Orthodox Judaism to True Israel
My spiritual journey
Shalom, I am Avi ben Mordechai.
You came to this page because you would like to know a bit more about me and my spiritual journey. Great! I'm happy to share with you an overview of where I've been along the path of Hebraic faith, hope, and love.
Oftentimes, whenever I am invited to present one or more lectures to an audience in a particular area, any number of people doing a simple Google search on my name will find that the search will inevitably return some less-than-favorable entries that do not always paint me in a positive light. This kind of “pushback” is quite understandable given that with the doctrinal changes I’ve experienced over the past few decades, not everyone has regularly followed those changes, nor do they really know about where I am doctrinally coming from these days. In other words, many generally know of me and of my twenty-five years of international lectures and teachings. However, many often know me only by reading a lot of old, outdated information. For whatever reasons, some folks have not kept up with my spiritual journey, where I am and what I now understand from the written word of scripture.
This reminds me of what happened with Paul in the Second Temple period when he was widely known as a persecutor of the Messianic congregations in his day. Even though he had gone through a major change through his “Road to Damascus” experience, many folks still had not heard about his changes. Here, we read the following from Paul:
Galatians 1:22-24. …And I was unknown by face to the congregations of Judea which were in Messiah. But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God in me.
This being said, allow me to update you.
In the mid 1990’s, my faith in Yeshua dating back to the early 1970s, nearly went off the rails; a train wreck so-to-speak. I came into the Orthodox camp of Judaism in 1993 and while looking for my Jewish identity, I began walking strictly according to the Jewish Oral Law for the next 13 years. I would say that my belief in Yeshua was sort of intact; however, I did not see him as any kind of Messianic redeemer. Rather, I saw him more as just a well-studied teacher of Mosaic Torah and nothing more. Paul was a little more problematic for me, but he is no longer that way for me today. Primarily, I saw Yeshua as a kind of Jewish Rav or Rabbi as any Jewish Rabbi might be today. But most definitely I did not, at the time, see him as the manifest divinity of YHVH. Plain and simple, I saw him as a Jew and a teacher of Mosaic Law and nothing more.
Along with these ideas that I had embraced concerning Yeshua, I became deeply attracted to the study of the Kabbalah (what should be commonly understood as mystical Lurianic Kabbalah), which led me deeper into a number of Jewish mystical esoteric teachings that included reincarnation and what Judaism calls the “tikkun olam;” that is, the repair of the world through our observances of Torah and good works. Thus, during my days of practicing Jewish Orthodoxy, I saw no real need for any kind of blood redemption from a "mediator" such as Yeshua. In other words, from the Jewish Orthodox point of view, I had come to believe that redemption is in our hands and we work out our own salvation from this human condition of sin through our obedience to the laws of the Mosaic Torah. And, I believed that if we do well, it leads us to what Judaism calls the Olam Haba -- the World to Come. Furthermore, I had come to believe that Jews, as the "chosen people" meant we Jews have a more advanced "elevated soul" over that of the goyim or Gentiles. Yes, this IS what Orthodox Judaism teaches, whether you are aware of it or not. Since my days in Orthodox Judaism, my views have radically changed and in a sense, one could say that I've "come home." I've turned around and I am in a much different place seeing that I’ve had a kind of Road to Damascus” transformation.
Today, I do not accept the Jewish Orthodox position concerning how Judaism perceives Yeshua (or "Yoshki" as they say). And, in fact, Judaism has a little nick-name for Yeshua, calling him by the term Yeshu, which, in Hebrew, is an acronym meaning "may his name and memory be blotted out." This is not only sick and wrong but also, it is horribly dishonoring to the one who had tremendous, unending compassion, which is more than I can say for a lot of my Jewish brethren.
Concerning the Jewish teachings of the Kabbalah and the Ten Sefirot, I have disavowed this teaching on grounds that it is not what Moses, Yeshua, Paul, or any of the ancient Jews taught. The Kabbalah, as some have heard the term, is something very strange and in some cases, demonic. The Kabbalah that many are familiar with today (even by strict word association) is a body of teaching that emerges from out of the mystery teachings of Babylon, Rome, and Egypt and it is this Kabbalah that the old Jewish mystics taught (and continue to teach even to this very day) without regard for anything that Yeshua did or spoke about. I no longer attach myself to any of these teachings as I once did in my early days as an Orthodox Jew. The bottom line: Judaism's Kabbalah is often dangerous and it can be quite troubling.
