Russ Resnik encountered Yeshua as Messiah in the early 70s as a young radical in the mountains of northern New Mexico. Later, he was drawn into the Messianic Jewish movement and founded Adat Yeshua, a Messianic congregation in Albuquerque, NM, which he led for nearly 20 years. Today, he serves as executive director of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC), an association dedicated to establishing, strengthening, and multiplying congregations for Yeshua within the wider Jewish community. Russ is ordained as a Messianic Rabbi through the UMJC and also maintains credentials as a clinical mental health counselor. He has an international speaking and teaching ministry, contributes regularly to Messianic Jewish publications, and is the author of Gateways to Torah: Joining the Ancient Conversation on the Weekly Portion,Creation to Completion: A Guide to Life’s Journey from the Five Books of Moses, and the just-released Divine Reversal: The Transforming Ethics of Jesus. Russ and his wife Jane live in Albuquerque and have four children and six grandchildren.
Preparing to teach or preach Scripture is hard work and Rabbi Leffin’s maxim doesn’t make it any easier: “Do not allow anything to pass your lips that you are not certain is completely true.” This saying applies to everyone, but if we have to watch out for what passes our lips in general, how much more watchful must we be when we’re handling the Word of God? That’s why Ya’akov instructs us, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, since you know that we will be judged more severely”. --James 3:1 CJB
Silence is one of the great casualties of the digital age. A generation ago, it was already hard to escape the drone of the broadcast media, especially as we started to put a radio or TV in every room and develop portable units that we could take anywhere. Now, in the digital age, it’s much worse, with TV, radio, internet, MP3 player, and much more all lodged within the phone in our pocket or purse.
“Be diligent to make your call and election sure.” 2 Peter 1:10
Divine-human partnership is one of the great themes of Scripture. Only God can create, but he places human beings within his creation to bear his image, to fill the earth and subdue it.
Sometimes, when people say “time flies,” or comment on how quickly it goes by, I think, “Compared to what?” We’ll say how quickly a year goes by, but it was a year, whatever it might feel like, so what are we comparing it to when we’re surprised at how short it is?
The other day in the elevator, I learned something about righteousness.
As we are approaching the half-way point of Sefirat Ha-Omer, counting the days from Passover to Shavuot (Lev. 23:10-15), we might recall that the first 32 days of the Omer are a period of semi-mourning in Jewish tradition.
"And the Lord said to Moses, Go to the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready by the third day; for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai." (Ex. 19:10–11)
As we continue to learn mussar through the days of sefirat ha-omer (counting the omer), we can see some helpful parallels between the two topics. Mussar is all about spiritual preparation and progress, and so is sefirat ha-omer, if we understand it properly. One tradition views this period—the transition from Passover, season of our freedom, to Shavuot, season of the giving of our Torah—as providing time for the newly-freed Hebrew slaves to rise up from their condition of bondage and become ready for the revelation of Torah. Some rabbinic sources speak of 49 levels of impurity that they needed to transcend. But even apart from that specific interpretation, it makes sense that it would take time to shed the slave mentality enough to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. The cleansing of garments that the Lord commanded at the end of this process culminated seven weeks of cleansing that led up to it.
Counting the Omer is an opportunity to learn decisiveness. This tradition marking the days from Passover to Shavuot (see Lev. 23:10-21) reenacts the journey from bondage in Egypt (Mitzraim in Hebrew, meaning “the narrow place”) to revelation at Mount Sinai.
Of all the biblical holidays, only Shavuot – the time of the giving of Torah – lacks a specific date. Instead of giving a month and a day as with other holidays, the Torah tells us to count forty-nine days from the offering of first fruits during Passover. Then on the fiftieth day we celebrate Shavuot.
My granddaughter Orli recently joined a Little League team for special needs kids and I went to the opening game. When her team got up to bat, most of the kids used a batting tee, but one of her teammates opted to have the coach pitch the ball to him. As the batter missed ball after ball, and the pace of the game slowed to a crawl, no one complained. Finally, after about seventeen strikes, he hit a grounder and headed off for first base, as everyone cheered—both teams and the parents sitting around to watch. It was easy to be patient because we knew that this game wasn’t about sizzling action and gripping entertainment, but about giving disabled kids a chance to play ball.