I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Anzac Spirit

Sir John Monash
Today is Anzac Day- which is the most important day for Australians every year when we remember the soldiers who died at Gallipoli and in all the wars. As mentioned elsewhere Australia's first Messianic Jewish Rabbi Lawrence Duff-Forbes enlisted and served in the 12th Battalion in World War One. Another Melbourne Jew Sir John Monash was Australia's famous World War One General who formed the 16th Battalion in which many Western Australian's served including my own grandfather George who rushed to enlist in September 7 1914 in the AIF. Sir John Monash was unusual among leaders of the Australian Anglo-Jewish society of his time in that he was a moderate Zionist. Most prominent Australian Anglo-Jews were opposed to Zionism and wished Palestine to remain under the British Crown. Another pro-Zionist, who was an English-born and bred Rabbi in Melbourne for 14 years (from 1923-1937), was Sir Israel Brodie a second cousin to my grandfather George. He served in the British Army as a chaplain in the First World War. Israel later became the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire from 1948-1965.

Chief Rabbi Sir Israel Brodie

Both my paternal grandfather George and my mother's maternal uncle Leonard Charles Lewis (Uncle Charlie) were mustard gassed in the trenches of France and both survived to live through a Second World War. My father's two brothers Colin and George served in the Second World War. Colin served in Palestine and Syria among other places and George was in the 10th Light Horse and was the last mounted Lighthorseman to die on active duty in 1944. Recently I was in Canberra and visited the National War Memorial and found his name engraved on the remembrance wall. He was a renowned horseman. My father Gilbert served in the Korean War.

We will remember them-lest we forget.

Grandfather George in Uniform during WW1

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Third Temple

There has been much talk about the building of the Third Temple in certain Jewish and Christian circles. The halakhic problems of such a venture are numerous. Just to mention one major obstacle is the ashes of the Red Heifer. Some have been trying to breed such an animal that fulfills the requirement but up to now with no success. Even if they were successful the ashes of the new Red Heifer needs to be mixed with the ashes of the old Red Heifers. Unless there is an archeological discovery of such a batch of ashes then the purification rituals cannot go ahead. There are of course many other problems if we look at the rebuilding of the Temple in a physical sense.

It is refreshing to read in Brelsov Hasidic literature about rebuilding the Temple or Sanctuary spiritually. It is through prayers and acts united to the aspect of the Mashiach ben Joseph, which build spiritual bricks of this mystical brickwork, which is the mystical and spiritual Third Temple according to Rabbi Chaim Kramer in his book on the Mashiach based on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman. This is the Inner Temple of the Soul also called the interior Castle by St Teresa of Avila. Another Breslov Rabbi Yeshoshua Starrett has written a book called "The Inner Temple" as fruit of his 'hitbodedut' and the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Brelsov. Each short chapter is a wonderful reflection to meditate on in ones own 'holy hour' of intimacy and conversation with the Divine.

Lately I have been struggling with knowing what the Divine Will wants of me now. I am always looking ahead to what I could or should be doing instead of practicing the Presence of God in the moment as taught by Brother Lawrence and other mystics. This reading of 'The Inner Temple' helped me to refocus to where I should be in time and place. This short reflection is headed "Beyond Time and Space" on page 10. I wish to share this short extract from the book that touched my heart so you can see the great wisdom and treasures to be found in Breslov spirituality.

"The Temple exists beyond the limits of time and space and contains within it all time-space (Avot 5:5; Bava batra 99a; Vayikra Rabbah 10:9;Likutey halakhot, Tzitzit 3:11-15).The lives we live are usually seen as constricted by time and space. The times we live in, the places in which we dwell, seem to trap us in their time and their space, within their temporal and spatial limitations. The imprints they made on our childhood souls and throughout our growing years seem to mold us in lead, irrevocably, in prisons of time and and of space." As I read this it reflected my feeling of being imprisoned and trapped by my life and its circumstances. I unite this with Yeshua ha Mashiach as the prisoner of love in the Eucharist and redo all of these events of my life and my feelings of being trapped and imprisoned by these events in His Divine Will for the tikkun (reparation)of the world and all souls.

"It is not here and now in which we exist, but in some way distant there and then. The imprint of the past on our memories seems to lock us there, way back when. This seems to be an imperitive, a condition that rules our lives-the feeling that we cannot transcend the circumstances of our earthly lives. But this need not be. We can be set free by finding the deep here and now. A place very much here, yet everywhere, a moment in the here and now, yet eternal. A place where your life is a part of all life, and your story, part of all history. A place not confined to your own time and town, where you can feel part of perpetuity. A place that will put your life in context, and those imprints which made you you in their place. This place sets you free to be the real you and leave the prison you see as you."

Many of us felt this freedom when we first came to faith in Yeshua as the Mashiach as we embraced the mystery of the Cross and its access into Eternity. However as we went deeper into the mystery of the Cross and suffering we felt the things of the past and its darkness surface and seemingly imprison us once again. Rebbe Nachman wrote of this experience in Sichoth ha Ran 79: "When a person begins... truly to serve God, he is often beset by evil thoughts and confusion. Actually, the evil was aways there, but it is only now surfacing. A pot of water may seem to be perfectly clear. But when it is placed on a fire and it begins to boil, all its impurities are brought to the surface. One must stand by and constantly remove these impurities. The original purity of the water was merely an illusion, and with a little heat, the impurities surface. But when these impurities are removed, the water is truly pure and clear. The same is true of a person. Before he begins serving God, good and evil are completely mixed together within him. The impurities are so closely bound to the good that they cannot be recognised, But then this person...begins to burn with a great feeling toward God. He is touched with the heat of purification, and all the evil and impurity comes to the surface. Here again, one must stand by and constantly remove the dirt and impurities as they appear. In the end, the person is truly pure and clear. Purification thus requires this period of agitation and confusion. In the beginning, the individual is totally immersed in the physical, and then he begins to come close to God. One might think that it would be possible to remove this dirt and impurity all at once. But the individual's mind is completely intermingled with this mire; therfore, if it were to be removed all at once, his mind would be drawn out with it [and he would lose his sanity]. One must therefore be purified in gradual stages, little by little."[Rebbe Nachman quoted in "The Light Beyond" by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan]

