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2019

WHO WE ARE A Collection of Essays by Messianic Jewish Writers

©2019 Jewish Voice Ministries International All rights reserved. P.O. Box 31998 • Phoenix, AZ 85046-1998 • 800-299-9374 • www.jewishvoice.org


Letter from the Editors Dear Readers, It is with great excitement that we present to you Who We Are: A Collection of Essays by Messianic Jewish Writers. This collection of essays, articles and short stories represent the winners of Jewish Voice’s 2019 Writers Contest. With this contest, it was our hope to provide a platform for talented writers within the wider Messianic Jewish world to share their stories. As part of the Messianic Jewish community, we admit that our group identity and culture is sometimes somewhat out of the ordinary, and therefore often difficult to represent in writing. Thus, we began our search for writers who were able to paint a picture of this space in a way that was both recognizable to community insiders and accessible to those who might just be passing through.

• Messianic Jewish Identity and Experience

• Messianic Jewish Life and Culture

• Messianic Jewish History and Theology

• Current Events: Israel and the Middle East

Within this framework, we hope to show a cross-section of the Messianic Jewish experience. In each of these categories, we asked our writers questions revolving around the central theme of our community’s identity – How do we see ourselves? How do others see us? Where do we belong? Where do we not belong? What things are essential to one person’s experience as a Messianic Jew, and completely unnecessary to another’s? What are the pieces that make us, as individuals, and as a community, “Who We Are,” and how do we share this with everyone else? To all of the people that responded to any of these questions – Thank you! This contest would not have happened without you. To our winners, we say, “Mazel Tov!” and to our readers, we say, “Enjoy!”

J O N AT H A N B E R N I S , T R OY WA L L AC E A N D DA N I E L L E C H E R N O F F

Letter from the Editors

The writers chosen as our contest winners were those that our team felt were most effectively able to communicate the complexities and nuances of our unique world and to create original content that expresses a deep understanding of Messianic Judaism in the following four (4) categories:

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Table of Contents J EWI S H VO I C E M I N I ST R I E S I N T E R N AT I O N A L 201 9 WR I T E R S CO N T E ST WI N N E R S

M ES S IA N I C A

BUS

RIDE

JEWIS H IN

IDE NTITY

AND

EXPE RIE NCE

JE RUS A L E M

PAG E

6

PAG E

8

Mara Frisch CH OO SING

AL IYAH

Kara Arroyo B ELO NG ING

TO

ISRAE L

PAG E

1 1

PAG E

1 4

PAG E

1 8

PAG E

2 2

PAG E

24

PAG E

26

PAG E

2 8

PAG E

3 0

Mara Frisch T H E

ST RAN G E ST

WAY

Jonathan Mahoney JEWISH

E NO UG H

Abigail Smith

MES S I A N I C T IK KUN

JEWIS H

LIFE

AND

O L AM

CULTU RE

Ben Weisman L ESSO N S FOOT

FRO M

M Y

C H AN UKAH

NI N E

B USH

Corry Bell T RADIT IO N

IN

T H E

KITC H E N

Table of Contents

Avital Snow

2

COVE RE D

Maria Baer T HE

PRAISE S

B LE SS

S. Nichols

G O D,

G O NO T

UP: O UR

WH Y

WE

F O O D


Table of Contents J EWI S H VO I C E M I N I ST R I E S I N T E R N AT I O N A L 201 9 WR I T E R S CO N T E ST WI N N E R S

M ES S IA N I C JEWISH E ARL Y

JEWIS H

PE RC E PT IO N M E SSIAN IC

AND

THEOLOGY

O F

JE W S

Jonathan William M ESSIANIC

HISTO RY

I N

JO URN ALS

HIDDE N

HISTORY

U N FO L D S

PAG E

3 4

PAG E

3 6

PAG E

3 8

PAG E

4 0

PAG E

42

Gail Levin I’M A

A

M E SSIAN IC

C H RIST IAN

E. Andrews

CRE AT IO N L EVIT ICUS

JEW

N OT

C O N V E R T

CARE

AN D

FO O D

T H E

L AWS

Tom Steele WH Y A S

M AIN TAIN

O UR

FO L LOWE RS

O F

J EWI S H

I D E N TI TY

YES H UA?

Mara Frisch

CUR R EN T

EVEN TS:

NE TANYAHU’ S

ISRAE L

HARDE ST

AND

THE

F I G H T

MIDDLE

E AST PAG E

4 6

PAG E

4 8

PAG E

5 0

Jonathan Mahoney T H E

RISE

O F

TURKEY

A N D

E Z E K I E L

3 8 -3 9

Travis Snow CO NT ROVE RSIAL FO RC E

TO

L E AVE

T IPH

O BS E R VE R

HE BR O N

Editors’ Note: Articles have been edited for content, style and grammar by Jewish Voice editorial staff.

Table of Contents

Maria Baer

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Identity and Experience


Identity and Experience

IDENTITY AND EXPERIENCE

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PR IZE ST

1

A Bus Ride in Jerusalem WR I T E R :

M A R A

Identity and Experience

Staring out the window of the Egged bus, I was mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the Judean hills as we traversed the windy streets of Jerusalem. Suddenly, the doors opened and an elderly Israeli woman stepped onto the bus. Before she could take a seat, the bus jerked and the woman wobbled, losing her balance. Immediately, the passenger in front of me reached out to steady and gently guide her to a seat. I quickly noticed that the passenger who helped the woman was Palestinian. Amazed, I watched as she soothed the Israeli woman, who was visibly jarred from the incident.

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Staring in disbelief, I noted how this experience contrasted with the image I’d developed of Israeli-­ Palestinian relations prior to moving to Israel. I’d previously imagined that the tension between the two nationalities was so palpable that it caused an invisible barrier to exist between Israelis and Palestinians, which was only occasionally interrupted by violence. However, that day, I witnessed something very different: a woman treating her alleged enemy with kindness and humanity. As the bus ride continued, I wondered about the Palestinian woman’s life. I looked back out the window again. Cafes and stores whizzed by, with their bright Hebrew signs calling out to potential

F R I S C H

customers. How did the Palestinian woman feel to be surrounded in her home by a language not her own? Growing up with a strong Jewish identity, I never really considered what life was like for the Palestinians living in Israel. As a child, I happily waved tiny blue and white flags on Yom HaAtzmaut, celebrating the miracle that God performed by creating the modern-­day state of Israel and opening the doors for Jewish people to return to our homeland. Only now, after moving to Israel and seeing Palestinians daily was I confronted with the notion that I might have only learned one perspective of the story. For the first time, I wondered what the Palestinians’ lives were like before the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 and how the war affected them. I thought about the Palestinians living in the West Bank, only a few kilometers from where I lived in Jerusalem, and considered how different their lives were from mine. I yearned to know their struggles, their hopes and their dreams. As further questions began to flood my mind, a strange sensation washed over me. On a guttural level, I felt as though my curiosity was equivalent to betraying my people. Over the years as a Messianic Jew, I had been taught the


I have always believed that Israel not only has the right to exist but accomplishes a critical purpose in providing a haven for the Jewish people. But what if, in our efforts to fulfill a God-­given calling, we have unintentionally caused suffering to another people? What if in our desire to secure our own people’s rights to life, we have caused inhumane conditions for others? I stepped off the bus that day with a desire to seek out the answers to my questions. This curiosity led me to visit Palestinian villages, develop genuine friendships with Palestinians and immerse myself in opportunities to hear their perspectives. Though I still have much to learn, my eyes have been opened to a world I didn’t see before. At first, I felt limited by my inability to listen to

Palestinians’ stories free from the lens of my own narrative. However, I have found that empathy does not require one to shed his or her own experience and identity. Rather, entering into another’s story simply requires a person to open up his or her mind and heart, making space for another person’s experience. Today, I feel challenged by a desire to see the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians alleviated. Though I do not know the best way for this to be achieved, I believe that the answer will entail stretching ourselves to look beyond our own stories of persecution and acknowledge the suffering of those who have historically been our enemies. It takes strength and courage to recognize when we are the cause of another’s pain. After we recognize it, I believe we are obligated to act. Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, once said, “Whenever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.” As a Messianic Jew, I will always acknowledge the faithfulness of God in bringing the Jewish people back to the land of Israel. At the same time, I feel compelled to follow the example of my Messiah who fed the hungry, set the oppressed free, and challenged us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Palestinians are my neighbors, and I feel convicted to love them enough to challenge my previously held beliefs, risk my reputation on their behalf, and to ask myself uncomfortable questions. I am so thankful for the example of the woman on the bus in Jerusalem, not just because I witnessed an extraordinary act of kindness, but because I witnessed an ordinary act of kindness in circumstances that made it extraordinary.

BIO

Mara Frisch served in Messianic Youth Ministry for over 12 years in various roles locally and nationally including: Youth Director of Beth Messiah Synagogue; Ministries Director of the Young Messianic Jewish Alliance (YMJA); and in several positions on the YMJA Executive Committee. She received her BA in Psychology and Speech Communications from Miami University of Ohio; her MEd in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Cincinnati; and her MA in International Law and Conflict Resolution from Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. Currently, Mara is pursuing law school at Elon University, where she is concentrating in immigration law. In her free time, she enjoys flying on trapezes and teaching ice-skating.

Identity and Experience

Israeli narrative of the conflict and had learned counterpoints to every argument that the other side might initiate. I could easily explain why checkpoints were necessary for Palestinians in the West Bank and why Israel could not endure another disaster like Gaza and withdraw from the West Bank. But these new questions, I feared, were starting to erode the confidence I had in my previous arguments. Further, I feared that they could potentially lead to new knowledge that would be inconsistent with the narrative I’d been told all my life. If I sought to learn about the other side of the story, and if I gained information that made it no longer possible for me to explain away difficult truths about the Palestinian experience, would I be letting down my Jewish people? Would I be delegitimizing our struggle for freedom against anti-Semitism, persecution, and generations of suffering? Would I be siding with the enemy?

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PR IZE N D

2

Choosing Aliyah WR I T E R :

KA R A

A R R OYO

Identity and Experience

When I first sat down to write our Aliyah journey, I remembered how its beginning felt like we were living in a dream. I wrote about the Sukkot service where we received our call home to Israel – I remember the exact moment He got ahold of us. I wrote about how our house miraculously sold days after we landed in Israel, and how just three weeks later, we walked out of the Ministry of Interior as Israeli citizens. But I deleted all of that. While I needed those words like long overdue therapy, those thousands of strung-together characters were but the beginning of the real life epic God is writing for our family of six.

