Tag Archive | messianic

Bereshit

The Bible begins of course with the book of Genesis, the name of which in Hebrew is taken from the first word, ‘bereshit’ meaning ‘in the beginning’, which is also the name of the first Torah portion:

Torah: Genesis 1:1-6:8

The first six chapters of Genesis are so familiar – the stories of creation, the Fall and the expulsion from Eden, Cain and Abel, the descendants of Cain, the descendants of Seth, the sinful state of mankind as the generations go on, and the portion ends with Noah, “but Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord”. (Torah portions traditionally end on a joyous note, even if the preceding verses are of a sombre nature) – it can be hard to find anything new. But it is said that the Words of Torah are so multi-faceted like diamonds, that there are 70 aspects to explore.

Whether you believe, as people like Answers in Genesis do, that Genesis is to be taken absolutely literally, or whether you believe it is to be understood as allegory, there is always something new to see.

This is ‘Bereshit’ by Moshav Band. I hope it’s not too cheesy! I think the music is rather beautiful, and I love the stop motion clay animation! If you enjoy folky Israeli music, Moshav Band are worth checking out. I first heard this on Putamayo’s Israel collection which is rather lovely altogether.

Creation

That phrase ‘Ki tov’ – ‘and it was good’ – stands out for me, especially as it is repeated multiple times. I think Christians (especially any influenced by Calvinist thinking) tend to view the whole of Creation, the world, people, everything as inherently bad, totally depraved and devoid of any redeeming qualities. Celtic Christianity acknowledged that Creation was broken and fallen and in need of repairing and healing, but also saw that it was inherently and essentially good, and worthy of being redeemed!

The Fall

On the Fall and the expulsion from Eden, the whole passage brings up more questions for me than answers. I saw a post on twitter this morning claiming to be a ‘haiku’ on Bereshit:

“Here is the tree,
Don’t eat the fruit,
Yum.”

Comedy! But why? Why would God create a tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Why put temptation in the garden? If God had omniscient foreknowledge that Eve and Adam would give in to that temptation, and all that would result from it, why not prevent it? Is it possible to find a convincing, reasonable answer to this if you view the episode as literal history?

Then the one positive commandment in the portion is “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” This is the basis for Victorian and modern American dominion theologies, the former justifying dominating nature and the world, and the latter advocating Christians molding the world through Christian government. (Which might be a reasonable proposition if the Christians in question were truly spiritually enlightened, but somehow horrifying if not!)

How should that first commandment be understood now? How are we to be fruitful? How are we to rule and subdue? Is it still relevant at all? Interestingly, the commandment comes before the Fall, in Genesis 1:28, which might suggest that it is not a result of the Fall, but an eternal principle?

Cain and Abel

The first murder, brother on brother! It seems shocking that the very next sin mentioned after the Fall is such a dreadful and sad one. The writer of Hebrews references the murder of Abel in chapter 12:24, comparing his shed blood with the shed blood of Christ, which “speaks of a better covenant”.

This made me wonder which covenant is being referred to, since I thought the first Biblical covenant was the Noahic covenant (covered in the next portion), but a quick search reveals that some groups (especially Dispensationalists) see 7 covenants in scripture, the first being the ‘Edenic’ covenant. Some information on that here.

As with all the links I provide, I am in no way recommending the writers or groups the links represent, nor do I agree with everything they write – I always advise caution and discernment.  Please read responsibly! Take the ‘meat’, but leave the ‘bones’.

Haftarah:

The ‘haftarah’, if you haven’t encountered the word before, is a portion of scripture from the books of the prophets which was chosen to complement and link back to each Torah portion, and they are thought to have originated during the period of Selucid occupation (before the Maccabees revolt) when the Jews were forbidden from studying the Torah itself.  I don’t plan to look at the Haftarah portions in depth this time, but if I find any good links to studies I will include them.

The haftarah for Bereshit is from Isaiah 42:5-21 (although there are various slight differences, depending on the group – for instance, Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Karaite Jews have alternate selections.)

This particular haftarah passage is considered a ‘Messianic’ text in Christian thinking, that is to say that it alludes to Jesus the Messiah (again, in case you’re not familiar with the word, Messiah is from the Hebrew word ‘Mashiach’ meaning ‘anointed’, and translated via Greek as ‘Christ’.) as ‘The Servant of the Lord’ beginning verse 1.

verse 7: To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

Is this, perhaps, the kind of fruitfulness that God is looking for in us?

