Throughout this flip-flopped faith journey, many questions have probed not just my mind, but the minds of others. These frequently asked faith questions may help you understand my outlook on this journey as well as challenge yours. Many shalom and blessings as you continue to seek the One True God with all your being!
Who is a Jew?
The term “Jew” comes from Judah as in the tribe of Judah. Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, had twelve sons from various women and each son, such as Judah, became a tribe (Genesis 35:23-26). Years later, due to many rebelling and worshiping pagan gods, the twelve tribes had a family feud and split into two kingdoms in the land of Israel/Canaan (1 Kings 11-12). The Northern Kingdom was comprised of ten tribes while the Southern Kingdom was primarily comprised of the tribe of Judah, but also the tribe of Benjamin, as well as the Levites. Some from the Northern Kingdom relocated to the Southern Kingdom when it became apparent the Northern Kingdom was becoming increasingly rebellious against God’s laws and also worshiping other gods. Eventually, despite prophets like Isaiah warning them to repent, the Northern Kingdom was taken into captivity by the Assyrians and assimilated into the nations never to be regathered again (until a future time unfulfilled just yet, according to Ezekiel 37). Meanwhile, the Southern Kingdom, which evolved into being known as Jews, has withstood not only the Babylonian captivity, but persecutions throughout human history. Despite the never ending oppression and persecution of Jews, they constantly overcome proving God is real as He keeps His eternal covenants.
Interestingly, Abraham, known as the father of the Jews, was not technically Jewish, but rather came from a pagan religion. However, he was called or chosen by God to leave all that he knew to follow God (Genesis 12). Overtime, God revealed more of Himself and His ways to Abraham and his descendants, particularly when they sojourned the wilderness for 40 years. For example, the first instruction God introduced to the Israelites was the importance of resting on Sabbath (see Exodus 16). Equally fascinating is how some Egyptians or those of other religions abandoned all that they knew to enjoin themselves to Israel. Various Scriptures reveal anyone who enjoined themselves with Israel for whatever reason were to also obey the terms of the covenant and were just as blessed (Exodus 12:37-38, 49; Leviticus 18:26; Numbers 14:24,15:13-16,26-31; Ruth 4:11-22; Isaiah 56; Ezekiel 47:21-23, as a few examples).
Like Abraham, others throughout the Bible such as Caleb (Numbers 32:11-12, 14:24) and Ruth (Ruth 4:11-22), were not born Jewish, but committed themselves to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as His ways and therefore, are considered Jewish, or what Judaism refers to as “Jews-By-Choice”. Similarly, Isaiah 56 repeatedly refers to foreigners or those not born as Jews or natural Israelites, but choose to enjoin themselves with God, His covenant, and His people, as “better than sons and daughters”. In other words, according to Isaiah 56, and the accounts of Abraham, Caleb, and Ruth, those who are not born into God’s family, but are adopted in, are regarded in high-esteem in God’s opinion. Who chose who? Did us Gentiles choose God or did God not only chose the Israelites, but also the foreigners or strangers to join them?
What are Jews “chosen” for? Chosen to do what exactly?
Scripture tells us the Israelites, who later evolved into being known as Jews, were not chosen because they were great or mighty, but rather just the opposite (Deuteronomy 7:6-11). He chose them because they were meek, small in number, but more importantly, because He made a promise to their ancestor, Abraham. Moreover, the Israelites/Hebrews, now known as Jews, were chosen to be keepers and teachers of Torah (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6). They were chosen to be the light as they both learn and teach the world how God defines light. Not only is Torah defined as light (Psalm 119:105-106; Proverbs 6:23), the way/path/sacred highway (Psalm 119:1,3,15-16,27,30,33,35; Proverbs 6:23; Isaiah 35:8-10), righteousness (Deuteronomy 6:25; Isaiah 26:8-9), eternal (Psalm 119:160), and so on, but it defines how God wants us to love Him and others for they are all about loving God and or loving others. Eventually, the world not only gravitates to Jews (Zechariah 8), the world/nations/Gentiles realize they inherited lies (Jeremiah 16:9), but also the world “learns righteousness” (Isaiah 26:8-10) as Torah is taught (Isaiah 2; Micah 4). Jews are chosen to lead in love as they both be and teach the light to the dark world, though some Jews are unaware of such a calling, sadly.
Have you officially converted and if so, what denomination of Judaism do you associate with?
