Not Satisfied with Half the Picture: My Quest for Truth Beyond Tradition

In April 2017, Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler sent out invitations to participate in a book project with the working title, Ten From The Nations: Exploring the Torah Awakening Among Non-Jews. Her motivation is to increase awareness of the fact that we are witnessing the gradual fulfillment of Zechariah 8:23. She did so by compiling testimonies from non-Jews who have experienced a Torah awakening of some sort, and from Jews who are actively building relationships with those who are stepping forward from the nations. Her book includes the voices of Christian Zionists, Bnei Noach, Ephraimites, Gerim and more.
It is an honor to be one of those invited to submit a testimony. What follows is the story of my journey into an appreciation of Torah and the Hebraic roots of my Christian faith.
For more information on Ten From The Nations, visit http://www.tenfromthenations.com/.

For the first few years of my life, people fell into one of two categories:  white, or black.  Then the rules changed and the world got complicated.

Scenes of my formative years. Left: going to church in Pensacola, Florida, with my father and older sister in 1962. Right: Dawson Memorial Baptist Church (with Pastor Edgar M. Arendall) and Briarwood Christian School in Birmingham, Alabama.

The world into which I was born was white, Southern, and Baptist.  That was in 1961, when the requirements of my father’s career in insurance caused my parents to depart from their native Alabama and take up temporary residence in Pensacola, Florida.  As we moved back to Alabama in 1963, the Civil Rights Movement entered its most active stage.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail, sit-ins and marches defied segregationist strongholds, and the Federal Government took steps to correct a longstanding injustice.  Little of this turmoil impacted me until 1968, when a Federal judge ordered the desegregation of Birmingham’s public schools.  One day I went to school with my all-white third grade class of about 20 students; the next day the class had swelled to over forty, half of whom were black.

I cannot say whether the addition of so many new playmates of color caused any trauma to myself, but I know that it shook my parents to their core.  At the end of that academic year, they removed my brother and me from the public school, opting to make the financial sacrifice of placing us in the sanctuary of a Christian academy where we could receive a better education.  It also had the advantage in their eyes of being an all-white school.

Well, almost.  What may have escaped their notice was that Briarwood Christian School had a non-discrimination admissions policy.  That explains the presence of one black child in the kindergarten – the only black child enrolled there during my years at Briarwood.  My education was hardly interracial, and yet this turn of events triggered inexorable alterations to my worldview.  By the age of 8, I learned that the antiseptic white society into which I had been born was less utopian than I had been taught.  There was a world of color awaiting my exploration, and a host of questions that the scripted answers could not begin to satisfy.

What I had been taught was not all wrong.  Much of it was right, but it was incomplete.  So was the worldview of my black counterparts –much of it quite right, but incomplete.  Our combined worldviews formed a far more complete picture, with the white perspective filling gaps in the black perspective, and vice versa.  Thus my education proceeded along two parallel tracks:  a formal track provided by the teachers and preachers at school and church; and an informal track hidden in the recesses of my heart and soul and mind.  The hidden track evaluated everything presented to it, often reaching conclusions at odds with the accepted norms.  Hence the reason it remained hidden.

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7 Ways to Share Your Faith With Your Friends & Family – Kayte Abaffy

One of the most significant developments in the Hebrew Roots movement this past year has is the production of a movie that explains this phenomenon.  Those who have seen The Way:  A Documentary know that it is a quality production that imparts an entertaining, moving, and reasonably balanced presentation of the Torah Awakening among Christians.  This debut work by young filmmakers Luke and Kayte Abaffy has had an expanding impact since its release in August 2016, and likely will receive international attention thanks to a recent screening at the Second B’ney Yosef National Congress in Israel.

In this article, originally published in Torah Sisters Magazine, producer Kayte Abaffy shares her experience and idea on how to present this Torah walk to the people we care about the most – and who often are not very receptive to this message.  Perhaps it is not the message that is the problem, but the manner and timing of the presentation.  That is a central point Kayte makes in this honest and delightful piece.


bfb161106-seven-ways-to-shareOriginally published on Torah Sisters Magazine

Two years ago, I was driving on the Pacific Coast Highway with my husband, sparkling blue ocean to our left and golden mountains to our right, coming home to Los Angeles from a transformative conference in San Diego.  Torah keepers had gathered for a weekend of learning stuff and worshipping and hanging out by the pool till 2am sharing our stories.  And that weekend wasn’t just an awesome conference – it was the start of us filming for The Way documentary, and our first real deep dive into the experiences of people walking in The Way.

bfb161106-pacific-coast-highway

Even after we’d only interviewed our first handful of people, something had already become clear: sharing your new walk with friends and family is … well … a thing.  When we asked interview subjects how people reacted to their new walk (siblings, children, spouses, parents, pastors, lifelong friends), lots of interesting body language things would happen – eyes would well up with tears or dart to the floor, or there’d be a great big sigh, or laughter, or a look of searching for the right words to make a tough situation sound positive.

