Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Challenge to Christians

Christians, how can I put this delicately? Okay, I can’t. So I’ll just say it. “It’s not all about you.” When the Bible speaks about Israel, it’s not talking about you. The End Times that you seem to get a bit overly excited about, are not all about you. And when the Bible speaks about a Temple, it’s literal, i.e. its about a building, it’s not waxing poetic about a figurative you.

Okay, I’ll be nice now. Because if you are a Christian I really do want you to keep reading. So let me start over with a little story. My sister and her husband just returned from a business trip to China. As their tour guide showed them Tiananmen Square she said, "I heard that there might have been some demonstrations here several years ago. But I've never been able to find out if that is true or not. Is it true?"

That is one of the saddest commentaries on life that I've heard in a long time. Suppression of information. Disinformation. People are kept from truth in so many areas, be it religion, health, governments, the economy, etc. Being a card-carrying Temple fanatic though, my thoughts quickly jumped to one particular subject in which people are sadly, and even pathetically uniformed or misinformed. The subject being Christians' beliefs about the Temple.

For those of you who don’t know, the Christian Bible consists of the Chistian books attached to the Tanach. It’s great on one hand that Christians can so conveniently read the Tanach. What’s not so great though, is a nasty little theological habit Christians have. They write-off whole books of the Tanach in favor of a belief they have based on one or two New Testament scriptures. This is partially how the Holy, awe-inspiring, haven of peace, dwelling place of God, desire of God, command of God became reduced to a temple for the malevolent boogeyman known as the anti-Christ. Christians read the lines in 2 Thessalonians 2:3&4 and snub everything the holy Prophets of Israel had to say about the importance of the Temple, not only in the past, but in the future as well.

So I’ll just stop right here and commence to begging. Please. Please. If you are a Christian who associates God’s Holy Temple as the temple of the anti-Christ, don’t do that. Ever again. Take a break from reading fictional books about the End Times. Take a break from reading theological guesses about the End Times. Instead read Books like Isaiah (especially chapter 2 & chapter 60). Read Ezekiel (especially from chapter 40 to the end of the Book.) Read educational material based on Jewish thought and theology. Come on, I dare you. And read these things without the ignorance or arrogance of “it’s all about me.” It’s not about you. It’s about Israel. Yes, Israel meaning the Jews. Still God’s chosen people; i.e. still the chosen representatives of God, still the Light to the nations.

I’m not interested in challenging all of Christian theology. But I know so many Christians who love and support Israel, yet remain clueless about the Temple. To them the Temple is just another game-piece in events they think must happen in the End Times.

When I read the following quote from the novel The Sweetness of Tears, I thought it was an apt, sad summation of most Christians’ mind-set about the Temple, “When I see your friends on television, going around rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of Armageddon, it makes me cringe. All this talk of End Times! It’s like they’re playing some kind of board game with the Bible. Like the war and death they see happening in the world is just another move forward, roll the dice, and full steam ahead. Yippee! Jesus is coming! And we’re all going to win!”

If you are going to get excited about the so called End Times then get excited about how an original Jewish source, Isaiah, said it would end. The affluence of the West will be turned over to Israel. Kings and leaders from the nations will lick the dust at the feet of the Jews. A Body of Justice will be established in Jerusalem that the entire world will look to for decisions. No more suppression of information or disinformation as the Torah will be taught to all and will be accepted as the supreme Truth. The Jews will live in peace and security in the Land of Israel. People from around the world will come to Jerusalem, to the Holy Temple, each Sabbath and New Moon to worship the God of Israel.  And the Jewish leader and figure-head known as the Messiah will partake in the Divine Service and offerings at the rebuilt Holy Temple.

Not exactly the scenerio you are expecting? That’s okay. It will happen whether you believe it or not. But do you know what else could happen? You could let go of man-made traditions and theology and jump on board to God’s way of thinking. You could ask God to show you what to believe about the Temple and perhaps for the first time open your heart and mind to the beauty, the holiness, and the need for the Temple. Come on, I dare you.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Passover for the Non-Jew

Life wasn’t easy for the ultra-Orthodox rabbi who suddenly found himself living right smack in the Bible-belt. He was an anomaly, to say the least. He was from Jerusalem. But due to a rare disease that his daughter had, he was instructed to bring her to a hospital in the States to receive special medical treatment. Thankfully, after several months, the daughter vastly improved and they were able to return to Israel. Not before, however, my friends and I who are Noahides invaded every spare moment he had.

