As I listened on my jog this morning to the MIM class video describing this week’s readings, I was struck with an insight that brought so many diverse topics together. Rabbi Nathan first referenced certain portions of Rabbi Dr. Mark Kinzer’s book Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism, a must read for those of you unfamiliar with this work. In brief, it explains the relationship between Jews and Christians as a dual community in Him rather than one in which the Jews have been replaced by Christians as the new Israel. This writing is an in depth, masterfully documented, profound analysis that debunks the arguments for supersessionism, i.e., that the New Testament through Yeshua has replaced God’s covenant with the Jewish people.
Jews and Christians are in relationship with each other, from the same root, joined together through Yeshua whether acknowledged or not. I pondered that it is the fact that our Christian and Jewish communities are at odds on the subject of Yeshua that often brings these two religions together in conversation. This “dialogue”, in various forms of intensity over the ages, is what is bringing each faith closer to understanding that through Yeshua we are united in one and the same God. Were there not the adversity, the conversations around Yeshua between these two communities on this subject would not be necessary. Without the sometimes adverse conversations, we would not understand the complex interrelationships of our two faiths and be propelled to a deeper understanding of each other and our greater purposes.
I could see that the adversity between the two is the framework for both communities to grow closer to God through interaction and dialogue. As that interaction improves as it has over millennia and continues to do so, we all grow closer to being who HaShem created us to be, as individuals and corporately. More Christians are seeing that God is still in covenant with the Jewish people and more Jews are coming to see Yeshua’s place in Judaism. What great steps in the right direction!
After discussing Kinzer’s book, Rabbi Nathan then moved onto the next reading on Musar, the practice of teaching our hearts what our heads already know in the areas of living a virtuous and meaningful life – patience, compassion, trust, honesty, humility, courage, forgiveness, just to name a few. In thinking about this study, the need for relationship in order to grow becomes apparent. Preferably, one does not study Musar alone, but rather, with a partner (havruta) further deepened through class/community study as well.
Musar envisions us practicing these areas of character development by working with a havruta partner together. This is the way we can become better equipped to interact with others in our daily interactions. Were we not in relationship with others we would not need to grow in these areas. Although some of these good character qualities also help our inner growth vis-à-vis ourselves, who can we offend, be impatient with, forgive, be dishonest with if we are not in relationship with another?
Taking that one step further, the more adverse the relationship, the more we have to work at these various character traits. Our next level of growth as a person, and as a people, depends on our meaningful and ethical interaction with our neighbors. Being challenged when interacting with another with a differing opinion than our own is not always easy.
Rather than thinking of adversity as a curse, perhaps there is a greater design to enable us to not only grow as individuals, but also, as societies, as mankind. Perhaps God’s design regarding Gentiles and Jews is just as we read in Scripture, a great coming apart and over millennia a great healing, that societal path driven by the countless interactions, good and bad, with each other as individuals and as societies, our humanity’s progress driven by our choices.
The many differences we experience with others do lead us to separateness perhaps in order to force us to work on our relationships and need for each other. Perhaps not since the Civil War has our American society been so internally conflicted. The more recent divisive issues may be designed to further sharpen our abilities to move forward with more ability to listen to others with forbearance, kindness, compassion, better able to hear diverse truths without judgment, without anger, with openness for conversation. Even if such conflict is part of spiritual warfare, perhaps the lesson to be learned is not who is right, but rather, how well we are able to still love our neighbor through it all. That goal is possible, without compromising our ethics, and surprisingly with the end result of being able to learn and grow from each other.
How are we doing? How are you doing? Conversation leads to understanding. We need each other. We can’t grow without each other. It’s not an easy challenge, but through Him, reminded as being in the center of every conversation, we can live lives steeped in the teachings of musar, becoming more like Him.
This week as you relate to others in your lives, especially those with different opinions, I encourage you to use your differences to be aware of and try to practice the musar teachings. They are derived from our mission to love one another. Doing so will bring you ever closer to who you have been created to be.
No matter the differences, we are all in humanity, in unity, in Him.