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Update and a few thoughts

May 19, 2015

Dear Daily Minyan readers, I have not posted in quite a bit, chiefly because I was very busy with life and work lately. I will attempt to resume regularly scheduled posts. In the meantime, here are some thoughts that have accumulated.

1. I have started preparations to make aliyah (immigrate) to Israel within a year, G-d willing. Lots of details still need to be worked out. I have also started studying Hebrew in earnest; thankfully, learning a new language is something I have quite a bit of experience with, so I know what it takes to get there – a lot of work. My kids are still very young (and we have one more on the way), so I am also thinking that this would be an opportune time to bring my family to the Land. I do have quite a bit of family already living in Israel, both close and more distant, as well as many family friends, and have visited them in the past a number of times. That said, as someone who had already immigrated from one country to another, I am fully aware of the great difficulties that come with uprooting oneself and starting from scratch. I left USSR for the United States, the land of freedom and prosperity, so then we knew that we would be upgrading our material well-being. Coming to Israel, however, I fully expect our material well-being to be downgraded. However, growing up in the former Soviet Union, I know what it’s like to live with less, much less, so I have no problem with that. More importantly, I know that the spiritual benefits of living in Eretz Yisrael with my family can’t be matched by living anywhere else. P.S. If you are one of my readers who lives in Israel, you are welcome to send me an email about my plans.

2. I have recently contemplated on what’s going on in the messianic blogosphere as of late. Virtually no ethnically Jewish messianics are actively involved online, except a few old folks commenting on blogs written by Gentile messianics. I have also come to realize the following, 1) the number of the halachically Jewish messianics is rapidly dwindling; their population, especially leadership, is aging and is not technically savvy. The older Jewish messianics have not replaced themselves due to wholesale assimilation and intermarriage – they are the last in their families to be Jewish, 2) many if not most of the younger “Jewish messianics”, almost all of the current younger leadership, are not Jewish halachically, since many of them were born to Gentile mothers, 3) the “messianic movement”, in its many expressions, has already become just another Christian “Hebrew roots” denomination. In line with that, it also appears that “mainstream” messianics (e.g. Mark Kinzer) are now taking steps to grow closer to the Catholic Church and mainline Protestant churches, seeking unity and reconciliation with their “brothers in messiah”.

Christianity, the religion of replacement

April 21, 2015

realityChristianity had sought to replace just about everything that Israel held dear:

  • It replaced the One G-d of Israel with a three-headed god heretofore unknown to the Jewish people (but not so unknown to ancient pagans), violating the Oneness of G-d that permeates the Hebrew Bible from cover to cover.
  • Christianity sought to replace the Torah of G-d with Paul’s “law of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:21), a law of a dead human being (a fuzzy “law” which NT fails to even define). At the same time, the Torah of G-d was spurned as an outmoded “schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:24) who, while once necessary, had outlived his usefulness. Even the so called “Torah-observant messianic Jews” do not observe Torah but rather put on a thin veneer of Jewishness, with ample lip service to how wonderful Torah is and how it’s still applicable. They believe, again via Paul, that the promised negative consequences for non-observance (a.k.a. the “curses”) were supposedly nullified by Jesus on the cross (but still very much applicable to Jews who don’t believe in Jesus). But hey, the Law is a nice “guide”, if one is into it (and especially if used as a “witness to lost Jewish people”). Do messianics observe Torah? In my experience, even the most observant of them, their “rabbis” and “scholars”, do not truly observe such basics as either laws of kashrut or Shabbat, but do whatever feels right to them (I know, since I was once myself an MJ and have seen the levels of observance of my former coreligionists first hand). Most Jewish-born messianics, even rabbis, are married to non-Jews and do not hesitate to officiate marriage ceremonies for those who are born Jewish with Gentile Christians.

