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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

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Cube Model of Messianic Jewish Spirituality

Among the challenges facing Messianic Judaism is defining the elements intrinsic to its own spirituality, balancing those elements, and relating them to the person and work of Messiah, Jewish tradition, and what we have been taught about the Holy One, Blessed be He. This model attempts to address these concerns via a visual metaphor

The Cube Model of Messianic Spirituality is a six sided cube, with each translucent side representing one of six aspects of Messianic Jewish Spirituality: Torah, Avodah, Gemilut Hasadim, Ritual Life, D’vekut, and Mitzvah. The Cube is made of stained glass, and the leading joining all the sides together is comprised of a compound of three ingredients, [acronym, EMeT]: Emunah [faith, faithfulness]; Masorah [tradition]; and Teshuvah [Repentance, Return]. The Light within the cube is the Divine Presence, and through any and all of the sides of the cube shines the image/face of Messiah who is Himself the embodiment of perfection in Jewish Spirituality in all of its aspects. The cube may be rested on any of its sides, depending upon situational and personal factors.

The choice of six sides and therefore six aspects of Messianic Jewish Spirituality is arbitrary, although the model seems comprehensive. One might just as easily have chosen four or five elements, or more than six.

The sides of the cube are translucent, signifying that while each side retains its unique character, one can view the other sides [and thus aspects of Messianic Jewish Spirituality] through any one of the sides. In addition, each of these sides is illumined by the Divine Presence and each reveals Yeshua.

One of the sides is Torah. Torah is holy instruction rooted in the Chumash, the Tanakh in its entirety, and the sacred texts and related discussion in Jewish life, including the B’rith Chadashah and holy teachings related to it.

Another side is Avodah. Avodah is the life of prayer, especially liturgical prayer.

A third side is Gemilut Hasadim. Gemilut Hasadim, “Deeds of Lovingkindess” signifies the ethical dimension of Messianic Jewish life, founded upon Imitatio Dei (the imitation of God) and treatment of all humans as bearers of the Divine image.

Ritual Life is a fourth side. As per Lawrence Hoffman, I would define ritual as “the habitual scripted, and repeated patterning of time so as to commuicate, preserve, or create meaning and achieve satisfaction by means of anticipation and fulfillment in a context of shared [communal] understanding.” The short definition is “what we habitually do at established intervals as a means of conveying or preserving community values, meaning and identity.” [see Lawrence Hoffman. The Art of Public Prayer: Not for Clergy Only].

D'vekut is the fifth side. D’vekut is cleaving to the Divine. In Hasidic circles, this is seen to occur through cleaving to the Tzaddik, the Rebbe who is seen as the intermediary between the community and Hashem. It is Yeshua who fills that function in our communal life: by cleaving to Him in faithful obedience, we experience the Divine Presence in transformation, empowerment, and intimate communion.

MItzvah is our sixth side of the cube, Mitzvah is the awareness and acceptance of living under covenant and commandment. As members of the Community of Iisrael we may obey, or disobey, but we cannot avoid the commanding voice of God embodied in His commandments, which are not irksome when embraced in reciprocal love.

The cube is constructed of stained glass. Stained glass is used for its colorfulness, its connotation of the holy, and its translucent nature. Just as stained glass only stays together because of the leading joining piece to piece, so Messianic Jewish spirituality adheres through the presence of the compound of Emet--Emunah, Masorah, and Teshuvah.

Emunah, faithfulness is an important constiutent part of our "leading." Messianic Jewish spirituality will not work if one is simply going through the motions. Emunah signifies not simply agreement, but rather ongoing commitment founded in trust and evidenced in faithful living.

The second component of our leading is tradition, or "Masorah." Messianic Jewish spirituality is lived out in the context of
Jewish community both relationally and conceptually. We seek to live among, with, and as our fellow Jews, informing our practice by the canons of Jewish tradition.

Teshuvah is the third component of our leading. Teshuvah is a lifestyle of returning again and again to faithfulness
to the G-d of our ancestors, walking in his ways, and returning to those ways whenever we wander from them. It also signifies the imperative for Messianic Jews to repent of departure from the ways given to our fathers, and to return to Jewish life out of faithfulness the covenant between our ancestors and our God (See Deut 29:10-15).

