told us as we were leaving. “I’m not just saying this to be polite, I really mean it. Call me if I can ever help you.”

“Thanks, Uzi. Thank you very much. We’ll be in touch.”

“Wonderful evening,” I told Batya as we made our way down the walkway.

“Wonderful people,”  Batya replied.

Batya: “I felt the Spirit of God there when we were praying,” I told Angus, as we were driving back to our hotel.

“It was encouraging,” I continued, “Their whole family gathered together and thanked the God of Israel for the gift of the Sabbath.”

“What we experienced is very precious to me. So precious that I hardly want to talk about it. Because sometimes, words fall short,” I said softly. Deep in thought, I almost mumbled, “Right now it’s hard to describe what’s in my heart.”

“I know what you mean,” Angus said. But he was really trying to concentrate, since he was driving in a strange country.

“Slow down, sweetheart, this is where we turn for the hotel. . . .”

Havdallah Celebrations: A Treasured Time of Fellowship

Our visit with the Wexler family is something we cherish to this day. It left a precious, lasting impression on our beings. However, we also cherish our present-day Havdallah celebrations. They are special to us because they are times that we spend with very special friends.

On most Saturday evenings we gather with friends for a “pot-luck” supper, and for a short Havdallah celebration. We use our own Havdallah Hagaddah, or a shortened, or sometimes a lengthened, version thereof. Or we use the Hagaddah of a friend, or a shortened or lengthened version of his Hagaddah, or a combination of both, or . . . (this list goes on ad infinitum). The point is, we are not ritualistic at our Havdallah gatherings.

When we gather with our friends, we do not gather because of the Havdallah ceremony. Rather, our celebration is an outgrowth of the most important thing that is happening, and that is our fellowship. True fellowship is the ingredient that makes Havdallah special, and for that matter, all “religious” celebrations a treasure. Without true fellowship our gatherings become dead tradition. This remains true whether the origins of the celebration are Christian or Jewish.

And, speaking of the origins of celebrations. . . .

A Philosophical Mistake

In one of our Newsletters, entitled, “Who Told You?” Angus points out how, in his book Ten Philosophical Mistakes, Mortimer J. Adler, America’s foremost philosopher, explores ten major errors in the development of modern thought.[1] Adler also examines the serious consequences these errors have on our everyday lives.

The bottom line of Adler’s conclusion is that the most common, disastrous mistake of modern man is that he invents new kinds of wisdom, only to use that wisdom to continue building on a faulty foundation! In other words, he fails to go back to ground zero and to begin to build on ancient and original truths!

Armed with this truth, as Messianic Israelites who truly desire to put an end to all our “religious” mistakes, and to begin building on ancient and original truths, we ask an all-important question:

How then, should we celebrate?

To answer this vital query, we look to the Early Believers, to see how they celebrated.

The Meaning of “The First Day of The Week”

We know the Early Believers got together at the end of the Sabbath day because in Acts 20:7 we read that: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he kept on talking until midnight.”

To fully understand this verse we must remember that, according to Hebrew reckoning, the day begins at evening: “Elohim called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (Genesis l:5). In Hebrew thought, the day begins in the evening. Thus, when the Early Believers gathered together “on the first day of the week,” they were gathering on what Westerners would call “Saturday night.”

Why did they choose this time to get together?

The Word speaks of “Peter and John” going “up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.” And of an angel of the Lord who told the Apostles to, “Go and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” Also, the Apostle “Paul took men, and . . . purifying himself along with them, went into the temple, giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them” (Acts 3:1-8; 5:18-25, 42; 21:26).

In all probability, the Apostles were busy during the Sabbath, “going to the Temple,” that they might be witnesses to those who had not yet heard the “good news of the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.” To be “recharged” in their efforts, they got together with other Believers at the end of the day, in the evening, at what technically was called, “the first day of the week.”

Also, at that time, they “gathered together to break bread.” This means they were literally sharing a meal, and/or, they were “breaking bread” even as Yeshua “broke bread,” meaning, partaking in some fashion of what has come to be known as “communion.”

There, the Apostle Paul was “talking to them,” and he “kept on with” his “speech,” or “logos” until midnight (he talked for so long that some poor fellow, apparently overcome with fumes from the “many lamps” (Havdallah?) burning in the room, fell out the window, dying from the fall – but was raised from the dead (Acts 20:8-10).

However, the Greek word used to describe Paul’s “talking,” is dialegomai, which means, to discuss, as in argument or exhortation, to dispute, to preach, and to reason with.[2] It also is said that Paul was delivering a “logos,” which can mean he was giving a speech, preaching, teaching about a doctrine (or any combination thereof), or that he was reasoning, questioning, or, just plain “talking.”[3]

These words well describe that which took place, and still takes place, when disciples gather[ed] around their rabbi. It describes the animated, “everyone speaks his opinion,” Jewish Yeshiva.

A System That Prevents Growth

In contradistinction to this ancient “discussion” format for hundreds of years the organized “Church” has functioned in a “one man speaks and all the others listen” format. Sadly, this system has led to a Church that is filled with weak little sheep that have never learned how to flex their spiritual muscles. For the most part, they have not had the opportunity to argue, nor to exhort, nor to dispute, nor to be able to reason with, the “leadership.” In most Church Services they do not dare question what is being taught from the pulpit.

Certainly there must be a place in the Body of Messiah for leadership to teach. And, disciples must “appreciate those who diligently labor among” them, “and have charge over them in the Lord” and “give them instruction” (1 Thessalonians 5:12).

