Returning the Torah

“I didn’t know what to say, but I certainly appreciated his incredible gift. I realized that this was a Torah that had been basically homeless for the past 50 years. There was no one to read it, hold it or keep it properly, and now God gave the Torah a home, and would hopefully bring this lonely Jew back in the near future as well.

“Now, what about an ark? That’s a story of its own. I found an online ad for an old Jewish artifact, a Jewish chest. The sellers weren’t Jewish, but they had bought it from a priest who told them it was of Jewish origin.

“When I opened the online pictures of the chest, I saw before me what seemed to be a beautifully crafted ark. It was small, so it wouldn’t be able to hold a regular sized Torah, but would be perfect for the Torah we had. But when I viewed a picture of the top of the ark, I almost fainted. There was a large cross attached to it. All of a sudden, I was not at all sure that this was an item of Jewish origin.

Suddenly I noticed a small plaque at the bottom of it. I asked the sellers to send me a photo of the plaque which appeared to have Hebrew writing on it. They sent me a picture where there was a clear inscription in Hebrew that said “Behold, the guardian of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers Psalms 121), which proved that the item must be Jewish.

-Rabbi Binyomin Pruzansky
“The Lost Torah Scroll”
Commentary on Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah
Aish.com

Rabbi Pruzansky tells a story about regularly hosting 30 or 40 young Jews in his home for Shabbos meals. These are young people who are Jewish but who have never experienced a Shabbat in their own homes. They would be uncomfortable in a traditional synagogue setting, but feel comfortable as guests of Rabbi Pruzansky. So he set out on a quest to acquire a Torah scroll and ark for his home to give these young Jews an opportunity to make aliyah in a Jewish environment where they could feel more at ease.

While the scroll he eventually acquired was purchased from a Jew, although one who had fallen away from practicing Judaism for many years, the ark was another story.

The cross upon closer examination, they said, was a separate piece that had been attached. I realized that the priest who bought this ark must have made that addition. I was deeply moved, and was certain that the hand of God was clearly guiding me.

“I bought the ark and had it delivered to my home. The cross was removed and I marveled at the verse that was inscribed. I have never seen this particular verse inscribed on an ark before. And I realized that there was a message here. It was as if God were saying that although this ark was lost for many years, He would never forget about it. He didn’t rest until it finally was brought home to Jewish hands.

“My dear friends, look at what we have here. A Torah that was neglected for so many years was finally given a home in an ark that had been used by a priest. Yet the message was clear that God would never give up on them. He had not forgotten about this lost ark and Torah scroll, and finally the two of them were brought together and can now be used to bring young men and woman back to their Father in Heaven as well.

In reading Rabbi Pruznasky’s “adventure,” I couldn’t help but be reminded of another tale of the struggle to return Torah scrolls to Jewish hands:

Another thing happened as a result of Saddam’s demise. Iraqi mobs looted his crown jewel of culture, the national museum. The majestic Iraq Museum is still on Nasir Street but it’s under new management – the elected Iraqi government. A museum director, Dr. Donny George, was appointed to restore the museum in 2005.

Soon after, Canon White was invited for a private tour.

Dr. George and Canon White strolled through the grand halls. Eventually the priest was led down to the basement level. Dr. George opened the heavy doors of a vault.

Canon White couldn’t believe what he was looking it – rows and rows of Torah scrolls.

“There are 365 of them,” declared Dr. George.

Canon White’s surprise turned into horror. “The Torah scrolls were all at risk. Rats were eating some of the parchment. They were not properly preserved or displayed, just stacked up on the dirty floors,” he says.

Canon White wanted to rescue them, but he decided to try to obtain just one. He had a destination in mind.

-by Ari Werth
“Struggle for the Scrolls”
Aish.com

As I wrote in my blog post Hope and Love, “Andrew White is an Anglican priest risking his life helping Christians in Iraq. Even more dangerous, however, is what he volunteers to do – protecting the last few Iraqi Jews.”

He is also a Christian who is dedicated not just to protecting the Jews and Christians in Iraq, but to returning to the Jews that which rightfully belongs to them: the Torah scrolls held in Iraqi possession.

But there’s another way of looking at this. Although supersessionism is slowly declining in the Christian world, there is a very small subset of Christianity where a rather odd form of replacement theology is apparently on the rise. A group of non-Jewish believers holds to the theory that all of the contents and conditions of all of the covenants God made with the Children of Israel also belong to them. That means, except for a small strand of Jewish DNA, these Christians believe they are just as “Jewish” as Jewish people.

