Thursday, January 19, 2006

Matrilineal Jews and the Torah

In the bigger social picture, there are two presuppositions that define Jewish culture today. The first, and most important, is "whether or not they believe in Jesus". This fact is quite confusing to most people, for example:
A friend of mine, whose husband is Jewish, told me she was planning to convert to Judaism. Knowing that she had been raised in a Catholic family, I was curious, and asked if she had ever visited a Messianic Jewish congregation. She looked puzzled and asked, "What's that?" So I told her that it is a Church founded by Jews who believe in Jesus. And with wide surprise in her eyes, she replied, "They have those?"

Her response was not too amazing, but my inclination to suggest that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, or Paul were Jews who believed in Jesus could have been insulting ... so instead, I thought, it would be more appropriate to invite her to a Bible study. Before I could do that, her father-in-law approached us, having overheard the last bit of our conversation. The situations that the Lord puts me in are amazing sometimes.
No matter how much the Jewish people resist the notion that their culture is defined by "whether or not they believe in Jesus", it is perhaps the most defining aspect of their culture today. In fact, for Jews who do not believe in Jesus, it shapes their culture far more than they want to admit. The very nature of the way that they respond to Christian proselytizing, let alone the mention of Jesus in their own home, is quite telling. They might freely talk of satan worshippers, enemies of the state like Bin Laden, or even Hitler, but Jesus is not up for discussion at all. It is easy to understand why they do this, but then one must also see that this is a feature of their culture that distinguishes it from the rest.

The second presupposition that defines Jewish culture today, may not be as important as the first, but it is certainly more confusing, more mysterious, and more widely misunderstood. It is usually stated simply that, "If your mother is Jewish, then you are Jewish". Most Christians have not thought clearly enough about this fact, and I am one of those Christians.
The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it. - Benjamin Disraeli
Instead of a book, I am writing this blog entry to clear my thoughts on this subject of matrilineal descent and its impact on Jewish culture.

While many Christians want to talk about evangelizing, I want to love people first, and learn to understand them without forgetting to preach the Gospel. Some Jews have said that they are afraid that evangelical Christians would love them to death ... is there a better way to die?

It is possible, and in fact quite probable, that people who have read the Law, the whole of Scripture, and even an entire history of the Jews, barely notice how this one law of matrilineal descent has shaped the entire Jewish culture. So where does this Law come from? Very few people know its origins, including many Jews. And those who do know, do not want to talk about it much, and I'm not sure why.

I once asked this question of a famous Rabbi:

Vernon Singleton from Orlando Florida wrote
in with an interesting question:

The Torah seems to indicate that the Jewish
people were Jewish because they were descendants
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (this is patrilineal).
But Many Jewish folks today say they are Jewish
because their mother was Jewish (this is matrilineal).

At what point did the change take place?
Who had the authority to change it?

Rabbi Wein:
The change took place at Sinai.
Before the revelation at Sinai the Jewish
people were a family not a faith ... so to speak.
And as family it was patrilineal.

One of the rules that was given at Sinai
is that from now on the Jewish people as a
faith ... as a religion ... follows the mother
there are many reasons for that I mean one of
the basic reasons is that usually we can find
out who the mother is ... the father may or
may not be so clear.

But since Sinai we are
a matrilineal ... it's measured by the mother.
And anyone born of a Jewish mother is a Jew.
Anyone who was born of a non-Jewish mother
can become a Jew through conversion, but is
not born Jewish.

What is the right of return law in Israel like?

Rabbi Wein:
Well the right of return is much broader.

I mean if you are related to a Jew you are
allowed to come in under the right of return.
We have hundreds of thousands of Russian Christians
here in the country who are here because they
have a connection to some Jewish grandfather or
to a Jewish uncle or a ... by marriage etcetera.

So the law of return is much broader than the
Halakha (Hebrew: הלכה) itself. I think what
he's asking is ... what does it take to be
registered as a Jew in the country?

Well he actually does ask, "Does the government
of Israel ask immigrants if their mother was

Rabbi Wein:

In fact it's on all the documents.

Rabbi Wein:
Because you have to answer on the form what you
are ... Jewish, Christian, Muslim, nothing,
whatever you want, but you have to answer.

In order to receive your identity card and your
passport, etcetera, which says that you're
Jewish, then you have to bring proof that you're

Besides that non-Jews are also accepted and
welcome here that they have another path as
it were for a ...

Rabbi Wein:
There are, I would say, a million and a half
non-Jews ... Muslims, Jews, Christians

That's Muslims, and Jews, and the Christians,
of course

Rabbi Wein:
And now that we have many of the Asians here,
they have eastern religions. There's a lot
of people here.

His response only begged the question. An answer that comes closer to the mark is posted on here. It is a better answer because it is supposed to explain where exactly in the first 5 books of the Law, Moses established the definition of Jews to include the children of Jewish women as follows:
The Torah does not always state every law explicitly. In the case of Matrilineal Descent, the practice is derived from Deuteronomy 7: 4, "Because he will lead astray your son from before Me" To understand this verse, look at the preceding verse, which states: "And you shall not intermarry with them, your daughter you shall not give to his son and his daughter you shall not take for your son". Verse 4 should have stated "Because SHE will lead astray your son", for the non-Jewish girl that your son married ('your' meaning Jewish) should be the one that would lead your son astray. So who is the 'HE'? It might be the girl's father, but in general, women leave their father's house and live in their husband's house; they would then not be living with her father. Hence, it would not make sense for the girl's father to lead "your son" astray if your son doesn't live with him.

