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Faith is difficult. You want to get better at it. Pastor Dave Adamson and Rabbi Evan Moffic want to help.
A Pastor And A Rabbi — EPISODE 1
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QUOTES FROM EPISODE 01
“You judge a rabbi by the quality of their followers.”
important to the formation of Judaism.”
“In Christianity there’s an awakening to the Jewishness of Jesus.”
“When you know more about the first
century, you read the Bible with new eyes”
Episode 01: ARGUING FOR THE SAKE OF HEAVEN
For every episode of the podcast, we include a complete transcript with links to resources we mention, and much more.
Dave: Well, Hey everybody, I want to welcome you to the very first episode of A Pastor And A Rabbi Walk Into A Bar. Name is Dave Adamson and I am one of your hosts, and I’m joined by my good friend Rabbi Evan Moffic. How are you mate?
Evan: Doing great, my friend. This is incredibly exciting that we get to do this together, and we get to learn and teach and celebrate.
Dave: Now, we’ve been talking about this for a long time, right?
Evan: Yes, we have. I mean from the moment we started talking about the Jewishness of Jesus, and you read my book and I read your book, we just really hit it off.
Dave: Yeah, we sure did. And I mean, I know there’s a bunch of people who say that you are their rabbi. I say the exact the same thing. How does that feel even, how does that feel when Christians say, “Hey, you are my rabbi?”
Evan: I’m just so honored because I believe passionately that the wisdom of Judaism, the wisdom of the Torah is for everybody. It’s for the world. And I feel one of the things about Judaism is that it’s been so enclosed and insular over the last several hundred years, you know, thousands of years. And there’s some reason for that. There was so much antisemitism that Jews had to kind of stick amongst themselves. But there’s so much wisdom wrapped into Jewish tradition. I mean, it’s the world’s oldest continuing religion and there’s so much wisdom there that’s just never been shared with the world. And so I feel grateful that I can share that and who better to to share that with than people who care about God, who care about the Bible, than other pastors, and so I’m just incredibly grateful.
Dave: Yeah, I absolutely love that. And I think that’s a big reason why you and I connected is because, as a Christian pastor, I’m super interested and always have been in the Jewishness of Jesus. I think some of the first conversations we had was me asking you to explain certain Hebrew words and then I read your book and saw that you basically had the opposite view, right? You’re a Jew who’s interested in Jesus, which is kind of unusual.
Evan: Very unusual. I’ve spoken about the book, the Jewishness of Jesus at several interfaith gatherings and there’ve been some rabbis who don’t even say the name Jesus. They’ll say, “J”. Isn’t that strange? I find it sad. I think part of it is they associate Jesus with Christianity with antisemitism. It’s not that many, but there are some. And I’m hoping to get past that and I’m hoping that we can see Jesus as a bridge rather than a barrier. I mean, if I could choose any structure or symbol of what I hope to achieve in my rabbinate, it’s a bridge, a bridge between people of different religions, a bridge between God and humanity, a bridge between the world of the past and the world of today. I mean that. So I think this, this is a moment for that kind of bridge building.
Dave: Absolutely love it. Evan, in just what you just said, then I think there’s about four different podcast episodes that we could do and it leads, makes me want to ask a thousand questions, which really is one of my favorite things, to be honest. As I study the Jewish culture, one of my favorite things is the way that questions are so highly venerated, that the questioning of things is something to be sought after. I love that. So I’m going to ask you about a thousand questions in a minute, but before we get to that, Evan, I was wondering if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself.
Dave: Tell our listeners, maybe they haven’t heard of you before, who are you, what do you do? How did you get to be where you are?
Evan: Well, I am a rabbi in suburban Chicago and I was in a town called Highland Park on the North shore of Chicago and I’ve been a rabbi now for 13 years. And I lead a wonderful congregation, about 500 families, actually a little bigger now. We’re about 600 families. And, I grew up in Houston, Texas even though I don’t have a Southern accent anymore, but I grew up there and moved to Milwaukee when I was in high school and I’ve been a rabbi in Chicago since I finished seminary. A seminary is a year in Israel. So that was truly a remarkable experience. I lived in Israel for a year and have always loved writing and found myself in my first synagogue serving in downtown Chicago. There was a massive church right next door and we did lots of different programs together and I found this great joy in interfaith work and just began writing.
