Shepherd, Pens, and Flock, Part 2

rabbis-talmud-debateThe reason for any lack of “overarching standards” for halakhah is that the rabbinical system was designed to be more flexible than that, and dependent on each generation of rabbis to apply a set of common standards from common principles. That having been said, the standards are a bit less ambiguous in the orthodox realm, which is still the standard by which other modern streams of Judaism must measure themselves even insofar as they wish to diverge from them to accommodate some perceived modern situation. I will refrain from offering any comment about how well or poorly they may achieve their goals, and I will offer the observation that Judaism has preserved in its literature numerous behaviors that may be deemed more or less applicable or enforceable in any given generation but that may be revived when appropriate. I have the greatest sympathy for the Jewish Christians in your church, though I would try to persuade them that the Hebrew-Christian model developed a century ago was a temporary accommodation whose purpose has passed, and that their well-being as Jews and contributors to the Jewish enterprise would be better served otherwise. History has shown that they will not survive as Jews in a Christian environment, certainly their children or grandchildren will not, and that they are contributing to the alienation of their Jewish families from the Messiah. If they have been mis-taught that these considerations are unimportant, I can only lament their loss.

The modern Reform and Conservative streams (not to neglect Reconstructionism and others) were formulated in response to historical circumstances, and modern MJ is still grappling with a selection of halakhot that meets its needs. One of these needs or desires is to somehow reclaim a first- or second-century CE outlook, while recognizing all the subsequent influences that have affected halakhic development so as to integrate as much of Jewish tradition as may be possible and applicable into our current circumstances. I suppose that characterizes them somewhere within the Conservative spectrum. At issue is not a “doing of religion” so much as the development of a lifestyle that incorporates and illustrates millennia of Jewish civilization. It is a practical corporate educational exercise that promotes the preservation of the Jewish people and our characteristic knowledge base that is still indispensible to understanding Rav Yeshua’s and Rav Shaul’s teachings. It remains to be seen whether the modern streams of Judaism will also become increasingly anachronistic, or if some of their insights may continue to be preserved. What is currently called Reform Judaism has become quite different from its origins, especially since the Holocaust and the resurgence of Israel, though it has not yet embraced halakhah. Conservative Judaism has always applied halakhah, though it tries to adjust it to modern circumstances. On the other hand, so does modern Orthodoxy, though with a stronger emphasis on maintaining historical connectivity.

Acts 15 is quite clear that the full body of Torah mitzvot is not incumbent upon non-Jews, though it was still recommended that they learn Torah in synagogues each Shabbat. This does carry some implications about what may be permitted for the more mature non-Jew to do voluntarily and without obligation, for all the extra merit that the rabbis assigned to non-Jews who pursue Torah even though it is not their obligation (based on Is.56, among other passages). Of course, Rav Shaul re-inforced en-passant in Gal.5:3 his view that Torah is fully binding upon Jews and circumcised proselytes (i.e., converts). In his time it was also especially important to emphasize to non-Jews not to allow coercive social forces to deprive them of that potential for extra merit by becoming circumcised, which is how the Acts 15 halakhah came to be formulated.

-ProclaimLiberty, 1/27/2013
as quoted from a comment in Love and Commentary

I know it’s a long quote but I just loved the “in-a-nutshell” summation ProclaimLiberty (PL) offered in reply to my blog post and my subsequent comments on the topic (and as a counterpoint to the topics I discuss in Part 1 of this article). Not only does PL succinctly describe the history and development of Jewish halachah over the centuries, but also brings in the issue of Gentile disciples as they entered “the Way” in the late Second Temple era and the Apostolic response to their presence. In reading the original comment, I felt as if a clear vision of a valid Jewish viewpoint in relation to how tradition and Torah obedience interrelate were presented to me. It’s difficult to work through a large set of tomes addressing my questions,  and a few paragraphs that can reduce the arguments down to their basic essence is incredibly welcome.

praying_at_masadaI’m not saying there isn’t any possible rebuttal from Christianity or the other “Judaisms,” but at least we have a firm starting point as to how (and why) Messianic Jews must continue to live as observant Jews, and how halachah can be appropriately part of the modern expression of “the Way” within Jewish communities. It seems like there’s a certain amount of latitude regarding how each Jewish tradition (including the modern Messianic tradition) may select halakhot (although as PL says below, a great deal of selection may not be required) that meets its needs without running roughshod over the authority of the written Bible.

