Did Ruth Really Convert ?

Merle

Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

Did Ruth really convert, and what must we do to be considered God’s?  Firstly, most Jewish sources admit that “assimilation” is the earliest form of “conversion.” 12
Assimilation is declaring that the God of Israel is the one and only God (monotheism), and thus following His laws (Torah).  Still, others argue that in order to be God’s, one must be converted through a “Talmudic” centric process governed by Judaism. Some use the book of Ruth, ironically enough, to argue “both” points.  But; what we really need to do, is we need to study the history of God through the Tanakh (Old Testament), to find our answers.  This will aid us in gaining the required perspective in order to answer the question, “Did Ruth Really Convert?.”

Initially, through Abraham, the Hebrew people claimed the one and only God as their own through the assimilation process (see Ruth 1:16).  Although God appeared to be exclusive to Abraham’s clan, other people beyond the Hebrews acknowledged Him as well, and they assimilated (Genesis 20:1-7, Exodus 8:15, 10:16).  As we see later on, God made Himself available to non-Hebrew people who were willing to assimilate and have a relationship with Him (Exodus 12:38, Deuteronomy 29:9-11). And, as we fast forward seven centuries from the Exodus, we have the Prophets Amos and Isaiah who are starting to teach that the God of Israel was the God of the world 3. About 200 years after these great Prophets, we have the Babylonian captivity, and now we start to see the formation of the Jewish religion 3. Something to ponder, the Jewish “religion,” through the Talmud, has conversion requirements 4, but the question at hand should be, does the Tanakh have these same requirements?  Let’s turn to the book of Ruth to determine the answer.

In exploring Ruth, we are drawn to Ruth 1:16.  In this famous verse, Ruth (a Moabite) speaks to her Israelite mother-in-law and she says, “for wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God.” From this, we have our formula for “assimilation.” Only, some seem to believe there were Jewish/Talmudic “conversion” requirements hidden behind this verse.  This could not have been possible because Ruth is a story that depicts a time around 1140 BCE.  The Babylonian captivity would not take place for over another four centuries.  That means that during the time of Ruth there was no religion of Judaism nor Talmud, just Israelites that followed God 5.

Ruth having to go through a conversion as depicted in Talmud would be the equivalence of the Pilgrim going through immigrations/customs as they entered the United States, it just didn’t happen because the time frame doesn’t allow it. Jewish/Talmud conversion came long after Ruth… just like, immigration/customs came long after the Pilgrims landed.

What is interesting about Ruth is, although it was written to portray a time 300 years after the Exodus, and 400 years before the Babylonian captivity, the book itself was probably written after the Babylonian captivity 6. Ruth was felt to be a contradiction against Jewish sects who felt that mixed marriages are a sin.  As we know in the story, Ruth (the Moabite), marries Boaz.  Conversely, if we look at Ezra 9:1-2 and Nehemiah 13:1 it was a transgression to marry a Moabite. Many feel Ruth was written about the same time as Ezra and Nehemiah (the 5th Century BCE), to support mixed marriages in spite of the later Prophets. Those that argue that Ruth’s assimilation was only brought about because of her marriage to an Israelite, miss the hidden agenda of the book. Remember, she assimilated before she even met Boaz.

Regardless, Ruth supports assimilation, but let’s not stop at just Ruth.  Jeremiah 35 talks about the Rechabites, who are not Israelites, but are honored by God.  This was at the time of the Babylonian captivity, just before the Talmud.  Remember that the Rechabites were not considered Israelites, and Ruth was constantly referred to as a Moabite, even after Ruth 1:16 (Ruth 1:22, 2:2, 4:5,10).  Yet; both groups were blessed (Jeremiah 35:19, Ruth 3:10).  The Tanakh, again and again, gives us examples of how to become God’s people, and these examples are not congruent with Jewish conversion (read Who Are God’s People?).

The bottom line is quite clear.  If you believe getting closer to God means to subjugate yourself to the Talmud, Jewish conversion makes perfect sense.  However, if you are just following the authority of the Torah, then assimilating by believing God as the one and only God and following the Torah like Ruth and the Rechabites did, then this will make you God’s.

This article is dedicated to my wife, Danielle, who asks the hard questions and who doesn’t settle for the easy answers.

