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.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ramban, Our Lady and Kabbalah: A Hebrew Catholic Reflection


One of the greatest commentators of Judaism was Moses ben Nachman (Nachmanides). He is also known as Ramban and lived in the Middle Ages at the time of Maimonides (Rambam). He was born in 1194 in Geronda Spain and died in 1270 in the Holy Land. Nachmanides was also a master of the Jewish Mystical Tradition called Kabbalah. He includes some kabbalistic insights in to his great Commentary on Torah. However some Litvak publishers try to conceal those mystical sections by not translating these portions into English.

Ramban himself is cautious about what he reveals to his readers about the Mystical dimensions of the Torah. This is because he is afraid of the misuse of these mystical teachings by the Gnostics. He is also concerned because of the clear similiarities with Christian ideas, and that those Jews who were against Kabbalah could use this to suppress the Kabbalists.

I will now discuss one such passage that is not translated into English in some modern translations of Ramban. Ramban discusses the first word of the Torah Bereshit (In the Beginning). He demonstrates how the term reshit (beginning)is associated with the Torah and Israel. Ramban writes: "...In the beginning God Created. Rashi wrote:"This verse calls aloud for elucidation, as Our Rabbis have explained it:"For the sake of Torah which is called reshit, as it is said, 'the Eternal made me as 'reshit'(the beginning)of His way', and for the sake of Israel who is called reshit, as it is said, 'Israel is the Eternal's hallowed portion, the 'reshit'(first-fruits) of his increase'."..."

Ramban then goes on to link this reshit with the concepts of the Challah (dough or bread offering), the maasrot (tithes), and the bikkurim (first fruits). "...For the merit aquired by... three things has the world been created: for the merit of challah, for the merit of Tithes and for the merit of the first fruits (bikkurim)...Reshit surely signifies the Dough-offering, as it is said, 'The first of your dough' [Numbers 15:20]. Reshit surely signifies the Tithes, as it is said, 'the first of thy grain' [Deut.18;4]. Reshit surely signifies the first-fruits, as it is said, 'the first-friuts of thy land' [Exodus 23:19]..." For the Hebrew Catholic this clearly has Marian and Eucharistic significance.

From this we see that the concept of Israel is the spiritual vessel in which all has come to be in the Creation. What aspect of Israel does this refer to? Ramban reveals it is the concept of Kneset Yisrael -the Lady of Israel. Ramban further reveals that this Lady is the mystical daughter, sister and mother as revealed in the Sefer Bahir. He then links her to the Mother of the Song of Songs and to the Isparklarya (crystal mirror). This alludes to the Immaculate mirror associated with the female Wisdom in the "Wisdom of Solomon" a book that Ramban also quotes from in his commentary on Torah. In fact he has an Aramaic version of this book which he translates into Hebrew. These are all Marian allusions and demonstrates that it is the concept or thought of the mystery of the God-bearer (Theotokos)which is the prototype through which all of reality comes forth.

Ramban writes:"...Their intent in the above texts is as follows: the word bereshit alludes to the Creation of the World by Ten Sefirot, and hints in particular to the sefirah called Hokhmah (wisdom/Sophia), in which is the foundation of everything, even as it says, 'The Eternal hath founded the earth by Wisdom' [Proverbs 3:19]. This is the Terumah (Heave-offering)...and it is holy; it has no precise measure, thus indicating the little understanding created beings have of it. . Now just as a man counts ten measures- this alludes to the Ten Sefirot- and sets aside one measure of the ten as a tithe, so do the wise men contemplate the Tenth Sefirah and speak about it. The Dough-offering, which is the single commandment pertaining to the dough, alludes to this." The Eucharistic mystery is alluded to here right at the beginning [reshit]where starting with the tav in bereshit we count 26 letters and so on until we find the word terumah (heave or lifted offering) hidden in the text of Genesis. Ramban preveals that this terumah is connected to the mystery of the challah or dough-bread offering. Our minds are drawn to the offering of bread and wine by Melchizedek and Abraham as well as to the imagery of the Last Supper and the Catholic Mass.