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I want to take you past that dreamy beginning. I want you to see Aliyah through my eyes, as a new immigrant, not two years into the experience. I want you to see without the rose-colored glasses we put on when we behold the Aliyah dream painted by the beauty of Scripture, telling the breathtaking love story of God’s faithfulness to His people. I want you to see beyond the highlight reel with the filter that blurs the imperfect. I want to take you past the feel-goods of this life we’re living and give you a look into what it actually means to choose Aliyah. Choosing Aliyah is choosing to become an immigrant. It seems like a pretty obvious statement, but have you ever really looked at it that way? I never did. Not once. While I knew I was immigrating to Israel, I had disconnected from the idea that I would become an immigrant. My picture of my new life was instead neatly packaged in the beauty of God’s promises. Being an immigrant isn’t a neat and tidy existence. In fact, it is often a crazy mess and a struggle in the most basic of interactions and tasks. Being an immigrant is surrendering everything to hold on to hope with two hands.


Choosing Aliyah is a decision to surrender your ability to know. I have never experienced such a lesson in humility. When we lived in the U.S., I knew how to do everything. If I didn’t know, I could figure it out on my own. I was independent and proud of it. I was educated and excelled at anything I set my mind to. In my context, in my culture, I knew how to know. I never really understood the power and privilege of knowledge until I felt its loss. This move was our choice. No one forced it on us. It was a choice to obey, follow, and trust our God as we never had before. It’s a decision I don’t regret. But that doesn’t mean that I started this journey with an understanding of what I signed up for, or that I don’t struggle with my lack.

“Being an immigrant is surrendering everything to hold on to hope with two hands.”

Let’s be real. I don’t know how to be an Israeli. I don’t know how to relate to this culture that I was convinced I understood. There’s a language painted so deeply in my heart that can’t seem to find its way to my tongue. I don’t know how to read it, write it, or even speak it. Now I know that I don’t know how to relate to this culture that I was so convinced I understood.

Choosing Aliyah is learning to be okay with not being okay. It’s grief – not simply the grief of separation or sorrow for the difficulty of the moment, but it’s a grieving of memories I will never live. I grieve that I missed the birth of my niece and that I won’t be there to bake the cake for my dad’s 70th birthday. I grieve that my children won’t grow up next door to their grandparents. I grieve for life lost with those I love because I made a choice to love God by obeying above all. Choosing Aliyah is choosing an identity crisis. In America, I was a young, stay-at-home,

“Choosing Aliyah is learning to be okay with not being okay. It’s grief – not simply the grief of separation or sorrow for the difficulty of the moment, but it’s a grieving of memories I will never live.”

Identity and Experience

I don’t know how to sign my kids up for school or help my third-grader with his math homework. I don’t know how to be there for my little ones who are now more Israeli than American. I don’t know how to help my children’s friends feel comfortable around me or how to tell them how much their Yeshua loves them. I am constantly learning to lay down my pride and admit that I need help; that I can’t walk this road alone.

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homeschooling mom of four small children with a successful husband that traveled for work. My husband and I were elders and worship leaders in the congregation founded by my inlaws. We knew everyone. We walked out our faith in the way we thought was right, and honestly weren’t always receptive towards those who did it differently. We loved God, loved our family, loved our friends, and loved our community. And while part of me is very proud of all these things, when they were stripped away, I was left questioning who I really was. Overnight, I became a mom going to language school while her four kids jumped right into the Israeli public school system. I mean, did my children even need me anymore? I went from relating to God through worship, to not being able to even hum the tunes of these new, unfamiliar songs. How can I connect to worship that I don’t understand and at the same time feel frustrated and confused because I don’t completely relate to all that was so meaningful to me back home? The way I expressed my faith as an American Messianic Jew doesn’t fit here. How do you even explain that when on paper the only real difference is geography? But it’s not. How do I define and find myself when everything has changed? I have changed. Aliyah isn’t some dreamy fantasy. The fullness of Aliyah can’t be boiled down to words of promise on a page. It’s real, messy, raw, and beautiful. It’s life, it’s hard, and it’s not what we expected. Yet it’s a journey and learning process that I wouldn’t change for anything. It’s shaken me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to find security in Him. This journey is about discovering my weaknesses and leaning into God’s strength. It’s about seeing myself through God’s eyes and finding freedom in who He is.

“The fullness of Aliyah can’t be boiled down to words of promise on a page. It’s real, messy, raw, and beautiful.”

Identity and Experience

Aliyah is a calling bigger than me and a destiny greater than my struggles. We had to make the choice to heed the call to return. We had to leave our father’s house, eyes set to the unknown without looking back. I may never truly know how to belong to this land and this people, but every day, I choose to dig my shocked roots into this dry, rocky soil and thrive in the land that has so completely captured my heart.

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BIO

Kara Arroyo is a professional content writer, editor, and staunch advocate of the Oxford comma.* When not engaged in word wrestling of the most serious nature, she is discovering that her thumbs are more green than black or has her nose happily stuck in a book. Kara became an Israeli citizen and moved to Israel in the summer of 2017. She resides in the Ayalon Valley with her husband, Ian, and 4 undeniably adorable children. In her essay, “Choosing Aliyah,” Kara explores the realities of Return through the eyes of an immigrant. * Editors’ Note: The Jewish Voice Style Guide does not allow for the Oxford comma. Due to Kara’s “staunch advocacy,” we have made an exception for this article.


PR IZE R D

3

Belonging to Israel WR I T E R :

M A R A

F R I S C H

I was standing in line outside the Ministry of Interior building on a windy day in Jerusalem. Six months before, I had experienced an undeniable urging from God to move to Israel. The urging did not strike me as odd; I’d always imagined that someday, I would live in the land of my ancestors. From a young age, I would sing the chorus of Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, and feel a deep longing for a country I’d never visited. Later, as I grew, I began to understand the necessity of Israel’s role as the Jewish homeland, a safe haven where Jews from all over the world could escape persecution. Though it was difficult to say goodbye to my family and friends, I knew that I was traveling to a place where I already belonged.

Identity and Experience

What is impossible with men is possible with God. I closed my eyes and envisioned this verse written on my refrigerator magnet and at the top of my to-do list, underlined in bright red. Usually, this verse motivated me as I tackled the daily feats that seemed just out of reach. But this moment was different. I needed more than a simple dose of inspiration to face what was ahead. Rather, I needed to cling to the truth of this verse as seriously as a rock climber clings to the knowledge that a tiny foothold will sustain his weight and prevent him from tumbling to the ground.

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Now, I found myself waiting anxiously to be admitted into the building that held the authority to accept or reject my application for citizenship. According to Israel’s Law of Return, any Jewish person has the right to immigrate to Israel and become a citizen. Though I had all of the necessary paperwork to prove my Jewish identity, I sensed that the process was stalling. An hour later, my fears were confirmed as I was whisked to an office in the back of the building. There, behind a desk, sat the director of the office, who invited me to take a seat. After some preliminary questions, her pleasant tone abruptly changed and she shoved a paper toward me. “We found this!” she exclaimed. The paper contained an article I’d written several years ago, which must have been pulled from the internet. Sensing that the woman wanted an explanation, I offered, “I wrote this article to explain how important my Jewish identity is to me.” She responded, “It says you’re Messianic! You can’t be Messianic and Jewish.” “Yes, I can,” I calmly responded. For the next thirty minutes, she questioned me, arguing that my belief in Yeshua was incompatible with being Jewish. Finally, she explained that a special committee would meet to determine the outcome of my application for citizenship. I left the office, feeling the overwhelming indignation that is provoked by injustice. If Israel were to be a homeland for the Jewish people, then it needed to serve as a homeland for all Jewish people. Jewish believers in Yeshua were unquestionably persecuted during the Holocaust in the same manner that other Jewish people were persecuted. In fact, a display in Israel’s Holocaust museum memorializes one such family. Beyond that, I knew that deep within my heart, I was Jewish. How could this woman tell me otherwise? And how could my homeland tell me that I don’t belong?

Identity and Experience

Not surprisingly, the committee decided to reject my application for citizenship. Immediately, I went to the Kotel, the Wailing Wall, to pray where hundreds of thousands of Jews for generations have prayed. Do I fight this battle or do I give up? God, what are you asking of me right now? After leaving, I decided to meet with several lawyers to better understand my options. One lawyer explained to me that if we appealed, it was possible that my case could be heard in the Supreme Court of Israel. Though my chances were not promising, a victory would set a new precedent and make it illegal for Messianic Jews to be denied citizenship based on their beliefs. What is impossible with men is possible with God. Immediately, I felt a sense of calling and purpose. Perhaps this was the reason that my application had been denied. Perhaps God was asking me to take a stand not simply for myself but on behalf of my people. On the morning of my court case, the sky was gray and the air was misty from scattered rain. I sat in the pews of the courtroom awaiting my turn. First, a criminal was appealing his conviction for murder. As I watched his case unfold, I felt sobered by the enormity of

“What is impossible with men is possible with God.” 12


the decisions that were made in that very room. Next, my case began. My lawyer stood up, facing the Supreme Court justices and told my story. Almost immediately, the justices began interrupting him, challenging his statements with looks of hostility that chilled my bones. My lawyer calmly continued, unphased by the harsh insults. At one point, the President of the Supreme Court looked straight into my eyes and said that the moment I believed in Yeshua, I stopped being Jewish. Though I had anticipated this possibility from the beginning, I could not have imagined how hearing that statement from the person with arguably the most authority in all of Israel would shatter me. How does a person reconcile a calling they believe is from God and an outcome that appears to negate it? My mind wandered back to recent memories of friends who had prayed seemingly impossible prayers filled with the hope and confidence that God could turn the impossible into possible. Cancer diagnoses, seasons of unemployment, and failed relationships. How do we, as humans, wrestle with the knowledge that God is big enough to answer our deepest prayers, and yet, many times, appears silent?

BIO

Mara Frisch served in Messianic Youth Ministry for over 12 years in various roles locally and nationally including: Youth Director of Beth Messiah Synagogue; Ministries Director of the Young Messianic Jewish Alliance (YMJA); and in several positions on the YMJA Executive Committee. She received her BA in Psychology and Speech Communications from Miami University of Ohio; her MEd in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Cincinnati; and her MA in International Law and Conflict Resolution from Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. Currently, Mara is pursuing law school at Elon University, where she is concentrating in immigration law. In her free time, she enjoys flying on trapezes and teaching ice-skating.

Identity and Experience

Facing these questions has been more difficult than facing the Supreme Court justices. And while I still have not gained all of the answers, I have learned something of perhaps greater importance. I’ve learned that my faith can endure even after the greatest disappointment of my life. It is possible that I’ll never understand exactly why God led me to sell my belongings, move to Israel, and appeal to the Supreme Court. But I believe that my ability to say with sincerity that God is still good is of far greater value than an Israeli identification card denoting citizenship. And in the end, I believe that something miraculous did genuinely occur. God enabled me to see that His love was enough to sustain me even when I could not recognize it. What is impossible with men is possible with God.