That’s an oversimplification of their beliefs, generally referred to as “One Law,” but I’m rather struck by the odd parallel (or “anti-parallel”) between their stance and the stories of Rabbi Pruzansky and Canon White. Both of these men, within their differing contexts, have worked very hard to return to the Jews something of the Torah, whether it’s hundreds of scrolls in danger of being destroyed in a sub-basement of a museum in Baghdad, or a Torah ark that had once belonged to a priest.

Traditional Christian supersessionism effectively recast the Jewish Torah into a dying or dead Law that had been replaced with Christ’s grace and “nailed to the cross”. Subsequent generations of Christians have been guilty of incinerating Torah scrolls, siddurim (Jewish prayer books), volumes of Talmud, and actual synagogue buildings.

While thankfully, the church has abandoned such heinous acts against God’s covenant people, a very tiny group of them (us) have taken on a different tactic. The tactic is subtle and for the vast majority of “One Law believers,” it is completely unconscious and innocent, as their leaders insist to them that God wants and even requires that they possess the full yoke of the Torah mitzvot as their very own. It’s not a matter of stealing it from the Jews and saying that the Torah is now “Christian.” Rather, it’s a matter of saying (in effect) that Judaism and everything that is distinctly Jewish is completely irrelevant, because Jesus made us all exactly the same. It’s the ultimate expression of equality and political correctness as applied to this minority Christian viewpoint.

(At this point, I want to say that for many years, I was a One Law believer and in my heart of hearts, I honestly believed I was doing God’s will by (poorly, in my case) imitating Jewish religious and identity practices. I still have many “One Law” friends, both locally and on the web, and they are doing what they believe they must in obedience to God. I pray that God will show them one day that while their desire to obey God is very sincere, a course correction is required. For some One Law Christians though, in spite of being presented with evidence and arguments to the contrary, they insist, as a matter of pride, that the Torah belongs to them. More’s the pity.)

In my blog posts Redeeming the Heart of Israel, Part 1 and Part 2, I tried to describe that a large part of our duty as Christians to the Jewish people is to help them return to the Torah. To bend that last sentence to fit the theme of this “meditation,” we Christians should be returning the Torah to the Jews, not claiming it for our own.

If Jesus had intended to include the rest of the world in covenant relationship with God using all of the conditions of all of the covenants God had made with Israel, in Matthew 28:18-20, he would have just commanded his Jewish disciples to make converts of the nations, not disciples. While one possible interpretation of this command would be for the non-Jewish disciples to directly imitate their Jewish mentors in all of their behaviors, including those that uniquely identify Jewish people as Jews, we don’t actually ever see that happening.

We do see, as in the example of Cornelius in Acts 10, how we non-Jews receive the Spirit the same as the Jews, and we’re baptized in water, the same as the Jews, but while many of the “God-fearers” of Peter’s and Paul’s day did pray three times daily, keep some or all of the dietary laws, and perhaps even keep a weekly Shabbos, they likely did not see becoming carbon copies of their Jewish teachers or (at that point in history) view becoming greater than the Jewish inheritors of Sinai as the desired result of their reconciliation to God.

Jesus and his Jewish Apostles lead and the Gentile disciples followed.

Now, we have a greater purpose. Rabbi Pruzansky’s story is just one small example of how modernity, moral relativism, intermarriage (and I say that as an intermarried Christian husband), and assimilation have grievously depleted the ranks of Jews who are culturally and religiously Jewish. There are so many people (my wife was once one of them), who are halachically Jewish but estranged from the synagogue, the siddur, and the Torah. We Christians who find ourselves drawn, often inexplicably, to Judaism have a great opportunity to, after our own fashion, do what Rabbi Pruzansky and Canon White are doing. We can return the Torah to the Jews or more accurately, we can encourage Jews to return to the Torah.

There is an idea in some corners of Judaism that says the Messiah will only come (or from a Christian point of view, “return”) when all Jews everywhere observe a single Shabbat. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I believe that God will find favor in His Jewish people, as increasing numbers of them return to Him in obedience to the mitzvot. For a Jew, this means returning to the Torah. For a Jew, it means the Torah is returned to him. It does not mean, “the Torah is now for we Christians but we’re willing to share it with the Jew.” It does not mean, “the Torah is now for everyone and, strictly speaking, it isn’t Jewish anymore.”

