Journey of the Ger Toshav: Failed Connection

Broken connectionThe Gemara rejects this suggestion, because it is Rav himself who said that establishing an omen is only prohibited when it is done as we find with Eliezer, the servant of Avraham. When Eliezer went to find a wife for Yitzchak, he announced that the woman who would offer him and his camels water would be the one who would be the wife for Yitzchak.

Tosafos answers that according to one opinion, Eliezer was a Noachide, who was not commanded to avoid this type of conduct. And, according to the view that he was commanded to abide by it, we must say that he actually asked Rivka about her
family before making any decisions.

Daf Yomi Digest
Distinctive Insight
“Relying on omens and signs which portend the future”
Chillun 95

The non-Jewish cook is called a “kefeilah.” Rashi explains that he is a baker, while the Aruch translates this word to refer to a cook. Toras Chaim explains that according to Rashi, the reason we trust the non-Jew is that we present the question to him innocently, in a general conversation, without his realizing that we are going to be relying on his word for halachic purposes. In this case, we do not think that the non-Jew will intentionally lie, as he is not aware that we are listening to his statement for any practical purpose.

Daf Yomi Digest
Distinctive Insight
“Asking a non-Jew to taste the questionable food”
Chullin 97

(Continuing from yesterday’s Part 2 of the series: The Ger Toshav at Worship)

I read these two Dafs last week while pondering the Ger Toshav question and the relationship between Jews and Gentiles and was struck by the contrasting examples of trusted and non-trusted Gentiles from the Jewish perspective. On the one hand, we have the example of Eliezer’s relationship with Abraham. While we cannot say that Abraham was a “Jew” in the modern sense nor an “Israelite” since Jacob was not yet born and had not fathered the 12 patriarchs, he is considered the Father of Judaism and the first ethical monotheist in the line of the Jewish people.

Eliezer, though not a member of Abraham’s family, was a servant who was so trusted, that Abraham sent him back to Haran, the land of Abraham’s ancestors, to find and bring a wife back for Abraham’s son Isaac (see Genesis 24).

On the other hand, as we see in the Daf for Chullin 97, a Jew may trust a Gentile to advise him on an important manner, in this case the taste of a food item that may or may not be forbidden to the Jew, only as long as the non-Jew does not know that he is helping to decide an issue of halachah. The implication is that if the non-Jew knew how important his opinion was to the Jew, he might deliberately lie to him in order to induce him (and other Jews) to eat something forbidden.

Given the long history of enmity between Jews and Gentiles, I guess I can’t blame the Rabbis for this ruling, but it still stings a little. I would like to think there is a way to bridge the gap between Christians and Jews (Messianic and otherwise), but I can see that a rather long and bloody history is standing in my way. Could this also be the problem between Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic Jewish (MJ) community or more specifically, between the One Law (OL) faction of MJ, which is largely Gentile/Christian directed, and the Bilateral Ecclesiology (BE) faction, which is largely directed by a Jewish leadership? Is it a matter of trust, at least in part?

That could very well be. I’ve previously said that OL’s efforts to establish Gentile equality with Jews relative to being obligated to the 613 commandments is interpreted by BE as an incursion into Jewish identity and an attempt (even unintentionally) to obliterate the identity distinctions between Gentile and Jew, effectively rendering Judaism non-existent.

That could be a trust issue (I say that as an understatement).

Frankly, my investigation isn’t taking an encouraging direction. I recently discovered that it is not possible to be a Noahide and a Christian from a traditionally Jewish point of view. I’ve exchanged private communications with a Jewish gentleman (and since they are private, I won’t publish any identifying details) who is well versed about Noahides and he assures me that for many reasons, including the “polytheistic” nature of Christianity and the Jewish belief that Jesus (or at least Paul) was a “false prophet”, anyone self-identifying as a Christian could not be considered as a “righteous Gentile”.

It seems my investigation is stalled. How can I take and adapt any elements or cues regarding the relationship between Gentiles and Jews in the Messianic world from the Noahide/Jew relationship in traditional Judaism when any status of “righteousness” as a Christian is cancelled by my Christianity? That means, from a traditional Jewish point of view, I am viewed as a pagan, polytheistic, idol worshiper. I was rather hoping for more.

SeparatedIf the BE contingent in MJ is drawing its identity largely from mainstream Judaism, then how much of that sentiment is carried over into Jewish/Gentile relationships? It can’t quite be the same because both Jews and Gentiles in MJ confess Jesus (Yeshua, within this context) as the Jewish Messiah and that salvation comes through the “living Word.” The question of monotheism is still a thorny one, but I won’t address it as part of this series. Since “righteousness” of all members of the Messianic world must come from the Messiah, then its Gentile members cannot be faulted for having the same faith in Jesus as the Jewish members.

Extending that into the world in which I live, those Jewish members of MJ/BE must also, at least at a very basic level, accept my faith since we both recognize Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and we both are brought before the throne of God through the sacrifice of Christ.

But saying that, I’m no closer to an answer to this puzzling set of queries now than I was when I first conceived this series. I’m also at a loss as to how to proceed and must admit that the series, barring any further developments, is closed.

With the days of teshuvah almost elapsed and the approach of Yom Kippur coming rapidly upon us, I can only throw myself before the mercy of God and let Him deal with His creations. How disappointed in us He must be.

