At oneg after services this past Shabbat, not only did I get to shmooze with wonderful visitors and our community, but I also had a special time to unpack Jewish history long into the afternoon with several of our congregants, one of whom was quite knowledgeable on this subject. (Thank you, Harry Shepler).
Among many topics, we discussed the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Didache, two of my favorite historical writings! These documents, in particular, give us contemporaneous factual accountings, some written before, during, and after the years of Yeshua’s life, bringing clarity to so many of the questions we through modern eyes try to answer regarding the first followers of Yeshua and other Jews living during those times.
At one point I was prompted to draw on the table top with my fingertips an outline of what I see when I think of the history of Judaism and Christianity. Imagine this drawing: place your right and left index fingers together at the bottom of the sketch, representing when Jewish and non Jewish followers of Yeshua followed The Way. Then trace gradually from that base point outward to a bulbous rounding, representing millennia of the disparate paths of Jews and Christians. Then gradually bring the tracing back toward the top with both fingers to a point, representing the day to come when we once again will be brought together in shalom, in Him.
As you do this drawing, visualize the story of the Jewish and non Jewish followers of Yeshua at the beginning alongside Him and together, then separating out into the thousands of years of differing observances, and unfortunately massive anti-Semitism as well, these times represented by the large width in the shape, including the last millennia into present day. Then as we draw our fingers back toward each other finishing the rounding up of that curve, despite the recent uptick in anti-Semitism, perhaps from the larger viewpoint we see Jews and Christians understanding each other better. We are blessed to be living in those times moving toward that era when our fingertips will once again touch as we believers in Yeshua, Jew and Christian alike, and mainstream Jews who are becoming more educated about the Jewishness of Yeshua, learn to live side by side, each more able to see the deeper truths.
This morning the image changed slightly in my mind. Picture now the top of the drawing when the fingertips come back together as going down into the center of the drawing for a short while. Then picture Yeshua on the cross in the middle of what you have just drawn, the bottom of the crucifix at the base of the picture, the cross beams of the crucifix extended to the rounded edges of the drawing, the top of the cross connected to the touchpoint at the top.
What you will have drawn will be a heart with Yeshua on the cross, a symbol of mankind’s killing of Him, in the middle between the rounded sides, Yeshua on the cross holding the two sides together, the two sides joined together in Him. The cross at the center portrays a heart broken down the middle by these years of adversity with Yeshua in the gap on that cross, sacrificially dying for us, His heart broken, yet binding us together through His outstretched arms on the cross.
It is a heart with a cross in the center, representing the truth of His massive love of us, our acts which divided that love, and the ultimate healing when we come together through Him leading to that day of complete reconciliation. That image has not left me. It carries me through each day to be reminded of such sacrificial love.
The very next day I was blessed to make latkes with my grandchildren. As I was peeling potatoes I lifted one out of the bag that was in the shape of a perfect heart. None of us had ever seen anything like it before then. Of course I couldn’t use it, but rather, it is at least for now beautifully displayed in my children’s home. It was as if HaShem was giving me a God wink for seeing what I have just shared, His Love as represented by the heart (potato) permeating every moment of our existence, even while making latkes.
Just earlier that day I had been in conversation with my children on a point causing them concern but that did not cause me any worry. When asked why not, my reply was I had faith that this was nothing about which to worry. We had done all the analysis and did not ignore science, but there are just some things that we cannot know but just have to trust in God. Faith is actually the underpinning of the science they were quoting. It’s just a matter of seeing the connection between the two.
Such is the overwhelming image of the heart of Him. No matter how far apart we may seem, a reality these days on so many topics given the polarity of our society, if we picture Yeshua at the center, with a sacrificial love so strong that it literally holds the fractured heart together, we recognize that we will make it to the top by faith. The adversity, the fear, will be overcome. His love for us will never stop, no matter how far apart we become in our life choices. His sacrifice was complete, and binds us all together in Him.
As Abba always does, since this picture in my mind arose, I’ve seen hearts and been in heart related discussions more than usual, and in particular, experienced an inordinate number of broken heart experiences this week too, as if an affirmation of the thoughts inspired by our conversation last Shabbat. As if to prepare me for some of the challenges that came my way, and most likely will come as they do to all, the image of that heart of unfathomable love – broken, yet at its core strong with the image of our Yeshua’s love, so much so He died for us – has strengthened my faith even more than I thought possible.
This is the season to immerse ourselves in the reality of Yeshua. As the days approach to remember His birth, I hope you, too, feel strength in the power of His Presence in our lives, how in binding the broken heart He pulls us together, strengthening us against what pulls us apart. As we see this happen in our lives, and in the lives of those around us, especially through times of struggle, our faith deepens beyond our understanding.
Fear vs. faith? No contest.