Links and Resources:

Bereshit on Wikipedia

The Weekly Parashah on Hebrew for Christians

Commentary from Messianic Education Trust

The Jewish and Christian Liturgical Calendar (Catholic) pdf

Interesting Torah commentary on the conflict between Creation and Science

Wikipedia on Allegorical interpretations of Genesis

My personal feeling is that to accept both conflicting views as equally true and valid in different ways is perfectly acceptable and in line with Hebraic thinking – that ‘holding conflict in tension’.

I hope you found this first post of the Jewish year interesting and inspires you to look further.

Shalom!

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New Cycle, New Year

The Jewish year ends and begins again with the festival of Simchat Torah – rejoicing in the Torah, which took place at the beginning of the week.
I didn’t manage to get round to posting anything for the High Holidays of Rosh haShanah, Yom Kippur or Sukkot, as we were moving house. But a new Torah cycle begins this week with Bereshit (Genesis 1:1 – 6:8) and in a few weeks the Church year will also draw to a close and begin again. 

So I will attempt to start posting regularly again and hope to have more time as we become more settled.

I would enjoy discussing the Torah portions and looking at different aspects and points of view with anybody interested in studying them.

Check out Chana Helen’s beautiful website of art with Jewish themes:

https://www.chanahelen.com/

(And I would love to know who painted the first painting above). If you know, please do tell! 🙂

Shalom!

Shiva: Death, mourning and hope in Jewish Tradition

ברוך אתה ה’ א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, דיין האמת
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, dayan ha-emet.
“Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the Just Judge.”
After 4 years of trying, hoping and praying since my last loss, and 13 years in total, and finally after giving up completely, I was unexpectedly blessed with pregnancy again.

Sadly this pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 10 weeks, my 6th loss in total.

There are no funerals for miscarriages, no burials. No family get-together, no ‘sitting Shiva’ together. It is a special kind of grief, more lonely and perhaps harder to navigate than any other type of grief, because in our culture pregnancy loss is still taboo, something we still can’t quite face or discuss openly, and thus the sufferer is largely without comfort or understanding.

The traditional period of mourning in Jewish Tradition is 7 days (thus ‘Shiva’, related to the word 7). But the reality is that grief doesn’t follow a neat progression and cannot possibly be restrained within a 7 day period.

The loss of a child isn’t ‘just’ the loss of a baby right at that moment, but the loss of all the hopes and dreams – the loss of that child’s whole life – years and decades and life events that we thought was ahead of them. And even if a mother is graced with another child, this kind of loss changes you, and you always carry that little bit of sadness with you. You never ‘get over’ loss of a child.

I thought I had completely given up and resigned myself to not having any more babies, to ending my family on a loss. Now though of course, I find old wounds re-opened and longings renewed.

But for now, I mourn. 

Mourner’s kaddish
Jewish perspective on miscarriage and stillbirth
Mourning a Jewish miscarriage 
Jewish Prayer after miscarriage or stillbirth

Choices, Changes

Over the last few years, I have moved from a Paleo type of diet to Vegan and back again several times. This blog had ‘From Paleo to Vegan in one easy midlife crisis’ as its subtitle at one stage.

The truth is, though, that it hasn’t been ‘one easy midlife crisis’ at all of course, it’s been more like a car with a faulty starter motor, so I lurch from one obsession to the next, and never quite seem to get anywhere.

Every year, it seems, I try to go vegan again.

Even going back to being properly vegetarian seems to be a challenge this time. But I will keep trying.

It’s not that I don’t care. It’s not that I don’t know either. I know.

I’ve had to block several over-zealous vegans who insist on sending me graphic pictures of animals being brutalised.

I know.
I really don’t want to see it.
I really don’t want to eat it.

So why do I keep falling off the vegan ‘wagon’? Why is it so difficult to stay vegan?

I have personally justified it with regard to my own specific health issues, most particularly PCOS which comes along with insulin insensitivity which means that, contrary to the oft-repeated mantra of ill-informed vegans that “carbs are not the problem”, they really can be a serious, even potentially life-threatening problem for people who can’t tolerate them.

Not all carbs are equal, and not all fats are equal, but that discussion is for another post. Suffice to say, though, that even allowing for the insulin insensitivity issue, it’s no real barrier to veganism. Low, or at least lower carb veganism is possible, it’s just more of a challenge.

On an unrelated note, I’m finding it a little bit difficult to stay ‘Christian’, or at least keep up the ‘respectable’ middle class mainstream image version of Christianity that is sometimes confused with authentic Christianity.

I’ve actually been exploring paganism – firstly for general cultural literacy (I had so many misconceptions) and secondly because it is something that has fascinated me for years. I will post again with more details about that exploration and what I’ve found, what I’ve been able to love and embrace, and what I’ve had to reject and draw the line at.