Rabbi Starret continues: "But you must search for this place with all your heart. You must search in your heart for this Temple. Only inside yourself can you transend yourself and find your own inner Temple. Only after King David searched for this Place did God reveal it to him. (Liktey Halakhot, geviat Chov miYetomim). With honest soul-searching, seek out this place. Release yourself from the ego that clings to these molds. Let go of your space and your time. Abandon the feeling that you are trapped. This feeling comes from a lack of awareness; the perception that you are confined to your 'place' is a perception of consticted awareness (ibid, Tzitzit 3:13). Ask yourself this: "Why am I here? What does God really want from me? What is my purpose within God's great plan? What does life demand of me?" Realize that your struggles are common to all life, yet you are still a unique microcosm. Each of us has a unique role in which he can elevate God's world in the macrocosm. Each show of compassion, not anger, brings more compassion to the world. Each time you overcome the dark, negative forces, you bring more light into the world. In your own time and space, though no one may know it, you have elevated the entire world. So take time to go beyond time; find a place to go beyond space. Go deep inside to find the meaning of why you are alive at this time and place. Go to this Temple to find the answers and to leave the prisons of time and space." Thus this is the true leaving behind the third exile and building the Third Temple- the Temple of the heart.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Works and Faith and Rebbe Nachman: A Hebrew Catholic Insight

In Likutey Moharan 5 Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches on the concept of works and faith. He discusses this mystery in the context of prayer. The Hebrew word for work or deed or act is ma'aseh or ma'asim in the plural and the word mitzvot means commandments or good deeds. In Judaism we have the term ma'asim hamitzvot (works of the commandments) as well as ma'asim haemunah (works of faith). St James states that works without faith is dead and then refers to the Akeidah of Abraham which demonstrates the unity of works and faith.

Rebbe Nachman begins his lesson by linking prayer and action or prayerful action. "Now, each person must say: "The entire world was created for my sake" (Sanhedrin 37a). Consequently, because the world was created for my sake, I must constantly look into and consider ways of making the world better;to provide what is missing in the world and pray on its behalf."

The Rebbe then discusses the two main approaches or motivations of those who perform the mitzvot. Those who do mitzvot for the reward they receive in the future World to Come are classified with most of the prophets who saw through a dull-looking glass or mirror. Those like Moses and the Mashiach, who is the prophet like unto Moses, performs mitzvot with great joy because the mitzvah is actually participating in the acts of God himself. One does the mitzvah for its own sake and this is associated with the clear looking glass or mirror. "And this is specially when a person performs the mitzvot with such joy, that he has no desire for any reward in the World to Come. Instead his only desire is that the Holy One provide him with the opportunity to do another mitzvah as a reward for the first mitzvah. As in the saying of the Sages: The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah (Avot 4:2)-for he derives pleasure from the mitzvah itself." The Rebbe cryptically here refers us to the female Wisdom who is the Immaculate Mirror associated with simchah (joy) on the level of Binah as the Understanding Mother. Both Moses and the Mashiach like unto Moses, see without the veils into the divine realities. This also alludes to the prophetess Miriam who saw the parting of the Heavens at the time of the parting of the Red Sea. The sister of Moses is a type of the heavenly Miriam who is united to all those who perform mitzvot with joy.

Then the Rebbe goes on to discuss the mystery of the Shiur Komah - God's Body. This alludes to Ephesians 4:13 in reference to the Body of Mashiach being the measure of the stature [shiur komah] of the fullness of Mashiach. Ephesians 4:13: “…to equip the Tzaddikim for the ‘maaseh avodah’[the work of service or ministry] for the building up of the body of Mashiach until we all attain to the ‘echad haEmunah’[unity of faith] and of the ‘daat Ben Elohim’[knowledge of the Son of God] to ‘shelemah Adam’[complete man] , to the ‘shiur komah ha Milluim Mashiach’ [measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah] …”. Here Paul links works with faith in one unity. Rebbe Nachman says: "...the mitzvot form a complete komah [structure/ construct/ stature/ figure]. And they give life to all other komot; whether it be komat Adam or komat Olam or komat shanah. For Olam Shanah Nefesh [World-Year-Soul]receive vitality from the mitzvot, as in (Psalm 33:4), 'All His work is done with faith," and also (Psalm 119:86)'All your mitzvot are faith". Thus, the Holy One is in simple unity with the mitzvot." The Breslov Rabbis state that "...Moses himself corresponds to the entire construct of the mitzvot...Reb Noson adds that this is why the tzaddik who performs the mitzvot with great joy-thus becoming an aspect of Moshe- has the ability to bring the entire world to serve God. Through him all the constructs are rectified and all that is lacking in the world is made whole (Torat Natan #1)." Thus the Tzaddik who is the Messiah like unto Moses united with Great Joy (Our Lady)brings the whole world to God's service (maaseh avodah)by redeeming all things in him.

