Our hearts are breaking. On a weekend that was supposed to be devoted to the international celebration of Shabbat, the Shabbat shalom was shattered. In a most horrendous attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, we once again realized that our world is broken. 11 Jewish souls were taken away in a senseless act of violence in a holiest place. Many people are still trying to get their mind around the fact that such an anti-Semitic attack could still take place in the USA. After all, many of our forefathers fled from distant lands often to escape such xenophobia and religious persecution. America continues to be such a blessing to many minorities including us Jews. However, as we were tragically reminded this last Shabbat, there is still an ugly root of hatred that festers in some hearts. Although this systemic problem has always existed, there is little doubt that it has become more open in recent months. The Anti-Defamation League recently documented the 57% increase in anti-Semitic crimes over the last 2 years. Of course, this spirit of hate is not just foisted upon the Jewish community but has impacted many other communities. Some seem to have fear of the “other” and sadly we live in a day when the vitriol is even modeled by our political leaders. It has certainly come from all spectrums of the political parties in various forms, so I am not even going to address this as a political issue. As a Messianic Rabbi, I see this as a deeper spiritual problem within our beloved country. It is not about politics but about the moral values of the Torah and New Covenant. It can cross all political groups, cultures and even religious communities.
So what can be done? Foundationally we must realize that, even with the goodness in this world, humanity is in need of a new perspective. We too often fall short of common decency that God holds out for his world. In Beresheet/Genesis 1-3 we are confronted by two conflicting truths. First, the creation of mankind who are all made in the tselem/image of God himself. If that is true, then every person on God’s earth deserves respect and dignity; even the “other” that seems foreign to us. Yet this mankind is said to have fallen in disobedience in the Garden. Most of the Bible from that point on records the bad fruit of the tragic history of mankind. It is also at this time that God reveals the ultimate solution to our dilemma: a coming Messiah who will bring redemption and a new perspective (cf. Isaiah 53). For some of us in the Jewish community, this Messiah idea is just an outdated myth inherited from our fathers. But it seems to me that our society’s recent struggles have actually reminded us of the need for something (or Someone) greater than ourselves. We Messianic Jews and non-Jews see our faith as a real and pragmatic fulfillment to the promises of the Scripture. We are not there yet but we see the reality of Yeshua as the ultimate answer to the ongoing struggles of mankind. Only a new heart can bring a truly new perspective.
So what does this mean to us? Israel was always called to minister on a higher plane:
“I will also make you a light to the nations, so my salvation (yeshuati) can spread to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6). Whatever is redemptive; whatever is light, this is what we must represent and communicate. There is no place for hate as the New Testament affirms “Love fulfills the Torah” (Romans 13:10). Words matter. We cannot necessarily change other people but we messianics must continue to speak the truth in love. We must confront ungodly speech and perspectives that threaten the civility of our communities and surely grieves the heart of God. We still await the full messianic redemption that is coming to this world through Yeshua. In the meantime, you and I have a vital mission to light a candle amidst the present darkness.