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HONOR AB L E MENT ION

The Strangest Way WR I T E R :

J O N AT H A N

M A H O N EY

Identity and Experience

We run in the summer sun, the spray of the sprinkler creating arches of light on our glistening faces and bodies. We’re a roving band of pirates on our Huffy bikes, in search of nothing more than the childish, care-free spirit of summer. We chase fireflies in the fading light until our parents call us home, the street lamps humming to life.

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See you tomorrow and have a good night ring out as we part ways, and I’m left standing in the dusk alone. An upward glance reveals the first three stars overcoming their shyness to usher in the night. They mean to me something they do not to my friends. I whisper a farewell to Shabbat, a ten-year-old’s informal Havdalah. My friends don’t even know the word. We believe in the same God, the same Messiah. We read the same holy book and know the same sacred stories, but there’s a difference. They don’t get asked the uncomfortable questions. “Why don’t you eat bacon?” “What do you mean that’s not His real name?” “What do you mean you can’t eat bread this week?” “Do you think you’re better than us?” “What, do you think you’re Jewish now?”


“We believe in the same God, the same Messiah. We read the same holy book and know the same sacred stories, but there’s a difference.”

I get the news from my parents and I can hardly believe it. We’re going on a vacation this summer. Even more amazing, we’re going to a place full of others – people like us. “Conference” is just a word I associate with my dad’s work until then. Not anymore. From then on, though, it’s a word with weight and glory – like Snow Day or Hanukkah. There will be kids, they say, loads of kids just like me. The idea seems too perfect. I can’t imagine not having to explain every little thing that makes me different. I won’t be different. Not there. I’ll belong. The conference begins and I can hardly believe it. I ache with jealousy for those who live in communities like this every day. We believe in the same God, the same Messiah. We even call him the same name. We read the same holy book and know the same sacred traditions. We light the candles and we recite the prayers. What we eat and don’t eat is the same.

Identity and Experience

I don’t. I don’t think I’m better and when the questions get uncomfortable I wish I wasn’t different at all. I just want to belong. I want to be accepted and not worry about the questions and the explanations where I try to remember what my mom and dad say to people so much more convincingly than I can. Even when we hunt fireflies in the cool of dusk or laugh in the spray of the water, I’m not like the rest and it hurts in the strangest way.

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But… There’s a difference. My new friends and I gather for the evening and the entire room raises their voices in the Shema. We all know the lyrics and the tune. It flows out naturally like water from our mouths, and we mean each Hebrew word. Hands go up. Eyes close. Most sing melody, but some with ears for it sing harmony. The voices converge into one like the stars form the Milky Way in a wash of splendor too great for a single star to comprehend. I’ve never felt so part of a whole. Never so seamlessly. Not like this. The song ends, and I feel a pull on my shirtsleeve. A new friend leans in to whisper, “Hey, I heard your family’s not Jewish.” I meet his gaze and see this isn’t a statement, but a question: is it true? The next day brings a slew of new questions, new discomfort I never imagined. “Why do you guys do all of this if you aren’t Jewish?” “You know a lot of the Bible is just for Israel, right?” “Why do you wear a kippa? I’m not sure you can.” “What, do you think you’re Jewish now?” I don’t. I don’t think I’m Jewish and I’m not trying to be you… I just wanted to be one of you. I didn’t want to be different. I didn’t want to worry about the questions and the explanations, not here. I just try to think of what my mom and dad would say so much more convincingly than I can, and my face flushes red with the shame of it. Even when we light the candles in the cool of dusk or laugh in the circle of dancers, I’m not like the rest and it hurts in the strangest way.

Identity and Experience

Shabbat comes and I welcome it in with all the others. The hearty round of Shabbat Shalom carries through the room with claps and shouts. As the candles are lit and the women and girls recite the blessings, there’s a reflective pause. Someone spontaneously sings a song I only know from my Christian friends. To my surprise, every adult in the room picks it up.

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Amazing Grace… how sweet the sound… The Shabbat candles sway and I feel those beside me take my hands in theirs. That saved a wretch like me… Suddenly all I can see is the flames of candles, islands of warm light in the ocean of the room. I once was lost… but now I’m found… “I know,” says a quiet voice to my right. I look up to see a man, the one who took my hand. I hadn’t noticed him before, but looking into his face I saw the kindest eyes. They were their own Shabbat candles and seemed to make their own light.


T’was blind… but now I see… He went on, not needing me to speak. “I know how it feels. Even when I walked with the twelve along the shores of the Galilee or we laughed at the table breaking bread, I wasn’t like the rest. I was different, and it hurt in the strangest way. They are of me, and I’ve chosen to be of them— and so have you.” T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear… “You belong. No questions. No explanations. You don’t have to talk like your mom or dad, or anyone but yourself. I made you different and I did it on purpose. Wherever you go you’ll be different, and wherever you go you’ll belong. You’ll belong to me.” And Grace, my fears relieved… The room comes into focus around the candles once more. I look to my right, where an elderly woman holds my hand and sings. Even when we watch the candles burn to welcome the Shabbat and sing together in the bonds of fellowship, I’m not like the rest. I’m me. I’m as I was meant to be. No questions. No explanations. No need.

BIO

Jonathan Mahoney is an art director in Kansas City where he serves as the young adult leader at Or HaOlam Messianic Synagogue. He has always been an avid writer in the form of short stories or essays. He lives just outside of Kansas City with his wife Denise and their daughter. This piece is a semi-autobiographical tale about what it feels like to be a misfit in the Church for being Messianic, and a misfit in the movement for not being Jewish. Thankfully we serve the God of the lost and the misfits who heals and unites us all.

Identity and Experience

We belong.

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HONOR AB L E MENT ION

Jewish Enough WR I T E R :

A B I G A I L

Emaciated eucalyptus leaves hung silver-green from their branches. The lightest of breezes could be heard against them, signifying the rainy season soon to come. The grove of trees captivated our attention. We turned to the left before we reached it.

Identity and Experience

A tall man in a royal purple button-down shirt and khaki shorts beckoned us into his homestead. Before we had a chance to see inside the thorn fence, smoke filled our noses and mouths. There was more than one open fire smoldering in the cleared area between the entrance and the house. Black and red. Finished pottery stood out on beds of straw, waiting to be sold in other villages. Next to the fire, closer to the house, the man’s wife crouched over a pot, stirring spiced lentils redder than the dirt sticking to my sandals.

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We made our way towards the house, our translators conversing with the man while we foreigners peered around the yard. As sure as flakes of ash drifted to land on our lips and clothes, there was a somehow tangible feeling of reality here. Of truth. Silence claimed my thoughts at the gravity of the moment. When we were closer, the woman took my arm, guiding me into her home with her strong, yet gentle hands. The mud walls of the house were broader than those of many of the houses we’d seen in the village and it even had multiple rooms. Our whole team of eight fit inside, along with the husband and wife, and

S M I T H

their small son and daughter, who clung to their mother. They’d been told we wanted to bless their children. The mother was set to bless us first. She produced a platter of injera, the fermented flat spongy bread of Ethiopia. We were told to sit on the benches along the walls, made of kid-skin stretched over poles. The hair felt like Velcro on my clothes. Like mothers everywhere, she expected us to wash our hands before we ate. Those on my team traded wide-eyed glances, voicing none of our fears of the bacteria that might be pouring onto our fingers from the yellow jug, to say nothing of the likely contaminated food we were being offered. Those stunning red lentils were poured into the middle of the grey-brown injera and she looked on with pride. As I took my first bite, I thought, “This is the best thing I’ve eaten in this country.” This was confirmed with my next, even larger bite. There was something about this woman’s confident hospitality that spoke without words. We were welcome in her home – the unknown, unexpected foreigners that we were. Events had progressed while I pondered this in wonder. It was time for the blessings. For some reason, I hadn’t expected it to be like this. The drawn out Hebrew syllables and the accompanying melody shocked me as they always did, capturing the full depth of my attention. I


I hadn’t grown up knowing I was Jewish. Some of the practices were there, but none of the culture. No community – my family knew isolation and had many questions. Something was missing. When we began uncovering Jewish ancestors across our family, it was wonderful and confusing at once. It took me almost a year to be able to say, “I’m Jewish,” without having to avoid eye contact and forcibly steady my voice. My first trip to Israel was full of the fear that I wasn’t “Jewish enough.” I’d look out the window of my hostel room at the “real Jews” and wonder what they would say if they knew my story. Did I have a place in that land, with those people? Or would they call me a fraud? Sitting in this hut in Africa, though, I realized, I did have a place. This family felt the same as I did. I could see their unwavering desire to belong. They couldn’t understand the words to the song, but they knew that it was theirs by birthright, as long as they had the courage to claim it. Just like the Jewish community all around the world, they had experienced untold persecution for that same blood. I knew then that even if I couldn’t feel “Jewish enough” yet in Israel, I could in all the far-flung

corners of the world where forgotten brothers and sisters still cling to the knowledge of who they are. Someday maybe together we will feel “Jewish enough.” Maybe the world will see us that way, too. If I could find my way across oceans to meet this ancient branch of my family tree, then perhaps someday all of us could meet on the soil that was once and forever promised to our fathers. We didn’t leave once the prayers were finished. The mother was still blinking quickly after her blessing, hiding part of her face behind her baby’s tight plaits. “Amasegnalo,” she whispered over and over. Thank you. The meeting wouldn’t be complete without the most important part, though. A dignified man stepped forward, clearly an elder in the community. The elder had barely spoken a word since we entered the village. Now, his voice caught all our attention. We asked our translator what the elder was saying to the couple, and enraptured, he breathed, “He’s telling the Gospel. He’s telling them about Yeshua.” No more questions were asked as we foreigners seemingly held our breaths. This was a holy moment. There is a purity only found in those encounters when someone first hears the name of their Messiah and the story of how He died for them. This family’s heritage was so much more than a physical bloodline, a distant culture, or a land that they may never be able to see in life. We soon stepped back out into the clearing and took our leave. As we did, my heart was full of hope for this family, and for my own life. Hope in another child of Abraham, through whose blood every dividing wall was broken down.

BIO

Abigail Smith grew up on a small farm in rural Washington state, where her passion for writing and desire to experience different cultures was born. Two and a half years ago, she began her journey with a Messianic ministry based in Cyprus. It was this ministry that brought her to Ethiopia in May of 2018, where she connected with a Jewish Voice Medical Outreach. She is still pursuing long term missions based out of Cyprus and hopes to visit Ethiopia again someday.

Identity and Experience

could still feel my heart in my throat as I had the very first time I heard these prayers. Glancing over at the man and his wife, their children held closely, I could see they were experiencing what I was. This was theirs. It was a part of a culture and heritage that seemed to be reachable only by fingertips.

