Holocaust Remembrance Day

As Passover comes to an end, I have been reading about all the solemn remembrances being observed all over our community for the 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust.  I find it somewhat ironic, when there are over 50,000 elderly Holocaust survivors living in Israel, and many thousands of holocaust survivors living in the former Soviet Union living in abject poverty right now.  They don’t have bread to eat, going hungry, doing without needed medicines because they don’t have the money.

Why is it that we are willing to have solemn assemblies of remembrance while allowing survivors of the worst event in Jewish history to literally starve to death and pass out of this life without even a minimum of assistance we could easily give?  The sad fact is, it is easier for us to light a candle, or present a rose in memory than to dig into our pockets and help someone still in need.  For a survivor, its like going to your own funeral and hearing people say nice things about you, while you are alive in your own coffin, and no one seems to realize it.  An even sadder fact, is that within the next five years, they will all be dead.  The youngest of them are in their 70’s, most are in their 80s.  We are the last generation who will have known actual survivors of the holocaust, and the last generation that will be able to help them.  The Holocaust deniers are already lining up to say it never happened.  What will be when they are all gone; when there is no one left who heard the cries?

The reality is, we can do something.  Chevra USA is part of a network of humanitarian aid groups  called “Simcha,” that is bringing aid to local distribution points in Israel to help provide aid and alleviate suffering to elderly Holocaust survivors and other poor.  We believe this effort will help more people than before, and will work in conjunction with the efforts of local humanitarian outreaches. We are building a huge warehouse in Central Israel, which will receive large shipments of humanitarian aid. We will also be purchasing Iron Shipping containers that we can place all over Israel as distribution points throughout the Land, and keep them supplied from our warehouse. The local humanitarian works will benefit by having a storage facility, that is constantly supplied, and since they are local, they can do the work better than we can. Chevra USA has already purchased one such container, and we hope to purchase many more. If your congregation or ministry would like to sponsor a container, the cost is $3000.00. We can tell you exactly what city your container will serve and put you in touch with the people who will run the distribution. You can even visit your distribution point.

Our goal is to put as many of these in the field as possible. If you can help with this worthy project, we would be grateful.  .   You don’t have to do a lot to help.  Doing something is better than doing nothing.  It all helps.

To make a donation, please contact this link: http://chevrahumanitarian.org/index.php/donations

Does Replacement Make Sense?

I was speaking to a group of people about the Jewish people in  the heart of God.  Someone raised a question about Replacement Theology; specifically, the view that when Yeshua came, the Jewish people were in a sense, demoted from being God’s covenant people to the level of the other nations, that now we were no different from any other nation, and that now the Church was the “New Israel,”or new people of God.

Apart from the obvious problem of this being an entirely self-serving view that the church was congratulating itself with, I pointed out that it didn’t make sense.  In the Torah, God calls Israel His child.  In Exodus 4:22-23, God says, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Israel is My son, My firstborn.  So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me.”  I asked the people in the seminar how many of them had children.  Most people raised their hands.  I asked them how many of them had more than one child.  Most of those raised their hands.  I asked them this question:  “When you had your second child, what did you do with the first child?”  People looked puzzled.  I asked if they put the first child out on the street, or dropped the first child off at an orphanage, or maybe sold the first child to someone else.   People laughed at the absurdity of the question.

I told them that when my daughter Sara was born, I looked at her, a beautiful baby, perfect in my eyes, “Kina Hora.”  I loved her from the first minute I saw her, and all my hopes and dreams for good rested on her.  I could not imagine that I could ever love another child as much as I loved her.  Four years later, my son Marcus was born.  Before he was born, I wondered how I could love another child as much as I loved Sara.  Then God did something wonderful.  He opened my heart and expanded its capacity so that I could love my son as much as I loved my daughter.  All my hopes and dreams for good rested on my son as well as my daughter. My children are different, and I love them with their differences.

