Wednesday, September 23, 2009


We are in the midst of what have been labeled by orthodox Judaism"The Ten Days of Awe," the days in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During this time, there is a great focus on teshuvah, or repentance. As believers, this is a wonderful time for us to spend remembering what G-d has done for us and also repenting from those things in our lives that He does not approve of. To "repent" literally means, "to turn." We have to turn from our ungodly thoughts and actions and turn back towards G-d, who has been waiting for us all along.

I have heard it said that we should "go back to the place where we departed from G-d" in repentance, but in this sinful body and world in which we live and breathe, I'm not sure that we always know or remember when and where we departed from godliness. In that case, let us simply return to the feet of our Savior and ask for forgiveness and perhaps He will show us when we departed, or even better, He will align our feet again to the path that He set us upon so that we can continue the journey.

I recently watched the movie, The Chosen, based on the book by Chaim Potok. It is one of my favorites by far, but the ending is the best part. The Chassidic son, who has been seemingly ignored by his father in all aspects of his life except for discussions of Talmud and Torah, is told by his father why he raised him that way. When the boy was very young, he read and memorized a tragic story and recited it to his father with no emotion, no pain at all... and his father realized that he had been given a son with a great mind but an undeveloped heart. So he chose to raise him with the "wisdom and pain" of silence in order to help him better connect with his own heart and also to feel the pain of others around him. When the father determined that the young man had accomplished this, he then began to speak to him about everything and their relationship flourished. The son was then grateful for the silence that he had been subjected to because it subsequently made him a better person. It's a beautiful story in so many ways, and if you have not seen it, do so. Perhaps our Heavenly Father leaves us in silence for periods of time for our own good...

At the very end of the movie, there is one more little story that is told: A boy leaves his father and runs away. His father tells him to return, and he says that he cannot. In great love and compassion, the father tells him, "Well, return as far as you can and I will come meet you there." This not only reminds me of the story of the prodigal son, it speaks volumes to me about repentance. If you, like me, have forgotten where you departed from G-d, don't despair. During these Days of Awe, let us return to Him as far as we can, and He will meet us there.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

how this all started -part one

I don't know when my search for G-d began, but I suppose I was actively looking for Him as a teenager. As I recall the "phases" and stages I went through in those years, they all revolved around music. As a child, I was raised on country music (Being born in Alabama, this should come as no surprise!) Country music was it. I honestly didn't realize that there were so many other types of music in the world. I was not allowed to listen to anything else. I remember the day when I was about 13 or so, and some of my closest friends in the neighborhood were sitting in the pickup truck (whose radio had probably never been turned off of the local country station) listening to "alternative rock" music. It felt as if we were doing something sinful by listening to this music... this foreign, corrupt, music.
G-d forbid that my father should find out what I was listening to.

This perhaps marks the beginnings of rebellion in my life. After listening (and liking) alternative rock, I moved on eventually to heavier rock, heavy metal, and then even death metal. This of course affected the way that I dressed: black clothing, chain hanging from my wallet, looking like a biker or sometimes like a corpse.. this was my "head banger" stage. I wish I still had pictures of myself from this age, but I got rid of all of them!

Then, somehow I toned it way down and became very mellow. It was at this point that I came across a group called Sublime. They were a mixture of alternative, reggae, and ska. They were the ones who introduced me to the infamous Bob Marley, and Bob introduced me to marijuana (which I first tasted on my fifteenth birthday) and rastafarianism. Interestingly enough, Bob also introduced me to a book that he quoted from constantly in his songs: the Bible. He drove me to want to read it and made me curious about what it was about. So in the course of the next year or so, I smoked marijuana from time to time, even tried growing dreadlocks without my father's knowledge, and I read the Bible from cover to cover, Genesis to Revelation. From that point on, whenever anyone would ask me what my favorite book was, my response was always the same: the Bible. I had never read anything like it, and I never will. The Old Testament, with its stories of families and war, prophets and dramas, was immediately my favorite. I fell in love with the Psalms and even memorized several of them during this time. The New Testament, on the other hand, seemed more "mystical" and mysterious, and I didn't know what to think of it. What it said about the Messiah, Bob Marley said about the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie. I didn't know what the truth was or what to believe, but I knew that the Bible was a great book and I couldn't get enough of it.

