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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A Letter to the Jewish People (on teshuvah) by Ken Rank

 

Saint Paul James Tissot
Saint Paul
James Tissot

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.


A Letter to the Jewish People (on teshuvah)

Ken Rank  
October 7, 2016 
Originally published on United 2 Restore

United2Restore 01Over 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.

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Kingdom Power in Context: A Review of The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit by Dr. David E. Jones

BFB160717 Jones - Restoration and Gifts of the SpiritA pendulum swing is taking place in the Hebrew Roots movement in America.  Many followers of Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) who have sought to embrace the Torah walk He modelled have moved beyond traditional Christianity.  In practical terms, that means they have left the organized church in its various denominations and moved into something that looks sort of Jewish (as in keeping Sabbath and observing the biblical Feasts), but retains faith in Yeshua as Messiah.  Now that this process has been going on for almost a generation, many are beginning to wonder if we might have left some very important things behind in the church.  Things like fellowship, unity, brotherly love, and the Holy Spirit.  This does not necessarily mean that Messianic and Hebrew Roots believers are ready to return to the church, but rather that we are beginning to realize the same thing about Christians as we have come to understand about Jews:  the things we hold in common are far more numerous and more important than the things which divide us.  Consequently, Hebraic believers are now reexamining once again what they believe, taking steps to mend broken bridges and restore precious things which we may have jettisoned too quickly in our zeal to put distance between ourselves and the traditions of man.

Hebraic believers with backgrounds in the Pentecostal or Charismatic branches of contemporary Christianity understand this question in regard to the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaQodesh).  At first glance, the Torah observant lifestyle does not seem compatible with what is generally believed to be the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit.  Yet a deeper study of the Person and purpose of the Spirit reveals something astounding:  living by Torah is impossible without Him.

This is the thrust of The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit, a new book by Dr. David E. Jones, Senior Pastor of Ruach Ministries International in Brandon, Florida.  The book grew out of conversations he held with Brad Scott of Wildbranch Ministry.  As Scott writes in his Foreword:

We believe that these gifts were ignored, tossed away, changed or otherwise corrupted just as the feasts and the sabbaths were. . . All of the gifts of the Spirit are from the beginning and all of them are a testimony and revelation of the end.

What follows is a thorough examination of the Holy Spirit from a Hebraic viewpoint.  Starting with Genesis 1 and moving forward through the Scriptures, Jones establishes two very important points.  The first is that the Holy Spirit is YHVH God, nothing less.  This may seem contrary to the common Jewish understanding of echad, or one, which for centuries has held that God is an indivisible entity – One and only One.  That is not necessarily the sense of the Shema, the watchword of Judaism and Hebraic faith, which states, “Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”  (Deuteronomy 6:4 NKJV)  Jones explains that echad in that verse and elsewhere in the Bible means, “’one’ as something that is unified as one, not necessarily only.”  In other words, “the One True God is in perfect unity as one.”  Therefore, He can express Himself in multiple ways and still be the same YHVH.
The second point is that the Holy Spirit has been active in the world and in human beings from the very beginning.  This is contrary to a common Christian understanding that the “outpouring” of the Holy Spirit did not happen until the events recorded in Acts 2 at the Feast of Pentecost following Yeshua’s ascension.  Jones cites several examples of people in the Tanakh (Old Testament) filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to do the works of YHVH.  This brings us to the ministry of the Holy Spirit:

We see a common theme throughout all of Scripture in testifying concerning a “spirit-filled” man of YHVH.  This testimony is three fold, it consists of:  wisdom, knowledge and understanding.  Looking at many of the great people of faith, we can see these three things being shown in their lives.

In his examination of Scripture, Jones illustrates these three elements of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding evident in every move of the Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments.  He makes his most powerful argument in presenting the parallels between the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.  What he reveals is the continuity of the Holy Spirit’s work in the people of YHVH, both before and after the coming of Messiah Yeshua.

This is perhaps the most powerful and greatest contribution of Jones’ work.  It is an understanding that neither traditional Christianity nor traditional Judaism could uncover in that both of them start with the perception that they are separate entities rather than two expressions of the same covenant-keeping YHVH.  It takes a Hebraic believer, with an appreciation of both the Christian and Jewish perspectives and an understanding of the Old and New Testaments, to grasp this essential truth.  Yet he does not stop there.  In the latter chapters, he investigates those controversial questions always present in discussions of the gifts of the Spirit.  How are we to account for and deal with such things as the gifts of prophecy and tongues?  What role do they and other gifts play in the life of a Hebraic follower of Yeshua?  What have we missed by avoiding them?  What do we gain by embracing them in the context YHVH intended all along?  Jones does well in addressing these questions.  The answers he provides may not be complete, but they are an essential component to this ongoing discussion of how the power of the Holy Spirit is to be evident in the lives of YHVH’s people.

The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit is a much-needed work on a component still lacking in Messianic/Hebrew Roots understanding of the Scripture.  It is also a powerful addition and enhancement of the Christian and Jewish treatments of the subject.  David Jones has done a great service to the believers of all traditions by his balanced and scholarly investigation of the Spirit of the Living God.

The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit is available through Ruach International Ministries, and on Amazon.com.


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014-2016.  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.