The Divine Presence illumines our spirituality It must be the Divine Being who illumines our spiritual lives and who is revealed through our spiritual disciplines. In addition, the Divine Presence [the Ruach HaKodesh] illumines Yeshua to us, who is seen through the disciplines of Messianic Jewish Spirituality. In addition, the Divine Spirit empowers our lives individually and collectively as the people of God.

At the center of all of this, exemplifying the life to which Messianic Jews are called is Yeshua, our Righteous Messiah. The Incarnate Word, Yeshua, is our spiritual model, who embodies the spiritual perfection toward which we strive.

Any model of spirituality must make allowances for individual differences. Accordingly, the cube may rest on any of its sides depending upon the temperament, giftedness, development stage, or life situation of the individuals involved. Some would argue one or the other side to be primary. Historically, Torah has been regarded as foundational in Jewish life—the side upon which the entire cube rests. However, in practical terms, each of us has one or the other aspects of the cube which is foundational to the others in our life and experience. For example, it appears that functionally, Avodah, the life of liturgically informed prayer, was foundational to the life of Abraham Joshua Heschel. In my own life, at one time study/Torah, that is guidance from our holy texts, was the foundation upon which everything else rested. Later, it was Avodah that undergirded all the rest.
What is written here pertains especially to those under the holy bonds of Israel's covenants with God, but I trust there is something here for all of us to contemplate.

And of course, there is more that could be said.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Kingdom Building vs. Building the Kingdom

This sermon was presented Shabbat B'reishit, October 21, 2006, at Congregation Ruach Israel, Needham, MA. It contrast building one's personal kingdom with building the Kingdom of God.

The Haftarah Machar Chodesh (I Samuel 20:18 - 20:42) contrasts King Saul and his son Jonathan in how they related to David. Saul is obsessed with building and protecting his Kingdom. First Samuel portrays Him as a study in jealousy and self-involvement. He is a personal kingdom builder. Jonathan is the Crown Prince—the heir apparent. In contrast to his father, he is willing to risk his personal kingdom because of his covenant of friendship with David. And it is David, not Jonathan, who will be the next king of Israel.

Jonathan admires David from the time he first sees him in the encounter with Goliath. The text tells us that this was when “His soul was knit to the soul of David.” The women of Israel, ecstatic over David’s military prowess, sing his praises: “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands.” This further infects Saul’s already diseased soul. Jealous, narcissistic, paranoid and determined, he dispatches David on various military fools’ errands, trying to get him killed by the Philistines. Meanwhile, Jonathan’s admiration for David only grows.

Like so many truly good people, inclined to believe only the best about others, Jonathan thinks his father’s animosity toward David is a passing storm, now blown over. But in this Haftarah, he realizes things are far worse than he imagined. If David doesn’t go into hiding immediately, Saul will certainly have him killed. Jonathan and David, coming to terms with this reality, recognize they must part for David’s sake. But not before they renew their covenant of friendship, saying, "Go in peace! For we two have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord: 'May the Lord be [witness] between you and me, and between your offspring and mine, forever!'”

This is a finely crafted tale of covenant making and covenant keeping, of unselfish caring for the well-being of another. This is all the more striking when we view Jonathan’s unselfishness against the dark background of Saul’s competitive and paranoid personal kingdom building.

What kinds of covenants do we have with those around us? And what might it mean for us to be more like Jonathan, looking out for others, even against self-interest, rather than being like Saul, who looked out only for himself? Three terms from our tradition help answer these questions: Ahavat Yisrael, Ahavat Habriot and Ahavat Chesed.

I recently read a wise assessment by Jewish religious professional who said that the greatest need of our time is for all Jews to cultivate a sense of Ahavat Yisrael (love of all one's fellow Jews), and to recognize that any Ahavat Yisrael that does lead to Ahavat HaBriot (love of humanity as a whole) is counterfeit.