However, there also must be a place for disciples to grow. Somehow, disciples must be allowed to fulfill their Divine command to, “Speak the truth in love,” and thus “to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Messiah” (Ephesians 4:15). Somewhere, they must be allowed to follow the Biblical command: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from Yahveh; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). They must be encouraged to “put to the test those who call themselves apostles, but are not.” They must learn to discern between real and false apostles (Revelation 2:2). This is especially true as we enter into these latter days, when “false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). In this latter-day, all Believers need to have their spiritual senses sharpened. And this will happen only when they are allowed to exercise their spiritual muscles in the ancient pattern of Godly, growth-inspiring, Yeshiva-type discussions.

The Solution

The solution is for us to go back to ground zero and to begin building on ancient, original truths. And, if we hope to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, then the most appropriate time for us to gather together is, Saturday night And, the most appropriate program is the “talking, debating, Yeshiva” approach portrayed in Scripture.

For those who do choose to gather on Saturday night, and do desire to see the reunion of the two houses, and full restoration of the fallen booth of David, the Havdallah celebration – which can serve as a “bridge” between two warring peoples – can be especially meaningful, and that, for several reasons:

An Opportunity to Grow Up In Messiah

To begin meeting at the end of the Sabbath gives us time during the day to spend with our family. And, all Believers need to concentrate on “being a family,” because the unspoken testimony of a healthy family is one Of the most powerful testimonies known to man.

Also, meeting late in the day gives us time to rest, and when we truly rest, desisting from all labor, the truth that our Provider is caring for us in all things becomes self-evident, in that we do not have to work. It is an amazing principle: The Father teaches us about His love and provision for us, by allowing us to rest – as is defined in Isaiah: “If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of Yahveh honorable, and shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure, and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in Yahveh, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of Yahveh has spoken” (Isaiah  58:13-14).

When we gather, and, like the Bereans of old (Acts 17:10-12), discuss the Word, many things can happen: We can both exhort others, and if necessary, be exhorted. When we hear something that we feel opposes the full truth of Scripture, we can dispute it. However, what we say also can be disputed. In other words, we can, and should, question one another. Further, we should learn how to reason with one another and not be quick to discard someone because they do not believe exactly as we do. In fact, if we force ourselves to reason with the individual, it causes us to hone and sharpen the truth of what we believe (or, we may be honed). Additionally, if a point in Scripture becomes alive to an individual, they have an opportunity to teach and/or preach about it to their group.

In essence, when we get together without an emphasis on structure, and pursue a Yeshiva-type, question and answer format, we give the Spirit the opportunity to use each of us in marvelous ways. If we will but trust the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit), He will see that all get to use their spiritual muscles, regardless of size. And the marvelous result is: spiritual growth in all!

Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Messiah, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)

The Trouble With Tradition. . . .

Regarding any “traditions” that we follow at our Havdallah celebrations, or for that matter, at all our Messianic Israel celebrations, we note that it has been our experience that (all of?) man’s religious traditions are tainted. For example: Yeshua’s name was not Jesus, and He was not born on December 25th. Nor is Rosh Hashanah, the “head of the year,” as is claimed. For Yahveh declared that “Abib” shall be the head of the months for us. Further, to celebrate the “Exodus” Passover, is not equivalent to celebrating Messiah’s Resurrection. Therefore, it is not accurate to have a “Passover versus Easter” war. Passover is a celebration of both our “deliverance,” and of Messiah’s “death.” To celebrate His Resurrection, however, one would celebrate the “day of First-fruits.” So it is that the “Christian versus Jewish war of traditions” is full of such untruths and misunderstandings.[4]

It also has been our experience over the years that Believers very often go “tilt,” when they become enamored with Jewish people, and Judaism. Needless to say, many “Christians” also go “tilt” when it comes to “Israel.” Not understanding how they fit into the plan – and the Father’s plan, according to Isaiah 8:14, includes “both the houses of Israel” – they enter into the sin of Replacement Theology.

On the other hand, those who are infatuated with “Jewishness” often declare that “The Church has nothing to offer” Jewish people. (But, what they offer is the fact that, between the two houses, they alone have been declaring that “Jesus” is the “Christ” for the past two thousand years – and even though their message is distorted, still, Yeshua is the most important “offering” of all time.) Further, these Believers seem to think all “Jewish” traditions are Biblically acceptable.

The heart motivation of these “pro-Jewish” Believers may be to try to right a terrible wrong the Church has perpetrated against the Jewish people. However, these too must realize that the Father has declared that “both the houses of Israel, stumble over the Sanctuary.” Both stumble over the “Sanctuary,” for, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Isaiah 8:14; John 2:22; Romans 3:23).

Havdallah: An Ancient Tradition

Because it is the desire of those of Messianic Israel to return to ground zero, and to build on original truths, we point out the following regarding the traditional Jewish Havdallah celebration:

Again, according to The Jewish Book of Why, by Alfred J. Kolatch, “The origin of this ceremony is attributed to the fourth and fifth century B.C.E. Men of the Great Assembly (Berachot 33a)” (page 178). Thus, the Havdallah tradition began several hundred years before the time of the Apostles. And, it very well may be that that is what the apostles were celebrating the night the gentleman fell out the window.

This is not to say that everything about the traditional Havdallah celebration is untainted, for, Kolatch, when he answers the question, “Why is the Havdala cup of wine filled to overflowing?” says, “Filling the cup to overflowing is considered a good omen, an expression of hope that the week to follow will bring with it goodness in abundance. The origin of the custom is rooted in the belief, common in early societies, that the spilling of wine is a safeguard against evil spirits. These spirits, it was believed, could be bribed with a bit of wine (Eruvin 65a)” (pg 178).

We agree, such superstitious beliefs were “common in early societies.” This is confirmed in the book, The Star of David: “Superstition flourished in both circles [Jewish and Christian], because people simply did not have the same access to the Scriptures that we have today. Therefore, their understanding was darkened.”[5]

Since man’s traditions are just that, “man’s traditions,” and since we are seeking for the truth of the matter, we again ask the question: How then, do we celebrate?