References:

  1. Staff, MJL. “History of Conversion.” My Jewish Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
  2. Staff, MJL. “History of Conversion.” My Jewish Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
  3. Epstein, Lawrence J. “Conversion History: Ancient Period.” My Jewish Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
  4. “Jewish Conversion: A Historical Background.” Jewish Conversion – Historical Background of Converts to Judaism. Adat Achim Synagogue, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
  5. Hirsh, Richard, Rabbi. “Ruth, The First Convert.” Ruth, The First Convert | Reconstructionist Judaism. N.p., 31 Jan. 2017. Web. 08 May 2017.
  6. Barton, George A. “JewishEncyclopedia.com.” RUTH, BOOK OF – JewishEncyclopedia.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2017.                                     

Questioning the Credibility of the New Testament.

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

 

When I was a Christian, I made certain assumptions about the New Testament.  Firstly, that it’s books were written by the Apostles as the events happened.  Secondly, that the 27 books were accepted by the Christian Community after they were penned. Understandably, if anyone in church gave the actual history, other questions would have arised and the book’s credibility would have been challenged.  Of course, this would have led to compromising the integrity of Christian theology.  So, to quote Christianity, “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man” (2 Corinthians 8:21), thus said, let’s put all the cards on the table and allow the truth to speak.

For starters, the four gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not written by their namesake 1. Point and case is, Justin Martyr, a second century Christian apologist, who quoted verses from each of the gospels.  He, however, never referred to any the gospels by their given names. Instead, he referred to them as the ‘Memoires of the Apostles’ 2 . The reason for this is that the original gospels were not named.  So why were they give the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?  Well, around the second century, the church felt the need to give them Apostle authority.  What better way of endorsing a gospel then giving it an Apostle’s name. Obviously, Luke was not an Apostle, but Luke being Paul’s traveling companion gave instant credibility to the book of Luke by using his name.

Additionally, the probability that the gospels were written by either the Apostles or another firsthand observer of the event is highly unlikely.  For starters, they were not written in Aramaic, the language of the Apostles. They were written in Greek.  Some might say the lost originals were written in Aramaic.  There are a couple of problems with this; firstly, any word play in the gospels is uniquely Greek, secondly the authors made mistakes in the Jewish culture of that day 3 .  Adding to all this, is that the accounts are written in the third person versus  being first hand accounts. Clearly, if they were written by their namesake, they would have been written in the first person.

Compounding the situation was that there were more than 27 Christian books.  Actually, sources say there were from 79 4 to over 200 1 Christian writings and over 50 gospels (see listing below).  So why are these books not part of the New Testament?  It is simple, many of these books contradicted one another.  Likewise, with early Christianity, there was much end fighting between different theologies.  This caused the church to accept only certain books which supported their theology  This was known as canonization.  However, this would not take place until 393 CE or over three centuries after Christianity was born. Giving Christianity 300 years to form before committing to a written doctrine challenges it’s purity from its original foundation.  Likewise, this gives cause for concern about the authenticity of the New Testament books.

Conclusion:

To validate the New Testament, we use the Tanakh (Old Testament).  I am pretty sure that’s why Christianity glues it to the first half of their bible.  In His written word, God does give authorizations for added books beyond His Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).  This is found in Deuteronomy 18:15 – 22.  Here, God says that he will provide Prophets , and He did.  This is where we have the books of the Prophets, which combined with the Torah, helps to make up the Tanakh (or Christian Old Testament). If you study these 8 verses you will find one needs to be a proven Prophet and an Israelite for the authority to write God’s written Word.   God also warns in these passages about wrongful teachings.  So, at the end of the day, if somebody insists that the the New Testament books were written by Apostles and friends of Apostles.  You need to remind them that these were not Prophets, making their credibility void.