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Life and Culture


Life and Culture

LIFE AND CULTURE

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PR IZE ST

1

Tikkun Olam WR I T E R :

B E N

WE I S M A N

Life and Culture

Long ago, if you asked a Jewish mystic about tikkun olam, he might tell you stories – beautiful stories of an inverted tree, suspended between heaven and earth, its roots drawing God’s goodness like sap that flows through the trunk and into the branches that stretch into our world. He might tell you a story of vessels so full of divine light that they burst and spread sparks across the earth. The mystic might say that it is up to each of us to repair the world (tikkun olam) by gathering these sparks.

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In another time and place, you might speak with a Christian nun in her convent. She tells you of the struggle to find God’s justice in a changing world, not just criminal justice but justice for the poor – social justice. As you sit together, faces glowing with the colors of stained glass, she might tell you of her work among the poor. The nuns work to feed the hungry, but they also fight to improve lives of workers locked in dark factories with putrid air. They fight to change the oppressive structures that trap people in a cycle of poverty. The Gospel is not just a comforting message but the power to change lives, she says. In a place closer to home, these traditions converge. Black-skinned pastors march for the right to be treated as human beings in the country where their relatives were slaves. They are joined by rabbis carrying Torah scrolls who march because


after thousands of years they still remember that they were slaves in Egypt. They march together because the soil of our nation cries out for justice, from the cotton fields worked by slaves with bloody hands to the trails marched by indigenous people driven from their homes. They march for people still trapped in a cycle of poverty and still denied justice. “Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.” 1 Of course, neither of these traditions are creating the concept of justice out of whole cloth. They call back to the origin story of Genesis, a story of glorious creatures crafted from dust, a story of sin and banishment. They amplify the cry of the prophets to turn back to God, not by grand shows of religiosity but by properly treating those made in the image of God. They echo the teaching of a rabbi from Galilee that the poor and disabled were not born into such circumstances as a punishment for sin but as an opportunity for redemption. He radically included women, foreigners, criminals and sinners. He continued the prophetic tradition of a Day of the Lord that is far off and a work for justice that is needed now. If we dismiss discussions of social justice as simply the talking points of a certain section of our political spectrum, we miss an opportunity to work toward the malchut hashamayim (Kingdom of Heaven). As a community that draws wisdom from both Jewish and Christian traditions as we seek to follow Messiah, we must lead the way in answering the prophetic call for justice.

Heschel, Susannah. “Following in My Father’s Footsteps: Selma 40 Years Later.” Following in

1

My Father’s Footsteps: Selma 40 Years Later, Vox of Dartmouth, 4 Apr. 2005, www.dartmouth. edu/~vox/0405/0404/heschel.html.

Ben Weisman was born and raised in a Messianic Jewish home in Southern California. He has a passion for helping others engage with biblical text and Jewish ritual. Currently, Ben works as a full-time K20 intern at Congregation Sha’arei Shalom in Cary, NC. About his essay, he explains:

Life and Culture

BIO

“As Messianic Jews, I believe we are called to influence and change the world beyond the confines of our congregations. We are uniquely placed to draw on centuries of Jewish and Christian traditions, traditions that show us how to translate spiritual truths into real world actions both mundane and revolutionary.” 23


PR IZE N D

2

Lessons From My Nine Foot Chanukah Bush WR I TE R :

CO R RY

B E L L

Fitting a square peg into a round hole had become my specialty over the years. “I’m a flexible person, able to adapt to any situation,” I thought. Change my Christian lifestyle over to my newfound Messianic Jewish one? No problem! My Sunday morning worship to Shabbat? Easy peasy. No more bacon, shrimp or exotic foods that I have trouble pronouncing? Piece of cake – eh, um . . . kugel! I got this!

Life and Culture

In fact, I did so well fitting into my new community that I was more than willing to brag about my Chanukah decorations to anyone who would listen. It was a fascinating story to tell with a large, ominous Star of David outside my house, blue and white lights hanging from the eaves, a large menorah in the window and my nine foot Chanukah bush in the middle of my living room! “What a great witnessing tool,” I reasoned with myself.

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There’s something to be said about authenticity; a lesson to be learned about presenting who we are in Messiah in a way that changes someone else’s life besides our own. With sincere intentions I made this transformation, but sentimental traditions are hard to part with so, every year, I assembled that bush, hung the ornaments and ignored that still small voice inside me that said, “Are you willing to walk with Me in the fullness of your Jewish identity?” I, personally, have nothing against Christmas trees. I understand the arguments for and against, but I have a large family and none of them relate to our Jewish heritage. We were not raised Jewish, so Christmas is important to my brothers and


their families. Even my agnostic dad and atheist mom cherished this beloved holiday. Yet, every year was becoming a challenge for me to express my Jewishness during the holidays until I finally acquiesced to that voice in my head. I decided to leave the tree in the box! It was that very year that I got a knock on the door from an orthodox rabbi who saw my menorah in the window. Covered in black garb, he and his family came into my home, sufganiot in tow, to express their delight in the large chanukiah in my window! That man carefully inspected my home while we chatted, looking for signs of “Jewish pride.” This was a test that I needed to pass. After asking more questions, he left, satisfied that our family was Jewish. He saw, heard and felt the voices of my ancestors in my home. It was the beginning of a good friendship and a great witness, over the years, of our Messiah.

“There’s something to be said about authenticity; a lesson to be learned about presenting who we are in Messiah in a way that changes someone else’s life besides our own.”

Why did I wait so long to let go of something that would never draw my Jewish community into my home, but quite possibly push them away? After the rabbi left, my family looked at me and remarked, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t put that Chanukah bush up this year?”

BIO

Corry Bell is a well-known Messianic worship leader and co-founder of the worship band, Lev Shelo. As a side-bar, Corry is a journalist for The Messianic Times. She resides in Southern California with her family. About her article, Corry writes: “Finding out I was Jewish was a shock to me after 22 years of identifying as a Gentile Believer. Walking in that Jewishness was awkward and unfamiliar at first. I wrote this article to inspire other Jewish Believers to begin walking in the fullness of their heritage!”

Life and Culture

Yes, I am.

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PR IZE R D

3

Tradition in the Kitchen WR I T E R :

AVI TA L

S N OW

The Jewish grandmother, familiar apron tied around her waist, house slippers adorning her feet as she prepares a meal in the kitchen. This scene is the essence of Jewish identity. The meal she prepares is the tie that binds. It has been carefully transferred from one generation to the next. The Scriptures and our traditions are passed down through food, whether metaphorically or literally. Food is the vehicle through which we preserve our identity as a people.

Life and Culture

Since cuisine is a key element that marks a community’s recognizable existence, and distinguishes it from the rest of the society, what is the food that sets the Jewish kitchen apart? This is a very personal question and responses vary. Without hesitation, my father would vote for the Rosh Hashanah brisket, slow stewed in a bath of rehydrated prunes, onions, and apricots. My mother insists on the honey – sweet and steadfast challah, and my grandmother probably would’ve bet her mahjong winnings on the Russian Shabbat standby known as cholent. But for my sister and me, there’s no question it’s the humble Passover matzo rolls. Oily and dense, they come but once a year and don’t seem to be the obvious star of the show. But Passover would be downright tragic without matzo rolls. Imagine removing the charoset from the menu, or the four questions from the Seder; utterly incomplete, quite sad indeed.

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As kids, it was the matzo rolls that lured us to the kitchen before the Seder. They pulled us away from playing with our cousins, in an attempt to discreetly stuff one roll into our mouths while the adults chatted distractedly. My sister and I would scurry down the carpeted stairs to dance in front of the mirror-lined closet doors, not minding the impending run in our stockings. Then we’d peek into the kitchen while we waited for the dinner bell (my grandmother in a high-pitched voice, partly singing, partly shouting, “ding a ling a liiiiing”). The entire family had a place at the dining room table, which was extended by the buffet pull out, and adorned with white-laced tablecloths and prism-catching crystal glasses. As an adult with more responsibility in preparing the Seder, carrying the mantle of reproducing the matzo rolls has been a journey of self-discovery. Where did the recipe come from (surely my late


At Passover, the maror symbolizes the bitterness of our enslaved relatives. The challah at Shabbat reminds us of God’s provision. Yeshua used wine to explain that His blood would be shed for the forgiveness of sins. These are just a few examples of how food is used as a teaching mechanism. But matzo rolls are not mandated or even mentioned in Scripture. And yet, in our family, they make Passover recognizable because they carry the tradition and identity of the holiday. Matzo rolls symbolize love, just as the aforementioned examples demonstrate God’s love for His people and creation. At the end of my abbreviated quest to improve/modify my grandmother’s matzo rolls, I concluded that the Eastern European tradition reigns. Despite how unwholesome and totally not local the ingredients are, I’m compelled to cook what my grandma served at Passover. Fluffy rolls may seem a little antithetical to flat unleavened matzo, but they are permanently tied to an association with my grandmother’s love for her family and the Jewish identity she passed on to us. There are plenty of other healthy dishes to include on the menu, but it wouldn’t be Passover without matzo rolls. It is my hope that as I prepare my grandmother’s recipe, those rolls will continue to transmit love within my family, and speak to our enduring identity as Jewish people.

Passover Matzo Rolls • • • • • •

7 eggs ½ cup olive oil 1 ½ cup water 1 ½ cup matzo meal 1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon sugar

1) Boil water and oil together. 2) Remove from heat and add sugar, salt and matzo meal. Cool at room temperature. 3) Beat in eggs, one at a time. Fill greased muffin tins ¾ full. 4) Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until golden. 5) Transfer to wire cooling rack.

BIO

Avital Snow is a second-generation Jewish Believer in Yeshua, and is joyfully married to her husband Travis. She serves as the Coordinator of Messianic Jewish Studies at The King’s University and relishes the opportunity to play hostess, dabble in floral arranging and conduct baking experiments in her free time. Avital and Travis live in Dallas, Texas.

Life and Culture

grandmother didn’t create it)? Are there ways to improve it (read: somehow make it more healthy)? How far in advance can the rolls be prepared (a small kitchen means preparation is key)? Why do we make these in the first place? What is their purpose?

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HONOR AB L E MENT ION

Covered

WR I T E R :

M A R I A

Life and Culture

In 2013, a man tapped my bare shoulder and told me to cover it up. I had never seen his face before. He had never seen my shoulder either, but evidently he didn’t want to. I remember thinking it was strange – not inappropriate, not offensive, but strange – that someone I didn’t know was telling me to do something I didn’t think was necessary. I hesitated only for a moment before pulling my scarf back up around my neck. Even while I was still in motion, the man walked away; satisfied. I never said a word to him.

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I was on the Temple Mount, trying my best to appear nonchalant as I peered through the portico and strained to see the inside of the Al Aqsa Mosque. I was visiting Israel with a tour group from my home city of Phoenix and my curiosity was on high alert. This was all wonderfully new to me: the couscous; the narrow, stone-paved avenues. The site of Solomon’s Temple occupied by Arab worshippers. And the men, barking at me to cover up. Touching my shoulder, uninvited. Walking away without a response.