The following may not at first appear to be the answer, but it is:

Once, when Messiah was chastening some Pharisees, He said to them: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, more than sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-13)

The point behind Messiah’s declaration: “I desire mercy, more than sacrifice” (note the correct translation: “more than,” and not, instead of), is that, those who concentrate on “sacrifice” are looking to “the letter of the Law.” And that “kills” (2 Corinthians 3:6). However, the man who makes “mercy” his focus, that man is directing himself – and others – toward “life.”

As those of Messianic Israel, as those who seek to be delivered from all “religious” bondage, we will have to walk where no man has walked before. To get there, we must travel a road that is paved with “mercy.” To find our way there, we must focus on “life.”

“Mercy,” and not the fine details of “sacrifice,” is the answer to our “how do we” quest: For Yahveh’s mercies are new every morning. He is always doing a new thing. And, in this latter day, if we will walk aright, He will do a new thing in and through us. But first, a golden road of mercy must be made to run through our hearts.

While we are not called to ignore, nor be oblivious to the kind of “sacrifice” being made, we are called to focus on “mercy.” We must remember that is Yahveh’s “kindness” that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Thus, we must ask of ourselves: Do we parade ourselves as a (self-)righteous “sacrifice,” as one who is “sacrificing” their life to God by doing everything “right”? Or, do we simply try to do “justly,” and thus to issue a humble call to the sinner? The latter must be our intent, because: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does Yahveh require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your Elohim” (Micah 6:8).

Restated, all who hope to enroll in and graduate from, the School of Reunion of The Two Houses of Israel, will have to “major” in mercy.

The solution is for us to go back to ground zero and to begin to build on the faith of the Apostles. And that means that, like them, the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel will be of utmost importance to us (Acts l:6). Further, to reunite two peoples, who for so long have been so bitterly divided, then, rather than the letter of “sacrifice,” we will have to be more concerned with living a life of “mercy.”

A Prophetic Declaration

Jerusalem, by Yossi Stern (1923-1992). Presented by the artist to Angus and Batya Wootten. (All rights reserved.)

Again, we gather every week with friends to celebrate Havdallah. But our celebration is different. It varies in that, before the meal, we relight the Sabbath candles and we have one person to represent “Ephraim” and one to represent “Judah.” Then, they each use their candle to light the braided Havdallah candle. Afterward, they extinguish their individual candles, symbolizing the end of their “separateness,” and, together, they lift high the one, braided, and brightly lit, Havdallah candle, while declaring their unity in Messiah.

We celebrate this way because, for all of us, the braided Havdallah candle represents our hope in the full reunion of the two houses of Israel. To us, it represents Ephraim and Judah as they become “one stick” in the Father’s hand (Ezekiel 37:15-28).

Additionally, we added “two sticks” of cinnamon to our spice box, praying a two-fold prayer as we pass it: that our lives be as “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to our God” (Philippians 4: l8), and that He might use us in the coming week to help make the “two sticks” one in His hand.”

For us, Havdallah is a very prophetic, hope-filled celebration. In our hearts we are declaring to the spirit realm, and to all the world, that we believe the Father’s glorious promises: We believe that we all truly will grow up in Messiah, and that our God will keep the promise He made in Ezekiel 37:

He will yet make us “one” people on the mountains of Israel.

There, we all will live an unending, Shavu’a Tov!

[1] See Angus and Batya Wootten, “Who Told You?,” House of David Herald 5-10, October 1993.

[2] Strong’s Greek word # 256.

[3] Strong’s Greek word # 3056.

[4] See Batya Wootten, “Restoring the Fallen Booth of David: The Tabernacles Celebration,” “Yaveh’s Calendar Versus Compromise With Babylon and Rome,” “The Father’s End-Time Passover Plan for Ephraim,” and “Shavuot and the Two Leavened Loaves,” House of David Herald 5-9 (September 1993), 6-8 (August 1994), 9-2 (February 1997), and 9-5 (May 1997)

[5] Batya Ruth Wootten, The Star of David, House of David, 1965.

Where Is Ephraim? And Where Is He Going?, by Angus and Batya Wootten

via Where Is Ephraim? And Where Is He Going? – B’ney Yosef North America 

[Editor’s note: What greater purpose in life could there be than laboring to see the Kingdom of Heaven fully manifested on earth? This is in accordance with our Messiah’s instructions in His model prayer for us:

Our Father in heaven, sanctified be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10 TLV)

This is the goal and hope of God’s people, but few think about how the Kingdom will come about, or what it will look like when it is here. One thing that is clear according to Scripture is that there is only one Kingdom, and it is called Israel. This is the foundational understanding of everything Angus and Batya wrote. In this article, first published in 1995, they briefly outline what Scripture says about the structure of the Kingdom, and what we can do to see its prophesied restoration come to pass.]

Where Is Ephraim? And Where Is He Going?

By Angus and Batya Wootten – July 1995

Jacob, when on his deathbed, blessed Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. In that blessing, the Patriarch prophesied that Ephraim’s descendants would become a “melo ha goyim,” or, “fullness of the Gentiles” (Genesis 48:19). Many centuries later, when Jacob’s sons had become the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the nation divided into two houses: Ephraim and Judah, Israel’s Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Both kingdoms disobeyed Yahveh, but Ephraim even went so far as to become nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding nations (“gentiles”). The disobedience of both houses brought on Yahveh’s sentence of judgment: exile into the nations.

Before scattering the “gentilized” Ephraimites, Yahveh sent the prophet Hosea to them, through whom He declared that the Ten Tribes would be scattered among all the nations (Jezreel), and thus lose their identity as Israelites (Lo-Ammi). However, He also said that one day they would “respond to Jezreel,” meaning their scattering. Like seed, they would experience a second birth that would make them once again the people of Israel. Even as the prophets prophesied, countless numbers of these scattered sheep have been found by the “Shepherd,” and so have “become sons of the Living God” (Amos 9:9; Hosea 1-2; Ezekiel 34:6-23; Romans 9:26).

