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Covenant Connection

Volume 2, Issue 1

September 2006.......Elul 5767

Let's Sing 

Sing unto the Lord, all the earth. . . Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and highly to be praised. . .  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to eternity. (I Chronicles 16)

This Biblical passage comes from the pen of the prophet Ezra, the Rabbis teach. But what does the prophet mean by "God of Israel"? The people of Israel don't own God. Surely God, the Creator of everything, is everyone's God?

Not quite. In the Book of Exodus, Pharaoh, haughty king of Egypt, looks down his nose at Moses and sniffs, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice [to let Israel leave Egypt]?" "I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go" (Exodus 5:2). Pharaoh believes in some kind of God. But Pharaoh doesn't recognize Moses' God.

Pharaoh thinks that gods exist in mere creations. Egypt's king considers God to be the Sun, the Nile, a crocodile, a cat - even a dung beetle. Pharaoh doesn't know that God is One, complete unto Himself. He can't comprehend His greatness. He doesn't realize, as Moses does, that you can't visualize God - that any image of God one might have in one's mind's eye is an image of something other than God.  

To Pharaoh, God is a different Being than the Lord God of Israel. One can say the same thing of an Islamic terrorist, a suicide bomber. The suicide bomber thinks that there is only one God, whom he calls Allah. But he believes that Allah wants him to kill as many "non-believers" as he can.

Obviously, the suicide bomber's God, whatever one calls this deity, is not the One God of Israel. 

Like the suicide bomber, Pharaoh believes in another god than God. Egypt's king didn't necessarily reject God. It's just that, as he says, he doesn't know Him.

So the prophet Ezra, and the Bible generally, call God the God of Israel. That title distinguishes Him from all other gods - from any God of Pharaoh's, or the suicide bomber's. The God of Israel is a different Being than Pharaoh or the terrorist worship.

Ezra looks forward to the time when all humankind sings His praises. The prophet promises that we will all gladly unite to praise the same Being that Pharaoh couldn't recognize.

May His Name - the Name of the One true God - be blessed by everyone forever. And, as Israel prays several times a day, may that day - when everyone blesses Him - come soon.



Prayer or Work

Prayer is good but so is work. The world has a ways to go before we can all get together.

We believe that God will redeem the world only after enlightened gentiles start actively participating in the process. This is not just the position of the First Covenant Foundation. This is biblical. Moses, Isaiah, Zechariah, Ezra, the psalmists - when prophets speak about world redemption they speak of gentiles, Noahides, doing amazing things. These gentiles shall join the Jewish people, not as converts but as co-religionists.

They will "keep the faith." Naturally, since they share the same doctrine as Israel. They won't necessarily take up many of Israel's special obligations - the Jewish people's ritual, national obligations of prayer and service - but they will eagerly embrace the Universal Torah. They will absorb the seven Noahide principles and strive to keep the Torah's detailed universal spiritual and moral teachings.

Isaiah speaks of these righteous gentiles carrying the people of Israel on their shoulders (49:22). Loving God, they will gladly do whatever they can to sincerely bless Israel. This means, in other words, that they will help the people of Israel be Israel.

This is critical. Without gentiles carrying the people of Israel on their shoulders, in a sense, God won't redeem the earth. Without gentiles helping the people of Israel know what it means to be Israel - this being beyond all doubt the greatest help that anyone could give to Israel - God won't redeem the world.



Irreligious Israel

Gentiles who aren't very familiar with the Jewish people are often surprised when they find out how extremely irreligious, or even anti-religious, most Jewish people are. These Jewish people tend to particularly dislike the religion of their own ancestors. They may be very spiritual otherwise, but their spirituality expresses itself in secular things, in art or politics or career. Some of them express their spirituality through Buddhism, Masonry, "Messianic Judaism" (that is, Christianity), New Age, or other foreign forms. Jewish people often lead or found foreign faiths. The myths and pressures of modernity have taken their toll on Jewish religiosity. Israel's losses - really, the world's losses - from this are incredible. The numbers almost make the Holocaust look small.

Israel is a nation only by virtue of its Torah. (The Torah is the Way or "Teaching" of God, outlined in the Bible's first Five Books.) Probably no Jewish person in the world today is more than three or four generations removed from strictly kosher ancestors.