B A E R

The culture and life of Israel was more than I’d expected. Far from little old nuns touching the Temple steps and bringing their fingers to their lips – was this what I expected? I chided myself – this was a modern-day city set by happenstance among a world of ancient ruins. Among many others, there were two distinct cultures here: Jewish and Arab, and they crashed into each other on every street corner. A Kosher pizzeria had cheese but no pepperoni. The store down the block closed five times a day so the proprietor could turn toward Mecca from his storeroom. This was Jesus’ home, yes; it was also home to a diverse millions of modern-day citizens. By the time our tour guide took us to the Temple Mount, I was well-versed in the dress code for the Arab parts of the city. I had found it annoying at first – so different from the live-and-let-liveor-else creed of the United States – but it didn’t seem so monumental a disturbance after a while. I had brought a scarf, a jacket, a few sweaters. This wasn’t difficult.


“This was Jesus’ home, yes; it was also home to a diverse millions of modern-day citizens.”

As the scene continued to replay in my mind later, though, my regret softened. If God, for whichever inscrutable reason, has chosen to temporarily give Mount Moriah over to another people, I can defer to what keeps our mutual peace. As a Believer in Yeshua I am called to serve others, and in serving others I can “become all things to all people.” Being rudely instructed to cover up by a stranger felt alien to me; but after all I was an alien, in a foreign land that more or less peaceably welcomed me. And this turned my thoughts to my truer alienhood. Culture shock can be shocking in both positive and negative ways. On the Temple Mount, it pointed me toward my truer Home, where we’ll one day again be naked and unashamed.

BIO

Life and Culture

But my reaction to the man at the mosque surprised me upon reflection, and I found that I felt regretful. I was surprised that I didn’t feel more angry at his blunt instruction. More violated at his touch. More outraged at his implication. But I realized I had adapted to this new culture by that moment. Had I been in Times Square, I may have erupted into an outraged retort – I would’ve never adjusted the scarf to oblige him (I would not have been wearing it in the first place). But here, I was a timid outsider, and that made me nervous. And my nervousness made me compliant. I hated that. My bare shoulder is fair and its exposure benign – but more than that, I was standing on the site of my Lord’s Holy Temple and a servant of another god was not only acting as if he was in charge of me, he was acting as if he was in charge of it.

Maria Baer is a freelance writer who lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two young daughters. She graduated with a journalism degree from Ohio University in 2009 and contributes regularly to WORLD Magazine, Christianity Today Magazine and The Gospel Coalition. She has participated in missions to the Jewish people in Ukraine, Zimbabwe, Israel and here in the United States and is thankful every day for God’s patience, steadfastness, love and sense of humor. 29


HONOR AB L E MENT ION

The Praises Go Up: Why We Bless God, Not Our Food W RI T E R :

S

.

N I C H OL S

“Lord, bless these chicken nuggets.” I’ve heard it. Maybe you have. Maybe you yourself are a blesser of nugs. If so, I mean no disrespect when I posit that the breaded chicken may not be what we should be blessing. My Jewish upbringing has shaped my perspective on pre-meal prayers, and I will go further to say that this Jewish perspective may shed light on topics far beyond what we say before we eat. Like most Jewish people, I grew up reciting the kiddush and hamotzi blessings (before consuming the wine and bread, respectively) before every festive meal. If you’re not familiar with these traditional Jewish prayers, they go like this:

Kiddush:

   ‘       Life and Culture

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheynu melech ha’olam, borei p’ri ha’gafen Blessed are you Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who creates fruit from the vine HaMotzi:

    ‘       Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheynu melech ha’olam, ha’motzi lechem min ha’aretz Blessed are you Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth

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The prayer consists of the following elements: 1. A praise to God (“Blessed are You Lord”) 2. A proclamation of God’s identity as our God (“our God”) 3. A proclamation of God’s identity as the King of all creation (“King of the Universe”) 4. A proclamation of God’s identity as the Creator of our provisions (“who creates fruit from the vine”/ “who brings forth bread from the earth”)

Maybe, like in hamotzi, Yeshua was addressing God’s identity as creator of our provisions. And if that is the case, Yeshua would have been making a bold claim about His own identity. Yeshua may very well have thanked God for being One who “brings forth bread” (or to that effect) and proceeded to do just that! It is very interesting to me that in John 6:23, the location of this miracle is referred to as “the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.” This tells me Yeshua’s prayer was no small part of the story, not to mention Yeshua is referred to as “Lord” in the same sentence!

With this in mind, I want to explore how the words of hamotzi may shed light on something far beyond food: Yeshua’s identity as He presents it.

Additionally, it wasn’t until Yeshua “gave thanks and broke bread” that His identity as Lord was revealed to the men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:30-31). This suggests Yeshua was saying an “identity-focused” prayer like hamotzi. The exact words of Yeshua in these occurrences may not be known, but we do know that the tradition of saying the kiddush and hamotzi goes back at least 1,500 years, far long enough to instill a core value in the Jewish people.

In every gospel account, we read the story of Yeshua miraculously feeding 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish after “looking up to Heaven” (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and “giving thanks” (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). We don’t know if Yeshua said the exact words of hamotzi, but from the context we can be confident he was not blessing the bread itself, and instead addressing God directly.

Far from blessing the food God gives us, or even blessing God for the food He gives us, the kiddush and hamotzi reflect the identity of the Jewish people, literally “praisers of God,” as those who bless God for who He is, not what He gives. My prayer is that instead of looking at what’s in our hands, we would, like Yeshua, continue to look up to Heaven and thank the Lord, who is our God, the King of the Universe, and the Creator of all our provisions.

God “creates” and “brings forth” regardless of what we have, and He is therefore worthy of blessing regardless of what we have. When we say the kiddush and hamotzi, we are simply blessing God for who He is.

BIO

Shanna Nichols grew up going to a Messianic synagogue in Atlanta, Georgia before moving down to Macon, GA to attend Mercer University and study Industrial Engineering. Now, she is back in Atlanta working as a Software Consultant and volunteering at her congregation as a drummer, greeting ministry director, and small group leader.

Life and Culture

It took me hearing one too many “bless the chicken nuggets” prayers to really hear the words in these prayers. The more I dwelled on them, the more I liked them. Here’s why.

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32

History and Theology


History and Theology

HISTORY AND THEOLOGY 33


PR IZE ST

1

Jewish Perception of Early Messianic Jews W R I TER:

J O N A T HA N

History and Theology

According to a 2013 Pew Research study, 60 percent of Jews in the United States believe that a person cannot be Jewish if they believe that Yeshua is the Messiah.1 In 2017, the Jerusalem Post published an article entitled, “Will Israel Ever Accept Messianic Jews?” The article states, “[Messianic Jews] are ineligible to make aliya . . . they are excluded from the Law of Return as people who have voluntarily converted out of Judaism.”2 In large part, the Jewish community does not consider Messianic Jews to be Jewish. But this raises the question: Has this always been the case?

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WI L L I A M

movement. Tertullus, the attorney of the high priest prosecutes Paul before the Roman governor of Judea. He argues that Paul was disrupting the peace in the Jewish community and had attempted to profane the temple.8 In making these accusations, he states that Paul belonged to a Jewish sect called “the Nazarenes.”9 Paul clarifies that he belongs to “the Way, which they call a sect.”10 In the Second Temple Period, sects of Judaism were considered “ways” of Jewish belief and practice, and the early Messianic Jewish movement was one of them.11 Early Messianic Jews called their sect “the Way” alluding to Isaiah 40:3.12 Tertullus called followers of Yeshua “the Nazarenes” as opposed to “the Way” because “the Way” was too “theologically loaded” for the Sanhedrin to use.13

Did the Jewish community of ancient Judea think Messianic Jews left Judaism?3 In Acts 5, Luke reports that the apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin to be judged for teaching that Yeshua was the risen Messiah. This resulted in them being flogged.4 Paul received similar punishment. In 2 Corinthians 11:24, Paul writes, “Five times I received at the hands of the [Jewish Leaders] the forty lashes less one.”5 Jewish authorities punished early Messianic Jews for breaking Jewish law.6 But the very fact of their punishment is what is so telling here. They were liable to be disciplined for breaking Jewish law because the Jewish authorities implicitly understood these Messianic Jews to be Jewish. Jewish scholar Claudia Setzer explains that this kind of punishment was intended to “keep recalcitrant Jews in good standing in the community.”7 The Sanhedrin would have never condemned non-Jews of breaking Jewish law.

The Sanhedrin did not dispute the Jewishness of the early Messianic Jewish movement; they disputed that God had raised Yeshua from the dead.14 Jewish scholar Daniel Boyarin rightly points out that Paul says, “according to the Way, which they call a sect”15 because Paul views the Way as “the true way, while the Jews [outside his group] say it is just another school of Judaism.”16 The Jewish community did not believe that Jews who joined the Way had converted to a new religion outside of Judaism. In fact, the Greek word for “conversion” appears only once in the New Testament, in Acts 15:3, and as the late Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide wrote, “[it] refers to the conversion of the Gentiles to the God of Israel.”17

In Acts 24 Luke records how the Sanhedrin implicitly recognized the Jewishness of the early Messianic Jewish

The central belief of the Way was that God raised Yeshua from the dead. In Acts 23, Luke records that


Alan Cooperman and Gregory Smith, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, October 1, 2013, accessed February 28, 2019, http:// www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefsattitudes-culture-survey/. 2 Tamara Zieve, “Will Israel Ever Accept Messianic Jews?” The Jerusalem Post, December 16, 2017, accessed February 28, 2019, https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Diaspora-Affairs-WillIsrael-ever-accept-Messianic-Jews-518129. 3 I am using the term “Messianic Jews” to describe Jewish believers in Yeshua. 4 Acts 5:40 5 English Standard Version. 6 Claudia J. Setzer, Jewish Responses to Believers in Jesus in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, 2nd ed. (eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 731. 7 Setzer, Jewish Responses to Believers in Jesus, 731. 8 Acts 24-5-6 9 Acts 24:5 10 Acts 24:14 11 James D.G. Dunn, “From the Crucifixion to the End of the First Century,” in Partings: How Judaism and Christianity Became Two, ed. Hershel Shanks (Washington, DC: Biblical Archeology Society, 2013), 27-8. 12 Richard Baukham, “James and the Earliest Jerusalem 1

man.”21 Even the central belief of the early Messianic Jews was considered to be a Jewish belief. Early Messianic Jews were not only considered to be Jewish by the Jewish community, but their sect, the Way, was a major sect of Judaism at the time.22 New Testament scholar James Charlesworth states, “Today, Jewish and Christian experts of Second Temple Judaism . . . acknowledge that what would become Christianity was for decades a sect within Judaism.” 23 In large part, today, Messianic Jews are not accepted as fellow Jews within the Jewish community, but this was not the case in the first century.