Read more…

Christian anti-Judaism and the road to Auschwitz

April 16, 2015

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah). Let’s not forget how we got there.

auschwitzEusebius [famed Christian polemicist, Church historian, and bishop of Caesarea] will use [anti-Judaism] as a launching pad of his history of the Church, contrasting the triumph of the Church with the calamities that befell the Jews in “punishment” for their treatment of Jesus. Athanasius [Church Father, chief defender of Trinitarianism against Arianism] will use it to show that the Arians [a “heretical” non-trinitarian Christian movement that held that Jesus was a created being] are “no better” than the Jews. For Augustine [Christian theologian and philosopher who greatly influenced Western Christian thought], one of the “real” errors of the Pelagian vision will consist in the “Jewishness” of Pelagianism [belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without special Divine aid], and the Pelagianism of the Jews. The synod of Elvira [ecclesiastical synod of 305 CE that imposed all manner of legal disabilities on Jews, prefiguring Nazi laws centuries later] will legislate against the Jews as non-Christians. And Ambrose [bishop of Milan, one of the most influential Christian figures of the 4th century] will prohibit the rebuilding of a burned synagogue, because the Jews have no rights; they will have become not only non-Christians, but almost non-persons. The road from here to Auschwitz is long and may not be direct, but one can get there from here. (Efroymson, “Tertullian’s Anti-Judaism”)

Article: Numbers vs. Truth

April 13, 2015

worshipping-jcBy Moshe Ben-Chaim

In the world of philosophy, the truth is eternal: what was true, will always be true. This is because reality is determined by G-d, Who knows all events that have happened, and will come to be. G-d’s truth is not subject to variation. No “new “ considerations come before G-d, the Knower of all times. Even as our times change, G-d’s knowledge has already seen the end of time, and nonetheless, He formulated a Torah with precise rules and laws. Hence, there can be only one truth that G-d possesses, and one truth, which He handed to mankind. We have discussed this many times: Revelation at Sinai was the only event in all of history where masses witnessed G-d’s revelation. No other religion makes this claim, and just the opposite is true: other religions incorporate our Torah – a testament to our Torah’s absolute truth. (But we do not depend on their confirmation to validate Torah.)

Read more…

Would the disciples of Jesus die for a lie?

April 7, 2015

Christian-MartyrsWould someone die for a lie? Would someone willingly give up their life on account of falsehood? Would an act of martyrdom prove the veracity of a religious claim? A common Christian apologetic goes something like this: the apostles and the first Christians died for their belief in Jesus and his resurrection. This proves that Christianity was based on truth, since no one, the proponents of this argument insist, would be willing to die for what they know to be a lie. Is such reasoning sound?

Let us first consider the following:

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Yeshua appeared to me last night and he said to me…

April 1, 2015

jc-ghostLast night Yeshu (that’s how he introduced himself, quite strangely, instead of “Yeshua” or “Jesus”, or even “Iēsous”) appeared to me in a dream and spoke to me. The vision was unsettling, since in all of my years of worshiping him he never appeared to me or spoke to me even once. For years I used to wonder what was wrong with me, since most of my Christian and Messianic friends had, what seemed like, regular visions and messages from him. But back to the vision. Yeshu greeted me with a simple “shalom”, to which I answered “hi”. He was wearing some sort of gray tunic, but otherwise he didn’t appear in any way remarkable. His English (for some reason I expected him to speak to me in Aramaic, perhaps Hebrew or at least in my native Russian) seemed to me quite good, with no discernible accent. He looked short to average height, medium build, cropped dark hair and longish beard. In the “by-the-way” sort of way I remarked to him that he certainly didn’t look like any god or even an angel. He said, “well, yes, and that’s why I am here”.
Read more…

Christian minister: if Jesus is not God, we are idolaters

March 30, 2015

jesus-christ-pics-1112I’ve read this sort of statement in many Christian books and articles over and over, both old and new – if Jesus is not exactly who Christianity teaches that he was or is, if he is not actually “god in the flesh”, then they [the Christians] are committing idolatry of the worst sort. These grave, somber words are coming not from Jews or other critics of Christianity, but from devout Christians themselves who understand the full implications of their religion which holds that Jesus is god and that to worship him as such is the core of their faith. Although their faith in Jesus makes them feel assured that they cannot possibly be wrong about this, many Christians will readily admit it themselves that if they are wrong, their sin against the G-d of the Bible is indeed of immense proportions as will their ultimate punishment be.

