middot diligence author blog responsible for all Israel

responsible for all Israel

Written by  rabbi russ resnik

Last night our chavurah joined the wider Jewish community here in Albuquerque for a multi-congregation Selichot service. For those unfamiliar with this tradition, “Selichot” refers to prayers for forgiveness and restoration. The custom since early medieval times is to recite these prayers early in the morning, before sunrise, for at least four days leading up to Rosh Hashanah. Some commentators relate these four days to the four days during which an offering was examined before being presented in the temple. Since we present ourselves as an offering on Rosh Hashanah (very much in line with Romans 12:1), we examine ourselves in God’s presence for four days leading up to the holy day.

Normally Selichot prayers are said in the early morning as part of the Shacharit service, but the first Selichot service is traditionally a larger, communal gathering right at the close of Shabbat.

Our sages, of blessed memory, said that the Divine Presence dwells neither in the midst of sadness, nor in the midst of idleness, but in the midst of joy at having fulfilled a commandment (Shabbat 30b). Therefore, it is good to pray when one is in the midst of joy at having fulfilled a commandment [through honoring Shabbat]. (SY Agnon, Days of Awe.)

I encouraged our chavurah to attend the service for its own sake, of course (and it was a beautiful event), and also because unity with the wider Jewish community is in itself an act of restoration in preparation for the High Holy Days. Jewish solidarity also reflects the middah of responsibility. I’m responsible for being part of the local Jewish community, even though, as a follower of Yeshua, my participation is sometimes marginal.

The morning before the Selichot service I was reviewing some of the scholarly discussion on Romans 11 and its bearing on replacement theology. One anti-replacement scholar writes:

The chosen remnant is not to be understood as the "saved" minority portion of Israel over against the "lost" majority. The remnant is rather the representative part of the whole, the very means by which the whole of Israel (including the hardened portion) is already made holy. "If the . . . first fruits [are] holy, the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy" (11:16). (Douglas Harink, Paul among the Postliberals, p. 174)

This calling is way beyond me, but if I’m part of a remnant in Messiah that somehow preserves the holiness of all Israel, I have real responsibility to remain connected with all Israel. Rather than finding ways to keep my distance from the Jewish community, as Yeshua-believing Jews often do, I should be looking for times and places of deep connection. Our local Selichot service is just one example, but it’s a particularly good example because unnecessary estrangement from the Jewish community is something that many of us need to confess as sin during this season of self-examination. Being for Yeshua makes me more, not less, responsible for all Israel. 

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