HA: Why did you choose to work with Heart Ally Books?
SD: A mutual friend recommended Lisa Norman to me. Lisa and I first worked together on website matters, but when it came time to publish my latest book, I went with Lisa because I had already found her to be expert in all she does, and nurturing in her relational skills.
HA: This is not your first book. What was the most surprising experience you had while becoming an author the first time? Was there anything that struck you as different from working with Heart Ally?
SD: What differed from working with Heart Ally was that instead of, as with others, simply being a business arrangement in quest of a good product, I found with Lisa that it was also a relational partnership. In fact, with Lisa, it was not just a partnership, but a companionship. My personality thrives and survives under such an arrangement, whereas a drier, simply pragmatic arrangement puts me on edge.
HA: Do you have a favorite or least favorite part of being an author?
SD: My favorite part of being an author is the occasions when I have been writing “in flow” and looking back at the product find it better than I thought I had in me. The worst part of writing is finding that the structure of the book does not seem to hang together, such that unexpected surgery needs to be done.
HA: Talk a bit about the heart of the book and what led you to this calling?
SD: The heart of the book is the attempt to guide and support people seeking to integrate aspects of their identity which others view to be irreconcilable. In this case, there are Jewish people who have been attracted to Yeshua (Jesus of Nazareth) and who find their lives greatly enriched by what they have discovered. When these same Jewish people seek to also maintain their commitment to Jewish life and community, there are many people, whether Christians or Jews, who will say the two commitments cannot mix and are in fact antithetical to each other. The seekers in the center of this dispute sometimes abandon either their faith in Yeshua or their commitment to Jewish life as a means of resolving the tension. Because I know this strategy to be ultimately spiritually impoverishing and psychologically unsustainable, I offer my book as a means of guiding and sustaining such people in their unpopular but crucial choice.
It will come as no surprise to learn that this is a choice I myself made in my life, and these tensions were true not only for me, but for my parents before me.
HA: One of several areas that you cover in your book is the havurot. I found this concept fascinating and something that feels needed today.
SD: Like most of the world, this book speaks of matters of faith in a communal context, rather than individualistically and as a private manner (the default position of many in the West, perhaps most prominently, Americans). But being a member of any of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is fundamentally communal. Each of these religions positions its believers as members of the people of God, or, more intimately, the family of God. And in the Christian and Messianic contexts, believers are also members of the Body of Christ (the Messiah).
This being true, it is no surprise that the believer’s faith is best nurtured in small groups, rather than in the spectator spirituality we see around us where the house of worship is more like a theater, the worship experience a sort of show, and the congregation, more than anything else, an audience.
This is foreign to the Bible and to rabbinic Judaism and primitive Christianity, both of which embodied the group assumptions I am promoting here. In the first century, the Pharisees developed the havurah, a small group of people who met together, ate together, studied together, and prayed together, that they might go together to serve the purposes of God. Christian churches were nearly identical, and until the fourth century, all Christian churches almost without exception met in homes, practicing the same disciplines as did the Pharisees in the havurah.
This kind of model never died out, although it has generally thrived in the two-thirds world and been off the radar screen in the West. In numbers and in distribution, the model has ebbed and flowed from time to time. In my book, I introduce my model of the Messianic Jewish havurah, a place where no fewer than six, and no more than eighteen Jews and their family members and some Christian friends meet together, eat together, learn together, and pray together, that they might go together and serve God’s purposes in the world.
In short, on the basis of biblical and historical precedent, I believe in face-to-face familial spirituality, where people see themselves not only as servants of God but as brothers and sisters, family together.
I plan to treat this subject at length in my next book, working together with Lisa at Heart Ally Books.
HA: Wait! There’s another book? That’s exciting news! I can’t wait to read it!
You recently had a health crisis. Did you learn from this anything that might influence your further work?
SD: On August 19, 2022 I fell to the floor in my bedroom, tried to get up, and found I couldn’t move! The paramedics came and took me to the emergency room of a nearby hospital. Pretty soon I couldn’t talk, and when I tried to construct a sentence in my mind, six or seven words would float visibly on the pool of my mind, but I could not put them together.
All I could do was moan.
None of this was in my plan. Strokes are for old people, and I was only in my seventies! But there I was, immobilized, in a cold, noisy hospital room, nearly naked, and covered by one inadequate sheet, waiting like someone on the losing end of a tumbling avalanche.
The hospital lights were on 24/7. but I was in my own private darkness, immobilized, with my conceptual and communications capacities disconnected. And as a result of this stroke, this unwelcome visitor, my right side was weak and definitely letting me down!
I was a teacher who could not teach. A public speaker who could not speak. And because of paralysis in my right hand, I was a writer who could not write, and a piano-playing composer who could not play. All of these were the capacities that shaped my occupational life, defined who I was and why I lived and breathed.
But with these inoperative, who was I now? That was the question that lurked in the darkness of that bright room.
By now, God really had my attention. For some weeks after the stroke, he dropped in to pay me some sick calls, uncovering to me the meaning of what I was going through. And as I caught his message, he gave back to me all those capacities I had lost. It was like a recommissioning, and yes, it was and remains powerful, a turning point.
But what did God want to teach me?
In the darkness of my affliction, not sure if the rest of the avalanche would sweep me from this life, I reflected on what had gone before, my life until then. I considered bad choices I had made, choices which now horrified me, birthing within me a new level of that sort of regret commonly termed “repentance.”
It is one thing to repent because you want to be forgiven. That is Repentance 1.0, standard-brand repentance. But it is something else entirely to repent because your sins horrified you. This is Repentance 2.0. This is the gift God gave me in the darkness. The deeper the repentance, the higher the resultant transformation.
What had been a calamitous breach (the stroke) became a redemptive bridge. I am now heading in the same direction as I always have, but through this experience, I see my destination more clearly.
As C. S. Lewis says it in The Last Battle, it’s all about moving “further up, and further in.”
My priorities have not changed, but my perspective has. I see now that the root of all I am called to do is this imperative: as much as possible, to bring the people I touch closer to God. I am called to cause them to imagine such a relationship is attainable and surely desirable. I am to be their companion, assisting them in the journey.
HA: Rabbi Dauermann's book, Eat This Book, is now available from Heart Ally and wherever books are sold!
© 2023 Heart Ally Books, LLC