Back in January of 2014, I participated in one of the most fascinating of my many trips to Israel. A couple of us from the Jewish community joined over twenty evangelical pastors from the Las Vegas area on a ten day tour of Israel. Seventy percent of the time was spent visiting the historic Christian sites throughout the land of Israel. I often quip that it was like I was visiting another country, because I saw sites that I never knew existed. Many were places I had driven by, or stayed next to on previous trips, though was oblivious to them.
One of the most incredible benefits of the trip is the lasting relationships I made with some of the evangelical pastors. It is amazing just how our religious outlooks can be so different, yet so similar at the same time. It is heartening that we are able to dialogue, study and fellowship despite our differences.
Upon returning from that trip, I reached out to a couple of the pastors to see if they were willing to study together. I figured that we all had the Torah in common and it might be interesting to see how the different religions read the same stories. What came out of it was a monthly study session that has been going on since February of 2014. Each month we study a chapter of the Torah and a chapter from the Gospels. We are currently on Chapter 46 of Genesis. We have read through all of Matthew and are on Chapter 15 of Acts. Our sessions together are holy and irreverent, serious and superficial, thoughtful and benign, and if I am being honest, hilarious. Like any good Talmudic hevruta, much time is spent just getting to know each other as people. We are not out to change the world or to solve the problems that our communities may have with each other. But we have seen the fruits of our interaction breakdown many walls. Perhaps it’s as good a place to start as any.
I guess it should not be surprising that Christians and Jews can look at the exact same text and read it so differently. What is surprising is how much we have to learn about our own religions from the other’s interpretation of the text.
This Sunday evening at 6 PM at Midbar Kodesh Temple, the four of us, myself, Rabbi Goodman from Temple Beth Sholom, Pastor Josh Teis from Southern Hills Baptist Church and Ty Perry from the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, will interact publicly with some Biblical texts related to Passover and Easter to give the community a taste of what we do privately each month. Bagels and Coffee will be served. We hope you can join us.
Rabbi Bradley Tecktiel has been Midbar Kodesh Temple's spiritual leader since August 2008. Rabbi Tecktiel was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in May of 1996. He holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees, one from List College and one from Columbia University. He also holds a Masters of Arts from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
You can follow him on Twitter @RabbiMKT.