Since my teenage years I have been fascinated by history. Modern life - especially in America - tends to dull our sense of the way events and people of the past continue to shape our lives in the present. But this sense has always been vivid for me.
Historical consciousness certainly played a role in opening my heart to the reality of God and to an apprehension of God's redemptive and revelatory activity in a particular history - that of the Jewish people and its Messiah. I experienced God acting personally and immediately in my own life, but this relationship derived from what God had done in calling Abraham to leave the country of his birth, in leading Israel out of Egypt and giving them the Torah, and (most emphatically) in raising Yeshua the Messiah from the dead.
Historical consciousness also helped me recognize that the people with whom God established a covenant have an identity much like that of an individual human being. As we age, each of us grows and changes, yet we remain the same person. Hopefully, those changes we undergo involve maturation as we learn from our experience and from the wisdom and experience of others. In the same way, the Jewish people -- and the Christian church -- exist in time, and their identity in later life is shaped by what they experienced and learned in earlier stages of development.
A Jew without a sense of Jewish tradition is like a middle-aged person with amnesia. If we want to know what to live for in the present and how to realize our destiny in the future, we must be rooted in the way God has worked with us in the past.
Of course, I could have simply become a professional historian. In fact, my doctoral degree is in that very field - but I never intended to pursue a purely academic career. From the moment I came to faith in Yeshua I realized that I had a call to devote my life to service. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of real human beings. For a long time I did not know what form that service should take. But eventually it became clear - I was called to the rabbinate.
I came to see that role as one of mediating a tradition. Just as Moses received the Torah at Sinai, and passed in on to Joshua, who passed it on to the Elders; and just as the Apostles received the Good News from Yeshua and passed it on to the leaders who followed them; so a Rabbi receives a living stream of wisdom and seeks to help others to experience its power and beauty, and to plunge into those living waters themselves.
If I can help another Jew to enter into the historical flow of Jewish history and tradition, and to encounter there the living God, then I know that I have fulfilled my calling in life.
Read more about Rabbi Kinzer on his profile page.