I spent a lot of time with the Scriptures. Sitting out in the empty fields behind my grandmother's house under the trees, reading or reciting Psalms to the birds or the wind, whichever would listen. I meditated on G-d and on nature, being somewhat curious about the former and in love with the latter. I believed that there was a G-d. Why? I don't know. I'm sure at some point members of my extended family had told me about Him or that he existed, and I just knew in my own heart and mind that He did exist. I just didn't know who or what or where He was.

My belief was only strengthened one day as I was sitting at the kitchen table reading my favorite book and my father walked in. I don't remember how sober or how intoxicated he was at the time, but he said something to the effect of, "You're searching for something you will never find. When you've seen as many people die as I have, you realize that there is no G-d." My response was simple: "I don't believe that." The conversation ended there. His remarks, coming from an ex-marine who served five tours in Vietnam, and his daughter's response, from a stubborn, searching teenager are not surprising either way, but they drove me to believe even more that there was a G-d and I was going to find Him. After all, I inherited my stubbornness from my father in the first place! So there! ;) I was 16.
My father passed away just a year later, but my search didn't end. Neither did my rebellion. Isn't it amazing how teenagers want the exact opposite of what their parents want for them? Perhaps I was attempting to be different rather than admit how similar we indeed were. I think all teenagers have this in common: they don't want to be like their parents. I don't know how so many people survive those years, but here we are. In just over 12 years, I will have a teenager of my own! I can't wait...

A few years later, a close friend of the family began inviting me to church. After declining about 17 times, I finally agreed to go because she told me that if I didn't like it, I wouldn't be invited to go anymore. It was a Wednesday evening, the church was completely full, as there was a guest evangelist speaking that night. His name was Jamey Ragle, and that's all I remember about him. I spent the whole time wiping away and holding back tears, and I didn't even know why I was crying. Now, this wasn't the first time that I had ever been in a church service. No, I had been to Alabama churches a couple times with an aunt, and they weren't good experiences. I always felt "dirty" there, like I had done something wrong, people were looking at me, and whatever the pastor said was aimed directly at me. But here I was, maybe 22 years old, still experiencing those feelings, but there was also a glimmer of hope this time. I wanted to know what all those people were doing there, what they knew that I didn't know... what kept them coming back? In all those books on Eastern philosophy and Zen Buddhism I had read, not one of them made me comfortable with my biggest fear: death. But here, at this Baptist church, I felt something that I had never felt before: truth. All I ever wanted to know was what was true.

While spending an hour with the "new believer's" class, (I didn't choose to go there: I was left there by my ride) I heard a few people testify of their salvation experiences and how they had come to know G-d, the most moving of which was the associate pastor's story, and it was that night in January that I went home, and by myself on the living room floor, drenching the old wooden planks with my tears, met my Savior, whom I now call by His Hebrew name, Yeshua. Prostrated and broken, I went down fatherless, homeless, and lost, but when I got up, I had a Father, a Savior, and hope. I was a different person... immediately. No more promiscuity, no more drugs, no more going along with the negative influences...I was different. G-d simply took those desires away from me, and I am so grateful that He did. I had found what I was looking for.

have you found Him? be continued...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

can you hear it?

As I look forward to hearing the shofar sound tomorrow evening (or perhaps sooner), I can almost hear the sound ringing in my ears already. I would have to say that the shofar's (ram's horn) call has become one of my favorite sounds in the world. I still remember viewing a movie about Moses and my favorite part was when G-d sounded His shofar from Mt. Sinai and the people ran and trembled with fear. It was that movie that helped me better understand the power of G-d, made me long to hear G-d blow the shofar... and I will hear that one day.

