Thursday, 2 February 2012

This Not How to Apply the Torah.

I start this entry with the following: I am not a Rabbi. While Mark and I are Torah-Observant, this is no way makes us experts. Just two Hebrews who love G-d, His Torah and His people. And the Truth. We try to live our lives in a matter that honours our G-d and Torah.
 My grandmother Callie and my mother imparted in me a love for the Scriptures. My Uncle Oscar of blessed memory, would often talk about world history, World War II and his love of  Torah. I know he thought I wasn't listening.
 But I was.
As a child, I attended church with my family. While as a teen, I got involved in things I later would regret and was ashamed of, I found a very loving and forgiving G-d Who welcomed me back when I repented.
During the years, I have been blessed to study under both christian and jewish sholars, as well as continue to read and study Torah and our faith.
As a Hebrew believer of HaMessiah, I began involved with the Messianic movement in 1989. During our first and then courtship and engagement, we attended Beth Messiah Synagogue, we were married there and still have many good friends who still worship there. People grow and change, so about four years ago we left Beth Messiah and now attend a Conservative congregation.
I have said all of this to set the stage for what I am about to share.
To my knowledge, there as been only one man who was wrapped in a Torah Scroll. This was second century rabbi Hanina ben Teradion, who was wrapped in a Torah scroll and burned alive as a Martyr.
Until a few days ago, when a friend send me a YouTube on facebook. She wrote, what she saw on this video troubled her and asked for my opinion.
The video was of a service held at The New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlantic, Georgia. The church's Bishop, Bishop Long invited a Rabbi Ralph Messer to teach Torah Truths  to his congregation.
Nothing wrong with that. I know many Rabbis who are invited to churches to speak.
But on this Sunday morning, that is not what happen.
Several minutes into the video, I had to press pause and ran to the loo to vomit. I kid you not.
As a Hebrew believer of HaMessiah, I began involved with the Messianic movement in 1989. During our first and then courtship and engagement, we attended Beth Messiah Synagogue, we were married there and still have many good friends who still worship there. People grow and change, so about four years ago we left Beth Messiah and now attend a Conservative congregation. Therefore, what I witnessed on this video not only made me sick, not only offended me as a Hebrew believer, but angered me.
In this video, dated January of this year, a ceremony was performed by Rabbi Messer, in which the Rabbi crowned Bishop Long,as a king, using a Torah Scroll as some sort of royal robe.
 It wasn't that long ago that Bishop Long had been involved in a scandal in which he was accused by five young men of sexual misconduct. In the beginning, Bishop Long denied the allegations. Months later, a settlement was reached. During this time, the Bishop's wife filed for divorce.
Whatever happen, that is between Eddie Long and G-d. If the charges were true, there should have been public repentance. That matter is once again between Bishop Long, his church and G-d.
My problem is with the ritual performed at his church, where he is lifted up a king, which has no bases either in scripture or in Jewish tradition. My problem is the use and misuse of the Torah Scroll itself. My problem is the offend this performance will cause in the Jewish community and people of faith at large. 
Before seeing this video, I had never heard of Ralph Messer, who is a Messianic Jew, a person who is Jewish heritage and recognize Yeshua HaMessiah as Messiah. Yet, I did not see anything I know as Jewish thought or practice in his handling of the Torah Scroll or in the service itself.
First, it was the matter the Torah was held.
This is the proper way to carry the Torah.
As you can see, people stand in respect to G-d's Holy Word and to the One Who gave us the Torah.
Then there is calling the mantle that covers the Torah as a foreskin.
That was the second time I got sick. The mantle is not a foreskin. It's purpose to protect the Torah until it is brought for public use. The Torah is referred to as She, not He. The Torah in Hebrew is feminine, personified as She. "She is a Tree of Life. See Proverbs 3:18. The Torah poles are called in Hebrew etzim, "trees," not "justice and blessing."
"Only one of great authority is given a finger to touch the scroll is not true. A boy (Orthodox, only boys) or girls Conservative and Reform permit women to be called to the Torah) upon reaching the age of 13, has a wonderful celebration in which is he/she are called forth and can chant according to the custom of the congregation. Convents to the Jewish faith may also celebration their becoming "bar or bat mitvah (son or daughter of the Commandment). The Yad, is the Torah Scroll pointer that is used, not only so that the reader doesn't touch the letters, but to keep one's place in the chanting of the text. In the former congregation we attended, both Mark and I have had the honour of chanting from the Torah a few times.

 And the Yad is a 'hand' not a 'finger." Mark gave me one as a Hanukkah gift when we were first married.
Which leads me to the following claim: that 90 percent of Jews have never seen or touched a Torah Scroll. Really? In synagogues around the world, every Shabbat the Torah is taken out of the Ark that it is held in and processed through the Assembly, not once but twice. Those standing and watching the Torah pass by,reach out and touch it in respect. Our former Rabbi would invite those who had never seen a Torah Scroll to come up and view it.

And I have yet to find a verse in scripture where Jesus Himself says He is "the eternal government of G-d."
Rabbi Messer claims that he "knows" none of Bishop Long's ancestors or relatives has ever seen a Torah scroll. How does he know this? What does he based this claim on? I could say "G-d told me I am an direct descendant from the Queen of Sheba." And without hard prove, people have the right to question that claim.
I checked with my science geek husband who told me there is no such thing as a "king chromosome." The kings and queens of Israel ruled the land. Their were not priests or prophets. Nor is there any truth to the claim that the kings and queens of Israel were crowned with Torah scrolls
The donning of the tallit or prayer shawl, is done by those who bar or bat mitzvah and older. In many communities man dons the tallit on his wedding day. Even the way it was donned was wrong. We hold the tallit is front of us, holding the band  and recite the traditional blessing for the tallit and then wrap ourselves in it, for more blessings then place it properly across the shoulder. None of which was done at this service.
With respect to Rabbi Messer, he has no authority to crown Bishop Long king, to address him as an Israelite king. He has no formation or bases to claim in do so. Only one from the tribe of Yehudah can sit on the Throne. And not even Rabbi Messer can change that. Nor can Rabbi Messer, "as a Jew" speak "life" to Bishop Long. There is only One Life Giver; both physically and spirituality
Watching Bishop Long elevation, reminded me of many Jewish weddings Mark and I have attended. Known as the Chair Dance, the bride and groom are lifted up on chairs and they hold a white piece of cloth between them. While Mark and I did not do this, it is one of the highlights of any Jewish wedding  But there is no evidence of this being part of the coronation of a Israelite monarchs.
Neither the Torah Scroll or The Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) are to be used as a magic charm. Neither has the power to clease a fallen leader and "restore and give a new anointing." And to take our scared scriptures, a Torah Scroll, along with our traditions without citing a biblical text, a Jewish Sage or Rabbi as sources to back up his claim is wrong.
What I saw was the lifting up of a man, now called king. A man who sat on a chair held by four men, receiving the worship of the congregation he is suppose to serve. What I saw was not the worship of G-d, but of Bishop Eddie Long.
While I would  not say that this was the Rabbi's intend, that service actually desecrated the Torah. It was an offence to all who hold the Torah dear.
Bishop Long and his followers would do better to take a page from the book of Acts.
Acts 17: 10-11 reads: 10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."
Even if sounds good, sends a thrill up our spine or tickles our ears, we must learn to "test the spirits to see if they are of G-d or no."
I will share my own personal story in my next blog entry.
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