The Breslov Rabbis further say: " God's creation, which is "all his work", is established with faith, which is synonymous with the mitzvot, as in,"All Your mitzvot are faith". The mitzvot, as a complete construct, correspond to all the different constructs-i.e.they are the vehicle through which God provides spiritual vitality to all His creations." Rebbe Nachman continues: "Therefore, when the Holy One's works are as they should be and in proper order, the Holy One is happy with them and delights in them, as it is written (Psalm 104:31), "God rejoices in His works". Like a craftsman who makes some vessel. If the vessel is beautiful, then he delights in it. And the joy of the Holy One is clothed in the mitzvot, because they are his unity." The concept of the craftsman is linked with the concept of work and Joseph. Joseph represents the figure (komah)of the World (Olam/place/space) who is linked by the Rabbis to work. The uncreated craftsman or worker is God the Father and Joseph is the created craftsman. The concept of mitzvot and joy in the mitzvot is linked to the figure (komah)of Year (Time/ shanah)which is the Mother's Womb. The uncreated Joy is the Holy Spirit and the created Joy is Miriam. The concept of faith (emunah) is linked with the figure of the Divine Man as Nefesh (soul/ vessel/being) and Leb (Heart). The uncreated faith alludes to the divinity of the Divine Man and the created Faith to his created soul and heart as the vessels of his humanity.

The Breslovers teach that the Divine Will and God are One. The will of God and the Thought of God are one with God himself. This makes a kind of Triunity of God, Thought and Will. They also state that this also applies to the mitzvot as they "are the spiritual expression of God's Will." Thus the mitzvot are the Divine Will in act or volition. They say: "...Now, because God and His mitzvot are one, when a person performs the mitzvot with complete joy, he can even in this world, get a glimpse of this awareness. He is therefore able to enjoy a taste of the joy and reward of the World to Come...in the terminology of the kabbalah this is known as ascending to the sefirah of Binah, which corresponds to the World to Come...When a person performs the mitzvot with great joy, he ascends to the level of Binah..." Our Lady and Joseph united to her lived a perfect Torah observant lifestyle and with Great Joy they entered into God's Divine Will through performing mitzvot or acts in Him. Breslov Rabbi Yehoshuah Starrett writes in "The Inner Temple": "...The secret of this is beyond comprehension. It is the secret of God within man. It is the secret that God, to find His expression, has chosen to hide within man. The commandments are ultimately God's deepest will- the things He wants most deeply to do. But how can God "do" when he is beyond doing actions? Only by acting within mortal man..."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lawrence Duff-Forbes (1899-1964): Australia's First Messianic Jewish Rabbi

As I have mentioned elsewhere I come from an assimilated Australian family of Anglo-Jewish ancestry. After my mother's conversion experience through the preaching of Billy Graham in 1959 along with her sister Faye they became Evangelical Anglicans and part of a Jewish Christian group called in those days "Jewish Evangelical Witness". Later it would be called "The David House Fellowship". Regularly on a Friday night we (my parents, brothers, sister, aunt and cousins) attended the talks of Mr John Brighton of this organisation at the home of Mr and Mrs John (Jack) Ryan and occassionally attended meetings at their centre which I think was called 'David House'. My mother and aunt, who lived next door to each other, received for many years the magazine of this organisation called "The Vineyard". [In fact the first time I became conscious of my Jewish ancestry was when I was about 8 or 9 when I heard my mother and aunt talking to the group about their Jewish grandmother. It seemed strange to me a little Aussie boy that those people on the films about Israel we were always watching were somehow connected to us. I remember the next day asking my mother all about her mother's Jewish family and relatives who had come from the Eastern States of Australia in 1908 to settle in Western Australia.]

The leader and founder of this group was Dr Lawrence Duff-Forbes (b.1899 d.1964) who was also known as Rabbi Zvi ben Abraham. His book "Out of the Clouds" (copyrighted 1952 published in 1957) was one of my mother's favourite books and she and my aunt had a number of copies. Apparently Dr Duff-Forbes was the one to make the term "Messianic Judaism" popular in the 1950's. He also referred to himself as a messianic Rabbi and wore the traditional Anglo-Jewish Rabbi's garb of a black robe and black pill-box hat. I have found evidence that as early as 1940 he attained Australian copyright for a book on Messianic Jewish themes by David L. Cooper the founder of the Biblical Research Society. The "Sydney Morning Herald" newspaper in 1943 mentions him as a Pastor from Victoria who is secretary of the Biblical Research Society (BRS). BRS of Australia is mentioned in 1941 as having its Australasian head quarters in Bendigo where Duff -Forbes seems to have his base at this time. In 1950 the same newspaper refers to him as Dr L W G Duff-Forbes. He left Australia to go to California in 1955 where he established one of the first Messianic congregations called Kehilaat haMashiach Betoch Israel and he also had a regular radio programme.

After some research I found that he served in World War One as a Lieutenant and he was known as Lawrence Walter Gordon Forbes and as Lawrence Walter Gordon Duff-Forbes and his mother Ada Emily Forbes is listed as next-of-kin in his military records. He was a senior cadet officer for 3 years before he enlisted. He enlisted in Hawthorn Victoria in 1917 and was born in Richmond Victoria. The "Argus" newspaper associates him with the Methodist Fitzroy Mission in 1945. He is also listed in the Government Gazettes as a registered minister of the Baptist Union in 1946,1948 and 1950 in Elsternwick and in 1954 in Spring Road Caulfield. Thus he most likely received his theological training at Whitley College in Melbourne where he received his Doctor of Divinity and his Doctor of Letters from Melbourne Univeristy. He married Clara Elsie May Guest [daughter of Alfred R. Guest and Ada Constance Willet] in 1924. She died in Melbourne in 1971. The further I searched the more interesting it became.