 

References:

  1. Crabtree, Vexen. “Who Wrote the Four Gospels of the New Testament? An Introduction to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.” Www.humanreligions.info. N.p., 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
  2. Ehrman, Bart D., Forged: Writing in the Name of God–why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are Paperback, 6 Mar 2012
  3. Stait, L. Paul, Ph.D. “Is It True That Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Were Named Centuries after Publication, and Were Not Actually Penned by Those Named?” Quora. N.p., 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
  4. Carpenter, Chris – Director of Internet Programming, “The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities.” CBN.com (beta). N.p., 11 Nov. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

List of all Gospels:(Waite, Charles B. History of the Christian religion, to the year two hundred. Chicago: C.V. Waite & Co., 1884. Print. )

The Canonized Gospels:

  1. Gospel of Mark
  2. Gospel of Matthew
  3. Gospel of Luke
  4. Gospel of John

Gnostic gospels:

  1. Gospel of Thomas
  2. Gospel of Marcion
  3. Gospel of Basilides
  4. Gospel of Truth (Valentinian)
  5. Gospel of the Four Heavenly Realms
  6. Gospel of Mary
  7. Gospel of Judas
  8. Greek Gospel of the Egyptians
  9. Gospel of Philip
  10. A Syriac language
  11. Gospel of Perfection
  12. The Gospel of the Lots of Mary

Jewish-Christian gospels

  1. Gospel of the Hebrews
  2. Gospel of the Nazarenes
  3. Gospel of the Ebionites
  4. Gospel of the Twelve

Infancy gospels

  1. Armenian Infancy Gospel

  2. Protoevangelium of James
  3. Libellus de Nativitate Sanctae Mariae (Gospel of the Nativity of Mary)
  4. Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew
  5. History of Joseph the Carpenter
  6. Infancy Gospel of Thomas
  7. Latin Infancy Gospel
  8. Syriac Infancy Gospel

Other gospels

  1. Gospel of the Lots of Mary

  2. Gospel of Peter

Fragmentary preserved gospels

  1. Gospel of Eve

  2. Gospel of Mani
  3. Gospel of the Saviour
  4. Coptic Gospel of the Twelve

Reconstructed gospels

  1. Secret Gospel of Mark
  2. Gospel of Matthias

Lost gospels

  1. Gospel of Cerinthus
  2. Gospel of Apelles
  3. Gospel of Valentinus[5]
  4. Gospel of the Encratites[6]
  5. Gospel of Andrew
  6. Gospel of Barnabas
  7. Gospel of Bartholomew – mentioned by only two 5th-century sources which list it as apocryphal.[8]
  8. Gospel of Hesychius
  9. Gospel of Lucius
  10. Gospel of Merinthus
  11. Gospel of the Adversary of the Law and the Prophets [12]
  12. Memoirs of the Apostles

Fragments of possibly unknown or lost (or existing) gospels

  1. Papyrus Egerton 2
  2. Fayyum Fragment
  3. Oxyrhynchus Papyri
  4. Gospel of Jesus’ Wife
  5. Papyrus Berolinensis
  6. Papyrus Cairensis
  7. Papyrus Merton 51
  8. Strasbourg Fragment

Why Did Christianity Make Rome Look So Good?

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

History tell us that Rome ruled over Israel with an iron fist during the time of Jesus.  Yet, when we read the New Testament, although Roman cruelty is professed, we also see the Roman softer side. For example, we have the faithful Roman Officer in Matthew 8:10 and the hesitation of Emperor Pilate in cosigning Jesus’ demise.  Understandably, this duality of Rome seems questionable, it being both cruel and compassionate. Often when historical accounts clash there is a third answer lurking just below the surface.  Come, let us use historical facts and the New Testament to determine Rome’s underlying motive.

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Roman Authority:  Pontius Pilate was the Roman Governor that will always be known throughout history as giving  Jesus’ death sentence. As sources from that period, we have two credible Jewish writers; Philo of Alexandria and Titus Flavius Josephus 1.  Both report that Pilate kept the Jewish populace on the fringe of insurrections because of his insensitivity to Jewish customs. For starters, Philo describes that Pilate intentionally had graven images displayed in Jerusalem to antagonize the Jews.  Josephus also records how Pilate spent Temple monies to build an aqueduct.  In doing this, he anticipated a protest.  Pilate, eager for a fight, had assassins placed in the protesting crowd that ended up killing antagonists after the first sign of Jewish dissension. As Philo so accurately says about Pilate, he possessed a  “vindictiveness and furious temper”, and was “naturally inflexible, a blend of self-will and relentlessness”.  Yet, when we read from the gospels; Matthew (Matthew 27), Mark (Mark 15), Luke (Luke 23) and John (John 18-19), we see this cruel decisive Roman Ruler portrayed as uncertain and passive.  Here, Jesus’ executioner, who has never had a problem with killing a Jew and starting a rebellion before, now is painted as a bureaucratic victim to the Jewish will – “really?”.  To further validate this point, Christianity gives the brunt of the blame to the Jew (1 Thessalonians 2:14-15, Acts 7:52).  Allegations against the Jews like this are confounding, especially since it was the Romans who not only killed Jesus, but also tortured him. Another interesting twist is how, at the end of the gospels, it is Romans that vindicate Jesus by stating “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54) and “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23:47).  Talk about wagging the dog.

