Michelleschiffman's Blog

To discuss issues that affect Messianic Judaism today and how they affect out growth as individuals as well as the community of believers.


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Reflections and Miracles.

So here I am writing and reflecting. This past week the wife of a close friend died. She had cancer. The week consisted of my husband leading Kaddish morning and evening , and my trying to get permission to use the church we meet in on a Sunday afternoon, and coordinating food for the service between five congregations. Thankfully, everyone pitched  in willingly. After the memorial yesterday I told my husband that I believe G-d had performed miracles for us.  We were informed that no more than 80 people were expected. We had 157 show up.  Yet we had enough seats for everyone , and we even had extra food to send home. In addition, the leaders of all five of the local congregations not only showed up , but each took turns speaking. The service went without any problems , as leaders took their turns as if on cue. The fact is that most of them had not even seen each other until then, much less  had time to plan anything. It was a time full of miracles. Small ones maybe, but miracles nonetheless. It was also a time of reflection. One of the women from our congregation started that the woman who died must have been something special to touch all these lives. The fact is she was an average person with a deep love for people, and a strong faith. Those two qualities made the difference. The statement “small but mighty” comes to mind. Small in action , but mighty in outcome. Her presence will be missed, but she will not be forgotten. 


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Just Let Go!

There is a story someone told of how they caught a monkey. They put food in a container that was big enough for the monkey to reach in for the food , but too narrow for him to get back out of once he had the food in his hand. Try as he might the monkey could not get his hand out without giving up the food ,and in the end, he was caught.  We as humans tend to do the same thing. We  get so convinced that  ‘only we can do this job” we wear ourselves out in the process and , as a result, end up exhausting ourselves which only makes things worse. The one of the biggest groups that seem to have this problem, though not the only one,  those who are leaders.  In both cases we tend to view ourselves as irreplaceable. The fact is  we are not. Yes, our roles are important, and granted nobody does them the same way we do, but others can still do hem. This is made very clear in this weeks portion. Jethro comes to see Moses and bring back his wife and children.  While visiting , he notices that Moses spends all his time  hearing cases that by the end of the day both her, and the people who waited to be heard, are exhausted.  Two things caught my eye while reading this section. One that Jethro points out Moses actions are actually HURTING the people not HELPING them. I had never noticed that before and it got me thinking. Is it really so terrible if I trust someone else to do my job? The answer is  ‘no’. In fact by letting others share the responsibilities I give other people a chance to show what they can do. Sometimes they even come up with better ways of doing things. This also allows us to take a break  so that we don’t get worn out.  Two,  that this is G-d DIRECTED. That really got my attention! Whenever this portion is studied it is always assumed that Moses simply followed his father-in-laws advice because he respected him and trusted his council. While this is at least true it is not the only reason.  The fact is that  G-d wants us to delegate jobs to others.  Why? I think one of the reasons  for this can be answered by the statement ‘you cant give away what you don’t have.” If we get too busy taking care of the needs of others, whether physically or spiritually , to  maintain a solid one on one relationship with G-d, then its no good. How can we meet the needs of those in our congregations if we aren’t taking care of us? The answer is we cant.  We are not irreplaceable . Personally I am glad I am not.   I don’t think I could handle the stress. Yes others do things different from me , but that’s not a bad thing. It just is.  Let them do it. Then I can be free to just let go.