Further, Yahveh has a plan for “reborn” Ephraim. It is a three-fold plan that will reunite the two houses of Israel: Ephraim and Judah. He will use this reunited people to fulfill His ultimate goal: that of bringing heaven to earth. To accomplish this task, Yahveh Elohim will –

    • Identify Ephraim
    • Reunite Ephraim and Judah
    • Restore the Kingdom to a reunited Israel, and usher in Messiah’s return (John 17; Romans 11:25-26, Jeremiah 31:18-19. Isaiah 8:14; 11:11-14; Ezekiel 37:15-28).

Who will Yahveh use to execute this plan? Scripture and history are clear. Yahveh uses and works with man in fulfilling Biblical prophecy. In the matter of reuniting His nation, He has placed the responsibility of reconciliation on Ephraim, who is the wild olive branch (Jeremiah 2:18, 21; 11:10, 16, Isaiah 11:13; Romans 11:11, 15:25-26).

Therefore, Yahveh is issuing a call to the Ephraimites: He is “whistling” for Ephraim. He is strengthening those who answer His call by removing the blindness regarding their identity – that they may again be like mighty men. Yahveh is giving these Ephraimites a “knowing” deep within their being that they are Israelites. This “knowing” is like the “knowing” they have regarding their personal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And, this “knowing” is changing their lives. It is causing them to see the need to walk in righteousness as Israelites, and it is giving them an even deeper love for their brother, Judah (Zechariah 10:7-12, Hosea 11:10; Romans 11:25; Isaiah 27:9).

In the forefront of this regathering are those who realize the Father would use them to accomplish His Divine Mandate for Ephraim. Thus, they seek to instruct others whom the Father is awakening about their identity and about their responsibility – as “watchmen” for the whole house of Israel (Hosea 9:8; Ezekiel 3:17; Habakkuk 2:1).

These “forerunners” realize this most important of jobs will be accomplished one Ephraimite at a time. They also know their seemingly unimportant accomplishments will ultimately result in the reunification of the two houses of Israel. These “forerunners” realize this integral reunion will only be accomplished by a people who are being led by the Spirit of Yahveh, and that a people truly walking in accord with His Spirit will result in Messiah’s return and the restoration of the kingdom to Israel.

We are on a journey toward the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father. That journey begins with a single step – but there are many more after that. Are you willing to keep taking one step after another until we reach our destination?

It only takes one little step. Perhaps that of asking the Father how this message should change your personal walk. Perhaps sharing with a friend. It just takes little steps. But, they will prove to be steps that will result in the return of our King!

Where will these steps ultimately take us?

Back to our Land.

We will return to our Land because He who scattered Israel also has promised:

“I will give her . . . the valley of Achor [from the root word for “trouble”] as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. ‘And it will come about in that day,’ declares Yahveh, ‘That you will call me Ishi [Husband] and will no longer call Me Baali [Lord]. For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, so that they will be mentioned by their names no more. In that day I will also make a covenant for them . . . and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war form the land, and will make them lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever; Yes I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in loving kindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.’ Then you will know Yahveh. ‘And it will come about in that day that I will respond,’ declares Yahveh. . . ‘And they will respond to Jezreel. And I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘Thou are my God!’” (Hosea 2:16-23; also see Romans 9:15-26).

Yes! We will yet return to the Land of our forefathers! But to do so, we must take our first step. . . .

The Greco, Roman, Westernized Church: Good and Bad, by Angus and Batya Wootten

[Editor’s note: Has there ever been a time that the people of God have served Him without error? Never – or at least, not yet. Even at the dedication of the Tabernacle, grievous error caused the untimely deaths of Aaron’s two sons when they made serious mistakes in their priestly service (Leviticus 10:1-7). Whether it is incomplete or erroneous understanding of scripture, or unrighteous heart attitudes, Abraham’s children in both Houses of Israel have always come short of the glory of God.
This is problem enough when it interferes with our relationship with the Almighty, but how much human suffering has this caused because one segment of the people, whether Jewish or Christian, regards the other as wrong and subject to judgment? That, of course, is the entire story of human history. The question for us, it would seem, is whether we will continue in this way, or transcend the examples of the past and bring lasting peace in the Lord’s house.
Angus and Batya Wootten probed that question in this article first published in 1994. They counsel that instead of finding fault both with the institutional church and with Judaism, we should recognize that each is doing a work commissioned by our Heavenly King, and that they are indispensable to the restoration of His Kingdom. With that as our starting point, maybe we can serve as a bridge between the two, finding a way to bring these two houses of Israel together in peace and reconciliation.]

The Greco, Roman, Westernized Church: Good and Bad

By Angus and Batya Wootten – April 1994

It is time for we who love all Israel to awaken the melo goyim, to stir up the “fullness of Gentiles.” We must awaken the “other” house of Israel, Ephraim. We must arouse him to the truth of his roots.[1]

Our Father speaks of a day when He “hears Ephraim grieving,” it is a time when the children of those destined to become a “melo goyim” cry out: “O Lord, You have chastened me, but I needed it. I behaved as an untrained calf, refusing to accept Your yoke. I ask You now to bring me back to allow me to return in repentance, for my exile has led me to remorse. Surely now that I have been instructed, now that I have come to know the truth about myself, I have repented. In great humility, I smote myself on the thigh, I beat myself on the breast, because I am thoroughly ashamed of the pagan sin and disgrace of my youth.” (Jeremiah 31: 18, 19, Authors Amplified Translation).[2]

This prophesied grieving brings about a great change in this “fullness of Gentiles.” Ephraim finally turns from his centuries-long penchant for paganism. He no longer wants to be like the Gentiles; rather, he longs to walk as an Israelite (Hosea 1-2). This means, once awakened to the newfound truth of his long-hidden roots, once he tums from pagan practices, he is immediately faced with the question: “How do I now celebrate the God of Israel?”