It may surprise some Christians to learn Judaism has several different denominations and movements within Judaism. As a former Christian, I found that a bit daunting trying to discern what the different branches, denominations, or movements believed and why. In fact, I am still learning new perspectives from the different denominations. I have found it interesting and frustrating that some seem to add to God’s Torah making more commandments while others completely disregard God’s commandments something God specifically said not to do in Deuteronomy 13:1 (or Deuteronomy 12:32 if you have a Christian Bible). Nevertheless, I have gleaned valuable insight from all the denominations and still listen to, watch, or read materials from a variety of Jewish sources and denominations within Judaism. If I had to label myself by a particular denomination or Jewish movement it might be Karaite with Renewal or Reform style of music. More importantly, I strive to follow God’s instructions found in Torah and reiterated or demonstrated in other Biblical texts such as the prophets, psalms, proverbs, etc. Technically, I have not converted to any form of Judaism as conversion as it is known today is more or less a man-made process whereas the Tanakh doesn’t detail a conversion process other than committing oneself to God’s terms found in the covenant and circumcision. As a woman, circumcision does not apply to me, but I have committed myself to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and uphold the terms of the covenant to the best of my ability. Therefore, in God’s eyes, I have converted though not necessarily according to man’s standards.
Do you believe Gentiles ought to obey God’s commands/laws?
Gentiles are invited and encouraged to to obey God’s commands (applicable ones). Essentially, I believe Scripture reveals the reason a Jew is chosen is they are chosen to teach Torah to the world (Isaiah 42, 49), to set people free from idolatry, while proclaiming the way of salvation found in Torah, and that eventually all the nations will learn Torah (Isaiah 2) so I believe God’s instructions are for everyone. Jews are simply commissioned to lead in example as teachers. Anyone is invited to learn, grown, and join God’s holy nation. Gentiles who become “Jews-By-Choice” by enjoining themselves to God’s Holy Covenant are considered “better than sons and daughters” and will also be brought to Mt Zion one fine day (Isaiah 56).
Within Judaism there seems to be many differing perspectives of Jews adhering to God’s commands/laws. Should Jews obey God’s commands/laws and if so, which ones?
For a few years, I believed all Jews regardless of where they lived should obey all the applicable laws found in Torah to the best of their ability. To a certain extent, I still believe that; however, the Torah reveals in numerous places most of the commands God gave Moses are to be obeyed while living in the land of Canaan/Israel whereas obeying the 10 commandments can be obeyed anywhere. In Exodus 20, while wandering in the wilderness, God gave Moses the 10 commandments – this is the Holy Covenant. The people broke the covenant by making a golden calf and worshiping it as if it is God Himself; consequently, Moses threw down the two stone tablets of the original covenant and broke them (all of which is a physical manifestation of the broken spiritual covenant). In Exodus 34, we see God wrote down the terms of the covenant yet again for the people to do better this time. But in Exodus 34, we see the commandments are even more detailed such as celebrating certain feasts. The Book of Deuteronomy explains ALL the commandments Moses taught were given at the same time (during the 1st round); however, most of the commands are to be obeyed within the land of Canaan, the promised land, while the 10 commandments are to be obeyed anywhere else in the world by Jews, whether naturally born Jews or “born again” Jews (Jews-By-Choice, not referring to born again Christians). Nevertheless, since the end event is all of Israel will eventually end up in the land of Israel one way or another (Ezekiel 36-37 or Isaiah 27:12-13, as some examples), Jews might as well learn to obey the applicable laws sooner than later. While in the wilderness though, God had the Israelites were tzitzits (strings on their garments) to remind them of the 10 Commandments after someone broke the Sabbath. The 10 are critical wherever Israel wanders. Explore Exodus 20; 31:1,18; 32:16-17; 34:1-35; Numbers 15:1,17, 37-41; Deuteronomy 4:5,14; 5:27; 6:1; 8:1; 11:31; 12:1, 8-32; 16:5, 20.
Besides Sabbath, do you celebrate Jewish holidays / feasts such as Pesach/Passover, Pentecost/Shavuot/Feast of Weeks, Feast of Tabernacles/Booths/Sukkot, and others?
I most definitely celebrate Shabbat/Sabbath. In regards to the Feasts, generally, yes, but I also recognize I am a woman not living in Israel, whereas most of these Feasts are to be obeyed in the land. The only Feast Jews/circumcised Israelites are commanded to celebrate when living outside the land of Israel is Passover/Pesach (see Exodus 12; Leviticus 23) while the others all speak to being celebrated when in the land of Israel (Lev. 23:9, 22, 30, 39, 42). With that said, while dwelling outside of Israel, I celebrate Sabbath and Passover as well as Hanukkah (though Hanukkah is not a commandment, but rather a reminder to be the light despite oppressive darkness). I do not stress myself out over the other the Feasts. But I look forward to celebrating them in their full glory in the land one fine day in the future.
