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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Saturday, December 10, 2005


(This is a sermon from Parahsat Vayetze, dealing with the problem of being unaware in our relationships, in our day to day tasks, and most of all, in our spiritual lives).

We read the following in a newspaper article from early 1999.

Two Japanese soldiers unaware of WWII end found in the jungle of the Philippines - The soldiers were hiding in the jungles of the Philippines for about 60 years

A lieutenant and a lance-corporal of the Imperial Japanese Army were found in the jungle of Mindanao Island, the Philippines. The two Japanese military men have been hiding there since the end of WWII over the fear of being punished for desertion.

The found soldiers did not even know that WWII was over a long time ago. Local authorities are currently holding the two elderly deserters, aged over 80. In the near future the Japanese military men will have a meeting with spokespeople for the Japanese embassy in the Philippines, Tokyo newspapers write. Several other former servicemen of the Japanese army might be hiding in the out-of-the-way place in the south of Mindanao, Itar-Tass reports.

Agents of the Philippine counterintelligence incidentally found the former Japanese lieutenant, 87 and the former lance-corporal, 83, during an operation in the area.

The 87-year-old Yoshio Yamakawa and the 83-year-old Sudzuki Nakauti were serving in the 30th infantry division of the Imperial Army, which landed on the Philippine Island of Mindanao in 1944. The unit suffered considerable losses as a result of US-led massive bombings. The Japanese infantry unit was ordered to start a guerrilla warfare in the jungle. The remainder of the division were later evacuated to Japan, although some of its servicemen did not have enough time to appear at the assembly point and became deserters against their own will.

The found lieutenant and the lance-corporal are reportedly very scared of the court martial in case they are sent back to their fatherland. Japanese soldiers unaware of the end of WWII were previously found in other remote places on the islands in the Pacific Ocean. Junior lieutenant Hiroo Onoda was found in the jungle of the Philippine island of Lubang in 1974. Another solitary soldier of one of the infantry units was found in 1972 on the island of Guam, which currently belongs to the USA.

The question which confronts us here is this: Did these men lose anything by being unaware?

Here’s another one:

Study shows people unaware of harmful effects of painkillers

Findings signify need for patient education on complications of misusing painkillers
Bethesda, Maryland (Nov. 21, 2005) – According to a study supported by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), over-the-counter and prescription painkillers are often used inappropriately and there is an alarming number of people who are ignorant to the potential side effects. Despite the widespread use of store-bought and prescription painkillers, also known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), this is the first study to look at the characteristics of the population who frequently uses painkillers and their attitudes and behaviors. The study is published in the November issue of the Journal of Rheumatology.

"This study shows just how common these medications are used and highlights the lack of insight into their potential dangers," said C. Mel Wilcox, MD, lead study author from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "The findings paint a clear picture of the need for patient and physician education efforts and interventions to help prevent unnecessary complications from painkillers."

Of the 807 people surveyed who used NSAIDs, 54 percent were not aware of the potential side effects of these drugs and 18 percent has previously experienced side effects. Those who used over-the-counter painkillers commonly experienced side effects such as stomach pain, internal bleeding and ulcers. Moreover, nearly 30 percent of these people did not consider themselves at risk for any side effects associated with painkiller use. Similar numbers of people who exclusively used prescription painkillers were unaware of their risks and experienced complications.

My question for us here is this: Did these people lose anything by being unaware?

And finally, try this one: Comedian Gary Shandling said this, "I'm dating a woman now who, evidently, is unaware of it." Does she or Gary lose anything by being unaware?

Of course, in all of these cases, and many more, the answer is "Of course, Yes! We lose much by being unaware." Gary Shandling’s lady misses the sense of engagement with him, people taking medication unaware of their side-effects misread the danger they are in, and those poor Japanese soldiers missed an entire lifetime of relationship with their own people, all because they were unaware.

The Old King James translation of the Bible uses the phrase "some have entertained angels unawares." There is a subtle difference between the term "unawares" and the term "unaware," but it hardly makes a difference in our discussion today. The adjective "unaware" means "not being aware of something," and the adverb "unawares" means "without being aware of something." The difference is subtle, and unimportant to our discussion. But the issues of being unaware is very important, not only to our discussion, but to the quality of our life.

Our Torah reading finds our ancestor Jacob both aware and unaware. When he awakens from his dream, realizing that he had heard from the God of His ancestors in a most dramatic fashion, he becomes aware that he had formerly been unaware: "Surely, Hashem is present in this place [awareness], and I did not know! [lack of awareness].

I want to suggest to us this morning that personal growth whether in interpersonal relationships, or in task performance, or in relationship with God, is in large measure a matter of becoming aware of what you were formerly unaware of.

In interpersonal relationship, like Gary Shandling’s girl friend, you may be unaware that someone cares for you, and the relationship can take a giant step forward when you become aware. Over thirty years ago, when Naomi and I were traveling in a music team together and had just begun dating, Kresha Warnock, a mutual friend came up to me and said, "Are you aware that your flirtatious comments to Naomi has her wondering if you are really serious about her?" Kresha’s comment to me made me aware of the need to be explicit about my feelings for Naomi, and the rest is marital history.

