Those who have leprosy might as well be dead. Never mind that the disease we call leprosy today may or may not be one of the skin diseases meant by the Hebrew word tzara’at (צָרַעַת). The fact is, whoever had it was cut off from the community:
Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46 NKJV)
Think about that for a moment. Lepers could not go home. They could not have any kind of normal relationship with their family members, friends, business associates, or anyone else with whom they interacted before the cursed condition fell upon them. It did not matter what station of life the leper occupied; whether peasant or king, the disease cut them off from the life of the nation. Even mighty King Uzziah of Judah learned that. Although he reigned for 52 years in Jerusalem, the leprosy he contracted in the midst of his reign meant that he was king in name only:
King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land. (II Chronicles 26:21 NKJV)
How can a person shepherd the people of God when he is cut off from the House of God? Is there any hope for him, or for the people he is anointed to lead?
Yes, there is hope. That is why the Torah portion Metzora (The Leper; Leviticus 14:1-15:33) provides elaborate detail on the procedures for cleansing lepers. Once healed, the priests help them through this process to restore them to their place in society. In a certain sense, this is a resurrection from a type of death, and thus it is a symbol of what Messiah will do.
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.
Thinking is hard. If it were not hard, then more people would do it.
In truth, all of us prefer to remain in our comfort zones, where familiar things surround us – including familiar answers to questions and familiar solutions to familiar problems. Most likely this preference for the familiar, the things we know and can deal with well enough, is a big reason few people take an active role in making the way for Messiah to come.
That last statement is bound to generate opposition. Those who view it from the Christian side (including Messianic and Hebrew Roots believers) will say that Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) is the Messiah (Christ means Messiah, by the way), that he has come once, and that he will be coming back. Those who approach from the Jewish side say that Messiah is yet to come. The point of this article is not to address either perspective, but to consider something both have in common: the faithful expectation that Messiah Son of David is coming as King of Israel to rule the nations from Zion.
If we all have this common expectation, then it would be wise to consider what that future Messianic realm will look like. Maybe we should even consider what we have to do to make it happen.
This is where we run into the hard part. We have to think about it, and that is scary and uncomfortable. Those of us who have come from the Christian side have lived our lives expecting Messiah to return and fix everything. According to our expectations, there is no effort required on our part to bring him here; he just shows up one day according to some predetermined timetable God established from the beginning. To think, like our Jewish brethren, that we have responsibility for creating the conditions for Messiah’s coming (or return) requires a major paradigm shift. It means we must step out in faith and do things that we usually leave up to God alone.
But then, that is the consistent testimony of Scripture –
- Noah had to do things to secure the salvation of his family (such as think about how to follow the instructions God gave him to build that very large boat, and then actually do the work).
- Abraham had to do things to receive the promises God gave him (such as pack up and leave comfortable, civilized Mesopotamia, and go to a hostile foreign land – first in Syria, and then in Canaan).
- Moses had to do things to receive God’s instructions for the nation of Israel (such as walk to Egypt, then convince the elders of the people that God had spoken to him, and then seek an audience with Pharaoh – and that was only the beginning of the work he had to do!)
There are many more examples summarized in Hebrews 11. The people in that “Hall of Faith” chapter deserve praise not because they sat around waiting for God to move, but because they got up and did the moving themselves in response to God’s promises. As they moved, He provided direction, resources, help from others, and miraculous intervention when necessary. Yet would YHVH have done so if they had not invested their own blood, sweat, treasure, and intellectual effort?
Probably not. In fact, when God’s people sat around waiting for Him to move, He had to take extreme action just to get them off their backsides and into motion! We see that in the record of the apostles. Even though Yeshua had told them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, they were content to remain in Jerusalem until God raised up a man named Saul of Tarsus who forced them out (see Acts 8).
Which brings us to the dilemma of the present day. Are we really at the “end of the age”, when Messiah is about to show up? If so, what does that mean? More importantly, what are we to do about it? How do we prepare for Messiah’s reign in what will be a very real Kingdom centered in a very real place called Jerusalem? What will this Kingdom look like? How will it resemble what we know today in the modern nation-state system? How will it be different?
How big is the Torah Awakening? It’s big enough to motivate the CEO of the world’s largest Christian website to write a book about it.
The book is The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians, and the End of the Age, by Joseph Farah, Chairman, and CEO of World Net Daily. The description of Farah’s work says:
The Restitution of All Things is a primer on the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith that will forever give you a new appreciation of the work Jesus did on the cross, and will answer these provocative questions:
– What does the Bible clearly teach about the ultimate solution to the Middle East conflict?
– Is the story of the New Testament really grace vs law? Or has grace always been around and is the law forever?
– What is the ultimate destination of redeemed mankind – heaven or earth?
– Why is there so much focus in the prophecy world on events leading up to the return of Jesus and so little about what follows?
– What is the central conflict Jesus has in the gospels and what was the great error of the Pharisees?
– Is it possible today’s believers in Jesus could be making the same error as the Pharisees of His time?
– Have Christians replaced Israel as the people of promise?
In promoting the book, WND recently published the report of an interview Paul Maguire conducted with Farah on GodTV two years ago in which he outlines many of the ideas presented in the new work. Enjoy reading the article, which is reposted below, and then consider not only looking at Farah’s book, but at the questions he asks.
Published in World Net Daily, January 29, 2017
When the Jewish people finally received their Messiah, the vast majority did not recognize Him.
When He returns, will Christians make the same mistake?
