Author’s Note: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz respondrd to my recent article “Snakes in The Vineyard” with an article of his own, eschewin the standard name-calling, slander, and lies, my detractors often hurl at me and other Jews who stand strong on this issue. I appreciate his ability to address these contentious issues without resorting to defamation.
The topic of missionaries polluting the sanctity of the land of Israel remains a serious issue and Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz’ ( A.E.B. ) article deserves a rebuttal, since I believe that he misunderstood me (or I failed to adequately convey my position) on several critical points, and I wanted to respond to several of his statements. I respond here in a paragraph-by-paragraph fashion dissecting his article using his initials A.E.B. and my own D.F. (Donny Fuchs), to indicate my counter-response. My greatest frustration when I address these issues is that I have to repeat myself, on matters I’ve discussed and documented in so many of my past articles. Nevertheless, I will attempt to respond clearly and concisely, without rehashing every nuance from past discussions.
AEB: The recent op-ed by Donny Fuchs (“Snakes in the Vineyard,” Aug. 7) accuses HaYovel, a non-profit organization that brings Christian volunteers from all over the world to serve Jewish farmers in Israel, of being a missionary organization attempting to convert Jews to Christianity. From personal experience, interviews as the chief reporter for Breaking Israel News and my own research, I feel Fuchs’ article reeks of a form of xenophobia that was appropriate to galut (exile) Judaism, but that now holds Eretz Yisrael Judaism back from its higher, global purpose.
DF: I will pardon the false charge of xenophobia, even though being tarred xenophobic could constitute an insult. Xenophobia has nothing to do with my disdain for missionaries. My disdain is based upon my understanding of the danger such groups pose, and my commitment to saving Jewish souls. My position is based upon a normative approach of halacha, and the classic Torah sources guide me in identifying and responding to problematic issues. I have written a half-dozen articles on this issue, and the quantity of evidence proving that Hayovel is a missionary organization is astonishing. If only the people of the book read more books. Too many Jews are unaware of the issue, and those who may be aware often ignore the unpleasant evidence expressed in so many videos, radio interviews, articles, and social media posts.
My articles are based upon the disciplined research of a handful of learned, G-d fearing, professionals, who have been involved in counter-missionary activity for years. More than a few of these committed Jews are genuine converts to Judaism themselves who came from the same evangelical world they are fighting today. Some were leaders and volunteers of these movements. All of them understand the issue better than the man on the street. At the end of the day, those who deny that Hayovel are missionaries are either unaware of the facts, or are willfully ignoring Hayovel’s own words, as illustrated in this disturbing video which the Waller family regrets making.
Tommy Waller: “As we’re working with these people [the Jews], we’ll be able to share with them this Jesus, that we know…” One of Waller’s sons continues: “Our family has begun a ministry called Hayovel. The vision of Hayovel is to develop a network of individuals, families and congregations who are ready to labor side by side with the people of Israel. To bless them, to stand with them, to share with them a passion for the soon coming jubilee in yeshua messiah.”
These are a mere sampling from the vast archives of evidence, which would require a series of thick books to document. The kind of books with a million footnotes and a bibliography the size of a dictionary.
AEB: Fuchs writes that accepting non-Jewish volunteers to work in Israel violates halacha (Torah law), but he fails to cite which halacha this violates. If he is referring to the section of halacha dealing with avoda zarah (idol worship), then he is bringing up a very complex issue and an issue about which many rabbinic experts disagree. You can compare Fuchs’ statement, for example, to the simple and blunt assertion that a kosher-eating Jew cannot consume pork. It seems obvious, but this statement is not entirely accurate, as it discounts the sections of halacha dealing with taarovet (when a non-kosher mixture inadvertently occurs) or yavesh b’yavesh (when pieces of kosher and non-kosher foods are mixed). I am not a great rabbi. As such, I rely on the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, a globally accepted halachic authority, who has welcomed HaYovel – and founder Tommy Waller – with open arms. Rabbi Melamed wrote a halachic ruling on the subject in which he states that the litmus test is a love of Israel. The rabbi instructed Jews to welcome Christians who love Israel, and to consider them allies in geula (redemption).
