“Well, there’s a lot to study and a million interpretations on how to follow it. Most people who go down that path lose their faith in Yeshua and become legalistic.”
I received this common response in college when I asked most Yeshua-followers about studying Torah and following Halacha. A few faces flipped through my mind of people who had eventually rejected Yeshua as their Messiah when they turned to Orthodoxy, so I decided this answer was sufficient. Plus, where would I even begin? All 613 commandments seem like a lot to master, let alone, to understand. I set these thoughts on the back burner and continued living my life as a good believing kid, busy with school, work, and Bible studies.
And then I uprooted from Atlanta, Georgia and moved to Jerusalem.
Thousands of Jews who had faced Torah and asked themselves the same questions now surrounded me. However, instead of inquiries floating in the air, easily ignored, people’s lives were affected directly and outwardly by their interpretations of Torah and the Oral Law. In the midst of these black hats, white stone buildings, and gray trains of thought, I happened to befriend the Michael family.
If you’ve ever met Boaz, Amber, or any of the Michael children, you can immediately recognize their genuine heart of care and dedication to HaShem, family, and the greater Jewish community. They treat me, one of their children’s friends, as their own kid, with open arms and a warm home. Over the course of a few months, I came to understand not only the love of their family but also the basis of their ministry, First Fruits of Zion. At that time, the vision of The Bram Center had just been cast.
As we discussed the concept of a Messianic Jewish Torah Learning Center in the heart of Jerusalem, I became excited. There would be a place where I could ask questions regarding anything from Jewish literature, to Yeshua, to customs I saw being practiced around me but didn’t fully understand. There would be an inquisitive environment full of people who weren’t afraid to wrestle with the Word of G-d and its practical implications without claiming that all the answers are simple or too complicated. Just as Yeshua actively engaged in the religious dialogue of his day, Messianic Judaism could join the conversation from a respected position, based out of The Bram Center in Jerusalem. What potential was held in this seed of an idea!
In early October, under the direction of First Fruits of Zion and the management of the Michaels, The Bram Center opened its doors and lined the walls with beautiful Jewish, Messianic, and Christian literature. I received an invite to the first official program: Lunch & Learn. Lunch & Learn is an hour-long session each Thursday in which we use various resources to discuss the Torah portion over a warm meal. People from different backgrounds, expressions, and ways of thinking attend. I look forward to the brief lesson taught by a rotation of teachers, thought-filled discussion, and our newest tradition of 60-second drashas in which three people share something from the parasha that they found particularly interesting. We leave the Center with a full stomach and new points to ponder.
Just last week began the first of many guest lectures to come. Toby Janicki, one of FFOZ’s authors from the United States, hosted a lecture on the striking similarities between certain Chasidic beliefs and the teachings of Yeshua. Around thirty people, of all ages and frameworks, had access to Janicki’s English-written paper as well as the Hebrew version that was recently translated by The Bram Center.
All in all, the work that The Bram Center has begun and will continue to advance is absolutely ground-breaking. Traditional and Orthodox Jewish learning centers, yeshivas, and seminaries fill the streets of Israel and the academic pursuit of Torah permeates Jerusalem. While other Messianic ministries fill certain needs within the community, The Bram Center is able to start bridging the gap between the Messianic and other religious communities by representing Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah who pursued a life of obedience to his Father through Halacha.
What has already been accomplished in these first few months—the establishment of The Bram Center, weekly meetings, and guest lectures—is just the tip of the iceberg. The potential energy of this center is massive. It has the opportunity to break into the Jewish community at large, stir the pot, and bring the message of Yeshua into the forefront of the dialogue as a recognizably Jewish faith.
Just think of how we can harness this energy to prepare the way for the return of our King. The Word of the L-rd will go forth from Tzion, just as it was prophesied, and I’m excited to be an active participant in this process.
I hope to see you around The Bram Center!
Blessings in HaShem,