20 December 2006 / 29 Kislev 5767
Time of the 'We'
Short Version: Biblical prophecy tied to remnants of the children of Abraham hint how the rifts in the family may be healed. The attributes or values lived and exemplified by Abraham, his son Isaac and grandson Jacob offer the chance and challenge of peace with the simple revelation that WE are all related. But all purported "religious" truth, must come under the scrutiny of the foundation of the Torah and Prophets. By this standard, the message and direction of the church is in need of reform.
"There is no "Us" or "Them." There is only "We."
"We" are all children of Abraham. Shi'ite and Sunni Moslems are part of this family. So are Protestant and Catholic Christians and Jews and of course, so are Joes.
The evil of "Us" vs "Them" between Shi'te and Sunni is being played out in TV newscasts before the world's religious and moral conscience. Their fight, all other factors ignored, boils down to a millenium-old disagreement on whether Muhammad should be succeeded by blood-kin or his successor should be appointed by some holy unction. Most wars have historically been rooted in such religious differences. This raises the question of whether the point in humankind when it would not learn of war any more and would hammer swords into plowshares has anything to do with the dissolution of religions?
Doctrinal schisms in accord with End Times plan
Christians are divided by so many different doctrinal schisms that it is an almost impossible fraction to solve. Yet this is in accord with the plan for the End Times. If the church were united, Moshe ben Maimon (the Maimomides) wrote that it would be more difficult to move off center toward the spiritual revelations of Truth in the Last Days. Specifically, we would suggest, Maimomides wrote of the "Time of the We."
Christianity already thinks of itself as the most exclusive of the religious communities, touting "its way or the highway to Hell." Intolerance is also evident in the Islamic attitude toward the "infidel." We have pointed out discriminations in Jewish interpretations of Halachah restricting non-Jews.
Judaism is also replete with rifts to the point that Temple Reformists are often snubbed by Orthodox purists and Conservative and American Renewal adherents. There is some question that according to Halachah, Kairite Jews are Jews at all. The rift here is the most serious, however, because it centers around the Halachah, or the way one WALKS out the Torah. The Kairites have made that very Walk the point of dissension. If Judaism should be sending out any one singular united message from its ranks, it is the importance of Halachah.
Joeish resistance and broken brotherhood
And then there are the Joes, who characteristically have resisted these traditional "priestly" controls as well as most authoritarian moves within their organizations. During our recent "Message to the Coastlands" seminars along the Gulf Coast, in the aftermath of Little Qatar (Hurricane Katrina), we encountered opposition and outright hostility at one venue. Before speaking, we discerned of the Spirit to circle the meeting place seven times counterclockwise and then "hit your staff against the ground." I did so lightly. I was instructed to strike it against the ground a second time and did so a little harder. Then a third and c-r-a-c-k the staff that had been a present from the Spirit since my first Mountain Stream mikveh in the Colorado Rockies was broken.
I understood why when I opened my mouth to speak. Present were "indoctrinated" messianic and Kairite Jews, whose teachers have disdained the Torah sh'b'al Pey (the Torah that is in the mouth) and the same Halachah based on that combination of the written and oral record. When one interrupted my talk to ask me a divisive doctrinal question, the meeting was quickly ended, despite an earlier invitation to "go wherever I needed to go."
More disturbing to me was some of the literature that was being distributed including a commentary on the book of Galatians and a new translation of the Bible. Both revealed a clear prejudice against the rabbis and their Halachah.
This is not the spirit of unity. Not something leading to "We." Rather it is asserting the position of "Us" and "Them" and causing strife and divisions.
In-fighting and turf-protection
The in-fighting and turf-protection ongoing among so-called Joeish leaders is also disturbing. One is judged by whether or not they know someone and whether that is a good knowing or a bad knowing. This is hypocritical and borders on lashan hara (the evil tongue of slander and gossip). One should form his or her opinions about someone based upon personal interaction, less they unwittingly take up the offense of another.
These divisions are so serious that they could further fracture the family of "We." The House of Joseph may go the route of becoming just another divisive sect of Christianity. This would be a black road.
NO! the Almighty has said. "Come out of her, MY people." That the Almighty calls them, "His," implies covenant responsibilities and privileges. But Jesus told his followers that the Father had other flocks and the Father could even make an eben (stone) into a ben (son) of Abraham. This common heritage defining the world's majority points to the need to better understand the covenant between the Almighty and Abraham. For instance, the Torah promise to Abraham that his descendants through Isaac and Jacob would multiply and scatter across the world and be grafted into every family of the earth is initiated by the House of Joseph in exile. Yet, Christianity would close the Book without recognizing or acknowledging this return largely ignorant of its purpose ... because it has -- like the descendants of Joseph afore exiled -- counted the Torah a strange thing. No wonder that this seed of rebellion has borne the fruit of beliefs foreign to the Torah.
The Torah obligates Israel "throughout its generations" to call to mind and to observe all of the commands, precepts and judgments in the Torah. Practically, these are defined by Halachah, or the way one Walks out the Torah. Only about 90 of these, mostly related to food preparation and diet, marital behavior and a moral code of values can be observed without a Temple economy. The intent of commands that cannot be observed without a Temple is believed to be expressed in synagogue worship by simply calling to mind the command. The intent of the priests during the blood service described in the Torah either validated or invalidated the sacrifice. The intent of one toward Halachah is a measure of one's respect for Halachah, whether or not one actually observes it.
The 'most perfect' love
At Yeshiva Ohr Someah in Jerusalem, students were asked to define Halachah in their own words. I stated that to me, Halachah was "the most perfect means by which to express one's love and loyalty toward the God of Israel; not that there are not other ways to do so; just less perfect." Not altogether a Kosher idea, but the rabbi seemed to agree. So within "We", there CAN exist interfaith tolerance.
