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April 26, 2013

To Experience Jesus, Visit a Synagogue

By Bernard Starr

Jesus was a dedicated Jew who prayed, as Jews do today, with prayer shawl and tefillin (pylacteries).He regularly attended prayer services at a synagogue where he read from the Torah.A synagogue visit during prayer services offers an authentic Jesus experience: "That's what Jesus did every Sabbath."


.Look at me and see Jesus. Yeminite Jew with prayer shawl, tefillin and Torah
(Image by Wikipedia)
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.Look at me and see Jesus. Yeminite Jew with prayer shawl, tefillin and Torah by Wikipedia

When I began gathering material for my recently published book, Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew, I described the project to an orthodox rabbi I know. I was prepared for an indifferent response, or perhaps a negative one, since I have found that Jews do not readily warm up to the name Jesus. Much to my surprise, though, the rabbi smiled and responded with a personal anecdote.

He lectures a great deal all over the world, he told me, and sometimes he is in an airport waiting room during morning prayer time. Undaunted by the public setting, he goes to the most private area he can find and proceeds to wrap himself in a prayer shawl and put on his phylacteries (teffilin-- two leather boxes that are fastened with straps to the forehead and arm).The tefillin contain parchments of verses from the Torah: Exodus 13:1-10 and 13: 11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21.

Occasionally, curious Christians ask the rabbi about this "strange" ritual. "I always give the same answer," he said: "This is what Jesus did every morning."

The rabbi was no doubt correct, as my research confirmed. Jesus, like most Galilean Jews at the time, was a Pharisee. And the Pharisees engaged in standard Jewish practices. Prayer shawls were traditional for prayer services. And the phylacteries date back to ancient times. The Torah scriptures were added to the leather boxes during the Second Temple Period beginning in 515 BCE. In Matthew 23:5 (New Testament) Jesus makes reference to tefillin, as well as the tassels (tzitzit) that observant Jews wear.

A traveler passing through Nazareth or a neighboring town who wanted to meet the charismatic Rabbi Jesus (as his followers called him) might easily find him at the local synagogue---especially on the Sabbath. Jesus routinely attended Sabbath services at a synagogue, where he read the weekly portion (parsha) of the Torah: "And he went to Nazareth where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up for to read." (Luke 4:16)

So the next time you see an observant Jew with prayer shawl, tefillin, and tzitzit, look at him and see Jesus. That's how Jesus appeared every morning. Or, for a more complete Jesus experience, visit a synagogue. That's where Jesus went every Sabbath.

Given the ample evidence that Jesus was a dedicated practicing Jew isn't it ironic that his spiritual home, the synagogue, has historically been the target of desecration and destruction by anti-Semites?

Submitters Website: http://www.bernardstarr.com

Submitters Bio:

Bernard Starr, PhD, is a psychologist and Professor Emeritus at CUNY (Brooklyn College). He is also a past president of the Brooklyn Psychological Association and the Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy. His latest book is "Jesus, Jews, And Anti-Semitism In Art:How Renaissance Art Erased Jesus' Jewish Identity & How Today's Artists Are Restoring It." At Brooklyn College he directed a graduate program in gerontology. He is also founder and editor of a number of publications in the field of aging:The Springer Publishing Company Series on Adulthood and Aging, the Springer Series on Lifestyles and Issues in Aging, and the cutting edge Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics. For seven years he was writer, producer and host of an award winning radio commentary, The Longevity Report, on WEVD-AM Radio in NYC. During the same period-- for three years--he wrote op-ed articles for the Scripps Howard News Service on healthcare, the "boomers," and issues of an aging society. He currently produces and hosts television documentaries on meaningful, active and productive living in the third age of life (Active Aging Stories) for Phoenix Rising Television Productions He is also author of "Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew," and is organizer of the art exhibit "Putting Judaism Back in the Picture: Toward Healing the Christian/Jewish Divide Currently, his articles are published at OpEdNews and the Huffington Post. He has also written for Salon, Barons Financial Magazine, the Algemeiner, and UPI's Religion and Spirituality section. His earlier book, "Escape Your Own Prison: Why We Need Spirituality and Psychology to be Truly Free," published by Rowman and Littlefield, explores spirituality as a psychology of consciousness.