Evan: And over time it became kind of a central part of my rabbinate. It was interfaith work and I formed some really close friendships with you, with a few other pastors, did a lot of work here in Chicago with neighboring churches and saw that we are in a new era, that people in many ways, people of faith, even if they are of different faiths, have a lot more in common, I think, than people who have no amount of faith in their lives. And so there’s, there’s a certain language we appreciate. There are certain lessons and values that we uphold and that I think we can learn from each other.
Evan: What about you Dave? How did you really get interested in Judaism and in the old Testament?
Dave: Yeah, well, I guess part of my story is I never wanted to become a pastor … that wasn’t on the radar at all. I had no interest whatsoever in being a pastor. I started learning about Jesus when I was in high school. I think it was in my senior of high school that I quote unquote started to call myself a Christian and again, still had zero interest in ever becoming a pastor. I was always wanted to be a sports reporter. And so in Australia where I’m from, I started down that path. I went to college, did a journalism degree. From there I started working for newspapers and then magazines and eventually got onto TV in Australia.
Evan: Yeah, you were on TV. You’re an Australian TV star! You’re a celebrity.
Dave: I would always argue that I was an F grade celebrity. But you know, I got to be a reporter for a show that was like our version of ESPN Sportscenter. And I did that for about seven years.
Dave: And so I think that media background that I had always had me asking questions. I’m married to my wife Meg and she will tell you, I’m always asking questions. I’ve got three teenage daughters, so please be praying for me. And one of the things I always say to my girls before they leave for school in the morning is “make sure you ask good questions today”, because I think this idea of questioning is so significant and so important. So, so one thing led to another. I ended up going into full time ministry, left Australia, went to a church in New Jersey. And really it was when I was in New Jersey and I was asking questions about the history of Jesus that I ended up spending some time with an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, who I would meet with on a regular basis.
Dave: And I just realized the things I learned from him had so much more depth than the things that I had been picking up from other pastors and in ministry and in the sermons that I had been hearing. And it was because he was really unpacking the fact that Jesus was Jewish for me and what the implications of that were. And he started talking to me about the first century culture and I started to realize that all this time I’d been reading the Bible through Western eyes. And so everything that I had read, every story that I had read, I pictured a certain way in my mind, but he was showing me that it was different. And then I had the opportunity to go to Israel a couple of times and see it for myself and realize that man, the pictures that I had in my head and the pictures that I had preached in churches were so different than that first century picture.
Dave: There was a big Gulf between the first century and the 21st century. Right?
Evan: Oh yeah. I love that. That it kind of opened your eyes to reading the Bible differently through the eyes of the Hebrews, through, through the, through that lens, because we live in a Greek influenced world where logic in a leads to B and B leads to C, the Hebrews didn’t live in that kind of world. You know, the two creation stories. And so in a way, in a way, what you’ve done is kind of reclaimed some of the early Jewish roots of Christianity.
Dave: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And what I see you doing is reclaiming a Jewish rabbi, right? That’s what I see you doing from the opposite end.
Evan: That’s right. That’s right. And so there’s a few things we think really that our listeners can get out of this show because we know that you who are listening are people of faith and care about learning and growing. So why would it be important for you to listen to a pastor and a rabbi? Well, I think there’s a few reasons. First of all, I think when you know more about the Jewishness of Jesus, when you know more about first and second centuries and what was happening, different Hebrew words, you’ll read the Bible with new eyes, new vistas and pictures will open up. And then Dave, you wrote an amazing book where you had pictures connected to different biblical verses. And what’s so beautiful about that book is you read those, you read those verses with a new picture in mind, literally a picture. But also you get a new feeling, a new reaction to that verse. I think when our listeners can learn from what we’re talking about, you’ll hear listeners, you’ll hear those verses through new ears and you’ll have a greater depth and way of applying it to your life. So that’s one part of it. What else, Dave, what else are we hoping our listeners get?