Concerning the ancient Jewish teachings referred to as the Tikkun Olam (the repair of the world through our good works), this too, is not correct, and I no longer hold to this concept of salvation. This “Do-it-Yourself” (D.I.Y) or "Do-it-Ourselves" salvation to "capture the fallen sparks of divine Light from the creation" in order to repair the world and make it a better place, I have also let this go on grounds that it violates everything that Hebrew scripture teaches in Genesis chapters 2-3. Tikkun Olam is a Jewish works-based deliverance system that is designed to free mankind from death, dying, and the human condition of sin through charity and good works. It does nothing to actually repair the events that took place in Genesis chapter 3 with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yeshua was the only one, the Sent One, the Word made flesh (see John 1:14) who was able to accomplish a true and biblical tikkun olam, through his deaths (physical and spiritual) and third-day resurrection. What Yeshua accomplished will be revealed in all his glory later when he returns to establish the true seventh day Messianic Kingdom and new eighth day beginning, which is what we celebrate every year by rehearsing the glorious Festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles) and Shemeni Atzeret.
Today, my views of Yeshua are beautifully Messianic and redemptive exactly as the doctrine is expressed in the body of the New Testament. There is no question in my mind (any longer) about Yeshua’s manifest divinity. In truth, if he was not who he said he was then plainly, we have absolutely no hope and living in this world, we would have empty meaningless lives; we would still be chained to the sin introduced into our inherited DNA from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Absolutely, we would have no hope of any salvation from the events of Genesis chapter 3. I strongly believe that Yeshua was and is the promised Messianic figure that all of Hebrew scripture speaks about in the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings.
I accept the fact that all of my beliefs and understandings about redemption, life, Israel, and Torah should be fully supported from the written and inspired Word of God as it begins with Genesis 1:1 and ends with the Book of Revelation in the Brit haChadasha – the New Testament. There is no need for us to look to Judaism’s Kabbalah and the “Ten Sefirot” for answers to life or to an initiation into certain Jewish mysteries of esoteric thought that only the Jews have in their possession in order to explain the great wisdom of the Holy One, as I once believed.
I do firmly believe that there are numerous “mysteries” but not in any way identified with the Lurianic Kabbalah of Judaism. The true biblical mysteries of Yeshua are beautifully embedded into the scriptures of the ancient Hebrew language, teachings that involve the essence and structure of the 22 Hebrew letters and their associated numerical values (i.e.,"gematria") spoken about in scripture even as they were spoken about in the Torah, the Prophets, the Writings, and further elaborated through the teachings of Paul.
For example, the number of the “Man of Sin” from 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is 666 from Revelation 13:18. Also in John 21:11, with the mentioning of the 153 fish that are caught in a net or Matthew 1:17 where 14 is mentioned 3 times as a Messianic hint that equals 42; a biblical numeric scheme that speaks about Israel’s 42 wilderness stops from Egypt to Mount Sinai; that is, the revealing of Messiah on the festival of Shavuot or Pentecost. Forty-two also plays an important role in other passages of scripture (Numbers 35:6, Judges 12:6, 2 Kings 2:24). Or, consider that the Hebrew spelling for the term "shabbat" has a numeric value of 702 and conversely, the Hebrew spelling for the term "light" is 207, which shows us an inverse truth; that divine light is IN the concept of the shabbat. All of these numbers involve biblical numerology or what is often called "gematria." There is also a teaching from Yeshua that his blood is true drink and his flesh is true food (see John 6:55-56) and that a man must literally be born from above (see John 3:3), which was and is a valid teaching of Paul in Galatians 4:26. In addition, there is a teaching in the narrative that Paul relates to in 2 Corinthians 12:2 about a place called the “Third Heaven” or a lesson from Peter’s vision (Greek: ecstasy; English: trance) involving a sheet in Heaven filled with animals that he was told that he should kill and eat (see Acts 10-11). All of these are the types and shadows of biblical mysteries that I am attracted to in my studies of scripture. And, of course, the most beautiful mystery of all is the action that was revealed through the life, death, and resurrection of our Master Yeshua himself (see Psalm 91:1-16 as it relates to Genesis 2:17).
