The Jewish People and B’nai Yisrael
Keeping the Law does not make someone a Jew. Having a Jewish mother, or being adopted into a Jewish family confers this dubious privilege. And even that is necessary but not sufficient. It is nothing to be proud of, nor ashamed. Why people take pride in their ancestry is mysterious to me. How can you take pride in something that you had no part in creating?
A sort of Venn diagram can aid the definition of the term “the Jewish People”. I will explain what I mean after a brief summary of the relevant Genealogy in the Tanakh.
Abraham was to be the father of nations. On Mount Moriah the voice of the Angel of The Lord commanded him to not harm the lad. Isaac would not be sacrificed, and a ram was provided in his stead. Abraham passed this test of faith. His faith perhaps was faith in YHVK’s faithfulness. Back in Genesis 17: 1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 1Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.” Therefore on Mount Moriah, Abraham was demonstrating that he believed the lord. He was about to sacrifice his son. Unless G~d did something unexpected, he would be unable to be a father of many nations nor could he ever be said to be “very fruitful”. Abraham was trusting in G~d’s keeping faith with His promise.
After the Voice of the Angel of the lord stilled his hand two pairs of promises were given.
Gen. 22:17-18: “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
” One: his progeny would number as the stars and stand in the gate of their foes. Two: his progeny would number like the sand on the shore, and the nations will be blessed through him.
I maintain that the two pairs of future blessings traveled through Isaac, and to Jacob. Whether or not Esau was slated for one of the pairs is unclear; probably not, there are no accidents in scripture. Esau “despised” his birthright. We know the story of Esau, his love of the hunt, and Isaac’s love of the tasty game he brought him. Isaac loved the elder twin even if he was older by only a moment. One fine day Esau returned from a hunt, famished; ravenous. Jacob his brother took advantage of the situation by offering him stew, if Esau would relinquish his birthright. Esau perhaps thought that nothing he could say would alienate him from the rights of being the first-born. “Sure” OK, Jake, whatever.”
When Isaac was old and blind, we all know the story of Rebecca nearly forcing Jacob into impersonating his brother and slipping in to get Isaac’s blessing. Whatever the reason, the pair of promises continued together one more generation. Jacob fled the wrath of Esau, and set off to the land of his mother seeking a wife. He was tricked in turn by Laban, Leah and Rachel. He worked seven long years for Rachel, the beautiful young woman he had first met by the well. But the next morning after the wedding, he awoke with her elder sister. An agreement to work another seven years gained him Rachel. Both were given with their handmaidens. Leah the elder daughter, his first wife, was not so beautiful or well loved. But G~d opened her womb and she bore four sons in quick succession. Rachel, like Sarah before her, gave Jacob her maidservant to be a surrogate mother to produce a son for him. She did, she bore two sons. Leah’s maidservant was sent into the fray and bore two more. One fine day Leah’s eldest son, Reuben, brought back דודאים, “mandrakes”. Whatever they were, they apparently were known as some kind of fertility enhancer, with perhaps a Viagra-like effect. (Poor Jacob may have been tired from having the needs of four women to see to.) Rachel remained his wife number one. When Rachel saw Leah’s son Reuben with his find, she bargained for them. Leah would give the “mandrakes” to Rachel, and in return Leah would have the hire of Jacob. Leah popped out two more. Finally, Rachel became pregnant. She bore Joseph. Thus Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son. He was long awaited and he was the son through the woman he loved.
The two poles of B’nai Yisrael are now seen. The two pairs of blessings are now divided between Leah (and Zilpah) and Rachel (and Bilhah). Benjamin the twelfth son was born to Rachel on the road to Jacob’s home. She died after labor, and was buried on the side of the road near Bethlehem. Now all twelve of the sons were Jacob’s sons. They all were to be the Patriarchs of Israel. Each was to a degree a representative of the whole. This is a fractal-like concept. However, there was a spectrum that was spread between the two poles; Leah’s first born, and Rachel’s first born. Reuben slept with one of his father’s wives. That ended his functional status as Leah’s firstborn. Simeon and Levy made Jacob odorous in the land by massacring the men of Shechem because of the seduction of their sister Dinah. They too were crossed of the functional firstborn list. This left Judah, as the functional acting firstborn of Leah. Joseph was the first born of Rachel. Now the two pairs of blessings are separated.
The subject was the Jewish People. My contention is that the two promises given in Genesis; and the prophetic meaning of Ezekiel 37 mark the beginning and end of dual promises. The entire arc of history has run in the story of the separation and promise of reunion of the two strands. Ez.37: 15 And the word of HaShem came unto me, saying
16. ‘And thou, son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it: For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions; then take another stick, and write upon it: For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and of all the house of Israel his companions;
17.and join them for thee one to another into one stick, that they may become one in thy hand.
18.And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying: Wilt thou not tell us what thou meanest by these?
19.say into them: Thus saith the L-rd GOD: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his companions; and I will put them unto him together with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand.
20. And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thy hand before their eyes.
21. And say unto them: Thus saith the L-rd GOD: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land;
22. and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all;
23. neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them; so shall they be My people, and I will be their G-d.
24. And My servant David shall be king over them, and they all shall have one shepherd; they shall also walk in Mine ordinances, and observe My statutes, and do them.
25. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever; and David My servant shall be their prince for ever.
26. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them–it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will establish them, and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for ever.
27. My dwelling-place also shall be over them; and I will be their G-d, and they shall be My people.
28. And the nations shall know that I am HaShem that sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever.’
As of today, the tribes of Ephraim of Joseph and those associated with him are missing in action. They are the so-called Lost Tribes of Israel. It is important to understand that they are not lost groups of Jewish people nor even Judeans.