Speaking to my Christian brothers and sisters who are not Jewish, whether you or I observe the Torah commandments that specifically identify Jewish people as Jews won’t make much of a difference to God, in my opinion. After all, the vast majority of the Torah speaks of those things that we Christians already do, such as feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and comforting the grieving. We already do everything that our Master and Savior Jesus commanded his disciples to do.

But in a world that has always been opposed to the Jewish people, we can do something for them and for God. We can give them back what we have taken from them. We can allow them, without resisting any further, to be Jewish and to do Jewish. At Sinai, God created a unique and treasured nation that was never intended to be “xeroxed,” diluted, or deleted.  But through repeated acts of disobedience by the Israelites, God (temporarily) dispersed that nation to the four corners of the earth.

Rolling the Torah ScrollNow He is bringing them back to their peoplehood, to their Land, and God is bringing the Jewish people back to Himself. The mission of the Christian church is to serve God and to obey our Lord, and part of that service is to return the Torah to the Jews and to recognize that Israel will one day (I pray soon) be restored as the head of all nations.

Boaz Michael, the President and Founder of the educational ministry First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) has written a soon-to-be published book called Tent of David (available January 2013) which outlines this mission for us from a Messianic Jewish perspective. These are exciting times for the church and we all have vital roles to play in the plan of God.

We just need to remember our roles. We just need to remember that our job is not to take, but to restore.

May the Messiah come soon and in our day.

Amen.

27 thoughts on “Returning the Torah”

  1. Thanks, Rabbi Joshua. I was just writing an extended reply to some of the critics of Gene’s latest blog post. Also, this is a theme that has been developing within me since Shavuot.

    Besides, chutzpah is easy to come by on the Internet. 😉

    I appreciate the compliment. Blessings.

  2. You continually mischaracterize the gentiles who keep Torah: “They insist, as a matter of pride, that the Torah belongs to them”.

    James, I run a Hebrew Roots congregation. Not one of us believes we “own” the Torah, nor that it belongs to us any more than the New Testament “belongs” to us.

    Are we keeping Torah out of pride? Hardly. The people in my congregation are some of the most kind, humble people you’ll ever meet: They volunteer in food kitchens. They give money, furniture, living space, anything, for those in need. They help people. That’s Torah. They are the face of Hebrew Roots.

    I’ve grown tired of you internet pundits. You condemn from your high horse the people who are doing work for the Lord, day in and day out. We labor for the Lord. Throw our time, our energy, our resources into this – no joke! We do it because it’s the sum of God’s commandments. We do it because Messiah, our Master, followed the commandments, and in the trusting that as His disciples, we should imitate him.

    But you, James…you can’t even pray to Messiah anymore. At least Thomas the disciple could call Messiah, “Lord and God”, but you, you can’t even call Messiah ‘God’ anymore. You claim the worship given to Messiah is no different than men bowing to human kings. Can you even call yourself a Christian when you reject such a foundational principle of both Christianity and Messianic Judaism? Your convictions now paralyze your actions: you can’t even decide whether it’s OK to read from a siddur, or lead your family in shabbat observance.

    Your newfound beliefs have crippled your own faith.

    And while your new friends like the respected Rabbi Brumbach applaud you for this, your old friends still love you, despite your harsh, wrongful criticisms.

    Are we wrong for keeping the Torah? I know of no better way to imitate Messiah. Tell me, when Messiah comes and gentiles are keeping Sukkot, will that be supersessionism? When Paul told gentile Corinthians to observe Pesach, was that cryptosupersessionism? When Messiah returns and gentiles are serving in the Temple, will that be replacement theology?

    We are brothers in Messiah and we’re to encourage one another. But instead of spurring us on in good works, you nitpick us over a possibility that we’re out of bounds on a airy theological issue, while you yourselves rot in inaction, uncertainty. and harsh criticism of your brothers in the faith. Get out of this mess, James. Return to the Torah and grow.

  3. Hi Judah.

    First of all, let’s put my quote back in context:

    At this point, I want to say that for many years, I was a One Law believer and in my heart of hearts, I honestly believed I was doing God’s will by (poorly, in my case) imitating Jewish religious and identity practices. I still have many “One Law” friends, both locally and on the web, and they are doing what they believe they must in obedience to God. I pray that God will show them one day that while their desire to obey God is very sincere, a course correction is required. For some One Law Christians though, in spite of being presented with evidence and arguments to the contrary, they insist, as a matter of pride, that the Torah belongs to them.