Before I close, there is another point that I wish to make.
The New Covenant often speaks about Jews and Gentiles. Still, this whole separation between the "Jew and the Gentile" as it is wholeheartedly embraced in the Messianic movement has some serious problems. How we interpret the teaching and understand it causes us to speak and act rather ignorant due to the fact that we rely on a number of cultural filters to define the terms and this is where I think we are going wrong. What we must keep in mind is that today's Orthodox Judaism has its own definition for what is a Jew and a Gentile. It is my opinion, however, that the Jewish Orthodox definition, which is purely Talmudic, has corrupted the Messianic definition as Yeshua and Paul would have understood things. Ultimately, Judaism's position concerning the Gentile is based on a distinction that is made between what they say is the higher and more elevated Jewish soul over that of the lower and more "beastly soul" of the Gentile. In other words, the Jew-Gentile issue is more about a caste system of higher over lower or, if you wish, the distinction between two different classes.
Apparently, the Gentile needs the Jew to show him or her the way to "righteousness" but Judaism's definition of righteousness is not the same as to what Yeshua taught. For the Jew, righteousness is obtained through the observance of what is called the Torah, which comprises Mosaic written law and Jewish Oral law referred to as the Jewish halacha. Judaism teaches that Gentiles (non-Jews) are forbidden to embrace the Torah of Moses and the Jewish halacha. They say that for non-Jews, that is, "Gentiles," they already have a set of laws to live by. Those laws are referred to as the Noahide laws. Mind you, this is not biblical law; this is Talmudic doctrine. Thus, for Jews, it's the Jewish halacha; for the Gentiles, it's the "non-Jewish" laws transmitted downline to Noah. Period.
I believe that there is coming a day in the not-to-distant-future when there will be a Noahide council appointed by a Jewish council (a Jewish Sanhedrin) in Jerusalem. This Noahide court will be responsible to teach Gentiles to obey the Jewish court and to teach all non-Jews to submit to the Jewish Sanhedrin with its rabbinically sanctioned seven Noahide laws that will be upon all non-Jews. Should there be any outright rebellion against such laws as Judaism requires it, there will be forfeiture of life (see Revelation 12:14 and 17:12, among other places).
Today I believe that there is NO NEED to be “Jewish” or that a non-Jew should convert to Judaism in order to find an authentic expression of the true lifestyle of Torah. Being Jewish or practicing Judaism does not in any way show a person the path to the Tree of Life because our faith is not about, nor is it in Judaism. Rather, our faith is about belonging to a spiritual and heavenly people referred to as Israel. Furthermore, our faith is not to be practiced under the authority of any Rabbi, Priest, or "Father" on earth, nor is our action of faith defined as scrupulously guarding the religious traditions of Judaism. If you wish to observe certain Jewish traditions according to Jewish halacha, you are free to do so. However, in my opinion, you not obligated. As I see things, the Word of the Torah (the Mosaic Law) as it has been redacted downline to us; this is our written authority and a "roadmap" that points us to the person and work of Yeshua the Messiah. It is the true image of the very Law of Life that Yeshua and Paul taught. I say this with no reservations. Our faith is about and IN Yeshua the Messiah. We are members of his body; that is, when we receive the testimony and work of Yeshua into our hearts and minds, we then come to be true Israel, both physically and spiritually.
I believe Messiah's return is imminent and we must be about our Father’s business as we learn to respond to his love and we seek to keep his mitzvot (commandments). Through our actions, we can and will testify that we are his sons and daughters, reborn from above (John 3:3) through a new inner man. In this, we are reborn into his Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven above. Again, we do this because he first loved us long before we would ever love him (1 John 4:19).
In conclusion, if it should be the Master’s will that I come to any area and share some Hebraic lessons about the Hebraic biblical Yeshua as the living Torah and Word made flesh, then so be it. In the meantime, you listen to my weekly podcast Ancient Roads: Real Israel Talk Radio. I look forward to hearing from you and meeting any and all who are Torah-true seekers in the joy of our great Salvation – Yeshua haMashiach.
Avinoam (“Avi”) ben Mordechai