Lawrence's father was Frank Wilson Duff-Forbes an actor-producer d.1917[son of Wilson Duff Forbes and Mary Ann Bent]. His mother Ada Emily Windsor Lawrence b.1866 (also spelt Laurence in some records) was also an actress who married Frank Wilson Forbes in 1886. They may have been part of a Hebrew Christian group that existed in Melbourne in colonial days founded by the Methodist Hebrew Christian preacher Rev. Joseph Orton. Ada was the daughter of Robert Windsor (also spelt Winsor) Lawrence b.1833 Sheffield England d.1880 Melbourne a comedian who married Caroline George (b.1846 Launceston Tasmania) an actress in 1864 in Ballarat. Robert was the son of Thomas Robert Lawrence a Jewish weaver and Amelia Winsor. Caroline George was the daughter of William George (b.1815 England) a shoemaker and Mary Ferguson (b.1824 Sligo Ireland) who married in Launceston in 1845. Mary Ferguson may have come from a family who had left America at the time of the Revolution and settled in Sligo. She later left Ireland for Scotland and in Glasgow she was arrested and sent as a convict to Tasmania in 1840 where she married William George an ex-convict (sent to Tasmania in 1833).

Lawrence Duff-Forbes had a sister Guida Duff Forbes b.1889 who died as a baby and a sister Ada Lorna Duff-Forbes b.1890 d.1976 a famous Australian actress (known as Lorna Forbes)who became a Catholic. Records also show that Lawrence and Clara lived in Tasmania in the late 1920's but later returned to Melbourne.

My mother Laurie was very proud of her Jewish ancestry and often spoke of her "great uncle Levi" who owned race horses in New South Wales. She spoke about the Magen David's on her great uncles tombs and how she wanted to have one on her tombstone when she died. Later we learnt from one of our grandmother's cousins in NSW that Uncle Levi would sit in a corner with a black yamulke on and pray from a Jewish prayer book. My mother also had a gold Magen David on a gold chain which I started to wear when I was 13. Unfortunately later I lost it. My mother was always a strange kind of Evangelical as she leant towards the Anglo-Catholic position and had a fascination and respect for the ultra-Orthodox Jews. She spoke in hushed tones about the secret spiritual books that they possessed that could not be revealed to the goyim. She also had great knowledge of natural health remedies and was quite mystically gifted and a woman of great faith and prayer. She was highly intelligent and an avid reader especially of spiritual books and history. She was also a woman of contradictions as she was a strong religious Zionist but opposed to political Zionism and had a deep respect for those ultra-orthodox Jews in London who were anti-Zionist and believed that the Messiah should establish the Jewish state. My mother also always believed in worshipping with her hat or wig on. When I started to become observantly Jewish my parents were happy to keep the Sabbath Eve meal with me and the other festivals. My mother always wore her wig at such times. Eventhough my mother was involved in a group called "Jewish Evangelical Witness" she did not seem to have a missionary attitude towards Jews. When one of my secular Jewish friends came to stay with my parents my father (who had been an atheist) started to talk to him about Jesus and to give him a New Testament. My mother became annoyed with my father and told him to be quiet and to leave my friend alone. She told him and my father that my Jewish friend should read the Old Testament and learn more about Judaism and leave the rest to God.

I do not know if my mother ever met Dr Duff-Forbes but I do know she devoured his writings. If any one knows more details about Dr Lawrence Duff-Forbes I would love to hear from them. I now realise that he as an Anglo-Jewish Australian played an important part in the genesis of the Messianic Jewish movement. He also had a great influence on returning assimilated Anglo-Jews like my family to an interest in their Jewish heritage.

Dan Cohn-Sherbock in his book "Messianic Judaism" writes: "In Los Angeles, the congregation of the Messiah Within Israel was founded by Lawrence Duff-Forbes. A forerunner of the later messianic congregations, this congregation called itself both biblical and Messianic and employed a style of worship distinct from Hebrew Christian churches. Based on the synagogue service, the congregation utilized a traditional form of liturgy. According to Duff-Forbes, the objective of this congregation was to lead the Jewish people to worship the God of Israel. Insistent on the glories of the Jewish tradition, Duff-Forbes sought to fortify the Jewish people through biblical heritage. In order to promote this philosophy, Duff-Forbes published a range of literature including booklets, as well as a quarterly magazine. He also broadcast a radio programme and produced tapes dealing with religious issues. His synagogue held Shabbat services, offered adult Bible classes,and ran a Yeshivat Yahudat Meshichi, an academy of the Jewish Messiah with classes in Hebrew, Yiddish and Jewish history. In 1955 Ed Brotsky encounted Duff-Forbes at the 1955 World Congress of Hebrew Christians. Duff-Forbes invited Brotsky to come to Los Angeles to work with him. For nine months Brotsky served as an associate Rabbi. Even though the congregation was disbanded in 1970, it exerted an important influence on Brotsky's interpretation of Judaism as well that of Moishe Rosen, who at that time was serving with the ABMJ in Los Angeles..."

