November 14, 2011
Judaism doesn’t put the same kind of emphasis on creeds or statements of faith that Christianity does. A true-blue conservative Christian worries first about what you believe and whether it’s orthodox. Only after he settles that, does he get around to what kind of person you are. Jews tend to consider whether or not you’re a mensch—a decent, upright human being—before they worry about what you believe. (Unless of course you believe in Yeshua, in which case a lot of Jews freak out even if you are a mensch, but that’s another story.)
On the other hand, some people think of the Shema as a sort of Jewish statement of faith: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. But is it really a statement of faith? Or is it just as much about behavior as about belief?
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October 28, 2011
In my mussar work for the coming year, I’m going to focus on the Shema. (Mussar is a Jewish spiritual path that emphasizes ethical transformation. Check out rivertonmussar.org.)
The first ethical or character trait that we’re working on is humility, so I’m thinking about how humility relates to the Shema, and I decide that Listen – the very first word – is the link. Listening takes humility because it’s not about me and it requires that I set aside my stuff and pay attention to someone else.
This is in the back of my mind as I’m finishing up The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs, a secular, mostly assimilated Jew, who sets out to “follow the Bible as literally as possible” for one year.
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October 13, 2011
I just finished a great read, The Year of Living like Jesus, by Ed Dobson, a prominent evangelical (and recovering fundamentalist) pastor who reads The Year of Living Biblically, by A. J. Jacobs, a secular Jew. Dobson is so impressed that “someone had taken the Bible seriously enough to attempt to live it out” that he asks,
As a Gentile and a follower of Jesus, what if I were to take the teachings of Jesus seriously? What if I were to try to live like Jesus lived? What if I tried to do some of the things Jesus did?
Maybe just for a year.
Since Dobson recognizes that Jesus lived as an observant Jew, he has to learn a lot about Judaism to live like him and he shows a level of respect and engagement that’s encouraging to a Messianic Jew like me. He stops cutting his beard, although not his hair—he doesn’t end up looking like the robed and sandaled, wavy-locked Jesus of Sunday school illustrations, but an older guy with glasses, short hair and a ferocious beard. He starts wearing a tallit kattan, keeps kosher, and tries to rest on Shabbat. He spends a lot more time with sinners than he used to and gets into intense conversations about God, especially in bars. As a former teetotaler he discovers that if he sticks with light beer, he can down a couple of glasses during his stay in the bar without becoming impaired.
Dobson is a sharp and somewhat contrarian observer, and a man of real heart. He’s suffering from ALS, the dread Lou Gehrig’s disease, which he handles with a light touch and much grace throughout the book. I felt privileged to walk with him through his year-long journey with Jesus.
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