    I also never said that the majority of One Law believers keep the Torah out of pride or any wrong motivation at all:

    The tactic is subtle and for the vast majority of “One Law believers,” it is completely unconscious and innocent…

    In other words, I’m not saying that all or even the majority of One Law Christians “keep” the Torah out of pride. Also, please keep in mind that I wrote this entire blog post largely as a response to one or two of the critics of Gene’s blog post about a One Law person coming to a change in perspective.

    You said, You condemn from your high horse the people who are doing work for the Lord, day in and day out. We labor for the Lord. Throw our time, our energy, our resources into this – no joke!

    That would be delightful if the majority of One Law blogs would emphasize service to God by doing work for the Lord but unfortunately, what I read mostly is something like, “we have the right to look and act just like Jews, and it’s racism if Jewish people don’t like it.”

    One of the frustrations I have about One Law is its emphasis on a very tiny portion of the mitzvot, usually having to do with outward signs such as wearing tzitzit and laying tefillin. The majority of the Torah that we can keep today has to do with what Christianity does most of the time: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and so on (sorry if I sound like a broken record and I know I emphasize this portion of the Torah all the time, but as you say, this is really important stuff and as far as I can tell – apart from your congregation – it’s not talked about much in the One Law blogosphere). If One Law emphasized that in their blogs and in their lives, I’d be extremely pleased.

    I’ve said time and time again that I don’t see a problem with non-Jews voluntarily taking on additional mitzvot. Please, light candles on Erev Shabbat, wear a tallit in prayer, daven using a siddur, form a group of ten men and pray each morning facing Jerusalem. Fine and dandy. But since I know you really do value doing good for other human beings and you are serious about obeying God in the weighter portions of Torah, please try to convince some of your OL blogging friends that this is important for them to do as well.

    As far as my personal view of the Deity of Messiah, that remains an ongoing project. I don’t write about it currently for that reason and at this point, it’s between me and God. You can choose to criticize me if you wish.

    Oh, and we won’t be commanded to send representatives from the nations to celebrate Sukkot in Jerusalem until after the Messiah returns (though I see no problem now with Christians building sukkot…after all, I did). Paul was being metaphorical in 1 Corinthians 5 when he was talking about Passover, and your interpretation as far as what the Gentiles will be doing for the priests in Isaiah 66 might not mean they will actually be priests themselves serving in the Temple in Jerusalem.

    My relationship to the Torah and Judaism (and as an intermarried person yourself, you should understand this better than most) is filtered through the lens of being a non-Jewish Christian husband married to a Jewish wife. It’s filtered through other lenses as well, but as I’ve said many, many times before, I am quite willing to give my Jewish family their space and their identity and to continue to discover my own. If you read this entire blog post, you’ll see that I believe we Christians have a fabulous mission ahead of us in terms of serving God and supporting the Jewish people.

    Blessings on your own service to God, Judah.

    1. >> “[One Law people think] they have the right to look and act just like Jews”

      Wrongful criticism again. We say, “The Torah is good, but Jews are mistaken when it comes to traditions.” If we were imitators of Jews, we’d be sloppy and poor ones at that: most don’t bind tefillin, pray the traditional prayers, or believe the sages wisdom is on the level of Scripture. Unlike MJism, Hebrew Roots isn’t about imitating Judaism or Jews.

      I mean, how many One Law people do you know who bind tefillin in the manner of Orthodox Judaism? If we were really trying to “act just like Jews”, don’t you think we’d do that, too? Perhaps our friends at First Fruits of Zion bind tefillin — why are the cries of cryptosupersessionism, then?

      We aren’t trying to act like Jews. We’re trying to keep the Torah as best as we can, because Yeshua, our Lord and God, did. If you can’t respect that, then at least leave us alone. Your criticisms are harsh, wrongful, and hurtful to us, your brothers in Yeshua.

  4. Actually Judah, some One Law folks really do think they have the right to look and act like Jews. I’ve met them.

    You keep taking my comments as if they are a personal rebuke against you and your congregation. Frankly, as you describe your congregation, they are somewhat atypical of my experience of One Law congregations, which in my opinion (and I speak for my own past OL practice as well), are “sloppy and poor” imitations of traditional Jewish religious and (sometimes) cultural practices. Please believe me, I have not specifically referred to you or your congregation in any of my comments here.

    As far as Messianic Judaism (as I define it anyway) is concerned, if someone’s Jewish, they aren’t really imitating being Jewish. A large part of Messianic Judaism is to provide a religiously, culturally, and ethnically Jewish environment for Jews who are Messianic where they can worship God in community. In that sense, they aren’t imitating Jews but rather being Jews within a Jewish worship framework where Yeshua is acknowledged as the Messiah. If those Jews wear tzitzit and lay tefillin, it is completely within a Jewish context. If the many non-Jews within Messianic Judaism (and I freely admit that Jews are a minority within their own movement in terms of numbers) choose to do the same as an approved practice within their own synagogues as a voluntary action, I don’t object to that either.

