Hello and Happy Saturday!
I wish to thank Leah Jane for her fascinating and interesting interview last week- Thank you so much for sharing with us Leah Jane!
Today we have a new interview so please welcome Derek Leman. Derek is a Messianic Jewish Rabbi and I know you will enjoy his interview as well!
Here Is Derek Leman's Introduction:
Derek Leman is from Atlanta, Georgia, where he is the rabbi at Tikvat David Messianic Synagogue. Derek writes and speaks about the life of Yeshua (Jesus), the world to come, the Biblical feasts, the intersection of Judaism and Christianity, and the Presence of God. Derek has an M.T.S. from Emory University in Hebrew Bible, has studied rabbinics at Messianic Jewish Theological Institute, and is the author of nine books. He and his wife Linda have a large family with eight children. Derek's books include Yeshua in Context, The World to Come, and Feast.
1) What religion do you practice?
Messianic Judaism, a Judaism in which Yeshua (Jesus) is central and is our teacher and Messiah.
2) Did you convert or were you born into this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
My wife and I converted to Judaism along with our children. Prior to conversion we were Christians and increasingly involved in the Jewish community and practicing Christian faith in a Jewish manner. Conversion involved a panel of rabbis who oversaw our training, interviewed us repeatedly, and immersed us in water after meeting other requirements (hatafat brit dam, a ceremony for male converts already circumcised, but not in accordance with Jewish law).
3) Would you consider yourself a moderate, conservative or other.
I'd probably be in the conservative camp in most people's way of thinking, though I'm not Orthodox in the Jewish spectrum nor do I hold to some of the more traditionally conservative views on the Christian spectrum.
4) In your opinion, what makes you moderate/conservative/other?
I believe the miracles of the Bible are real, that prophets and apostles of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament really were inspired by God, that God walked among us, and so on, so that probably makes me conservative.
5) In your opinion, what makes someone conservative? What makes someone moderate?
In Judaism and Christianity, believing that the Bible is God's self-disclosure mediated through human writings, that its record of miracles and its mystical view of the cosmos is true, and that faith in God and Messiah is vital and needed by all people is what makes someone conservative.
6) What's your heaven/paradise like?
The Jewish and Christian traditional view is the World to Come. I wrote a book about it. It is a myth that Jews and Christians believe in a non-material afterlife as our ultimate destiny. The Bible, traditional Jewish sources, and traditional Christian sources all affirm a bodily resurrection and this world remade with all hurts healed, evil conquered, no hunger or thirst or suffering, and so on. The most beautiful things in this world will be there, but more beautiful still, and the things not helpful or glorious will no longer be. We will work for joy, not necessity, and be occupied for eternity in learning, relationships with God and each other, creating, and enjoying the world. There will be feasting and dancing, the sources tell us, and agriculture made easy.
7) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
It is possible that eventually everyone will. Our sources are unclear and mysterious in some ways about this question. I do believe there will be judgment. I do not believe there will be unending, conscious torment for anyone. I think much about how all the details will work out is mysterious and traditional theories are problematic. It is also possible that some who enter judgment might never choose the growth required to leave and be admitted to the world to come. If this is the case, I do not believe God would continue tormenting them forever and so perhaps they would be annihilated.
8) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
It is what I believe to be true and it is full of joy. It satisfies my mind and my desires. I see evidences of my faith in all things. And yes, there are troubling questions and suffering is the hardest one. But there are indications that suffering will also have meaning in the end and while I cannot comprehend it all, I trust while waiting to see redemption and healing come.
9) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
We have many. The main ones are in Leviticus 23 (Sabbath, Passover, Shavuot/Weeks, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur/Atonement, and Sukkot/Tabernacles). Some are later (Purim) and some are traditional, not biblical (Hanukkah, Tisha B'Av). We observe them all according to the standard Jewish practice (our ways are similar to Conservative Judaism).
10) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Of course. We are all made in the image of God, according to the Bible I believe. It is incumbent upon me to treat people with generosity and caring.
11) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
I could join in with any Christian or Jewish group in good conscience as long as they were not using images in their worship. I could not offer devotion to a foreign deity. I could certainly celebrate with people otherwise, observe, and participate in ways that do not involve devotion to other gods or worshipping my God with images.
12) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I am sad that women would be asked to live without freedom. I am not in favor of state religion and, thus, I am as much against Shariah law as I would be a set of Christian or Jewish civil laws requiring all people to follow them without choice.
13) What are your thoughts on women not being allowed to become priests?
This is not an issue for us (we don't have priests exactly). That is an issue for Roman Catholics and the Eastern churches to work out for themselves.
14) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
I'm not sure if you mean segregate based on gender (no we don't) or ethnicity (we do in a sense, because Jewishness is an ethnic identity as well as a religion).
15) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
Of course. Our practices include reading, study, prayer, ethical behavior, and acts of kindness every day. Regarding abortion, I feel strongly that this is about the rights of the baby (which override the rights of the mother to a child-free uterus). As for gay marriage, I do not think civil laws can or should dictate sexuality but possibly the legal issue of the state granting marriage certificates should be restricted to monogamous, heterosexual couples. Those who know more about social policy and law than I do could answer better, but I don't think the state needs to redefine marriage to protect the civil rights of all people, regardless of their sexual choices.
16) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
I would be disappointed but would continue loving them.
17) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
My faith is broad and includes Judaism and Christianity. I do think there is judgment in the afterlife, but as I said above, not unending, conscious torment. I am also not sure we know what hell is like. Our sources are divergent and include elements that perhaps are not literal and which are not all compatible (darkness, fire, separation).
18) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
I would like to see Christianity known more for acts of kindness and healing the world than naive political involvement. I would like to see Jewry known for justice and not to be known for equally naive political involvement. There is a tendency for religious-political mixtures to be intolerant (regardless if the aim is right or left).
19) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
My children have had some mild taunting for being Jewish, but nothing criminal.
20) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
Of course not. God elevates us.
21) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
Absolutely, though this does not mean I don't experience conflict and suffering like everyone else.
22) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
No. I believe our souls are our own and are not recycled. We will always be us. And our bodies and souls will be reunited at the resurrection.