DF: Rabbi Melamed’s position is the exception rather than the rule, and his stance is baffling. Nor is this a normal situation, as I am unaware of any similar arrangement on earth where evangelical missionaries live and base their headquarters within the confines of a closed religious community. Equally astonishing is the his continued refusal to meet with committed Jews to consider the evidence, without the impediment of a biased intermediary. Rabbi Melamed calls Hayovel’s purported “love for Israel” a litmus test. Even were this so (and it is not), where in Torah do we see love as a litmus test regarding the status of gentiles in Eretz Yisrael? Perhaps more importantly, where is this alleged love, when their documented missionary agenda is naked to everyone but a blind man! This is not love. It is the façade of love, as orchestrated by a false lover.
As far as gentiles in Israel, our classic sources carry more weight than any contemporary Rav regardless of his scholarship. Heaven Forbid we ignore the question of the permissibility of any gentile helping in the land, even those gentiles who are genuinely friendly to the Jewish people without any agenda. Here we enter the very complicated discussion regarding which gentiles can remain in the land, either permanently or even temporarily. The issue pertains to the biblical prohibition of “Lo Techaneim”, not granting gentiles a foothold in the land. The Rambam would generally be viewed as one of the stricter Rishonim when it comes to halachic criteria for gentiles residing in the land. If the situation is one where Jews are stronger than the gentiles, only those gentiles who follow the 7 laws of Noah, accept “tribute and servitude” and accept the status of ger toshav (resident stranger) in front of a Jewish court during a time of yovel (jubilee), can attain this status.
ט[ו] אֵין כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ אֲמוּרִים, אֵלָא בִּזְמָן שֶׁגָּלוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל לְבֵין הָאֻמּוֹת, אוֹ בִּזְמָן שֶׁיַּד הַגּוֹיִים תַּקִּיפָה. אֲבָל בִּזְמָן שֶׁיַּד יִשְׂרָאֵל תַּקִּיפָה עַל אֻמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם, אָסוּר לָנוּ לְהַנִּיחַ גּוֹי עוֹבֵד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה בֵּינֵינוּ; אַפִלּוּ יוֹשֵׁב יְשִׁיבַת עֲרַאי, אוֹ עוֹבֵר מִמָּקוֹם לְמָקוֹם לִסְחוֹרָה, לֹא יַעֲבֹר בְּאַרְצֵנוּ, עַד שֶׁיְּקַבַּל עָלָיו שֶׁבַע מִצְווֹת שֶׁנִּצְטַוּוּ בְּנֵי נוֹחַ–שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר “לֹא יֵשְׁבוּ בְּאַרְצְךָ” (שמות כג,לג), אַפִלּוּ לְפִי שָׁעָה. וְאִם קִבַּל עָלָיו שֶׁבַע מִצְווֹת, הֲרֵי זֶה גֵּר תּוֹשָׁב. וְאֵין מְקַבְּלִין גֵּר תּוֹשָׁב, אֵלָא בִּזְמָן שֶׁהַיּוֹבֵל נוֹהֵג; אֲבָל שֶׁלֹּא בִּזְמָן הַיּוֹבֵל, אֵין מְקַבְּלִין אֵלָא גֵּר צֶדֶק בִּלְבָד. (Machon Mamre Online Mishne Torah)
“All the above is only applicable when we are in exile or among the nations.pr when the nations are mightier than Israel, but when Israel is mightier than they, we are forbidden to leave non-Jews among us. Even for a non-Jew to live temporarily in Eretz Yisroel or just to pass through on business is forbidden unless he undertakes the seven Noachide Laws……And if he undertakes them he is a ger toshav (resident stranger). We do not accept a ger toshav except when the Jubilee year is operative. At other times, we accept only real converts.” (Hilchot Avodah Zara V’chukot Hagoyim) “Uncensored Versions” of the Rambam. The Rambam adds that they must also accept “tribute and servitude.” One without the other is insufficient. Other great commentators that agreed with this position are the Sifri, Redak, and Sefer Hachinuch.