Moishe Rosen the founder of 'Jews for Jesus' writes: "Another interesting character of this era was Dr. Lawrence Duff-Forbes. His widely circulated booklet titled Out of the Clouds was written in rather flowery prose. Dr. Duff-Forbes was an Australian who came to this country to attend the Hebrew Christian Alliance. He was a mysterious, even shadowy person. No one was sure where he received his doctorate, or in what field it might have been. Nevertheless, he began regular Friday night meetings in the Grauman Mortuary Chapel, where he donned the regalia of a cantor or rabbi. He rented time on a local radio station and proclaimed himself a rabbi in the Jewish messianic movement." Hopefully this blog article has shed a little light on this extraordinary Australian who came from 4 generations of theatrical ancestors. Coming from an assimilated Australian family with Hebrew Christian influences Lawrence Duff-Forbes became Messianic Jewish Rabbi Zvi ben Avraham a light for the Jewish Mashiach in the midst of Judah.

Note: The Scottish Forbes family is said to be descended from the Morrocan Jewish surname Farrabas who came to England from France in the Middle Ages.(see "When Scotland Was Jewish" by Hirschman and Yates)

The Vineyard Magazine

Testimonial on Duff-Forbes

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Open Questions on Jewish Observances: A Hebrew Catholic Opinion

If one listens to many self appointed "experts" on Jewish-Christian relations one would think that the Church has settled all questions about the validity of the Mosaic covenant and Torah observances by Catholic Jews. However this is not the case and this is an area of further theological speculation and development. There are still alot of open questions in this area. The Church has not definitively ruled on these questions for Jews in the Church. This is confirmed by Cardinal Avery Dulles before his death. He wrote:"The Second Vatican Council, while providing a solid and traditional framework for discussing Jewish-Christian relations, did not attempt to settle all questions. In particular, it left open the question whether the Old Covenant remains in force today. Are there two covenants, one for Jews and one for Christians? If so, are the two related as phases of a single developing covenant, a single saving plan of God? May Jews who embrace Christianity continue to adhere to Jewish covenantal practices?" The good Cardinal then seeks to give his personal understanding and position on these issues in the light of Catholic teaching. I personally would disagree with many aspects of the good Cardinals ideas and conclusions. However these discussions and disagreements are part of the theological process that may go on for many centuries yet before the Church makes a definitive ruling. This is dispute for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

Since the Vatican II documents there are other important developments of understanding in this area to be taken into account especially the writings and teachings of John Paul II and Benedict XVI (both as a Cardinal and Pope) as well as Cardinal Lustiger, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other theological opinions by leading theologians. The new Biblical and theological studies on the Jewishness of Jesus, Paul and the Gospels by those who have a comprehensive knowledge of Jewish tradition and sources will open up new ways of looking at these questions. Many of the mistaken ideas and conclusions of Cardinal Dulles are due in my opinion to the mistaken understanding of Paul by many generations of Gentile Catholics. The new studies on Paul from a Jewish perspective is crucial for clearing up many mistaken understandings of the role of the Jews in the New Covenant. Cardinal Dulles also writes : "...John Paul II was not content to let Judaism and Christianity go their separate ways. Speaking at Mainz in 1980, he called for ongoing dialogue “between the people of God of the Old Covenant, never revoked by God, and that of the New Covenant.” He expressed hope for an eventual reconciliation in the fullness of truth. In Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994) he wrote of Judaism: “This extraordinary people continues to bear signs of its divine election. . . . The insights which inspired the Declaration Nostra Aetate are finding concrete expression in various ways. Thus the two great moments of divine election — the Old and New Covenants — are drawing closer together...The time when the people of the Old Covenant will be able to see themselves as part of the New is, naturally, a question left to the Holy Spirit. We, as human beings, try only not to put obstacles in the way.” ..."

One needs to have charity in these discussions and refrain from personal attacks on people who are in sincerity searching for a clearer understanding. Of course we do know from Vatican II and magisterial teaching since then that former approaches that were anti-Jewish or anti-Judaism are not valid. This means that if even a great saint or doctor of the Church should base his understanding on such a base it is today a valid reason to reject that saints understanding and conclusions in this area. Our present Pope clarifies this when he said as the Cardinal in charge of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith: "...Down through the history of Christianity, already-strained relations deteriorated further, even giving birth in many cases to anti-Jewish attitudes, which throughout history have led to deplorable acts of violence. Even if the most recent, loathsome experience of the Shoah was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology, which tried to strike the Christian faith at its Abrahamic roots in the people of Israel it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to its atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians. Perhaps it is precisely because of this latest tragedy that a new vision of the relationship between the Church and Israel has been born: a sincere willingness to overcome every kind of anti-Judaism, and to initiate a constructive dialogue based on knowledge of each other, and on reconciliation. If such a dialogue is to be fruitful, it must begin with a prayer to our God, first of all that he might grant to us Christians a greater esteem and love for that people – the people of Israel – to whom belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs are the patriarchs, and from them comes Christ according to the flesh, he who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen. And this not only in the past, but still today, for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. In the same way, let us pray that he may grant also to the children of Israel a deeper knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, who is their son, and the gift they have made to us. Since we are both awaiting the final redemption, let us pray that the paths we follow may converge. It is evident that, as Christians, our dialogue with the Jews is situated on a different level than that in which we engage with other religions. The faith witnessed to by the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament for Christians) is not merely another religion to us, but is the foundation of our own faith..."

