Father’s Torah and Man’s Heart, by Angus and Batya Wootten

[Editor’s note: It is probably a human tendency to assume that others will understand things the same way we do if we just acquaint them with the same information. What we do not take into account is that people have diverse personalities, circumstances, learning styles, and ways of perceiving the world. That translates into diverse understandings of the same information. Which leads to another human tendency: to resist this diversity and compel others to accept our own understanding as the correct view.
Perhaps the saddest corollary to these tendencies is that spiritually minded people are not immune to them. In fact, some of the worst excesses in human history have come because of religious differences. The Torah Awakening is no exception. This is something Angus and Batya Wootten addressed in an article published in the House of David Herald in 1999.
Since Angus left us for his eternal reward earlier this year, BYNA has been republishing his articles in tribute to his memory and in honor of his contributions to the awakening of the House of Joseph in our generation. The article posted here is the first of many we will post that Angust co-authored with Batya. While both of them wrote well and persuasively, in their collaboration we see the melding of male and female perspective to present their complete heart as a couple. Angus’ legacy would not be complete without Batya, and her legacy is incomplete without him. As we approach Sukkot, the time our Heavenly Father has set apart for Messiah and His Bride to become one, we examine what Angus and Batya share as foundational to our forward progress. Their counsel? Rather than preach and argue, celebrate!]

Father’s Torah and Man’s Heart

By Angus and Batya Wootten – May 1999

As redeemed Israel, how does the Father want us to walk? In particular, how does He want us to handle the issue of “law versus grace”?

We must answer these questions because, as we labor to restore both “Judah and Ephraim” as brothers, we continually encounter two primary problems, both of which have to do with the “partial hardening” of “both the houses of Israel” (Romans 11:25; Isaiah 8:14; Genesis 48:19).

These problems are:

    1. Judah’s blindness to Messiah Yeshua as our “Divine Redeemer” (Psalm 49:7-9,15).[1]
    2. Ephraim’s blindness to the “wisdom of Torah” (Hosea 8: 12; Deuteronomy 4:6).[2]

Because Israel’s restoration primarily begins with Ephraim’s actions (Isaiah 11:13; Jeremiah 31:18-19; Romans 11), we focus on his problem with “Torah.” For, with this Issue, we wish to begin a series of “Torah Studies.” However, we want them to be of a different spirit than most Torah studies we have seen thus far.

So, in our attempt to rebuild “David’s fallen house,” we will first establish the “types of materials” we will use, and we will define a certain “framework.”

To begin, we see that in the parable of the prodigal, Yeshua tells of a father who has a younger “prodigal” son, who in turn has an older brother who is not happy about the wanderer’s return home (Luke 15:11-32).

This story well depicts Ephraim’s and Judah’s present state. For, in our day many of Believing Ephraim (Genesis 48:19) are coming to a place of repentance (Jeremiah 31:18-19), and they want to return “home” to their “roots.” However, in many cases, the older son, “Judah,” is not happy with Ephraim’s emersion from the pig sty.

Again, we seek to reunite the Father’s “two brothers.” And in our article “From Orphans to Heirs,” we explained that the “how do we reunite them” answer is for Ephraim to “celebrate.”[3]

To provoke the older brother [Judah] to jealousy, Ephraim must “make merry and be glad;” he must “celebrate and rejoice.” For our Heavenly Father wants Judah to “join the party.” He even wants those of Ephraim to make Judah “want” to join the celebration.

Yes, that is the job long ago assigned to Ephraim: Make Judah want what you have! To have Ephraim (they being the formerly “wild olive branches”) provoke Judah to “jealousy” was, and still is, the Father’s plan of salvation for “all Israel” (Jeremiah 11:10, 16; 2:18, 21; Romans 11).