א-אֵין עוֹשִׂין מִלְחָמָה עִם אָדָם בָּעוֹלָם, עַד שֶׁקּוֹרְאִין לוֹ לְשָׁלוֹם–אֶחָד מִלְחֶמֶת הָרְשׁוּת, וְאֶחָד מִלְחֶמֶת מִצְוָה: שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר “כִּי-תִקְרַב אֶל-עִיר, לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ–וְקָרָאתָ אֵלֶיהָ, לְשָׁלוֹם” (דברים כ,י). אִם הִשְׁלִימוּ, וְקִבְּלוּ שֶׁבַע מִצְווֹת שֶׁנִּצְטַוּוּ בְּנֵי נוֹחַ עֲלֵיהֶן–אֵין הוֹרְגִין מֵהֶן נְשָׁמָה; וַהֲרֵי הֶן לַמַּס, שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר “יִהְיוּ לְךָ לָמַס–וַעֲבָדוּךָ” דברים כ,יא).(Machon Mamre Online Mishne Torah)
The Raavad takes a more lenient position, essentially agreeing with the Rambam that we don’t accept resident strangers in our age, but parting ways from Rambam regarding non-idolatrous foreigners residing in the land. Even in the absence of accepting the 7 Laws of Noah in the presence of a court of Israel, the Raavad permits their presence. I want to emphasize to the reader that this is not a full treatment of this complicated halachic subject, nor am I qualified to present a definitive position on the topic. But I have the advantage of the classical rishonim on my side. My citing of these sources is merely to inform the reader that a range of issues precede the question of using the voluntary services of evangelicals in the land.
AEB: This op-ed accuses Torah observant farmers and vintners of selling out their beliefs for free labor.
“If you cannot afford the cost of running such an enterprise, don’t do it,” writes Fuchs. He then suggests using Jewish volunteers. Doesn’t his initial admonishment still apply? Israeli industry, especially the wine industry, was built on foreign largesse.
His solutions include imported labor from Thailand. It is no less immoral to import cheap non-Jewish labor than to rely on non-Jewish volunteers. In fact, Fuchs points out himself that this could be halachically problematic.
DF: I stand by my belief that many Jews “sold out their beliefs” for free labor. Many of these Jews were confronted with a great test, which they unfortunately failed. The lure of extraordinary financial gain was too tempting. As far as utilizing Jewish labor, I was simply suggesting a healthy Torah based alternative which could benefit farmer and volunteer alike. My admonishment is primarily based upon what I believe is a halachic infraction for personal gain. As far as utilizing Thai workers, I was being sarcastic. I oppose the utilization of Thais under the same framework of using any gentile labor, regardless of any group’s respective threat to Jewish issues, whether it be evangelicals (spiritual concerns) or Arabs (physical safety). I want to conclude this point by unequivocally stating that I also generally oppose the usage of cheap gentile labor (a type of slave labor), which is unbecoming of any Jew.
AEB: Fuchs accuses Waller of being a missionary. At one point, early in Waller’s career, this may have been true. But myself and my colleagues have come to know Waller and HaYovel well through our work. Waller and his family are far along a path that has led them outside of the church they grew up in. They do not seek to be Jewish, nor do they seek to influence Jews. They have come specifically to connect with Jews who are strongly connected to Israel to help them find their way. But not as Jews.
DF: From the horses’ mouth: “Yeshua (Jesus) will not come to a wedding without wine!”-Tommy Waller
“For us it’s a spiritual deal- a faith deal. The battle is over the land because God gave it to the descendants of Abraham – that includes us.”-Sherri Waller, wife of Tommy Waller
Waller and his family are as committed to Jesus as ever, within the framework of “restoration”. As I’ve noted before, they successfully planted roots in religious communities, they consider our Divine inheritance their shared covenant, and they long for the day when Jews embrace their “savior”. They are not Bnai Noach. G-d forbid to make such a gross association with righteous gentiles! Hayovel are missionaries.
AEB: I challenge Fuchs to find one Jew who has been converted or influenced by HaYovel. I personally believe Fuchs has redefined missionary as any person who comes close to Judaism but who does not want to convert. This is incorrect. A Christian who does not preach and who does not convert anyone is, by definition, not a missionary.
DF: A common irritating claim which exposes one’s ignorance on the issue. As I noted in my article “Esau Rising: Part II” when challenged by a different Hayovel supporter to produce one individual who converted: “It depends on how we judge success. If Tommy Waller has chosen to take the covert clever path as he has, then his efforts to this point have been a success, since he has accomplished what no other missionaries have been able to do until now. Plant a base in the heart of a religious community. Clearly the danger with Hayovel is not that they run over to a Jew and ask them to embrace Jesus. The danger is more insidious and calculating. They are planting roots in Israel, and usurping our Divine claim to the land as a “co-covenant,” if you will, which hides their true belief that the covenant is ultimately theirs. They are succeeding in blurring the distinction between gentile and Jew, and the very basic tenets of the faith. Hayovel forges open alliances in Israel and abroad with overt missionaries and Jewish apostates. This is the danger. Never in history have we seen such a thing happening under the noses of religious Jews.