    My whole “rant” if you will, is directed to those (hopefully few) people and groups who go about saying that they have a right to do as they please with Jewish identity and if Jewish people (Messianic or otherwise) don’t like it, that’s just too bad. I don’t believe that includes you and your group, so please, you don’t have to take this blog post as if I’m talking to you. I’m not. You didn’t even enter my thoughts when I was composing it (remember, I was commenting on a person or two who were criticizing Gene on his own blog).

    As far as leaving you alone, I don’t come to your blog and criticize your religious practice or your content. I periodically visit, but that’s about it. If you don’t want me to visit your blog at all, I’ll stop following it as I have a few others of late. However, free speech rights being what they are, I will continue to write content on my own blog as my conscience allows (and I write quite a lot about other topics if you haven’t noticed). Remember, it has nothing to do with you so no, I am not hurting you. I am not victimizing you as you seem to believe I am. If you find reading my blog posts painful, I can only suggest you not read them. I mean, it’s not as if I call people out by name as you and one other OL blogger have done.

    Again, I never said you can’t choose to voluntarily keep Torah as you see fit. I have only been criticizing those who demand to take on Jewish identity as if it were a right guaranteed to them by the constitution or even the Bible. I think you know who I’m referring to.

  5. Judah, I just wanted to add something that Gene said in the comments section of his blog a few minutes ago that echos what I’ve been trying to communicate:

    Thank you, Boaz. You are correct – the thrust of the conversation was not to dissuade Gentiles from studying and obeying Torah precepts applicable to them. Not at all. In fact, anyone who has ever read FFOZ materials knows the overwhelming emphasis they put on teaching Torah to the Gentiles, both those in Hebrew Roots/messianic circles and in churches.

    What was addressed, however, was the prevailing undercurrent of Supersessionism, the general attitude of entitlement to Torah and all things Jewish/Israel, anti-rabbinism, the misuse of Jewish sancta, i.e. things that today are so prevalent among many of those those involved in Hebrew Roots.

  6. >> “My whole “rant” if you will, is directed to those people and groups who go about saying that they have a right to do as they please with Jewish identity and if Jewish people (Messianic or otherwise) don’t like it, that’s just too bad.”

    Again I ask, why no cries of supersessionism when you visited Beth Immanuel? There are fine people there — mostly gentiles — who bind tefillin, pray the traditional prayers, parade the Torah, and I hear even their onegs are all OU-certified. They do far more gentiles-taking-on-Jewish-identity than any One Law congregation. If the issue really is gentiles taking on Jewish identity, why the inconsistent standard, James?

    You attempt to pacify my objections by saying your criticisms are not aimed at me, just the group I’m associated with: Hebrew Roots. This doesn’t soften the blow, nor should it: first, a wrongful criticism is a wrongful criticism, and the Torah demands we not take part in such slander. But more importantly, I know the people you speak of. It’s easy to condemn airy theologies and ideas, but it’s not so easy to do to people. I’ve been in this movement since childhood. I’ve been involved in Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots congregations. I run a congregation myself. And it’s out of that experience that I say to you, James Pyles, your criticisms are wrongful and hurt your brothers in Messiah.

  7. Judah said: Again I ask, why no cries of supersessionism when you visited Beth Immanuel? There are fine people there — mostly gentiles — who bind tefillin, pray the traditional prayers, parade the Torah, and I hear even their onegs are all OU-certified. They do far more gentiles-taking-on-Jewish-identity than any One Law congregation. If the issue really is gentiles taking on Jewish identity, why the inconsistent standard, James?

    I already answered your question in a previous blog comment, Judah: As far as Messianic Judaism (as I define it anyway) is concerned, if someone’s Jewish, they aren’t really imitating being Jewish. A large part of Messianic Judaism is to provide a religiously, culturally, and ethnically Jewish environment for Jews who are Messianic where they can worship God in community. In that sense, they aren’t imitating Jews but rather being Jews within a Jewish worship framework where Yeshua is acknowledged as the Messiah. If those Jews wear tzitzit and lay tefillin, it is completely within a Jewish context. If the many non-Jews within Messianic Judaism (and I freely admit that Jews are a minority within their own movement in terms of numbers) choose to do the same as an approved practice within their own synagogues as a voluntary action, I don’t object to that either.

