Frequently Asked Questions
Like any website on the Internet visitors want to know (and should know) more about what the goals and purposes are for a site. Here are a few of the common questions we receive about the Havdalah Drasha Organization web site is all about.
- Why was the web site created?
HavdalahDrasha.org was created to provide a resource for Christians and Jews wanting to examine the common foundations of their faith. Both religious systems began with the scriptures that we call the "Old Testament". These are probably better called the "Hebrew Testament" so that the world old and its assumption of being replaced is not so evident.
Jews as well as Christians will find the drasha of value in their own religious study. Changing our understanding and our faith is something that G-d does, not man. If you read something here that challenges you to put away something that you believed before as truth and reconsider its application to your life then it will be G-d acting on you that makes that change. This site hopes to point out to both Christians and Jews that the foundation of our faith focuses on the same central beliefs and that only time and history have allowed these two religions to move apart as far as they are today. It is a shock to many Jews and Christians alike to hear the Jesus or Yeshua was a Jew and that his teaching and way of living remained Jewish even to his death. Jesus did not intend to eliminate his nation or his people but rather came to bring them and the rest of the world into intimate fellowship with the creator of the earth who is our G-d. Jesus did not desire to create a new "religion" but rather came to further reveal the truth of the people of faith in the G-d of Abraham, Isaasc and Jacob. We share a common Father.
The author of this web site is a gentile and has been a Christian for over 30 years of his 63 years of life. Like most Christians the author was taught little of the Jewish religion until a visit to Israel in 2007 changed that. Through the Israel visit, and one additional trip in 2008 the author has found things of the Hebrew culture to be a fascinating study which has opened up a lot of understanding of some Christian and Hebrew scriptures to an understanding that just was not easily understood until it was seen in historical context. This web site is a place for that excitement to be shared with others. The real goal then is simply to share some of the information learned and to help both Jews and Christians who have not studied these things to also become excited.
If you find this site encouraging then email keith at scphoto.com and tell us. That will encourage us to continue writing and sharing our study.
- How are Jews and Christians similar?
That is too large of a question to answer on a FAQ page but in general terms all of what we call the Bible, both Christian and Hebrew testament, was written by the same author who is G-d. Of course all of the "Old Testament" is Hebrew and should probably be called the Hebrew Covenant to better understand its content. All of the writers were Hebrew and of course the text itself was in Hebrew until its translation into the Septuigent which is the oldest of several ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible written in Greek in the time of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC).
All of what Paul and Jesus and writers of the "New Testament" quoted for their different writings came from this core document. In fact we could say that the "New Testament could perhaps be called the "Gentile Covenant" or the "Apostles Teaching" with most of its authors also being Jewish, including Jesus. Islam calls both Jews and Christians people of the Book and for centuries both shared similar understanding of that book. Jews recite the "Shema" from Deuteronomy 6 several time per day in which it states the Lord our G-d is one and that we are to love him with all our heart, mind and soul. Jesus quoted this as the greatest commandment and He never said that it was no longer true. So, the short answer would be that Jews and Gentiles study the same scriptures and desire to walk closely with the same G-d who is the creator and King of the universe. Both desire to be "set apart" (havdalah) for the service of HaShem (the LORD).
- Why does this web site use G-d and words like HaShem rather than the Christian terms?
G-d's name is treated with unusual care in Jewish tradition. The divine name, YHWH (spelled with the Hebrew letters yud, hey, vav, hey) is never pronounced. Traditionally, Jews read the word "Adonai" (often translated as "the Lord") whenever reading G-d's holiest name in Torah or in prayer. However, "Adonai" is not G-d's name. In Hebrew we find only consonants and the vowels are filled in by the readers. Jews understand that Moses and the high priest were the only ones who knew the full name.
Among some traditional Jews, speaking even the word "Adonai" is avoided outside of worship or study. This "stand-in" for God's name is itself replaced by "Ha-Shem" ("The Name"). The practice also has been extended to other Hebrew words associated with God. For example, the Hebrew word "Elohim," which means "G-d" (the title, not G-d's name), is pronounced "Elokim" outside of prayer and study. For the Jews who believe this it is not a burden but rather the result of a desire to respect G-d and honor Him with all of their being.
Hebrew culture understands the commandment to not take the name of the Lord in vain to mean that any writing that uses His name is sacred making even the paper upon which it is written sacred. To carlessly destroy that paper would be dishonoring to the name of G-d so to avoid that they use G-d to keep the document written by man from being made sacred.
