Yeshua the “He who shall not be named” of the Jewish World
Yeshua Around The Shabbos Table
There’s a very special lake one hour North of Montreal around which many ultra-orthodox Jewish families spend the summer. My family owns a house on that lake that has brought us over a century of joy. I knew one of those families that had many sons and daughters. They had taken the commandment “Be fruitful and multiply” to heart, and children abounded, and it had not stopped them from being successful, wealthy, talented, bright, generous. I became close to two of the brothers in particular. I saw them dancing at a wedding once. Fearless acrobats. Athletic and physically strong with equally strong intellects, unlike the many frail, spectacle-wearing book worms one sees at many Yeshivas. I was so impressed with them and looked up to them. Totally devoted to the religion but never pushy or proselytising, they are the exact kind of religious Jews that quietly enticed me to become more religious, as I had mulled over the potential of that path many times.
They had me over for many a Shabbos where I could feel the warm glow of devotion and holiness in their midst. I would often ask questions to learn from them, see where they stood on certain topics like Kabbalah, Torah, Hassidut, and probe them to go deeper into their beliefs. That’s where I amassed great insight into the nature of the religious Jewish mind (I know it from a deep past as well). Along with my many other conversations with Frum Jews, I became familiar with the Divine knowledge as well as the prescribed ways of thinking and the knee-jerk responses to so many topics. Naturally, we did butt heads, and disagreed about many things and it was hard for me to watch the way the women took secondary roles and contributed little to the conversations. I was hit often by some of the ubiquitous franchise phrases that I’ve heard spoken almost word for word all over the world like Jewish Orwellian slogans preventing the faith from tarnishing, such as, “You’re arrogant to think you can know God’s Will outside of the commandments of Torah.” “You think you could know better than the Rabbis?” But they tolerated me and, if I may say so myself, respected me as an eclectic naturopathic doctor self-taught deep-thinking Kabbalistic Jew who had a decent amount of knowledge but who got ahead of himself with his a-little-bit-too-outside-the-box beliefs in Torah. In short, I loved them and loved spending time with them. And God saw that it was Good.
One day, they informed me that their highly respected and very knowledgeable teacher was coming for Shabbos. I was excited to meet this beacon of light, this leader amongst very impressive, intelligent people. Turned out, I was somewhat disappointed. Had my barometer of inspiration been dialed strictly into quantity and breadth of knowledge of Torah, as is the value system amongst the religious, this Rabbi would have rung the strong man bell of my inner circus. However, I was wondering where the light in his eyes was. Or why he looked so serious, so stern, so intimidating. He was knowledgeable, no doubt, and intense, for certain. He had that sharp, piercing and even somewhat mean look in his eye of the very learned Torah scholar that can be seen in the eyes of certain predatory owls.
“Having a form of godliness but denying its power.” 2 Timothy 3:5
He paid very little attention to me, like I wasn’t kosher. One of the topics that he propounded that night was about Moshe Rebaynu (Moses) being the most humble of all of God’s servants. Before I get into what happened next, I should say, I knew Yeshua was a bomb of a topic amongst religious and even non religious Jews, explosive, angering, door slamming. In all of my discussions through the years with my special religious Jewish family of friends through all sorts of subject matters, I never mentioned his name, never brought him up. He was as banished from our discussions as he is from the main body of his people. Shunned, unmentioned, a ghost of Jewish history. But he was always with me, his presence hovering in and around me like a distinct golden glow that felt strong and powerful.
It wasn’t easy to keep him under wraps. I loved Yeshua. Loved him then and even more now. I was proud of him, his accomplishments, what he achieved as a Jew, as a human, who he is, the fulfiller of prophecies, the King of Kings. Like a child yearning to share his hero at show and tell, I yearned to discuss him with my beloved friends, yet he remained as a silent very present companion that you just didn’t talk about. Until that night. When the Rabbi finished saying Moses was the humblest of them all, I said, probably without enough forethought, “No he wasn’t.” His gaze snapped onto my face, contorted in frustration at my arrogance and interruption and he spat at me, “Nu. Who? Who?” like a Great Horned Owl, he defied me to come up with anyone humbler than Moshe Rebeynu. “Who? Who?” I had a choice. I could apologise, asking for forgiveness for interrupting him from his indisputable authority on the truth and cower back into goyisha anonymity, or I could pull the pin, throw it out there, and see what happened. “Who? Who?” The tension, at least for me, in my delayed response, was taught and terrifying, but it was also something more. It was taunting, like he knew what I was going to say and was daring me to have the betzim to come out with it. For my pride, or for the love of God, I said, “Yeshua.”
