In that day, I will restore David’s fallen sukkah. I will repair it’s broken walls and restore it’s ruins. I will rebuild it as in the days of old.

– Amos 9:11

The goat without a beard

The Yiddish language is rich in humor and irony. Though much of ‘the world of our fathers’ has disappeared in Holocaust flames, some of its wit and wisdom is preserved in sharp proverbs which still bring enjoyment and recognition.

 

  • Oyb di bobeh volt gehat a bord, volt zi geven a zeydeh” (If grandma had a beard, she would actually be a grandpa).

 

  • My grandfather Shmuel would say: “A goat may have a beard, but that doesn’t make him a rabbi!”

 

In my fifty years of walking as a believer in Messiah Yeshua, I have run into occasional declarations by some Christian leaders advocating some wacky and unbalanced things, which are defined by them as being truly Jewish or Hebrew in nature. Few of these people actually speak Hebrew or have studied Jewish and rabbinic history. Yet their declarations imply that they have access to hidden spiritual understandings of secret Jewish ways. Representatives from both the Messianic Jewish and the Christian world would be included on the short list here. Another Yiddish proverb springs to mind: “A specialist is someone fifty kilometers away from home.”

 

Some dear friends have been exposed to such unfounded teachings. The Apostle Paul calls these declarations words which have “the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion” (see Colossians 2:23). Regrettably, we are seeing an upsurge of such things in our day. The goal of this newsletter is to shine discernment’s light of on some of these misguided teachings, and to encourage the embrace of biblical perspectives.

 

  • “Now these people were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11)

 

  • “Do not quench the Spirit, do not utterly reject prophecies, but examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)

 

It has become fashionable among some Christians who love Jewish roots and ways of expression, to unquestioningly accept rabbinic perspectives and practices in some areas. Two flashing red lights are of concern here: (a) the use of the rabbinic calendar, and (b) the use of gematria – numerological calculations influenced by kabbalah (Jewish black magic).

 

 

Reeling in the years

 

Every year, during the seventh biblical month of the year (called Eitanim in 1 Kings 8:2, but inaccurately called Rosh Hashana or the ‘Jewish New Year’ by rabbinic Judaism), a significant stream of Christian social media is abuzz with Jewish perspectives and traditions which are non-biblical and occasionally occultic. Among some groups there is a strong focus on the rabbinic use of letters of the Hebrew alphabet which are supposed to represent the year when the world was created – at least, according to rabbinic Judaism’s calculations. This year the rabbinic number under discussion is 5784 Anno Mundi – the counting from ‘the years of the earth/Creation’ (minyan la-yetzirah in Hebrew). What is the origin of this tradition?

 

Today’s rabbinic computation of ‘the years of Creation’ is not laid out in the biblical text. The first instance of this appears in the medieval period (800’s A.D.),  based on a Hebrew scroll called Seder Olam Rabbah. That scroll was probably authored in the post-Hadrianic period by the Tanna Rabbi Yose ben Ḥalafta circa 165 A.D., a rabbinic scholar mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 88a, Yevamot 82b). Some of his conjectures (though he does not clearly define the date of Creation in his description of Genesis) appeared in a reworked framework (circa 800’s A.D.) in a scroll called Baraita di-Shemu’el. In the late 800’s A.D. Jewish tombstones in Venosa (southern Italy) are found mentioning a similar dating system to Seder Olam Rabbah. About 946 A.D. Shabbetai Donnolo mentions such dating in his commentary on the Sefer Yezirah.  In 1514 Seder Olam Rabbah was published in Mantua, and in 1517 it was published in Paris. In 1658, Archbishop of Armagh James Ussher’s Chronology was published, with conclusions based on Seder Olam Rabbah’s approach.

 

An interesting historical note: the usual calendar calculation used by Jews in Talmudic and post-Talmudic times was not rabbinic, but that of the Greek Seleucid era (post-Alexander the Great, with the starting point beginning in the year 312 B.C.) That axial date was referred to by Jewish sources as minyan hashtarot (‘the dating of documents’). Only after the center of Jewish life moved from Babylonia to Europe (in the middle Medieval period) was the Greek method of counting replaced by the Anno Mundi reckoning related to Seder Olam Rabbah.

 

When He walked the hills of Galilee, Messiah Yeshua did not tell time based on a rabbinic calendar, nor did the Apostles after Him.