Ramban continues: "Now Israel, which is called reshit as mentioned above, is the "Kneset Yisrael", which is compared in the Song of Songs to a bride and whom Scripture in turn calls daughter, sister and mother. The Rabbis have already expressed this in a homiletic interpretation of the verse, 'Upon the crown wherewith his mother has crowned Him [Song of Songs 3:11]', and in other places." Similarly, the verse concerning Moses, 'And he chose a first part for himself' [Deut. 33;21], which they interpret to mean that Moses our teacher comtemplated through a Isparklarya (lucid speculum/ clear crystal mirror or looking glass), and he saw that which is reshit (the first) for himself, and therefore merited the Torah. Thus all the Midrashim above have one meaning." This meaning is the mystery of the Marian, Messianic and Eucharistic concept of the Incarnation in Eternity as it becomes veiled and hidden in the words of the written Torah given to Moses on Sinai. Here Nachmanides reveals that Moses beholds this first (reshit)who is the Mystical Mother in Eternity as the source behind all things and that the Torah that he merited is this female Wisdom of the Mystical Mother in Eternity. She, in the mystery of the Incarnation, is the first thought of the Godhead outside himself. She is bat reshit (the daughter who is first or beginning). Nachmanides reveals that all the midrashim have their source and inner meaning in this mystery of the Mother in Eternity. The Jewish Encyclopedia describes Midrashim: "In contradistinction to literal interpretation, subsequently called "peshaṭ"...the term "midrash" designates an exegesis which, going more deeply than the mere literal sense, attempts to penetrate into the spirit of the Scriptures, to examine the text from all sides, and thereby to derive interpretations which are not immediately obvious. The Talmud (Sanh. 34b) compares this kind of midrashic exposition to a hammer which awakens the slumbering sparks in the rock..." From this midrashic sculpting emerges the mystery of God's masterpiece- the Hidden Mystical Mother in Eternity we call Our Lady and Miriam.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Helsinki Statement

Messianic Rabbi Mark Kinzer

The Messianic Jewish Theological Institute has just released this statement about the recent "Jews in the Church of Christ" conference in Finland.

"HELSINKI STATEMENT

Helsinki Consultation on Jewish Continuity in the Body of Messiah June 14-15, 2010 Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) from England, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Russia, and the United States met in Helsinki, Finland, on June 14-15, 2010. As scholars belonging to Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and Messianic communities, they began a conversation on Jewish continuity in the Body of Jesus the Messiah. They issued the following statement: We thank God for bringing us as Jews to the knowledge of Jesus the Messiah, and we express a debt of gratitude to those from the Nations who have transmitted the knowledge of Christ from generation to generation. While we seek to speak on behalf of those who share our Jewish identity and faith in Christ, we have no official mandate from our respective communities. In what follows we are expressing ourown deeply held convictions. At this unprecedented event, we experienced the depth of our bond, and at the same time we have wrestled with the diversity of our ingrained theological and cultural constructs. In spite of churchdivisions, we have come together as Jews who believe in Jesus. We hope that sharing the fruit of our common efforts will benefit our brothers and sisters in Christ. We do not aim to issue a definitive declaration, but to initiate an ongoing process of discussion. There are many Jewish people in the body of Christ. We believe that this reality reflects God’s intention that Israel and the Nations live as mutual blessings to one another. In fact, the Church in its essence is the communion of Jews and those from the Nations called to faith in Christ. In light of this truth, we think that the life of Jews in the body of Christ has theological significance for that body as a whole. Their presence serves as a constant reminder to the body that its existence is rooted in the ongoing story of the people of Israel. This story resounds throughout the celebration of the liturgical life of the community. We believe that this story finds its center in Israel’s Messiah. We believe that Jews within the body are a living bond between the Church and
the people of Israel. Accordingly, we would like to explore concrete ways in which Jewish people may live out their distinctive calling in the body of Christ. Finally, we wish to express to our Jewish brothers and sisters who do not share our faith in Jesus the Messiah that we consider ourselves to be part of the Jewish people and are committed to its welfare.
Signed in a personal capacity by:
Boris Balter
Steve Cohen
Richard Harvey
Mark Kinzer
Antoine Levy
Iulia Matushanskaja
David Neuhaus
Vladimir Pikman
Jennifer Rosner
David Rudolph
Anna Shmain-Velikanova
Olivier Zalmanski"




"PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 23 JUNE 2010

Helsinki Conference on Jewish Continuity in the Church Unites and
Challenge

The FIRST ecumenical conference of Jewish believers in Jesus in modern times met in Helsinki, Finland June 14-15 2010 to affirm their Jewish identity, their faith in Jesus and their desire for unity. Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Messianic scholars – all of them Jewish - met to discuss the global growth of Jewish believers in Jesus in a conference jointly organized by Messianic Jewish Theological Institute (MJTI) and the Helsinki Studium Catholicum. They issued a statement affirming the significance of Jewish continuity in the Church, as an ongoing link between its historic beginnings, its present life, and its future hope. Dr. Mark Kinzer, President of MJTI, said “this was an unprecedented conference bringing together Jews who believe in Jesus as Messiah from a very wide range of communities and traditions. We met together to discuss the presence of Jews in our respective congregations and the issues we face. The increasing number of Jewish followers of Jesus is a phenomenon of great importance, impacting the worldwide Church as it rediscovers the Jewish roots and character of its faith. The presence of Jews in its midst is a resource and means of blessing that the historic churches can not afford toignore.”

Father Antoine Lévy, OP, Director of the Helsinki Studium Catholicum, affirmed the continuing identity of Jews in their various Christian congregations and offered his own perspective on the unique condition and calling of Jewish disciples of Christ. “We exist, and despite 2,000 years where the Church and the Jewish people have been separated and often hostile to each other, we are a living bond that demonstrates the Messiah Jesus’ own solidarity with His people, as much as the richness of the heritage of Israel that has been opened up to the Church made up of Israel and the nations.” Fifteen scholars and theologians from eight countries met for two days of open conference and two days of working sessions to issue a document, the Helsinki Statement. Topics discussed included Jewish identity in the Messiah; responding to anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism; the place of Messianic Jewish worship and observance; the Jewishness of Jesus; the biblical, theological and
historical background to the present situation of Jewish believers in Jesus; and future plans. The papers presented are due to be published in the journal Kesher, an academic journal of MJTI. A similar event is planned for 2011. Speakers from Europe, Russia, Israel and the United States included Father David Neuhaus, SJ, Patriarchal Vicar General for Hebrew speaking Catholics, and Boris Balter, Researcher in Physics at the Russian Academy of Sciences and member of the Judeo-Christian circle "Bridge of Friendship". Conference papers were given in English
and Russian."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fully Jewish and Fully Catholic

Jewish Rosaries
Today I attended a Marian Cenacle with my cousin where Rick Miller was the visiting speaker. I was introduced to him as someone who was half Jewish and half Catholic. I immediately corrected them by saying I am fully Jewish and fully Catholic. It is a bit like saying Jesus is half God and half man-no- he is fully God and fully man. Was Mary and the Apostles half Jewish and half Catholic? Certainly not. Mary her whole life was the most devout Jewish woman who ever lived while she was the model Catholic. No half and half for Mary.
An Israeli Soldier laying Tefillin

Many Jews and Christians don't think one can be Jewish and Christian. One must be one or the other- they don't think you can be half and half. That is what upsets them about many Messianic Jews. They are Evangelical Christians who tack on a few Jewish customs. And they are right to be uncomfortable with this. However one can be fully Jewish and fully Christian. For me the identity and spiritually is so one that I have no confusion in being a Catholic Jew. I find if I cease my Jewish observance I also end up ceasing Catholic observance and I become very unhappy and also vice versa. When I was in Israel I attended the Boombamela Beach Festival and met a young Israeli who had been a Messianic Jew and then given it up. He was astounded that I was fasting for Good Friday and that I kept all the authentic Catholic customs as well as the Jewish unlike the Messianic Jews he knew. He was very impressed by this and I saw his eyes light up with interest.
 