One thing is certain, if God is calling Ephraim away from every dead tradition found in institutional Christianity, we can rest assured that He is not calling him into any Jewish practices that might likewise be lifeless and ritualistic. Neither is he to return to a First Century Faith, wherein non-Jews were publicly shunned at the dinner table (Galatians 2:12). No. The God of Israel is One whose “mercies are new every morning.” He is always “doing a new thing in the earth.”[3] And, if we will allow Him, then in this latter-day, He will do a new thing in and through us. He will use us to bring forth that which is worthy from both houses of Israel.

But, for now. . . .

“To Leave Or Not To Leave,” That Is The Question

Only the Father in Heaven knows exactly where He wants each of us at any given time, and each one must follow His leading for their lives (John 16:13). He alone tells us when to stay and when to go, thus, House of David does not encourage a “Church Exodus.”

On the other hand, we cannot ignore the self-evident problems of the institutionalized Church, nor the possibility that some segments of the Institutional Church might be given over to the Anti-Christ. “In the last days, difficult times will come. For men will be . . . holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. . . And indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:1-15; also see Revelation 1 3:3).[4] Many believe the Seven Churches listed in the Book of Revelation also represent Seven Church Ages, the last being the Laodicean, that being the one that gets spewed out of Messiah’s mouth (Revelation 3:16).[5] Thus, all true Believers will ultimately be forced to leave that Church.

In these latter days, when as individuals we face the all-important question about leaving a Church, in each case we must consider the faith and actions of the particular Church body, as well as its leadership. We must evaluate it against the truth of Scripture, and then we must act accordingly.

The Hallmarks Of A True Shepherd

The Good Shepherd – John 10:1-16, Jesus Mafa, Cameroon, 1973, Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Regarding leadership, we know that true shepherds “guard,” “tend,” “feed,” and “gently lead” the sheep entrusted to their care. However, Ezekiel spoke of a time when Yahveh’s sheep would have shepherds who would not feed the flock, nor seek for the scattered, nor strengthen the sickly, nor bind up the broken. Rather, they would dominate the flock with force and severity; they would feed and cloth themselves rather than their sheep; and they would tread down pastures and foul the waters with their feet. Yahveh says He will be “against” those shepherds, and that He will “demand His sheep from them.” (Acts 20:28; John 21:15-17; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:1-31)[6]

Many shepherds turn the Scriptural instructions to “guard,” into a mandate to “control.” Ruling with “severity,” they do so in the name of “protection.”

Locked in Denominational pens, many feel they are starving. And rightly so, for they are fed no more than the milk diet of Hebrews 6:1-2, which instructs us to “press on, beyond the elementary points, which are repentance, faith, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection/rapture, and eternal judgement.” Sadly, because that is all that is taught, many are bored beyond belief – starved for the “meat” of the Word.[7]

These sheep are made to drink from muddied Doctrinal Waters, and all who seek to clarify them are pounced upon. Their Shepherds appear to be unaware of the verse: “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, an interpretation. . . .” (I Corinthians 14:26)

Sheep caught in such pens are not encouraged to exercise their spiritual muscles, which exercise is the duty of a good shepherd. Rather, they are made to sit quietly in their pew-pens. That their muscles atrophy from lack of use is of no concern. The important thing is whether or not they give their funds, and whether they bring more sheep to Church, that they might also be counted. For great numbers of sheep is the goal of the shepherd. And, those who help accomplish his goal are rewarded with an empty title.

Yet, even so, there are those who, for various legitimate reasons, are being called by the Father to serve Him in these Churches. . . .

Free To Encourage Or Exhort

Those called to such Church ministry should pattern their actions after Messiah. While Yeshua participated in synagogue activities, He nonetheless held Himself apart from what He called “their” system.[8] And so He remained free to encourage or admonish: “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! . . . These are the things you should have done. . . .” (Matthew 23:23) Like our Master, Titus 1:9 instructs each of us to, “exhort and refute with sound doctrine.” Like Yeshua, we must be dedicated to our Father’s truth, and we must be faithful, fearless, and fair, when presenting that truth.[9] If we are not faithful, we disappoint Messiah. If we are fearful, the Institution is influencing us and not we the Institution. If we are not fair we add to an ancient problem.

Just Weights And Measures

In addition to the vast array of wrongs perpetrated by the Church against her own – very often, when non-Jewish Believers first become aware of their brother, Judah, in defense of the countless wrongs perpetrated against Jewish people in the name of the Church, they wrongfully become negative about every aspect of the Church.

However, the Word declares that, “differing weights and measures arc abominable to the Lord.” Yahveh demands that His children use “’Just weights and measures.” This holds true for Christianity and Judaism alike (Proverbs 20:10; 16:11; Leviticus 19:36).

Thus, in defense of the good the Church has done, ask any Believer: “What is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to you?” Invariably, the reply is, “Meeting Messiah.”

A personal encounter with Messiah Yeshua is glorious, life-changing. There is nothing to which it can be compared. And yet, our Father has allowed that for hundreds and hundreds of years, this most wonderful of encounters has been made possible through – perhaps more accurately, in spite of – the efforts of the Greco Roman, Westernized, Cultural Church.

Good and Bad. The Church system that every true Believer owes some credit to, for bringing them into the most glorious event known to man, also is full of error.

How then should we regard this Church?

