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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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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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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Who Wins When Siblings Fight?

On January 8, 1815, an odd assortment of U.S. Soldiers, French and Spanish Creoles, African slaves and free men, Kentucky frontiersmen, and French pirates set aside their differences to fight as comrades against an invading British army at New Orleans.  The peril they shared transformed these disparate residents of the western frontier into Americans - a single people who shared a common identity regardless of their past and future differences.  (Image: The Battle of New Orleans January 8th 1815 / drawn by Oliver Pelton ; engraved by Hammat Billings,1882. Accessed from the Library of Congress.)
On January 8, 1815, an odd assortment of U.S. Soldiers, French and Spanish Creoles, African slaves and free men, Kentucky frontiersmen, and French pirates set aside their differences to fight as comrades against an invading British army at New Orleans. The peril they shared transformed these disparate residents of the western frontier into Americans – a single people who shared a common identity regardless of their past and future differences. (Image: The Battle of New Orleans January 8th 1815 / drawn by Oliver Pelton ; engraved by Hammat Billings,1882. Accessed from the Library of Congress.)

Something very strange happens when people face an imminent threat to life and livelihood.  The strange thing is unity such as would never have been possible otherwise.  History provides countless examples, such as the defense of New Orleans in January 1815.  When a veteran British force attacked the city, an odd assortment of people turned out to defend their home.  They included Regular soldiers of the American army under Major General Andrew Jackson, as well as Creole gentlemen and their American merchant rivals, common laborers, farmers, militia men from far away states, black slaves and free men, and even pirates and smugglers affiliated with the infamous Jean Lafitte.  Once the threat was past, these disparate segments of society returned to their separate lives and the circumstances that divided them, but for one glorious moment they experienced the joy of being a people united in a common cause.

We might consider as well the example of our Jewish brethren in World War II.  Immediately before the war, an Arab revolt in British Palestine compelled His Majesty’s government to issue a White Paper in 1939 which closed the door on Jewish immigration to the Holy Land.  This was a political and military necessity for the British; another Arab revolt would threaten their hold on Egypt, their link to India and the Pacific, and the lifeline of the Empire.  When faced with war against Hitler’s Germany, Great Britain could not afford to lose that lifeline, and thus European Jews in peril of their lives in the Shoa (Holocaust) lost their last and best chance at escape from the death camps.

One might suppose the Jewish response to the White Paper – particularly among those living in the Land – would be violent rejection and revolt.  Some did respond that way, but the most memorable response was by David Ben Gurion, at that time among the most prominent leaders of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish settlers in the Land.  He expressed his position this way:

We will fight the war as if there were no White Paper, and we will fight the White Paper as if there were no war.

Ben Gurion’s pragmatism was instrumental in establishment of the Jewish Brigade, the only regular military unit of any Allied army in World War II comprised entirely of Jews.  The Jewish Brigade served with distinction in the British forces in Egypt, Italy, and Northwest Europe, and it also served as a training ground for Jewish warriors who carried the fight for Israel’s independence after the British Mandate over Palestine ended in 1948.

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Celebrating Shabbat Texas Style!

B'ney Yosef National Shabbat New

Fischer Park in New Braunfels, TX, site of the first Central Texas National Shabbat.
Fischer Park in New Braunfels, TX, site of the first Central Texas National Shabbat.

The National Shabbat movement arrived in the Lone Star State through a gathering of about 100 people on March 19 at Fischer Park in the city of New Braunfels.  As with National Shabbats in Georgia and South Carolina, some participants traveled many hours to get there, coming from as far away as Sabine Pass on the Louisiana border, Wichita Falls near the Oklahoma border, Arlington in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, and Corpus Christi on the Gulf Coast.  Most of those assembled in New Braunfels came from around Austin (Georgetown, Cedar Park, Round Rock, Kyle) and San Antonio (Boerne, Converse, Poteet, Adkins, Floresville), with a significant number from the Houston area (Katy, Sugarland, Pasadena). Please click here to continue reading