I am only human, and therefore, if I am capable of loving my second child as much as my first child, how much more is God able to love the Jewish people as well as the people in the Church with the same love?  Israel and the Church are different, yet God loves both his children as a parent loves His children.  God did not have to reject his Firstborn, Israel, in order to love the Church.  He is more than capable of loving both, with our differences, appreciating the specialness of each child.

Pope John Paul II referred to the Jewish people as “Our older brother in faith.”  He understood that even though we are different in many ways, we have the same father.   The meaning of this is clear.  Both Israel and the Church are called to be people blessing God.  How do children bless their parents?  Not by standing up and blessing them, only to go back to their normal activities.  When children are young, they fight, they struggle together in what we call sibling rivalry.

When my children were young, they fought constantly.  My son learned to fight by fighting with his sister.  When they got older, they learned to get along, and not only cease fighting, but moved on to getting along with each other and learning to love one another.  Nothing blesses a parent more than when his children get along with each other and love one another.  I believe this is true for God as well.  He wants His children to love one another and stand up for each other.  Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!”  If we truly wish to bless the heart of God, then we, both Israel and the Church, will find a way to make this happen.  As Paul wrote in Galatians 6:16, “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”

 

 

What’s The Good News?

My grandparents knew a woman who used to call and tell my grandmother all her calamities. Every week, it was another gut wrenching story about what went wrong and how her life was ruined. When she would call, if my grandfather answered the phone, he’d ask, “whats the good news?,” before handing the phone to my grandmother. Its was funny, but at the same time, a good question for us.

It’s a funny thing. The word “gospel” means “good news,” and when I first began following Yeshua, we talked about the “good news,” and what a wonderful thing it is. But the more time i spent around Yeshua followers, I found that I didn’t hear much good news. People were always telling me what was wrong with “other” people, or the government, or politics.
Even when they talked about other people who followed Yeshua, they told me how their theology was all wrong, and how we couldn’t trust them because they would use every opportunity to spread their errant doctrines. They would point out people’s flaws, and say I’d be better off not hanging around people like that. The problem with that was if I avoided everyone who was “bad,” I’d only get to hang out with a small group who was warning me to avoid everyone else.

I didn’t follow Yeshua to accept other people’s likes and dislikes. I believed in Yeshua because of His message of life, not the negativities of others.

The worst thing for me was that people were telling me that God loves the Jewish people, but I should stay away from anything that had to do with Judaism and the Rabbis. They said most Jews were on their way to hell and while we “love” them, they just don’t understand. I had a real problem with this, because I follow Yeshua because I believe he is the Messiah. I didn’t reject Judaism, because it was the religion of Yeshua. Yeshua didn’t come to end or replace Judaism. He taught Torah, and mitzvot.

People like this say that the Jewish people were “set aside” in the plan of God, until they recognize Yeshua. I have a real problem with that view. First of all, for Yeshua to be the Messiah, he has to be good for the Jews. If his coming resulted in the bulk of Jewish people over the last 2000 years going to hell (as some Christian theologies purport), then he wasn’t good for the Jews. If his coming meant that Jewish people were no longer the covenant people of God, and they were replaced with non-Jews, then he wasn’t good for the Jews. I have a hard time understanding how such a view could be even remotely construed as “good news” for anyone.

For me the problem is not with Yeshua. Yeshua came to the Jewish people. Yeshua was and is the Messiah, and he IS good for the Jews. The problem has never been Yeshua. It has been his followers. Yeshua’s good news was that God loves us and cares about us, and desires to bless us. That’s good news.

The news brought by historic Christianity has been less than good for the Jews. Historic Christianity’s news for the Jews has been that God doesn’t love you anymore. You have been replaced by the Church. You are just another people, nothing special. You and your whole people are going to hell unless you become part of the Church. What ever you want to call it, it’s not good news, at least not for the Jewish people. Either Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel, which would mean his coming would be good news for the Jews, or he is not the messiah of Israel, and his coming is bad news for the Jews. If he isn’t the messiah of Israel, then none of his claims could be valid.