We must give her credit for the good she has done: Proclaiming, preserving and publishing the New Covenant, telling the world about Jesus and His salvation. For, she has been the primary source for aiding many in the world to know Messiah. Also, we must judge her with “righteous judgement” (John 7:24), which is to judge with perfect equity. For, that is the way Yeshua will judge us: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) To rightly judge a matter requires that we give full credit for both good and bad.[10]

Regarding some of her “bad,” it is as Howard A. Snyder says in his Intervarsity Press book, The Problem Of Wineskins: “It is hard to escape the conclusion that today one of the greatest roadblocks to the gospel of Jesus Christ is the institutional church . . . [it] too often represents something radically different from the Jesus Christ of the Bible.”[11]

It also is as Robert C. Girard says in his Zondervan Press book, Brethren, Hang Together: “The church itself, because of its institutional focus, has become a major hindrance to the fulfillment of Christ’s scheme for effective revelation of Himself in the word. This is extremely difficult (perhaps impossible) for those committed to the perpetuation of the church as an institution to see. Much of the American evangelical movement, for instance, is presently engaged in a narcissistic love affair with success, power, and cultural acceptance. On its current crest of prestige . . . it will find it extremely difficult to face the suggestion that it is doing anything wrong.”[12]

Let’s Stop The War!

We who have seen the truth about the two houses of Israel, Ephraim and Judah, Christians and Jews, we, above all people, should be aware of the enmity that has so long existed between them.[13] We also should realize that both perpetuate some error, and both put forth some truth in their doctrines, both seek the title of Israel for themselves, and each discounts the other as a legitimate heir of Israel.

The truth is that Ephraim and Judah are the “Two Witnesses.” Each gives forth a certain testimony about the God of Israel. As such, each has been given a different “job” to do.[14] Judah has kept alive the Law and the Feasts of Israel, and the Church has kept alive the truth that Jesus is the Messiah. But, the fact is, we need both the Feasts and the Messiah. If we have only Messiah, we do not know how to fully celebrate Him. If we have only the Feasts, we do not have the primary reason for celebrating them.

As Believers, when we unrighteously judge, favoring or disparaging either house, we only succeed in perpetuating their ancient war.

If we want to see the “Two Sticks” of Ephraim and Judah made “one” in the Father’s Hand, it is incumbent upon us to begin to fairly and rightly judge the two. For, there are those in both houses to whom the Lord would have us minister, and any undeserved partiality perceived in us may be used to turn them away.

When we give credit where credit is due, when we seek to correct with perfect equity, then, we cease to be part of the problem and begin to be part of the solution. Then, we can be used to awaken Ephraim, and so to reunite the two houses of Israel.

And so we pray that all our exhortations, whether directed toward Judah or Ephraim, be given in this spirit: that our intent be not so much to speak against their past errors, as it is to speak for the glorious future to which both Judah and Ephraim are called.[15]

[1] Other house:  see Jeremiah 1:10, 16; Isaiah 8:14. Melo means fullness, and goyim means Gentiles. Jacob prophesied that the descendants of Ephraim would become “a fullness of Gentiles.” (Genesis 48:19) See Strong’s words #4393 and 1471. Also, the ArtScroll Tanach Series says m’loh means, a “fullness” and, “Connotes abundance . . . meaning: His seed will become the abundance of the nations . . . They will have to inhabit lands of other nations.” (Genesis, Vol 6, page 2121).
[2] See Batya Ruth Wootten, “The Fall And Restoration of Rootless Ephraim,” House of David Herald 5-3 (March 1993), and “Battling Brothers,” ibid. (volume unknown)
[3] Lamentations 3:23, Jeremiah 31:22; Isaiah 65:17, Revelation 21:1.
[4] See Batya Ruth Wootten, “Rapture or Transformation? Escape or Victory,” House of David Herald 7-4 (April 1995).
[5] See Batya Ruth Wootten and Lynnette Delacruz, “The Crossroads At Laodicea,” House of David Herald 7-11 (November 1993).
[6] Ibid.
[7] See Batya Ruth Wootten, “Apprehending Abraham’s Blessings,” House of David Herald 5-8 (August 1993).
[8] Yeshua repeatedly called some of their traditions, “your” traditions (Matthew l5:3,6; Mark 7:9, 13. See Colossians 2:8).
[9] Angus and Batya Wootten, “Who Told You?” House of David Herald 5-1 (October 1993), and Wootten and Delacruz, “The Crossroads at Laodicea.”
[10] See 1 Corinthians 5:12, Psalm 96:10; 98:9, 99:4.
[11] Howard A. Snyder, chapter 1, The Problem of Wineskins: Church Structure in Technological Age (Intervarsity Press, 1975).
[12] Robert C. Girard, Preface, Brethren, hang together: Restructuring the church for relationships (Zondervan, 1979).
[13] See Batya Ruth Wootten, “How Can We Stop the Nations from Molesting Israel?” House of David Herald 4-8 (October 1992), and Wootten, “Battling Brothers.”
[14] Judah witnesses to the fact that the God of Israel has a high standard which is outlined in His Law. Ephraim witnesses to the fact that by Grace, we can be redeemed from the curse that comes from breaking that Law. The Two Witnesses: Judah and Ephraim, Law and Grace. See Batya Ruth Wootten, “The Olive Tree and Its ‘Natural Branches’,” and “Torah and the Two Witnesses,” House of David Herald 12-7 (July 2000) and 6-11 (November 1994).
[15] When Ephraim and Judah unite as brothers, they become a dedicated army, one that truly serves Yahweh Tze’va’ot, “The Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel.” See 1 Samuel 17:45; Isaiah 11:13-14;  Obadiah 1:18; Zechariah 9:13;  Ezekiel 37:15-28.

The Faith of Abraham, by Angus and Batya Wootten

[Editor’s note: What happens when we learn who we are? This is a question of identity beyond our present reality, but who we are stretching back through time to the peoples and places our or origins? Could it be that ignorance of our ancestral past contributes to the rootlessness and angst so common in the lives even of Yeshua’s followers?
This is a line of thinking that Angus and Batya Wootten investigate in one of the first articles published in the House of David Herald. In this piece from 1989, they are bold enough to ask what it really means to be adopted into God’s family, what it means to be the see of Abraham, and how the two parts of Abraham’s seed, identified most commonly as Jews and Christians, are to join one day to complete the covenant nation God established through Abraham.]