    You also said, And it’s out of that experience that I say to you, James Pyles, your criticisms are wrongful and hurt your brothers in Messiah.

    The flip-side of the coin is when One Law states that all Gentile believers in Jesus (i.e. Christians) are obligated to the Torah, you accuse us of sinning when we don’t lay tefillin, pray wearing tzitzit, refrain from mowing our lawns on Saturday, and so on. Should I accuse you or One Law in general of being “wrongful and hurting your brothers in Messiah?”

    I don’t. We will probably always disagree Judah, but that doesn’t mean we have to personalize conflict. I don’t mind a lively debate and usually only object when people try to make it personal. Effectively, the only way, according to you, that I could avoid injuring you and my “brothers in Messiah” would be to A. Never blog on this topic again, or B. completely change my theology (again) so that it matches up with yours, even when I don’t believe in the One Law position. How am I to reconcile with you and those like you under such conditions, Judah?

    Jews and Christians don’t agree on most topics, but many still manage to get along. There are just tons and tons of different Christian denominations around that don’t agree with each other but individuals between these different denominations manage to get along. It certainly isn’t my intent to hurt anyone (and even Dan knows this about me) but you are trying to put me in a position where I can only avoid “hurting” you if I stop being me.

    I know you’re going to say the door swings both ways and that I’m demanding that you stop following your convictions but this actually isn’t true. Reread my comments above about what I believe of non-Jews taking on additional mitzvot and you’ll see what I mean.

    1. If the many non-Jews within Messianic Judaism choose to [keep Torah] as an approved practice within their own synagogues as a voluntary action, I don’t object to that either.

      How is that any different than folks in One Law congregations?

      you accuse us of sinning when we don’t lay tefillin, pray wearing tzitzit, refrain from mowing our lawns on Saturday, and so on. Should I accuse you or One Law in general of being “wrongful and hurting your brothers in Messiah?”

    1. James,

      You said before, “My whole rant is directed at people who go about saying that they have a right to do as they please with Jewish identity”, citing One Law gentiles who keep Torah as the problem.

      I questioned you about this, since you attended a congregation in which gentiles keep Torah in a traditional, nearly Orthodox Jewish fashion, but you didn’t make so much as a peep about identity issues then.

      Your response is: the issue isn’t Jewish identity, it’s about whether it’s optional or mandatory to keep God’s commandments. So, according to you, people who say the commandments are mandatory are “doing as they please with Jewish identity” and are bad, but people who say the commandments are optional are respecting Jewish identity and are good.

      Am I understanding you, James? I’m asking you for clarity’s sake.

      “completely disregarding the feelings of Jewish people who find it offensive.”

      Don’t Jews find the idea of Messianic Judaism — a 4th branch of Judaism that worships J and is targeted exclusively at Jews — offensive?

      The fact is, the Jewish world accepts neither Hebrew Roots nor Messianic Judaism. Don’t give me this schpiel about what’s more offensive. We could argue about what’s less offensive, but it doesn’t matter; what matters is truth, not feelings.

  8. Judah and Zion, I know the both of you are more intelligent than your comments let on. There’s a difference between voluntarily taking on additional of the mitzvot and stating that you have a right to do so under Biblical obligation.

    You seem to be purposefully ignoring what I’ve said previously and hammering away at points that have already been settled. It’s as if you want to argue for the sake of arguing, which is another reason these sort of debates seem so fruitless.

    My personal opinion is that we non-Jewish believers don’t need to go out of our way to try and imitate practices that are obviously patterned after modern Jewish synagogue behaviors, but there’s no law that says you can’t. Certainly what you do in your own homes is your own business. I don’t wear a tallit or lay tefillin anymore because I no longer hold the belief that I’m obligated, and I choose to respect my Jewish wife. If we both, as believing Gentiles, obey the mitzvot to feed the hungry, visit the sick, and comfort the grieving, but I choose not to wear a tallit during prayer and you choose to do so, are you really saying that it makes a difference to God? Am I really so bad because I might start a prayer “Dear God” instead of “Baruch atah Hashem”?

    Again, the issue isn’t Gentiles who choose to take on board certain additional mitzvot. The issue is insisting that it’s not only an obligation but a right for Gentile Christians to do so, and to completely disregarding the feelings of Jewish people who find it offensive. C’mon guys, why is it all about you?