The problem is, to accomplish this divine assignment, Ephraim, who has for so long seen himself as an orphan, needs to see that he too is an heir. For, then, he will cease to be “jealous” of Judah (Isaiah 11:13; Jeremiah 31:18-19). Then, he will see Judah as a “member of the family.” Then, the whole house of Israel will find total healing and restoration. And thus, Ephraim needs to see that the parable of the prodigal offers a solution to the reunion problem.

To Make Jealous – Make Merry!

“Meal during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot),” anonymous, after Bernard Picart, ca. 1720-1725, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

In this parable, the older brother was provoked because – his younger brother was “celebrating and rejoicing,” or “making merry.” This is translated from euphraino, euphraino (yoo-frah ‘ee-no), which means, to be in a good frame of mind, to make glad, to be or to make merry, to rejoice.[4]

Thus we see that legalism and religion will not provoke Judah. Celebration will (which explains why so many non-Jews feel an unexplainable urge to “celebrate the Feasts of Israel”).[5]

So, as we seek to rebuild David’s fallen tent (Amos 9:11; Acts 15:16), we will not use any form of legalism. It will have no place in this project.

Under the Law?

As we build, we will categorically refuse to have anything to do with putting people “under the Law” (Romans 2: 12).

But . . . on the other hand, we do not want to subject anyone to a bad translation of Scripture.

And, we question whether most people understand what Paul actually meant when he spoke of people being “under the law.” Paul said, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law” (1 Corinthians 9:20).

Was Paul saying he was a two-faced chameleon who felt the end justified the means? Or, is Paul’s statement better translated in David Stern’s Jewish New Testament?

With Jews, what I did was put myself in the position of a Jew, in order to win Jews. With people in subjection to a legalistic perversion of the Torah, I put myself in the position of someone under such legalism, in order to win those under this legalism, even though I myself am not in subjection to a legalistic perversion of the Torah.

Paul is explaining that, when he encountered a Jew who was in bondage to legalism, he empathized with him. He identified with him. He tried to speak his language. But . . . Paul himself was not in such bondage.

Instead, Paul explains what he does identify with:

He says, “With those who live outside the framework of Torah, I put myself in the position of someone outside the Torah in order to win those outside the Torah – although I myself am not outside the framework of God’s Torah but within framework of Torah as upheld by the Messiah.” (1 Corinthians 9:21 JNT)

Messiah’s Torah Framework

The “framework” upon which Messiah hung the Torah is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Love” is the framework upon which all Torah instruction must hang. For if we “know all mysteries and all knowledge,” but “do not have love,” we are “nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).

All Torah teaching must first be based on a true love of God and neighbor (Leviticus 19:18).

But even that is not enough. . . .

Teachers of Torah must always point to and lift up Messiah Yeshua. For, all things are being “summed up” in Him. He “fills all,” is “in all,” and must always be our focus (Ephesians 1:10-11, 23; John 12:32).

Moreover, “if we are led by the Spirit, we will not be under the [perverted system that distorts the truth of the) Law.” (Galatians 5:18) Further, we will not subject ourselves, nor allow others to subject us to, the perversion of legalism. We will not submit to it for a minute (Galatians 2:5).

But on the other hand . . . It is not wise to throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water – which is what Ephraim has done in the past.

The perfectly good “baby” we have thrown out is called “Wisdom.” For our Father says of His Torah Instructions: “Keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding.” (Deuteronomy 4:6)

Wisdom is translated from the Hebrew word chokmah (khok-maw). It speaks of good sense, of being skillful, of acting wisely.[6]

Surely we do not want to throw out good sense. And so in our restoration process we will honor good sense by looking to the Torah for answers (2 Timothy 3:16). However . . . we also must have the good sense to know that we cannot boast about being a “Torah keeper.” For, it is impossible for anyone to truly “keep” Torah because its sacrificial system has been abolished. We cannot keep all of Torah. Because, to “keep” Torah, we must keep all of Torah (Romans 2:25; Galatians 5:3; Jeremiah 9:25).

So, boasting about observing Torah principles is not something we can use in this rebuilding program.