Community,” in The Early Centuries: Jewish Believers in Jesus, eds. Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 56-7. 13 Richard Bauckham, “Why Were the Early Christians Called Nazarenes?” Mishkan 38 (2003): 80. Cf. Carl R. Holladay, Acts: A Commentary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 447. 14 Acts 24:21; Cf. Acts 23:6; Isaac W. Oliver, Paul the Jew: Rereading the Apostle as a Figure of Second Temple Judaism, eds. Gabriele Boccaccini, Carlos A Segovia, and Cameron J. Doody, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016), 62. 15 Acts 24:14 16 Daniel Boyarin, Borderlines: The Partition of JudeaeoChristianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 54. 17 Pinchas Lapide and Peter Stuhlmacher, Paul Rabbi and Apostle (Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub. House, 1984), 48. 18 Craig S. Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: Volume 3, 15:1-23:35 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014), 3121. 19 Josephus, Jewish Wars, 2.8.162-64; Acts 23:8; Mark 12:18 20 Acts 23:6 21 Acts 23:9 22 Acts 21:20; Cf. Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: Volume 3, 3119-23. 23 James Charlesworth, “Did They Ever Part?,” in Partings, 282.

BIO

Jonathan William is a Masters of Theological Studies student at Duke University and the co-director of Bible History with Erik Andrews. Bible History is a YouTube channel that reveals the Jewishness of the New Testament. About his article, Jonathan writes, “After reading the works of Jewish scholars such as Dr. Claudia Setzer and Dr. Daniel Boyarin, and examining the primary sources, it became apparent to me that in the first century, belief in Jesus as the Messiah did not exclude one from the Jewish community. I was motivated to write this essay in the hopes that when people understand this history, they will better understand Messianic Judaism today.”

History and Theology

Paul was brought to trial before the Sanhedrin for teaching this belief. The three most prominent Jewish sects during this period, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essenes, had less than ten thousand members.18 While the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, the Sadducees did not.19 Knowing this, Paul found common ground with the Pharisees. He appealed to their shared hope in the resurrection of the dead and related that belief to the resurrection of Yeshua.20 The Pharisees recognized that if Yeshua rose from the dead then this would be definitive proof that they were right about the resurrection of the dead. They concluded Paul’s trial by saying, “We find nothing wrong in this

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Messianic History Unfolds in Hidden Journals WR I T E R :

G A I L

L EVI N

Introduction: In 1925, the newly formed International Hebrew Christian Alliance held its first conference, and yearly journals soon followed. The article was written to bring attention to the need to find a permanent home for the collection allowing our Messianic history, as recounted by those who lived it, to be told and retold. In 1934, Jewish followers of Yeshua in Nazi-occupied territory found themselves in a unique position. Isolated from their peers by faith in the Son of God, they were still equally persecuted and hunted. “The really unlucky Jews,” noted Rev. Nahum Levison, B.D., “are the non-practicing ones and those converted to Christianity. Neither side wants them.”1

History and Theology

Holocaust experiences of Europe’s Messianic Jews are little known, yet well recorded, in the annual journals of the International Hebrew Christian Alliance (IHCA) – later renamed the International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA). These weathered documents, also lost to public view, have been handed through time from one executive secretary to another.

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Haunting stories abound in these old, dusty books. We find one young doctor – a Hebrew Christian trapped in Nazi Germany – who laments, “I am an outcast, no one will have anything to do with me . . . socially and spiritually . . . I am alone. Can you give me a chance to find some human companionship, some means of making a living?”2 Ironically, belief in the very Name that separated them from their fellows served a lifeline. “Fear, despair, depression and melancholy. There was only one panacea against them – I want to emphasize it, only one – and that was trust in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer,” recalled Otto Samuel of his experiences in no less than nine camps. He recounts, “As we trusted in Him, our fears were quieted and life in the (concentration) camp became a school of inspiration.”3


Shuffled from one internment hellhole to another, Samuel suffered release and then recapture as he fled from nation to nation. Remarkable as it sounds, this brave soul lived a faith that ministered to those around him. In one location he taught open-air Bible classes, in another he served as chaplain where, he recalls, “while going about my duties, [I] had to wear hip boots because of the mud and water.” 4 Messianic believers in free countries did what they could to help. “We have been able during the past six years to settle hundreds of our homeless Hebrew Christian brethren,” remarked one journaler.5 Armed with a Kingdom perspective, leaders of the movement hoped for the best. “It may be, by the grace of God, that the suffering of the Hebrew Christians in the midst of their Jewish brethren will be the seed of a nationwide movement Christ-ward,” considered Rev. Jakob Jocz Vice-President of the Polish Alliance.6 Decades later, we know the results of such prophetic longing. With much of the Messianic movement in Europe wiped out, the costly blood of the martyred only served to increase an unbroken resolve: the same determination that continues to fuel the Messianic Jewish Movement today. These recorded stories of European Jews faithful to Yeshua, to death and beyond, are as sacred as those of Jewish Holocaust survivors in general, and become especially precious to our Movement’s collective memory. To best chart where we are headed, we need to know from where we came. The inaugural International Conference of the IHCA held in September, 1925 in England, lends credence to the providence of God in the resilience of His Jewish remnant. Samuel Schor, President of the British Branch of the IHCA, witnessed to the miracle of Jewish people worldwide finding Yeshua – and each other – across time and space: “The Conference reported in this volume bridges the many centuries since Apostolic days,” and, “[it] drew sons and daughters of Abraham from the ends of the earth.” 7 Events covered in journals, originally published from 1925 into the 1960s, include theological discussions, essays, insights, poems and much more. Page-turners, the books reveal the thoughts, sights and words of their respective generations. With Judeo-Christian values under attack in the West as never before, it is imperative we hold fast to the foundation of our faith. Currently in storage, so personal a testimony deserves a permanent home where the archives will be properly preserved and made available for study, reflection and hope.

The Hebrew Christian. “The Hebrew Christians in Germany.” 1934-1935. Vol 7. Pg. 10. The Hebrew Christian. “The Hebrew Christians in Germany.” 1934-1935. Volume 7. Pg. 11 3 The Hebrew Christian. “My Experiences in Nazi Germany.” Volume 18. Pg. 17. 4 Ibid. 5 The Hebrew Christian. “News and Notes: Small Scale Settlement.”1939-1940. Volume 12. Pg. 104. 6 The Hebrew Christian. “Hebrew Christianity in Poland.” 1941-1942. Vol. 14. Pg. 65. 7 The Hebrew Christian. Report of the First International Hebrew Christian Conference, held at Islington, London, 5th to 12th September 1925. Foreword. Pg. vi. 1

BIO

Gail Levin is an ordained minister and the Director of The Salt & Light Council (SLC). SLC trains Affiliate Leaders nationwide to form Biblical Citizenship Ministries that educate, mobilize and activate their congregations to preserve America’s Judeo-Christian culture. Gail, a former editor with The Messianic Times newspaper, currently serves on the International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA) advisory committee and is a member of San Diego’s Tree of Life Messianic Congregation.

History and Theology

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I’m A Messianic Jew Not a Christian Convert W R I T E R :

E .

History and Theology

When I tell people that I am a Messianic Jew, people are often confused. The predictable ebb and flow of the conversation is marked by the phases of facial expressions the listener goes through. The eyes squint, the eyebrows raise and the head tilts. Before they ask, I am usually already explaining that it means I am a Believer in Jesus (who we call Yeshua) and I maintain my Jewish identity by keeping kosher, observing Shabbat, and taking part in some Jewish traditions, just like how the disciples did in the Book of Acts.

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At this point, the listener’s face either turns to an expression of joy, paired with an exclamation like, “I’ve heard about that! I think it is so cool that you keep the biblical holidays. Tell me more about it.” Or, their eyes squint a little narrower, their eyebrows raise a little higher, their head tilts a little further, and they ask, “If you believe in Jesus, then why aren’t you just a Christian?” In my experience, this question can be filled with a host of different assumptions. Perhaps the most prominent being that Torah-observance is, at best, unnecessary but allowed, or, at worst, a sign that the individual is still enslaved to sin and is under the yoke of trying to earn God’s grace through religious acts. Though there is a wide spectrum of views, for the majority of Christians

A N D R E W S

I have spoken with, Torah-observance makes them uncomfortable to some degree. Understanding that they most likely find their discomfort in how they read the writings of Paul, I use him as my example. It is common to hear that Paul converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus in Acts 9. Rather than a conversion, Paul’s transformative experience is better described as a calling. For this, I appeal to the work of Dr. Krister Stendahl, a Lutheran New Testament scholar who taught at both Harvard and Brandeis Universities. He noticed that Paul’s encounter with God mirrored the divine encounters experienced by Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 1:28, we read that Ezekiel saw a bright light, recognized the Lord and fell to the ground as he heard a voice. This is the same sequence of events we read concerning Paul in Acts 9:3-5. Then, just like Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5) and Isaiah (Isaiah 49:1,6), we read that Paul was “set apart before [he] was born” to preach a message of God among the Gentile nations (Galatians 1:15-16a). Dr. Stendhahl’s point is this, if we do not describe Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekial as converts, then why do


“We must maintain our ethnic identities to show that the God of Israel is the God of all.”

we do this for Paul? The prophets obviously remained Jewish after their divine encounters, so it is most reasonable to assume that Paul did the same. Paired with the fact that Paul never identified himself as anything other than a Jew should make this conclusion easy to come to. Just like the prophets, Paul was called by God to complete a given task. For him, it was sharing the Gospel with the nations. It is worth noting, that he did this without neglecting to share the Gospel to his fellow Jews. Not only did Paul remain Jewish, but he instructed other Jewish Believers to do the same. In 1 Corinthians 7:18a, Paul said, “Was anyone called when he already had been circumcised? Let him not make himself uncircumcised.” Notably, Paul also instructed the people of the nations not to be circumcised and become Jews in 1 Corinthians 7:18b. For Paul, it was vital that we maintain the ethnic identity that God gave us. This bears the question, why?

BIO

Erik Andrews is a Masters of Theological Studies student at Candler School of Theology at Emory University and the co-director of Bible History with Jonathan William. Bible History is a YouTube channel that reveals the Jewishness of the New Testament. About his article, Erik writes, “My inspiration for this piece was from reading the works of Jewish scholars, Dr. Paula Fredriksen and Dr. Mark Nanos. I am excited about these ideas because it provides clarity and purpose behind the continuation of Jewish identity while also affirming the importance of Gentile identity.”