The Rabbis concluded that 'HE' is the man that your daughter married, and 'your son' mentioned in verse 4 is your grandchild, meaning Jewish grandchild. Thus, verse 4 is referring back to the middle section of verse 3. It reads like this, "your daughter you shall not give to his son because he will lead astray your son" This shows that the child of a Jewish girl and a non-Jewish boy will be Jewish.

No one said this was going to be easy, but ... wow. What do you think?

Friday, January 06, 2006

My Savior Jesus

This is one of my personal favorites. Partly because of the perspective of the song, and mainly because of the truth of the story it tells. It's certainly one of my father's most important songs. You would have to hear him sing it to understand, but for now, you'll just have to settle for me ... try to reach out with your heart, and you may catch the power of this song's message.

Here are the Lyrics:
My Savior Jesus
written by Vernon D. Singleton, Sr.
around 1986 AD

Let me tell you a story
about a man I know
He comes from far away
and long ago

His name is Jesus
and He taught me how to love
I see him all around me and feel his
strength from above

When I came into this world
nothing did I know
of what came before me, but
I began to grow

I was looking for the answers
of what I was to be, and
tried to get outside myself, so
I could be free

I really don't know what it was
that caused me not to see
I guess as much as anything it was
pride or vanity

But then it came, that awful day,
that awful day of woe.
I saw the devil smile at me,
he said, "You're mine, you know?"

(woo & musical bridge)

Then from up above me
at first it wasn't very clear
but there in the devil's face,
I saw a sign of fear.

Yes, it was Jesus
hanging down a thread of hope
I grabbed onto that thread in faith, and
it became a rope.

Yes, it was my savior (Jesus),
coming after me
I gave myself to him, and
He set me free.

(woo & musical bridge)

Let me tell you a story
about a man I know
He comes from far away
and long ago ...

Am <- play this
(e) <- sing this

The Jesus Train

Going back in time to about June of 2005, brings us to my father's previous song which I may have mentioned earlier in my post about the hotdog church. He had entitled this previous song "The Jesus Train's a Comin' Soon", but let's just call it "The Jesus Train".

If you cannot tell yet, my father only writes Gospel songs as far as I know. And he plays these songs on an acoustic guitar, but I want to get these recorded, and he's not here, so you'll have to settle for my scratchy voice and twangy little uke again.

Here is a direct link to the mp3.

Here are the Lyrics:
The Jesus Train

It's been a looooong time coming
are you ready ... are you ready today ...

Here it comes; All aboard.
Next stop, Heaven; Gonna be with the Lord.
Are you comin? Or have you decided to stay? Let's Pray.

Better make up your mind; No more waitin'
No time for procrastinatin'
Jesus is comin' to get us, and take us away ... any day.

If you're thinkin' the train's gonna wait,
You'll get left behind and it'll be to late.
So make up your mind, and come along with me ... you'll see

That Jesus loves you. Bible tells me so.
He's knockin' on your door. So ready to go.
Don't get left behind. It's time to choose.
wadda-ya you got to lose?
what have you got to lose? ... (just) your soul.

Now if you're thinkin the train's gonna wait
You'll get left behind and it'll be too late.
So make up your mind, and come along with me ... you'll see.

Here it comes. Don't be slow.
When it's comin'; nobody knows.
I'll be waitin; But how about you? ... how bout you? ... how bout you?

Words, music, and accompaniment - all by:
Donny Singleton
345 Vista Trail
Farragut, TN 37922

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Jesus in the Sky

The idea for this song was written by Jessica Mitchum (at age 9) in 2005 and then it was composed by my father, Donny Singleton around September of 2005. Below is a crude recording I made with a $35 Gremlin ukulele -- using chords like Am, G, Esus, E7, and F/C. My Father told me how sincere and innocent the little girl Jessica was, and how he tried to capture that in this song. Maybe you can capture it too. Enjoy.

Here is a direct link to the mp3.

Here are some Lyrics and links to other renditions ...

Here are the Lyrics:
Jesus in the Sky

I wish everyone would know / my Jesus and be good
Just as they should, oh how I wish they would.
Every person who knows Jesus will go up very high.
Will go up very high and never die.

For Jesus is our God. He's King of Kings and Lord of Lords
He is Almighty and our Majesty.
And we will be so happy when He takes us to the sky.
And we will praise His Holyness on high.

The Heavens will be opened. He'll be riding a white horse.
The Rider's name is Faithful and True.
He's coming back to get all those who call upon His name.
I'm calling Him and hoping you do too.


Are you ready to go with Him when He comes back for you?
Are you praying to receive Him? Is your heart pure and true?
Just give Him your whole heart and know that He loves you.
And you will live with Jesus on "Heaven's Avenue"


So give Him your whole heart and know that He loves you
And you can live with Jesus on "Heaven's Avenue".

-- originally written by Jessica Mitchum ... age 9