By the way, this didn't go into the main body of the Covenant Connection for June 2007: speaking for the foundation, we welcome new members and subscribers, particularly from the new Noahide communities in Brazil and the Phillipines.
Also, we very much appreciate our members' latest contributions of money and time.
Seven Candles, by Andrea M. Chester
And the Livin’ Is Easy
Well, here we are again. It’s summer! I have memories of steamy afternoons punctuated by thundershowers, velvet nights ablaze with fireflies, and the call of whippoorwills echoing all night long. I recall the taste of icy cherry Kool-aid and hotdogs roasted over the coals. And, after about four days of blissful freedom from school, saying “But, Mother! There’s nothing to DO!” Too much freedom, with nothing to fill the void, can drain the joy out of summer vacation.
Unfortunately, that’s where many b’nai Noah find ourselves right now. We came out of the churches, and found ourselves suddenly without the structures and belief systems we were used to. At first, it was exciting. We discovered why J was not who we thought he was, and embraced Seven Universal Laws that God expects of all humanity. We found rich meaning in the Hebrew for “charity” (tzadakah, justice or righteousness,) and prayer” (tefillah, examining and judging ourselves, as well as making requests of God).
As b’nai Noah, we had tremendous freedom to choose our own path. Many of us pursued conversion to Judaism. Some have attained that goal, while others decided to remain b’nai Noah. Some of us felt at home in synagogues, or built little communities where we could follow the laws of kosher and observe the Holy Days with like-minded people.
Not all of us found a niche where we really fit, however. Some of us found communities only online, and wondered, “What now?” For some of us, the only thing that really changed was their understanding about J.
Personally, I do very few distinctly Jewish things. Although I feel a great personal affinity to Judaism, for several reasons, conversion isn’t for me. Besides, I live in the Bible Belt, where everyone seems to be Southern Baptist. Finding a community is just about impossible, unless I travel quite a way from home. I haven’t the time or resources to do that. But, having no religious life carries the risk of stagnating, and withering away.
There’s an old saying that Nature abhors a vacuum. That holds true in the spiritual realm, too. Without any demands on our time or rules about what we do, life can become frustrating and pointless. Without any structure, our worship rambles, falters, becomes stale, or even becomes a burden.
The rabbis tell us that our task, the task of every human, is to participate in tikkun olam, repairing the world, by bringing God into our daily lives. We bring a little piece of Holiness to Earth each time we do something kind, or generous, or good. But, it’s more fun to accomplish God’s Will in cooperation with Him than doing it “unconsciously.” So, I make a conscious choice, every day, to work with God.
I pray daily, usually on my way to work. I just let the words come, not following any set guide. I do find that I feel more connected when I pray aloud. I study many texts and commentaries in addition to reading Torah and Tanach.
I don’t have to work Saturdays anymore, so I spend the day discussing the Torah portion with my sister, an Orthodox convert to Judaism. Sometimes I do the candle lighting and blessings with her. I recognize the Holy Days, but, other than that, I don’t observe them.
I don’t keep truly kosher, but I try to avoid meat from non-kosher animals.
I look for opportunities to discuss God (not religion) and His Laws with others. Although I am a former Christian, my religion was always based on the worship of God, not J. Since I reared my children in the church, they are a bit bewildered by my new views about the man, so I don’t press the issue with them. My values and morals are the same as ever, so I let my actions speak as testimony of my faith.
Okay, that’s my story. It’s your turn now. Share your thoughts and your needs. Tell us what keeps you engaged and joyous about serving God. Reach out to other b’nai Noah and offer them some of what you have found out….what works for you, and what doesn’t.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Our Story, Section One By Jerry and Norma Reynolds
We were originally involved with Conservative Judaism, but could not reconcile their apparent lack of belief that the Torah was given to the Jewish people by G-d. The only other synagogue in that area was the Chabad. The rabbis were kind and welcomed us and invited us to functions, but somehow we could never feel like we were part of “the family”. We also could not understand or accept some of their teachings, but we felt it was because we just did not know the basis of them. Therefore, we have drifted along, feeling we were neither fish nor fowl, but we have continued to study and observe what we have learned on our own. Basically, it has been a very lonely but yet rewarding time. Kind of a “back of the desert” experience. It is lonely, but one can “hear” a lot.