Besides, we should have the “good sense” to realize that if our Father laid down certain laws, and then it became literally impossible for us to keep those laws (i.e., Deuteronomy 16:2; Exodus 30:19-20), then we can only conclude one of two things: Either He is impotent and asleep at the switch, or, He is trying to send us a message.

The answer is the latter, and the message is, by the power of His Ruach HaKodesh He will write His New Covenant Torah on the tablets of our formerly stony hearts. Thus, the work is done by the Holy Spirit – not by boasting about our keeping Torah (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Hebrews 8:10, 10:16).

Excesses

Returning to our question, “How does the Father want Israel to walk?” it appears the supposed “answers” are primarily divided into two camps:

    1. “Law” that leads to “legalism”
    2. “Grace” that leads to “licentiousness”

Legalism versus licentiousness. Self-righteousness versus self-indulgence. Both are excesses. Both lead to a pit. So, what is the answer?

To begin, we try to define “Law and Grace.” And, grace is simply, unmerited favor. However, the Hebrew word Torah – usually translated law – means a precept or statute, especially the Decalogue or Pentateuch, and it comes from yarah, a root word meaning, to flow as water (i.e. to rain); to throw, especially an arrow (see 2 Chronicles 26: 15), to shoot; to point out, to teach, to direct, inform, instruct, show, teach.[7]

However, the English word law primarily means, “a rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority . . . rules and principles governing the affairs of a community . . . a legal system . . . justice . . . legislation; legal action, proceedings, litigation . . . absolute authority. . . .” (The American Heritage Dictionary).

What we miss through our use of the word law is the Hebrew root of Torah, meaning the emphasis of, to flow as water, to be like an arrow, to point out, to direct, to inform, instruct, to show, to teach.

Yahveh says of His Instructions: “Keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” And, “You shall therefore keep every commandment which I am commanding you today, so that you may be strong and go in and possess the land.” (Deuteronomy 4:6; 11:8)

If with a right heart attitude, we seek to walk in these commands, then, we will be made strong – courageous, able to conquer, of good courage, mighty, able to prevail, to behave valiantly.[8]

However, if we are legalistic and self-righteous about our being so “mature” that we are now “keeping” Torah, we will be used by the evil one to blind others to the strength and wisdom that flows forth from Torah. We will cause our Father’s people to miss the benefit of truths that teach His finer ways – truths that help them flow in the right direction, and to overcome life’s adversities.

Thus, in our studies we will seek to destroy every destructive implement of the evil one that we can find. And, we will seek to build up by using every wise Torah tool available to us.\

Laying Down the Law of Grace

Concerning “Grace only” teachings, we find that, if we lay down a “law” that “gives the answer,” then we have created yet another “law.” This is so even if we say there is “no law, but only grace.” For then, “grace only” becomes our “law.”

While we are saved only by “grace” (Ephesians 2:8), still, the fact remains that our Messiah has eternal laws (John 12:48-50). Moreover, it also is a fact that He shows mercy to lawbreakers.

Law and Grace. Both are true. Both are depicted in their true harmony in the life of Messiah Yeshua. For, He kept all the Father’s law, and yet was and still is, the personification of Grace.

Does grace have to necessarily do away with Torah? Can we not use the truths of both law and grace to rebuild David’s fallen booth?

Yes, we can and we will. However, to settle this ancient dispute, we must realize that, it is not really an argument about law “versus” grace. Instead, it is an issue of the “attitudes” of the proponents of either side. For, transgression first proceeds from the heart: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false Witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15:19)

Thus Hebrews 4:12 explains, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Our Father’s Word is an ever-acting critic of the thought-life, motivations, and purposes of our human hearts. It reveals the hidden things. Thus, “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4: 13)

This is true even if we are ignorant of the Father’s teachings. For, “The requirements of the law are written in our hearts, our consciences also bearing witness, and our thoughts now accusing, now even defending us.” (Romans 2: 15)

The Ruach HaKodesh is always at work in us, either bearing witness in our hearts that what we are thinking or doing is correct, or attempting to convict us of our error.