In a sense this is a communal application of Hillel’s dictum—“If I am not for myself who will be for me?” but put in the collective—“If we Jews, or we Messianic Jews, are not for ourselves, who will be for us?” We need to look out for the people with whom we are affiliated, our own people.

But if that Ahavat Yisrael which does not lead to Ahavat HaBriot is bogus, we need to heed the second phrase of Hillel’s dictum—“If we are for ourselves alone, who are we?” If looking out for our own concerns is our only real horizon of interest, if we, like Saul, are jealous and obsessive personal kingdom builders, threatened by the success of others, then what are we? Not much! We must go beyond this to become a community of individuals with a wider horizon, people for whom the lives, the needs, and the reality of others are not peripheral concerns, but are instead the center of that arena where our love for God is demonstrated, validated, and perfected.

Although Torah says, and Messiah confirms, that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, the underlying ethic of the general culture is too often “Look out for number one,” or, “Mind your own business-don’t get involved,” or even, “Get them before they get you.” This predatory worldview echoes the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, who wrote, "Each man is the other man's wolf." Builders of their own personal kingdoms move through the world focused on getting all they can out of others, on not being taken advantage of, hoarding time, advantage, and resources—looking out for number one. These are people on the take rather than people on the give.

Those who serve the King of Kings and build his Kingdom have a wider vision—they recognize and honor their covenant relationships and obligations with their various circles of association, not only with family, friends, and spiritual kinship groups, but also with all living things, with Creation itself, and with humanity as a whole. In our tradition, this is called “Ahavat Habriot”—the love of living things, expressed in Ahavat Chesed, covenantal caring for its own sake. Those who practice Ahavat Chesed and Ahavat Habriot relish and seek out opportunities to be honorable and unexpectedly kind, guided by a passion for justice and mercy, in humble service to God.

In a recent workshop at a local church, a Christian woman raised a question born of her insecurity about sharing her faith with brilliant and well-educated Jewish co-workers. “How can I share my faith with my co-workers when they are so smart and well-educated?” I told her that sharing one’s faith is not a matter of matching I.Q.’s point for point, nor of comparing educations degree for degree. What penetrates and sinks into the marrow of people’s bones is the quality of our relationships—the degree to which we do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. When we live this way, the gravitas of our lives establishes the truth of our faith in ways that bypass all defenses and differences of status.

Poet Adrienne Rich wrote this in 1991:

In those years, people will say,
We lost track of the meaning of we, of you
We found ourselves reduced to I

And the whole thing became silly, ironic, terrible:
We were trying to live a personal life
And yes, that was the only life we could bear witness to

But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove
Along the shore, through the rage of fog
Where we stood saying ‘I’

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:

May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

And may that be true of all of us as we live out Ahavat Yisrael—the love of our own people, Ahavat Habriot—the love or all people and of all living things, and Ahavat Chesed—covenantal caring, seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God just for the holy beauty of it all and the joy of pleasing Him.

So shall we reject Saul’s pathetic scepter of personal kingdom building, and take up Jonathan’s princely crown of service to the King of Kings, the Son of David.

"If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us? And if we are for ourselves alone, what are we? And if not now, when ?" (Pirkei Avot, 1:14).

Friday, October 27, 2006

"After the Holy Days are Over": A Message for Shemini Atzeret

This message is being posted late, but I trust it will still be nurturing to some of you.

Today’s Haftarah is taken from the end of Solomon’s prayer at the Dedication of the Temple. The context mentions that the dedication festivities took eight days. This is why this passage is used for the Haftarah of Shemini Atzeret, which comes on the eighth day, the end of the Sukkot season.

From this passage, I will draw some lessons for all of us as to how to proceed in our own lives at a time when a Holy Day season is at an end.

54 When Solomon finished offering to the Lord all this prayer and supplication, he rose from where he had been kneeling, in front of the altar of the Lord, his hands spread out toward heaven. 55 He stood, and in a loud voice blessed the whole congregation of Israel:

56 "Praised be the Lord who has granted a haven to His people Israel, just as He promised; not a single word has failed of all the gracious promises that He made through His servant Moses.