Though unknown, they must exist. Since they are associates of Ephraim, Joseph’s son, they are representing the Racheline pole. And as Rachel was physically beautiful, they are powerful worldly peoples. In other words who ever they are, they must be hiding in plain sight. Powerful nations with populations numbering as the stars in heavens are not to be identified as isolated bands of mountain folk in some lost valley of the Caucasus. But we will leave that for another occasion.
The second pair of promises is the one we will be concerned with now.
The first promise used the “number as the stars in heavens” metaphor. This is very clear and straightforward. However, this is not the case with the metaphor in the second pair.
Once more: Gen. 22:17,18 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
As Messianic or Mainstream Jews, we believe the Messiah shall either return, or arrive finally. We believe he will be The Son of David. David, a Judean, wrested the Kingship from Saul, a Benjaminite. He came from Bethlehem Ephrates. We believe the Messiah either has or will come from Bethlehem, David’s family’s seat. (This is why Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem when Yeshua was born. They both traced their genealogy through David. When the census was taken everyone had to return to his family’s seat.) King David was of Judean lineage. So, it is pretty clear that the second pair of promises must apply to “Judah, and the tribes associated with him” as per Ezekiel 37. OK, now to the heart of the matter.
Everything above was to get here:
Unlike the straightforward “numbering as the stars in heaven” the “sands of the shore” is not so clear. Torah knows how to say the “sand of the sea” as in Genesis 32:12 (13 in JPS/Westminster Leningrad/ Complete Jewish Bible), and Genesis 41:49. 32:12 (13)And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude. Gen. 41:49 And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number. Both verses use the same Hebrew: םהי כחול.
Only in the promises given on Mount Moriah is the phrase “like the sands ON the shore” used.
Genesis 22:17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies.
הַיָּ֑ם עַל־שְׂפַ֣ת אֲשֶׁ֖ר וְכַחֹ֕ול
In the entire Torah, only here, at Genesis 22:17 is the metaphor for a great number given specifically as “as the sand ON the shore”. In Genesis 32: 12 (13), and 41:49 the similar “like sand OF the sea” is used. There is a difference. And this is a difference with a very large distinction!
“The sand on the shore”, seems somewhat strange. The shore is sand, is it not? Well yes and no. But the shore accounts for only a tiny amount of the sand of the sea. The number of the sands of the shore requires a mental Venn diagram to define.
First, we must address the definition of shore. (Recall that nothing like this is required to understand the number of progeny in the first pair of promises, “like the stars in the heavens”.) The shore first off, is a non-fixed thing. It is the constantly moving place where the edge of the sea laps the land. Every cycle of the tide changes the shoreline. Every wave changes the edge of the sea. It is also a measurement directly influenced by the scale used to measure it. For instance, imagine a map of the continent of Europe. Now imagine the island of Britain. To determine the shoreline one need only trace the outline of the island, and measure that length and multiply by the scale. However, as the scale diminishes the length increases. For instance imagine a road atlas of Britain. The outline of the island is present. However, only the larger features relevant to an understanding of locations is given. Now imagine the map of the island that a human being might make if he or she hiked around the very edge. This would be far, far longer than the length calculated by the roadmap’s scale. Features of say a footstep size must be included in the perimeter. The small foot size zigzags are not present at large scale maps. But when one zooms in, with small-scale mapping, the measured perimeter increases markedly. Now, imagine again, one is an ant that has walked clear around the island. The relevant scale of the map it created would take into account every jig and jag of every pebble or stone lining the water. This would be an order of magnitude longer than the perimeter calculated by the walking human. Now, imagine one is a mite. Its trek around the island might be thousands of times longer than that of the ant! It becomes evident that perimeter is a function of scale. We usually do not think of scale as being relevant to perimeter, and often get away with just considering it as directly related to the area around which it lies. Though this works in our normal frames of reference it is however false. To think about the sand on the shore it is necessary to understand the strange nature of that measurement. The closer one looks, the longer it becomes. In addition, it is always in flux. The number of sand grains on the shore must be understood as the intersection of constantly changing sets.
To be a part of the Jewish People, one must be either born of a Jewish mother or adopted into a Jewish family. However, that is merely one of the set requirements. It is like being sand of the sea. However, it is wet sand, under the water that is on the shore. To further the analogy, one must be anointed with some spiritual desire in order to be counted as a Jewish person, (by Biblical standards, please, we are not discussing cultural-only Jews, of the bagels and lox variety!) Still further, it is not just the set of sand grains lying under the water, but those that also frequently lie above the water that make up the sand on the shore. If always under water, it is not in the set, and if never under water it is also not in the set. The Jewish People must include those who are sand, at the edge of the sea, sometimes wet, and sometimes dry. In other words a member of a specific People fulfills one set. But one must be anointed with a spiritual sense of seeking. And one must make the effort to hear and obey the lord. To hear and obey sometimes, and at other times not so much, causes the set to be ever-changing; yet also inclusive of the temporarily dry grains; those dry their entire low tide cycle; or those only occasionally dry at the high point of the low tide, or those only occasionally wet, at the high tide in a high sea with large waves.
To be a Jew is to be a member of a corporate group. It is potentially a very large group, but not infinite. It requires one’s understanding that they are members, and that requires the performance of Gd’s will; i.e. doing Mitzvot. Must they keep the entire Law, all the time? No, they need not do so. To the degree that they do they are better Jews. But the acknowledgement of The Law, and the acknowledgement that the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is identical with the Creator G~d, is enough to maintain one’s membership in B’nai Yisrael, and thus the corporate salvation that implies.