When Jewish people stop keeping Torah they still remain Jewish. They help Israel fulfill its unique role in the world. Whether their special contribution is intensity, fluency, literacy, sobriety, good family habits, honesty, kindness, humor, insight, daring, brains, or whatever, they add something to the world that it would otherwise desperately lack. But when these people stop keeping Torah, for whatever reason, they don't pass on Jewishness to their descendants. They generally don't have Jewish grandchildren. The grandchildren they do have may be lovely people, but they won't have that Jewish mystique. And this is a tragedy, not just for the Jewish people but for the world.

The world needs the people of Israel. As we said in this newsletter before, the people of Israel belong in a unique way to the world. No more than about one quarter of one percent of humankind, always one of "the fewest of all peoples," they're one of the oldest of all peoples. They include people of every race and almost every nation.

Of course this people consists of mere people. Israel's enemies focus on the clever pornographers, gangsters, and corporate crooks. The truth is that the Jewish people also contribute indispensably helpful associates, assistants, mentors, caring neighbors, bright students, leaders of all kinds, advice-givers, dreamers, actors, teachers, poets, mathematicians, artists, builders, game-wizards, linguists, lawyers, physicists, physicians, engineers, comics . . . This world of ours would be a horribly dreary place if God hadn't created the Jewish people. That's why He did it. That's why He makes such a fuss about this in the Bible, telling Israel to keep it up.

God will redeem the world only when enlightened gentiles help the people of Israel in the most imporant way they can. That is, to help the Jewish people realize what it means to be Israel. The people of Israel desperately need gentiles to help lead them back to the Bible of Israel, back to Israel's God. (Find out more about this in Standing with Israel, below.)



Covenant News  

Please go to the website and check out the many changes. Not just all the new articles (Israel Virtual Tour is especially good, but so are the other new ones). See First Covenant in Français (our new French-language service; we expect to offer a German service shortly). Go to Cartoons, or Book Illustrations.  Go to our new blog - contributors have posted several really excellent pieces. (You can do all of this from the homepage.) Please consider registering for the blog yourself. (It's free. The only problem with it is that, to get it regularly, you need to create a name and password for yourself. Also, we plan to shift over to a new, more user-friendly site soon.) Please go to Contribute, if you will. And please, if you're not already a member of our group, Join Us



Vendyl Unconnected

Nancy January and Pam Rogers want you to know that Vendyl Jones had nothing to do with the pamphlets mentioned in the last newsletter. We spoke about recent different attempts to offer Israel's gentile co-religionists - Noahides, or gentile monotheists - the benefits of prayerbooks designed especially for their special needs. Nancy and Pam created some of them. So did some of Vendyl Jones' people. Adam Penrod, for instance, was at Vendyl's when he put together an ambitious booklet of proposed prayers for No'achides, including some material from our esteemed colleague, Rabbi Michael Katz. However, Nancy and Pam insist that Vendyl was in no way associated with the production of their pamphlets.



Killing Infidels    

 "Killing the infidels is our religion, slaughtering them is our religion, until they convert to Islam or pay us tribute."

So says al Qaeda's late chieftain in Iraq, Osama bin Laden's man, A.M. Zarqawi (quoted in U.S. News & World Report, September 18.) But this is a strange age. Political correctness teaches that non-Muslims - "infidels," like the pope, for instance, or any of the non-Muslims reading this - must not speak that way.

The pope, the leader of the Catholic church, is said to be a very deep thinker. He has publicly apologized - this itself is remarkable, since popes have never been big on public apologies - for his "insensitivity" in his comments on this subject. He had quoted, in a long erudite lecture on comparative religion, the words of an ancient Byzantine emperor. This emperor, a Christian, had said much the same thing about Islam that Mr. Zarqawi, a Muslim, just said.

The pope didn't mean to hurt Muslims' feelings, the church insists. Nevertheless, quite a few Muslim leaders have endorsed violence in response to the pope's comments. Muslims have vandalized several Catholic churches, burnt them, assaulted some nuns, and murdered at least one.

People keep waiting for what they call moderate Muslim leaders to clearly denounce the violence. They may wait a long time. Mr. Zarqawi seems to have hit the nail on the head.

Judging from the pope's unhappy experience, it's not polite to say this. Or maybe people just want to avoid trouble. There is such a lot of hell to pay each time someone whose voice carries says, writes or does anything offending Muslims' pride. Or Muslim manhood. Muslim men have shed a lot of blood these last few decades, much of it the blood of non-Muslims, avenging insults to their manhood.