The first Rosh Hashanah service I attended where there were two shofars being blown simultaneously was unforgettable. It was one of the most amazing spiritual experiences I have had. The power and sheer volume of the deep, strong blasts left me trembling with tears streaming down my cheeks...imagining what it will like on that day when we hear the shofar of G-d calling us to Himself. Perhaps tomorrow...

"There are things that are important to us, so we speak about them.
There are things so important to us that the words flow out in a burst of emotion, rich words, expressive and vibrant.
And then there are things that shake us to the core. Things that do not care for the mind's permission or for the right words—for the mind cannot fathom them, the most poignant words could not contain them. Things that can only break out in a cry, in a scream, and then in silence.
This is the sound of the shofar: The very core of our souls crying, "Father! Father!"

-Tzvi Freeman

Come, L-rd Yeshua.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

sanity drive

Well, I'm happy to say that we haven't had a sanity drive for a while, but we had one today. A "sanity drive" is my description of putting the baby in the car seat (to take a nap because she was refusing to take one and screaming at the top of her lungs in her crib) and driving (and thinking, praying, whatever) while she sleeps. Today was one of those days...

On one of these drives, I almost always find myself driving east, towards the Atlantic Ocean. Though I usually just head to Palm Beach, today's was special because I drove all the way to Singer Island and then onward to Juno Beach. It brought back memories for me as this was the route I used to take my pit bull, Cobra, to the beach. Just me and her, windows rolled down in the 1985 Volkswagen Jetta, her slobbering all over the backseat and me enjoying the fresh air. Life was simpler then, but if I had a chance to go back, I'd say , "No way!" Now it's still just me and her, though the 'her' is a sleeping baby in the car seat.

Living so close to the beach for practically all of my life, I always remember being in awe of the ocean. It was there when I was about 18 years old, looking out from the sidewalk to the perfectly straight line of the horizon, that I remember asking my (stoner) friend, "How could anyone say that there is no G-d?" Though I didn't know Him at that time, I believed that He existed with all of my heart. I plan on writing much about how I came to know Him and the journey that He has carried me on (if He tarries after this Rosh Hashanah), but for now, I just praise G-d for creating the ocean... for the terror, awe, and beauty that it inspires in me and for the calming effect that it has on me when I'm having one of those days as a mother.

Surely not by chance, I came across Psalm 96 today. Verses 7-13 state: "Ascribe to the L-RD, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the L-RD glory and strength. Ascribe to the L-RD the glory of His name; Bring an offering and come into His courts. Worship the L-RD in holy attire; Tremble before Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, "The L-RD reigns; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity." Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and all it contains; Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the L-RD, for He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness."

During my sanity drive today, I couldn't help but think about Rosh Hashanah ("Feast of Trumpets" in Leviticus 23). Will this be the year that Yeshua calls for us, His children? During this time of introspection and repentance, I realize how far I am from being like Him, but I also realize how far He has brought me and that leaves me far more hopeful. Although it is important to use our past to teach us, remind us, and inspire us, the future that is awaiting us is much more glorious and important, especially now, two days before this very special Holy Day.

I read a very interesting quote in an email today. It is entitled Reboot by Tzvi Freeman: "Time is not a train of cars hitched one to another, one year dragged along by the year preceding, the present hitched tightly to the past, the future enslaved to the present. Rather, every year arrives fresh from its Creator, a year that never was before and could never have been known before its arrival. That is why we call Rosh Hashana "the birthday of the world" in our prayers. The past has returned to its place, never to return. With the blowing of the shofar, the entirety of Creation is renewed. From this point on, even the past exists only by virtue of the present." If this is indeed the year when the Bridegroom calls for His bride, then the past is gone forever, never to return. The only question that keeps replaying in my mind is, "I've only known Him for about 7 years: am I ready to meet Him face to face?" I don't know if I'll ever be truly ready, but now's the time to get there.