Of course, some people’s families or friends had taken instant interest, or tried hard to understand what their loved one was learning in the Word.  And some even quickly came to the same understanding.  But for lots of others, the reactions ranged from cold shoulders to confusion, awkwardness to outright hostility.

So how do you share your walk (and enthusiasm for the Torah) with people you love, when there seems to be so much baggage surrounding a conversation that hasn’t even begun yet?

One thought that’s really helped me is to make the fruit of your life available to people who’re actually hungry.  Trees that throw their apples at people are scary, like in The Wizard of Oz.  But in life, a person walks by and picks an apple from the tree when they’re hungry.

So often we try to jam a feast down the throat of a person who’s perfectly full.  And then we’re frustrated when they don’t receive it and wonder why they resent us.  But God works with hunger.  And we should too.  Remember what Yeshua said?  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  It’s hard to convince someone of how great the solution you’ve found is, when they don’t even think there’s a problem.  But the great news is that there are plenty of hungry people out there, we just need to be there to minister to them!

Here are a few other ideas I’ve come up with to share Yeshua and your walk with others, as I’ve marinated on this question over the last two years:

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Israel 2016: A Quantum Leap Toward the One New Man

bfb161022-take-two-tabletsThere is an old joke about Moses standing on Mount Sinai waiting the hear from YHVH.  The hand of the Almighty appears with the Ten Commandments written on stone, and a great Voice says, “Take these two tablets and call me in the morning”.

It is funny because it is not a joke.  We know what happened:  Moses took the tablets with the Ten Commandments back to the people of Israel, but when he found them celebrating in idolatrous revelry (oddly enough, in worship of YHVH by pagan means), he threw down those tablets written by the Finger of God and shattered them.

Parents should have special insight about YHVH’s reaction to all of this.  First, He punished everyone – both the instigators who provoked the people to disobedience, as well as the willfully ignorant who allowed themselves to be led astray.  Even those who stood by and let it happen did not escape His notice.  Do we not act similarly when our children embark on a path of foolishness that wrecks the house?

That was the negative reaction.  What came next was His solution to the problem:  He directed Moses to clean up the mess.  Consider these words:

And the Lord said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke.  So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain.  (Exodus 34:1-2 NKJV)

In other words, “Bring two tablets and call me in the morning.”

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Who Wins When Siblings Fight?

On January 8, 1815, an odd assortment of U.S. Soldiers, French and Spanish Creoles, African slaves and free men, Kentucky frontiersmen, and French pirates set aside their differences to fight as comrades against an invading British army at New Orleans.  The peril they shared transformed these disparate residents of the western frontier into Americans - a single people who shared a common identity regardless of their past and future differences.  (Image: The Battle of New Orleans January 8th 1815 / drawn by Oliver Pelton ; engraved by Hammat Billings,1882. Accessed from the Library of Congress.)
On January 8, 1815, an odd assortment of U.S. Soldiers, French and Spanish Creoles, African slaves and free men, Kentucky frontiersmen, and French pirates set aside their differences to fight as comrades against an invading British army at New Orleans. The peril they shared transformed these disparate residents of the western frontier into Americans – a single people who shared a common identity regardless of their past and future differences. (Image: The Battle of New Orleans January 8th 1815 / drawn by Oliver Pelton ; engraved by Hammat Billings,1882. Accessed from the Library of Congress.)

Something very strange happens when people face an imminent threat to life and livelihood.  The strange thing is unity such as would never have been possible otherwise.  History provides countless examples, such as the defense of New Orleans in January 1815.  When a veteran British force attacked the city, an odd assortment of people turned out to defend their home.  They included Regular soldiers of the American army under Major General Andrew Jackson, as well as Creole gentlemen and their American merchant rivals, common laborers, farmers, militia men from far away states, black slaves and free men, and even pirates and smugglers affiliated with the infamous Jean Lafitte.  Once the threat was past, these disparate segments of society returned to their separate lives and the circumstances that divided them, but for one glorious moment they experienced the joy of being a people united in a common cause.

We might consider as well the example of our Jewish brethren in World War II.  Immediately before the war, an Arab revolt in British Palestine compelled His Majesty’s government to issue a White Paper in 1939 which closed the door on Jewish immigration to the Holy Land.  This was a political and military necessity for the British; another Arab revolt would threaten their hold on Egypt, their link to India and the Pacific, and the lifeline of the Empire.  When faced with war against Hitler’s Germany, Great Britain could not afford to lose that lifeline, and thus European Jews in peril of their lives in the Shoa (Holocaust) lost their last and best chance at escape from the death camps.