To me (and what was communicated to me by my Dad – what he saw in the Bible and in Christianity), the core of the faith is clearly love, peace, joy, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and more love.

Matthew 12v7

But sadly it doesn’t seem to be what is commonly offered by the church. Certainly individual believers embody those principles and exude a genuine spirituality. But the church as a whole seems characterised by the very opposite: intolerance, unkindness, judgmentalism.

Why should this be?

In fact, these things are not unrelated at all.

Veganism is supposed to be about compassion, kindness, love for all creatures. And most of the vegans I have met in person do indeed embody the compassion they espouse. But veganism as a whole has without doubt been brought into disrepute by some of its most vocal members.

I completely understand the anger that vegans feel about people blithely and ignorantly allowing animals to be brutalised and killed just so we can have a certain taste and texture on our plate.

We have no excuse.

But those tastes and textures continue to persuade us to ignore what we know, to carry on along the path of least resistance.

But the anger and self-righteousness and judgmentalism of some vegans continues to drive people away.

The anger and self-righteousness and judgmentalism of some Christians continues to drive people away.

(Do you see what I did there?)

I think I know what the essential problem with Christianity is. It is the over-riding emphasis (at least in Western Christianity) on ‘right belief’ over and above ‘right living’ and ‘right feeling’. It is entirely possible to be a Christian in good standing with the church who claims all the ‘right beliefs’ and have absolutely no change of heart, absolutely no true spiritual experience whatsoever. But as long as the beliefs are in line with the doctrines your denomination emphasises, there is no reason to question the heart or the spirit. It is entirely possible to carry hatred in your heart while claiming to follow the God who is Love.

I think the same thing can be true of veganism.

As long as you maintain a vegan diet, and you are able to feel self-satisfied in that, there is no reason to question yourself, search inwardly, become more compassionate.

But I think I’ve said before that there is no ‘upper limit’ for compassion, kindness, love. All of us can always move forward, become kinder, more compassionate, more understanding, more loving.

In the Bible, a ‘righteous’ man is defined not as the one who never falls, never makes a mistake but rather the man who ‘falls seven times and gets up again’. Proverbs 24:16

This year is probably the first time in maybe 15 years when I haven’t really managed to celebrate Passover/ Easter, count the Omer/ Eastertide or keep Pentecost/ Shavuot (the fact that they are all out of sync this year hasn’t helped). There’s a little voice in my head that wants to condemn me, make me feel guilty and miserable. But I’m not listening to it.

I’m not as observant as I’d like to be right now, but it is what it is – this is the season I’m in, and there’s not much I can do about it. The traditional Passover concludes “Next Year in Jerusalem”. This too shall pass, and perhaps next year I will be where I want to be with my religious observance.

I’m not going to kick myself either about repeatedly failing to be faithful to veganism. Honestly, I may never reach 100% total veganism for ever. But that’s ok. I’m moving towards it, I’ll keep trying.

And actually, as much as I can understand the wish that the whole world go 100% vegan today, every little helps. Small steps save lives.

If I fall down again, I’ll just get up again.

Don’t be discouraged.

Do whatever you can and know that it’s good, and don’t let anybody condemn you because you’re ‘not good enough’, ‘not vegan enough’, ‘not Christian enough’, or whatever.

It’s a cliche, but learning to love and accept and forgive yourself is the first and crucial step towards spiritual growth. And it’s probably the hardest.

But it’s never a wasted effort.

Don’t give up. 🙂

From my heart to yours. xx

 

Chag Pesach Sameach!

jewish-christia

I always feel a little out of sorts and discombobulated when Passover and Easter occur separately as they have done this year. The reason of course is the method of calculation.

I honestly don’t know how the Rabbis calculate Passover, but I know that the original method was to determine whether the barley was ‘Aviv’ – ready, the word actually means ‘Spring’ at the time of the new moon. If it isn’t, an additional month is added and Passover will be on the 14th day (which is of course the full moon) of the next month. That is what has happened this year. (There are in fact those – Messianics and Karaite Jews – who still use this method of calculation, and you can subscribe to the New Moon Report from Jerusalem to know when to celebrate according to Biblical law if you want to, but in fact the Rabbis’ calculation is remarkably reliable.)

Easter, on the other hand – purposely divorced as it was from its Jewish roots – is determined with reference to the Spring Equinox. In fact, the Orthodox churches of the East use a different calculation which causes Easter to more readily fall in line with Passover.

I’m not ready to convert to Orthodoxy though!

It is in fact a very Jewish thing to accept contradiction and live with tension, and as a Messianic that is something you have to do, unless you are willing to take a hard line and come down heavily on either side of the argument. I spent a long time among hard-liners, but it never sat easily with me. It really isn’t in my nature to be a hard-liner.