Cardinal Avery Dulles also wrote about the letter of an Orthodox Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod to Cardinal Lustiger about the Torah observances of Jews in the Church: "...In a letter to Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, then archbishop of Paris, Michael Wyschogrod pointedly asked what the cardinal meant when he wrote that in becoming a Christian he had not ceased to be a Jew and had not run away from the Jewish tradition. For Wyschogrod, it seems, Jewish identity would require observance of the Torah and Jewish tradition. By forbidding converted Jews to observe the Torah, he holds, the Church fell into a supersessionism from which it is today seeking to extricate itself. If Lustiger had responded he might have pointed out that according to the teaching of Paul, which is normative for Christians, circumcision and the Mosaic law have lost their salvific value, at least for Christians, and in that sense been “superseded.” But I do not wish to deny that the observance of some of these prescriptions by Jews who have become Christians could be permissible or even praiseworthy as a way of recalling the rootedness of Christianity in the Old Covenant..." Dulles seeks to answer for Lustiger but I think Lustiger's silence was his answer. By his silence I believe he agreed with Wyschogrod but due to his position in the Church he felt he could not say this at that time realising that the bulk of the Church was not ready to accept this position without further theological development and understanding. In a sense his funeral was his answer, when he organised that both traditional Catholic and Jewish rites would be part of his funeral he was giving his answer to Wyschogrod and the world. Dulles however is totally wrong in his response and demonstrates his lack of understanding of Judaism and thus his misreading of Paul. To be fair to Dulles most Catholics misunderstand the Jewish position. The keeping of circumcision and other aspects of the Mosaic Law by Jews is not a question of salvation but of obedience to the divine Will and the pursuit of holiness or sanctification. Jews look forward to salvation in the coming of the Mashiach not in circumcision or the Mosaic Law. According to those who personally knew him Cardinal Lustiger approved of Hebrew Catholics circumcising their sons, not for salvific reasons but as part of preserving the identity of their sons with the Jewish people.

In fact many years ago I was told that certain Hebrew Catholics asked Cardinal Lustiger whether they should circumcise their sons first and then baptise them or the other way around. Many conscious of the Gentile Catholic sensitivity on this felt that it might be better to circumcise them first before they became Catholics in baptism. However Cardinal Lustiger advised them to baptise them first and then circumcise them. I was puzzled by this until I realised that Cardinal Lustiger was saying by this that it was totally appropriate for Hebrew Catholics to circumcise their sons, not for salvation but as part of the perservation of Jewish Identity in the Church. Haaretz an Israeli newspaper reported on the funeral of Lustiger: "...Lustiger's faith remained complex throughout his life - he never rejected his Jewish identity, and the multifaith funeral appeared to be a symbol of that. He always claimed he was still a Jew, which caused a certain amount of anxiety and concern within parts of the Jewish community, said Rev. John T. Pawlikowski, president of the International Council of Christians and Jews. "It is highly unusual for the Mourner's Kaddish to be read among mourners for a convert from Judaism," said Rabbi Joel Roth, an expert on Jewish law at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. "It's important to emphasize that it's not possible to be both Jewish and Catholic," he said. "That is what this could suggest to some people."..." This is exactly what Cardinal Lustiger did believe- he was a Catholic who was still a Jew and he never ceased to proclaim this to both Jews and Catholics. He also had this truth placed on a plaque on his tomb at Notre Dame in Paris.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Messianic One Law Controversy: A Hebrew Catholic Opinion

In certain evangelical Protestant circles among those interested in the Hebrew Roots of their faith arose those who believed that there was one Law-the Mosaic Law- which was to be observed in the same way by Jews and Gentiles. One of the leading groups who formerly held this opinion began in 2006 to retreat from this position which then upset those who still held this position. Many other Christians hold to a variant of this, that there is in the New Covenant one Law- the Law of Christ- which must be observed in the same way by Jews and Gentiles and the Mosaic Law has no relevance in the era of the Church. Both these positions on the Torah are not correct.

It is true that there is one Law of God which must be observed by Jews and Gentiles. However they are not obligated to observe the Torah in the same way. Gentiles are called to the Torah observance appropriate for their Gentile culture and calling and Jews are called to Torah observance appropriate to Jews and their calling. There are not two separate laws but the terms Old Law and New Law refer to two ways of observing the One Law of God. Even among the Gentiles the consecrated religious observe the Torah differently than the lay people just as among the Jews women observe differently to men.

The famous Hebrew Catholic Cardinal Lustiger explains this in his book called "The Promise": "...The Church is then faced with the question of the extent to which these Gentiles who share in Israel's Election should be obliged to observe the laws which are Israel's trust, responsibility, and privilege. To what extent should these Gentiles be associated with the totality of Israel's mission? This is the major problem facing the first generations of Christians, as all the New Testament writings testify...In this early Church, the status of the Gentile-Christian assemblies begins to be established. They are not dispensed from observing the Law- if the Gentiles did not observe the Law, they would have no share in either Israel's Election or grace. But the gift of the Holy Spirit, a grace of the Messiah, enables Gentiles to observe the law differently from Israel, which remains charged with this "delightful" burden of observance. The Church of Jerusalem is, in the Catholic church, the permanence of the promise made to Israel, the presence of the fulfillment of that promise, an attestation of the grace bestowed on the Gentiles. Thus, the church is that of both Jews and Gentiles...". He then explains what the term New Law means: "...The commandment to love as Jesus loves is not to be substituted for the other commandments. That would make no sense. There is only one holy Law. The law is the revelation of God's commandments. The newness is in God's act, in that he sends Israel his obedient Son... It makes no sense to understand the Sermon on the Mount as the substitution of one commandment for another...It is essential to understand what is meant by the expression "a new law". If the novelty meant is that the Holy Spirit enters the heart of the one who participates in Christ's life – the `law of the spirit' ,as Saint Paul expresses it- then, yes, the expression "new law" is appropriate. However to maintain that the revelation has been substituted for another is to understand absolutely nothing of the mystery of Christ. It is to deny the gift of God..." .