Dave: Yeah, I think you hit it on the head. You know, pictures are worth a thousand words. Pictures carry so much more weight than just written words. If you go to Facebook, if you post a photo, it’s going to get more engagement than just words alone. Same with Twitter. Same with Instagram. You know, Instagram is the most popular social media platform in the world right now and it’s driven by pictures and pictures really are the language of the 21st century. And so part of the reason I put the pictures in the book is because of that idea. Photos are the language of the 21st century. And so for me, as I looked at the Jewishness of Jesus and got the opportunity to go to Israel and see that new picture, the entire Bible came alive to me in a way that I did not understand or expect ever before and I read it completely differently.
Dave: And so for me, you know, for all the people who who are followers of Jesus who are listening, I think you’re going to get to see Jesus in a whole new light. I think you’re going to have your faith deepened in a way that we can’t even explain right now. Why? I hope that we will give you new and fresh insights into the stories that you’ve read over and over and over again, and I really hope that like me, you will start to call Evan your rabbi, that he will start to show you things that you’ve never seen before and a depth of practicality around faith that perhaps you haven’t experienced before. And why not come and listen to this rather than Googling it and trying to do it yourself, right?
Evan: That’s right. That’s right.
Dave: You’ve got a guy, you’ve got a pastor here who has written a book called 52 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know. And you’ve got a rabbi on the other side who has written a book called Everything a Christian Should Know About the Jewishness Jesus. It feels like fate that this was meant to happen.
Evan: That’s right. And, and let’s also say something else important is that it’s, this podcast is not all about the Jewishness of Jesus. I mean, that’s a big part of it. But we’re going to teach you a lot more. You’re going to learn about the Jewish holidays and what holidays Christians may be, can celebrate. Is it, is it Passover, Hanukkah, the Jewish new year? And even if you don’t celebrate it, what it means. I mean, I just got an email today from someone who, who’s read my book and she said, the Jewish holiday of Purim, is coming up. It actually starts this evening. She said, I’d like to read the book of Esther. Rabbi, what would you recommend? Do you have any teachings about it? And she’s not going to go to a synagogue. And celebrate Purim, but she knows that this, the book of Esther, which is part of the Bible is connected to this holiday and she’s going to read it and get something out of it.
Evan: So you’re going to learn about some of the Jewish holidays. You’re going to learn about maybe where there are differences. You know, one of the things that I think makes Dave and I, a unique combination is we’re young and we’re willing to have, maybe not difficult conversations, but interesting conversations. You know, it’s easy to always talk about what we have in common. We all, we all love peace and love and hope and charity. These are all good things that we promote, but there are also distinct differences and sometimes we learn the most important, we have the most meaningful conversations when we talk about our differences. And so we’ll get into some areas maybe what you think about the Messiah and what Christians tend to think about the Messiah, why Jews don’t tend to see the new Testament as part of the Bible.
Evan: And so we’ll talk about that without judgment, without, saying this is the right way. It’s the right way for some people and not the right way for others. So we’ll have those conversations and I think you’ll really get something out of it. And, you’ll see that we live in a world where God made all of us different people. You know, there’s a beautiful Jewish teaching in the Talmud, which we’ll talk about. It says, what’s the difference between God and a coin maker? And, and the Tulmud says, well, when a coin maker makes coins, they all come out the same. But when God made human beings, we all came out different. And so these differences can enrich us in the more we learn about those differences, the more we insight we have into God’s creation.
Dave: Yeah. I love that. Did you say it was a parable or is it just a story?
Evan: Yeah. It’s a teaching. Yeah, it’s a parable in the Talmud.
Dave: I love that. That’s incredible. And I think just to put the icing on the cake for me here’s what it boils down to. I know as somebody who grew up in a non Christian environment who became a Christian, you know, when I was a senior in high school, I know that faith can be confusing and the first half of our Christian Bible can be especially intimidating, right? What we call the old Testament, which we’re going to talk about that one day about why we shouldn’t call it the old Testament because I think that’s super offensive. But it can be, you know, faith can be confusing. The Bible can be intimidating. But we all know that you listening to this podcast, you want to get the most out of the Bible. You want to get the most out of your faith. And so really we started this podcast because we want to help. We want to help you get the most out of your spiritual journey, whatever that looks like. That’s really the goal of this podcast. Would that be fair?