History and Theology

The answer I ultimately give is that we must maintain our Jewish identity in order to bring the God of Israel the most glory. If I were to give up my Jewish identity because I became a follower of Yeshua, what would I be communicating to the world? I would be communicating that God is not the God of Israel, He is the God of everyone else. Just as significant, if a Gentile abandoned their heritage and became a Jew, they would be communicating that God is only the God of Israel. We must maintain our ethnic identities to show that the God of Israel is the God of all.

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HONOR AB L E MENT ION

Creation Care and the Leviticus Food Laws WR I T E R :

TO M

Does a rejection of kashrut food instructions harm the earth? It seems an odd question, but I propose it is worthy of consideration.

History and Theology

When it comes to matters of Torah, perhaps no other set of mitzvot evokes more debate than the distinctions of kosher and non-kosher meats listed in Leviticus 11 and later repeated in Deuteronomy 14. Many in Messianic Jewish and Torah-positive Christian circles would argue in favor of keeping these instructions while traditional mainstream Protestant Christians consider them antiquated ritual prohibitions that no longer apply in modern times.

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Arguments in favor of adhering to these food laws range from health benefits to the principle of zot chukat haTorah – if it’s in Torah, that’s all that matters. These are great reasons to keep the dietary mitzvot, and for them not to be ignored. However, I propose another argument; an assertion that they have a relationship with the balance of all life on Earth. Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:15 charges humanity with responsibility for and stewardship of all Creation. Revelation 11:18 indicates that, depending on how one interprets the text, God will destroy those who currently and historically have contributed to the destruction of the earth. This leads to a logical conclusion that a life pleasing to our Creator is founded in loving and caring

ST E E L E

for all of His Creation. So how do mitzvot about a list of meats, either permitted for, or prohibited from use, as food pertain to a biblical ecological ethic? Consider these few examples of environmental devastation resulting from humans using creatures from the unclean list as food: 1) Overharvesting of sharks for production of the Chinese delicacy shark-fin soup creates a chain effect where the overpopulation of mid-level predators decimates local shellfish populations that are essential for maintaining clean aquatic ecosystems.1 2) Overharvesting of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay has caused drastic environmental changes with elevated carbon levels, making water more acidic and therefore toxic to other aquatic species.2 3) The introduction of pigs to Bermuda in the 16th century by sailors using them as a food source caused the near extinction of a seabird, the Bermuda Petrel, and the total extinction of other native species.3 4) The introduction of wild boar into the United States by immigrants, primarily in the early 20th century, has had devastating effects on the environment and native plants and animals.4


Something worth noting is that many non-kosher species are either scavengers or predators whose numbers are naturally low in their native environments. The loss of these species creates imbalances in nature. In contrast, the overpopulation of kosher species like deer or permissible fish (those with fins and scales) – resulting from lack of predation – also creates ecological problems from overgrazing and excess waste. Professor Calvin DeWitt says, “Since God creates and sustains all of creation, we should expect the Bible to call us to bring honor to God in creation. We should expect Scripture to support creation’s care and keeping and to encourage us to maintain the integrity of the creation that God repeatedly called ‘good’.”5 Rabbi Arthur Waskow proposes that Torah’s economic/ ecological vision is found in us humans restoring the earth to the same degree we deplete it.6 And Christian

Decline Of Big Sharks Lets Small Predators Decimate Shellfish, Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, March 30, 2007 2 Ecological Changes in Chesapeake Bay: Are They the Result of Overharvesting the American Oyster, Crassostrea virginica?, Roger I.E. Newell, University of Maryland, March 1988 3 Rare Birds: The Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction, Elizabeth Gehrman, Beacon Press, 2012, pg. 26-28 4 The biology of native and invasive Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) and 1

farmer Joel Salatin boldly declares, “The satisfaction of being nature’s nurturer always trumps the short-lived adrenaline high of being nature’s conqueror.”7 Are the food laws from Leviticus essential to the care of creation? Are they a part of the actual design of creation and the balance and harmony of all life in the biosphere? Two Hebrew phrases come to mind when I examine this and related Torah concepts: bal-tashchit and sidrei bereshit. If combined into one phrase, we could say they mean: You shall not destroy the order of creation. We are charged with the care of this earth and the fullness thereof, which belongs to our Creator.8 Many of us inhabiting the planet today might not be in a position to go on some grand adventure to save a species on the brink of extinction. But we can all do simple things in our daily lives that make a difference. Perhaps keeping the kosher meat regulations is one way we can all care for Creation and honor our Creator.

the effect it is having in its invasive range, Jillian Pastick, Lake Forest College, March 2012 5 Earthwise: A Guide To Hopeful Creation Care, Edition 3, Calvin B. Dewitt, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2011, pg. 71 6 Torah of the Earth: Exploring 4,000 Years of Ecology in Jewish Thought, Vol. 1, Arthur Waskow, Jewish Lights, 2000, pg. 80 7 The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for all God’s Creation, Joel Salatin, FaithWords, 2016, pg. 243 8 Psalm 24:1, 1 Corinthians 10:26

BIO

Tom Steele is a 2003 graduate of World Harvest Bible College in Columbus, Ohio. After many years of service on staff and as a ministry volunteer at World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio he launched Truth Ignited Ministry in 2015. Truth Ignited serves to teach Christians about the Jewish roots of Christianity and the application of Torah in their walk with Yeshua.

History and Theology

5) Pork and seafood seem to comprise the two most commonly eaten groups of unclean meats today, at least in the United States. It seems only logical that examples of the devastating effects this has on the environment would come from these two groups as well.

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Why Maintain Our Jewish Identity as Followers of Yeshua? WR I T E R :

M A R A

F R I S C H

“Why do you still claim to be Jewish when Paul says, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female – for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua’?” (Galatians 3:28, TLV). This is a question that confronts many Jewish Believers in Yeshua and challenges us to consider the significance of our Jewish identities. However, there are clear biblical, practical, and historical reasons why affirming our Jewish identity is not only acceptable, but essential for fulfilling our callings.

History and Theology

First, Paul was teaching the Galatians, through the verse above, that there is equality among all who follow Yeshua. Each person, regardless of his or her background, has equal access to God. This is an important truth that needs to be acknowledged, but abolishing inequality should not be confused with abolishing identity. No one would claim that Paul is suggesting that a person’s male or female identity becomes irrelevant after deciding to follow Yeshua. Likewise, neither does a person’s Jewish identity. Rather, our Jewish identity represents an undeniable part of who we are.

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Secondly, in Scripture, there is a prophetic role identified for Jewish Believers. Though we cannot grasp the full scope of this promise, we see that there is a direct consequence when Jewish Believers accept their Messiah. “For if their (Israelites) rejection leads to the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15 TLV). At the same time, this principle should not be equated with the false belief that God cares more about the Jewish people than He does toward others. Instead, it simply demonstrates that for reasons beyond our human understanding, God utilizes our Jewish identity as part of His unfolding plan. Thirdly, it is clear that God desires to use all of us, whether we are Jewish or not, to shine His beautiful light into this world (Matthew 5:14) and accomplish His tasks. “For we are His workmanship – created in Messiah Yeshua for good deeds, which God prepared beforehand so we might walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 TLV). God carefully crafted each one of us individually and places us in situations where our unique


“For Jewish Believers, it is only through our Jewish identities that we can fully and completely operate in all the ways God designed for us.”

talents, personalities and identities can be used for good. How, then, can we fulfill our callings if we are not operating in the specific identities God has given us? For Jewish Believers, it is only through our Jewish identities that we can fully and completely operate in all the ways God designed for us.

Lastly, the Jewish people have endured generations and generations of persecution, with many biblical, historical and modern day rulers attempting to extinguish us. Stories of the pograms, Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust have been woven into our ethos as a people. At Passover each year, we relive the Exodus from Egypt not as bystanders removed from the story, but as if we personally escaped from Pharaoh. Similarly, we have a responsibility to our past and present generations to proclaim God’s continuing faithfulness to the Jewish people. “Once we were slaves in Egypt, but now we are free!”

BIO

Mara Frisch served in Messianic Youth Ministry for over 12 years in various roles locally and nationally including: Youth Director of Beth Messiah Synagogue; Ministries Director of the Young Messianic Jewish Alliance (YMJA); and in several positions on the YMJA Executive Committee. She received her BA in Psychology and Speech Communications from Miami University of Ohio; her MEd in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Cincinnati; and her MA in International Law and Conflict Resolution from Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. Currently, Mara is pursuing law school at Elon University, where she is concentrating in immigration law. In her free time, she enjoys flying on trapezes and teaching ice-skating.

History and Theology

Though each person expresses his or her identity distinctly, it is impossible for a Jewish person to sever himself or herself from his or her Jewishness. On biblical, practical and historical levels, there are clearly defined motivations for expressing our Jewish identity. Thus, each of us who identifies as a Jewish Believer should confidently accept this aspect of who God made us to be.

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Israel and the Middle East


Israel and the Middle East

ISR A E L A ND T H E M IDDLE E A ST

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Netanyahu’s Hardest Fight WR I T E R :

J O N AT H A N

M A H O N EY

It’s election year in Israel, and the easy victory first predicted for Prime Minister Netanyahu has hit rocky ground as April 9th draws near.* The once seemingly unstoppable force in Israeli politics faces perhaps the most challenging election cycle in his political career.

Israel and the Middle East

November, the original and typical time for the election, was far from Netanyahu’s mind. That is, until investigations were undertaken into the prime minister and his administration on charges of corruption and fraud. Before the indictments were made official in the courts, the coalition government agreed to bump up the timetable for the election by six months. The move has no lack of strategic merit, cutting the time Netanyahu’s rivals have to gain momentum in their campaign efforts and jumping ahead of the potential fallout from the indictments before it can happen.

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The legal scandal has thus far had little effect on Bibi’s popularity, however that may not prove to be his biggest problem. Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, who as individual political entities posed little threat, joined forces to form the Blue and White, a centrist coalition whose appeal looms large against the longstanding dominance of Netanyahu’s Likud Party. In light of this new, united front, the prime minister made a move for allies that has garnered sharp criticism across political lines in Israel and even across the sea in Washington D.C. In a gesture that seems strikingly reactionary from the typically savvy prime minister, Netanyahu reached out to a group on the ultranationalist fringe of Israel’s political spectrum. That group is the Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power Party. Jewish Power is the political descendant of the Kach Party, a group classified as a terrorist organization by the FBI which was officially disbanded by the Israeli government in 1994 after a spate of attacks. As such, Jewish Power supports far-right, nationalist measures, and its leaders have called for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel that they deem “disloyal” to the nation. Their general reputation among the Israeli populace is that of building divisions along racial lines, while scapegoating the Arab population for much of the country’s woes.