But PL has more to say:

Halakhah is the human response in the conversation with HaShem that begins with His Torah instructions. It is a re-iterated conversation that continues throughout our generations, so of course it is varied and flexible. Judaism is not constrained by a concept of “the Bible as the final sovereign word of G-d”. We view a hierarchy that begins with the Torah above all, followed by the authoritative interpretations of Torah from Israel’s appointed leaders and teachers, in the Torah-defined role of the “shoftim v’shotrim” (judges and magistrates). The Prophets decry failures to live up to the standards of Torah, but they do not contribute to any new interpretation of it. The Writings provide additional illustrations of how this plays out in history or even in hypothetical scenarios (as some might view some of the literature). The inter-testamental apocryphal writings take that farther, including some material that could be viewed virtually as “fantasy” (since it was a bit too early in history to consider science fiction), though even that period included historical records such as the Maccabbean revolt and the miracle of Hanukah. Subsequent to that we have a variety of Rabbinic literature and Responsa, of which the Rav Yeshua messianic writings are a fitting example, though a bit earlier than other Rabbinic codifications. So MJ is not required to choose a particular stream of tradition, though most of its current contributors to halakhic formulation have been influenced by the Conservative movement and its particular flexibility. The only “complication” for messianists is the desire to integrate the views of Rav Yeshua and Rav Shaul into their compilation of halakhah for a Jewish community that honors them at least as well as other rabbinic views are honored. Since there is not really any incompatibility here for the discerning halakhist, that need not present difficulty or disconnection from other halakhic compilations in other Jewish streams.

As to the difficulty of recapturing the 1rst-2nd-century worldview, more data seems to become available continually, but it is fair to say that MJ has devoted more attention to this than any other form of Judaism has done, because of its need to understand the teaching context of its primary rabbis. But from a modern halakhic standpoint, the issue is somewhat moot because of all that has happened in the past two millennia. So “… when [he] comes, will he find faith in the earth? (Luke 18:8). The linguistics of this also allow a more narrow colloquial reading asking whether he will find those who trust him in the land of Israel. Will he have any difficulty recognizing his sheep, either because of their halakhah or in spite of it? As long as MJ halakhists keep this question in mind, I’m reasonably confident of a positive response.

There is a midrash that depicts Moshe Rabbeinu as being carried by an angel across time and space to visit the Jewish Talmudic Academy of Babylon. He is terribly perplexed by the argumentation, of which he cannot make any sense. He is then consoled by its reference to the Mishnah and its quotation of the words of Torah from the mouth of Moshe. Now, while we know nothing of the conversation that occurred on the “Mount of Transfiguration” between Rav Yeshua, Moshe, and Eliahu, in some future midrashic conversation Moshe might council Rav Yeshua to be patient with his modern disciples for exactly similar reasons. And we would be similarly well advised.

-PL, 1/28/2013

jewish-handsI apologize for inserting large blocks of copied and pasted text, but the alternative would be for me to rework what PL has written and present those ideas in my words, and really, what’s the point? Better that you read what was presented in the original comments rather than risk my messing up the meaning or intent. All I really want to present are these ideas and my impressions of them.

Part 1 of this article was my continued understanding of how Torah does and doesn’t apply to Gentile Christians, including Jewish halachah. In this second part of my missive, I’m trying to show the opposite side of the coin, not so much about why Torah applies to Jews, because by definition, the entire body of Torah must apply, but how we can see the rulings and traditions of the sages as a natural extension of Torah, which includes the authority of the accepted teachers in Judaism to make such rulings.

I view Judaism as we know it today as valid and authoritative for the Jewish people. I also agree with Yeshua own words (in Matthew 23:3) that whatever (“everything”) those sitting in the seat of Moses (Jewish leaders) bid Jews to observe is bound on all Jews. He didn’t make an exception for Jewish disciples of Yeshua, but in fact was speaking to them when he said those words. He believed in the leadership of Israel, even if he condemned those who were hypocrites.