The Faith of Abraham

By Angus and Batya Wootten – February 1989

What did Abraham believe? Furthermore, what must we, his heirs, believe?

We know that when Abram did believe the Lord, “God credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

The importance of Abraham’s faith, and his resultant righteousness, cannot be over emphasized.

The promises made to Abraham were so important that God confirmed them on eleven different occasions: to Abraham seven times, to Isaac twice, and to Jacob twice. These three were “fellow heirs of the same promise.” (Hebrews 11:9)

Abraham believed the Lord when He said: “I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” (Genesis 17:5-7, NIV)

With Abraham there began a new birth in the history of mankind. For, he is “the father of all who believe.” (Romans 4:11)

Only With Us

Abraham’s faith had a powerful impact upon history. However, in regard to the great men of faith, we are told: “These were commended for their faith, yet . . . only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39) The covenant promises made to Abraham are imperfect without us! It is only in and through us that the faith of all generations will be realized (Hebrews 11:39, 40)!

We are part of the promise when we “walk in the footsteps of the faith our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.” (Romans 4:12) Then, we are his children. It is not enough to simply be Abraham’s physical child. We also must have the faith of Abraham! But, to have the faith of Abraham, we first must truly understand what Abraham believed! Then, we will know what we, his heirs, must believe.

When God told Abraham that He was going to bless him, God said: “Do not be afraid Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward. But Abram said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said: “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’ Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir. He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the Heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:1-6, NIV)

Abraham, childless at the age of 85, had a 75 year old wife. Still, looking down the corridors of time, he believed that he would not have to adopt an heir! Rather, Abraham believed that his heir would come from his own body! Furthermore, he believed that through this heir, his seed would be multiplied until it was as numerous as the stars! And, he believed God would be a personal God to these children.

If we have the faith of Abraham, we too must believe what he believed! But we must believe it from a different perspective.

Four thousand years later, we must believe that Abraham did have an heir from his own body (Isaac). And, through that heir, his seed has become as numerous as the stars! This faith requirement is the keystone of all Scripture!

According to Hebrews 6, it is the acceptance of this promise that leads the Believer from the elementary teachings of Messiah, and on to maturity!

Hebrews also tells us a mature Believer needs a diet of meat. For, “Anyone who lives on milk, [or, elementary truths], being still an infant is not acquainted with the teachings about righteousness.” (Hebrews 5:13) Obviously, we will be righteous if we believe the same thing Abraham believed! When we digest the meat of the Word promised to Abraham – we will perceive our physical inheritance and identity – even as we have perceived our spiritual inheritance and identity. Then, we will realize the full truth of the Scripture: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29)

The Spirit of Adoption

Nowhere in Scripture are we told we are adopted as Abraham’s sons. Rather, of the five times adoption is mentioned in Scripture, each speaks of our adoption as “the sons of God.” It is God’s family that we are adopted into – not Abraham’s!

Why should we believe we are physical, rather than adopted sons of Abraham?

First, we must believe it because Abraham was told he would not adopt – rather, he was told his heirs would come from his own body.

Secondly, nowhere in Scripture are we told we are adopted as Abraham’s sons! Rather, of the five times adoption is mentioned in Scripture, each speaks of our adoption as “the sons of God.”[1] It is God’s family that we are adopted into – not Abraham’s! God said myriads of physical descendants would be born into Abraham’s family.[2] However, this is only an earthly promise. In order for us to live eternally, we must be adopted into God’s family. We must believe that God is a personal God to us, even as He promised He would be. This occurs when we experience the second birth, which is a birth by faith. When we are born from above, then we receive the Spirit of adoption, and thus we become a member of God’s family.[3] Furthermore, all must receive this adoption: Jew, Gentile, bond or free!

Last, but not least, there is an inherent danger in denying our birthright! “Esau despised his birthright,” then could find “no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” Because Esau disregarded his birthright, he is called “godless” and was “hated” (Genesis 25:34; Romans 9:13; Hebrews 12:16,17).[4]

We must realize that great numbers of physical descendants were promised to Abraham! Whole nations were to come forth from him! Abraham was specifically told: “None but him that shall come forth from within you shall be your heir.” (Genesis 15:4, ArtScroll Tanach Series) If we cannot believe this promise of God, how can we believe any other promise?

For too long, we have not rightly divided the truth about Abraham’s descendants. For too long, “Gentile Believers” have been crippled by the lie that they are his adopted heirs.

Our Roots

Kunta Kinte Alex Haley Memorial in Annapolis, Maryland, Preservation Maryland, January 16, 2003, via Flickr.com.

The fact that Roots was the most watched television series ever speaks of the importance mankind gives to a knowledge of their roots.[5] People want to know from whence they came. Our roots give us a sense of belonging – a feeling that we are part of history. Our roots tell us about ourselves – who and what we are. Through them we discern our inheritance.

The world is full of stories of adopted people who have sought long and hard to find out from whom they were descended. Most adoptees have difficulties with feelings of rejection, abandonment, not being wanted.

No amount of worked-up self-esteem, fortitude, or tenacity will cover for the feeling of being a rootless, adopted, second class, citizen.[6] Further the feeling of being adopted can produce resentment toward the child that was fortunate enough to be “natural born.” (Could this be one of the sources of anti-semitism?)

Speaking to those who call themselves “Gentile Christians”: What if Jesus Himself told you that you were a direct descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Would not the Bible be more alive to you? What if, when reading the Scriptures, you knew for a fact that these were your forefathers? What if you realized that God foreknew you before the foundation of the world – saw you in Abraham’s loins – called you in Isaac – predestined you to be one in Him, through the Messiah! Would it not add to the glory of what God has already done in your life through the Messiah?