One might suppose the Jewish response to the White Paper – particularly among those living in the Land – would be violent rejection and revolt.  Some did respond that way, but the most memorable response was by David Ben Gurion, at that time among the most prominent leaders of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish settlers in the Land.  He expressed his position this way:

We will fight the war as if there were no White Paper, and we will fight the White Paper as if there were no war.

Ben Gurion’s pragmatism was instrumental in establishment of the Jewish Brigade, the only regular military unit of any Allied army in World War II comprised entirely of Jews.  The Jewish Brigade served with distinction in the British forces in Egypt, Italy, and Northwest Europe, and it also served as a training ground for Jewish warriors who carried the fight for Israel’s independence after the British Mandate over Palestine ended in 1948.

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Today I Am A Hebrew: An Address to the B’ney Yosef North America Summit

B'ney Yosef North America Articles of Declaration presented by Elder Barry Phillips (r) and Executive Director Albert McCarn (l) upon affirmation on March 5, 2016.
B’ney Yosef North America Articles of Declaration presented by Elder Barry Phillips (r) and Executive Director Albert McCarn (l) upon affirmation on March 5, 2016.

Those who have attended a birth understand the chaos involved.  It is no easy process, and not accomplished without pain.  As in everything else, the Scripture gives us a helpful perspective:

Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.  (John 16:21 NASB)

A child was born into the world on the shore of Tampa Bay on March 6, 2016.  After 2,730 years of non-existence, a portion of the long-lost tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel have declared themselves to be a people again.  This is the North American assembly of the House of Joseph, known prophetically in Scripture by the name of Ephraim, the tribe that led them into rebellion against the House of David (I Kings 12).

Does that sound radical?  Fanciful?  Foolish?  Perhaps, but then so also were the declarations of provincial English colonists to be a nation distinct from the mighty empire that ruled them; or of a collection of European Jews to call the Jewish nation back into existence at the First Zionist Congress; and of another generation of ordinary Jewish people to establish Israel as an independent state in the face of certain annihilation.

If the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not in these things, why do we look to them now for inspiration and example?  And if God is not in this process of restoring the people He long ago said would one day be a people again, then why did the assembly in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 6, 2016, occur in the midst of such a weighty presence of the Lord?

In days to come much will be shared about the birth of B’ney Yosef North America.  Already it is in the international press, thanks to Breaking Israel News.  What I can share is that the signing of the Articles of Declaration which tell the world who we are was a holy undertaking.  One who was there signing these articles shared with me that there are no words to describe holy things; putting words to them brings them down to the realm of the common.  She is right; there are no words to do this justice.

The words I can share are those which opened the B’ney Yosef North America Summit on March 4.  It was my honor to deliver the keynote address to the 200 people assembled there from Canada and the United States, with observers from Israel and the Netherlands.  This address explains the purposes of the gathering.  We accomplished those purposes.  What more we accomplished is yet to be seen.


 

Today I Am A Hebrew
Albert Jackson McCarn
presented at the B’ney Yosef North America Summit
St. Petersburg, Florida
March 4, 2016

 If you have not realized it by now, let me explain why we are assembled in St. Petersburg, Florida today.  We are here to welcome the birth of a new nation.  It is no coincidence that our gathering is happening at the time that another nation is marking nearly two centuries since its birth.  I speak of the place I now call home, the place our brother Hanoch Young calls the Nation of Texas.

The Fall of the Alamo, or Crockett's Last Stand, by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk. Although flawed, this iconoclastic rendition of the Battle of the Alamo depicts the heroic image of the Alamo's defenders as it has come down through history.
The Fall of the Alamo, or Crockett’s Last Stand, by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk. Although flawed, this iconoclastic rendition of the Battle of the Alamo depicts the heroic image of the Alamo’s defenders as it has come down through history.

Two days ago, on March 2, Texans observed the 180th anniversary of the birth of the Republic of Texas.  On March 2, 1836, the Texas Declaration of Independence was adopted in convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos.  News of that declaration did not have time to reach the 200 men besieged in an old Spanish Catholic mission in San Antonio de Béxar before the great battle that claimed their lives.  Today, 180 years ago, March 4, 1836, those men knew only that they faced the stark choice between surrender or death at the hands of an enemy that outnumbered them 12 to 1.  Two days hence, as we conclude our gathering on March 6, Texans will honor the memory of those 200 who laid down their lives at the Alamo fighting for a cause they did not fully understand and a nation they did not really know, but which their selfless sacrifice helped to bring into existence.

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