- What does the Messianic Jewish movement have to do with Christianity?
Messianic Judaism at the core is about Jews and Gentiles who come alongside each other n unity to be part of God’s work in the remnant of Israel. They believe that G-d is calling Jewish people to faith in Messiah within Judaism. They believe the idea of Jewish conversion to Christianity is a distortion based on a poor reading of the New Testament. G-d says in the New Testament that Gentiles need not become Jews to have Jesus-faith. Yet, sadly, people are convinced that Jews must become Gentiles to have Jesus-faith. Messianic Judaism at the core is a Judaism for Yeshua (Jesus).
Messianic Judaism at the fringes or extreme is filled with great people deluded by a variety of ideas or myths. Here are a few of them:
1. (Myth #1) Christianity is a Greek and Roman modification which must be brought back to its Hebraic roots.
The kernel of truth here is that Christians need to get in touch with their Jewish origins, but not in the sense of becoming Jewish in lifestyle. There is no point in looking like a Jew on the outside when it is what is on the inside that counts. There is much modern Christianity can learn from study of the Hebrew roots of our faith as we examine a text. Good Bible study looks at or observes the text and looks for key words and phrases first to give a context for the passage. Next it looks at the text and interprets it in light of the culture to which it was given. For example in modern language the word "cool" might mean something that is really exciting or interesting while in the old culture it meant cold. Finally after observation and interpretation a Bible reader should look at the text and apply the passage to modern culture. Jews have been doing this for centuries in the writings of the sages and Rabbi's found in the Talmud. Christians have also been looking to "commentaries" by men like J Vernon McGee for their applications and help in digging into the meaning of a text. By adding the understanding of scriptures shared by the Rabbi's we will frequently find similarity and occasionaly we will discover deeper application.
2. (Myth #2) The early Church was Jewish and we need to abandon modern churches to return to a purer form of Jesus-faith which is Jewish in expression.
early Church in Jerusalem was Jewish, but Gentile expressions grew up through the mission of Paul and the apostles. Paul used his Jewish background and culture to save the gentiles from worship in idols and false god's and turn them toward the one true creator G-d of Israel. There are not many different god's in the universe of which our god is one but there is only one and HaShem or G-d is the only G-d. What modern Christianity needs to do is to examine how far it has drifted away from application of living and walking with G-d in faith which means trust in the creator of the heavens and the earth demonstrated in action. Jewish expression is not the goal of the Havdalah Drasha Org web site and ministry but rather a deeper walk with G-d as a result of understanding Him more than we did before.
3. (Myth #3) Since the Church has virtually ignored the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), we need an expression of faith that speaks less about Yeshua (Jesus) and more about the Old Testament.
Thus, out of some misguided loyalty to the Old Testament, some Messianic Jewish fringe groups try to talk about Yeshua less and the Old Testament more. In the Havdalah Drasha ministry we want both Jew and Gentiles to see that the Bible, both new and old, has always pointed to Yeshua. Truth is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and G-d has not made some things true in ancient days and then changed those things in modern days. What changes over time is how the TRUTH applies to our lives. We face the same moral issues as our ancestors only we have different expressions or access. Sin is still sin and that is defined as missing the mark. Selfishness is part of our human nature and the only cure is TRUTH. Sin is an archery term that means not hitting the target. What is the target? To be like G-d or to be holy as He is holy. To be holy means to be set apart from the ordinary ways of the world. The old and the new writings all point to the way to be holy and all point to Yeshua.
4. (Myth #4) Since I, as a Gentile, have been grafted in to Israel (or since I am a child of Abraham now), I must relate to God as part of Israel.
Truth: The New Testament is careful to distinguish Jews and Gentiles while giving Gentiles the good news they have been brought into the promises without taking over the identity. G-d has a plan that may not have the same application in each of our lives. What the Havdalah Drasha. Org site hopes to do is to encourage Jews to dig deeper into the Torah to see what HaShem is saying to them in light of the world today. For the Gentiles the same desire is for them to dig into the "Word" and study it with the desire to be set apart from the ways of the world around us and be servants to Yeshua.
5. (Myth #5) My love for Jewish things is likely evidence I am from one of the Ten Lost Tribes.
Truth: The tribes were not exactly lost and even if you had Israelite blood from thousands of years ago mixed with many generations since, how would that make you Israelite?)