Boombamela Beach Festival

Thus I will not abandon Torah and Mitzvot and nor will I abandon Jesus and the Eucharist. I can lay Tefillin and I can pray the Rosary. For me there is no conflict for I see the Catholic heart dimensions when I lay tefillin and I see the Jewish roots when I pray the Rosary. Today one sees young Jews wearing Jewish rosaries as fashion items. Let us pray that fashion turns to interest of the prayer aspect of the rosaries. I remember in the 1980's wearing rosary beads as part of my Gothic fashion statement, and for me it led to eventually learning and praying the rosary.
 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Marginalisation of Torah-observant Hebrew Catholics

Messianic Rabbi Russell Resnik

I have written before about the misunderstanding, marginalisation and persecution of Hebrew Catholics and especially those who adhere to both the Written and Oral Torah. Not only are these Torah-observant Hebrew Catholics marginalised by many Gentile Catholics but also by other Hebrew Catholics who do not hold this position. Many do this out of sincere conviction that this is a position inconsistent with the Catholic Faith. Others because they feel threatened by such observance. Others who themselves are not opposed to such observance, nevertheless marginalise the observant ones because they fear the reaction of other Catholics.



In an article in "Kesher" entitled "Hesed And Hospitality: Embracing Our Place on the Margins" Messianic Rabbi Russell Resnik of the Union of Jewish Messianic Congregations describes a similiar phenomenon among the Torah-Observant Messianic Jews. He writes:"...The risk of marginalization intensifies if we actually defend traditional Judaism to our Christian friends, and this is surely an aspect of marginalization that we must embrace. Levine speaks of the "popular Christian imagination," which sees Yeshua as the only one in the Jewish world of his day who cares about the poor and marginalized. He is not just against religious leaders who have missed the heart of Torah with their rigorous teaching; rather, in the popular Christian imagination, he is against Torah itself, and ultimately against Judaism. Such a reading may be able to accept that Jews who have not yet found Jesus will cling to their old ways, at least until some final apocalyptic resolution. But Jews who profess loyalty to Yeshua and remain attached to Jewish tradition and community are suspect and risk marginalization..." This article clearly explains the place of marginalisation as a deeper embracing of the way of Yeshua and his mission of Chesed (lovingkindness/mercy). For me the marginisation by the wider Jewish community and the wider Christian communities is difficult but the greatest suffering is when this marginalisation comes from fellow Jews who believe in Yeshua as the Messiah.

Also see Five Kinds of Hebrew Catholics

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Daily Bread and the Milk of the Divine Word: A Hebrew Catholic Reflection


Recently on the blogosphere there has been some discussion of the phrase in the Lord's Prayer (Our Father)'daily bread'. The Greek uses 'epiousion' or 'epiousios' for the English 'daily'. There is discussion about what this phrase would be in Hebrew and Aramaic. The Greek word epiousion means super-substantial and thus would seem to allude to the Eucharisted bread rather than mere ordinary bread. This also alludes to the miraculous bread of the Exodus called Manna. The word Manna is connected to the Hebrew word menat which means 'a part of' or 'portion of'. One Israeli-born Hebrew Catholic believes the Hebrew phrase could be 'menat lakhmenu leyom'. In Aramaic the phrase 'daily bread' is lekhem-hukh. Hukh meaning 'an assigned portion'.