Are you ready to meet Him? For He is coming...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

love you

" shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength... and you shall love your neighbor as yourself..." taken from Mark 12:30-31

Notice how this verse says "love your neighbor as yourself," not "before yourself" or "instead of yourself." Why is this important? Well, it means that in order to love anyone else, you must first love yourself and then use that love as a standard of how to love others. As I have noticed in my own life and in the life of other mothers (and women in general), we have a tendency to put the needs of others in front of our own. While being a helper and servant and caregiver are wonderful gifts that G-d has bestowed upon us, we can easily exhaust ourselves in the process of using these gifts. An exhausted woman has less to offer than a rested one. Believe me, as a new mother, I know what exhaustion is and I know how it affects my relationships with others. When we fail to love ourselves, it becomes very difficult to love others.

I would never suggest that you should stop caring for your children because your needs are not being met. I'm simply saying that you shouldn't feel guilty if you need a little "me" time every once in a while. That "me" time will mean something different to every woman. I'm not the type to go get a manicure or pedicure or my hair done, but sometimes I enjoy just doing laundry or a little shopping in peace and quiet... and alone. I am one of the reasons that laundry and dish detergents have so many fragrances to choose from. It's like aromatherapy for busy moms. I find that once I have enjoyed some time away from my baby girl or my husband, it makes me so much more happy to see them when I return to their presence. In some cases, the saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is true. It makes me appreciate my family even more.

So the next time you feel burnt out and exhausted, instead of feeling guilty, just remember that even the world's most powerful machines need to be refueled and maintained sometimes.

"...for no one hates [her] own body but lovingly cares for it..."

Ephesians 5:29

Friday, September 4, 2009

discretion is advised

This is a difficult one for me to write, but it is necessary. In fact, it pains my heart that there is a need for me to even point this out. My stomach churned last week when I saw a preview for a show called "Toddlers and Tiaras." It is apparently about really young girls, like 3-5 years old, in "beauty pageants." It also highlights their obsessive mothers who put them into these events. But what's really disturbing is what the little girls are wearing. Since when does mascara, tight leather, and bikinis have anything to do with toddler beauty? Seeing the show advertised for the first time, I couldn't help but think to myself: "who is this show aimed at?" Toddlers certainly won't be watching it because it's on past their bedtime! Forgive me for asking this, but is it for pedophiles to watch? Who else wants to see little girls doing little risque dances with makeup caked on their tiny faces or their crazy mothers who are trying to get attention themselves by exploiting their daughters?! Although I'm trying to control the anger (and heartbreak) that I'm feeling, this really touches a nerve with me. Especially now that I have a daughter...

On a nine month old, the little onesies and outfits are just cute. But I know there will come a time (in a few short years) when I will probably be forced to graciously decline (or return) gifts of inappropriate clothing for my daughter and deal with the accusations of being overprotective or just plain crazy... that time is coming. I pray that I'm prepared for it when it arrives. The sad fact remains that, even though most mothers would never want their child to be looked at as a sexual object, there are individuals in this fallen world who see them as such. If I should encourage that type of behavior by dressing my daughter in a sexually provocative manner (or by allowing her to dress that way when she is older), then shame on me as a mother. I would rather nurture modesty in her from a very young age. In a world laden with child pornography & prostitution, sexual abuse, and rape, it is my job to be protective of my children and their bodies.

Children (girls and boys) should be raised with a Biblical understanding of the body and the importance of modesty. Otherwise, these "toddlers in tiaras" grow up to be immodest teenagers and adults. The bulk of American society today (especially young people) doesn't give too much credence or thought to modesty because it has not been instilled in them. In addition, they are pressured to conform to the societal "norm" by their peers, which means wearing the latest fashions and trends regardless of how inappropriate they are. But thanks be to G-d, not everyone dresses according to the latest trends nor do they teach or allow their children to.

