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 State of Israel and Ephraim’s Awakening: An Academic Investigation by Stephen Hindes

The concept of the "nation-state" was a product of the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War in 1648. The nation-state, however, is not the ultimate expression of God's Kingdom order. (The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, Gerard Terborch.)
The concept of the “nation-state” was a product of the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War in 1648. The nation-state, however, is not the ultimate expression of God’s Kingdom order. (The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, by Gerard Terborch.)

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?

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For the times they are a changin’ – UNITED 2 RESTORE

Our expectation of dramatic Divine intervention often prevents us from recognizing the miracles God works through human beings in less spectacular ways, such as when He inspired Nehemiah to direct the rebuilding of Jerusalem's wall. (Gustave Doré, Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem's Walls.)
Our expectation of dramatic Divine intervention often prevents us from recognizing the miracles God works through human beings in less spectacular ways, such as when He inspired Nehemiah to direct the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall. (Gustave Doré, Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem’s Walls)

There is no doubt that God works in big, dramatic ways.  The problem for most of us is that we are so inclined to expect Him to do so that we miss the miracles happening right in front of us.  For example, consider this prophecy we read about in Jeremiah:

“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that it shall no more be said, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’  For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers.”  (Jeremiah 16:14-15 NKJV)

This is the Second Exodus.  It is so important that YHVH had Jeremiah record it twice (see Jeremiah 23:7-8).  In fact, this restoration of the entire nation of Israel is the largest single prophetic topic in all of Scripture.  Yeshua’s disciples asked Him about it just before He left them (Acts 1:6).  The reason they asked was that He had accomplished so many other Messianic prophecies, but since He had not restored the Kingdom to Israel, and so they wanted to know when He would do so. 

By the way, that is also a question our Jewish brethren have – if Yeshua of Nazareth really is Messiah, why is Israel not completely regathered from the nations with a son of David ruling over them from Zion?  It’s a valid question.  Those of us from the Christian side of the house are satisfied with the answer that Messiah comes twice:  first as the Suffering Servant (Messiah son of Joseph), and then as the Conquering King (Messiah son of David).  Our Jewish brethren are not satisfied with that answer, which is why the greatest test before us all in this day is whether we can still get along on terms of mutual acceptance and respect in the expectation that God Himself will reveal the full answer to all of us in His timing.

As for the Second Exodus, we are prone to expect that it will unfold in ways similar to the First Exodus.  You know:  the prophet and his brother confront the mighty dictator, supernatural judgments rain down from heaven, the seas split, and the people are delivered.  That sort of thing.

But what if the Second Exodus happens differently?  What if it’s not so dramatic?  Would we still recognize it as a miracle?  Would we praise God because He had done something even greater than the Exodus from Egypt?

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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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To My Daughter the Bride: A Lesson in Chosenness

 

My first encounter with a chuppa was watching Norman Jewison's 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. I did not understand at the time the significance of the canopy over the bride and groom. (© 1971 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
My first encounter with a chuppa was in Norman Jewison’s 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. I did not understand at the time the significance of the canopy over the bride and groom.  (© 1971 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Yesterday morning, as I reviewed the news over breakfast, something unusual caught my eye.  It wasn’t actually a news item, but it did appear in one of my usual news sources.  There on the sidebar of The Times of Israel web page was this article with the title, “To My Daughter Under the Chupa”.  As soon as I saw it, I thought, “Hey!  In about a month I’ll have a daughter standing under a chupa.  Maybe I should read this.”

I did read it, and I was greatly blessed.  It is the speech Rabbi Shmuley Boteach presented recently at the wedding of his daughter.  What I found in his remarks was something I have come to expect in Jewish biblical exposition:  a profound depth of truth and wisdom that not only supports, but to a great extent completes what I learned in my Christian upbringing.

Perhaps it would be good to explain what a chupa is.  It can also be spelled chuppa.  The Hebrew pronunciation is difficult for an English speaker, but saying “hoopa” is close enough.  One reputable Jewish source explains the chuppa this way:

The chuppah is a tapestry attached to the tops of four poles.  The word chuppah means covering or protection, and is intended as a roof or covering for the bride and groom at their wedding.

The chuppah is not merely a charming folk custom, a ceremonial object carried over from a primitive past.  It serves a definite, though complicated, legal purpose:  It is the decisive act that formally permits the couple’s new status of marriage to be actualized, and it is the legal conclusion of the marriage process that began with betrothal. . . .

Chuppah symbolizes the groom’s home, and the bride’s new domain.  More specifically, the chuppah symbolizes the bridal chamber, where the marital act was consummated in ancient times.

– Chabad.org, The Bridal Canopy (Chuppah)

This helps explain what I mean when I say that Jewish learning complements my Christian learning.  What I mean in this case is that the pastors and teachers I have been blessed to know have consistently taught me that I am part of the Bride of Christ.  What they did not teach me was what that means.  To understand this requires a Hebraic perspective that takes into account the entire record of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.  That is where the Jewish learning comes in.  The rabbis know that Israel is the chosen of God, and that He will betroth her as His bride.  What the rabbis and the pastors together could not have known until now is that this blessed betrothed one, the Israel of the rabbis and the Church of the pastors, is the same corporate body of believers joined together in the covenant sealed with the blood of YHVH’s Anointed.

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