Holy seasons are times for each of us to reflect on how God has provided us a homeland, not once, not twice, but three times---under Joshua, after the Babylonian Captivity, and again, in 1948, against incredible odds, and amidst fierce opposition. They are times to become more aware of and grateful for God’s provision.

57 May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He never abandon or forsake us.

Holy seasons are times for each of us to reflect on the ways of God in our history, to learn from them, and for each of us to recognize that God is the same now as then: if we disdain his authority we will face the same consequences as the people we study during the Holy Seasons. If we honor Him, we can expect to be rewarded like they were.

58 May He incline our hearts to Him, that we may walk in all His ways and keep the commandments, the laws, and the rules, which He enjoined upon our fathers.

Holy seasons are meant to be times of renewal—of intensification and improvement of our walk with God. So let me ask you this: have YOU improved, have you changed for the better as a result of the Rosh Hashan/Yom Kippur/Sukkot season? If you haven’t, then you didn’t get the point, perhaps because I didn’t make the point.

I work out in a gym, about five days a week. There are some people who come to the gym to work hard. They are focused and disciplined. There are others who spend most of their time talking. They wear flattering and expensive gym clothes, and hardly ever work up a sweat. . For them, the gym is a place to shoot the breeze, admire members of the opposite sex, hopefully, be admired by others, and just hang out. They will go home congratulating themselves for how they spent a couple of hours in the gym, nor realizing how little time they spent really working out.

Holy seasons are times for spiritual work-outs. Are you in better shape than you were three weeks ago? If not, you missed the point.

59 And may these words of mine, which I have offered in supplication before the Lord, be close to the Lord our God day and night, that He may provide for His servant and for His people Israel, according to each day’s needs — 60 to the end that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord alone is God, there is no other.

Holy seasons are times to reflect on how we shouldn’t live life as though it was all about us. This is why the confessions of sin in the Ten Days of Awe are all about our relationships with others. We should come out of this season equipped, motivated and committed to spreading the knowledge of God to other people. We should come out of holy seasons more keenly aware of how our good or bad example brings others closer to God or drives them away.

Maybe you realize that you wasted the holy season we have just come through. It is not too late to learn and apply some lessons—better late than never. It is like the person like me who starts working out in earnest when he is in his sixties. It’s no use bewailing a misspent youth—and lost opportunities to get in shape. Now is the time, and if you get started now, you can push back the clock. Similarly, there is still time to learn the spiritual lessons we should have learned during the recent holy days:

There is still time to reflect on how God has been good to Israel and given us a homeland against incredible odds, keeping us in life, establishing us, and enabling us to reach this season.

There is still time to seek renewal, repenting of things that need to be forsaken, seeking the strength and wisdom to make wrong things right and to make a new start.

There is still time to begin working out: to get into better physical shape or spiritual shape through cultivating the right habits.

There is still time for each of us to turn our attention to the needs of others around us, to fight against our normal tendency to be so very ingrown and self-protective.

In other words, there is always room for improvement, and the gates of repentance are always open. So do it now!

And Solomon concludes with a benediction which is perfect for us as well:

61 And may you be wholehearted with the Lord our God, to walk in His ways and keep His commandments, even as now."

"Be Younger Next Year" is a recent book by physician Harry Lodge and Chris Crowley. The book has the kind of common sense advice all of us should take. And if we do, we will feel younger as the years go by. I know it’s working for me! The book is a good investment for all couch potatoes, middle aged and older.

Here are their seven principles. After each, I have provided some applications to our spiritual health. I think we would all do well to put these principles into practice in our spiritual and physical lives.

1. Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life

And exercise spiritually every day. Are you stretching yourself spiritually, seeking to learn to carry more weight, to "run the race" faster? Or are you bogged down with self pity and inertia. Is your prayer life a matter of whim or a matter of principle? Do you have a program for growing spiritually? Or do you expect to be spoon fed? [Remember the final scenes of "Driving Miss Daisy"]

2. Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life

See the above for a spiritual application.

3. Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life

See #1 above for a spiritual application.

