The Dilemma of the Ger, Part 3: Dealing with the Kinslaying

This is the third part of a dialogue with Dr. Rivkah Adler of Breaking Israel News on the question of whether the biblical concept of ger, or foreigner, could be considered as a possible status for Torah-keeping non-Jews.  It began with Rivkah’s article, “Are We Witnessing the Restoration of an Ancient Biblical Status for Non-Jews?”, followed by my commentary, “The Dilemma of the Ger, and her observations in “A Jewish Response to the Dilemma of the Ger.

Dealing with the Kinslaying

Albert J. McCarn
April 16,2017

The Kinslaying at Alqualondë, by Ted Nasmith. Used by permission.

A motif running through J.R.R. Tolkien’s fiction works is the exile of the Elves from Valinor, the Blessed Realm of the Valar, the gods of Tolkien’s world.  Those who read The Lord of the Rings first encounter the exiles as the High Elves who aid Frodo and his companions in their flight from the Shire.  Readers who venture into The Silmarillion learn that the High Elves are the Noldor, one of three Elven clans who answered the Valar’s invitation to leave Middle Earth and live in Valinor.  The Vanyar and Teleri – the other two clans – remained in Valinor, but the Noldor rebelled against the Valar and returned to Middle Earth to fight against Morgoth, Tolkien’s equivalent of Satan.

The Noldor had justification for their actions.  Morgoth had stolen the Silmarils, the matchless jewels fashioned by Fëanor, greatest of the Elven craftsmen, and had killed Finwë, Fëanor’s father and king of the Noldor.  Nevertheless, their rebellion under Fëanor’s leadership incurred a sentence of exile and separation from any help the Valar could offer.  Over the next several centuries the Noldor and their allies among the Elves and Men of Middle Earth proved unable to defeat Morgoth, and they suffered a long defeat.  At the end of their strength, the humbled remnant repented and begged help from the Valar.  When help came, Morgoth was defeated and the Valar granted clemency for the Noldor to return to the Blessed Realm, bringing with them the remaining Elves of Middle Earth who had never seen Valinor.

This is the unseen backdrop for the Elves appearing in Tolkien’s later and more popular works.  Those who pick up the story with The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings meet wise Elrond, stern yet kindly Thranduil, and gentle Galadriel, but they have no understanding of their history.  Galadriel, for example, was Fëanor’s niece, and along with his sons and her brothers led the Noldor in rebellion.  Upon passing the test of refusing the Ring of Power when Frodo offers it to her, she proves that she, the only surviving rebel leader, is indeed ready to return home as a humble penitent.

In Galadriel’s story we see the stunning panorama flowing through the body of Tolkien’s works.  Yet there is one missing detail:  he never tells us what happens when the exiles return.  It is a significant omission.  We can imagine the scenes of reconciliation as the Noldor made amends with the eternal Valar, but we do not know what happens when they encountered the brethren they had wronged.  At the beginning of their flight from Valinor, the Noldor demanded of their kin, the Teleri, use of their ships.  The Teleri refused, resulting in a terrible battle known thereafter as the Kinslaying.  As Tolkien describes it, “Thus at last the Teleri were overcome, and a great part of their mariners that dwelt in Alqualondë were wickedly slain.”  If that were not enough, when they arrived on the shores of Middle Earth, Fëanor gave orders to burn the wondrous Telerian ships, craft of great beauty the like of which could never be made again.

What happens when the prodigal Noldor return home is a tale we do not know.  We hope they are reconciled with their brethren, but achieving reconciliation requires conscious effort to overcome the debt of blood between them.  Until that debt is paid or forgiven, the bliss of the Blessed Realm remains unbearably diminished.

Tolkien’s epic thus becomes a parable for us, the returning exiles of the House of Yosef (Joseph).  Like the Noldor, we are guilty not only of rebellion against our God and the king He had anointed, but also of an endless Kinslaying of our brethren of Judah.

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A Jewish Response to The Dilemma of the Ger

Ruth of Moab, perhaps the most famous foreigner who embraced the God, the Torah, and the people of Israel. (Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Ruth in the Field of Boaz.)