For those who don’t know, many of the women from Hayovel wear the religious head-covering mitpachot, of the daati-leumi world. Why? The men often cover their heads. These are subtle ways to blur the external, while working on the more difficult task of exposing Jewish beliefs to Christian perspectives.”
AEB: The Jewish people became xenophobic out of necessity in the exile. Today, when we merit to have the State of Israel, there is not the same need. The real issue is not whether HaYovel is a missionary organization or not; converting Jews is not their stated intention. The question is whether Jews and Christians can have a meaningful dialogue without trying to convert each other or prove that their God could win in some bizarre divine cage match. I believe the answer is yes.
DF: I KNOW that the answer is a strong NO. Greater minds than ours agreed with this position. Read Rav Soloveitchik’s Confrontation, his addendum and Dr. David Berger’s more recent article. Ironically, what we see in these contemporary interfaith exchanges is a weakening of the Jewish position, whereas the gentiles always retain their pagan beliefs. They are no closer to Hashem, despite the desire of Jews to believe it to be so. Jews on the other hand, frequently fall in love with a “kosher Jesus”, if not as divine (G-d forbid to utter such a thought) but to see him as a “good Jew”. They forget that the Jesus personalities in Talmud have nothing in common with the Christian figure. It is shameless pandering, and it is historically inaccurate, and theologically problematic. Again, I reject the false charge of xenophobia.
AEB: The creation of the modern State of Israel has been enormously transformative for Judaism, but perhaps it was even more so for Christianity. It has strengthened Judaism, but it has annihilated Replacement Theology, the very basis for the Catholic Church and some branches of Christianity. Waller and many others, have turned to Judaism and Israel to be their beacon in uncharted theological territory. It is our Biblical mandate to accept them.
DF: They have not turned towards Judaism and Israel as a beacon of anything. It merely presents a golden opportunity for them, and zealous as they are, they seized it. Restoration theology is a contemporary expression of Replacement Theology. To understand this properly, one must fully understand the evangelical mind-set and the tenets of “Restoration”. Jews who advocate for such halachically problematic relationships usually have the weakest understanding of the people they defend. Perhaps we need to come out with an “Evangelical Tactics Towards Jews for Dummies, as a basic primer.
AEB: Moreover, with the founding of the State of Israel, Jews returned to our nachala, our inheritance, and we are once again a nation that serves Hashem. We are not a loose matrix of minyans, each trying to stand firm as a speck of light in an ocean of darkness. In the exile, the Jews forfeited most of the Torah, limiting themselves to a small fraction of the mitzvoth.
DF: I have no issue with this statement, except to emphasize that reliance upon evangelicals jeopardizes everything a Torah believing Jew stands for. Those who align with Esau are themselves alien sparks of light endangering Am Yisrael, regardless of their intentions.
AEB: Returning to the land challenges us to redefine the Torah, making it large-as-life once again. We must move forward to the next stage: Eretz Yisrael, Beit HaMikdash and Moshiach. This will require a willingness from Jews to take their role in the world, guiding the nations through the crises they are facing today. This will require rabbis who are experts in agricultural Judaism, purity laws, Temple laws and laws of commerce. This will require the reappearance of Torah concepts that became fossils, such as ger toshav, a non-Jewish resident in the Land of Israel. This will require rabbis who can relate to non-Jews through something other than a dysfunctional conversion process. This will require a Sanhedrin, and not a Chief Rabbinate. As the Prophets wrote: The temple was and will be a “House of Prayer for all Nations.
DF: We Jews guide the Nations by acting upon the nations, not by being acted upon. Prior to the task of bring the knowledge of G-d to the world, we Jews must first be firm ourselves in our understanding of Torah. Hayovel are pulling Jews into the dark, rather than drawing towards the light of Torah themselves. They are as far from being ger toshav as a primitive pygmy in the jungle. They are missionaries and they are friends and partners with other missionaries. When touring Israel, Hayovel’s own guides are often infamous missionaries.
