For Jews, the concept of a “Savior” who came from heaven to earth is foreign. That this person was also somehow G‑d or G‑d in the flesh, a G‑d/man unity, is outright idolatrous and identified as of pagan origin – just like Pharaoh was also considered G‑d on earth by the Egyptians, or the Pope is also considered by Catholics as the infallible representative of G-d on earth. There is in fact a long list of human deities listed in this charming article on Wikipedia, which aptly lists Jesus (Yeshua) in the “Posthumous Deification” section. (Yes he said “The Father and I are one”. Within Yeshua’s Hebrew cultural background, this can be understood as a legal term at most, but certainly not as some kind of oneness in substance as the founders of the new religion of Christianity have later did. Also see this article for some more insight. And Yeshua also said “The Father is greater than I.” – John 14:28. Without studying the cultural and linguistic context in wich these two statements were spoken, it will be very hard to reconcile them.)
Jews and Christians certainly share a common history and some aspects of a value system and ethics, although already here the two fall apart quite glaringly – when it comes to the applicability of Torah. For this reason I cringe inwardly when someone talks of “Judeo-Christian” values. I am concerned that the messianic movement may be attempting to gloss over irreconcilable differences.
The more I relinquish my former Christian checklists and judgements, and listen in on the mystical harmonious chimes of Judaism, the more I get convinced that Judaism draws from infinitely deeper wells, and that these two faiths are based on incompatible world views. In a nutshell:
- Christianity believes that G‑d dwells in “unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6:12) above while we are down here in this earthly vale of tears. We are fallen and separate from our Maker, broken beyond repair (“totally depraved”) and need divine intervention in the form of G-d himself “entering” His own creating and bringing about a reconciliation of the Creator and His creation. Christianity has usurped a pagan holiday of winter solstice and Saturnalia and re-branded it as the advent of the “birth” of the “savior”.
- Jews, at least Chasidim, believe that HaShem is not separate from His creation at all. He is eternally and infinitely invested. This does not mean He controls. An investor cannot control the day-to-day decisions of the company he bought into; merely seek to steer the decision-making culture of the business at the annual stakeholder gathering. HaShem decided to release this singularity onto us, his subjects, to steward. In contrast to a shareholder though, He is fully “in-vested”: this space-time fabric is but a cloak of His own guise. Hence, He knows at any moment and any time in advance where this garment scratches, how it will wax old, when it needs to be shed and replaced, and how long the season lasts that it’s good for. His sovereignty or omniscience are not compromised, but neither are our autonomy or responsibility: to weave ourselves meaningfully into the thread of this garment called life.
The primordial light Paul mentions to Timothy is in fact a Jewish concept: «Or Ein Sof» – but it does not signify what Christianity has turned it into, based on a Platonic philosophy. This primordial light is in fact what the universe expands into, and what it will collapse back into at the end of days. (Did you ever ponder what our “expanding” Universe actually expands into?)
Thus, G‑d does not need to “come down to earth” - He is already here! He is in every particle and moment. For Chassidim, I take it that it would be equally plausible to delete the “in” from the previous sentence. This is not pantheism. It is a necessary consequence of this world being created יש מאין (Yesh Me’Ayin, “something from nothing” – see the lecture series on Shaar HaYichud v’Ha’Emunah also linked in the footnote to the last post).
Thus, all these crucial concepts of responsibility, redemption, this “material” life, the “spirit” and the afterlife have to get re-defined when transitioning between Christianity and Judaism. From where I’m coming from and where I’m headed, it feels hollow and threadbare how these deep and rich and meaningful concepts were transferred by Christianity onto a radically different world view. But over the last 2,000 years, these two faiths have influenced and drawn from each other more than each camp may admit.
So while the messianic “movement” may labor under the notion that apples and pears are comparable, at least it fosters, in its best forms at least, a mutually respectful dialogue and encourages a spirit of learning and insight.
Most likely, Yeshua was born on Nisan 1, in the spring time. It’s worth listening to Rabbi Jonathan Cahn explain why. Now tell that to the kids. Ritual, suspense and revelation chime well with how we humans are weaved, and children are most receptible for these formulaic patterns. I am fascinated how (at least my) children latch onto traditions instantly – they remember and engage and demand repetition even after the first instalment. I’d encourage all parents, and preach this to myself as well, to do ourselves and our children a massive favour by choosing the poetic, deeply meaningful, prophetic, and not least, eternal festivals of the Torah over the drunken revelries and materialist debaucheries of pagan re-brands.