|What Our Community Is, and Is Not|
There have been many correspondents asking,"What is your community like?" "Where are you located?" "Where is your synagogue?" I can remember how Christians would ask about "your church" meaning, "How much property do you have?"
The Hebrew word, yaŻad, like most Hebrew words, cannot be simply translated. We have used the English community to render it, but it comes from the Hebrew ŁeŻĮd one, single, alone and yaŻad means to become one, thus community. The community consists of those participating in it, and for ourselves we mean those who have adopted the Ebionite approach to Yahwism. The approach employed is Torah observance in a re-newed covenant manner, that is Torah observed without external coercion, but instead Torah internalized and kept individually and responsibly in full devotion. This is not in any means to be misconstrued into "laws done away with" and allegorizing. Aside from sacrifices, the full Written Torah is to be observed from Shabbats (Holy Days) down to growing beards and tying a cord of blue in the corners of garments. We are messianic in the hope that there will be a reign of Yahweh on this earth through his representative, the Messiah. Most of us believe that although Yahshua ben Yosef did not fully complete the messianic mission, he will play a part in the future completion.And we do believe that his Torah-observant teachings reflect re-newed covenant examples. (At the same time we, as many scholars, are not completely sure just what he did say, and what was added later by Paulist religion.)
If you share these beliefs and others you are a part of the Ebionite Community. In the Rabbinic tradition, a minyan, the number of male members needed for a religious service is ten. We believe that two joined in common faith will suffice. The real unit of worship is not a building. It is family, and often the extended family in what could be called a Żebraj, that makes the foundation of Ebionite faith. We have found that ritual should be minimal, loose, and unpretentiously observed, and this happens often around the table.
I have always wanted to build a first century style bet knesset (assembly house) featuring mosaics, oil lamps, menorot...taken from ancient designs.. No glass, bathrooms, city water (just a cistern or spring-fed mikveh), or electricity. Would it be worth it? Could we stay humble? Would we not just be another competitor for the local religious "business"?
Who will pay for the synagogue? Fundraisers, tithers. Who will administer? Accountants, secretaries, a board of trustees. Do we incorporate? Lawyers. Will we need full-time employees? Who will sign the checks? This is a den of thieves in the making! Just look at the church down the street or on the TV screen churches.
When we build our bet knesset, what if we decide that it is not impressive enough. The other god-boxes are bigger! What if we must draw more members to, frankly, increase our funds and prestige? Won't we need to compromise here and there to bring them in from the fringes? Won't we need to expand our ministry areas? TV, radio, print for starters.
Why after we finish and, of course, I will be the exalted leader! Won't we be proud of ourselves? We will be above criticism, and I will be above that! I could be just like the minister TV star standing up front of my devoted minions who could shout 'Amen!' at every word I blubber. Will I not deserve special treatment to maintain my ego? How about some young ladies of the congregation? Should I not get a cut of the tithes to purchase things that properly convey the respect of my position?
And so it goes, on and on. Can you (seriously) show me an exception to this religion business scenario? I wouldn't believe you. Even ministers who come to 'evyonut have had the experience of the religion business severely damage them. We have no "ministers"---forget all that, you must cleanse yourself and start over! It is no different than if you were a utter pagan.
I know that some have been disappointed not to find an "organization" or a synagogue full of people, or a commune or compound of some sort. But folks, what I described above is where we came from in "established" religion---the religion business. I don't wish to go back there.
There will be those who call themselves 'Evyoni who will probably go that route. May Yah have mercy on them and those who follow. They will become just another Christian church however disguised. And the same abominations that Paulism is filled with will come to them also.
The things described above are not our Way. We are building people not institutions. We are `abdim, servants, not leaders. We are waiting for the Reign, not building an earthly kingdom, and there is no permanent place for us. There may be a time when we will have to hide and wander as fugitives from evil, but let us avoid that to the last moment, and not give the Evil one a target to burn down. (This sounds like paranoia, I know, but read a history of Christianity's treatment of "heretics" which included the original 'Evyonim.) Let's not make the mistakes of those institutions we have left behind.We are not looking to provide stages for me or anyone else to perform our piety, or rituals. I do not even pray in the presence of others.
Our community is wherever there are two of us, and 'emunah 'evyoni will survive with one of us. If it dies, will it not be restored? We should visit each other, and communicate, support each other, teach our children and all who would listen, and be encouraged by this web site. We must concentrate on Yahweh, our own improvement, and faith. Building boxes to attract a god, or establishing hierarchies and organizations does not proclaim humility. Filling buildings with furniture with money that could aid the poor does not exalt the Poor. We do not want your money---it is your responsibility to honor Yahweh with it. But who commanded us to build houses of worship?
I am truly sorry that we perhaps have not provided what some have needed. But it is time to look to Yahweh Alone. We have a place for you but not a building or commune---please, come in and take a place on the "floor" with us.
May Yahweh Bless you and keep you.
Copyright © 1997/5757 Shemayah ben-Avraham
Last Updated 06/18/01