Yes, as Christians, we were taught that Pilate’s hesitation was because he was in awe, secretly knowing this was the Messiah.  Ok, let us pretend that is correct.  Here we have a Roman ruler looking for every excuse in the book to antagonise the Jews and their establishment.  So, why wouldn’t he let this self proclaimed “King of the Jews” live?  What better way to come up against the Jewish hierarchy?  I mean really, Pilate was already employing every excuse to vex the Jewish people possible.  Yet, we are to believe that this evil Pilate caves in and all of a sudden decides to become conflicted, loyal to the wishes of a people he loathes?

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And what about the other Roman officials?  If we can believe the historical writers of the day about Pontius Pilate, we can also assume that his officers would not have been friendly with the locals, to say the least.  We could also assume that the Jewish people didn’t have a lot of love for their oppressors.  Nonetheless, Jesus makes boastful claims about Roman Officers and officials such as “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! (Matthew 8:10) and “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” (Luke 7:9). Wow, so these pagans have been elevated over God chosen people (Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:6-8, 14:2), talk about an awesome PR campaign.

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Taxes: Roman Taxes imposed on the average Israelite during the beginning of the first century common era (CE) would have only been about 1 % of a worker’s income 2. This certainly makes most of us Americans, who are paying over 30% in taxes 3, a little jealous. Notwithstanding, this 1% tax situation, wasn’t the real issue.  It was the additional taxes, for example, there was a customs taxes, import and export taxes, toll bridges, crop taxes, sales tax, property taxes, and special taxes when there was a war, building project or campaign to finance.  18th century America went to war with England over less.  Compounding the problem was the tax collectors, who being native Israelites, made their money by adding to the taxes they collected.  This is why the New Testament has so much to say against the tax collector(Matthew 9:11, Luke 7:34, 15:1, 18:11).  It is, however,  interesting that the resentment is only aimed at these Israelites and not Rome.

On top of these exorbitant taxes was a moral issue, many Jews felt paying taxes to the Roman Empire was a sin.  Yet, we have Jesus making the statement;

 “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” (Matthew 22:21).

This certainly pacified Christians of that day giving them a theology to be subservient and pay taxes to an occupational force.  Yes, the Tanakh (Old Testament) does support being responsible to the laws of the land (Proverbs 21:1 Daniel 2:21, 4:17), but this was taxation “without” representation. As we have seen with the Torah, we do have a moral responsibility to come up against the establishment when things are unjust (Genesis 21:22–34, 31:1-18, Exodus 1:1:15-21) .

So, why the positive spin towards Rome? Simply said, it is very possible Rome had a lot to gain from Christianity and capitalized from it.  Consulting the history books, shortly after the supposed New Testament was penned, Rome would crush Israel in the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 CE).  As brutal as this was to Israel, there would be two more consecutive Jewish Roman Wars (115-117 CE and 132-136 CE).  Consequently, paralleling these Roman Wars against Jewish Israel was the Roman persecution of the Christians.  There were centuries where Rome tried to eliminate both Judaism and Christianity. However, about three centuries after Christianity was formed, things would turn around.  The Roman Emperor Constantine became one of Christianity’s greatest supporters, and in 313 CE Constantine enacted legislation to protect this new religion. Over 60 years after that, Christianity would bcome the religion of Rome 4.  Conversely, at the same time, Constantine passed restrictions towards Judaism.