Thus, the argument is not one of “law versus grace.” Instead, heart attitude is the issue. And, the “heart” of the New Covenant promised to Israel is that, Yahveh will put His “laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.”

Our Father promised to “make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not like the covenant . . . made with their fathers . . . which they broke.” Instead, He says, He will make a new covenant only with “the house of Israel.” Of it, He says, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33)

Our Father found “fault” with both houses: Israel (Ephraim) and Judah (Hebrews 8:8-10). And, when they fully enter into His new covenant, they are “Israel.” He no longer accepts their divided state. Instead, He makes a new covenant only with a reunited “Israel.” (Ephesians 2: 14)

Further, this covenant will not be totally fulfilled until the millennial age – for, at that time, “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:11)

Until that time, the Father is still attempting to write His Torah truths on the hard hearts of His scattered Israelite children.

Accepting the Yoke of the Holy One

In the past, Ephraim had a bad attitude toward Torah, and, the Father said of him, “Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law, they are regarded as a strange thing.” (Hosea 8:12) And, “Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh, but I will come over her fair neck with a yoke; I will harness Ephraim.” (Hosea 10:1 1)

So, He sent Messiah, and He told us to, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

Once the veil is lifted from Ephraim‘s heretofore blinded eyes, once he is properly “instructed” (Jeremiah 31:18), then in Messiah Yeshua, Ephraim will accept the “yoke” of a Torah that is based on love. For, Messiah’s Torah yoke is a gentle yoke that brings rest to the weary soul.

Thus, in our rebuilding program we will not use tools of pagan trade, nor build with “traditions of men,” be they from Rome or Babylon. Instead, we will seek to destroy all deviant teachings – Christian and/or Jewish (Isaiah 27:9).

With our Torah study we issue a call to all Israel to, “Come up higher.” For, if we will respond to this call and begin to build in true righteousness, we will soon see David’s glorious, fully restored tent!

So . . . Let the building program begin!


[1] See Batya Ruth Wootten, “Forsaking Our First Love,” “Is the ‘Greek’ New Covenant Inspired? Is Yeshua Divine,” and “The I Am, His Son, and The ‘Trinity,’” House of David Herald 8-10 (October 1996), 8-6 (June 1996), and 8-7 (July 1996).
[2] See Batya Ruth Wootten, “Good Laws – Bad Attitudes,” “Torah and The Two Witnesses,” and, Yahveh’s Calendar versus Compromise With Babylon and Rome,” House of David Herald 6-10 (October 1994), 6-11 (November 1994), and 6-8 (August 1994).
[3] Batya Ruth Wootten, “From Orphans to Heirs,” House of David Herald 9-12 (December 1997).
[4] Strong’s word #G2165.
[5] For celebration suggestions see Batya Ruth Wootten, “Celebrating Passover As Never Before!” “Shavuot and Two Leavened Loaves,” “Yahveh‘s Calendar versus Compromise with Babylon and Rome,” “Restoring The Fallen Booth of David: A Tabernacles Celebration,” House of David Herald 9-3 (March 1997), 9-5 (May 1997), 6-10 (October 1994), 5-9 (September 1993); and Angus and Batya Wootten, “The Way of the Gentiles,” House of David Herald 5-12 (December 1993).
[6] Strong’s Concordance word #H2451.
[7] Strong’s Concordance words # 8451 and 3384 respectively.
[8] 7 Strong’s Concordance word # H2388.

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.

Please click here to continue reading

News About the Second B’ney Yosef National Congress

The First B’ney Yosef National Congress convened nearly a year and a half ago, at the end of May 2015.  That means it is about time that we should hear news of the Second Congress.  Since the beginning of this year we have known that the Second Congress would take place October 26-31 at the Eshel Hashomron Hotel in Ariel, Israel.  Now, at last, planning has begun!  The following post is from Etz B’ney Yosef, the official site of the Congress.  Here are details on the direction this historic gathering will take as Ephraimites from around the world assemble to consider the next steps in the global awakening of Israel’s northern tribes.