We are now nine years into this journey - older and wiser, but still with so many questions. We recently moved out of The Hurricane State to the southwest - from the jungle to the desert. Here we spoke with a rabbi from the Chabad who told us he knows there are many Noachide people, but he hasn’t the time or resources to give this the attention it needs. He gave us a website called askNoah, and said we might find what we were looking for there. We looked this up on the web and contacted them, but immediately felt affronted. They seemed to have a particular leaning that we were not sure about at first, but we later realized this organization was operating under the auspices of Chabad rabbis. Again, some of his statements regarding our lack of being able to do much of anything in the way of serving the G-d of the Jews made us feel we were a non-entity. The gentleman, who was our contact at the site, strongly cautioned us against things we felt were foundational in our new walk, so we quietly looked for “the exit”. Was this just another religion?
The Orthodox Union has been a special part of our Shabbat study time for a few years now, and we occasionally receive emails from them regarding certain matters that need attention in Israel. We just happened to click to their home page after attending to a recent email, and we saw a heading about an interview done by the OU president called “The Jew, The Minister, and the Bnei Noach”. I could hardly wait to click and see what this was about. Jerry and I sat down together to listen. Finally. Something we could say “amen” to… Like raindrops on a dry and thirsty land.
For any who may wonder, there is a place for the non-Jew who has turned his back on the other gods of the nations and is seeking to serve the One, Creator G-d of Israel. It is right to honor His times and His Sabbath which is for all men who recognize Him and want to follow in His ways. True, there is a difference in this and the covenant at Sinai which details certain things which are for the Jewish people only, but we are to acknowledge His Ways and follow in them. Thanks to First Covenant and the interview with OU Radio, we know there are others who have had similar experiences and that we are not alone on this path. The First Covenant interview gave us more insight into who they are, and we may very well have found who we are and where we are going. Thank you First Covenant Foundation and the OU. We now know we have a place with those who believe in Hashem. Section Two, What We Do As for what we do, religiously - we have been reading the only book left to us and that is the Tanach. We do what it says, more or less "on the surface", and we do not work or go anywhere on Shabbat (Friday night included). Jerry makes fresh homemade challah, and we treat the Friday night meal as a "holiday" or special time. We totally clean the house, put out trash, enjoy special foods on special dishes. We light the candles at the appropriate time, say the blessings over the wine, wash for Ha'Motzei, say that blessing. We listen to Shabbat and other Jewish songs. After dinner, we turn on the computer (gasp!) and pull up the Shabbat webpage from the OU and listen to Rabbi Dr. Zvi Hersh Weinreb (excuse if not spelled correctly), and listen to the song they put on the site for the Sabbath. Next morning, we sleep in, have a breakfast of left-over Challah, fruit, and yogurt (we do not cook - but we do use the microwave for warming). We put away the dishes (no particular clearning during this day) and pull out the Stone Edition of Tanach and Chumash. We read the Torah parshat reading for that week including a lot of the commentary from the Chumash - also the Haftorah reading. This can take about two hours. Later, we have a salad and we rest and read, etc., the rest of the day. As the three stars are seen in the evening sky, we do a shortened Havdala to separate the spiritual from the mundane, then we greet each other with a Shavua Tov and then clean up the rest of the dishes, put away the candleholder (from Israel), the challah cover, and placemats. We return the fresh flowers we bought for Shabbat to the center of the table, and go into the "new week" as night falls.
The rest of the time, we do the Shema (probably shortened version) every morning and every night, first and last thing, and we try to honor HaShem in our ways - be honest with people, do not "gossip", do not hurt or embarrass people - particularly in front of anyone else, and support Israel in word and action. We give unto the land whenever we can. We do not eat meats that are forbidden, and we always look for the OU on everything we purchase. (Thank you for that little symbol that tells us we do not have to stand around and read ingredients on everything we want to buy!)
