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 a children’s story about a Little Red Hen who worked diligently to feed her chicks and keep her house in order. One day she found some grain, which she decided to plant. She asked the other barnyard animals to help, but each of them refused for one reason or another. The same thing happened each time she asked for help in tending the plants, harvesting the wheat, taking it to the mill to grind into flour, and bake the flour into bread.
At the end of this lengthy process, as the Little Red Hen pulled the fresh bread hot from the oven, all of the animals came running to help her eat it. But before any of them could come near, she said, “Not one of you helped me plant the grain, nor tend it, nor harvest it; none of you helped me take it to the mill, and you did not help me bake it into bread. Why should I share the bread with you now? It is for my chicks and I, and we will eat it ourselves.” Whereupon she shut the door, leaving her neighbors to watch longingly as her family enjoyed the fruit of her labors.
This story contains a moral for Hebrews who are debating whether the commandment to go up to Jerusalem for the Feasts of YHVH applies to them. Quite simply, if we are to enjoy the benefits of a restored Temple of the Living God, and of the nation that will be restored around it, then we had best be doing all we can to help in the process now.
Stop and ponder this for a moment. Step back from the paradigm which says that the structure on top of Mount Moriah in Jerusalem is a “Jewish Temple”. It is indeed very Jewish in the sense that only Jews have bothered to rebuild, care for, worship in, pray toward, and long for the restoration of the Temple since the days of the Babylonian Conquest. For 2,500 years, all that has existed of Israel has been the Jewish people, descendants of the Kingdom of Judah. It is understandable and logical that the world and the Jewish people themselves believe that the Temple and everything associated with it and with the nation of Israel is now, has always been, and ever will be Jewish.
Yet that is not what Scripture says. And that gets to the central question in this Jerusalem Debate: Can the Temple be rebuilt by Judah alone, or is it a project that requires some measure of restoration of Israel’s Lost Tribes – the House of Joseph/Ephraim?
The Jerusalem Debate – Objection Number 9: Yeshua took away any commands concerning Jerusalem in John, Chapter 4. | The Lamb’s Servant
Response by Bob ParhamSo which scripture(s) in John, Chapter 4 are being referred to?
John 4:19-26 – (19) “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. (20) Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” (21) “Woman,” Yeshua replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. (22) You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. (23) Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (24) God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (25) The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” (26) Then Yeshua declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Now, did you see where this passage is talking about doing away with the three Pilgrimage Feasts? Me neither! So let’s look at this passage a little more closely.
Yeshua says in verse 21 that “a time is coming when YOU will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”
First, it’s important to understand who the “you” is in this passage. Is it everyone? believers? Jews? or the Samaritans?
Response by Bob Parham
Another objection is given that “The People/Government of Israel aren’t/isn’t of God. They belong to Satan, so we shouldn’t want to go there.”
I’ve heard it said that “The government is evil, run by Satan himself. The people aren’t really ‘Jews’: they are just ‘Zionists’, trying to take the land for personal benefit.”
I agree that the government of Israel today isn’t a government that rules itself completely by Torah. It has many problems and has made many mistakes, I’m sure. There are even perverted, corrupt, evil, anti-God people living in the country. So, is this a reason to not go to Jerusalem for the Pilgrimage Feasts as required by Torah? NO!
What was the government like when Yeshua and Paul were there? Did the Sanhedrin or a Jewish governing body run Israel? No, the extremely pagan and corrupt Romans ran it.
Josephus, a First Century historian, described how the Romans would take Yeshua’s followers and sew them up in animal skins in an arena and then set wild dogs or lions on them to rip them apart alive. They were certainly evil people.
That fact didn’t keep Yeshua or His disciples out. They still went to Jerusalem as prescribed.