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Who Represents God?

Is God Found in Community, or Is Community Found in God?

Harold (Nadiv) put Sholom, S.R. Lavin, in touch with Paul in 2002. This correspondence is about whether people who join the Twelve Tribes are entering into the salvation of God on earth, or if God has another way that does not need any help from man. Be certain to read the conclusion to see what happened down the road and how the debate was settled.

Sholom writes:

Shalom Paul,

My name is Sholom. I am a member of the Twelve Tribes Communities presently living in our community in Rutland Vermont where we have a cafe and about 60 of us living here and raising our children.

Lately I have been so thankful to grasp that I am a Jew and I have come into a relationship with the Living God and Our Messiah.

I am speaking of the reality of our spiritual life, which expresses the Life of Messiah in an actual demonstration of His Salvation… not mystical (though mysterious to the natural mind) and not mental (as so many denominations end up)…

Messiah is real. Yahshua is mighty and powerful to save… but how can anyone know for sure? Well, first, that prophecy must be fulfilled (or made flesh) like John 1 describes….second, that the fruit would bear witness to the tree, and third, that a people would love each other (in reality) the way He loved us.
He calls His disciples to himself: they know His voice. And we obey His commandments and we are set free by the truth.

It’s a lot to claim, and would not do so without the confidence to say you can visit one of our communities and see the resurrected life that Yahshua became a sacrifice for!

Please feel free to write me and ask any questions. And of course, if ever you are in Vermont please come to Rutland and visit us here.

Sholom Israel

Paul’s reply:

Shalom, Sholom!

Tell me, what is the difference between the two words above? I have not seen your name before, unless it is just a different spelling of the salutation.

What do you know about me? Where do you think I am coming from?

When I first began to believe, I was also very thankful to have an understanding of the fulfillment of my heritage as a Jew. But we must go on to become circumcised in our hearts to be made true Jews after the Spirit. “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly… But he is Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:28-29).

About there being a demonstration of the reality of our spiritual lives, I agree and quote:

“…show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).

Regarding Yahshua becoming flesh and bearing fruit in us, this is something only He can do, and only the eye of faith can perceive it. The Kingdom of God does not come by observation (inspection).

“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! For, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).

Regarding coming to one of your communities to “see the resurrected life that Yahshua became a sacrifice for,” I refer again to Luke 17:20-21. We are told not to judge by appearances (John 7:24). We do not know the Kingdom because, “Lo, It is here,” but because we have the revelation within, as Peter did concerning the Christ of God. We would not be warned against believing one who says, “It is here,” unless it is possible to be deceived by our sight.

What you are saying is the opposite of the Scriptures. You are inviting one to see and therefore know. But we know and therefore see. This is not semantics but a profoundly different thing. Think about it.

In His Name, the wonderful Savior and God, Yahoshua HaMashiach,

Paul Cohen

Sholom’s first reply:

Shalom Paul, Sholom is a variation with a slightly different meaning, more akin to Sholomo (or Solomon)…which means “peace deep inside” or “inner contentment”…

I was raised in an Orthodox setting, taught college for many years, wrote and published..

Along the way I did a poetic translation of I and YOU (Ich und Du) by Martin Buber… do you know that work?

Please write again… Sholom

Sholom’s second reply:

Unfortunately, I have not printed copies or installed my version in my laptop as it needs to be converted from a Mac program…but the essense of his work is that only in a community does the actual “You” of the Creator become revealed in relationships….

because until 1 John 4 is reality there is no test of the power of God in relationships, that is, if we do not love our brothers who we do see….then, there is no reality to loving a God we do not see….Community tests our love and proves whether or not we love God…

after translating that work of Buber’s I searched for a place to “test” his thesis…

you can look me up on the net under S. R. Lavin (I am widely published both in the U.S and abroad)….

For the moment I enclose a poem written after my wife’s death which encompasses the notion of Eternal Being (I am who I am).

sincerely Sholom Reuben

Paul’s reply:

Is community the sign of God?

Greetings again, Sholom.

I am now back home and able to write you. I will reply by commenting on quotes from your letter.

Concerning Buber’s book on which you worked, you write, “the essence of his work is that only in a community does the actual ‘You’ of the Creator become revealed in relationships….

While this may sound Scriptural, it is not. There is some truth in the statement, only it is off center and misleading. God does reveal Himself in His people – the whole creation groans awaiting the manifestation of the sons of God (Romans 8). God is seen in the unity of His people (John 17). But the revelation of the Creator comes through Jesus Christ alone. He is the foundation. Buber says the foundation is community and relationships with others, as you and the Twelve Tribes say, except that you qualify it to include Yahoshua. Adding His Name to your works, however, does not change the fact that you have made a god of community. All false gods will fail and those who worship them will perish.