There is a book, The Beauty of Modesty by David Vaughan, which makes some excellent points regarding modesty, its need, nature, and nurture. Regarding the nurturing of modesty, Vaughan deals extensively with the place of the parents' responsibility to teach modesty. While I will most definitely teach and model modesty as an example for my daughter(s), it is ultimately their father who will instill it in them. Why? Because every little girl craves attention from their daddy and those little girls grow up to crave attention from other men. However, if the father is lovingly present and willing to teach his daughters a Biblical view of their bodies, they won't have that void in their lives which leaves them longing for male attention. Many girls and young women dress inappropriately today because their fathers don't have the nerve (or tough love) to tell them to do otherwise.

It seems that the issue of modesty has taken a (very far) back seat in the believing world today. It is not expounded upon or taught from the Scriptures as much as it should be. It is a "non-essential" item, that is, it doesn't determine or deny the salvation of a person's soul. But perhaps we need to take it a little more seriously because it is certainly important. In today's continually degrading society, I would say it is very important. As Vaughan notes, "Immodesty is no small sin. It is not simply a silly and vain form of self-display. It is a snare to serious sin." Leading others to sin is not something I would wish to be involved in, nor would I wish it on my daughters. Chances are, you probably won't be seeing little Elli in magazines, television commercials, or beauty pageants. But if her beauty simply causes others to praise G-d's creativity and is wholeheartedly reserved for her husband, then my duty and joy as a mother will be complete.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

coffee with Shaul...

Sharing a meal of manna with Moses would be nice, or taking a tour of the Holy Land with the prophet Elijah as the guide unforgettable, but I personally have often daydreamt about what it would be like just to have a conversation at a table outside Starbucks with the Apostle Paul (Shaul/Saul of Tarsus). Out of all the biblical characters and writers, excluding the L-rd Yeshua himself, he is the one I strive to understand and interact with the most. He is the one I long to meet one day. What I have gleaned from his writings has been unsurpassable. As a new believer, it was Paul’s words that fascinated me, convicted me, and perplexed me the most. He was a source of encouragement and an example for me to follow. He is my rabbi, my teacher: one of many who have driven me to pursue the Word of G-d and His purposes for my life. As I received, or rather fully realized and accepted, my calling to minister to the Jewish people, it was Paul that I related to the most. As the L-rd revealed himself to Paul despite, even because of, his colorful history and former hatred for the community of G-d, the L-rd revealed himself to me despite, or because of, my colorful history and a background laden with racism and anti-Semitism. Likewise, as a Hebrew called to the non-Hebrews, Paul helps me deal with being a non-Hebrew called to the Hebrews. For all of these reasons and more, it is Paul’s theology I would like to focus on here. More specifically, how Paul lived his theology and how he has inspired me to live mine.

The introduction of Saul of Tarsus is a unique one in scripture. It is not pretty, but rather brutal, bloody, and unforgettable. Saul is first depicted, not as an inspirational figure, but as a murderous fanatic, expressing his approval of the stoning of the believing Stephen. Charles Swindoll puts it well when he says “the man [Saul] looks more like a terrorist than a devout follower of Judaism.” Some time after this, however, the L-rd appears to Saul as he is riding horseback to Damascus, blinds him, sends him to Ananias to restore his sight and he eventually becomes one of the most important figures in formulating the theology of what started as The Way.

How does a brute become one of the most influential figures in Biblical history? To answer this in one word, grace. Paul’s theology is one of grace. The theology of Paul has been examined, debated, refuted, and picked apart for over a thousand years. He has been labeled a saint, a traitor to Judaism, and the founder of Christianity among other things. But who was he, and what was his theology, namely his understanding of the Torah?