Cardinal Lustiger also wrote about the Gentiles accessing Israel's Torah inheritance through the Mashiach:"...Gentiles also have a right to the Law , as a holy law inscribed in their hearts. It is by acting through the Messiah , with him and in him who made himself obedient to the Law to death on the Cross, that they obey the Law. The discipline of the church dispenses them from Israel's observances, a burden too heavy for them, and which remains Israel's privilege. It is not for the Gentiles to take on the physical history of the Hebrews, since they, through Christ, have become spiritual offspring of Abraham, but not his physical descendants. Nevertheless, in Christ they have access to the plenitude of the law, and receive the Holy Spirit which allows them to fulfil it...". At the funeral of Cardinal Lustiger elements of Catholic and Jewish customs and prayers were observed as the Cardinal always insisted that he remained Jewish after his entry into the Catholic Church.

Messianic Jews and Mysticism: A Hebrew Catholic Opinion

Messianic Jews of the UMJC at worship 

One of the common criticisms of the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Christian movements was that they were just evangelistic fundamentalists using a Jewish gloss or glamour in order to entice Jews into Evangelical Christianity. While this is a simplistic view of a complex issue there is certainly some validity in some of the criticism. We have seen that Paul Levertoff was opposed to this kind of Hebrew Christianity and he stressed the essential place that Chasidism should have in a 'Jewish branch of the Catholic Church'. Chasidism emphasises the mystical dimension of religious faith.

In recent years I have noticed more and more interest by some Messianic Jews in Chasidic and Mystical Jewish spirituality. While evangelical Christians do stress an initial mystical experience of becoming 'born again' there is no tradition or structure to understanding the mystical life of the soul in their approach. As a result many Evangelicals have felt that there must be something more and we have seen many moving into the Charismatic movement and its mystical experiences of the Holy Spirit. This has also lead many to look into both Catholicism and Eastern Christian Orthodoxy.

Most Jews who have embraced Jesus have had a mystical experience and thus the charismatic dimension is very popular among Messianic Jews. However in all mysticism including the charismatic movements there are many pitfalls and dangers. Catholicism and Eastern Christian Orthodoxy have a very developed understanding of mysticism in its diverse manifestations as does Chasidic Judaism. Mystical life is 'deep calling to deep'. Many from evangelical and fundamentalist backgrounds feel they have come to a full stop in their spiritual development within the teachings of their churches and they sense there is a deeper way.

I believe many Messianic Jews today reach a point where they became spiritually dry and sense there is more to being a Jew and to life in the Mashiach than that offered by evangelicalism and pentecostalism alone. The turning to more structured and traditional liturgy is one manifestation of this. Another is the interest in the teachings of Chasidism and the Kabbalah. Levertoff was ahead of his time in that he stressed this link with liturgy and Chasidic mysticism in the development of an authentic form of Jewish Christianity. He was also one of the translaters of the Jewish Socino version of the Zohar into English.

The mystical dimension is essential to a rich and spiritually fruitful religious life- it is the dimension of the heart and heart worship. Like other Jews the Chasidim study Torah and Talmud but not in a dry intellectual way but from a mystical perspective seeing beyond the letter of the text ascending into its heart-felt and mystical applications. In Catholicism there is also a danger of replacing the dry intellectualism of Modernist and Liberal theology (which could be associated with Saducean Judaism) with a dry and intellectual orthodoxy (which could be associated with Shammaite Phariseeism) or a dry evangelical form of Catholicism (which could be associated with Karaite Judaism) rather than an orthodox Catholicism imbued with mystical dimensions (which could be associated with Hillelite Phariseeism elevated with Essene mysticism of the followers of Menachem). Of course one also must be careful not to fall into extreme and fanatical forms of mysticism such as that of the fanatical Essenes of the Dead Sea region.

True mysticism is a blessing to the whole community and leads, not just the individual mystic but the whole community that shares in this mystical way, to drawing deeper and closer into intimacy with the Divine and manifesting a deeper love commitment and communion to the community and to each individual in the community. This is the mystical Body of the Mashiach with which the soul enters into mystical union or marriage. Those of us who have attended chasidic liturgical worship in the Synagogue and also the liturgy of the Eucharist in the Church know that both as individuals and as a group one can ascend into the mystical and divine realm through such liturgy when it is celebrated with devotion and reverence.

Levertoff and Gillet's vision of a Jewish liturgical, mystical and traditional form of Hebrew Church proclaims a way forward for Messianic Jews and Hebrew Catholics who feel the longing and calling in their Jewish hearts to Torah and mitzvot as a deeper Jewish way for them to draw closer in intimacy with the Mashiach and his acts. The election and vocation of Israel is primarily a collective one. It would seem Messianic Rabbi Mark Kinzer and the UMJC are grasping this reality as expressed in "Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism" and are far ahead of the Hebrew Catholics in this regard. However the Association of Hebrew Catholics is at the stage of seeking to gather the Jews in the Catholic Church so that it will be possible for them to participate in their collective vocation in the church and the world. In the last few years we have seen a number of Hebrew Catholic conferences which is a positive step in this direction.

Watch this on Levertoff

Friday, April 09, 2010

Post-missionary Messianic Judaism?: A Hebrew Catholic Perspective

Father Paul Levertoff: A Hasidic Hebrew Christian

In the mid 1980's before I entered the Catholic Church I came across Father Lev Gillet's book "Communion in the Messiah". Father Lev Gillet was a Russian Orthodox priest who was influenced greatly by Paul Levertoff a Chasidic Jew (descended from the family of the Alter Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Liadi) who came to faith in Yeshua as the Mashiach in 1897 and became an Anglican priest. This book probably had the greatest influence on me and was the template for my understanding of Jewish Election and vocation in the Church along with certain insights of Father Elias Friedman in "Jewish Identity". The weaknesses in Father Elias' approach was in the area of how Jewish Identity could be preserved in the Church, as like many of his generation, he did not see the validity and central importance of Jewish Torah observance in accordance with the Halakah of Rabbinic Judaism for the preservation of Jewish identity in the Church. In fact it was the suppression of the distinctive Jewish Torah observances and Gentile hostility to Rabbinic Jewish tradition that led to the 'Regime of Assimilation' and the gradual death of the Church of the Circumcision which was the mother form of the Church.