That’s another anomaly; a Noahide in the Bible-belt. The rabbi was just as curious about us as we were about him. We were like scientists who had heard of a particular species, but had never actually had the opportunity to observe it. Observe we did. Whenever he wasn’t attending his daughter’s needs, the rabbi would teach us about his life in Israel. He also eventually, and trepidly, started teaching us the parts of Torah that were relevant to us.

The rabbi had never met non-Jews who were interested in learning the Torah. He was a bit suspicious and rightfully so. After all, non-Jews have a long history of either trying to usurp the Torah for their own religious purposes or trying to destroy the Torah all together. So we couldn’t blame him for questioning whether it was kosher for him to teach us Torah and kosher for us to learn it. His reservations weren’t unwarranted even in our small community. Besides the small number of Noahides who were interested in learning Torah, there was a group of Messianic Christians who were interested too. However, they were interested in reshaping the Torah to fit into their own religion. But we finally convinced the Rabbi that we were interested in the Torah reshaping our lives. So although his reservations never quite left, he did agree to teach us. And in return, we would answer all the questions he had about us.

We first met the rabbi in the spring when Passover was approaching. One of the first questions that he asked me was, “You are not Jewish. Why are you and your family observing Passover?” I naively shrugged my shoulders and answered back with the question, “Why wouldn’t I observe it?”

(Please note, I use the word “observe” very loosely. Perhaps it would be better to say that my family and I commemorate Passover. Since we are not Jewish, we realize that this holiday is not about us, per say. There’s a t-shirt that says, “It’s all about me.” Usually I roll my eyes at such arrogant sayings. But in my opinion, that is the perfect saying for a Jew. I look at the world a little bit differently than most of society does. I see the Jews and their relationship with Hashem as the center of everything. World history, current events, spiritual blessings, physical blessings; it all revolves around the Jews and their relationship with Hashem. It literally is, “All about the Jews,” and how they spread Hashem’s Light to the rest of the world.)

Continuing my answer to the rabbi, I said, “My children learn history; Texas history, American history, world history. So why shouldn’t they learn the most important history of all? Biblical history.” He didn’t have an argument for that.

That’s one of the reasons that my family gathers with other Noahides to “observe” Passover. My kids are growing up in the information age. Besides learning at school, they are constantly bombarded with information from the technology that surrounds them. Yet, the sedar competes with modern technology. The sedar is good ole’ fashion story telling. The children listen, they experience, and they remember. But it’s more than a story that I want them to remember. I want them to remember the kind of God that the story reveals.

The story of Passover is a story of Divine intervention and deliverance. It is a reminder that the God Who performed miracles so long ago, is the same God today, with the same capabilities. I want my children to know first and foremost, that there is only one God, the God of Israel. Second, I want them to know that God is not only watching over Israel today, but that He watches over them as well.

Passover isn’t just a history lesson. It points to the future. Israel is in dire need of deliverance again. She is surrounded by enemies bent on her destruction. Passover instills faith. Though it seemed to be long in coming, the Children of Israel were finally liberated from Egypt. Sometimes I get discouraged as I watch from afar what my friends in Israel are going through, and how the nation as a whole bears the brunt of so much hatred from around the world. But just as the redemption from Egypt happened, we can rest assure the final redemption for Israel, that will spillover into the rest of the world, will happen. "Just as a lion roars over its prey, so shall Hashem, Master of Legions, descend to do battle upon Mount Zion and upon its hill. Like flying birds, so will Hashem Master of Legions protect Jerusalem, protecting and rescuing, passing over and delivering," Isaiah 31.

May this Passover remind us how powerful God is. And even though He is the God of the universe, we should remember and take advantage of the fact that He takes the time to meet us in our individual lives, on our level, to bring about personal redemption in areas that we are living in bondage.

On Passover, as a non-Jew, I will do my best to remember and I will teach my children to remember. I will also ask Hashem to remember. “Remember me, Hashem, when You show Your people favor; recall me with Your salvation; to see the good of Your chosen ones; to rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, to glory with Your inheritance,” Psalm 106:4,5.