From the Editor
Written by Andrew Sparks   
You favor humanity with knowledge and teach understanding. Favor us with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom . . . Blessed are you, O Lord, who grants knowledge. May your compassion be upon the remant of your sages (the Amidah).
 

I would like to introduce myself and Kesher, and then provide a brief overview of the current issue. It is a privilege to serve as the Editor-in-Chief of Kesher. My service to this unique journal gives expression to a life-long love for learning, espe­cially in the areas of Jewish studies, Scripture, practical theology, the Messianic Movement, and spiritual practice. My religious training began in a conservative synagogue as a boy. In my teens, I returned to biblical studies as a result of a spir­itual renewal in my life. The focus of my studies eventually became Hebrew Bible in seminary and throughout my post-graduate work at Yale University. I have trav­eled in diverse religious and academic settings, and have the experience of serving as a congregational leader and director of a non-profit organization. While I approach this new position with determination and devotion, I am aware of the challenges that Messianic Jews face in broader religious and academic contexts. With Kesher's excellent Editorial Team, and the support of the UMJC and our read­ership, I believe Kesher will continue to flourish.

Kesher has been in existence for almost a decade. The journal is a testimony to the maturity of the Messianic Movement and the growing influence of messian­ic leaders and scholars in the academy, the church and synagogue, and the wider Jewish world. Our contributors and subscribers are from a variety of backgrounds: some are messianic, while others are interested in the distinct voice of messianic Jews; some live in America and other major Jewish population centers, while oth­ers live in Israel; some are scholars and spiritual leaders, while others have a spe­cific or general interest in Jewish history, spirituality, language, messianism, or congregational life.

The first article in this issue is "The Way of Life." The article reflects my heart for Messiah and vision for the Messianic Movement. "The Way of Life" and the fol­lowing articles demonstrate Kesher's ongoing contribution to serving the spiritu­al needs of our faith communities.

Jonathan Kaplan, in "For Every Generation: Preaching as Imaginative Mediation of Rabbinic Tradition," provides an insightful analysis of rabbinic preaching methods with abundant illustrations from traditional and contemporary rabbinic sermons. Preaching is paramount since homiletics, in its variety of expressions, shapes individual and communal identity, values, and vision in this world. Kaplan states,

The rabbinic homiletic ethos exists so that the preacher might work to cre­ate an environment in which both the rabbi and the congregation encounter the very mind of God in the Torah and its interpretation. This distinctively Jewish encounter with the Torah through preaching functions both to pro­tect and nurture the life of the Jewish community in Israel and in the dias­pora in every generation.

"A Commentary on the Messianic Jewish Identity Statement" by Russ Resnik and the following responses by Chaim Urbach and Adam Ruditsky reflect on our identity as a Messianic Jewish community. Before turning to these three articles, I recommend a close reading of the Messianic Jewish Identity Statement (approved at the 2002 Delegates Meeting of the UMJC), found on the back cover of Kesher.

Our journal functions as a forum for such discussions, recognizing that it is vital to periodically explore our identity as a Messianic Jewish community in rela­tionship to the larger Jewish and Christian communities. Although a diversity of voices express Messianic Jewish identity, our story is still developing and contin­ues to reveal who we are (or will be). As a pluriform movement that values and rec­ognizes a concert of traditions, the Messianic Movement is seeking a shared vision and common trajectory. Even so, the development of a vibrant spirituality and a dynamic tradition remains a vital task for the Messianic Movement.

This issue also contains an article and a book review that explores the issue of Zionism. Mark Ellis, in "Jews and Palestinians: The Search for Justice and Reconciliation," offers a critique of an ultra-Zionism that is unsympathetic to Palestinian concerns. He challenges,

We must admit that the conception of Judaism taught in seminaries and uni­versities as ethical and just, as a way forward for the world historically and in the present, as innocent in suffering and empowerment, has reached its limit. If we follow this path of innocence and redemption we repeat what we once railed against, the hypocrisy of Christianity and the nations. For in becoming a nation-state we have become, perhaps irrevocably, like the nations. And the rhetoric we employ to discuss Judaism and Jewishness is weakened, perhaps contradicted, by our actions and silence in the world.

Ellis holds to a minority position that is often suppressed. If the Messianic Movement expects the wider Jewish community to become partners in deeper dia­logue, then it also needs to give expression to views unpopular within the main­stream community. This article, along with a review by John Olson, Holy War, Holy Peace: How Religion Can Bring Peace to the Middle East, helps us critically engage Zionism and engenders further dialogue.

Paul Knepper, in "Science, Morality, and ‘Baptized Jews' in the Thought of Michael Polanyi," highlights the great contribution of Polanyi in the area of science and religion. Often underestimated, the influence of Polanyi as a Jew and follower of Messiah is reflected in his life work. Knepper shares Polanyi's religious conviction:

It is true that Polanyi talked, and lived, the life of an assimilated Jewish man. He took issue with both rabbinic Judaism and political Zionism. But he did not abandon his Jewish identity . . . Polanyi affirms that Jews who have acted outside the established framework do not cease to be Jews. Looking outside conventional Judaism for the truth does not mean turning away from the Jewish people.

Judaism and Islam have intersected for over a millennium. These points of contact have occasionally led to violence, yet have also brought about fruitful developments and mutual blessing. Elliot Klayman, in "Medieval Jewish Messianism: Islamic Influence or Confluence," examines how Jewish messianism influenced the Persian world. Elliot contends,

Often, the people's readiness to accept a messianic pretender was manipulat­ed by distortions of traditional concepts of messianic expectations . . . Hence, it is important to compare the traditionally-based expectations with the claimant's credentials and identify disparities. It is equally important to care­fully guard against attempts to ‘hijack' traditional messianic concepts derived from Jewish writings, and attribute them to other sources, less the purity of the Jewish origins of messianism be dismantled.

In the future, I will be sharing with you about the development of Kesher and new avenues of growth that will benefit our readership. Some ways that you may support Kesher are through signing up for a two or five-year subscription, mak­ing a contribution for the further expansion of Kesher, and sharing the journal with a friend.

 

Andrew Sparks • Editor-in-Chief

 
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