Note: Specific commands are for specific genders or roles such as priests as well as specific commands are for living in the land while others apply to those living outside of Israel; additionally, sacrifices, which are apart of the feasts according to Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16, can only be done in the land of Israel within the temple in Jerusalem, which currently does not exist (and no, sacrifices cannot be made in your backyard or campground).
Do you adhere to the teachings of Talmud or other Jewish writings?
While I certainly believe valuable insight can be gleaned from the Talmud and other Jewish writings, I don’t believe they are the inspired word of God to be considered on the same authoritative level of the Torah and the rest of the Tanakh. Nevertheless, insights shared in the Talmud and other sources can certainly be useful and valuable tools to ponder and apply.
Do you eat kosher?
My food choices are based off God’s instructions outlined in Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14, and Isaiah 65-66. What God defines as food, I define as food. What He defines as clean, I define as clean. I do not have a traditional kosher kitchen with separate dishwashers, refrigerators, or dishes exclusively for meat or dairy. I don’t have an issue with mixing meat with dairy so long as they are from clean animals. Such restrictions are interpretations various rabbis over the years documented in the Talmud.
As a female Jew-By-Choice, do you cover your hair or only wear skirts as Orthodox women do? What are your thoughts on female Jews wearing a kippah, tzitzits, or tefillin as some women do in liberal denominations of Judaism? Do you light Shabbat candles and do Havdalah?
As a female, Jew-By-Choice, living in America, therefore, outside the land of Israel/Canaan, much of the laws in Torah do not apply to me except the 10 Commandments as discussed earlier. Nevertheless, some commands I strive to diligently obey like eating clean. Because I have not discovered commands in Torah instructing women to cover their hair, at this time, I do not feel obligated or compelled to do so, but I respect Jewish women as well as other women of faith for covering their hair in whatever form they see fit as an act of modesty and or worship. When I would pray publicly in Jewish worship services, I would cover my hair out of respect, but in my day-to-day operations, I don’t cover my hair. In regards to my dress code, I wear skirts, ladies slacks, ladies jeans, ladies t-shirts, ladies shoes (size 8 if you want to donate – haha), etc. I do not wear men’s clothing. I believe the command found in Deuteronomy 22:5 indicates God wants men to be distinctly male and women to be distinctly feminine as He created an individual to embrace and be His work of art, but I personally do not interpret this verse to mean women may only wear skirts/dresses always for in various cultures garments that look like skirts or dresses are also men’s garments. It’s about being distinctly female or male within your culture’s clothing options.
In regards to women wearing a kippah or teffilin as a form of expressing their faith, I am neither against it or for it, but understand why many, whether male or female, do wear such items as reminders of Who they serve. The only item that I can find in Torah as being instructed to wear as a visible and tangible reminder of God’s commands is the strings at the end of the four corners (Numbers 15:37-41), what is known today as tzitzits or for some, prayer shawls. Whether this applies to women as well I suppose is up for personal interpretation of the text. The teffilin concept comes from the text of Deuteronomy 6:8 to bind God’s law as a sign on your hand and symbol on your forehead, which I interpret to mean to think about and obey Torah. Not to literally attempt to bind 613 commands to your forehead and right arm physically; although, the practice of teffilin dates back to 2nd Century BCE and has been an ongoing debate. At this time, in my faith journey, I don’t wear a kippah, teffilin, or tzitzits, but respect those who do. The overall idea though is to remember to obey the 10 Commandments.
Even though lighting Shabbat candles just before/at the beginning of Shabbat or holding a Havdalah ceremony at the close of Shabbat are not commands in Torah, I do generally do such traditional rituals as a means to help me distinguish and keep Shabbat, a hugely critical command, special. Lighting the candles helps me to remember to be the light. But if I don’t light the candles for whatever reason, I don’t chide myself for failing to do so as it is not an actual command, but just a meaningful reminder to rest when the world is busy and to be the light.
In summary, if God has an instruction recorded for us in Torah, then I strive to obey it willingly and diligently and have consequently, been blessed by it. However, if it is a Jewish custom or additional tradition not detailed in Torah, or even commands listed in Torah to be obeyed in the land of Israel, then I perceive it as optional. More importantly, I don’t obey God’s instructions for life to get something from Him such as a blessing, rather, I obey to bless Him.