  9. The issue is insisting that it’s not only an obligation but a right for Gentile Christians to do so, and to completely disregarding the feelings of Jewish people who find it offensive.

    Wait a second, first of all, we believe gentiles are in covenant and in being in covenant are responsible for the covenant, the rest is details. I don’t disregard Jewish feelings, but I also put God first. I can’t deny Yeshua because some of my Jewish friends are offended, anymore than I can stop serving God. It simply is not going to happen, at the same time I have found less Jewish people offended and more Messianics who consist of fake Jews and half Jews, tend to be more offended or as Judah put it, embarrassed. My Jewish friends who know what I believe, are more interested in why I do what I do, than are offended.

    C’mon guys, why is it all about you?

    It is not about me, or Judah, it is about serving God. Have you questioned your own priorities lately?

  10. I can’t deny Yeshua because some of my Jewish friends are offended, anymore than I can stop serving God.

    Straw man argument, Zion. I never said you should deny Jesus because you have Jewish friends. I have Jewish friends. They know I’m a Christian. I don’t go around denying my faith to avoid offending them (and it doesn’t offend them).

    Have you questioned your own priorities lately?

    I question them all the time but then again, I’m not afraid to do so. In fact, it’s become something of a habit. Questioning my beliefs and priorities is what convinced me that the One Law position was not sustainable (for me, I don’t expect you to agree with my personal conclusions). It’s easy to say that you (or I or anyone) do what you (we) do because God told you (us) to and you’re not a respecter of men, only God, but Christians have been doing that for a long time, sometimes in order to justify their own wants and needs.

    I know nothing about you Zion, not even your name (except what I can see in the WordPress dashboard whenever you comment on my blog), so I can’t determine your motives or values. I’ll take it for granted that you are sincerely wanting to serve God and believe that the only way you can do so is to take on various practices that are typically identified with modern Judaism.

    But did you read what I said before in my previous comment?

    If we both, as believing Gentiles, obey the mitzvot to feed the hungry, visit the sick, and comfort the grieving, but I choose not to wear a tallit during prayer and you choose to do so, are you really saying that it makes a difference to God? Am I really so bad because I might start a prayer “Dear God” instead of “Baruch atah Hashem”?

    You want to know where my priorities are? They’re in responding to what has been called “the weighter matters of Torah.” Isn’t that where all of our priorities should be if we call ourselves disciples of the Jewish Messiah?

  11. Judah said, The fact is, the Jewish world accepts neither Hebrew Roots nor Messianic Judaism. Don’t give me this schpiel about what’s more offensive. We could argue about what’s less offensive, but it doesn’t matter; what matters is truth, not feelings.

    I’m sorry Judah, but I can’t buy that.

    If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

    So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

    1 Corinthians 13 (ESV)

    I don’t think Paul was saying that we should ride roughshod over human beings because we think we’re representing “the truth”. As I’m sure you realize, just about every religious tradition that exists and has ever existed, including all of their sub-groups and variants, claim to have the corner market on “truth.” Saying that only One Law has “the truth” and implying that no one else has, including Judaism, doesn’t discount or dismiss or nullify every other Jewish or Christian person on the planet, Judah. I suppose I’m wrong now to care about my wife’s feelings and should toss aside her identity of being Jewish because of “the truth” according to you.

    Sorry. I’m not going to do that.

    Earlier you appealed to me to change my position or at least to keep quiet about it because I was hurting other people’s feelings; my brothers in the Messiah. Now you say the feelings of Jewish people don’t matter because of “the truth.” You can’t have it both ways.

  12. James, red herring. I love people. You love people. Let’s not pretend one side is filled with loveless wretches.

    Can you clarify, is this indeed what you believe?

    >> “People who say the commandments are mandatory are “doing as they please with Jewish identity” and are bad, but people who say the commandments are optional are respecting Jewish identity and are good.”

    It is important for us to have clarity. That is why I am asking: your post said One Law people are bad for “acting like Jews” and keeping Torah. This confused me, because you attended (and apparently support) Beth Immanuel-style Torah observance, which is also gentiles keeping Torah but even more stringent and traditional. So I asked you to clarify, and you said the difference is that One Law people believe the commandments are mandatory, and Beth Immanuel style people believe the commandments are optional. If I’ve misunderstood, please clarify.

  13. And if you care so much about offending Jews, please tell me how the idea of Messianic Judaism is not offensive. It’s a new branch of Judaism that worships Jesus and is targeted exclusively at Jews.

    One Law gentiles “sloppily” practicing Torah is small beans in comparison!