First of all, t is important for me to explain what I mean by Torah. Although commonly translated as “the Law,” its understanding is really much broader than this. The Hebrew word torah comes from the verb yarah, meaning ‘to cast, throw, or shoot,’ and is used as an archery term for ‘to take aim or shoot.’ The essence of the word is “to hit the mark.” Torah is more than laws and regulations. Torah is more than the five books of Moses. Torah is essentially God’s mark that He desires us to shoot for. Saul of Tarsus seems to have understood this well. For him, with his impeccable knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and of what is called the Oral Law as well, Torah was internal. Torah was grace. Unfortunately, this understanding seems to get lost in most theology studies today. When readers today read “the Law” in Paul’s writings, their mind automatically goes to Leviticus or Deuteronomy. In many cases, this is not what he is referring to. At times, he says “in the law it is written” and then he quotes from a book outside of the five books of Moses, such as the Psalms (See I Corinthians 14:21). A monotone understanding of what Paul means when he says ‘the Law’ is simply insufficient to truly grasp what he is saying in his letters and what is said about him in the book of Acts. In my reading of the writings of Saul of Tarsus, I have learned not to settle for this monolithic understanding.

I have always been a very logical person, perhaps too logical at times. But this drive to make sense of whatever I possibly can in the world around me and within me has led me into some great opportunities. One of the most memorable, seemingly illogical things that I have ever done in my life happened on the day that I accepted the L-rd Yeshua as my Savior. My mind could not grasp what my heart felt. I did not fully understand the implications of what I was doing. All that I knew is that it was true, and that it was the right thing to do. It has been one decision that I don’t remember ever regretting. On that day, I became a new person. Although I can’t explain what happened to me, I don’t view it as illogical anymore. My faith in G-d and the reality of G-d are as real to me as anything else that I have ever experienced.

When it comes to learning, I want to describe myself as a sponge. (However, I don’t retain as much water as I would like). When I became a believer, I begin to soak up the Scriptures. They were all I wanted to read and all I wanted to study. If I was going to become a student again, a college student, then I was going to study the Scriptures. I went to church services, Bible studies, outreaches, and I began to serve in middle school ministry every week. I could not get enough. I had great teachers, an amazing pastor, and many individuals that poured their life into me. But something was missing. There was a discontinuity between my life, the church, the teachings, and the Scriptures. I was learning, but I wanted to know more. I grew weary of reading and learning the Bible. I longed to feel it, to live it out…to make sense of it.

One day, something happened. I heard from someone at church that there were Jews who also believed that Yeshua was the Messiah. My mouth nearly dropped open. It’s almost as if my heart skipped a beat at that moment. I had to see this for myself. The teacher of the Jewish Roots Bible study was possibly the first Jewish person I met who believed in Yeshua. He taught Scripture in a way that I had not yet experienced, and I praise G-d for bringing me across his path. He made the New Testament make sense to me. I had found what I was looking for.

What about Paul? Did he make sense? I still remember thinking that Paul and Saul were two different men, and I would venture to say that I am not the only one who has thought this. In my mind, there was Saul the Jew and Paul the Christian. This was a misunderstanding on my part, however, and a failure to read through the book of Acts slowly and carefully. As far as I can tell, Saul’s name was never changed to Paul in the Scriptures. Both were his names from his childhood, which was customary amongst first-century Jews. Why is this important? I think it furthers the divisions that exist between Saul the unbeliever and Saul the believer. Granted, he became a new man, indeed a new creation, after meeting the L-rd on the road to Damascus, but the fact remains that he was still Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee. And he describes himself as such. (Acts 23:6) It is interesting that today the term Pharisee has such a negative connotation, despite the fact that our beloved Apostle Paul was one. It is important to keep in mind that his understanding of Scripture, even after he became a believer, was shaped and molded by his education as a Pharisee, and by his love for and internalization of the Torah. His messianic faith did not cause him to forsake the Hebrew Scriptures. His writings are embedded with commentary after commentary on them in light of his new faith in the Messiah. He understood that believing in Him was in all regards the natural outcome of truly believing what Moses and the prophets had said about the coming of the Messiah. Yeshua was the fulfillment, and not the cancellation of the Torah. It is heartbreaking to me that many believers don’t study the Hebrew Scriptures like they should. Some feel that they are irrelevant, and others don’t even own a copy of the Old Testament because there are so many Bibles being printed without it these days. An incomplete Bible leads to an incomplete faith.