Several weeks ago, Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler published a captivating article in Breaking Israel News.  In “Are We Witnessing the Restoration of an Ancient Biblical Status for Non-Jews?”, she presented the biblical concept of ger, or foreigner, as a possible status for Torah-keeping non-Jews.  Soon thereafter I posted a commentary on Rivkah’s article entitled “The Dilemma of the Ger” as the first round of what she and I both hoped to be a point-counterpoint dialogue. 

I must apologize for the delay in posting Rivkah’s response to my remarks.  She provide them about a month ago, but the B’ney Yosef North America Summit and its aftermath have taken much of my attention in the interim.  Hopefully there will be no similar delay as we move forward.

What I hope you, the reader, will see in Rivkah’s remarks is a sincere heart seeking to make sense out of a development that is shaking her Jewish paradigms just as much as it is shaking the paradigms of those who have come from various Christian streams.  You, like me, probably will disagree with some of the points she makes.  In a few days I will post my next round of remarks to address those points.  In the meantime, please do not let disagreement cause you to throw out Rivkah’s entire presentation.  Look instead for those points of connection, and from there prayerfully see where we might build a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding.


A Jewish Response to “The Dilemma of the Ger

Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler

I appreciate very much your willingness to engage in this conversation with me.  I acknowledge that we are both trying our best to be as sensitive as possible, despite the fact that these conversations have the potential to be excruciatingly uncomfortable.

My prayer is that Hashem helps me find the words that will touch the hearts and souls of those who desire to hear what the Torah actually says regarding the non-Jew.

Let me start where you started, with the definition of the word ger.  It’s a complex word in Hebrew and means so much more than stranger.  For the purposes of our discussion, let’s define Ger as a 100% kosher non-Jew. Hopefully, that definition has the potential to attract the attention of those who are drawn to Torah, but who do not wish to become Jews.

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The Dilemma of the Ger: Commentary on “Has an Ancient Biblical Status for Non-Jews Reemerged After 2500 Years?”

James Tissot, The Return of the Prodigal Son.
The Return of the Prodigal Son, by James Tissot.

The Torah Awakening among Christians is creating something the world has not seen for two thousand years:  a growing body of non-Jewish people who are doing the best they can to live by God’s eternal standards (His Torah – Law, Teaching, Commandments), but who do not intend to convert to Judaism.

What is the world to do with such people?  Perhaps the more immediate question is, what are the Jewish people and the State of Israel to do with such people?

Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler explored these questions recently in an article for Breaking Israel News.  Her article, “Has an Ancient Biblical Status for Non-Jews Reemerged after 2500 Years?”, presents the biblical concept of ger, (גָּר, Strong’s H1616), or foreigner, as a possible status for Torah-keeping non-Jews.  Dr. Adler and I have shared some correspondence on this question, and hopefully will be able to continue that conversation in a point-counterpoint discussion.  Here is my initial offering.

According to Strong’s Concordance, a ger is a “sojourner; a temporary inhabitant, a newcomer lacking inherited rights; of foreigners in Israel, though conceded rights”.  The implication is that such people are not Israelites, not Hebrews, and not members of the nation or commonwealth of Israel. 

This is where we run into several issues.  The easy path is to argue these points, but that is not necessarily the wisest path.  What we all need is the path of wisdom and reconciliation, and that is what I hope to investigate.

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Biblical Language Brings You Closer to God, Says Hebrew Roots – Breaking Israel News

BFB140303 Aleph BetWho is paying attention to the Torah Awakening among Christians?  Israeli Jews are beginning to take notice, as Hanoch Young explained in a recent article originally posted on United2Restore.  Here is additional testimony:  an article by Rivkah Adler of Breaking Israel News about the phenomenon of Hebrew studies among non-Jews. 

It is encouraging enough that Dr. Adler chose to write on this topic.  What is even more interesting is one of the questions she asked of her sources:  How can Jews help Christians learn Hebrew?  Of course, we understand that by “Christians” she means all of us who are not Jewish, but have an affinity to Israel – including those of us who have embraced our Hebrew identity.  The question should be an encouragement.  The more interest there is in learning Hebrew, the more our Jewish brethren will be motivated to help, resulting in an ever-expanding number of contacts and relationships. 