Paul wrote of his revelation of God, which came not by community, but through the Son, Yahoshua HaMashiach:

“But when it pleased God, Who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:15-16).

Paul did not lose God when community failed him:

“At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me…. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me…” (2 Timothy 4:16-17).

Habakkuk speaks of rejoicing in God when all other things, including community, fail:

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (verses 3:17-18).

Do we know God by community? No; we know Him by identification with Christ through the cross. Paul writes:

“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death” (Philippians 3:10).

Is giving up all your earthly goods to join the Twelve Tribes the cross? You think so, but it is not. The cross is manifest in the specific commandment from the living God, here and now, as He gave Abraham to obey Him in the matter of Isaac. But you people have framed a law for righteousness, one that the Lord has not laid on you, which you use to justify yourselves.

When Zaccheus gave half his goods to the poor and restored fourfold any ill-gotten gains, what did Yahoshua say to Him? “Sorry Zaccheus, not enough, you need to give it all up”? No, He said, “This day is salvation come to this house….” (Luke 19:9). You people err and we are here to tell you the Lord is not pleased with your insistence on your ways, thinking His destiny is in your hands, hands of flesh.

In the next part of your letter, you say, “Until 1 John 4 is reality there is no test of the power of God in relationships, that is, if we do not love our brothers who we do see… then, there is no reality to loving a God we do not see….

This also may sound good, but it is pointing in the wrong direction. Your test of community as the love of God conveniently proves the “tribes” are God’s special work on earth. John’s letter says something different, namely that the one true proof of the Spirit of God’s work in a person is not in relationships with others (although in all things a person’s substance will be manifest), but in whether that person receives Christ coming in the flesh:

“Hereby know you the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God. And this is that spirit of antiChrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:3-4).

If we receive Jesus Christ coming in His ministers, men of flesh and blood as He was, and we obey His Voice through them, we are confessing Jesus Christ before men. This is the fellowship of walking in the Light as He is in the Light. This is the love of God. This is the Kingdom of God come to earth. His Kingdom is not something that must be forged by the arm of man, as you people are trying to do, which is utterly impossible and even blasphemous.

Did I say, “Blasphemy”? Yes, because you attribute to God what comes from corrupt man.

You people have the cart in front of the horse, expecting that if you create community by your understanding and human love, you will pull God out of His frustration; you will enable Him to accomplish His long thwarted plans. Since when has God been dependent on man? He says that the cattle of a thousand hills are His, and He would not tell you if He needed anything (Psalms 50:10-12).

What you don’t know or see is that God has a people already (Hebrews 12:22-23). He doesn’t need or want your works. He hates them. He is moving things as it pleases Him and as He chooses. You don’t believe He exists; your actions declare it.

The evidence of God’s work in those He calls and chooses is indeed a love of the brethren in the laying down of the life in obedience to Him. But how does one recognize what this laying down of the life, His love, looks like? By the carnal eye or the eye of faith? You ask unbelieving people to see for themselves, when they cannot see God any more than you can. You are looking to prove the Twelve Tribes, not the living God, our risen Lord and Savior.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the First and great Commandment. The Second is like unto It, you will love your neighbor as yourself. On these two Commandments hang all the Law and prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

The Tribes have been formed in the mind and image of a man (Eugene Spriggs), who has placed the Second Commandment above the First, thinking he has the First. But without the First he cannot have the Second. “And this Commandment have we from Him, that he that loves God love his brother also” (1 John 4:20).

Those who conform to Sprigg’s brand of idolatry he calls brothers; they are his brothers, but they are not the brethren of Yahoshua. His brethren do not point to themselves and their community, they point to Him. I am not writing to condemn you or Spriggs or the Tribes; I write so that you all would repent of your idolatry to worship God in spirit and truth. You are worshipping in a physical place, where God is not found.

You say you have love and ask people to see it for themselves. You do not hear or listen to the wise man:

“For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them” (Ecclesiastes 9:1).

You see by outward eyes and trust in the works of the flesh. You ask others to do the same. Like calls to like.

Finally, you say, “Community tests our love and proves whether or not we love God….” God tests our love of Him as He chooses, as I mentioned earlier with Abraham. Isaiah spoke of what you people are doing, which is not good:

“Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!” (Isaiah 5:8)

Paul also wrote to the Corinthians of how their love would be proved:

“For to this end did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether you be obedient in all things” (2 Corinthians 2:9).

Their love was proven by their obedience to the Word of God that Paul spoke to them in the Name of the Lord.

You seek to manifest God by your works, but God manifests Himself by His works. These are invisible, like He is, because they are a matter of the hidden motives of the heart, arising from a new life that is hidden in Christ. He that has eyes to see will see.

I say to you, Sholom, and to all others who read this letter: Consider that God is good, not willing that any should perish, and humble yourselves to seek His face and to repent from all other gods, which even now are destroying you. His wrath is on all the works of men; there are many which claim His Name as you do. You are not the first or last.