4. Quit eating crap!

What do you read, what do you see, what do you listen to? Is it good for your spiritual life? And in addition to cutting out the crap, what spiritually enriching things are you going to start "eating"—seeing, listening to, reading. What’s your plan of action?

Are you reading and watching spiritual fluff?

5. Spend less than you make

We need to learn to conserve our resources in order to invest them well. It means not only not wasting money—it also means not wasting time. Use your time and money wisely—for the glory of God and for the good of all.

6. Care
All of us are conscious of how others treat us. How do you treat others? How aware do you want to be of the lives of others you know? Care more.

7. Connect and commit.

Good ideas are worthless unless put into action. You need to begin connecting more with others whose influence is good for you, and whom you ought to influence for the better. And you need to start moving in a more positive direction starting today and continuing week in and week out.

I hope this helps all of you!

Explaining a Hiatus

To all my friends on the Rabbenu Blog,

In recent weeks, four factors contributed to my being absent from this site.

First, I was working on an overdue 14,000 word scholarly paper, now completed. Second, I was dealing with some depressing personal circumstances. Third, I have been traveling out of town.

Finally, I am by nature a self-revealing person, and too sensitive for my own good. There are some people who write to a blog like this feeling entitled to subject the writer to a constantly dripping Chinese water torture of criticism of one's thoughts, one's spirituality, one's right to address the issues addressed here. While attacks and polemics are part and parcel of sharing one's views on a blog, the constancy of the kind of bile I allude to here tends to rob the enterprise of its native joys. This made it easier for me to prolong my hiatus.

Now I am back. I was glad to hear from some of you who indicated I was missed. It's good to know.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

On Not Repenting

This is one of the sermons delivered at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Beverly Hills, CA, during the Ten Days of Awe this year.

When I look at these magnificent words from the Prophet Hosea, a question wells up within me. With promises like this, why doesn’t everyone repent and quickly, too?

Look at what he says:

5 I will heal their affliction,
Generously will I take them back in love;
For My anger has turned away from them.

Such a guarantee!
6 I will be to Israel like dew;
He shall blossom like the lily,
He shall strike root like a Lebanon tree.
7 His boughs shall spread out far,
His beauty shall be like the olive tree's,
His fragrance like that of Lebanon.
8 They who sit in his shade shall be revived:
They shall bring to life new grain,
They shall blossom like the vine;
His scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
9 Ephraim [shall say]:
"What more have I to do with idols?
When I respond and look to Him,
I become like a verdant cypress."
Your fruit is provided by Me. (from chapter 14)

The fruit of such repentance will be fruitfulness, delightful fragrance and joy! Who would not repent with such incentives?

Such guarantees and promises are echoed in the other prophetic readings of the day. Micha says this:

Micah 7:18 Who is a God like You,
Forgiving iniquity
And remitting transgression;
Who has not maintained His wrath forever
Against the remnant of His own people,
Because He loves graciousness!
19 He will take us back in love;
He will cover up our iniquities,
You will hurl all our sins
Into the depths of the sea.
20 You will keep faith with Jacob,
Loyalty to Abraham,
As You promised on oath to our fathers
In days gone by.

So the question occurs again, if the promises are so generous, and the guarantees so iron-clad, why don’t more people repent?

One reason people don’t repent is indifference to God. People don’t repent either because they don’t really care about God and the things of God, or they believe the search for God is fruitless, confusing, and a waste of time. I spent the first nineteen years of my life assuming that nobody knows God in any way, shape or form, so why would I bother looking for Him? It was only when I met people who seemed to have something I lacked which they uniformly attributed to their experience with God, that I began to take notice and considered repenting.

Another reason people don’t repent is antagonism toward God. These are people who are either angry at God for something for which they blame Him, who don’t believe in Him and angrily protect their right to say so, or who are threatened by God because they don’t want to make room for His interference in their lives.

A third reason people don’t repent is that they imagine that what they currently know and experience of God is all they need. They have no appetite for God or His Presence, content to merely nosh at His table from time to time.