-Gene Shlomovich, 1/28/2013
as quoted from his comment in The Jewish Girl Who Saved Her Children

I’ve spent a great deal of time attempting to establish and confirm the validity and the authority of the ancient and more modern Jewish sages to establish halachah in Judaism including Messianic Judaism, such as in my recent blog post The Moshiach and the Rabbis, so I won’t go into a long tirade and repeat myself again at length, but I do want to try and tie together as many loose threads as possible.

If God is God over all and Jesus is the Jewish Messiah King and the Divine in the flesh who dwelt among us and who will do so again, then what are we to do with the post-Second Temple sages and the ancient and modern Jewish traditions and interpretations? Apparently, if you’re a Gentile Christian, you don’t have to do anything with them. As I have said on numerous occasions over the past few years, a Christian, in my opinion, is free to observe a wide variety of the mitzvot on a voluntary basis as a personal conviction and in solidarity with his or her Jewish fellows, as long as issues of Jewish identity don’t get stepped on, let alone walked all over. Saying all that, we don’t have to perform those mitzvot in obligatory obedience.

Since it’s impossible to observe the kosher laws, wear tzitzit, lay tefillin, or even daven from a siddur without encountering the sages and their judgments, any Gentile Christian who chooses to go down that path will have to make decisions about tradition as well (should I bind my tefillin by the Ashkenazi or Sefard tradition, or use the Chabad or another method?) Halachah, in this case, is unavoidable, even for the Gentile.

But for the observant Jew, it’s not a matter of whether or not to walk the steps of halachah, but to “grapple with a selection of halakhot that meets his or her needs.” God’s Word, in the final analysis, is absolute, but not necessarily halachah (of course, if you ask an Orthodox Jew about it, you might get a different answer).

Pastor Randy asked me recently if I thought it was possible for anyone to observe Torah perfectly? No, I sincerely doubt it, only because we human beings are bound to make mistakes sooner or later. So if Jews can’t keep the Torah perfectly, what’s the point of keeping it at all (James 2:10)? That’s like asking a Christian if he were to find himself looking at a woman in lust even on a single occasion, should he give up on remaining faithful to his wife, throw the Bible to the winds, and let himself be consumed by his desires for other women. It’s not about having perfect behavior, since no person is perfect, it’s about “perfecting” ourselves, continually turning away from sin, and turning more completely to God.

white-pigeon-kotelFor a Jew, that includes striving to become more spiritually elevated by correcting transgressions and continuing to master the mitzvot one at a time in order to honor God as a Jew and to sustain a Jewish presence and identity today and for future generations.

I hope this makes some sort of sense to both my Jewish and my Christian readers. I don’t have a Jewish lived experience, so I suppose I’ve made a thousand mistakes and if so, I trust I’ll be gently corrected. As far as my Christian readers go, I don’t doubt you will have many points of disagreement, if only because especially in Protestantism, tradition and Bible generally don’t mix. But we aren’t looking at how Christians walk as disciples of the Jewish Messiah, we’re looking at how Jews walk as disciples, and if we are to honor the uniqueness of their relationship with HaShem, then we must also honor how Jews are to be Jews, both in their communities, and in the presence of God.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside waters of rest.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and steadfast love shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I return to dwell in the house of the Lord for length of days.

Psalm 23 (ESV)

This conversation will continue in an “extra mediation” later today, based on some correspondence with PL whose insights I’m learning to appreciate. I hope I’ve laid a sufficient foundation upon which to base a dialog on these matters. The sheep are out of the pens and gathering together as a flock in the green meadow with our Good Shepherd. It is his voice we must listen to, and if we are his, we will follow where he leads.

One last thing I’d like to add is a short video made of Boaz Michael presenting the Gospels as the oldest written record of some of the Jewish oral traditions. I hope you’ll find this information as compelling as I do.