Evan: Absolutely. And I know that there are going to be people of different face listening. So for Christians, you’re going to get a different, layer to faith and to the Bible and to what it means to be a Christian and a person of faith in the 21st century. And for Jews who are listening, you’re going to get to hear from a rabbi and also from a pastor who’s passionately interested in Judaism and in the Hebrew Bible in a way where we can learn from one another. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from pastors or friends, just different insights into prayer, different insights into the world of the first century. I mean, in many ways the new Testament is a Jewish book in that it portrays this life of first century Jews and, and the life they were living. So I think our Jewish audience can really get some new depth and layers and also just learn a little bit about another religion. I mean, I think sometimes, again, Jews, because we’re such a small people, we’ve tended to maybe be a little more insular. And so this is a way of, of getting out of that box, of experiencing a different way of looking at faith and looking at the Hebrew Bible. And I think that is enormously helpful and beneficial.
Dave: Yeah. You know, it’s so funny you say that because I think Christians as well, we get brought up to be very insular focused, like almost, and this could totally be an Australian cultural thing. But because Christianity in Australia is such a small percentage of the population, like I think the last time I read it was something in the area of 4% I grew up feeling like going to church was almost like an AA meeting, you know? It was where I went to find people who were going through the same thing, battling the same ideas where I would find teaching that would give me new life and give me the encouragement that I needed to go out into the world. But what that did was it made me very insular. You know, I didn’t look outside the box anymore.
Dave: And what I love about my conversations with you, and as I study the first century and the Jewish culture, it’s opening that box. It’s broadening the boundaries of my own faith. And that’s what I really want for the Christians who are listening. I want them to experience that life giving picture that you talked about an opportunity to experience Jesus in a whole new way. And I’m looking forward to having conversations with you about Jesus, about even little things, right? The parables of Jesus and what they mean. In a Jewish context, I want to talk about, Jesus, should we call him Jesus or we call him Yeshua? That whole thing. I think there’s going to be so many conversations like that. And, as you said, I’m not afraid to ask those questions of you. I know you’re not afraid to ask them of me now.
Dave: And so, I feel like we’re going to have some very raw and candid discussions that are designed with the one purpose of helping people get the most out of their faith. You know what this reminds me of Evan, there’s one of the things I love about going to Israel is being at the Western wall and I had this experience at the Western wall one time where, you know, you’ve been there, as you walk towards it, there’s all these tables set up on the left hand side and there’s all these people that seem like they’re yelling at each other. They’re very agitated. They’re waving their hands around with each other. And I remember watching these rabbis, these students just doing that. Again, talking very high pitch, very loud, agitated at each other.
Dave: It’s very, very intense. But as I watched them for about the span of about maybe 15 minutes, what I saw at the end was I saw them all lock arms, put their arms around each other and walk away together laughing and smiling and having a great conversation. What seemed to be an argument seemed like it drew them closer together, didn’t separate them. And that’s what I want from us. I want us to be able to have these intense conversations, knowing that the outcome will hopefully expand our own faith, expand our own way of thinking and expand the thinking and faith of our listeners as well.
Evan: That’s beautiful. There’s a wonderful teaching again in the Talmud that says, arguments for the sake of heaven increase peace. So when we can have, you know, there are different types of arguments and maybe we’ll get into that. We should have a whole episode on this. There’s Machloket l’shem shamayim, which means arguments for the sake of heaven. And then there are arguments for the sake of, of power. And the, you know, the biblical figure of Korah, he argued with Moses because he wanted Moses as power. And that was the wrong kind of argument. And God ultimately destroyed him. But to great rabbis, Hillel and Shammai, they argued, but they argued for the sake of truth and they remained friends and they remained teachers in all of their opinions recorded. So, you know, we live in a world right now, just look around us, all these political disagreements.
Evan: And I would venture to say, so many of them are for the sake of power. Each side wants it, wants more power, and we’re, we’re having a different kind of discussion. We are trying to talk, argue, but really learn and share for the sake of truth, for the sake of a deepening of faith, for the sake of creating a better world. And hopefully those of you who are listening and those of you who’ve been learned something from us, really share that same mission to grow in our faith and grow in the impact that our faith can bring to the world.