This would be a good time for the people of the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to say "Enough." Enough of the political correctness that keeps supposedly civilized men and women from clearly condemning barbarism. Enough of the fear that keeps us from denouncing what everyone should recognize as disgraceful and inexcusable. Enough of the false claims, twisted claims, and flat-out lies that people keep advancing in defense of Muslim-sponsored, Muslim-approved savagery.

Our complaint isn't with Islam. We just abhor the conduct of people who lie, cheat, steal and kill in the name of Islam. True, we have a hard time admiring a religion which defames the Bible and constantly libels the people of Israel. But we accept it as one of the features of our era.



Truth or Lies

Our Bible teaches us that there is such a thing as truth - God's truth. This means that there is such a thing as falsehood. We need to try to get to the truth in all things.

One of the biggest lies of the last 100 years is the claim that the Land of Israel is somehow "Arab land" - that it is now and was from time immemorial part of the Arab world, or even the heart of the Arab world. That's the claim and that's what almost the whole world now believes. Yet it's poppycock. (We debunk that myth in Articles, by the way.)

We need to get past the stupefying teachings of the world's prevailing lies. We need to get past the lie above as well as those of atheism and university Jewish Studies departments - which insist, with ridiculous self-assurance, that there was no Exodus from Egypt; that the Bible is basically a fraud. We need to get past the preposterous, won't-stand-examination lie that the God or religion of Moses is harsh and cruel, or that it's "anti-woman."

We need to get past the delusions of the "Peace Now" and the "Roadmap to Peace" people. They insist that all that the "Arab Nation" and Muslim world want from Israel is the good of their own people, the so-called Palestinians. The theory is that these good people merely want to live alongside Israel in peace once Israel gives them just a little more of its land. (Only then, we're told, will the families that send their own children out as suicide bombers, to kill as many Jewish women, children and babies as possible, turn peaceful.)



Standing with Israel

Getting God's blessing is always good. In the Bible, God doesn't just promise but solemnly maintains that He blesses those who bless the people of Israel. So, besides worshipping God, people who want God's blessing should bless the people of Israel.

A blessing, to be real, must be sincere. What does it mean to sincerely bless Israel? To help the people of Israel be Israel. That means standing with the Jewish people against millions of armed, goose-stepping Muslims who howl "Death to Israel" and "Death to America."

Standing with Israel means standing with the Jewish people against the dirty "anti-Zionism" of an aging, Arabizing Europe. It means recognizing that people who try to turn Jewish people away from their Jewishness are acting in defiance of God's Plan. It means understanding that Jewish people who stop practicing Judaism won't stop being Jewish, but that they probably won't leave much Jewishness behind. Helping Israel be Israel means helping the Jewish people understand who they are.

Gentile monotheists and Jewish monotheists are co-religionists. They pray to and believe in the same God, the God of Abraham. Everyone who shares this religious faith should understand this:

Israel . . . is to be found at the very heart of the world's structure, stimulating it, exasperating it, moving it. Like an alien body, like an activating leaven injected into the mass, it gives the world no peace, it bars slumber, it teaches the world to be disconected and restless as long as the world has not God; it stimulates the movement of history. (Jacques Maritain)

Helping Israel be Israel means encouraging Jewish people to pick up a Bible, to find out why people who read it think it's so great. Helping Israel be Israel means telling Jewish people to give their people's religion the benefit of the doubt. It means showing them that why their co-religionists, "who aren't even Jewish," think so highly of it. Helping Israel be Israel means setting a good example for Israel. And it means, always, getting the truth out: providing people with true information.

By the way, whether you agree with everything we say or not, please help us. The help you extend to delivering the First Covenant message puts the prophets' vision into operation. Do it because it's right. Do it because everyone needs the gift of God's covenant and His blessings. Do it because God particularly blesses those who help others earn blessings.



Happy 5767 

Happy New Year, 5767. Just 5,767 years ago from this last September 23rd, the first true human beings came on the scene. Apparently, some new "language processing" genes popped up in the human genome then. The best that scientists in the journal Science could do when it came to estimating the time of that event was "between 57 and 58 centuries ago." We, however, will accept the Biblical timetable.

May all of us have a good, prosperous, successful, happy new year. And may we all come closer and improve our service to God.



We call on God for help. As the prayer that Israel says every morning just before reciting the Hebrew statement of faith known as the shema asks (please understand that this is much richer in Hebrew than in English): Our Father, the merciful Father, Who acts mercifully, have mercy on us, instill in our hearts to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform and fulfill all the words of Your Torah's teachings with love. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah, attach our hearts to Your commandments, and unify our hearts to love and fear Your Name. Amen

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