  14. If we both, as believing Gentiles, obey the mitzvot to feed the hungry, visit the sick, and comfort the grieving, but I choose not to wear a tallit during prayer and you choose to do so, are you really saying that it makes a difference to God? Am I really so bad because I might start a prayer “Dear God” instead of “Baruch atah Hashem”?

    I have never made a claim in that regard, just because I believe Gentiles are responsible for the Torah, does not mean I walk around judging Christians, also I don’t wear a tallit and I don’t pray “Baruch ata Hashem”, but it technically would not matter if I wanted to adopt that, especially if I believe that is fulfilling some service to God. But concerning judging, no one will be standing in front of me on judgment day, so it would be a waist of time. I do share what I believe with my fellow brothers(Christians), but I respect them if they disagree. I don’t go around whipping people for not holding the same beliefs, if that is what you are implying, but then again who does that to begin with?

    You want to know where my priorities are? They’re in responding to what has been called “the weighter matters of Torah.” Isn’t that where all of our priorities should be if we call ourselves disciples of the Jewish Messiah?

    Absolutely, but Jesus also made it clear, that while we do that, we should not neglect the lesser matters, we should seek to do it all, with our priorities on the weightier as you stated.

  15. Judah, I haven’t been beating around the bush. You know there’s a big difference between Gentiles who choose to voluntarily obey additional mitzvot and those who demand it as a right.

    I don’t attend Beth Immanuel regularly but you’re right, during the Shavuot conference, non-Jews did read from the Torah and I suppose some of them wore talliot (I didn’t go up to each individual to ask if they were Jewish or not).

    On the other hand, I wore a kippah but no tallit. I’m sure you’re aware that I’d be asked to wear a kippah in any synagogue in the world as a sign of respect for God. I was offered no aliyah which, for me, was a relief, because I didn’t want to be rude by refusing the honor. I didn’t attend each and every prayer service and sometimes chose to chat with one or two other Christians during those times. I existed in what was an authentic Jewish environment, but like any non-Jew, I didn’t always participate in every part of the service or activities.

    Beth Immanuel apparently will allow Gentiles to voluntarily take on some additional mitzvot beyond what you’d see in a more traditional Jewish context, but that (again) is different than those Gentiles demanding “equal rights” in a Jewish synagogue.

    It’s not relevant that other Jewish groups won’t (currently) accept Messianic Judaism. The Orthodox Jews don’t particularly recognize the halachah of the Reform Jews as a valid response to Talmud. Also, although more traditional Jews may see the Jewish people in MJ as in error, they still recognize them as halalically Jewish (I checked on this one).

    If you want to look at the other side of the coin, I know for a fact that many churches don’t recognize One Law congregations as a valid Christianity because of being “under the Law.” Does their disapproval make your congregation invalid as you say an Orthodox Jew’s disapproval makes Messianic Judaism invalid?

    Sorry Judah, I can’t agree with your arguments.

    Zion, I’m glad that you don’t judge Christians for not holding to the same beliefs as you do. Sadly, I have met some OL folks who really do judge Christians for not accepting the full yoke of Torah.

    Again, if you choose to voluntarily take additional mitzvot upon yourself, I have no objection. I only object to the “demand” quality of some of your peers in the blogosphere who say they have “rights” to the Torah of Sinai, sort of like the branch disregarding the root.

    Oh, and as far as weighter and lesser, I do agree that serving others is the weighter part of the Torah, but as you know, we are going to disagree on whether or not we non-Jews have an obligation to what Jesus didn’t explicitly teach us to do, such as the Jewish sign mitzvot.

    I know, I sound like a broken record, but I feel as if I have to continue to repeat my answers when you both keep asking what seem to be the same questions.

  16. >> “You know there’s a big difference between Gentiles who choose to voluntarily obey additional mitzvot and those who demand it as a right.”

    In practice, the difference is that one group is more traditional and more stringent than the other. In the end, both are practicing Torah.

    Given these two groups:
    – Gentiles that keep Torah, believing it’s mandatory to do so
    – Gentiles that keep Torah, believing it’s optional to do so

    You believe the first group are replacement theologians, wanna-be Jews, and generally evil,
    You believe the second group are good people, definitely not supersessionist, and God honoring.

    I’m glad we achieved some clarity on this issue, James.

    Be blessed! Despite our differences, I do consider you a friend and brother in Messiah.

  17. Thank you for the last part, Judah. I never, ever called anyone “evil.” That’s overstating the point by quite a bit. I can disagree with someone and still be friends.

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