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67 thoughts on “Shepherd, Pens, and Flock, Part 2”

  1. Hullo, James – I appreciate your enjoyment of my insights, though I think you misapprehended one statement about halakhah. I had mentioned that “modern MJ is still grappling with a selection of halakhot that meets its needs.” You later made a similar statement: “But for the observant Jew, it’s not a matter of whether or not to walk the steps of halachah, but to ‘grapple with a selection of halakhot that meets his or her needs.’” That’s a bit too individualistic. I need to clarify that halakhah is not a matter of personal selection, at least not for the orthodox observant Jew. The conversational response represented by halakhah is a communal response. The efforts by the MJ stream, or any Jewish stream, to support its community needs are intended for the entire community to be consistent communally. Ideally, the entire Jewish community worldwide should be in agreement on the same halakhot, because those halakhot have been developed by the appointed rulers of Klal Yisrael who have been granted the authority to establish the rule of Torah in each generation. This is a heavy responsibility, yet Rav Yeshua acknowledged it as the Pharisees’ responsibility in Matt.23:1-3 (despite criticisms throughout the rest of that chapter).

    Now I grant you that those individuals who are unfamliar or new to halakhic observance may need to improve their observance in gradual stages. That could well apply to many modern MJs at this time. And individual communities of Jews in locations that create difficulties in following some particular halakhah may need a special declaration of local custom (“minhag ha-makom”) by the community rabbi to authorize a localized or temporary (“hora’at sha’ah”) deviation or alternative. But that’s quite different from a broad-brush authorization to select which halakhot to follow individualistically. On the other hand, non-Jews who are using halakhic definitions to guide their own pursuit of Torah observance might be granted the same individualistic flexibility as applies to their Torah observance in general. However, those who wish to interact with a particular Jewish community will need to be consistent with that community’s halakhic requirements, to avoid introducing confusion into the community.

  2. Thanks for correcting me, PL. I figured I’d get something wrong in my own “grappling.” Part of why I write these blog posts is to put out what I’m thinking and see what I can learn. No time to read your entire comment as I’m getting ready for work, but I’ll look at what you said again later and craft a more detailed response.

  3. On the other hand, non-Jews who are using halakhic definitions to guide their own pursuit of Torah observance might be granted the same individualistic flexibility as applies to their Torah observance in general. However, those who wish to interact with a particular Jewish community will need to be consistent with that community’s halakhic requirements, to avoid introducing confusion into the community.

    OK PL, I’ve had the time to read your response. I guess that “Christian thinking” has me focused on the individual. Even though the church calls itself “the body of Christ,” it’s still organized around one individual being saved at a time and “what does this Bible verse mean to me.” Also Christianity doesn’t really have a centralized authority that establishes our “halachah” (barring the Pope and Catholicism and even then…). We really don’t think of a central standard for behavior that encompasses the broad body of Gentile believers. Yes, I know the response should be “but what about God?” or “but what about the guiding of the Holy Spirit?” but put ten randomly selected Christians in the same room and ask them to have a Bible study. At some point, you’ll notice that they don’t all have the same perspective on what the Bible means.

    That said, and acknowledging your comment above, the same may be said for Jewish people as well. Ideally, there should be a central set of teachings that drives a communal response to support the needs of the Jewish community, but in practicality, I don’t see that. And as you say:

    I grant you that those individuals who are unfamliar or new to halakhic observance may need to improve their observance in gradual stages. That could well apply to many modern MJs at this time.

    To the best of my understanding (and I’m working on that understanding all the time), MJ halachah is a work in progress.

    As far as the Gentile believers who desire to pursue some (or more than some) of the mitzvot, halachah can be a tremendous challenge. I think my personal response is indicative of just how much a Christian attracted to the Torah doesn’t know in terms of the nuances and community “dialog” that forms the basis for halachah. There’s been a lot of push back in the Hebrew Roots movement by Christians who want to devote themselves to some portion of Torah, but who attempt to separate out the appointed teachers of Israel from the “written Law” as if Torah could be separated from how it is experienced in a lived, organize manner by Jewish community.

