Currently, I am reading several awesome books!! I wanted to share a few quick thoughts on each and links to these excellent sources.
First up is Rabbi Itzhak Shapira’s scholarly work, The Return of the Kosher Pig. As most of my readers will recognize, I have already mentioned this book several times in my writing, and a few more would not be too many!
While R. Shapira reveals a small part of his personal story in coming to Messiah Yeshua, he digs deeply into rabbinic writings to demonstrate that a Divine Messiah is not foreign to Judaic thought, particularly in the first century. In addition to the obvious primacy of Scripture, his sources range from the Talmud and the Zohar to Targumim, Mishnah and various other writings.
Shapira uses an extensive bibliography to build a case that clearly demonstrates that even the most respected sages accepted at least parts of the thought process necessary to recognize a Divine Messiah, even if they chose not to pursue, to a conclusion, those thoughts.
For me, this book holds great value on several fronts.
First, R. Shapira acts as a filter through which I can see and understand some parts of Rabbinic thought. As I have said many times before, I believe both Christianity AND Judaism are ‘off track’ in their belief structure. Judaism denies Messiah Yeshua and Christianity denies the Torah and the Jewishness of the Messiah. BOTH paths are fraught with potholes and false doctrines. Personally, I am increasingly familiar with the errors in Christianity and the pitfalls of certain sects/doctrines, primarily because I was raised around them and understand the various thought processes and denominational divides. NOT knowing the ‘lay of the land’ for Judaism, equally divided and sectarian, poses a real challenge. Having a solid Messianic Jewish Rabbi exposing valuable pieces without having to risk pitfalls is a huge benefit.
Secondly, R. Shapira reveals Judaic thought in how many different pieces fit together and exposes keys to depth in Scripture that is unrealized through accepted Christian hermeneutics. He shares example after example of particular verses with the connecting phrases or words only visible to one who, as a first language, speaks and reads Hebrew. Christianity wrongly considers many of these connections to be ‘mystical’ because they generally do not have mastery of the language, culture and methods of study. Shapira brings all of those to the table in a book aimed at Jews. Like Scripture, The Return of the Kosher Pig, is a book by a Jew for Jews. We just have the incredible benefit of reading over Shapira’s shoulder as he makes and argues his case.
Third, this book is a ‘goldmine’ for additional trails and directions of study for so many recognized Messianic passages. Christendom sees and has a general understanding of many (not all) Messianic passages, but they do not have the context or language understanding to really pursue them into the text. Shapira does just that through his own study and the commentary of many, many accepted sages.
Of particular value is his Appendix of Major Tanakh References. It is a resource that can be drawn on by Torah Portion, or when studying any particular passage, to see connection to the Mashiach. Ultimately, The Return of the Kosher Pig is an invaluable tool worthy of studying beyond the pleasant read.
Dr. Tsvi Sadan has written a concise book that opens vast windows and understanding of the presence of Messiah in all parts of the Tanakh. The Concealed Light; Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources, is another ‘goldmine’ that I already consider an invaluable tool.
Alefbetized, according to the Hebrew alef-bet, are more than 100 names of Messiah as revealed in Jewish sources. Each is ‘revealed’ in a two page meditation… easy to read, but rich enough to be pondered deeply.
Like Shapira’s book, many sources that I would otherwise shy away from, are used to demonstrate that, like Christian commentary, even among those who did not understand the fullness of Messiah Yeshua as the Living Word, there are glimmers of understanding and sparks of truth.
Wonderful fresh new waters are exposed for deep drinking. While I was familiar with some of the names of Mashiach, like; Spirit of God, Lamb, and Branch, I had never considered Leper, Secret, Vulture or Donkey. Yet, each, when exposed, suddenly comes into focus with a new and revealing facet of who our great King is!
A beautiful hardback book, even in the paper selection and type of binding, I find only two faults with it… Each study is too short, but this will force additional personal study as the door on each is ‘cracked open’ and left unfinished. The second is that I really wish, like Shapira’s book, there were an appendix with all Tanakh references listed in order. I like the book enough that I will go to the trouble of assembling my own and taping it into the back!!
Like R. Shapira’s, this is a dynamic tool that will help with studying and be invaluable in exposing Mashiach in every Torah Portion as well as throughout the Tanakh.
The last of the three books that I am currently reading is, The Everlasting Jew: Selected Writings of Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein, by Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein.
If there is a modern trailblazer for the Messianic Judaic movement, Rabbi Lichtenstein might be the one leading the charge. As a rabbi of nearly 40 years, he, through a set of circumstances during a pogrom, read the New Testament and found, to his amazement, that it is a decidedly Jewish book about a Jewish Messiah who never denied Torah, but rather quoted Moses, affirmed the Sabbath and upheld the Word of the Father, contrary to the example he had witnessed in Christendom.
Ultimately, after much reading and study, he came to a secret faith in Yeshua, mikveh’d (immersed) himself, and found great joy and fulfillment in his Mashiach. After a couple years, he began to reveal this to his beloved congregation. He was met with some consternation and some acceptance.
Only after R. Lichtenstein began writing publicly of his finding the narrow way, did he begin to experience severe pressure and persecution from both sides. (Somethings haven’t changed…) Christians pressured him at every turn to ‘convert’ and receive ‘Christian baptism,’ while Jews demanded he leave his post at the congregation he had led for nearly 50 years and renounce the title of ‘rabbi.’ To his everlasting credit, Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein did neither! He was eventually forced out of his post, but he denied conversion to Christianity and never relinquished his rabbinic title. He, one of the first modern (1890’s-1908) Messianic believers, rightly understood that Yeshua did not come to start a new religion, nor did He come to deny or alter the unchanging Word of God.
This book is a very fast read, beginning with a brief overview of the Rabbi’s life followed by select portions of his post-Yeshua encounter writings, roughly arranged topically.
Lichtenstein’s primary outreach was to Jews for their Mashiach, but he unabashedly pleaded with Christians to renounce their antisemitism and acknowledge the Jewishness of Messiah Yeshua. His call is the same call being made by many on both sides of the narrow path.
I deeply appreciate the sacrifice and labor that each of these three works represent. Rabbi Shapira, today, experiences some of the ire that was heaped on Lichtenstein, though he, and we, can thank Rabbi Lichtenstein for putting hand to plow and not looking back, though his price was very high when he openly followed Yeshua!
I highly recommend all three of these books. You will be blessed by each of them!!