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The Great Date Debate

When was Yeshua born? Some say near Sukkot, some Passover, but all agree not in December. This has caused a huge issue over keeping the “true date”.  Here’s the  problem, we don’t know it.  My question is this – Is it really that big a deal?  In looking at scripture we find that anytime G-d felt it was important that we know a date or time he made it very clear. So why not Yeshua’s birth? I believe it’s because we are to focus on the fact he did come not when he did.  I have seen people get very heated over this issue, even to the point of insinuating that those of us who don’t correct others,  or don’t see it as a major issue, of truly not caring about ‘the truth’. In fact I was informed the other day that I must think my opinion is better  than what scripture says because I disagreed on someone’s reading of the verses that ‘obviously are anti-Christmas”. The thing is that those of us raised Jewish just don’t see it as a big deal. Either its a secular American holiday, or its a Christian holiday. It doesn’t really affect us  one way or the other.  Mind you I am not trying to dismiss the birth of messiah. Not at all.  What I am saying is we spend so much time on the date  we don’t spend any of it  focusing on how we are treating others.  This is a time of year when we have a chance to do even greater mitzvot than normal. For example, the people who are  giving  anonymous checks at stores to pay for others purchases,  or putting money in a parking meter for another person, or even buying presents for groups like Toys for Tots. I personally am  going to help with Toyland through  the Salvation Army.  It allows parents to come in and ‘shop’ for their kids. I am looking forward to  being able to help them.   Even those of us who don’t ‘do Christmas”, or have no money can make a difference. There is a site called Greater Good. It has stores for many charities,  so that each purchase goes to a specific program. For example; Rainforest, Animal Rescue, Feeding the Hungry, etc.  They also have a program called ‘ click to give’. This is a program that is free. You simply click on the site(s) you wish to help and it is applied towards the number of clicks for the day. At the end of each day they are counted and the  sponsors for the program donate according to that figure. It is basically a matching fund program.  So , to  borrow from Dickens instead of saying  “Bah humbug”  to the holiday let us say  “God bless us everyone”.  May this be said of us as well.


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Whats the Wife Got to Do With It?

Everyone knows what the rabbi does. He teaches, leads services, etc.  Bu what about the rebbetzen? What about her? Typically I don’t blog on issues like this.  However, two things happened recently that motivated me to do so. One, was a discussion on a friends group about how rebbetzens are viewed and the positions they hold , and  second, a comment my son made.  I was trying to decide on a topic and he suggested that I write about being a rebbetzen because nobody really pays attention to what we do. To say I was surprised is putting it mildly.  So what is the deal?  The fact is, at least in  my experience, a great amount is expected of the rabbis wife. From what we wear, to what we know, how we interact with visitors/new members, etc.  affects how the  congregation views us, and  our ability to meet the needs of our members.  The term rebbetzen literally means “rabbis wife” in Yiddish.  Some women use the term simply as a designation, myself included. I find it much easier when dealing with people, especially if we have never met before. I have friends who are married to rabbis and simply go by their first name. Typically this is for two reasons; so that they are seen as more approachable, and because everyone in the congregation knows who they are.  My problem is this; to presume that “‘everyone knows who I am” is, in my view a bit arrogant. I know that my friends who are rebbetzens don’t view it that way, far from it, but it can be interpreted that way.  This really hit home a couple of years ago at a UMJC conference. I was showing a friend of mine around, and introduced her to some of the women by first name. Later, when she found out they were rabbis wives , she became angry with me. Her attitude was that if she had known ahead who they were it would have affected  her actions.  Another time, there was a meeting of the UMJC sisterhood, basically a  getting to know you event, I was introducing myself to a woman who, it turned out, had never been to a conference before and had no idea who was who. It was after these two events I decided to use the title rebbetzen in the majority of cases. The exception being that if I am attending a congregation where the rabbis wife goes by her first name, then I will do the same .  There is another train of thought that states a rabbis wife does not use the title ‘rebbetzen” until she has shown herself to be worthy of the title,  by conduct and education. This, of course , depends  on the view of the congregation as to what is appropriate.  The fact of the matter is that each of us has different interests and abilities so our style varies. The one thing that never changes is our responsibility to meet the needs of the women in our congregations, whether by getting together and baking , teaching the children, having formal classes on issues like Pirkei Avot,  or just plain schmoozing at oneg,  we have an impact on other women.  As a result we influence the congregation in general.   Just because we aren’t always up front doesn’t lessen our influence any.  So the next time you hear someone say the rebbetzen isn’t the rabbi , she’s just his wife, etc,. remember we are leaders too.


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Whats The POV?