Forging alliances with duplicitous evangelicals’ distances us from the ultimate redemption, rather bringing it closer. And for the uninformed, the promised “House of Prayer for all nations” is reserved for those gentiles who turn to Hashem, not for those who worship falsely, whether the object of worship is a false pagan man-god or an eight-armed deity. Ironically, Jews who grovel before evangelicals ignore the only true friends we Jews have, the righteous Bnai Noach of the world. Perhaps because the coffers of the latter group pale when compared to those of CUFI. And there is little money to be made for Israel tours specifically tailored for Bnai Noach.
Hayovel are not our friends. Perhaps Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz would like to read my article “Friendly Foes: The Subtle Missionary”. The most dangerous enemies are always the ones who sneak up on us to deceive us. And Hayovel’s leadership has done precisely that. Once upon a time, the sneaky Tommy Waller reached out to the “Sanhedrin” on the pretext of wanting to become a Ben Noach. Baruch Hashem the effort was thwarted by a zealous righteous woman who informed them that this was a man thoroughly invested in retaining his idolatry. Waller is as crafty, cunning, and dangerous as a viper. But unlike rattlesnakes who mind their own business and rattle a warning when you stumble upon them, Hayovel are the equivalent of those terrifying and aggressive black mambas of Africa. When your back is turned, and without any provocation on your part, they slide through the grass and set upon you. No sane Jew should tolerate mambas (whether green or black) in their fields.
In my article “Anatomy of a Missionary: Language and Associations” I noted the following: “On their frequent speaking tours in the U.S., Waller and friends are wined and dined by the messianic and missionary elite who appreciate their work. That’s why even an aggressive missionary patriarch like the notorious “Papa” Don Finto is revered and respected by the Waller family.
Whenever I find myself in the company of Jews with connections to the Waller family, when they are done fawning over them, I ask them basic random questions about the Waller family, Hayovel’s theology, and their known messianic ties. I am astounded but not surprised by how little they know, and yet despite their ignorance they still insist that “Tommy’s a good guy.” Their inability to answer questions betrays that they know little of Hayovel or evangelicals in general.
Have you ever heard of Papa “Don” Finto? The Wallers consider him a mentor. Blank faces. Why was Hayovel involved in the messianic “We Stand with Israel” Concert in 2013 featuring such notorious heavyweights like Doron Keidar and Calev Meyers? Same cluelessness. Do you know of Heather Meyers, a known messianic who works as Hayovel’s photographer? Why would anyone retain such poisonous associations if they opposed missionizing? No response.
No can these people explain that Hayovel regularly speaks at messianic congregations in America. The following is merely a tiny sampling of the known places that hosted them either for speaking events, concerts, etc. since 2011: Adat Yeshua, Hallel Fellowship, Tikvat Ami Messianic Synagogue, River of Life Tabernacle (“Hebrew Roots”), Teshuva Ministries, Beit Ariel Messianic Jewish Congregation, Talmidei Yeshua, El Shaddai Ministries, Beit Hamashiach, Zola Levitt Ministries. And lest we forget, the Hayovel Ministry Team, held a “Shabbat Shel Shalom Messianic Fellowship” in 2014. How much more evidence do we need?”
How long can Jews feign ignorance? The toxin is upon us, and things grow worse every day. Jews are now co-authoring books on pagan “blood-moons” and teaching Christian missionaries how to think like Jews and “learn” Torah and to rediscover their “biblical roots”. Others are building “a yeshiva for the nations” which will become an unprecedented magnet and a haven for the most dangerous missionaries on earth. Hayovel aren’t’ missionaries? What honest person could watch the following videos and claim otherwise (Courtesy of Tomer Devora)? These disturbing videos from February 2017 (so much for Waller’ alleged “teshuva” in 2011) show how candid Tommy Waller becomes when in the company of fellow “believers” in America:
The last link contains a video where Tommy Waller prays for Jews to except his false deity: “Father, your face is steadfast towards Jerusalem right now as Yeshua is about to return, and make himself known again to your people.” “Your people”? I wonder what he means by that.
Snakes in the grass or brother’s in arms, my detractors inquire? Let the honest reader decide for himself. As for me, with such brothers by my side, I prefer the company of asps who don’t behave like false brothers. At least when dealing with vipers, if one is aware of what resides in the grass, there are ways to attend to the danger. The metaphor of vipers is most appropriate. They are vipers. And we Jews must strike back like the mongoose.