Jerry and Norma Reynolds
To BettySue Vaughn. We wish we had more time to publish your piece on this subject. - Editor
Isaiah 53, the "suffering servant" By Jerry and Norma Reynolds
Replacement theology is the cornerstone of the structure which is known as Christianity. During its construction, a new facade was put on an existing building so that a new establishment could be brought forth having new leaders with new rules, a new book, as well as a new god. The original building (Hebrew scriptures) could not be destroyed if they were to hold up this new structure, but they had to be changed and covered over so that what lay beneath could no longer be recognizable.
Many passages from the Tanach (the Bible, not including Christianity's "New Testament") were used as foundational material for this new construction, and Isaiah 53 is one of the better known. Since it is supposed to be a description of a foundational event in the "new book" regarding the new god, we need to look at it again in its original form to see what is actually there.
Isaiah 53 is one of several consecutive chapters which gives a description of the “suffering servant”. Of particular note is that from chapter 41 on, it is well-established that this servant is the nation of Israel:
Isaiah 41:8-9, “But thou, Israel, art My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My friend. Whom I grasped from the ends of the earth, and from its nobles I called you, and I said to you, ‘You are My servant‘; I chose you...”
Isaiah 44:1-2; “Yet hear now, O Jacob My servant and Israel whom I have chosen.”
Isaiah 44:21; Remember these, O Jacob and Israel, for thou art My servant, O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of Me.
Isaiah 45:4; “For the sake of My servant Jacob, and Israel My chosen ones….”
Isaiah 48:20; “….The Lord has redeemed His servant Jacob”.
Isaiah 49:3; “And said to me, thou art My servant, O Israel in whom I will be glorified”.
Notice that the four servant songs are speaking of Israel/Jacob in the singular form. This is also shown in Hosea 11:1-2 and 5; “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.” Clearly, Isaiah 54 also speaks of Israel in the singular.
When Isaiah 52, 53, and 54 are read consecutively, one can see more clearly that chapter 53 is not suddenly talking in abstract terms about a person who will suffer in a future time. The subject matter remains the same as does the tone and the form of the writing across these three chapters.
Isaiah 49 sets the groundwork for Isaiah 53 as the nation of Israel cries out to G-d with feelings of being abandoned, afflicted, and forsaken by Him, and these pleas are the same descriptions given of the tormented servant in Isaiah 53. Therefore, chapter 53 is an integral part of this entire prophecy of the servant who suffers in exile among the nations.
Isaiah 53 begins with the prophet describing the reaction of the gentile kings who have despised and oppressed the nation of Israel during their long and arduous exile. History has proven over and over that the Jewish people have had to struggle “as a young tree growing in a parched land” as described in Isaiah 53:2 and also in Hosea 14:6-8.
One has to look no further back than the “Holocaust” to vividly understand this. However, the time of Israel’s vindication will come. These kings will then know what they have not heard and what they have not understood, and that it was due to the sins of the nations that Israel has suffered. It had erroneously been assumed that Israel’s suffering had been due to their own stubborn refusal to embrace the ways of the nations, but now it will be clear that it was actually due to the arrogance and destructiveness of those nations. These kings will stand with their mouths shut as they gaze upon the new status of Israel among the nations and see how G-d is now making Israel an “everlasting pride, the joy of every generation”, and that “kings will come to her light“ (Isaiah 60).
Isaiah 54 assures Israel; “For your maker is your husband; the Lord of Hosts is His name; and your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel shall be called the G-d of all the earth”. The nation will be regathered in great mercy and consoled; established with righteousness and be far from oppression and fear.
Now, try reading Isaiah 53 with the word “Israel” in the place of the word “he”, when speaking of the “servant”, as a replacement is definitely not indicated.
Jerry and Norma Reynolds