Thursday, February 23, 2017

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Ani Yehudi

The date was 26 June 1963. President Kennedy was in (then) West Germany months after the Soviet/East German construction of the Berlin Wall. Feeling every bit threatened, the West Germans turned to the world for help. It was on that day in West Germany when President Kennedy, in a historic speech, uttered the now famous phrase "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner). The President wanted West Germany, and the world, to know he stood with West Germany against Tyranny.

That feeling of being surrounded and about to be swallowed in a heartbeat is but a typical day in the life of an Israeli. Yet do any of our leaders in any political party have the courage to stand with Israel and shout "Ani Yehudi" - "I (am) a Jew" as did President Kennedy? Don't hold your breath waiting ...

As I read the story of Purim in the Book of Esther (wait - I'm going to call her Hadassah as that is her Hebrew name) I think about the nation of Israel and Jews around the world. The point of the story of Hadassah is that God is in control. Time and time again in the story we see a string of "coincidences" that strategically place people in the right place at the right time to save the Jewish people. We find that although God is not mentioned explicitly in the story, his fingerprints are everywhere over the chain of history. God, it seems, is happy to stand with the Jewish people.

But one thing recently caught my attention was Esther 8:17. After Haman (boo's.) was defeated and Mordecai (yeah's) and Hadassah saved the day, an edict was sent throughout the land that gave the Jews in Persian control the right to assemble and defend themselves against those hostile towards the Jews (Esther 8:11-12).We see that after this edict (Esther 8:17) many "ethnic groups" professed "Ani Yehudi" because I suppose it was the cool and safe thing to do. But where were you before that edict - when the Jews needed people to stand with them?

Now, more than ever, those of the faith of Yeshua (who incarnated himself as a Jewish man ... I'm just saying ...) must stand with the Jewish people and say "Ani Yehudi." A bit of caution: this does not mean that we claim Jews/Israelis can do no wrong. Nor does it mean that in Yeshua we "become Jews" when we believe, as those who take Romans 2:29 out of context, or those of the "Ephraimite/Two House" persuasion (i.e., Jews = Tribe of Judah, Christians = "Lost" Tribes of Israel) who take the meaning of the words Judah and Israel out of context, or replacement theologians (i.e., Church=Israel) who take the entire Tanakh out of context. Everybody wants to be a Jew when it is convenient (we want the blessings after all) ... but what about back then before the edict?

But I must admit that it is not only Purim that brings this notion to my attention. After all, we recently saw UC Irvine students continually and disrespectfully interrupt Ambassador Oren (Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.). These misguided students embarrassed themselves, their religion, their university (hey ... this is my university too so knock it off) and their country. I doubt that University of California will do much about this after seeing recent emails addressed to the campus ... oh well.

So it seems that we have struck out in support for Jews. Strike 1: our politicians won't say "Ani Yehudi" because it may not get them re-elected. Strike 2: our religious Christian leaders won't say "Ani Yehudi" unless they think (mistakenly) they have become Israel themselves. Strike 3: our system for higher learning, the university, won't say "Ani Yehudi" either because (oh I'll get in trouble here ...).

I guess that leaves it up to us to say "Ani Yehudi" and stand up to help Jews around the world. After all, did not Yeshua himself say something about helping "the least of my brothers" (Matthew 25:40)?

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