Some Hebrew versions dating from the medieval period use the word 'temidit' for 'epiousion'. Temidit means daily, constant, ceaseless, or perpetual. Judaism speaks of the mitzvot temidiot ( constant commandments)such as the mitzvah of Talmud Torah. The perpetual daily offering in the Temple is also called the Korban Tamid (the perpetual offering). Yeshua ha Mashiach is the New Covenant Korban and the liturgy of the Eucharist is the perpetual offering (korban tamid). We receive and feed on this daily offering or bread through Adoration and communion. Judaism considers the spiritual bread or food to be the Torah which is the Word of God. The Zohar calls it the heavenly Manna. Thus the original Lord's prayer in Hebrew may have been 'ana hayom ten lanu menatnu temidit' rather than 'lakhmeynu temidit'.
Milk- Kefir
This heavenly sustenance is also called the pure Milk of God's Word. This alludes to the concept of the 9th Red Heifer or Cow who feeds us with the Divine Milk of the Word. The Manna is a sweet and white substance like milk-kefir. The Ancient Egyptians had a confused and paganised understanding of this. They refer to the Goddess Hathor as Menat the Heavenly Wet Nurse and Milk Cow. They allude to an object called a menat that links the devotee to the Mother's Son Ihy (also associated with Horus). One Egyptian website states that the Menat "...represents a heavy beaded necklace with a crescent shaped front and a counter piece at the rear. It was a symbol associated with the goddess Hathor and her son, Ihy. In fact , Hathor was known as the "Great Menat". We often see Hathor using the Menat as a conduit through which she passes her power. It was representative of the ideas of joy, life, potency, fertility, birth, and rebirth. It was not uncommon in the New Kingdom, to see the king offering the Menat to Hathor. This probably meant to represent the king symbolically with the goddess' son, Ihy. This idea of divine assimilation was common, although the best examples are of the king representing the falcon god, Horus. " The necklace links us to the mystical necklace of the Song of Songs 4 and the milk mentioned throughout the Song of Songs. The concept of a mystical necklace reminds Catholics of the Rosary necklace. The future 10th Red Heifer will lead us to feed on the bread/manna of the Divine Will which is the deepest penetration of the Eucharistic Mystery. Each day we pray for the receiving of our literal food, our Eucharistic food and the Food of his Divine Will through the intercession of His Mother.
.

The use of a specially created Greek word 'epiousion' or supersubstantial by those who translated the Hebrew expression of Jesus shows at this early stage the Church's understanding of the Eucharist. Thus I believe the original phrase that Jesus used was more likely to have used menatnu (our portion or our manna) than lakhmeynu (our bread) and doubled with temidit (perpetual/daily). The Jewish reader would instantly see the links with the mysterious, incorruptable and mystical manna perserved in the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple known as the Bread of Angels, the korban sacrifice or offering and the passover Lamb. When many of the Torah-observant Jewish Catholics reassimilated back into the Jewish community after the 5th century they brought into the Passover Seder ritual the understanding of the Afikomen hidden matza linked with the Passover Lamb and the Mystical Manna preserved miraculously in the Ark, among other customs.

Jewish spirituality also refers to 'devekut temidit' which is ceaseless or constant communion with God by focusing one's mind and heart on Him and His Divine Will. One achieves this by practicing what are called the 'shesh mitzvot temidit' the six constant commandments. These are: 1. Know There is a God (Exodus 20:2); 2.Don't Believe in Any Other "gods" (Exodus 20:3); 3. Know That God is One (Deuteronomy 6:4); 4. Love God (Deuteronomy 6:5); 5. Fear God (Deuteronomy 10:20); and 6. Do Not Follow After Your Desires (Numbers 15:39). This is how one achieves constant talmud Torah or practicing the Presence of God in every moment.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jews in the Church of Christ Conference

Father David Neuhaus
A very interesting conference occurred in Finland on the weekend of June 11-13 bringing together Messianic Jews with Jews in the Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran churches. This sounds like an important work of the Holy Spirit bringing together the leaders of the Jews who believe in Yeshua as Mashiach in the Body of Mashiach. Vladimir Soloviev believed that it would be the Jews that would bring about the reunion of the separated Christians into the One Church. This looks like it could be the start of such a process by breaking down the barriers while appreciating the richness the other brings to the discussion. The Sofia website states: "For the first time in History, theologians with a Jewish background and belonging to different Christian denominations will join together to talk about the situation and calling of those who, among the Jewish nation, recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world. On this occasion, prominent Messianic, Lutheran, Orthodox and Catholic theologians will come to Helsinki from all regions of the globe (Israel, Russia, US, Western Europe...). They will tell about the strivings of Jews in their various congregations and describe what makes the condition of Jewish disciple of Christ so unique. The seminar is arranged in cooperation with Mark Kinzer, rector of the Jewish Messianic Theological Institute (New-Jersey) and Fr.Antoine Levy, OP, Director of Helsinki Studium Catholicum.