A fourth reason people don’t repent is that their God concept precludes it. People whose God is either a remote Force to be tapped into when convenient, or an inner cosmic stirring, or an all-wise always=affirming non-judgmental nice guy (or nice girl for that matter), none of whom require much of us nor visit us with retribution for our spiritual indifference, our selfishness and self-involvement, and the havoc we might cause others. People with such a God concept see no need to repent because everything is either already taken care of, or because God doesn’t hold us responsible for the lives we live, but only wants to be sure we are enjoying ourselves.

A fifth and very common reason people don’t repent is that they have succeeded in distracting themselves with other matters, so that there is no felt need for forgiveness or reassurance from God, nor a sense that something is missing from their lives when awareness of Him is absent.

Look at the Prodigal Son for example. In this story we read about his repentance---how he came to himself, arose, and journeyed back toward his father, whom he had abandoned some time earlier. The question arises, what about all the other days he was away from home and father? The answer is he was distracted by wine, women and song, and the work he had to do. But when the money ran out, so did the wine, women and song, and even his work proved to be a source of trial to him. Some people do not repent until the things with which they distracted themselves are either gone, or simply do not work any more.

A sixth reason people do not repent is the theological one, that there is a principle at work in all of us, a kind of stubborn autonomy, that reflexively stiff arms or seeks to manipulate others and especially God, an inner gyroscope that seeks to avoid or sidestep accountability. This is what is called “sin.”

A seventh reason people do not repent is that they have insulated themselves from an awareness of how far they fall short of right standards. We kid ourselves into thinking we’re not so bad, and this is perhaps true in many areas of our lives. But all of us have some area where we stubbornly behave as we should not, or fail to behave as we should. And we are angry or perhaps afraid whenever anyone, even God, dares to broach pointing that area out to us. All of us fall short of God’s standards. Every one of us have areas where things are not good at all. All of us need to repent—to return to God, to ask for forgiveness, and to ask for strength to amend our ways, taking concrete steps to do so. For this is what repentance is, as indicated by the opening words of our Haftarah:

3 Take words with you
And return to the Lord.
Say to Him:
"Forgive all guilt
And accept what is good;
Instead of bulls we will pay
[The offering of] our lips.
4 Assyria shall not save us,
No more will we ride on steeds;
Nor ever again will we call
Our handiwork our god,
Since in You alone orphans find pity!"

I encourage us all to repent during this season because God is more holy than we dare imagine, and His antipathy to sin is like the blinding light of a desert sun compared to the darkness of the world’s deepest mine-shaft. He warns us in Torah that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.” And it is. Therefore repent.

I encourage us all to repent during this season because there is infinitely more to knowing God than any of us have experienced. We are like people standing on the outside of Ali Baba’s cave, looking in, satisfied with the mere glimmer of the treasures within, not realizing that we are invited to come inside and to touch, taste, and handle all that lies there. There is more, infinitely more, to the delightful treasure of knowing God. Therefore. Repent.

I encourage us all to repent during this season because we are more sinful, twisted and spiritually deformed than we dare to face—not in every area of life equally, but in certain areas of our lives certainly. Spiritual life and accountability for how we have been living is all about making strides toward realizing our spiritual potential as beings meant to reflect the glory of God in our own characters. We all fall short—even the best of us. Not only is it a tragedy to fail to grow up in this manner, God holds us accountable for not doing so. Therefore, repent.

I encourage us all to repent during this season because the forgiveness and provision of God is lavish and immediate. He stands ready to forgive and assist all those who truly repent, who return to God, who ask for forgiveness, who ask for strength to amend their ways, taking concrete steps to do so. Therefore, repent.

5 I will heal their affliction,
Generously will I take them back in love;
For My anger has turned away from them.
Your fruitfulness comes from the Living God.

Let us all draw near to Him at this season.

Monday, October 02, 2006

But I Don' t Wanna! - A Meditaion on the Story of Jonah

A different focus presents itself each year when we read the story of Jonah. This simple story has so many lessons to teach. As I considered the story and what I would say about it this Yom Kippur, two more angles suggested themselves to me, both of which we all need to consider on this, the holiest and most introspective of days in our calendar.

