For the week of October 22, 2011 / 24 Tishri 5772
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 1:1 - 6:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 42:5 - 43:11



For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isaiah 43:3; ESV)

Being a Jewish follow of Yeshua has made me very sensitive to misunderstandings between Jewish people and non-Jewish Christians. After becoming a believer I discovered the linguistic gap that exists between these two groups. Even though English is the main language used, how Jewish people and Gentiles use it is different, especially when it comes to issues of faith and religion. For example, non-Jews are comfortable with using the word "crusade" to refer to any enthusiastic, organized pursuit of a cause, while to Jewish ears, the term tends to evoke very strong negative emotions due to our suffering at the hands of supposed Christians during the "Crusades" in the 11th to 13th centuries. When non-Jews think it is silly for a Jewish person to feel nervous about a religious event being called a crusade, then that just proves my point about this linguistic gap.

TorahBytes is a biblical commentary from a Jewish New Covenant perspective. This demands using terms that are more Jewish in nature. This should not be that hard to do since the entire Bible (Old and New Covenant Scriptures) was written from that very perspective and within that cultural framework. But since New Covenant faith has developed through history within a predominantly non-Jewish framework, much of its terminology is not understood within the Jewish community. For example, most Jewish people (and many Gentiles for that matter) don't know that the word "Christ" means "Messiah". Christ, from the Greek "christos," became the preferred designation for Yeshua, because Greek was the trade language of the world at that time much like English is today. First century Jewish people, many of whom spoke Greek, knew that Messiah, from the Hebrew "mashiach," and "christos" meant the exact same thing with the latter having no associated negative connotations whatsoever. The term "Messiah" is used in TorahBytes exclusively to ensure that Yeshua is understood to be the expected Jewish Davidic King and not some pagan concept.

One of the downsides of the exclusive use of Jewish terminology is the possibility of neglecting certain important biblical concepts due to their having negative connotations or being regarded as irrelevant within the Jewish world. One such concept is "savior". That this is a biblical concept is clear from the verse from Isaiah quoted at the beginning, but among Jewish people "savior" is thought of as an exclusively Christian, non-Jewish concept. Its lack of use in Jewish circles is partly due to the Christian overemphasis on the individual's personal need to be saved from damnation in contrast to the Jewish limited view of the Messiah as a national hero - the King who will deliver us from our oppressors. There is truth in both viewpoints and to fully understand the Messiah's role we need to hold both aspects in balance.

The neglect of the biblical understanding of God's role as Savior has contributed to the common Jewish misunderstanding that we have no need of a savior at all. For most Jewish people, we ourselves are the source of our own salvation. Judaism is regarded as God's prescription for whatever problems we have in life, and if we don't follow the prescription, then we are the only ones to blame. This fails to accept that the Torah and the rest of Scripture make it clear that we cannot save ourselves. In fact biblical Judaism was designed to prove this to us and that without a Savior we are lost both personally and nationally.

The Jewish world is not the only community that has neglected the concept of savior, however. Almost every philosophy, religion, spirituality, and way of life today (Christianity and Messianic Judaism included) is based on the notion that it's up to us to fix life's problems, personal or global. I am not saying that we have no part in dealing with the ills of life, but to effectively address those problems, we need to begin with relying on God as Savior. Instead of "God helps those who help themselves", it should be, "Those who rely on God will be helped."

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