Each missionary trainee arrives with his/her set of skills, but none of us come fully prepared for the range of tasks expected of a Jews for Jesus missionary. I have the privilege and the pleasure of watching newer missionaries sharpen and add to their skills as they fill their "ministry tool boxes." Most recently, my family and I have moved back to Israel where I’m training our newer Israeli staff.
Before our family moved back to Israel, I had the privilege of leading our London branch. I particularly enjoyed our monthly meeting, "Havurah," for which I normally taught from the books of Moses. The goal was to initiate a dialogue within the room about some of the topics covered in the weekly parsha.
The parsha is the weekly reading from the Pentateuch used in the synagogue. It normally spans three to five chapters and is split into six separate readings to be read by different synagogue members. Each week there is also a reading from the prophets. The readings from the prophets assigned to each parsha are carefully selected, and as far as I know, only one of the well-known Messianic texts is ever mentioned. (The prophecy from Isaiah 9:6 is found the week of Jethro’s parsha.)
This tradition has been going on for centuries. Many believe that Luke 4:16-21 shows Jesus participating in that tradition during the Shabbat service at His home synagogue. In the passage, Jesus is given the scroll of Isaiah. The Messiah chooses to read Isaiah 61:1-2, which would not be a normally assigned reading. That might explain why people were staring at Him as He sat down. As we can read from that section in the Gospel, Jesus was there to cause a reaction – and that is exactly what He got when He announced that the prophecy He had just read was being fulfilled "this day."
In contrast to this very public display, today a rabbi is more likely to give a teaching to the members less formally, during the week or on Saturday afternoon. This teaching will explain the parsha using lessons from the Talmud and other Jewish sources.
That is why the London branch studies from the parsha on a weekly basis, too, even when not preparing for the monthly gathering. (It has made for some interesting conversations when team members engage with Orthodox Jews, who might not expect us to know and be able to discuss the parsha.) I enjoyed watching members of the team taking turns finding the meanings of the text from within the Bible. I have seen each missionary’s ability to do this grow. Among them has been Simon Lissak, who was overjoyed when he began to receive invitations to return to churches where he had spoken. Preaching was not one of the tools that Simon had in his box upon arrival, nor was discussing the weekly parsha, but he has made great effort and has succeeded in adding these tools to his box! [While most of the Bible study skills our missionaries learn are for the purposes of studying with seekers, we do speak in churches as we look for Christian partners who want to support us with prayers and finances.] Please pray for our teams in London, Israel and all our other locations as we reach out to our Jewish people with the Word of God.
If you are interested in knowing more about the weekly synagogue readings, Sean Trank in our multimedia department has done a great job at presenting quick summaries that are fun as well as instructional.