(This article is an adapted reprint from the Pittsburgh tragedy 6 months ago).
Our hearts are breaking. On a weekend that was supposed to be devoted to the celebration of the last day of Pesach/Passover, the Shabbat shalom was shattered. In a most horrendous attack at the Chabad Synagogue in Poway, we once again realized that our world is broken. One loving Jewish woman, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, was taken away and 3 others injured including Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein in a senseless act of violence in a most holy place. Many people are still trying to get their mind around the fact that such an anti-Semitic attack could still take place (again!) 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 FBI recently documented an alarming increase in anti-Semitic crimes over the last 2 years including the fact that 2/3 of all hate crimes in 2017 were directed at the Jewish people. Of course this spirit of hate is not just foisted upon the Jewish community but has impacted many other communities like churches in Sri Lanka and mosques in New Zealand. Some seem to have fear of the “other” and sadly we live in a day when the vitriol is even modeled by some of 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 any political group, culture and even religious community.
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. InBeresheet/Genesis 1-3 we are confronted by two conflicting truths. First, the creation of mankind who are all made in thetselem/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 has 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 continue to confront hateful speech and perspectives (in person or online) that threaten the civility of our communities and surely grieves the heart of God. Take some time every day to be cognizant of some hurting or confused people right around us who may have been sucked into this destructive mindset. We know there is a much better option for all people. The world has enough hate and fear but God’s love ultimately overwhelms any negative force. 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.