Dave: Yeah, and I really want to encourage you, everybody who’s listening, Evan and I are going be putting together some show notes as part of this podcast. So don’t just listen. We’re going to try to give you an opportunity to read for yourself some of the stuff that we talk about. There’ll be links in there to various readings, to various teachings that we’re pushing forward or ideas that we’ve promoted or ideas that we’ve shared on the podcast. So you’re gonna want to go and check out those show notes. So we’ll give you all the details to that at the intros and the outros of every podcast, every episode that we do so that you don’t miss them at all. But I’m gonna encourage you, make sure that you check out the show notes. They are absolutely going to be a highlight. Probably the thing I’m most looking forward to because that phrase that you just said, for example, Evan I want to know the spelling of that, I want to know, did you know what I mean?
Dave: There’s things like that that, I know for me, have always grown and expanded my faith because they’ve expanded my thinking. So everybody who’s listening, make sure you check out the show notes. We’ll give you the details at the end.
Dave: Hey, Evan, just for this episode, just real quick, there’s a couple of things that you said in your opening monologue, and I wanted to circle back to, you talked about there being a new era. I’m seeing that in Christianity because I feel like there’s just this awakening to the Jewishness of Jesus. This interest in understanding the Jewish culture. Are you seeing that? Are you experiencing that from the Christian friends that you have?
Evan: Absolutely. And, I think there are a couple of reasons for it. I think one of them is just sort of practical and demographic in that there is a lot of intermarriage between Christians and Jews.
Evan: You know, that, that, that people about probably 75% of the weddings that I conduct are between Jews and Christians. Now, many of those couples, they still, you know, they belong to a synagogue, they may identify as Jewish, but that means that the Christian family now has Jewish members of their family. And so people are just more interested in learning about Judaism just to feel closer to their family. So I think there’s, that’s one reason. The other is just sort of more cultural in that we live in an era where many Christians have visited Israel, that Jews are much more accepted in the Western world than in other previous times in history. And so there’s just an openness that the internet can expose us to texts and teachings that may have been restricted before. So I think we’re, we’re in an era where certain areas of thought that were once kind of, I dunno off limits, but we’re just not encourage, are now open for us to explore. And so I think that really, I feel that all the time.
Dave: I want to probe into that just a little bit further. See I found that when I talk to Christians about the Jewishness of Jesus, there’s a couple of really key speed bumps is what I like to call them. Cause they’re not things that people can’t get over, but it certainly slows them down when it comes to the idea of Judaism and the Jewish culture. Now some of that is just this misunderstanding of Christians labeling Jewish people as legalistic, which we’re going to talk about that in a future episode. I have no doubt that that’ll be a whole episode. But you brought up the idea of antisemitism as well. Do you think that that still exists in the Christian Church or is that starting to die off a little bit?
Evan: I actually think it’s starting to die off in the church. I think the church has, you know, that’s one of the reasons I wrote the Jewishness of Jesus book, was to kind of highlight some of, or at least address some of the lingering antisemitic themes, areas where people may not even have been aware, you know, charges saying that Jews killed Jesus or the Pharisees were legalistic. I mean, sometimes people just heard those messages and didn’t really think hard about them.
Evan: So one of the reasons I wrote that book was to kind of counter that, that message. And I do think that antisemitism is declining in the church. Now, of course, there are small pockets in, in different areas. Um, the real kind of antisemitism today comes from the middle East and is really centered around Israel and actually comes more from the very far left of the political spectrum. Almost the anti-religious, left is where there’s more antisemitism. So I think in some ways we’re, one of the great historical achievement of the 20th century. The 20th century was a bloody century. We had world war one, world war two, the Holocaust, but one of the great achievements is a reconciliation between Judaism and Christianity that what had been a terrible persecution for 1900 years, has really improved so dramatically that a Pope, two popes, have visited Israel. Three actually three have visited Israel. So I think that’s one of the great miracles of the 20th century. And part of our task is to, to express gratitude for that miracle and, and act on it and learn from it and deepen it.
Dave: How Evan has that history that you talked about, 1900 years of antisemitism. And that includes just some horrific stories from a Christian perspective. You know, when I think of the crusades and things like that, what sort of impact has that history had on the Jewish perspective of Jesus?