So, how did the gospels ended up favoring Rome, when it would take about 300 years for Rome to favor the gospels?  Well, the Christian New Testament, as we know it, didn’t come into being until 393 CE 5 (about 3 decades after Christianity became the religion of Rome).  Before the process of accepting these 27 books that would become the New Testament, there were over 100 books and over 50 gospels 6 that Christians followed.  These 150 plus books presented a problem.  Many of them contradicted each other and challenged the new Roman Christian theology. So, after this collection of Christian books was pared down, only 27 remained.  Likewise, from the over 50 gospels only four were chosen.  These four books, not surprisingly, endorsed Christianity’s new homeland – Rome.

Conclusion:

As Karl Marx so eloquently states it, “Religion is the opium of the people”. Constantine lived this maxim, well before Mr. Marx coined it.  One of the things that may have inspired Constantine, could have been the vigor of the Christian martyr. As we know, many early Christians easily exchanged their lives, so as to not swear allegiance to the Roman Emperor. This martyrdom, which might have seemed foolish, surely gave testimony of a convicted people.  Rome might have tried to harness this passion.  Another possibility is that Christianity may have been such a strong movement that Rome got caught up in the inertia.  Either way, Rome appeared to have colored the early Christian writings to make them appear to support the Empire (Taxes and Authority), while ostracizing Judaism.

References:

      1. Wylen, Stephen M., The Jews in the Time of Jesus: An Introduction, Paulist Press (1995), ISBN 0-8091-3610-4, Pp 190-192.
      2. Kasten, Patricia. “When Taxes Came Due in Jesus’ Time.” The Compass. N.p., 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.
      3. Feroldi, Brian. “How Much Does the Average American Pay in Taxes?” The Motley Fool. The Motley Fool, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.
      4. “Rome Becomes Christian, Western Empire Ends.” Timeline of Early Christianity–The Lost Gospel of Judas–National Geographic. National Geographic, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2017
      5. McDonald & Sanders’ The Canon Debate, Appendix D-2, note 19, 1 Dec. 2001.
      6. Waite, Charles B. History of the Christian religion, to the year two hundred. Chicago: C.V. Waite & Co., 1884. Print.

“Five Responses to Christianity”

Arguing

Center for Tanakh Based  Studies

By: William J Jackson

Many of us have studied ourselves out of Christianity.  As past members of the Christian community, we realize the responsibility they have to return us to the fold. In these encounters, I find the best technique to defusing these interventions is a willingness to listen, but with a stipulation that it will be a two-way conversation with the Tanakh (Old Testament) being the deciding factor.  Most Christians will shrink before this challenge, however, if any truly want an open conversation, here are five important bullet points:

  1. God, alone,  is our Savior.
    1 – Isaiah 43:11, 45:21, Hosea 3:4                                                                                                        Is43
  1. Jesus admits he is not God.
    2 – Mark 10:18, 16:19, John 14:1, 28, Luke 22:4                          24607
  2. No one can intercede on our behalf before God (not even Jesus).
    3 – Exodus 32:30-33, Deuteronomy 24:16, Jeremiah 31:29-30, 2 Chronicles 25:4 and 2 Kings 14:5-6                 Righteousness in Salvation4. The plan of salvation was already written in the Tanakh (Old Testament).
    4 – Malachi 3:16, 4:2, Psalm 50:23, 62:1-7, 70:5

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  1. A sacrifice is not required for salvation, repentance is.
    5 – 1 Samuel 15: 22, Hosea 6:6, Psalm 51:17 (V19 in Tanakh), Proverbs 21:3                                                                                untitled

At the end of the day, it really is all about what God and His written word say’s.

References:

  1. Jackson, William J. “Who is really the Savior?” Center for Tanakh Based Studies, 01 Mar. 2015,  Web. 09 Mar. 2017
  1.   Jackson, William J. “Are Jesus and G-d One?” Center for Tanakh Based Studies, 04 Mar. 2015,  Web. 09 Mar. 2017
  2.   Jackson, William J. “Why Repenting of Sins is Done Through YHVH, Only ” Center for Tanakh Based Studies, 18 June 2015,  Web. 09 Mar. 2017
  3.   Jackson, William J. “Jesus States Salvation is through God’s Word, Not Resurrection” Center for Tanakh Based Studies, 04 Oct. 2016,  Web. 09 Mar. 2017
  4.    Jackson, William J. “Christian Discrepancies With God’s Word: #5 Sin Sacrifice” Center for Tanakh Based Studies, 20 Sep. 2016,  Web. 09 Mar. 2017