The prime minister successfully engineered a deal enabling the Jewish Power Party to run on a joint ticket with the Jewish Home Party, another group with nationalist leanings. This has won him increased favor with the far-right voting demographic, a group that would never support Blue and White, but wasn’t entirely sold on him either. Catering to their aspirations of legitimacy may have given him a much-needed boost in his efforts to retain his premiership. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee issued a rare statement of rebuke in the wake of Netanyahu’s deal, saying Jewish Power “must not be legitimized.” The statement went on to say that, “Otzma Yehudit’s hatred is not a reflection of the values the state of Israel was founded upon, and it should be rejected.” Netanyahu has faced scrutiny for his reelection tactics before. On the eve of the 2015 election, the prime minister made the unfounded claim that, “[the] right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out.” The outcry over his words was strong, and he later apologized for his remarks. Now, in the tense weeks leading into the election, the prime minister has once again found himself in hot water for comments that ring of anti-Arab sentiment. In an Instagram post from his official account, Netanyahu wrote, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens . . . According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people – and only it.” However his words were intended, his post has been widely criticized as being suspiciously similar in timing and tone to his 2015 remarks. Actress Gal Gadot, who has been almost entirely apolitical in her public statements, wrote a response to Netanyahu regarding Israel’s virtue as a diverse place made up of many groups of people. “This isn’t a matter of right or left. Jew or Arab. Secular or religious,” wrote the Wonder Woman star to her more than twenty-eight million followers on Instagram. “It’s a matter of dialogue, of dialogue for peace and equality and of our tolerance of one towards the other.” Prime Minister Netanyahu has been called “Mr. Security” for his list of accomplishments and solid track record in keeping the country safe. Only time will tell if his seat at the top of the mountain will prove so secure.

Editors’ Note: This article was written in response to a prompt asking the writer to react to a news event from early 2019.

BIO

Jonathan Mahoney is an art director in Kansas City where he serves as the young adult leader at Or HaOlam Messianic Synagogue. He has always been an avid writer in the form of short stories or essays. He lives just outside of Kansas City with his wife Denise and their daughter.

Israel and the Middle East

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The Rise of Turkey and Ezekiel 38-39 WR I T E R :

T R AVI S

Israel and the Middle East

In December of 2017, the state-run Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak ran an article calling for a united “army of Islam” to invade Israel. More recently, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the undisputed capital of the Jewish State, and has even said that Muslims should embrace the cause of Jerusalem “to the death.”

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through and through. He disdains democracy. One of his primary goals is to re-establish Turkey as the leader of a revived Ottoman Islamic Empire. Since coming to power, Erdogan has systematically silenced, jailed, or executed most of his opponents in the military, media, business sector and in academia.

By all accounts, Turkey has now emerged as one of the primary antagonists of Israel in the Middle East, which may come as a surprise to many people. Historically, Turkey has been an ally of Israel and the U.S., and one of the more “moderate” Muslim nations in the world, with a western-style democracy.

Many of these recent developments in Turkey are a bit unsettling. Nevertheless, it is still important to recognize that the rise of Turkey as a global power does harmonize with certain key Bible prophecies related to what will take place in the Middle East before the return of Yeshua. In Ezekiel 38-39 Ezekiel specifically predicted that Turkey would become one of the primary geopolitical enemies of Israel in the last days.

Turkey’s friendlier posture towards Israel began to shift in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At this time, the Islamic factions in Turkey gained a firmer foothold in Turkish politics, which eventually led to the election of now President Erdogan to the Prime Minister’s office in 2002. Erdogan is a fundamentalist Sunni Muslim

Many people are familiar with Ezekiel 38-39. They know this prophecy speaks of a military invasion of Israel led by a figure known as “Gog of the land of Magog.” Unfortunately however, many prophecy teachers today erroneously connect Gog to Russia. Part of the reason for this is because in both the New American Standard and New King


James versions of the Bible, “Gog” is not only said to come from “the land of Magog,” but is also further described as “the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal” (Ez. 38:2). Because the word “Rosh” sounds similar to Russia, and because “Meshech and Tubal” sound similar to the Russian cities Moscow and Tobolsk, it has often been assumed in conservative prophecy circles that Gog must be a Russian. In reality however, most scholars now recognize that Ezekiel 38:2 actually describes Gog as the “chief prince of Meshech and Tubal,” not the “prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.” In other words, the Hebrew term rosh, which means, “head, chief, or foremost,” is modifying Gog’s title as a prince (nasi). It is not the name of a particular place, which in turn, rules out any possible association between Gog and Russia. The idea that Gog is actually the “chief (rosh) prince (nasi) of Meshech and Tubal” is found in the ESV, NIV, HCSB, TLV and JPS translations of the Bible. Now that the association between Gog and Russia has mostly fallen out of favor among scholars, there is near unanimous agreement in

scholarly Bible commentaries and Bible atlases that in Ezekiel’s day, Magog, Meshech and Tubal were all located in what is now modern Turkey. For example: • The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary states, “Magog (possibly meaning “the land of Gog”) was no doubt located in Asia Minor [Turkey] and may refer to Lydia.” 1 • Historian Edwin Yamauchi has also written, “Since the late nineteenth century, Assyrian texts have been available which locate Meshech (Mushku) and Tubal (Tabal) in central and eastern Anatolia [Turkey] respectively.” 2 This critical prophecy in Ezekiel 38-39 may explain why Turkey has recently become one of the primary enemies of Israel on the world stage. Now of course, we do not want to jump to conclusions and say that Erdogan must be Gog! However, those of us with an interest in the signs of the times should definitely keep a close eye on Turkey. Based on Ezekiel’s prophecy, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that key prophetic events will transpire in Turkey in the days ahead.

“Gog,” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary, eds. J.D. Douglas, Merrill C. Tenney, & Moises Silva (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 537. 2 E. Yamauchi, “The Scythians: Invading Hordes from the Russian Steppes,” BA (Spring 1983), 96.

BIO

Travis Snow is the Founder and President of Voice of Messiah, a non-profit ministry committed to sharing the Good News with the Jewish people, and helping the Church understand God’s purposes for Israel. He is an avid student of Bible prophecy and geo-politics, a husband to his beloved Avital, and the author of the forthcoming book: The Passover King: Exploring the Prophetic Connection Between Passover, the End Times, and the Return of Jesus.

Israel and the Middle East

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PR IZE R D

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Controversial TIPH Observer Force To Leave Hebron WR I TE R :

M A R I A

It was called the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) – but it lasted for more than 20 years.

Israel and the Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced early this week* he will not renew Israel’s agreement with the TIPH, the international force tasked with “observing” activity in the West Bank city of Hebron. The TIPH, made up of 64 observers from Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Turkey has operated in the city for nearly 22 years under the auspices of keeping the peace but has become increasingly unpopular among the Jewish people inside and outside of Hebron. In an official statement, Netanyahu said he would no longer “allow an international force to act against us.” A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority pushed back, accusing Israel of reneging on its peace-keeping commitments. THE BACKGROUND The TIPH was originally deployed to Hebron under the Oslo Accords. Known as the Hebron 50

B A E R

Protocol, this specific agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization called for the majority of Israeli military forces to leave the Hebron region as the TIPH moved in. The observers, in their trademark red, white and blue uniforms, were meant to objectively watch for human rights violations in the Palestiniansettled area of Hebron City, known as H1, and the small Israeli settlement known as H2. (Israelis remain the minority even in H2, as roughly 40,000 Palestinians live there among less than one-thousand Jewish people.) Despite that population disparity, the vast majority of the TIPH’s reports of misbehavior cited Israelis as the culprits. THE REPORT Last year, the TIPH released a 100-page report detailing 20 years of alleged repeated violations by the Israeli military force against their Palestinian neighbors. The report is confidential and was released only to Israeli and Palestinian officials as well as the governments of TIPH’s member countries. But a confidential source spoke anonymously to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the report.


Following Haaretz’s reporting on the TIPH report, several high-ranking Israeli politicians, mostly from the political right, criticized it as “anti-Semitic propaganda” and called for the dismantling of the TIPH. Recent actions by TIPH employees against Israeli H2 residents also fueled Israeli anger toward the organization. THE CONTROVERSY Last July, an attorney for TIPH was caught on video slapping a 10-year-old Jewish boy in the face. The Swiss observer was touring an Israeli section of H2 when he hit the child, and while there was no reported reason for the assault, the Swiss ambassador to Israel said as part of

his official apology that there was “no doubt . . . some provocation on the side of the settlers.” Nevertheless, the Swiss government forced the observer back to Switzerland. That violent incident happened just a week after Israeli border officers ran into a Palestinian house in Hebron to administer CPR to a baby found not breathing. The officials kept the baby alive until a medic arrived. Shortly after the slapping incident, another video surfaced showing a TIPH observer a year earlier slashing the tires of an Israeli-owned vehicle. Brigadier General Einar Johnsen, head of the TIPH, later apologized, saying he “regretted” the incidents. Nevertheless, the videos renewed Jewish calls for the removal of the TIPH, which Netanyahu obliged this week. WHAT THIS MEANS The Hebron Protocol, which authorized the on-going presence of the TIPH, was meant to be renewed by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities every six months. Now that Netanyahu has announced his intentions not to renew at the end of this month, the TIPH forces will likely be ordered back to their home countries soon.

Editors’ Note: This article was written in response to a prompt asking the writer to react to a news event from early 2019.

*

BIO

Maria Baer is a freelance writer who lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. She graduated with a journalism degree from Ohio University in 2009 and contributes regularly to WORLD Magazine, Christianity Today Magazine and The Gospel Coalition. She has participated in missions to the Jewish people in Ukraine, Zimbabwe, Israel and here in the United States and is thankful every day for God’s patience, steadfastness, love and sense of humor.

Israel and the Middle East

According to that source, the TIPH accused the small Israeli military forces that remained in Hebron City of flagrant discrimination against the Palestinians and favoritism toward the Jewish people. Many infractions involved the freedom (or lack thereof) of movement. For example, the TIPH accused the IDF of implementing bothersome security checkpoints on the Palestinian’s route to their mosque, while the roads to the Jewish synagogues were clear. The TIPH also faulted Israeli forces for allegedly using checkpoints to effectively shut down a once-bustling Palestinian marketplace.

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Special Thanks To: James Babic-Sternberg Carly Berna Christine Bonelli AndrĂŠ Delgado-Ogli Justin Ferris Esther Gallagher Aviva Goodman Chris Haro Kevin Horton Elliot Klayman Erin Miller Jennifer Nelson Mark Santiago Rebecca Vitkus Mary Walker

Thank You

Ezra Watnik

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2019

WHO WE ARE A Collection of Essays by Messianic Jewish Writers

©2019 Jewish Voice Ministries International All rights reserved. P.O. Box 31998 • Phoenix, AZ 85046-1998 • 800-299-9374 • www.jewishvoice.org

Profile for Jewish Voice Ministries International

Who We Are: A Collection of Essays by Messianic Jewish Writers  

Who We Are: A Collection of Essays by Messianic Jewish Writers  

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