Evan: Huge. That’s a great question. The perspective it has had is many Jews are reluctant to talk about Jesus because they associated the church with antisemitism. In fact, there was a, there was a rabbi about 50 years ago, a very influential rabbi named Maurice Eisendrath gave a speech, he was president of the union for reformed Judaism, and he gave a speech in front of thousands of people saying, Jews should reclaim Jesus as a rabbi. Kind of similar to what I’m saying. He said this 50 years ago, and he was a much bigger shot than I am. I mean, this guy was very, very influential and his call fell like a lead balloon. Nobody, nobody picked up on it. It was like, it was like he came from Mars. Nobody was interested because they still associated Jesus with antisemitism. He was in many ways kind of prophetic and understanding that that era is coming to an end. And, I think part of my goal is to help be that bridge.
Evan: Now, I’m not, I’m not trying to say Jews have to study Jesus as a rabbi. It’s not, but we can get over on the association of Jesus with antisemitism and see the kind of, rabbinic teachings that Jesus embodied. And that that deepens our appreciation for the root of Christianity. It also gives us a picture into the world of the first century. I mean, Jesus is important to the formation of Judaism. In many ways reformed Judaism, which is the branch that I belong to, in many ways picked up on a lot of what Jesus, his teachings were. Reformed Judaism, de-emphasizes the law, and focuses on ethics and compassion. And in many ways that was Jesus’ message as well. I’m not saying there’s a straight line between the two, but there, there are connections that I hope we can uncover.
Dave: Yeah, I think that’s so fascinating. And I know that there are Christians listening to this right now who are thinking, you know, if you’re going to reclaim Jesus, then you know, why don’t you, or why don’t Jewish people see him as the Messiah of which, I don’t want you to answer that question yet because I want to leave a cliffhanger, right? I want people to come back and listen to episode two. But you know, I know that’s a big question that a lot of Christians have is this idea of, well, why don’t you see Jesus as the Messiah and know that we will get into some other conversations about that. But having spoken to Orthodox Jewish rabbis and a few Jewish friends of mine, a big part of it is based on that 1900 years of antisemitism. That you judge a rabbi by the quality of their followers. And if the followers of Jesus in the name of Jesus would go and kill a million Jewish people in the crusades, for example, well then that doesn’t really set him up as a messianic figure for a lot of people. Right?
Evan: Absolutely. We will get into that issue. Why don’t Jews see Jesus as the Messiah? There are a lot of reasons in there and I think there’s a message even for Christians who do see Jesus as the Messiah. I think there are some truths, some insights we can learn from the Jewish views of Jesus. And I do think that’s a good place to head off to, leave a cliffhanger because I probably get that question every, at least once a week I get an email or a phone call saying, well, what do Jews believe about Jesus? Why isn’t Jesus the Messiah? And there’s a great joke that said, when the Messiah arrives, the first question we can ask is, is this a return visit sir? And then we’ll know the answer. If he says yes, then Jesus was the Messiah. If not, then, the Jews are right. So we’ll start to probe that question in our next episode.
Dave: Great one, make sure you keep an eye out for that.
Dave: Evan, I just want to thank you for your time today as we kick off this brand new podcast. I’m really looking forward to not just next week, but every week after that, every episode that we do. I know that I’m going to learn a lot. I hope that you’re going to learn a lot as well.
Evan: I already have.
Dave: Well I know that our listeners will as well, so make sure you tune in for our next episode.
Dave: Before you go, I just want to make sure that you leave a rating and a review of this podcast on Apple podcasts. It really helps us get the word out about what we’re doing here. Also, subscribe to this podcast if you haven’t done so already, you can do that on Apple podcast, Google play, Stitcher and SoundCloud. Don’t forget to hang about for a few seconds, just so you can hear about where you can pick up the show notes and please share this episode with a friend. We would love if you tweeted about it or post it on Facebook or Instagram or anything. Just start telling, your friends, all about A Pastor And A Rabbi Walk Into A Bar.
Dave: Evan, thank you so much. We’ll see you next time.
Evan: Thanks Dave.