    I think the Bible can be studied relative to objective standards that are practiced by Jewish and Christian scholars, but is there a “Torah lifestyle” that exists in isolation from Jewish halachah? Many Christians would say “yes,” but perhaps they’re missing the point. What if there’s never been a Torah lifestyle, even going back to the days of Moses, without interpretative wisdom and communal conversation with the Source?

  4. Well even when the definition of a Torah lifestyle exists, that doesn’t guarantee how well or consistently it will be followed. While there is cetainly more work to be done in the arena of MJ halakhah, there is at least an approved MJRC document summarizing its basic tenets. I thought it was in one of your own recent blogs that a link to it was cited. One might still wish to refer to a Kitzur Shulhan Aruch for more elaboration of the halakhot that it presents, but I find the document instructive. If MJs in general would adopt the halakhic approach and conform with this document, they would have taken already a large step forward toward a consistency that would make any other halakhic issues easier to resolve. Even Habad begins its definition of Jewish life for “hozrei b’tshuvah” with only the three pillars of Shabbat, Kashrut, and Taharat Ha-Mishpachah (which are addressed in the MJRC document).

  5. Yes, I’m familiar with the MJRC document and I agree with your points. I still think that MJ is a “work in progress” but in reality, that also describes all of us as individuals who are attempting to live a life of faith. Christians don’t have quite the same organizational approach to standing before God, but in the end, we all find ourselves praying and pouring out who we are to Him.

  6. “The Prophets decry failures to live up to the standards of Torah, but they do not contribute to any new interpretation of it.”

    This was interesting to me. Thank you for highlighting PL’s view. Does he have a blog by chance?

    These issues (of halachah) are unsettled with me too.
    For example many times I see the Rabbis and their rulings revered above God’s written Word. The reason given i.e., that Moses gave judges to rule over Israel or Yeshua’s directive to do all they say but not what they do, seems to be given a highly disproportionate status comparatively with all the warnings and directives to faithfully follow His written Word. I mean no offense, this is just so obvious to me and seemingly ignored by a lot of folks.

    I don’t see halacha as Yeshua’s issue. He seemed willing to accept washing or not washing before eating bread, for example. One cannot accurately encapsulate his purpose and message by saying he was concerned about the level of observance of halacha, rather Hosea 6:6 was more like it. It’s an interesting contradiction.

    I’m not ignoring that he was talking with already observant Jews, but he was NOT here to force them or anyone into a particular mind numbing “group-think” nor do we see him referring to the Pharisees as “those who sit in the seat of Moses”, other than in passing. It was certainly NOT as big a deal as its made to be with some.

    Regarding end times issues, again, where do we see him concerning himself with halacha? Isn’t he highlighting Gods Word and how it cannot be broken, everything WILL come to pass etc? More than anything, love and faithfulness to God’s Word is his message.

    His message was more about getting people OUT of the mindset that they couldn’t think for themselves, and that they SHOULD’NT follow along with rulings that were in opposition to God’s Word, which proves the leaders rulings aren’t automatically synonymous with God’s will.

    He wanted them to use their brains to make a distinction between the leaders and the Word. This doesn’t have to be taken in a negative anti Torah, anti Judaism POV. They have every right to come up with whatever they want, but to ignore that they stray off the farm at times is not really in keeping with his message.

  7. This was interesting to me. Thank you for highlighting PL’s view. Does he have a blog by chance?

    Not that I know of, but since he is probably following this conversation, you can ask him.

    I don’t know if it’s fair to say that Jews who accept halachah upon themselves are stuck in some sort of “mind numbing group-think” (and I apologize if I’m misunderstanding you here, LW). I suppose there are Jewish people who do tend to perform acts in automatic response without attributing any spiritual meaning to them, but my understanding (from PL) is that halachah is a living, interactive, organic process rather than a list of strict rules and regulations that act as a straight jacket (and again, I’m sure there are some Jewish communities who do respond to halachah in a very restrictive and concrete manner).

    From the outside looking in, I could be quick to judge some Jewish communities, but I’ve never lived inside of them (the topic of tomorrow’s “morning meditation”) so it’s hard for me to say.

