An Old Command
Havurah. It’s a good title for a messianic publication, don’t you think? After all, the word means company, band or group.” In fact, in Hebrew, the root of the word is used to make other words like “join together, friend, member, society, partner and gang.” We who are Jewish and believe in Yeshua belong to a particular band. This new publication is designed to be a written reflection of what “our gang” looks and feels like.
Though we’re a minority within a minority, it’s important to know that we’re not alone as we follow Messiah. We can find help, share joys, laugh and cry with others like ourselves. In fact, we hope that Havurah will be a place where such things can be shared.
Generations ago, when our grandparents and great grandparents came over from Europe, they invariably sought out landsmen, those from the same communities or areas from which they came. There was comfort in finding others who shared common experiences and a common background. There was trust and even a sharing of resources, and often a parlor couch was offered until the new immigrant could find an apartment. New Jewish immigrants could usually count on landsmen to give them a helping hand in adjusting to life in the Goldene Medina (the land of gold, the United States).
So let me ask: As Jewish believers who have entered a spiritual journey that leaves us at odds with the world and in need of landsmen in the spirit, are we partners who act like we belong to the same band? Are we really comfortable with one another; do we lend each other a hand? Are we landsmen to each other?
Before He left His disciples, Yeshua gave them a new command: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34,35). Two thousand years later, Yeshua’s command to love one another is already becoming an old command. We’ve heard it a million times (at least!). It’s probably the most favored sermon topic in countless houses of worship. Love one another; love one another; love one another.
How can we, as Yeshua’s modern-day disciples, do a better job of fulfilling His command to love and accept each other? It seems that the many labels we wear often do more to separate than bind us together. We are quick to judge those who worship in a different fashion or who use different music and liturgy to express their love for the Lord. We claim one way of life is more “messianic” than another, which places ourselves as judges rather than servants of each other. But God calls us to lay down our lives and become more devoted to each other’s growth and discovery of Him than to our own insistence on our way being the right way.
We need to keep the proper perspective. The only right way is God’s way, and though He has called some of us to worship in messianic congregations and has set others in traditional, mainline churches, how well we loved one another is the only thing He will ask us in the end. We who call ourselves followers of the Messiah need to show our love for each other through truthful words and heartfelt actions.…
We need desperately to see and treat each other as landsmen, for we all share the common experience of making the journey from death into life in the Messiah.
Perhaps none of what you’ve read here applies to you or you’ve had little awareness or contact with people who allow divisions and labels to divide them. Perhaps you think I must be exaggerating. Whatever your experience has been, I can only encourage you to become acquainted with more of your landsmen in the messianic community. Attend conferences and congregations. Get on the phone or computer and correspond with other Jewish believers. In drawing closer to the messianic community, you will probably become aware of some of the problems, but maybe you can find ways to contribute to solutions. After all, we have an old command to obey: Love one another.
Again Yeshua said, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20, 21, 23).
There are dire consequences of our failure to tangibly demonstrate love toward one another. We already know that to not love each other is to not obey God. Furthermore, we see from Messiah’s words that our love for one another is a sign by which the world may believe that God has sent the Messiah. Love is an apologetic signpost that Jesus is the Messiah, and conversely, when believers do not love each other, the world cannot believe in Him. Simple as that.
As I’ve written articles in the past for the Mishpochah Message, I’ve often wondered—who am I to think that I have the right to pontificate to so many people? Why should people care what I have to say? While I know that some of you know me and many of you do not, my hope is to be one voice you can interact with around some important concerns to messianic Jewish believers. I hope you’ll take this message to heart, and consider your own part in our broader story. What can you do to act for the good of the company—the messianic community?
Together we are a havurah, a band. We’re partners together in one gang, belonging to Messiah. We need to cultivate each other as friends. We need each other, and our unbelieving Jewish brethren need us to love each other. When we do, they will be more ready to believe that the Messiah has come and that His name is Yeshua. So let’s be landsmen, always ready to lend a helping hand, to do a good deed and to utter a kind word. Provide a place for the brethren next to you on the couch of life and in your heart as well, so that the Goldene Yerushalayim (golden New Jerusalem) will become a reality for more of our Jewish people.
North American Director
Stephen's grandparents immigrated to America from Eastern Europe in the early 20th century, ultimately settling in the Chicago area. As a boy, Stephen enjoyed sports and excelled in school. In his high school years he began to question the values he had been raised with, and instead of focusing on academics, began to spend all his time playing guitar and harmonica. Over the next few years he searched for answers to his many questions about life, eventually becoming a follower of Yeshua. Three weeks after receiving his bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Illinois, he got married and began to work with abused and neglected youth in a residential treatment center in Chicago, which he did for 10 years (taking one year out to live on a kibbutz in Israel). He received his master's degree in social work from the University of Illinois in 1984. He and his young family attended a messianic congregation for 13 years, where Stephen served as the worship leader. In 1989, Stephen began missionary training with Jews for Jesus and now serves as North American Director. For 12 years he oversaw our work in Israel and still continues to be involved with our work there. Laura and he have four children, three of whom are married. He received a master's degree in intercultural and Jewish studies from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1997. Stephen is known to be a warm-hearted and engaging teacher and a good listener.