Yeshua came to Israel, and brought a message of good news. He is the Messiah who loves his people. He is very much like the Patriarch Joseph, who, in a world of Gentiles, is dressed like one. He sought to redeem them as well, without breaking the ties with his own brethren. When his brothers came before him, they did not recognize him. But far from rejecting them and punishing them, he loved them and hugged them and took care of them. Yeshua has only love for the Jewish people, and when he returns, will rule the earth from Jerusalem.

Bad news came from Christian theology, not from Yeshua. Jews have been sinned against by the church as they shed the blood of the Jewish people in Yeshua’s name. Their actions profaned his name. Their replacement theology also profaned the Name of Yeshua because it is a lie that keeps Jewish people from seeing the true good news that God loves them and cares about them. It keeps them from understanding the love of Yeshua.

The good news is that God loves us, and Yeshua is our Messiah. The God of Israel is our God and we are His people. He cherishes us, and cares about us. In the end, even though we are scattered, will take us to Himself. Now that’s what I call…. Good News!

If It Walks Like A Duck…

I have read several articles this week about the Catholic Church’s stance on the Jewish people. On one hand, the Pope declared the Jewish people are not responsible for the death of Jesus. This is a good affirmation that is a reiteration of the Vatican II statement, going back to the 1960s. It basically absolves the Jewish people, and neutralizes the accusation against the Jews that was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews for over 1500 years. While the statement is nothing new, I’m happy that the present pope continues to affirm this important stance.

On the other hand, in a recent article in the Jerusalem Post, the author wrote,

“The January edition of La Civiltà Cattolica – the most authoritative magazine of the Jesuits, printed under the supervision of the Vatican – opens with an editorial about Palestinian refugees. Adopting the Arab propagandist word Nakba, it declares they are a consequence of “ethnic cleansing” by Israel. The journal also supports anti-Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, and falsely proclaims that “the Zionists were cleverly able to exploit the Western sense of guilt for the Shoah to lay the foundations of their own state.””

Maybe its just me, but on one hand, the Vatican says the Jews are not responsible for the death of Christ, and therefore, we are not the “Christ-killers” we were accused of being. On the other hand, they de-legitimize the Jewish State, and blame all the problems in the Middle East on the existence of the State of Israel.

The Jerusalem Post went on to report, “Archbishop Edmond Farhat – the official representative of Vatican politics – proclaimed that the ultimate cause of all the evils in the Middle East is that “foreign body” which is Israel: “The Middle Eastern situation today is like a living organ that has been subject to a graft it cannot assimilate and which has no specialists capable of healing it”.”

The situation is clear: No longer will they express anti-Semitism towards Jewish people. Anti-Israel and Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. Israel is the “Jew” among the nations. Rather than be against individual Jews or the Jewish religion, they are against the Jewish State. This isn’t just about Catholicism. There are many fine Catholics I love and respect. This is about an attitudes held by many people, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

I am getting sick and tired of hearing people de-legitimize my remarks by complaining that I characterize anyone who disagrees with Israel’s politics as anti-Semitic. They make a big deal about having the freedom to criticize Israel without being labeled an anti-Semite. Well maybe its just me again, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, you can call it a chicken, but it’s still a duck. The real question is, why can’t I defend my view which happens to be pro-Israel, without being accused of being biased and bigoted when opposing someone who is anti-Israel. Why is there a presumed guilt on my part, and presumed innocence on the part of those against Israel? Could it be that I’m not the one being biased? Could it be, that they subscribe to the new anti-Semitism?

The Scriptures have made several things clear: First, those who bless Israel will be blessed, and those who curse Israel, are bringing a curse upon themselves. This is the covenant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which has never been revoked, invalidated or rescinded.

Second, The Scriptures also speak of a day in the future when the nations of the world will come against Israel, but God Himself will defend Israel and strike down all the enemies of the Jewish Nation. This would be consistent with the aforementioned covenant with the patriarchs.

These scriptures speak of the present, and the future. In that scenario, there are only two kinds of people: those who are for Israel, and those who are against Israel. If you don’t believe the scriptures, then it really doesn’t matter to you. If you do, which side do you want to be on?