The first angle is this: This story shows how God is willing to forgive some people whom we are not willing to forgive. This was certainly true of Jonah—he was not willing to forgive the Assyrians, and the people of Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, Nor did he want God to forgive them.

Now, it would be too easy and not at all useful for us to then draw a parallel and say, "Should we then forgive the Nazis for what they did? Is God ready to forgive them? " I doubt it, and of course, that is too big an issue. It is also a really "safe" issue because it is so global. Let’s bring it down to ground level, to where your rubber meets your road.

Are there people in your life you hold grudges against? I am sure that for most of us the answer is "Yes."

One way to know this imagine the sound of your own voice finishing the following sentence. "Well, I’m sorry. But . . . ." Usually after such a beginning, what follows is a justification for an attitude or action that should not be defended!

The question our tradition asks of us then is this: Do you imagine that God is on your side in this grudge? Do you honestly believe He agrees with your perspective? Do you find yourself not caring what He thinks on the matter? Have you stiff-armed the Holy One out of this matter because your grudge is so precious to you that you will not let it go nor allow Him to pry it from your hands?

Why are you so threatened by this issue that you refuse to open the door to this person? Would you want someone else to treat you in this manner over a matter or matters of similar gravity to the one(s) you are festering about?

I’ve got bad news for you. Generally speaking, our grudges stink. And the longer we hold on to them the more the drag us down, hamper our spiritual lives, and the more they twist the delicate parts of our inner being that are meant to be forgiving and godly. In other words, when you bear a grudge, you get deformed.

So don’t think of whether you ought to forgive the Nazis or the Islamo-Fascists today. That is a waste of time and energy. And it is so very safe. Think about some area where you are being petty—yes, you! And realize that God knows about it. He also knows that the pathway out of pettiness is the pathway to growth in godliness, to greater peace of heart, and to the release and reassignment of all that energy you have been devoting to refusing to do what you know in your heart of hearts needs doing—that is, forgiving that person.

I was at a conference once, and I don’t remember where. It was when I first became interested in and committed to prayer for the sick. Two very nice people came up to me, definitely retirement age, a husband and wife. The wife was the sweetest kind of blue-haired white Angli-Saxon grandma with a nice smile. The husband was a nice quiet fellow who proceeded to tell me that his wife had some sort of abdominal pain or some sort or another that kept her from sleeping well and that the doctors had looked into things, and nothing was wrong. They had also received prayer for the matter and nothing got better. As is my habit at such times, I prayerfully listened to them and sensed I should ask her this question. "Is there somebody in your life that you are refusing to forgive, someone against whom you are holding a grudge?" She paused for a moment, smiled sweetly and said, "No, no one I can think of!" I still felt the leading of God to ask the same question, and again the answer came back the same way. However, I had an inner hunch that this might be the issue, and didn’t feel God had given me any other insight to share with them. I prayed briefly for the lady, that God would reveal matters to her on this issue, and let them go

The next morning they came to me smiling, and one or both of them reported to me, "You know, it came to us last night! Some years ago our daughter married a man we could not approve of, and I have never forgiven her or him for getting married." I think she might have said also, "I haven’t spoken to him now in years!" Clearly, this sweet blue haired old lady was carrying some crud in her gut. And when she let go of it, guess what? No more abdominal pain.

You may not be a blue-haired lady, but do you have crud you are carrying around? And what is it doing to you? How is it twisting you? How is it contaminating your relationship with God and with people? Are you carrying a grudge where it is not really likely that God Himself would take your side in the matter? Isn’t today the right time to cut it out?

And equally inconvenient angle of the Book of Jonah is the examination of Jonah’s own repentance, which is reluctant, messy, and comes in stages.

At first he refuses to go to Nineveh. It takes being swallowed by a great fish for him to do so—and when he recognizes that his very life is at stake if he doesn’t obey, he repents and goes. God had to hold Jonah’s feet to the fire. Jonah’s rebellion had pushed God aside. And God pushed back using the storm, and Jonah’s being cast overboard, and the great swallowing fish to get Jonah’s attention and to cause him to repent.