I would of course prefer it if all would agree (and I feel more comfortable with following the Jewish calendar), but for the sake of fellowship, I concede that there are two celebrations essentially of the same holiday on years like this.

christ-passover

The only problem now is that there will also be two celebrations of Shavuot/ Pentecost as well and counting the omer/ Eastertide can get a bit confusing!

Whichever way you celebrate, blessings to you!

May the light of the risen Christ rise in your hearts!

Shalom x

easter-passover

Parsha Terumah

Torah: Exodus 25:1-27:19
Haftarah: 1 Kings 5:26-6:13
Brit Chadashah: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15
Matthew 5:33-37


Apologies for the delay this week – it has been ridiculously busy and I just haven’t managed to stop and look properly at this study, so this will be very brief.

For more details, there are several different good commentaries on the Torah portions – Hebrew for Christians, Ardelle Brody (send an email to ardellebrody at gmail dot com requesting her weekly commentaries by email), The Rabbi’s Son and the Messianic Trust who are based in Exeter are all good places to start. Good secular sources include Wikipedia which is often surprisingly good, and then (non-Messianic) Jewish sites that are helpful include My Jewish Learning. They all have different ways of looking at the Parsha which is good as you will see lots of different angles.

Terumah means ‘gift’ or ‘offering’, and the portion deals with the bringing of contributions by the Israelites for the building of the Tabernacle in the desert, the ‘Mishkan’, which is built to exacting specifications – all of which can be shown to symbolically represent aspects of Christ, the Gospel story and the plan of salvation.

Recommended books on this topic include: ‘The Tabernacle: Shadows of the Messiah’ by David M Levy. I have a couple of others as well, but as seems to be the case for most of the books I want to get hold of at the moment, they’re in storage and I can’t even find the details!

Thanks to anyone who is following or reading, and apologies once again for the inconsistency and randomness of postings.

Hopefully there will come a day – in the not too distant future – where we’re settled and stable and I don’t have to just muddle through as best I can in the mess. But for now, please bear with me. 🙂

Quinquagesima / The Sunday Next Before Lent

Psalms/ Canticles: Psalm 99
OT Reading: Exodus 34:29-end
Gospel: 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
NT Reading: Luke 9 28:36 (27-43a)

“Moses and Aaron were among his priests… they called on the LORD and he answered them. He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud… Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy.” – Psalm 99


Summary and Notes

This is the last Sunday before Lent, which means this week will  see the traditions of Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) or Fat Tuesday, when all the rich food ingredients are used up, and Ash Wednesday following, which signals the beginning of the Lenten period.

The portion in Exodus is right after the incident of Aaron’s golden calf where Moses, appalled, had smashed the Tablets of Stone and so had had to go up the mountain again to receive new Tablets. In this section, when Moses returns from the mountain, his face is radiant from being in the presence of God, and when he realises this, he covers his face with a veil – not because he doesn’t want the people to see the radiance, but because he knows that it will fade.

The passage in 2 Corinthians refers directly to the portion in Exodus (which will come up in a couple of Parsha’s time, incidentally) Only in Christ, Paul says, is the veil taken away and we as believers are to reflect God’s glory “being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory…”

The Gospel portion is the Transfiguration, where God’s glory in Christ is revealed to Peter, James and John.  Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus, and a voice in the cloud, reminiscent both of the Dove at Jesus’ baptism and of the cloud which led the Israelites in the desert, tells them “This is my Son, whom I have chosen: listen to him.”

Application

What does it mean to reflect God’s glory? In what way are we being transformed into his likeness with every increasing glory? I think it wouldn’t be outrageous to suggest that not a few Christians lack any obvious degree of Christlikeness. I don’t see a lot of it about, and let’s be brutally honest – I don’t see much of it in me. So how are we to reflect God’s glory? Well firstly and most obvious, we can’t do it unless we spend time in his presence – in prayer and contemplation of His Word. We can’t be like Him if we don’t know Him. In Romans 12:2 we are told “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” How can we renew our minds? again, only by spending time with God in His Word, getting to know His heart and His concerns. Secondly and perhaps most painfully, we must be prepared to allow Him to change us, to try us in the Refiner’s fire that we come out as gold.

And as an aside, it is interesting (as a Messianic especially) to contemplate God’s admonition to us to listen to Jesus. Far too often as Christians we take all our doctrine and theology from Paul, whom Peter tells us, in 2 Peter 3:16,  is hard to understand and easily misinterpreted, and we forget to pay due attention to Jesus own words. It’s a shame that Bibles tend not to print the words of Christ in red anymore. Are we listening to what Jesus is telling us?