“Yeshua?” For a minute, he honestly, and innocently had no freaking idea what I was talking about. His head swivelled around to the other Rabbinim at the table, looking for support. I could see by at least one of them trying to slink under the table that he knew exactly to whom I was referring. Finally, his face contorted into the horror of what I suggested and he shouted at me, “Yesh’ka!??!?!?” (A derogatory name for Yeshua/Jesus, somewhat akin to calling a black person the N word, but this slur filled with enough malice and condemnation befitting an entire race of people shoved into one and only one person). “Yesh’ka!?!?!” He repeated even more vehemently than the first time. I couldn’t back down. I said, “Yes. Yeshua.” The full force of realisation dawned and the bomb detonated. All hell broke loose. Every person at the table, including the meekest and quietest of Jews, the habitually unspoken ones, the ones that wallflower themselves into the background and only in the shyest of voices ask for another piece of challah, all of a sudden were loud and expert orators of dissent, standing on their feet, shaking fists at me. Outraged, most of them began shouting “No! No! How can you say that?” “What’s the matter with you??!” “Are you insane?” “Mishe’goy!!” The worst was my friend sitting opposite me. He wasn’t saying anything, but the look on his face said it all. It was a look of sheer shock, disappointment and betrayal, like I had sold his wife and children on the black market to human traffickers. I could have taken everyone else lining up to take their turns slapping my face and shouting abuse until they were blue in the face. The head Rabbi teacher could have tarred and feathered me and led me by horse naked through the streets of Jerusalem. But to see my friend’s face, broke my heart. He was crestfallen. “Moshe, Moshe, Moshe.” He shook his head back and forth slowly as he uttered the name of the humblest of Jews. “I could take all your naturopathy and homeopathy and Kabbalah shtick. But this… this is going too far.” I could read in his body language that I was no longer welcome around his family’s Shabbos table. And sure enough, I was never invited back. That was over 15 years ago.
” They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” John 15:21
That wasn’t the first or the last time the J bomb detonated, destroying bridges for me within the Jewish community. The first time, my naiveté allowed it to set off.
I was teaching Kabbalah to a hippie, relaxed, open minded Chavurah group in Montreal. They drum and play instruments on Shabbat. There are lesbian lovers in the group. I was sure they could accept what I was saying. I brought up Yeshua toward the end of the first class prompted by a specific question that could lead nowhere else but to the Nazarene. After the resultant explosion settled a little, one of the women said to me, “I can’t believe you brought us here and deceived us just so that you could push your Jesus agenda on us.” She was a mild and helpful group organiser that turned ferocious and mean from the shrapnel of the J bomb. I was not invited back. I told myself, “Never again will I do such a thing in front of a group of people.” Years later, my resolve would weaken when the Who Who Rabbi practically begged me to say the name.
My wife attempted conversion on three separate occasions that didn’t work out (for various reasons) until she finally settled with the right Rabbi and became included in the Tribe (the part that actually accepts her). The first time was due to Yeshua. Not his fault. Just mention of his name. Our Jewish renewal woman Rabbi snarled at inequality, wore colourful ethnic kippot from all parts of the world, was a strong spokesperson for injustice, the defender of the downtrodden, not just amongst the Jewry but throughout all nations, including Palestinian. She was so big hearted and spiritual, so egalitarian, we felt comfortable to share with her, while we studied the Jewish festivals, that speaking of Passover without the acknowledgement of Yeshua was like omitting the whale from Moby Dick. The garage door of her heart slammed shut, and the once equanimous, far-seeing warm woman Rabbi became a cold bank manager, informing us she had to shut our accounts because all of our funds had run out. She told my wife she didn’t need to convert because she was ‘already there’ (as a Christian) and suggested we speak to some people she knew who were Jews for Jesus. All further discussion ceased. All further classes were cancelled.
“And if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” John 15:18
I’ve seen many deep discussions with the Religious that ventured daringly out onto the farthest limb reaching for the most forbidden fruit come to a screeching halt at the mention of Jesus’ name. Many times the zombie response I got was “Ahh, so that explains it. Now I know where your arrogance, your wild erroneous ideas come from.” Sometimes hours of deep, tense, impressive, respectful discussion where I’d brought highly educated Jews into deep eyebrow-furling pondering, perhaps even questioning their reality, entirely negated by the wave of a hand, as if Yeshua was the vile little kobold behind my arguments, proving all the kernels of wisdom I had shared were just fool’s gold, that could be dismissed easily once the devious devil was found to be responsible for my wild ideas.
Yeshua, like Harry Potter’s Voldemort, is the Jewish “He who shall not be named.” But Voldemort is an evil power-hungry snake-faced freak and Yeshua’s name alone banishes evil.
He accomplished miracles, healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, taught of love and mercy, fulfilled prophecy for a people awaiting a Messiah, but you’d think he instead sold the secret plans for the destruction of Israel to Amalek, or had a big magic whip with which he lashed the Jews back into bondage in Egypt.
The why surrounding the enormously charged reaction to Yeshua will be dealt with in my next blog, as I will dive into the rabbit hole of this most heated topic, exploring the psychological as well as spiritual mechanisms at play through a Messianic Kabbalistic Naturopathic Holistic Counseling lens.
Shalom aleichem. Salaam alaikum. Peace be with you.