Have you pushed God aside in your life? Is there something you have known for a long time that God wants you to do, or to stop doing, and yet you refuse? Have circumstances in your life broken down so that you think that maybe God is pushing back? Is there some area where an immature part of you is saying "But I don’t wanna?" That’s what Jonah did, you know. He is quite immature in our story. He sits down and sulks outside of Nineveh to see what might happen and tells God, "I just want to die!"

Again, is there some immature place in your life where you are refusing to do what you know you should, where you are saying to God and to life, "I don’t wanna>" and where you are holding fast to your immaturity?

Will God have to send storms, and great fish, and abdominal pain into your life for you to get the point? Or are you willing for Him to help you "wanna"?

Our New Covenant reading today touches on this dilemma. It speaks of how we can know what we should or should not be doing, but find ourselves habitually refusing to do what is right, and doing what is wrong instead.

14 For we know that the Torah is of the Spirit; but as for me, I am bound to the old nature, sold to sin as a slave. 15 I don't understand my own behavior - I don't do what I want to do; instead, I do the very thing I hate! 16 Now if I am doing what I don't want to do, I am agreeing that the Torah is good. 17 But now it is no longer "the real me" doing it, but the sin housed inside me. 18 For I know that there is nothing good housed inside me - that is, inside my old nature. I can want what is good, but I can't do it! 19 For I don't do the good I want; instead, the evil that I don't want is what I do! 20 But if I am doing what "the real me" doesn't want, it is no longer "the real me" doing it but the sin housed inside me. 21 So I find it to be the rule, a kind of perverse "torah," that although I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me! 22 For in my inner self I completely agree with God's Torah; 23 but in my various parts, I see a different "torah," one that battles with the Torah in my mind and makes me a prisoner of sin's "torah," which is operating in my various parts. 24 What a miserable creature I am! Who will rescue me from this body bound for death? 25 Thanks be to God [, he will]! - through Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord! To sum up: with my mind, I am a slave of God's Torah; but with my old nature, I am a slave of sin's "Torah."

Here, Sha’ul describes the dilemma of a person knowing and even delighting in God’s standards, but yet finding at work in him an inner stubbornness that avoids doing what he knows in his heart of hearts he should be doing. There is an immature, rebellious principle at work in the human heart that, confronted with the right path, will stubbornly insist, "But I don’ t wanna!"

The problem is, this is no joke, no more than being dead meat in the body of a great fish was a joke for Jonah.

No, it is deadly serious. Not only can this destroy and derail our spiritually usefulness, it can actually cost us our life sooner or later!

"The old man" is the human person locked into a losing battle with this inner principle, the human person not plugged into the resources of release made available through Yeshua the Messiah. Rav Sha’ul finished his account on a note of praise, beginning by describing this fruitless wrestling match between our best selves and that stubborn, resistant principle raging in all of us. Here is what he says, again. ". 24 What a miserable creature I am! Who will rescue me from this body bound for death? 25 Thanks be to God [, he will]! - through Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord! To sum up: with my mind, I am a slave of God's Torah; but with my old nature, I am a slave of sin's "Torah."

It appears that what Sha’ul is saying here is that through the Messiah, rescue resources, resources of release, are made available to us. By crying out to God in the context of faith in our Messiah, His disarming of the sin mechanism can become apparent in our lives, so that we will find through the Holy Spirit, the resources to bypass that "I don’t wanna" reflex, and with the help of God, to just do it!

I have given us a number of assignments for this High Holy Day Season to which I now add another. Today, prayerfully search your heart and answer this question: "What is one area or issue in your life where you have been saying, ‘But I don’t wanna!’ to God? What is that area where you need to give in to the Holy One."

May you cry out to Him and through the resources of the Ruach haKodesh, and faith in our Messiah, may you give in and just do that thing God requires of you, bypassing your "I don’t wanna."

Otherwise, on this Yom Kippur, prepare for a fish dinner. But it just may not be be you who eat the fish.

It may be the fish that eats you.