In professional life, and in day to day tasks, growing in awareness is also the pathway of growth. Take practicing the piano. When I used to practice, many years ago, a major component of pianistic growth was becoming aware of what I was doing, of how the hand was moving as I did this passage or that scale, and becoming aware of whether the motion was efficient or needed improvement. There was a vast difference between mindful piano practice and mindless piano practice. And so it is with everything you do, from ironing a shirt, to handling your e-mail, to dressing for the day: mindlessness and mindfulness make all the difference in both process and outcome.

And what of our relationship with God and with the realm of the Spirit. How do we need to grow in mindfulness, in being aware? That is a gigantic and momentous question! We can only make a small beginning with it this morning, but I suggest this question "How can I become more aware, more mindful, in my spiritual life" is one of the most important questions you could grapple with on a day to day, moment by moment basis. This is a most transformational question.

Let’s begin with our Torah portion. First, we need to become aware of the promises of God to our lineage—those people with whom we are aligned. This encounter between Jacob and God involved his becoming newly aware that the God of his ancestor Abraham and the God of his father Isaac was his God too, and that the promises made to them applied no less to him.

This awareness, this mindfulness, weaves throughout the prayers of our people, the siddur, which is nothing if not a book of holy mindfulness. Over and over again we explicitly pray on the basis of God’s promises and His faithfulness to our ancestors, confident that these promises and this faithfulness are our legacy as well. So the first things we need to become aware of are the promises of God to our lineages--to the people of God of whom we are a part.

Now, for those of you who are not Jewish, there is good news as well. Through Yeshua the Messiah, the God of Jewish promises becomes your God too, and many of these promises become yours. In Yeshua, all the promises of God are Yea and Amen. Although Gentiles do not become Jews by believing in Yeshua, they do become part of the Israel of promise—the people of God, and those joined by faith to Yeshua, become the seed of Abraham by faith.

Our Torah passage reminds us not only that we need to become aware of the promises of God, but also of the Presence of God. God is present with us, even in the most mundane of places and circumstances. So it is that Jacob said, "MA NORAH HA-MAKOM HAZEH - How awesome is this place! EN ZEH KI IM BET ELOHIM This is none other than the abode of God V’ZEH SHA’AR HASHAMAYIM and this is the gate of the heavens!"

We need to get beyond thinking of God simply as "out there somewhere." He is present in our lives, and every thought, word, and deed is contemplated, uttered or committed in His presence. This means that every moment is an occasion for supreme blasphemy or wondrous sanctification. Our tradition reminds us in so many ways to cultivate this sense of holy mindfulness, as in this statement from Pirkei Avot: "Reflect on three things and you will never come to sin: Know what is above you --a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all your deeds recorded in a book." This kind of mindfulness of the Divine Presence can transform your life.

The third thing we need to become aware of is this: That spiritual potential inherent in the most mundane of situations. Our New Covenant passage reminds us "don’t forget to be friendly to outsiders; for in doing so, some people, without knowing it, have entertained angels." This reminds us of Abraham our ancestor, receiving three visitors at the doorway of his tent. The lesson is clear: even the mundane act of showing hospitality, feeding wayfarers, can become an occasion for encountering the Divine—experiencing transcendence, becoming aware in retrospect that there was more to the encounter than meets the eye.

Perhaps, like me you have had the experience of looking back on something and realizing that God was meeting you in that situation, meeting your needs, addressing your situation, speaking with you, and that at the time you had been unaware of it. Only later did you realize that God had been there in the commonplace. It is just as our ancestor Jacob said: "MA NORAH HA-MAKOM HAZEH - How awesome is this place! EN ZEH KI IM BET ELOHIM This is none other than the abode of God V’ZEH SHA’AR HASHAMAYIM and this is the gate of the heavens!"

What I am calling you to then today is this: don’t go through life mindlessly. It is you and you alone who must cultivate in yourself an awareness of the promises of God, of His presence, and of the Divine potential inherent in every moment and every task. This, by the way, is the business of our Jewish heritage—the sanctification of the commonplace. The rituals of Judaism, the saying of b’rachot, the lighting of candles, smelling of spices, putting on a tallis before morning prayer, washing of the hands as a ritual act, the praying of our liturgy as a wondrous daily habit and meeting place with God, the study of sacred texts in the company of others, all of these and more are ways in which our tradition teaches us Divine mindfulness. As Abraham Joshua Heschel put it, "The teaching of Judaism is the theology of the common deed. God is concerned with everydayness, with the trivialities of life."

Elizabeth Barrett Browning put it this way:

Earth is crammed with Heaven.
And every bush aflame with God.
But only those who see take off their shoes--
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

I leave us with four questions:

1. Are we are just going to eat blackberries or will we go through life frequently taking off our shoes knowing that the place where we are standing is holy ground?

2. Are we going to grow in mindful embrace or our heritage that we might grow in awareness of the promises and Presence of God, and of the Divine potentialities of the commonplace, or is it just too much trouble?

3. As in the case of the Japanese soldiers at the beginning of our lesson, and of people mindlessly taking pain-killers, or even Gary Shandling’s girlfriend, what do we stand to lose if we continue living life unaware?

4. And finally, what would you say to a person who said that he/she was going to cultivate mindfulness not through any of the means we have discussed, but rather through thinking of God every time a TV commercial came on. Do you find anything unsatisfactory with this option, and why?

At 12/14/2005 3:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Stuart

Marty F


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