Liberal Judaism typically does not believe in prophecies such as a Messiah, the third temple, resuming sacrifices, the world adhering to Torah, etc., what is your position?
If it is written in the Tanakh, or what Christians would call the Old Testament, then I believe in it. I do believe a day will come when all Jews as well as the scattered, lost, Northern Kingdom, or ten tribes will all be not just resurrected, but regathered to the land of Israel one fine day (Ezekiel 36-37). I believe as Scripture foretells, there will be a third temple, animal and other sacrifices will once again be part of worship, God will pour out His spirit, all of Israel as well as surviving Gentiles will “learn righteousness” as Torah is dispensed and enforced (Isaiah 2, 11, 26, 51, 65-66; Zechariah 14; Ezekiel 36-48; Micah 4).
Additionally, I believe God’s presence will dwell in Jerusalem permanently while the resurrected David will be ruler of Israel. Unlike Orthodox Jews, I do not believe the numerous times Scripture details “David” as being king/prince or shepherd that it is by default referring to someone in David’s lineage as I have yet to see a Scripture that prophesized a person’s name, but meant someone else or within someone’s lineage. For example, when the Prophet Isaiah foretold of a Gentile King named Cyrus would help restore the Jews back to Jerusalem and aid them in building another temple, history revealed it was an actual Gentile King named Cyrus who did exactly that not a descendant of someone named Cyrus. Similarly, when the Prophet Jeremiah prophesized of a specific place such as Babylon would take the Southern Kingdom captive should they not repent, it was precisely the Babylonian Empire that conquered the Southern Kingdom and took Jews captive to Babylon. Nor do I see examples of Scripture refraining from stating the lineage of someone such as Isaiah 2 says from the “rod (lineage) of Jesse” a ruler will manifest and Micah 5 proclaims that ruler “one whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (David) will have been born in Bethlehem, which David was. When the prophets detail specific names of people or places or timelines, that is indeed what manifests so I do not perceive or await for a mysterious anointed messiah from the line of David, who also must be born in Bethlehem, and I certainly don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah, for I believe, Scripture repeatedly states literally the resurrected David will be ruler/shepherd of Israel (Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24; Hosea 3:5). I suppose time will tell.
Is your husband Jewish or anyone in your family? How have your loved ones responded to such a drastic change in your “flip-flopped” faith?
Neither my husband or anyone in my family is Jewish that I am aware of; however, I am a descendant of German Jews on both my mother and father’s side from numerous generations ago.
My husband has been OK with most of the transition he saw in my life such as resting on Sabbath, celebrating the feasts, but not celebrating pagan holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc. The one issue he had with my “flip-flopped” faith was not eating bacon. For about a year or so, he was passive-aggressive about not eating pork, specifically bacon. Nearly every time we visited a family member or friend’s home, he would announce that “Carrie doesn’t eat pork!” and would do so eagerly even when food was not the topic at all. He was covertly trying to get different family members or friends to reprimand me for my new belief so he could eat bacon without feeling guilty. I, however, would express to him he can live as he sees fit, but I am choosing this path. I asked him to refrain from attempting to ostracize or humiliate me to justify his habits or food choices. Eventually, he stopped and rarely eats anything unclean now. He typically rests on Sabbath as well and supports me in my faith.
Thus far, most family members have been supportive – perhaps not over-joyed, but at least generally supportive and not confrontational about it. Only one or two have manifested some antisemitism and their disapproval, but it is not uncommon for those same family members to behave poorly should one set boundaries or express themselves – particularly if it is differently than their ideologies.
Evangelical Christians or the devout Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic, seem to have the hardest time accepting my “flip-flopped” faith. Many have been so deeply brainwashed without realizing it that it is hard for them to critically think or look at various passages without Christian filters or preconceived notions. Many have been conditioned to read into the text rather than letting the text interpret itself like any other book.
Most people, whether family, friends, or coworkers, respect my faith and I respect theirs. Healthy people can respect others while not sacrificing their own lifestyle choices. It is interesting to connect the boundaries God has established to help us relate to Him and others while recognizing unhealthy people hate boundaries set by God or others.
Also, when one person strives to walk in God’s ways, can easily debunk typical Christian doctrine, and is happy and blessed while doing so, it challenges the faith of others. Usually when people manifest in disapproval or hostility it is because they are feeling threatened and or convicted, but hopefully, they will investigate newly introduced concepts for themselves. Regardless, I choose to serve the One True Living God, be His light, a keeper and teacher of Torah.