    Did Jesus intend to create a group of Jewish “free thinkers” who were always “outside the box” or did he intend, for his Jewish disciples, to redefine the box to be more in keeping with the intent of God for the Jewish people? More than once now, I’ve heard it said that Matthew 23:1-4 illustrates, in part, the acceptance of the Messiah of Jewish authority to make binding halachah and the validity of the Jewish religious authorities of his day. It doesn’t sound like he’s “throwing the baby out with the bath water” in terms of halachah.

    Some interpretations of Matthew 16:19 suggest that when Jesus gave Peter “the Keys to the Kingdom,” he was giving him the authority to make binding halachah specifically for the Jewish (and Gentile?) Messianic community. That being the case, Jesus must have believed in a continuing body of halachah for his disciples, not only at that point in time, but across all future history. The question then becomes for modern Messianic Jews, can any of that original halachah set by Peter and the Apostles be discovered in the New Testament? Also, since halachah is supposed to be interactive and adaptive, meeting community needs across time, how much can it have changed? Who are the sages today with the authority to make binding Messianic Jewish halachah?

    The big, big question (and I think PL gave us his perspective on the answer) is how much of the body of halachah is binding on MJ today? The answer, as I understand it, is a large, large portion but as I’ve also said, I think its currently a work in progress.

    Then again, since halachah is interactive and adaptive, I guess it always must be a work in progress…kind of like us.

  8. James, I should have said that I base my remarks on extensive interaction with Chabad, comments by Gene and others on the internet.

    I do not think Yeshua was trying to create a bunch of free-thinkers who disregard Judaism and it’s leaders. (But it’s fairy well known that Judaism was not as rigid in his time and was more diverse than its usually represented by RJ today.) But what I said was that I see a disproportionate amont of emphasis on halacha and the “leaders” both from the standpoint of the Torah and the NT. I think it’s hard to defend some of the attitudes is all. Yeshua was not teaching a blind devotion to anything but God and His unchanging truthful ad reliable Word. That seems to get lost a lot in these debates.

  9. “nor do we see him referring to the Pharisees as “those who sit in the seat of Moses”, other than in passing. It was certainly NOT as big a deal as its made to be with some.”

    I think that Yeshua’s words are very important here, as all are all his words, and they were certainly not simply said in “passing”. It’s extremely big deal for those of us who are Jews to know what Yeshua’s own opinion was on how his Jewish disciples should live. I understand how Gentile believers would find his words here as “not a big deal”, since they [seemingly – although just that] have no direct application to their lives. His Jewish disciples no doubt thought it was very important when Yeshua told them “So you must obey them [the Jewish leaders] and do everything they tell you.” They lived among Jews as Jews and for them being faithful to Judaism reflected directly on the Messiah they followed. In fact, we see this showcased in Acts. This is why James (the leader of Jerusalem community) said to Paul (who was accused of discarding Torah and halacha):

    “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the Torah. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.…….. there is no truth in these reports about you… you yourself are living in obedience to the Torah.” (Acts 21)

    However, while most Christians today discount the G-d-given authority Yeshua acknowledged in Jewish leaders (even as they do to Judaism’s ongoing relevance overall), it is still very important to Christians to realize that the only religion for Jewish people IS Judaism. Most of Christian anti-Judaism in centuries after Yeshua death/resurrection hinges on Yeshua supposed doing away with Judaism and removing the authority from ALL Jewish leaders of all communities and ages and giving it to the “Church” or the Christians (the “New Israel”) instead.

  10. To be fair LW, I think Judaism became more defensive and perhaps more rigid historically in response to the “threat” Christianity posed against it. My guess is that whatever early commentary by the sages that may have depicted the Messiah as being like the Christian Jesus was “retrofitted” to remove that similarity, again because Jews were being actively persecuted by the Christians of those days.

    As far as the Chabad and the Haredim, I find quite a number of news articles reporting on the behaviors of their members (throwing soiled diapers at Egged buses in Israel because they’re running on Shabbat..yelling at and even throwing rocks at girls and women because they are “unmodestly dressed”) that are outrageous and can’t, by most reasonable people, be thought to represent the will of God. I am not supporting anything like that.