I believe that Father Elias sensed a weakness in his understanding and that is why he said that he left the issue of how to preserve this Jewish Identity to the Holy Spirit and further development by the Jews in the Church once they started to be gathered for collective action. For me the insights of Gillet and Levertoff as explored in "Communion in the Messiah" remedied this weakness in "Jewish Identity". However Father Elias never intended "Jewish Identity" to be the definitive and last word but as the beginning of a developing conversation.

Mark Kinzer of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC)[which was founded at the same time as the Association of Hebrew Catholics]has written an important book called "Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism" that is also influenced to a certain extent by the insights of Gillet and Levertoff. In 2005 Kinzer writes: "...Over the past decade, numerous changes have occurred within the Messianic Jewish movement. One of the most significant developments has been the emergence of voices explicitly advocating a bilateral eccesiology in solidarity with Israel's covenant, Torah, and religious tradition. In doing so, these voices follow the course first articulated by Levertoff and Gillet...".
Father Lev Gillet

This movement towards the insights of Levertoff and Gillet among certain Messianic Jews is exciting as this movement is thus more 'friendly' towards Catholics. In fact Mark Kinzer writes positively about the role of Hebrew Catholics. Kinzer writes: "...Before turning to the early signs of an emerging postmissionary Messianic Judaism, we should look at a surprising movement that has recieved too little attention: Hebrew Catholicism... Its distinctive eccesiological setting has facilitated a set of penetrating insights regarding the Jewish people and the church..."

Father Lev Gillet states that Levertoff "...holds the ideal of a Jewish Christian community, which he conceives as '...a Jewish branch of the Catholic Church in a congenial Jewish traditional environment, where the esentials of Christian Faith and worship are expressed, as much as possible, in Jewish terms."..." Kinzer writes: "...From Levertoff's point of view, the most "congenial Jewish traditional environment" for a "Jewish Christian community" was the mystical Hasidic world of his ancestors. Levertoff believed that Yeshua-faith could easily be integrated with the best in Hasidic spirituality. Levertoff gathered a small group of Jewish Christians in Stepney for Sabbath worship, employing traditional Jewish music and a Hebrew-language liturgy. Nevertheless, Levertoff was not a missionary, and he appears to have had misgivings about the entire Christian missionary posture towards the Jews...". In this regard Levertoff and Father Elias Friedman are in accord. Father Elias said to the early members of the AHC:"Consider the primary aim of the group to be, not the conversion of the Jews, but the creation of a new Hebrew Catholic community life and spirit, an alternative society to the old." In fact Father Elias saw that any targeted missionary programme aimed at Jews to be undesirable in an era where Jews would be merely assimilated into Gentile culture and their descendants would lose their Jewish Identity within a few generations. He referred to this as "the regime of assimilation".

However I think the weaknesses in both Father Elias and Mark Kinzer's positions are due to their backgrounds in conservative-style Judaism rather than orthodox Hasidic Judaism. For me the Hasidic and mystical dimensions of any future "Jewish branch of the Catholic Church in a congenial Jewish traditional environment" is essential to the whole project. This insight of both Levertoff and Gillet needs greater emphasis. Hasidic Judaism is already much closer to Catholicism not only in its mystical insights but in its approach to heart-centred Torah observance and in regards to morality. Thus if UMJC and other Messianic Jewish groups started to embrace this Hasidic dimension of Levertoff and Gillet insights they would draw even closer to their Hebrew and Gentile Catholic brothers and sisters.

Levertoff developed a Hebrew Christian liturgy called 'The Meal of the Holy King' drawing on the best of Christian and Hasidic liturgy. This Eucharistic liturgy was approved for use by the Anglican Bishop of London of the time. The establishment of Anglican ordinariates in the Catholic Church and the acceptance of their Anglican liturgical traditions could open a door to Jewish ordinariates with their own distinctive liturgical traditions. A recourse to the insights of Paul Levertoff a Hebrew Anglican priest, Lev Gillet a Russian Orthodox priest and Elias Friedman a Hebrew Catholic priest for the growth of a "Jewish branch of the Catholic Church" demonstrates the potential for ecumenical development and the healing of the breaches and wounds in the mystical Body of Christ.

Note: here is a link to Rabbi Moishe Levertov a Chabad Chasid who claims the Levertoff connection to Schneur Zalman. According to a Levertoff family tree on Geni Schneur Zalman of Liadi's brother Mordechai Poisner's daughter married Nathan Levertov. Nathan's son Yehuda Nathan was the father of Shaul Levertov who was the grandfather of Rabbi Moishe Levertov. Moishe Levertov may have confused the names of his grandmother and great grandmother. He has Shaul Levertov's wife as Yehudis and his mother as Batya. In fact it may have been the other way round. Or it maybe that Reb Shaul had two wives Batya and Yehudis. Rabbi Moishe's father Rabbi DovBer Levertov (b.1885) is a younger brother of Feival Paul Philip Levertoff (b.1878).

Also see Five Kinds of Hebrew Catholics and Hebrew Catholic Vocation