That’s the fear WND founder Joseph Farah expressed in an interview with Paul McGuire on “Apocalypse and the End Times” on GodTV. It was part of a wide-ranging conversation about how the last days will be far different than what many believers expect.
“Who is Jesus and how is he going to come back?” Farah asked. “You know, a lot of people missed Jesus the first time He came. Most of the Jews did not recognize Him as their Messiah. They had a misunderstanding of how the Messiah was going to come. And they were going a lot by man’s teaching rather than going back to the Scriptures. And I wonder, when Jesus does come back, if many people in the church are going to miss Him too.”
The Dilemma of the Ger: Commentary on “Has an Ancient Biblical Status for Non-Jews Reemerged After 2500 Years?”
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.
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.
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.
There 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.”
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; (I Peter 2:9 KJV)
The meaning of “peculiar” has changed somewhat since the publication of the King James Bible four hundred years ago. In 1611 it meant special, set apart, treasured – in other words, holy. Today it means odd, strange, or out-of-place, which is why the New King James uses the word “special” instead of peculiar.
The point of this language, both in I Peter and in the Torah passages Peter references (Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 26:18-19), is that YHVH has designated the people of Israel as His own possession. As such, Israelites will think, eat, speak, dress, and act differently than the rest of the world. The fact that Peter draws on the Torah for his exhortation to First Century followers of Yeshua testifies to his belief in direct connection between them and Israel. Paul agrees, which is why he says that we who take advantage of the grace offered through Yeshua’s redemptive work are adopted or grafted into the covenant people of Israel and become part of Abraham’s seed (Ephesians 2:8-13; Romans 11:16-27; Galatians 3:29).
As sincere Christians in traditional churches, we already had some measure of distinction from the world as we tried to speak kindly, treat one another nicely, refrain from vices, go to church regularly, and study the Bible. All of that established us as different from “unchurched” people. Observant Jews are also distinctive from the rest of the world in that they dress and eat differently, observe the Sabbath and the Feasts of the Lord, and make a concerted effort to take care of one another. So what happens when sincere Christians start looking like observant Jews?
That is a lesson we learned yesterday in our walk around Jerusalem. As Hebrews, we wear tzittzit in observance of the commandment in Numbers 15:37-41. Many of us have also adopted the Jewish custom of keeping our heads covered, either with a kippa or with a hat of some kind. This is normal in Jerusalem, where many varieties of tzittziyot and head coverings – as well as other dress – come together in an eclectic Jewish blend. What made us peculiar even here, however, was what we did.
In our wanderings, we made our way to the foot of the Mount of Olives to read and discuss some scripture passages at the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane. That in itself is peculiar: why would these “Jewish” people want to go to a site associated with the Christian Jesus? The garden is in the courtyard of the Church of All Nations, a Catholic church and a regular stop for Christian tour groups. As we gathered on the edge of the garden and discussed the various events associated with the Mount of Olives, we received many puzzled looks from the groups who filed by us. The quizzical looks continued when we left the garden as Arab vendors and Jewish pedestrians wondered the same thing: why are these “Jews” going to a church?
The answer, of course, is not that we are trying to be Jewish, but that we are finding our own way in this appreciation of the whole Word of God.
It is a peculiar journey.
(For the curious, the passages of interest included II Samuel 15 and Zechariah 14, which we discussed in the context of King David’s story prefiguring the life, ministry and second coming of Messiah Yeshua, the Son of David).
© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2016. Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
One would suppose that the Apostle Paul died without regrets, knowing that he had done all he could to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of YHVH and bring multitudes into it. Then again, Paul was a fallible human being, just like the rest of us. That is why he wrote things like this:
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (I Timothy 1:15 NKJV)
Perhaps Paul’s chief regret was knowing that his actions had kept people out of the Kingdom. Not intentionally, mind you; Paul was zealous for God, just as he testified of his Jewish brethren (Romans 10:1-4). Yet his zeal in persecuting those who believed Yeshua of Nazareth to be Messiah most likely hardened the resistance of many to the message of redemption through that same Yeshua. Afterward, having embraced that message and taken it to the Gentiles, he did his best to help people understand the full truth: that salvation by grace through faith actually makes it possible to live by God’s established standard of righteousness given in Torah.
Tragically, the division that began in Paul’s day is still with us. Judaism and Christianity have taken on completely different identities. There are voices on both sides who realize that the two are not separate religions, or at least YHVH did not intend it to be so. Those voices are now calling for understanding and dialogue. It shouldn’t be that hard since Christians, Jews, and Messianic/Hebrew Roots believers all claim allegiance to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; all revere the same Scriptures; all hope for the same promises. Why, then, can’t we all get along?
Ken Rank provides one very important answer to that question. The beginning of the journey toward mutual respect and acceptance begins with humility and repentance (in Hebrew, teshuvah). All of us have more to repent for than we think, and certainly more than we care to admit. But what if our lack of willingness even to consider this question of repentance causes someone to miss coming into the Kingdom? Meditate on that as you read Ken’s letter to our Jewish brethren.
October 7, 2016
Originally published on United 2 Restore
Over the last decade or so, my family has been keeping the Sabbath and biblical Holy Days. We’re not Jewish, but we feel drawn to these days for our own reasons. In the process of observance and celebration, we consider ourselves blessed in many ways. As we annually cycle through the Appointed Times, we build upon those things we learned during the previous years. And, as each cycle comes around, I find my focus narrowing on reconciliation and restoration between and for all of the B’ney Yisrael.