Top Ten Movies To Inspire Torah Talk

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

Many of us on this Torah centric walk are looking for wholesome entertainment that inspires positive thoughts and inspirational dialog.  Center for Tanakh Based Studies (C4TBS) has comprised a list of 10 of these such movies.  Many of these films bring up ethical dilemmas and motivate challenging thoughts when tying them back to Torah.  As a recommendation, we think that these films could be used for small group discussions.   There is no doubt that a group facilitator could lead a lively discussion on each of them.  Nonetheless, we advise that all involve in these small groups template the Tanakh when rendering an opinion in order to get something out of the lesson.

Note: All film descriptions were taken from The Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

  1. The Chosen(1981) Trailer

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In 1944, in Brooklyn, two Jewish kids become friends. One is from a very conservative family, and the other is more liberal. The issues of importance of tradition, parental expectations and the formation of Israel cause constant friction.

Aside from giving good insight into Jewish subcultures, the film addresses Zionist and anti-Zionist concepts. The belief for or against Zionism would make a lively group discussion.  Please remember to keep it grounded in Tanakh.

Amazon $19.49

  1. The Quarrel (1991) Trailer

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Montreal 1948. On Rosh Hashanah, Chaim (a Yiddish writer) is forced to think of his religion when he’s asked to be the tenth in a minyan. As he sits in the park, he suddenly sees an old friend whom he hasn’t seen since they quarreled when they were yeshiva students together. Harsh, a rabbi, survived Auschwitz and his faith was strengthened by his ordeal, while Chaim escaped the Nazis, but had lost his faith long before. The two walk together, reminisce, and argue passionately about themselves, their actions, their lives, their religion, their old quarrel, and their friendship.

This film, with a follow on group discussion, will be shown at Sukkot 2017. 

Amazon $36.77

  1. Arranged (2007) Trailer

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It centers on the friendship between an Orthodox Jewish woman and a Muslim woman who meet as first-year teachers at a public school in Brooklyn. Over the course of the year they learn they share much in common – not least of which is that they are both going through the process of arranged marriages.

This film takes a unique approach.  Instead of pitting religions against one another, it looks at the encroachment of the secular world on religion.  Where should the line be drawn?

Amazon $8.49

Movie Free on YouTube

  1. The Frisco Kid (1979) Trailer

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A Polish rabbi wanders through the Old West on his way to lead a synagogue in San Francisco. On the way he is nearly burnt at the stake by Indians and almost killed by outlaws.

This film asks the question “How far are you willing to go for Torah?” and “Should physical religion overshadow humanity?”.

Amazon $9.79

  1. Ushpizin (2004)  Trailer

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An Orthodox Jewish couple’s faith is tested after praying to the Lord for a child on the Sukkot holiday.

This film is a must during Sukkot.

Amazon $54.95

Movie Free on YouTube

  1. The Pianist (2002) Trailer

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A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.

This movie begs the question “Should we resist civil law when it violates Torah and, if so, where is the line?”. One should consult Exodus 1:15-21 about the Hebrew midwives when rendering an answer on this topic.

Amazon $9.32

  1. Above and Beyond (2014)  Trailer

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In 1948, a group of World War II pilots volunteered to fight for Israel in the War of Independence. As members of ‘Machal’ — volunteers from abroad — this ragtag band of brothers not only turned the tide of the war, preventing the possible annihilation of Israel at the very moment of its birth; they also laid the groundwork for the Israeli Air Force. ABOVE AND BEYOND is their story. The first major feature-length documentary about the foreign airmen in the War of Independence, ABOVE AND BEYOND brings together new interviews with pilots from the ’48 War, as well as leading scholars and statesmen, including Shimon Peres, to present an extraordinary, little-known tale with reverberations up to the present day.

This is an example of supporting Israel and the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant; Genesis 12:1-3 …I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you.”, also Isaiah 62:1, 6-7, Psalm 122.