 

Though we may admire rabbinic zeal in their desire to search out the exact year of Creation, the accuracy and precision of their conclusions cannot be endorsed by those who depend on Scriptural teaching. In the same way, prophetic words lose much of their reliability when they are based on unfounded rabbinic speculations.

 

The year of Creation is simply not given to us in the Bible. The occult use of Hebrew letters and the importing of arcane rabbinic reasoning – these are unable to pave a road which the Bible in any case never laid down for us to walk on. We exhort those who are spreading these ‘teachings’ among believers in Yeshua to pull back from seeding such falsehoods in the body of Messiah.

 

As in the days of Jeroboam, it is essential to make this point clear: the rabbinic dating system regarding the date of Creation is not God-breathed, nor is it accurate. When believers blindly use this rabbinic dating, an unwittingly spiritual dependence on rabbinic authority is set in motion – and that rabbinic authority denies Yeshua’s deity and Messiahship, the authority of the New Covenant, etc. Caveat emptor!

 

 

Fudging God’s commission can equal witchcraft

 

“No reason to get excited,” the thief he kindly spoke.

“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.

But you and I, we’ve been through that and this is not our fate.

So let us not talk falsely, now – the hour is getting late.”

(Bob Dylan, “All Along The Watchtower”, Dwarf Music © 1968, 1996)

 

“Pride cometh before a fall, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18). King Saul of Benjamin’s tribe was more interested in public opinion polls than in being a godly and obedient leader in Israel. He masked his disobedience to the prophet Samuel’s direct order by conducting a religious ceremony – a sacrifice – in defiance of YHVH’s commands (1 Samuel 13:8-14; 15:1-21). In our day, we might not grasp the severity of disobeying a clear command of God. But perhaps thinking about this situation from a military point of view might help. What happens when a soldier disobeys the command of his superior officer? That is considered a very serious offense. In God’s kingdom when a king disobeys the express command of God, there is a stricter judgment – even if that king is Jewish.

 

Samuel’s pronouncement applies not only to King Saul, but also to any religious authority in Israel who rejects the Messiah and His message, and who then establishes for himself a religious framework born out of rebellion and rejection.

 

“Has YHVH as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of YHVH? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of YHVH, He has also rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

 

God’s choice of the word ‘witchcraft’ to classify Saul’s behavior was not accidental. Rebellious religious activity and sacrifice that do not accept God’s sovereignty and lordship, even if they are performed ‘from the heart’ – these are actually a spiritual façade disguising witchcraft. Orthodox Judaism’s spiritual roots are anchored in a rabbinic leadership that unfortunately rejected Yeshua’s Davidic authority, His Messiahship and His atonement.

 

 

Pride and witchcraft versus servanthood

 

One of the central activities of rabbinic Judaism is based around the study-hall (Beis Medrish in Yiddish, Beit Midrash or yeshiva in Hebrew). Intellectual acumen, prodigious memorization and blistering academic speed are treasured in that environment. Learning how to control vast amounts of halakhic information is a young man’s challenge in these institutions, while competitive pride in one’s own achievements can be a professional blowback of this educational method.

 

Unfortunately, there are a few Messianic leaders who make use of the same yeshiva dynamics – strong hierarchical control and appeal to pride – in overseeing believers committed to their care, all the time insisting that these manipulative methods are actually proof of apostolic authority. Yeshua invites us to follow a different way, a more excellent way – the way of servanthood and self-sacrificing love.

 

  • Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. Calling them to Himself, Yeshua said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:41-45)

 

 

Playing the numbers

 

There are things which may definitely be Jewish, but they are also definitely non-kosher.

 

A mystical strand of Judaism which purports to come from Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (a 2nd century rabbi) blends gnostic and Hindu magical practices, and then clothes them with ultra-Orthodox garb. Claiming that these teachings represent the hidden spiritual core of the Torah, these spiritual adulterers insist that these ‘spiritual secrets’ have been handed down from generation to generation as a valid and kosher ‘received tradition’ or kabbalah (from the Hebrew root KBL ‘to receive’).

 

To put it plainly in Christian evangelical terminology, kabbalah is Jewish occult, Jewish black magic. It bases itself on spiritual exercises aimed at manipulating spiritual powers, and propagates its false teaching with its own ‘map of the spirit world’ based on a gnostic interpretation of an allegorical ‘tree of life.’ It offers spiritual power and revelation to its followers – but it is stolen and treif.