We live in an area with many Hutterites. These are a people who have made community a god in the name of serving our Holy Creator and God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Visit them to see where you are headed, if you should make it that far. You will see nothing, however, unless given eyes to see.

I suggest to all who are interested to hear what God requires: Obedience.

The will of God be done, the glorious and entirely successful Ruler of all, Who has conquered death and hell and has put all things under His feet. HalleluYah.


Sholom’s reply:

Shalom, Ultimately, you know the tree by the fruit it produces. The fruit does not come first, but it is what you eat…
Community is the result of a certain spirit which shares with others and regards others as worthy of giving up one’s life for…

Otherwise, the First Commandment is a toothless lion: one is left to oneself to “love” God in isolation or without any requirement for loving the way Messiah loves.

It is entirely possible to live righteously without community, but it is not possible to live a set apart life of a chosen people without being called out of “the way it is” into the way God wants it to be…and His desire is to have a people for His own possession…in a covenant not like the first which He made with our forefathers (Jer.32:31)….

I look forward to our on-going conversation,


Paul answers within Sholom’s reply:

Sholom:Ultimately, you know the tree by the fruit it produces. The fruit does not come first, but it is what you eat….

Paul: The problem for you and the Twelve Tribes is that you are eating from the Tree of Knowledge, not from the Tree of Life. You have knowledge and understanding according to your unregenerate and unredeemed heart. You think to do right by what you see externally, according to your knowledge of good and evil. You expect others who live according to the same power to call your fruits righteous. And some of them will, because they are righteous fruits according to man’s measure. But Yahoshua said:

“You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15 MKJV).

Neither you nor your converts have been raised up to see or know the internal things of the Spirit – love, truth, faith and the righteousness of God. As Yahoshua said to Nicodemus, you must be born again to know these things.

If you really must go by knowledge, why not go all the way and live as our Lord did, Who had no place to lay his head? Travel without a home or business other than to preach the Good News. But my point is that you people decide for yourselves, in your knowledge, and are not led by His Spirit. You are in your own works, which bring death, and though you don’t see it because you are already dead, we do and tell you the truth.

Sholom:Community is the result of a certain spirit which shares with others and regards others as worthy of giving up one’s life for….

Paul: Yes, we would agree there is a certain spirit at work here (in the “tribes”), which is not the Spirit of the Lord. Many do works that are considered noble – “mother” Teresa, for example. She gave up her life to circumstances far more uncomfortable than what you people have. Yet she was also in her own works and those of the Catholic Church, which is a persecutor of Jesus Christ, not a fruit of Him. So your certain spirit means nothing to God. We are commanded to test the spirits. “Let God be true but every man a liar…” (Romans 3:4). The Scripture means what It says.

Sholom:Otherwise, the First Commandment is a toothless lion: one is left to oneself to ‘love’ God in isolation or without any requirement for loving the way Messiah loves.

Paul: You reveal yourself here, Sholom. One who obeys God and has the First Commandment will, without doubt, have the Second.

“Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9).


“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14).

The fruit of the First Commandment is the Second Commandment and all Others. In Him there is no sin. But you must repent and be born again to enter into life. You have not yet entered into life.

Sholom:It is entirely possible to live righteously without community, but it is not possible to live a set apart life of a chosen people without being called out of “the way it is” into the way God wants it to be…and His desire is to have a people for His own possession…in a covenant not like the first which He made with our forefathers (Jer.32:31)….

Paul: I mentioned in my last letter that we, the saints of God, do indeed have community, the Body of Christ that is in Heaven, where our lives now are. As for being called out, that is also true. We tell you the same thing; you must come out of the works of men if you will be saved and be the sons and daughters of God (2 Corinthians 6:16-18).

We also tell you that God is fulfilling His desire, not in the Twelve Tribes, but in His body, the saints living in Him, whom you cannot see. As Yahoshua said, He is God of the living (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). You stumble at the Stone because you insist you can see when you cannot, just as the Jews in the days of Messiah stumbled. Yet He was made manifest by His works of faith, and still is in those who believe. He that has ears to hear let him hear.

Sholom:I look forward to our on-going conversation,


Paul: Sholom, I welcome the chance to say these things to you, but as of yet I would not call it a conversation because that requires two people. You are not talking to me or answering me; instead you are just giving me weak platitudes and doctrines parroted from your group’s teaching. Why not get into the Scriptures for yourself and see if you can answer what I am saying? Is that possible or will you simply be another automaton, a victim of Mystery Babylon and one who loves to have it that way?


