Ancient Synagogue Hosts Bar Mitzvah
by Eitan Shishkoff, Executive Director, Tents of Mercy Network
"And their sons shall be as of old ..." (Jeremiah 30:20).
A young man stood, poised and ready to chant from the Torah scroll placed in front of him. The warm October sun behind him highlighted his youthful features and the tallit (prayer shawl) draped over his shoulders. He stood not in a modern house of worship, but on the grounds of an ancient Galilee synagogue, one of the oldest in the world. Though the walls and roof were no longer standing the outlines remained.
His forebears had positioned their synagogue on a ledge of land, looking down through a steep cleft in the earth, their gaze ending at the shore of the Sea of Galilee. At the foot of this same mountain, Yeshua preached and performed miracles in the valley of Ginossar, as recorded in the Gospels. Yeshua taught in synagogues all throughout the region, possibly even right here.
What was it like when the Scriptures were last chanted here? Who had prayed among the skillfully carved columns, entering through the elaborate doorway - carved out of a single limestone rock? The village and its substantial synagogue are thought to have been in use from the 1st century until at least the 4th century. Abundant crops of wheat, olives and flax for linen cloth surrounded the synagogue. A major trade route between the Mediterranean basin in the West and Syria to the Northeast, skirted the Sea of Galilee just below the adjacent Mt. Arbel.
While many young Messianic Jews have been called to the Torah, why did this lad and his family choose such an unusual setting for his bar mitzvah? Establishing the organic connection between faith in Yeshua as Israel's Messiah, and the Jewish way of life passed to our people from generation to generation is an uphill climb. The tragic history of church anti-Semitism causes most Jewish people to distance themselves from our own Redeemer. Thus, living out our faith in Israel, in the vividly Jewish historic environment of an ancient synagogue, makes a simple yet eloquent statement that is essential in conveying the resonant truth of the Hebraic roots of the New Covenant.
One young Israeli's bar mitzvah was celebrated in the ruins of a long silent synagogue. Its fallen pillars and walls again heard the melody of God's word being chanted. The young man and his family were declaring: "We are here in fulfillment of the inviolable promises of Almighty God in His word. This is our land, and we treasure it. Faith in Yeshua is as Jewish as our ancient covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When we welcome our young people into early adulthood, we are identifying with the entire nation and its long history, dating back to Israel's patriarchs."
"Renew, renew our days as of old" (traditional Jewish prayer).