BFB160816 BYC Banner

Second B’ney Yosef National Congress

Wednesday evening, October 26, through Sunday evening, October 30, 2016

Originally published on Etz B’ney Yosef

BFB160816 Families LogoThe purpose of last year’s (our first) B’ney Yosef National Congress was to explore ideas on how to reconstitute ourselves as the nation (stick) of Yosef (Ephraim) prior to attempting to unite with Judah. (See Ezekiel 37:15-38)  If you attended last year’s Congress, then you can attest to the fact that YHVH was certainly present at the gathering and that we were all greatly blessed by the experience.  Although there were many outcomes from the meeting, two of the most important were:

  • For the restoration of the House of Yosef to proceed, we must first have a change of heart.  Ephraim must repent of the desire to rule the house of Jacob; he must humbly return as a servant and not aspire to a kingly position.  His role is a New Covenant “priestly” one, to bring righteousness to the House of YHVH/Jacob through the New Covenant established by his High Priest and Redeemer, Yeshua the Messiah.
  • We must approach one another as well as our brother Judah in true humility, recognizing our position as the Prodigal Son who is being graciously received by his Father (Luke 15:11-32).  We need to see our position through the eyes of our brother, who has a long list of grievances against us which need to be forgiven.

The ripple effect of last year’s Congress cannot be ignored.  As mentioned above, there were very positive responses and outcomes, but also negative ones which came to the fore, accentuating real problems that exist within the Ephraimite community.  Hence, we believe that during this coming gathering we should examine our hearts through the lenses of relevant scriptures, and hear what the Spirit is saying to the “kehila of Israel’s Northern house” regarding those matters that historically and currently are still at work, as well as discover together where Abba is at in the process of the re-gathering.  We definitely do not want to lag behind, but also not to run ahead of Him.

The theme of this year’s Congress is:

Family Reunion

Last year we met many of our brothers from the House of Yosef for the first time and found out we were related!  God has miraculously called us to be part of His family.  This year, we need to get to know our family members better and strengthen our personal relationships so that we can begin to come together as a nation.

Here is a list of some of the topics we will explore at the Second B’ney Yosef National Congress:

  • Ephraim’s history that led to their expulsion from the land and their divorce from YHVH
  • Trace the path that led to the Northern Kingdom’s sin and examine the root cause
  • Discuss how to repent of these acts and if necessary do it
  • Examine defining moments in the life of Israel as a nation and as a people
  • Examine Ephraim’s role as a priesthood
  • Learn about our relatives spread throughout the world
  • Hear reports of B’ney Yosef activities from the various countries represented
  • Compare notes, learning what works and what doesn’t

There will be presenters for each main topic and then breakout round table discussion and/or prayer sessions.

If you sense that Elohim is calling you to be an active participant in the restoration of the northern kingdom of Israel, the House of Yosef, this Second B’ney Yosef National Congress may be beneficial and meaningful for you.

If you are interested please contact:  amephraimchai@gmail.com

Committed to the Restoration of the Whole House of Israel

Source: Etz B’ney Yosef – Congress


© 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.

The Purpose of the Holy Spirit

A French farmer sows wheat in his field in the aftermath of World War I, bringing new life where there was death. This timeless action has instructed us for millennia of the work of God in bringing life to and through the kingdom of Israel which He sowed into the world. (Photo reproduced from Forward-March! The Photographic Record of America in the World War and the Post War Social Upheaval, Disabled American Veterans of the World War, Chicago, 1934)
A French farmer sows wheat in his field in the aftermath of World War I, bringing new life where there was death. This timeless action has instructed us for millennia about the work of God in bringing life to and through the kingdom of Israel which He sowed into the world. (Photo reproduced from Forward-March! The Photographic Record of America in the World War and the Post War Social Upheaval, Disabled American Veterans of the World War, Chicago, 1934)