Sholom’s final reply:

Shalom Paul, I have been considering what you said in your Aug. 20th reply and I am curious by the use of “we” if you are in a community or do gather with a particular people who are covenanted to produce the fruit of the kingdom…which is, after all, what Yahshua said would happen (Matt. 21: 43)… a people producing the fruit of the kingdom…which means there needs be a demonstration of The Life. We are not simply saved in our minds or “intellectually” satisfied to live self-lives doing our own will…

(Acts 2:33 makes it clear that we ought to be able to both see and hear The Life; and again in Acts 5:20, there is a whole message of this Life).

And as stated in Hebrews 11:16, we are seeking a greater country…!!! i.e., a spiritual life which is not simply the extension of other fallen religious systems but awakens in us the way to lose our lives for the promise of eternal life (not seeking to save our own lives) so that the resurrected man might fulfill Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Isaiah 57: 14-15.


Paul’s final reply:

Shalom, Sholom.

I have not forgotten about your letter here. Things have been very busy and I just now have time this Shabbat.

To answer your question: Yes, I am part of a community of believers, for which reason I speak of “we.” And we have all that you speak of and more.

Praise God for His great work of salvation and the assembling of His Body! What a marvelous day!



Two and half years after this correspondence, Sholom left the Twelve Tribes. He writes about his experience as a member of the Tribes in a recently published book:

This book was written by someone who lived in the Twelve Tribes: I want to tell the truth about what I experienced.

Some excerpts from the website of the publisher (God’s People: A Look into Life in the Twelve Tribes Communities [webpage now defunct]), with my comments:

There is only one cause, one focus, one purpose to their entire life endeavors … to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth … just as Yahshua said they should pray … They believe sincerely that the only way to accomplish “their mission” is to be part of a provocative demonstration of what God wants of His Creation….

These are the works of men, which I told Sholom are not the same as the work of God that He accomplishes in the souls of those who believes. The one who believes is automatically joined to His mystical Body in Heaven (Hebrews 12:22-23). Sholom describes how men try to bring Christ down from Heaven:

“But the righteousness of faith says this: ‘Do not say in your heart, Who shall ascend into Heaven?’ that is, to bring Christ down…. But what does it say? ‘The Word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart’; that is, the Word of Faith which we proclaim” (Romans 10:6, 8 MKJV).

To whatever degree they have succeeded in living the life they fully embrace and practice, there is also the structure and form of an intolerant religious system which dominates and rules over all the members. It is somewhat like the Papal government of the Vatican (with all the economic influences attending), with strict ritualized practices instituted to solidify their beliefs into devout duties.

What changed Sholom’s mind from thinking that by visiting the Twelve Tribes I would see “the resurrected life that Yahshua became a sacrifice for” to seeing another version of the Catholic Church? His faith was in a work of man, which I told him would not stand. When these carnal institutions have served their purpose of exposure and disillusionment, they will be done away with, from the smallest to the largest. The deceiver and the deceived are His. All serve His holy purposes.

The Twelve Tribes is ruled by an internal government which draws all its inspiration and authority from their leader and acknowledged apostle ‘Yoneq.’

I told Sholom that the Twelve Tribes are made in the image of a man, Eugene Spriggs or “Yoneq.” There are God-given authorities, apostles, prophets, and teachers, and there are those who make themselves apostles, but are not:

“I know your works, and your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you tested those who say that they are apostles and they are not, and you found them to be liars” (Revelation 2:2 EMTV).

The Twelve Tribes communities proclaim that they are the final and only true believers. Their foundation is an uncontested ‘fact’ among themselves….

That is another evidence of the lie that “Yoneq” told them, one that he believes himself. Strong delusion from God causes men to believe their own lies. The question Sholom does not answer is why these people are deceived. The answer, from God:

“ …because they did not receive the love of the truth in order for them to be saved. And because of this, God will send to them a working of error, for them to believe the lie, that all may be judged, those not believing the truth, but who have delighted in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 LITV).

Judgment comes by Light, given to men for correction and sight.

When I first met the Twelve Tribes I was a skeptic and even fearful of who they were and how they lived. Over the years I got to know them as friends and decent people. Later on, I joined them and attempted to conform to all their beliefs. I willingly participated in the daily life for more than five years.

My four daughters still live in ‘the community.’ But, when I saw I could not adhere to what they preached I left the Twelve Tribes. This decision was not an easy one to make. Emotionally and spiritually I was stepping away from a very committed path.

But I had to leave. I had to seek ‘the truth’ about my own life outside their community concepts and practices. I was questioning many of the foundational beliefs held in common by the members. This account of community life in the Twelve Tribes is meant to shed light on the life they preach and live. I do not seek to tear them down or build them up. I do not question their right to practice their religion as they choose to….

Sholom now tells us that the Twelve Tribes community is not of God. That is true. The god of community failed him, but our God will never fail, because He is Lord of all. I have spoken to Sholom on the phone, and am sending him this entry, welcoming his comments if he would like to resume our conversation.

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