The following is from c. 1848 sermon by B.W. Noel, a well known English evangelical clergyman: Continue reading this post

Why false faith is like counterfeit money

March 26, 2015

JesusBill-LGMany Christians (including their Messianic co-religionists) often point out to me that Christianity, the religion that placed a first century Jewish man at its center as god-incarnate, the lord and savior of the world, has brought a whole lot of good into the world (at least for the non-Jewish part of it). This, they tell me, is evidence that G-d Himself is behind Christianity and in their minds it is the confirmation, indeed part of the proof that their faith in Jesus is true. First and foremost, they say, millions of pagans who once worshiped the gods of the Roman pantheon, multitudes of other gods and various assorted demigod heroes and emperors, rejected them all in favor of Jesus, and are now worshiping the “G-d of Israel”, albeit in his “human” and “trinitarian” form. What’s more, I am also frequently reminded, Christianity had introduced untold numbers of former pagans to the Jewish scriptures, albeit in their Church-translated form and as an “Old Testament”, and this must be G-d’s own doing and explicit will. In addition to that accomplishment, I am pointed out that Christianity has also done a lot of humanitarian work all over the world as part of its mission to spread the Christian gospel, improving (arguably) lives of multitudes of people. And what about the so many who, after embracing Jesus and Christian tenets, have forsaken destructive lifestyles and habits, saved failing marriages, became more honest and kind to those around them? Are not all these things the evidence that Christianity is true and the will of G-d for humanity? But what if their faith in Jesus, despite of all the apparent good it wrought in minds of the devout, was based on a lie? What if it is a false faith and not from G-d, what then? And if it is indeed a false faith, can it still be seen as “good” and should it be lauded because of all of the apparent good it has accomplished for so many?

I was surprised to come across a very profound answer to this question not from a Jewish source, but on a Christian apologetics website, of all places. Continue reading this post

How to deal with evil: a profound difference between Judaism and Christianity

March 23, 2015

resist-not-evil2Even though Christianity is a “daughter” religion of Judaism that insists that Jews, by rejecting Jesus, missed the coming of their own Messiah, there are far more things, very important things, that separate Judaism and Christianity than just the identity of the Messiah. One of these important differences between these two religions is their respective approaches to evil and to dealing with people who commit it, whether against us personally or against others. These profound differences are found not just in later interpretations of clergy, but in the very foundational texts of the two faiths. Some of the Christian views on dealing with evil are expressed in that religion’s holy text, the New Testament, where they are taught by Jesus in the format “You have heard it said… but I say to you”. This formula was used by Jesus (or by the writers of the NT) to create a contrast between a supposedly prevailing harsh “letter of the Law” understanding within Judaism and his own novel “kinder” teachings that emphasized G-d’s love for all, no matter how evil.  Although to anyone familiar with Judaism it is apparent that this contrast was greatly exaggerated throughout the New Testament, it led to some downright bizarre views about how to deal with evil on the part of Christians throughout the ensuing two millennia. The following article by Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik looks at these differences of how evil is viewed and dealt with by Judaism and Christianity, analyzing their historic fruit as well as their implications for the world today. Continue reading this post

Mormons: “if Joseph Smith is a false prophet, so is Jesus!”

March 17, 2015

Jesus_Moroni_JosephThere’s an old joke that goes like this: Why did G-d make Mormons? So that Christians know how Jews feel! In my recent post, I reviewed some examples of failed prophecies supposedly uttered by Jesus within the books that make up the New Testament. Of course, “mainstream” Christianity is not the only religion with prophecises about the future. Other “christianities”, such as Mormonism, have had their own prophets too. Like the Trinitarian Christianity from which it splintered in the early 1800s, Mormonism has a rather embarrassing problem – failure of their founder’s prophecies to come to pass. Traditional Christians have battled the Latter Day Saints Church for converts since its founding, calling it a “false religion”. They do not fail to point out to Mormons that their prophet Joseph Smith was a false prophet, claiming that not only is the religion he started in contradiction to what is revealed in both the Hebrew Bible (the “Old Testament”) as well as the New Testament, the prophecies he made failed to come to pass as well. Therefore, they claim, Joseph Smith couldn’t have been from G-d, since no false prophet could be. Which is why I thought it quite amusing to see Mormons use the exact same “what does this word really mean” defense as the mainstream Christians to defend its prophet Joseph Smith from outside accusations of him being a false prophet. Mormons point out that the “anti-Mormon” Christians are guilty of a double standard, since Jesus made very similar prophecies that his non-Christians critics (“who improperly interpret”) claim have also failed to come to pass, even though he was using the same terminologies as Joseph Smith, and yet one is still called as “true” and another as “false”!

Let’s take a look: Continue reading this post