Not that long ago, the men’s Bible study I am blessed to attend spent several months going through the Gospel of Mark.  One morning we looked in depth at the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-25).  Our leader astutely pointed out the words of Yeshua:  “Do you not understand this parable?  How will you understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:13 NASB)  His conclusion, with which I agree, is that this parable is the key to understanding all of Yeshua’s parables, and thus everything He taught.  Yet for all our analysis of this parable over the centuries, it seems that we may have missed something very important.  What we have been missing dawned on me as we discussed Mark 4 on that day, and as we parted company I asked, “What if this parable is about the restoration of the entire Kingdom of Israel?”

We were not able to investigate that question at that time, but I have pondered it ever since.  The applicability of the Parable of the Sower to the Lost Tribes of Israel comes into focus when we consider the prophecy of Hosea.  We learn in Hosea’s first chapter that he speaks to the House of Israel, the Northern Kingdom which became the Lost Tribes.  Because of their unfaithfulness to YHVH, He judged them by removing them from His Presence and scattering them into the nations.  Yet He promised to bring them back to the Land as His people once again, as He said through Hosea:

 “It will come about in that day that I will respond,” declares the LORD.  “I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth, and the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine and to the oil, and they will respond to Jezreel [“God sows”].  I will sow her [Israel] for Myself in the land.  I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’  And they will say, ‘You are my God!’”  (Hosea 2:21-23 NASB, emphasis added)

Ephraim [Israel] is a trained heifer that loves to thresh, but I will come over her fair neck with a yoke; I will harness Ephraim, Judah will plow, Jacob will harrow for himself.  Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you.  (Hosea 10:11-12 NASB)

There is much to investigate regarding this connection of the restoration of Israel with the Parable of the Sower.  My friend Ken Rank of United2Restore has made a good start by looking at the role of the Holy Spirit in this process.  His article is reproduced here from a recent post on Facebook.

Please click here to continue reading

Fox Byte 5775 #10: Miketz (At The End Of)

מִקֵּץ

Christopher Walken as Nick in the climactic Russian Roulette in The Deer Hunter (Source:  K-Stalker Kino Cinema Movie Blog.)
Christopher Walken as Nick in the climactic Russian Roulette scene from The Deer Hunter (Source: K-Stalker Movie Blog.)

There are occasions when a story so compelling meets with a portrayal so moving and produces an effect so profound that it leaves the audience forever changed.  Such is the case with The Deer Hunter, the 1978 drama of three young men from Pennsylvania who go to war in Vietnam.  Under the direction of Michael Cimino, The Deer Hunter won several Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and nominations for Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep as Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress.  For me, though, the most deserved award was for Christopher Walken as Best Supporting Actor in his role as Nick.  As the story unfolds, Nick and his two friends Michael (De Niro) and Steven (John Savage) are captured by the North Vietnamese.  They manage to escape, but only Michael returns home relatively unscathed.  Steven survives, but loses his legs and his sanity.  Nick never returns and is presumed dead.  Yet someone is sending money anonymously to Steven, and Michael suspects it is Nick.  He returns to Vietnam looking for his friend, but when he finds him Nick is almost unrecognizable.  He has become a star attraction in a Saigon establishment that features nightly contests of Russian Roulette.  As “The American” with considerable good luck, Nick piles up gambling profits for his employers, who give him his fair share and keep him supplied with drugs and other “necessities” so he will remain in their care.  The only way Michael can reach Nick is by engaging him in a game of Russian Roulette, hoping that as they face death across the table from one another he can help Nick remember his identity and persuade him to come home.  As might be expected, the contest ends badly.

In some ways the story of Joseph and his exile to Egypt resembles Nick’s tragic exile in Vietnam.  Both men suffer loss of identity and separation from their homeland, and both are forgotten by their family and friends.  Happily, though, Joseph’s story comes to a much better ending.

Please click here to continue reading