But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain- and appoint them over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.
Exodus 18:21 (TLV)
Dedicated to serve the body of Messiah
Ephesians 4:11 (TLV)
Messianic Rabbi & Cantor
Sometimes as I was growing up, I would ask why questions about our Jewish practices. Usually the answer was the same,
“Because the Rabbi said.”
I was raised in the Conservative Synagogue, B’nai Israel, in Pensacola, Florida. We practiced our Judaism seriously. A typical week found me in the synagogue no less than five times. On Sunday morning there was TNT (Tallis and Teffilin) when young men and old men together would put on the Tallit (prayer shaul) and Teffilin (Phylacteries) then pray together. This was followed by breakfast and 2 hours of Sunday school. After public school on Monday and Wednesday I attended a one and a half hour Hebrew school class (usually waiting another hour and a half for my brother to finish his lesson). Friday night was the beginning of the Sabbath. The service began at 8:00PM, lasted for an hour and was followed by an hour of fellowship called an Oneg Shabbat. The next day, Saturday morning, there was another Shabbat service beginning at 10:00AM and lasting a couple of hours. This last service was a Junior Congregation completely conducted by young people and usually not attended by adults at all. The Rabbi taught us in Hebrew school to conduct the liturgy of the worship service. I even served as the rabbi of the Junior Congregation for a year. Mind you, I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m very thankful my mother and father took the time and other resources to bless me with an excellent Jewish upbringing. I never have to question my Jewish identity.
Sometimes as I was growing up, I would ask why questions about our Jewish practices. Usually the answer was the same, “Because the Rabbi said.” It is impossible to base a faith system on “Because the Rabbi said.” Why do we believe this, or why do we do that, and the typical answer was “Because the Rabbi said.” When an event shakes the foundation, there is nothing to firmly hold. What do you do when the Rabbi changes his mind? (That happens sometimes.)
I had two good buddies while I grew up. We all did a lot of the same things together. One became a cantor in a traditional synagogue and the other became an orthodox rabbi. I, of course, became the leader of a non-traditional Messianic Jewish Congregation in Knoxville, TN. Although it is non-traditional, anyone who attends will know it is an inclusive blending of traditional Judaism and first century Christianity.
I always had a strong Jewish identity. In the Boy Scouts of America I received the Ner Tamid award given to Jewish scouts who complete the requirements. In high school I was president of my BBYO chapter, a part of the Cotton States district. In college I served at president of the Masada chapter at the University of Houston. Masada is the college youth arm of the Zionist Organization of America. In 1976 my wife, Ann and I were married in Houston by a rabbi under a chuppah.
On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement at Ohev Yisrael Messianic Jewish Congregation in Northern Virginia, it was great to hear that we could repent, but we already knew that from the synagogue. In the synagogue, on the Day of Atonement, Jewish people all over the world pray that they will be written in the book of life for another year. At the Messianic Jewish service we learned we could be written in the book of life for eternity. Yeshua, Jesus’ Hebrew name, calls all people everywhere to put Him above everything else. He is a perfect fit to Judaism. He calls us to be holy, to observe the commandments, to celebrate the feasts of the Lord, in short, to obey God. In fact, in the book of Hebrews His name is called “more excellent,” His ministry is called, “more excellent,” and His sacrifice is called, “more excellent.” More excellent than what? Not more excellent than the commandments, but more excellent than the Aaronic priesthood, for He is a priest forever after the order of Melchizidek (two Hebrew words meaning “a righteous king”). The priesthood of Aaron sacrificed animals, Yeshua became the once for all time sacrifice. The rabbis have always known that when king and priest come together in one man, the Messiah has come.
Three months after that Yom Kippur service we were attending another service when the Lord began to tug at my heart. I thought about accepting the call to come forward and give my heart to the Lord, but resisted, settling back in my seat with the thought that a decision of this magnitude deserves further scrutiny. At that moment the speaker said, “I believe there is someone here who is intellectualizing this decision. God wants you to know that this is not a decision made from your intellect or mind, but from your heart. You give your heart to Him and he’ll see to it that you’re never ashamed.” I felt like he was talking personally to me. I reached over and asked Ann if she would accept the Lord with me and she did. It was near the end of the altar call but I didn’t want to slink up the side. Just like when we got married, we walked up the center isle while many people waited for us to get up to the front. Those steps began a walk that has lasted 23 years now and will last a lifetime and beyond to all eternity.
The following Shabbat Ann and I were immersed in the Mikvah (Baptized) after the Messianic Jewish service at Ohev Yisrael. Our daughters have a firm foundation in Messianic Judaism and understand the value of being connected to the recognizably Jewish part of the body of the Messiah. We served as deacons at Ohev Yisrael for about 8 years. In 1997, just before Yom Kippur we founded Shomair Yisrael Messianic Jewish Congregation. It means Watchmen (or guardian) of Israel (the congregation has the same last name as our home congregation). Now in our ninth year we are amazed at the growth, both in numbers (which some would consider still very small) and in community. The Lord has brought the most wonderful people to serve Him with us. We are eternally grateful.
If you are Jewish or have a Jewish friend, please allow us the opportunity to explain in ways that we could never put in print we are more Jewish than ever now that we have a personal relationship with the Jewish Messiah. Contact Michael Weiner at 865-414-4527 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keith & Kami Henschen
Elders, Shomair Yisrael
Keith received a bachelor’s degree in youth and music from Crown College of the Bible. He then earned a master of ministry and was ordained as an elder in at Shomair in 2017. Kami also attended Crown College and received her bachelor’s degree in secondary education.
The Henschens began attending Shomair after being introduced to the Messianic movement through a series of books. They found a depth of the Scriptures they had not previously known when they approached the Bible from a Hebraic perspective. The Henschens live on a small farm where they raise their five children, whom they homeschool. It is their desire to help the local Body of Messiah grow and function as outlined in Scripture.