As a Gentile, when you go to a Jewish Shabbat service for the first time, you learn a lot.
1. Don’t use Christianese. I generally try to avoid Cristianese, but there are ways of speaking that I didn’t even realize I do. For example, I may have said (can’t remember, I was too nervous), “I have a heart for Israel.” After I said it, I realized how condescending that sounds. Who am I that I have something to bring to Israel? Christians tend to talk as if we have something to give to the world, and although we do, saying that just turns off your audience. We are sent to serve, and being servants demands humility, not pride. Thankfully, I only said it that way once and quickly reformed what I said. But there were other little speech mistakes that I made that were in the same vein.
2. Don’t act as if you know their religion well, because you don’t. The only Jew I’ve ever had intense theological discussions with was my (just recently) ex-boyfriend, and he isn’t super religious. The Jews I met today are Orthodox, so their idea of their religion is much different than mine, even if I’ve learned a *little* bit recently. Thankfully, I didn’t start telling them that I disagree with some of their traditions, but the way I talked about my view of Torah may have clashed some with theirs.
For example, I mentioned how I would like to hold Shabbat dinners with my Christian friends, and the woman I was talking to told me about how Orthodox Jews believe that Gentiles aren’t obligated to the Law, but only to the Noachide laws. This was different than I’d learned recently, so it really made me think. Am I obligated to Torah at the same level of the Jews? It is a responsibility, she reminded me. In fact, Orthodox Jews discourage forcing Torah upon Gentiles.
3. Although they are American, it is a different culture. A panel separates boys from girls? There are special procedures for taking the Torah out of the Ark and reading the Torah? There has to be ten men? What’s up with the uniforms? (It felt like uniforms to me.) It was so completely unfamiliar. And, my mistakes with Christianese came in again, because I assumed that I could talk about my relationship to Torah like I would to someone raised Christian or someone who grew up around Christians. I mentioned to someone that my sister is coming home from her missions trip today (Yay!), and he didn’t know what a missions trip was until someone used a Hebrew term. I referred to the Moedim as feasts, and he asked, “You mean the festivals?” (I then said “Yeah, the Moedim” and they were amazed I knew the word in Hebrew. :3) They may live in America, but they are a separate people.
4. Although as a Gentile grafted in I try to understand the ancient Israelites, the Jews are very aware that they are physical Israel. This week’s parsha covers the curses of Devarim 28, and for the Jews it is real and scary. When I first read it, I thought it was intense and I couldn’t wrap my mind around it, but it wasn’t directly relevant to me. But for Jews it is all too real, and it is not something they like to dwell on. They read the portion swiftly and in a low tone to get it over with!
It was a humbling experience, and it prompted a lot of questions. How much of the Torah does YHWH really want me to follow? How much of the Rabbinical traditions are YHWH-blessed and how much aren’t? What is my place in relationship to the modern Jews? Are the Jews really “damned” without Yahushua? Can anyone really understand Torah in the intended way?
Up until now I’ve gathered a lot of head knowledge, but I think today I finally gained some heart knowledge. I got a taste of what it’s like to be a Jew. It must be strange from their point of view, that Christianity has stolen their book, slapped on another book plus a messiah, and thinks it knows better. How many Christians don’t think that Jews are backwards and stubborn? From their angle, we must be perverted and egotistical.
YHWH is so much bigger than I can even begin to comprehend. And He’s got a handle on the situation. He knows exactly how it’s going to end. He knows who’s got it right, and who’s got it wrong. And He knows the hearts of those who love Him and are honestly seeking Him, and He knows the hearts of those how argue about His word for their own conquests. And in the end, He is a merciful El. I don’t need to be worried about how to make it work, because He’s got a plan. He knows tomorrow although I may not.
Arise, shine, for you light has come! And the esteem of YHWH has risen upon you. For look, darkness covers the earth, and this darkness the peoples. But YHWH arises over you, and His esteem is seen upon you. And the nations shall come to your light, and sovereigns to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around and see: all of them have gathered, they have come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are supported on the side.