Yes, it would. And therefore, your identity as a descendant of Abraham is important.[7] The fact is, the truth about your roots tells you about your Biblical inheritance. It tells you about the destiny God has planned for you and what He has planned for you to become. It is Abraham’s children who will rule with God. It is his descendants who will “possess the gates of their enemies.” (Genesis 22:17) It was “In Isaac that his seed was called.” (Hebrews 11:18) And, it was Isaac’s son, Jacob, that was called to be Israel, meaning: A powerful, prevailing prince, a soldier of God, one who rules with the Almighty!

But, if we are Abraham’s descendants, and thus, Israel what about the Jewish people? Are they also Israel?

The answer is yes. Because in Scripture there were, and still are, two houses of Israel (Isaiah 8:14; Ezekiel 37:15-Z8). The two houses are called Ephraim and Judah. Both serve God’s purposes – as His two witnesses in the earth. They are His two olive branches. Also, both of these houses have experienced the “partial hardening” that is spoken of in Roman’s 11:25.

Judah is the house of Israel that God has used to uphold His Law. For, “where there is no law, there is no transgression.” (Romans 4:15, NIV)

Furthermore, “The Law is our tutor to bring us to Messiah.” (Galatians 3:24) Judah knows their roots as Israelites – but they have been hardened to a knowledge of the Messiah.

Ephraim, on the other hand, has been used to establish the principle of “salvation by faith.” They know, and have a personal relationship with, the Messiah of Israel. However, they have been hardened as to their roots as Israelites. They do not realize that they too are descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They do not realize that Judah is literally their brother.

The Revelation of the Sons of God

These two brothers are likened to the Cherubim over the Ark in the Tabernacle. One day they will recognize each other. They will reach out to touch each other even as the wings of the Cherubim touch each other. Then, and only then, will we see the Glory of God. Then, His Presence will be made manifest in us.[8]

When these two reach out to one another – when they repent of their sins toward one another – and forgive one another – then the world will in truth see the sons of God!

The whole world “waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God’s sons to be made known.” (Romans 8:19, AMP) But these sons will not be fully made known until they realize their identity as sons of Abraham – and unite in the Messiah!

The Apostle Paul speaks of “a mystery” in Romans 11:25. He says, “a hardening in part, has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” The fullness of Gentiles is the “melo goyim,” promised to Ephraim (Genesis 48:19). This “hardening” was to remain until the fullness of the Gentiles was brought in. Thus, it is our Father’s plan to save all Israel!

Many believe “the times of the Gentiles” are over. If that is so, then it is time for the veil to come off the eyes of all Israel! It is time for Ephraim to recognize his roots! It is time for the two houses of Israel to unite in Messiah! Only in this way will all Israel be saved!

Eating Meat Is Doing

Jesus said, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me.” (John 4:34, KJV) To eat meat is to do the will of the One who sent us. Likewise, Abraham’s seed was sent forth and commanded to “be fruitful, and multiply.” In other words, they were to increase, to be made great, to excel-exceedingly, and to be in positions of authority. That is the call of the physical, faith-filled seed of Abraham!

Hebrews six warns us not to be sluggish about understanding our inheritance as Abraham’s children. Rather, we are to change our diet to one of meat. We are to be like Isaac, faith-filled children of the promise, having a sure and steadfast hope (Galatians 4:28; Hebrews 5:13-20).

O Father, we ask You to lift the veil from the eyes of all Israel.

Amen and Amen

[1] See Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5. Note that the Spirit of adoption as sons of God belongs to the sons of Israel. In other words, it is the Israelites who receive the invitation to come into God’s family!
[2] See Genesis 15:5; 17:4; 26:4; 24:60; 28:3, 14; 48:4, 16, 19.
[3] See John 1:13; 3:3; Galatians 3:22, 26, 29; 1 Peter 1:3, 23; 1 John 3:9.
[4] The right of the first born belonged to Joseph, whose heir was Ephraim, who is called the Firstborn. Ephraim is one of the two houses of Israel. This house of Israel was to be scattered among “all the nations.” Ultimately, their descendants were to become the “sons of the Living God.” Thus, as the people of Ephraim – or, the Congregation of the Firstborn – we must not despise our birthright. (See 1 Chronicles 5:1-2; Genesis 48:5, 13, 14, 19; Jeremiah 31:9; Isaiah 8:14; Amos 9:9, Hosea 1:10; Ezekiel 37:15-28; Genesis 48:19; Hebrews 12:23.)
[5] Roots is a 1977 TV miniseries adapted from the book of the same name by Alex Haley. It is his novelization of the story of his family, which is descended from Kunta Kinte, a slave taken from his homeland in Gambia in the mid-18th century. The miniseries remains one of the most popular productions ever made for television not only because of its quality, but because, as the Woottens’ say, it appeals to the desire of people to identify with their places and peoples of origin. Haley’s work about his African family made the book and the film adaptation groundbreaking achievements in the years immediately following the Civil Rights era. For more information, see the IMDB article at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075572/.
[6] This is not to imply that adopted people are second class. However, adoption is not the normal way one becomes a member of a family. Thus, being adopted makes one a different member of the family.
[7] We are in no way suggesting that anyone should attempt to trace their genealogy. In fact, it is ludicrous to try. Because of the sin of adultery, no one can be certain of who their forefathers are. Furthermore, no one can trace their genealogy back 4,000 years to Abraham. Still, God knows exactly where Abraham’s seed is, and who they are! Physical descent as an Israelite is not something that can be proven. Even as “circumcision is of the heart and our praise [confirmation] comes from God” (Romans 2:29) – so it is with our confirmation as the sons of Abraham. We cannot prove it. But, for that matter, no man can prove that we are not!
[8] See Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, “Introduction,” What Christians Should Know About Jews and Judaism (Waco, TX, Word Books, 1984).