List of participants:
Boris Balter, Orthodox (Moscow), Prof. of Physics (Russian Academy of Sciences), member of the Judeo-Christian circle "Bridge of Friendship".
Steve Cohen, Lutheran (St Louis, US), founder of the "Apple of his Eyes" mission society
Leonid Djalilov, Orthodox (Moscow), Deacon, specialist of Lev Gillet´s theology of Israel.
Richard Harvey, Messianic (London), tutor and director of training at "All-nations Bible College",
Mark Kinzer, Messianic (New Jersey, US), president of the "Messianic Jewish Theological Institute".
fr. Antoine Levy, OP, Catholic (Helsinki), Director of the "Studium Catholicum", adjunct-professor at Helsinki University Faculty of Theology
Iulia Matushanskaja, Messianic (Kazan, Russia), Chairman of Russia´s Federation of Messianic Jews (Province).
Fr. David Neuhaus, SJ, Catholic (Jerusalem), General Vicar for the Catholic Hebrew-speaking community (Kehilla) in Israel
Vladimir Pikman, Messianic (Berlin), Vice-President of the International Messianic Jewish Alliance
Jenifer Rosner, Messianic (California), Instructor at Azusa Pacific University
David Rudolph, Messianic (Los Angeles), Prof. of Bible, Messianic Jewish Theological Institute
Anna Shmain-Velikanova, Orthodox (Moscow), Prof. of Jewish Studies, Russian State University for Humanities (RGGU)
Joseph Shulam, Messianic (Jerusalem), Director of the Netivyah Bible instruction ministry
Yuri Tabak, Orthodox (Moscow), Prof. of Religious Sciences, RGGU
Fr.Oliver Zalmansky, OP, Catholic (Paris), Editor of the theological journal "Istina"..."


The conference followed the following format.

Program

Friday 11 June 2010 Evening

18.00 Messianic prayer service
19.30 Meal
20.30 Opening of the week-end. Introductory lecture

Fr. Antoine Lévy: "Messianic Ecclesiology: the Ecumenical Factor"

21.30 Informal get-together (possibility of having a sauna)

Saturday 12 June 2010

9.00 Lutheran prayer service
10.00 Presentations

Steve Cohen: "Expressing Jewish Identity in a Lutheran Setting. Obstacles and Opportunity in the Modern Era"
Yuri Tabak: "Christianized and Messianic Jews - Real Problems and Prospects from the Point of View of Religious Sciences"
Boris Balter: "Self-Identification of Old Israel within New Israel as a Problem: the Experience of Jewish Orthodox Christians in Russia"

13.00 Meal
14.30 Presentations

Deacon Leonid Djalilov: "Sabbath Day in the Liturgy of the Orthodox Church"
Vladimir Pikman: "Russian Messianic Movement and the Body of Messiah: Its Significance and Implications for the Church"

16.00 Coffee break
16.30-17.30 Round table
18.00 Orthodox Vespers
19.00 Meal
20.00 Informal get together

Sunday 13 June 2010

8.30. Catholic Mass in Hebrew
10.00 Presentations

Mark Kinzer: "Israel, the Church, and Bilateral Ecclesiology"
Jen Rosner: "Karl Barth's View of the Significance of Jewish Identity for Jewish Believers in Jesus"
Richard Harvey: "Lessons from the History of the International Messianic Jewish Alliance"

13.00 Meal
14.30. Presentations

Iulia Matushanskaya: "The Messianic Movement in the Russian Empire"
Fr. David Neuhaus: "The Implicit Ecclesiology of the Catholic Kehilla in Israel"
Joseph Shulam: "Jews and Gentiles within the Messianic Movement: the Concrete Situation and Its Ecclesiological Agenda"
(Possible written interventions of Anna Shmain-Velikanova or Pavel Men)

16.00 Coffee break
16.30-18.00 Round table
18.30 Conclusive prayer