 

The Jewish community’s response to kabbalah has been varied. Some traditional Jews see kabbalah and Chasidism as pagan and superstitious perversions of Judaism. Other Jewish communities believe that kabbalistic wonder-working rabbis are holy men. There are even some Messianic Jews (and Gentiles) who dabble in kabbalah and attempt to disseminate these teachings to audiences who lack the ability to sift and discern what it is that they are being spoon-fed.

 

Kabbalah was snapped up by some Christian Hebraists over the past hundreds of years, who mistakenly thought that they had found secret Jewish mystical texts proving the Trinity. Some even came to the unreal conclusion that kabbalistic rabbis secretly believed that Yeshua is the Messiah.

 

 

Playing the numbers

 

A Jewish tradition tied to kabbalah – to Jewish black magic – is called gematria. According to this teaching, every Hebrew letter in each Hebrew word has a mathematical equivalent. Like the ancient Romans who used their alphabet letters to represent numbers (C equal 100, L equals 50, etc.), so Hebrew letters can be used to equal mathematical sums. This method becomes occult when it moves away from simple mathematics and starts:

 

doing fortune-telling by looking for hidden prophetic meanings in the total mathematical equivalent of a word

compares the numerical total of a word to another word with the same mathematical total, and draws ‘prophetic’ meaning from the equivalencies

takes individual letters of the Hebrew calendar rabbinic reckoning, and gives allegorical or quasi-prophetic meaning to each letter

 

A recent example, seen across social media, involves this rabbinic year – called TaSH’PaD (5784 A.M.). A Christian kabbalistic/gematria interpretation floating around on social media takes the Hebrew letter for ‘D’ (‘dalet’) and proclaims that the ‘D’ stands for ‘delet’ or ‘door.’ Then a pseudo-prophetic word is brought declaring that this is ‘the Year of the Door.’ To be tongue in cheek, one could take the ‘SH’ (the Hebrew letter ‘shin’) and proclaim that the ‘SH’ stands for ‘sha’ar’ which means ‘gate.’ One could then declare that this is ‘The Year of the Gate.’  Or one could take the Hebrew letter for ‘P’ (‘peh’) and proclaim that the ‘P’ stands for ‘paz’ or fine gold. One could then declare that this is ‘the Year of Fine Gold.’ The possibilities are endless. But the results are neither biblical nor kosher nor prophetic.

 

Instead of consulting ‘the fortune-teller woman’ at the county fair, it has become ‘chic’ in some circles to consult ‘cutting-edge prophets and apostles’ who proclaim hidden Hebrew meanings for the coming rabbinic calendar year. This mystical and occult hermeneutical technique removes logic and biblical discernment from the interpretative process. Instead, a squirrely hermeneutic is substituted, which pridefully appeals to a seemingly superior Hebrew knowledge. But this method is dead in the water, lacking both biblical basis and kosher qualifications.

 

These dabblings into Jewish mysticism are at times trumpeted by some Gentile believers who lack sufficient ability and discernment in these matters. Unfortunately, even some Messianic Jews are getting on the same rickety bandwagon. These above-mentioned rabbinic influences can exert an unhealthy pull on believers who may have started off positively inclined toward Jewish subjects. These abuses have a real potential to confuse and fog believers’ spiritual discernment, and to open up doors of deception in the name of ‘Jewish roots.’ It is our heart’s prayer that all dear believers stay far away from these non-kosher aspects of rabbinic theology, tradition and mysticism. They are not only spiritually unclean. They also come from a worldview that denies the reality and power of Israel’s Risen Messiah.

 

For greater detail on this subject, feel free to consult chapter nine of my book (‘Kosher and non-kosher Judaism’) titled ‘How to be Messianic without becoming Meshuggeh (*crazy)A common sense approach to kosher Messianic foundations’ which delves into these issues more deeply.

 

 

How should we then pray? 

 

Pray for believers who appreciate the Jewish roots of our faith to cleave to the Scriptures as our foundational authority

Pray for believers to treat rabbinic authority with healthy caution, and to not grant it spiritual influence over our faith

Pray for Messiah Yeshua to be revealed to and accepted by many hungry Jewish hearts

Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth

 

Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.

In Messiah Yeshua,

Avner Boskey

Donations can be sent to:

FINAL FRONTIER MINISTRIES

BOX 121971 NASHVILLE TN 37212-1971 USA

Donations can also be made on-line (by PayPal) through: www.davidstent.org   

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