What is a POV?  For those who dont know I am a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fan. In the movie they find a POV gun. The purpose of this gun? To  let the person on the other end understand how they feel.  How does this fit  when it comes to being Messianic? Actually in a few ways. For example, a person coming from a  Christian background has a very different perspective than someone who is Jewish.  This weekend my husband and I went to Fort Pierce for a speaking engagement. , After the service we had a chance to sit in on  the Torah study. A very sweet young lady,  made  a revealing statement..  Basically that, if anyone Jewish was shown Genesis chapter 3 they would HAVE to see Yeshua in the verses.  Not only is that not true , the words” let us make man in our image” can mean more than one thing, but the Jewish view on these verses is obviously different from that of the Christians,. Jews read the verse and see G-d talking to the angels. The truth is it can be both- G-d talking to Yeshua- and talking to the angels. It’s all in the point of view.  Another very definite  difference in perspective is the ”saved Jew” versus the “unsaved Jew”. idea. To be honest those terms drive me nuts! The fact of the matter is that ALL JUDAISM looks for a messiah. The difference is who he will be and when he will appear. So stating a Jew is ‘saved” or “unsaved” really means that  since they dont accept Yeshua  they are poor, uneducated people who must be shown ” the truth”. Oddly enough, every Jew who came to Yeshua as  an adult did so through personal study, not by having others show them where they were wrong. Then there is the biggest difference in point of view. Why the Jews dont accept Jesus. I have heard so many good Christian people ask ‘how can they not accept Jesus’? It’s actually pretty easy to answer. First, calling someone the Son of G-d makes him sound like another G-d. So, in essence, you are asking a Jew to follow a false god. As Jews we believe in one G-d. He can show up in more than one form but it is still the same G-d. So whenever I explain my view of Yeshua I refer to him as the physical manifestation of HaShem, which actually, does not change who he is but rather how we see him. Also, many churches take the fact that Yeshua argued with the rabbis as a sign that he was right and they were wrong, and, because of that, they rejected him. The fact is that rabbis then, and now, have arguments over how to apply halakah (Jewish law) but that does not mean either side is right. Both are. It is simply a difference of view.  Lastly, Jews dont  keep any type of images of G-d. As a result, pictures of Yeshua just dont fit.  Since we were led  astray by worshiping images of false gods and, since  HaShem clearly says not to make any graven images we choose not to have anything around that can lead us away from Him. I could go on but I dont think I need to.  The end of the whole thing is think before you speak. You will be amazed y what  you learn when you do.


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Finding Our Place

“Only a man catch be part of the Torah service.” Really?  This idea was stated by a rabbi friend of ours a couple of weeks ago during the Shabbat service. To say I disagree is putting it mildly. First, that is not a set rule. Some congregations do limit any participation during the Torah service to men only, some have women come up and do the blessings and then a man does the actual reading of the parsha, and some let women do  both. In fact I have a good friend who is the cantor for her synagogue. Yes its a messianic shul. She also is an adjunct professor who teaches biblical Hebrew. There are many ways we can be part of the service; processing the Torah, dressing and undressing the Torah, or leading the prayers that accompany the service. I personally wear a tallit and kippa when I attend conference, or a friends shul.  Do I want to be one of the guys? Absolutely not! I am quite happy with being a woman. I simply believe that its not our sex that  determines where we fit in to the community but our ability to make a contribution.  Having said that let me be clear. I do NOT believe the best way to be respected is by shoving our way in. Many people in the movement, men and women both, want to see more women in leadership as long as they are qualified.  So how do we meet that requirement? By the way we live , by study, and by being active in our community, inside our synagogue and out.  I believe this is the way we can make our voices heard and find our own place.  After all how will anyone else know where we fit if we dont?


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Love Is The Answer

Happy Valentine’s Day.  Pretty basic statement huh? Yet  I have noticed that something so basic causes some very negative responses. I LOVE Valentine’s Day! I like the  fact that there is a day set aside to show those we love how much they mean to us.. So whats the problem? According to some people its a pagan holiday, or a “Hallmark holiday.”  I take a different view. When I look at the history of the day I find two different accounts of church leaders named Valentine. One was killed on February 14 simply because he would not  stop being a believer, and the other was an archbishop who was put in jail for performing marriages against Roman law. Whether these stories are true or not,  they both reflect an important fact. They were done out of love. As to the ‘Hallmark” issue .  What’s wrong with buying a card to let the person I love know they matter? I think we spend far too much time finding the negatives.  Yes, I know there are cards with cupids. There are also cards with Bible verses. It’s all  about where our focus is.    I choose to  view this holiday as a day to celebrate love for my husband, let him know how much he means to me.  G-d is a G-d of love. He blessed me with my husband.  So, when I am asked why I observe Valentine’s Day, my reply is: Love is the answer.