Who knows where this will lead in years to come?  Certainly it will contribute significantly to global support for Israel in material ways, and hasten the day that the Jewish and non-Jewish parts of the Hebrew people are reconciled and reunited.  All the more reason for us to take advantage of the Hebrew language opportunities available to us!

Source:  Biblical Language Brings You Closer to God, Says Hebrew Roots – Breaking Israel News | Latest News. Biblical Perspective.


Breaking Israel NewsLearning Biblical Language is “Torah Awakening” Needed for Hebrew Roots

Rivkah Lambert Adler
Published in Breaking Israel News, December 15, 2016

“And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.”  Genesis 11:1 (The Israel Bible™)

bfb161221-bible
(Shutterstock)

Christians and members of the Hebrew Roots movement are united in their view that learning Hebrew is an important part of understanding the Judaic origins of their faith.

Speaking to Breaking Israel News, Bob O’Dell, pro-Israel Christian, author and co-founder of Root Source, described his interest in Hebrew as two-fold.  As a frequent traveler to Israel, O’Dell recognizes that learning modern, conversational Hebrew could help him “to fit in a bit better when visiting Israel.

However, his primary interest is “to understand the Bible better.  What motivates me here is the absolute conviction that I am not ‘seeing’ but a small fraction of the potential insights in the various passages by reading an English translation.”

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“We are all Jews” – How One Man’s Gentle Christian Faith Saved Jewish GIs from Nazi Death Camps

The Battle of the Bulge, December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945.
The Battle of the Bulge, December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945.

A lifetime ago, American fighting men experienced one of the most humiliating defeats an army can endure.

A lifetime ago, American fighting men gained one of the greatest victories in the history of arms.

What is the proper view of the Battle of the Bulge – military disaster, or glorious triumph?  Both are correct in some fashion, but each by itself is incomplete.  By the time the great battle drew to a close, the heroic defense of Bastogne by the 101st Airborne Division had already become the stuff of legend.  Second only to that was the astounding winter counteroffensive by General George Patton’s 3rd Army.  The exploits of men and women who were just doing their duty dealt a crushing blow to Germany’s warmaking ability.

Yet the heights of these great deeds cannot be appreciated apart from the depths of defeat suffered by the United States Army in the early days of the battle.  When the German attack began on December 16, 1944, the troops thinly spread across Belgium and Luxembourg had little warning, and little chance of standing firm against Hitler’s last great offensive in the West.

I first learned of the Battle of the Bulge as a child, when it was still a vivid memory to veterans who fought through it.  Yet it was not until I had been a soldier for many years that I finally read Charles MacDonald’s A Time for Trumpets, a comprehensive account of the Bulge.  That was where I learned how serious the situation had been.

Insignia of the 106th Infantry Division, United States Army
Insignia of the 106th Infantry Division, United States Army

Nothing conveyed that lesson more vividly than the story of the 106th Infantry Division.  Newly assigned to the sector, the men had hardly become familiar with the terrain of the Schnee Eifel in Belgium when they were pressed to defend it.  The task proved beyond them; after two days the 106th was encircled and quite literally cut to pieces.  Most of those who had survived the initial onslaught surrendered on December 19, including the bulk of the 442nd and 443rd Infantry Regiments.  From that point on, the 106th ceased to exist as an effective fighting force.

Such clinical descriptions say nothing of the horrendous human cost.  One statistic helps put it in perspective.  The 442nd Infantry Regiment began the battle on December 16 with nearly 1,000 men.  Less than a week later, only 79 of them had eluded death or capture.

Since learning the battlefield story of the 106th Division, I have given the unit little thought.  They were, after all, the losers; the unfortunate sacrifices to the gods of war.  It is not that they were poor soldiers or cowards, but that they just happened to be in the way when forces beyond their ability fell upon them.  As I studied the battle, the soldier in me took note of the loss, but quickly went on to assess the mission still at hand, the resources left to accomplish it, and the best way to apply those resources to achieve success.  The men of the 106th Division became for me just another footnote in history.

Until now. 

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