Beginning to be taught the Scriptures by a Jewish teacher opened my eyes to the richness and fullness of the Bible as it is slowly understood in its proper context. It is this richness and fullness that is so evident in the writings of Paul. Paul was known to be a student of a well-known rabbi, Gamaliel. He was a great teacher and rabbi himself. He was a emissary, traveling all over the ancient world for the sake of the Gospel. With these qualifications, it is crucial to let the man speak for himself. How did he feel about the Torah (Law)? In Romans 3:31, he asks and then answers his own question: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” In Romans 7:12, he calls the law “holy and the commandment holy and just and good”…and later he calls the law “spiritual” (v.14). To sum up Paul’s feelings towards the Torah in one verse, he proclaims that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Perhaps all Scripture includes the Old Testament. Perhaps the Old Testament is profitable in equipping the man of God for every good work.

The biggest misconception concerning the Torah is its relationship to salvation. Well, the truth is that the Torah has never saved anyone. Anyone who teaches that the Torah produces salvation or that the Torah is necessary for salvation is directly contradicting Scripture. Saul had a big problem with these “teachers.” In the letter to the Galatians, he warned the Gentile believers to not be ‘bewitched’ by those who were trying to convince them that they needed to be circumcised, in accordance with the traditional mode of conversion to Judaism, in order to truly be saved. Paul rebukes the teachers very harshly, and explains to the believers that their faith is what has saved them, and to go through with the rite of circumcision might please these close-minded humans but it would not give them any other standing in the eyes of G-d than what they had obtained already through their faith in Yeshua as the L-rd. If anything, it would be redundant and an insult to the grace of G-d. Paul consistently and passionately rebukes his peers whenever they attempt to connect salvation with the works of the Torah. As my rabbi often says, “Works will never produce salvation, but salvation will always produce works.” The difference between legalism and obedience is that legalism says, “I must obey God in order to be saved”, and obedience through grace says, “I must obey because I am saved.” Saul of Tarsus seems to emphasis the latter.

Saul’s love for the Word of G-d and his unquenchable zeal to spread it has been very contagious for me. His zeal, however, was not without knowledge as was that of his brothers of whom he speaks of in Romans 10:2. Knowledge without zeal can also be a bad combination. I desire to have both. Saul of Tarsus had both. As a messianic believer, I strive to make Paul’s teachings real to me. Working in the presence of, reading about, and being exposed to countless different forms of Judaism, I follow Paul’s example in directing my zeal to Biblical Judaism alone, while striving to be sensitive to and be able to interact with the many other Judaisms that are out there. Paul dealt with many Judaisms in his day as well. To this day, I have not met one Jew who desires to be a “Christian”. In fact, the word leaves a bad taste in many mouths. In studying Jewish history, I am beginning to realize why that is. We have to be careful not to build walls, but bridges. Being able to invite Jewish people to my congregation for services and feasts, such as Passover and Hanukkah, with the deliberate intention of exposing them to the Messiah is priceless. If a question about the Bible comes up at work, it is usually directed to me, because I am a student of the Bible. Modern day traditional Jews, for the most part, have no idea what the Scriptures say, and many religious or orthodox Jews place more emphasis on the Talmud than on the Word of G-d. This is not the Judaism that I follow. My ministry is to help the Jewish people understand that accepting Yeshua does not mean turning their backs on who they are, their heritage, their culture, and their families. It means that they experience what it means to be a Jew when they come to the One who is the fullness of the Torah and all that is written in it, The Messiah. “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” (Romans 10:1) I have made three trips to the nation of Israel. Every time, I have returned with a broken heart. I know as much as anyone that they need to be saved…

Paul never turned his back on the Word of G-d or on the nation of Israel. He understood that Yeshua was the fulfillment of everything he had learned in the Torah. As believers, let’s take a step back and consider the possibility that Paul has been taken out of his context. Let’s reconsider what Paul meant when he said that we do not support the root, but it is the root that supports us. Let’s reconsider the importance of Jewish evangelism. Let’s reconsider the place of the Torah in our lives.