10 Times That God Has Hit America With A Major Disaster After The U.S. Attempted To Divide The Land Of Israel

Amazon $11:50

  1. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)  Trailer

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In pre revolutionary Russia, a Jewish peasant contends with marrying off three of his daughters while growing anti-Semitic sentiment threatens his village.

“Tradition!” Tevye musically exclaims to us in the movie’s beginning.  Yet, aside from its great music and humor this movie has a lot to say about tradition.  Thus a good question would be, “why is tradition important, and can it ever get in the way of Torah (Amos 5:21, Isaiah 1:11-16, Proverbs 15:8)?”

Amazon $9.98

  1. The Riddle of the Exodus (2005) Trailer

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Originally released in 2005, this is a re-edited and updated version of the documentary that offers vivid, visual evidence from ancient Jewish and Egyptian sources that support the Biblical account of 10 Plagues and the release of the Children of Israel from harsh bondage.

A must for Passover.

Amazon $15.00                                                                1.

  1. Schindler’s List (1993)  Trailer

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In German-occupied Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazi Germans.

Oskar Schindler is an excellent example of a “Righteous Ger”.  Many of these heroic gentiles surfaced during World War II, at the risk of their own lives, to save the Jews.  Corrie ten Boom also serves as another excellent example.

Yet, there were many Righteous Gers that existed outside of the World War II era. Some actually can be found in the Tanakh. Please read the articles below, they will help to fuel a discussion on this topic.

Top Ten Gers that Helped the Jews in the Tanakh

Top Ten Gers that Helped the Jews in the Tanakh: Part 2

Secondly, although many individuals took it on there own to save Jewish people, should this have been a national issue?  Some might say this is why we fought World War II, but it wasn’t.  World War II was about defeating Germany because of their conquests not because of their lack of morality (see the MS Saint Louis incident).  If countries should have stopped Germany because genocide was wrong, how should it affect our current day attitude towards Darfur and ISIS.

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Have Things Really Changed Since I Left Christianity?

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By: William Jackson

It is not unusual that many of us that studied ourselves out of Christianity, and entered into a Torah centric life, have the same road map.  For example, when I traveled deeper on my Christian path, I became more dependent on “The Word” as opposed to sermons and teachings.  The pat answer to give someone when they asked what Christian writer I follow wasn’t Rick Warren, Francis Chan, Joyce Meyers…., it was to say “I just followed the bible”.  My response was usually meet with an eye roll followed with a “Me too but…”.  I even noticed when I got into a theological disagreement people really didn’t want to open the bible and talk it through, they were more apt to say “Well my Pastor says…” or even the “I will talk to my Pastor and see what he says about this”.  Yet, worse than conceding to an absent Pastor as “tie breaker” was being sent a lengthy article or YouTube video that galvanized their theological point.  “Really!”, we can’t just work this out between me, you and God’s Word? It is no wonder I studied myself out of that camp.  After passing through the anxiety of leaving the cross, I felt the breath of fresh air that can only be found when pursuing truth.  I finally found “peps” I could study and have fellowship with.

At last, I was finally home.  Yet, was I?  What was disheartening was that in many cases “My Pastor says…” was now replaced by “Rabbi so-and-so says…”, additionally top Christian theologians were replaced by Rashi (Shlomo Yitzchaki), Rambam (Maimonides), or whatever Sage people relinquished to.  Yes, there are great things said by great men that should be shared but they should never eclipse the Word of God. Point and fact: Rashi and Rambam didn’t always agree. They, in truth, presented two unique points of views that holistically give us a different perspective of the Torah. But; either are not declared as a sole source to interpret Torah.  To forgo our willingness to process Torah on our own is to surrender our opinion to another authority.  How can we justly minimize Christians for clouding up God’s Holy Word with the New Testament when we are electively to willing do that with our own external sources.

In some ways things have not changed since Mount Sinai.  God wanted a personal relationship with His people (Exodus 6:7, 19:5-6,  Leviticus 26:12). Yet, the Israelites insisted that Moses be their mediator (Exodus 20:15-16, Deuteronomy 18:16).  Although God did recognize Moses as a conduit, He still held individuals responsible (Exodus 32:30-33). Additional, God did warn against false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:15-22).  In Deuteronomy 18 He establishes His Word as the plum line.  This begs the question, if we don’t plainly understand His unfiltered Word how can we have the objectivity to discern a false prophet?  We need to immerse ourselves in the Word, processing it, before we seek other perspectives.