I wonder when I’ll learn that the barriers are firmly in place, humanity in its different groups, including Jew and Gentile, are established as we are, and divided we will be until God unites us all again at the end of all things.

It’s not all bad. At least I learned that BS”D is the Aramaic phrase “B’Sayata Di’shamaya,” which means “With the help of Heaven.”

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9 thoughts on “Journey of the Ger Toshav: Failed Connection”

  1. I know a number of Christians and gentile Messianics who, being drawn to Judaism, decided the best path forward was to become a Noachide. This meant abandoning hope in Messiah Yeshua, of course, as you note in your post.

    I’ve seen it, and I’m saddened what people with throw away for what is ultimately approval of men. (I know that’s almost cliche, but it’s true: Noachides start by seeking approval of Judaism, which demands they deny Yeshua.)

    That said, it’s not absolutely true that anyone self-identifying as a Christian cannot be considered a “righteous Gentile. As an example, the vehement and unrepentant Dutch Christian who helped Jews escape the Holocaust, Corrie Ten Boom, was honored by the state of Israel as Righteous Among the Nations. In this case, her good works were a blessing to the Jewish people, perhaps transcending theological objections. Though religious Jews may describe her as “righteous, in spite of her faith”, if you read Corrie’s books, you’ll know she was righteous because of her faith.

    In the grand scheme of things, we’re left with this revelation: Yeshua changed something. He changed the gentile relationship to God. Judaism, because it has temporarily rejected Yeshua, is missing this revelation, and it is for that reason you won’t find an acceptable answer from Judaism on how gentiles like yourself can approach God without abandoning Messiah.

  2. Hi Judah,

    I just wrote a comment on the first blog in this series that outlined what I was hoping to get out of examining the role of the Noahide. I agree that Christians cannot define their roles exclusively by traditional Judaism the way a Noahide does, because of the essential incompatibility. Nevertheless, optimist that I am/was, I thought there might be some helpful hints I could glean from that dynamic.

    I agree with your statement about the impact of Jesus on the Gentile in that he allows us to have a covenant relationship with God without converting to Judaism. Noahides, if we equate them with the 1st century God-fearers, do not have that relationship. In the greater scheme of things, looking at the picture from a Christian point of view, what does God make of the Noahide, who by definition rejects Jesus as Messiah but accepts the God of Israel?

  3. Judaism traditionally believes that “J” (or at least Paul) was a heretic and that non-Jewish is a synonym for idolatrous, as if God himself were so paganoid. Its endless details of observance are cumbersome, and it teaches that a few million people around the world are the only ones that practice true religion. On the other hand, Christianity traditionally teaches that the Jews are damned, that their Judaism is something they must be saved from. It cares little for the immeasurable value of works in the sanctifying of the world. MJ ought to glean liberally from the best of both traditions, but ultimately it can not thrive unless it stands on its own legs. The rabbis and church fathers taught many good and noble things, but Yeshua alone is the perfect Good Shepherd. He neither wanted to kowtow to the established religion or to start his own. He was about something greater than all that. He taught ambivalent acceptance of the Jewish authorities because they are the successors of Moses, but not imitation of their many flaws. The focus ought to always be, “What does God want me/us to do” as opposed to “how can I/we emulate normative Christianity/Judaism.” Only then is our faith a reflection of God’s will, and not the commandments and teachings of fallible men. Do not take this opinion of mine to be an endorsement of Sola Scriptura; I promote no such thing.

    The Noahide issue and how I as a Christian gentile “fit” in relation to Judaism doesn’t bother me anymore. I just accept that I’m an unorthodox Christian trying my best to please God, embraced by neither orthodox Christians nor Frum Jews because I won’t compromise my relationship with God to be their pawn, and I run with that. Orthodox Jewish authorities, in their usual insularity, want that status of Noahide to serve only their own religious system, which they take as dogma to be the only unfailingly true one. Only the left-leaners among them would recognize the tremendous value Christianity has had in bringing monotheism and Godly values to the whole world.

  4. The focus ought to always be, “What does God want me/us to do” as opposed to “how can I/we emulate normative Christianity/Judaism.” Only then is our faith a reflection of God’s will, and not the commandments and teachings of fallible men. Do not take this opinion of mine to be an endorsement of Sola Scriptura; I promote no such thing.

    Somewhere in-between the dynamic of the individual and the group must lie the path upon which we walk. Yes, the basic question is, “What does God want from my life?” but I don’t believe the answer to that question can be fully answered in isolation. Otherwise, we would have no need for community and millions of Christians would each practice millions of different Christian “mini-religions” with no regard for any larger consensus or collective understanding. On the other hand, can “the group” wholly decide for the individual what the Bible says and what the will of God is for that individual’s life? Probably not.

    So where do we walk?

    I just accept that I’m an unorthodox Christian trying my best to please God…

    True for me as well, but I still feel like a living example of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. It’s hard to figure out exactly where I am from moment to moment, even for me.

  5. James,

    Of course I support reasonable communal standards. But I am sick and tired of the politics of religion. Yeshua came to build his Father’s kingdom, and he emphatically made clear that it is not of this world.

  6. As long as human beings are involved, there will (alas) be the “politics of religion”. We may not be of this world, as the Master said, but we’re certainly in it. Like birds with broken wings, we struggle on the earth while reaching for the clouds. One day, we will be lifted up (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

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