We have written earlier of the forms of idolatry that are forbidden by the Halachah, but which the Halachah permits for any who are not part of the family of Abraham AND Isaac and Jacob. The point being, We can be We without having to all believe the same thing or express it the same way.
If your identity is not within Israel, ein bayah! (no problem). Halachah has no complaint with you or your manner of worship but WOULD point you in the direction of the Creator. You are free to observe whatever religion you choose however you choose, but you are challenged to become a Light to the Nations. In other words, get the focus off of self so that your light shines before men, not necessarily on you.
Cracks in the foundation(s)
Israel, the Prophets write, after hell and high water is destined to be this Light. But Isaiah prefaced the challenge with an easier one, "to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved of Israel." The Rambam predicted that a Revelation in the Last Days would help reunite the scattered flocks of Abraham. Perhaps part of this revelation is to repair the foundation(s) of the religious "edifices." A carpenter, such as Jesus, knows that when a foundation is out of square or has cracks, whatever is built is going to lean or sag somewhere. A shaking in the right places will bring it to the ground. Leaders of all religions -- since the fractions within religion too often fan the flames of war -- would do well to re-examine their foundations periodically.
As a mokhiah, we have noted a major crack in the foundation of the church. Consequently, the church is not and never has preached the Gospel Jesus preached and has preached his "saving grace" without understanding the foundation of that grace or why and how and who it "saves."
Jesus the tzaddik to tikkun (a righteous man repairing a covenant), is overshadowed by the deity into which the church has made Jesus, thereby separating itself from the synagogue where it could gain understanding in the Torah about both the tzaddik and the tikkun. The Gospel Jesus himself preached and charged his disciples to preach: The Restoration of the Kingdom to Israel is overshadowed by something alien to its Torah roots. The Divine Commission to seek and return "the lost sheep of the House of Israel," to which Jesus confined his mission in his own words has been misinterpreted.
Christianity has instead become a religious dogma we analogize as the cart before the horse, a mule yoked behind the plow or in this technological age, operating a tiller in China without first learning Chinese to understand the owner's manual. Few I have met in the ministry would say the yoke is easy or the burden is light, as Jesus analogized the plowing and reaping of the Gospel he told his followers to preach. Consequently, the rows being "hoed" are anything but straight.
The misconnect of the Church
The "restoration of Israel" is foundational to the Gospel of "Jesus Christ" (the anointed Jesus) and presupposes his and his followers' mission to be a Light to the Nations. But the church leadership has yet to connect with the exegetical context of this Restoration or its purpose: The Return, Reconciliation and Restoration of the House of Joseph and Reunion with the House of Judah. This is a fraction of the "We" that the Prophets promise will be addressed in the Last Days.
In trying to piece together the "expectations" of the God of Israel toward His children once they are awakened to their Abrahamic roots, Abrahamic covenant and Abrahamic end -- the words of the prophet, Malachi come strongly to mind.
The coming 'change of heart'
Malachi urged the Israelites of the End Times to remember one thing: The Torah. And he warned them to heed the words of the prophet Elijah who God would send with the message to turn the hearts of the sons to the fathers and the fathers to the sons or the land (by implication the world) would fall under a curse.
While We await the specifics of this change of heart, We can understand from the foundation of the Torah to which Malachi alluded, its context. Contextually, that message is the "Walk" of Abraham and the "Walk" of Isaac and the "Walk" of Jacob -- the Patriarchs or Fathers, which reflects the values they exemplified. Collectively, these values should point all of the children of Abraham to the walk of peace, less they dishonor him.
One thing a parent should learn quickly is that a child is persuaded more by the example of a parent than their words.
Abraham teaches us that no matter what someone says about you or does to you, your obligation is to be kind to them. This is called "hesed." And he lived it everywhere he sojourned, overcoming the acts of evil against him with kindness and the fruit of that kindness, tzedekah or charity.
Isaac teaches us that we can overcome temptation from within ourselves to the extent that we can establish our identity in a higher or holier power and remain connected to the same. Isaac, who lay on an altar as an offering to the God of Abraham, acquired the holiness of the land itself, which was his "inner strength" or g'vurah. He never left the land his entire life. Similarly, our love for and attachment to the Land of Israel and the Torah can work to establish our identity and inner strength in a movement larger than ourselves. The Torah festivals emphasize this connection to the land and the Torah. Today, it is called Zionism.
Jacob, named after an act of deception, overcame by Truth. Calamitous events included a vow by his brother to kill him for "stealing his birthright," resulting in exile and mistreatment at the hand of his father-in-law, the death of Rachel, the wife he loved, the kidnapping and supposed death of her eldest, Joseph, and woe upon woe. All were overcome because Jacob was a seeker after Truth.
Truth, or Emet in Hebrew, implies an "all encompassing understanding" (first from the last). Jacob came to understand why his life had been so difficult and knew on his deathbed what fate would befall each of his 12 sons' descendants. The oral traditions reveal that the Truth Jacob sought was the Torah or Teaching of God, which he learned from Shem, the son of Noah, and Eber, grandson of Shem, so that he could survive spiritually during his years of exile.
Everlasting kindness, inner-strength and seeking of Torah Truth, are the overriding attributes that "exemplify" the hearts of the Patriarchs. Thus Father Abraham beckons to his children still in spiritual exile to ascend to the "Time of the We."
Mitakuye Oyasin (We are all related),
Maggid ben Yoseif
NOTE: Parts of this writing were from MbY's prepared speech for the Council of World Religions in Barcelona in 2005. However, his invitation to speak was withdrawn.