To borrow a quote from Moshe Ben-Chaim

“The Torah was purposefully written in a cryptic style so as to engage the mind in this most prized activity of analysis, induction, deduction and thought”

We have the opportunity to study at the feet of the Master, why would we want to give that away?

Did God Need A House?

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Center for Tanakh Based  Studies

By: William J Jackson

In Exodus 25 God commands Israel to build Him a tent so that He can live amongst them.  “Really!”, the God of the universe, who some might even argue is the universe, needs a group of wayward Israelites to build him a shelter so He can commune with them?  This command appears to be a bit puzzling, especially for God who can do anything (Genesis 18:14, Jeremiah 32:17, 27, Job 42:2).  Yet, for some reason, the Almighty beseeches this rambling tribe to build Him a shelter.   Here, we will explore Exodus 25:8, and dig out the true meaning.

To help answer the question, let’s go forward in time.  About the 9th century BCE, over 500 years after the Tabernacle was established.  Here the Tabernacle was transitioned into a Temple 1.  As we know, King Solomon would have it built for God.  Yet, even in King Solomon’s dedication ceremony he admits God cannot be contained in a house:

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You; much less this temple that I have erected…”  1 Kings 8:27

Later on, the prophet Jeremiah concedes to this as he expresses on God’s behalf “…Do I not fill the heavens and the earth? says the Lord.” – Jeremiah 23:24. This is further amplified by Isaiah, in the end of his book “…So says the Lord, “The heavens are My throne, and the earth is My footstool; which is the house that you will build for Me, and which is the place of My rest? – Isaiah 66:1. Yet, when we research the Tabernacle, there are more verses dedicated to constructing it, then anything else in the Tanakh (Old Testament).  What gives?

The issue is actually quite complexe. As we know, God is beyond our physical realm, whereas we are restricted to the material.  Our rationalizing is greatly hindered because we usually understand things in non spiritual or worldly sense. So, when God influences us, He uses the physical as a conduit.  This is done specifically for our comprehension.  For example, when God wanted Israel’s obedience in the desert, He influenced them through physical means.  This is why He had poisonous snakes bite the disobedient as a means of getting their attention.  God had this followed up with Moses putting a metal snake on a pole as a focal point for the victims to look upon.  This served as an icon of faith resulting in curing the sufferers and consequently inspired the obedience God required (Numbers 21:5-9).  Yes, it would be easier for God to “will” our compliance but with us possessing “free will” He has to influence us through tangible means.

Iraq 2003

Iraq 2003 a      Iraq 2003 b

As a Soldier, my team and I went into villages in Iraq to revitalize them.  Many Iraqis saw us as a big checkbook and demanded our assistance.  In many cases, we were actually causing more problems than good.  One day, after a village insisted we repair their police station, we hit our breaking point.  We told them we would do nothing until they cleaned the site, making it ready for our inspection.  Granted, it was a delay tactic, we didn’t think they would do it.  The next week we came back.  The bricks were neatly stacked and the area was immaculate. There attitude was also different, they were amicable and humble.  Happy with this renewed relationship, we made this our “flagship” village.  Basically we focused our resources on it as a reward for their compliance.  This bond would be maintained as long as our relationship remained respectful and productive.  We called this technique “sweat equity”.  The idea is that we would not give something for nothing.  Giving something for nothing causes two “encies”: complacency and dependency.  This approach was pivotal, and all the other villages capitulated.

Returning back to Exodus 25:8, we need to look and see what God is really saying here “…they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst”.  He isn’t saying “make Me a sanctuary so I can live in it”.  God didn’t need a domicile from Israel, He wanted their earnestness in establishing a relationship with Him.  As God stated earlier “…if you obey Me and keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth” – Exodus 19:5.  Here He is saying the same thing, just in a different way.

Reference:

Jackson, William, J.  The Tabernacle becoming a Temple, Center for Tanakh Based Studies, March 1, 2015, Web, extracted March 12, 2017.