    As far as Gene goes, I don’t find him all that rigid and he does have a mind of his own. I’d love to meet him face-to-face (I have talked with him on the phone a time or two) and get to know him a little bit better.

    I think if we can put a face on “observant” Messianic Judaism and “judaically-aware” Gentile believers can interact with Jews who are Messianic and living a halalaic lifestyle, it might make a difference in how we perceive each other. Using the text-only comments section of various blogs is severely limiting to actually getting to know someone, one person to another.

  11. “My guess is that whatever early commentary by the sages that may have depicted the Messiah as being like the Christian Jesus was “retrofitted” to remove that similarity, again because Jews were being actively persecuted by the Christians of those days. ”

    James, while there’s indeed some Jewish polemic work directed at “Jesus” (surprising very little, as Jews would not dare to criticize Christianity for fear of pogroms, expulsions and burnings of Jewish written works), most of it is pointed to the Jesus as Christianity has historically presented him – Shabbat breaker, Torah violator, Gentile deity, one who inspired hatred for the Jewish people and whose followers persecuted Jews. However, when one reads Jewish works on the Jewish view of Messiah, the picture one is presented with is almost identical to Yeshua of the Gospels – including suffering on behalf of Israel. I am going to post this on my blog soon (been meaning to do that for a while)

  12. Glad to hear that, Gene. What we need is to be able to continually see the Jewish Messiah from a Jewish perspective. As you say, historically, Judaism and Christianity actually agreed on those things about Jesus that made him appear anti-Jewish. that vision needs to be corrected.

  13. “Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”
    Who is “they”? I would submit “they” include the leaders of the synagogues and those who sit in Moses seat.
    “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.”
    If the disciples of Yeshua were just supposed to “do all they say” and that meant observe all their halachic commandments, why were they also told to expect to be beaten, separated out of men’s company, enemies of members of their own families and some even put to death?
    What happened when the disciples were commanded not to preach Yeshua? What did the “leaders” think of Yeshua’s teaching to become a eunuch if you could receive it (for those it is given), what about the many other teachings of Yeshua that directly opposed the “leadership”?

  14. James, one thing that I’ve noticed (not speaking of your blog or anyone here, but in general), that there are seems to be two growing forces in Christianity today. One side acknowledging and moving away from the historic Christian anti-Judaism and another side reacting to this by becoming even more anti-Judaism (even those groups that are supposedly “pro-Torah”) by villainizing Judaism. More and more one hears among Christians talk of equating being pro-Judaism with being “anti-Jesus”, “selling out to the rabbis”, “trying to appease Judaism”, “denying Jesus to be accepted by the rabbinics”, “making Talmud more important than the Bible”. I mean it’s easy to caricature something one doesn’t understand and only views from a distance or through a distorted theological lenses. As if to coincide with that, many evangelical groups are also turning on the country of Israel. Makes me a bit concerned for the future.

  15. I mean it’s easy to caricature something one doesn’t understand and only views from a distance or through a distorted theological lenses. As if to coincide with that, many evangelical groups are also turning on the country of Israel. Makes me a bit concerned for the future.

    That’s part of the reason I’m writing so much on this subject lately, Gene. It’s also for my own edification since, without a Jewish background, education, and/or lived experience, How to look at God and the Bible through “halalaic eyes,” so to speak, is a real challenge for me, too.

  16. “…pro-Judaism with being “anti-Jesus…”

    If by “pro-Judaism” you mean to deny that Yeshua is G-d in the flesh then wouldn’t those men be right in believing such a practice is “anti-Jesus”?

    What Yeshua taught was that none of Israel was keeping the Torah, he did not come for the righteous but for sinners. He taught that it was not the healthy and whole and clean that needed him, but the sick, unclean, fallen away and scattered. He taught that all who came before him were thieves and robbers and they did not care for the sheep but ran off when trouble came.

    Isn’t it possible to be PRO Israel, PRO Torah, PRO Yeshua without being caught in the trap of unbelievers? Is it possible to avoid the “stumbling block of the Jews” and still remain lovers of Israel and all G-d intended her to stand for among the nations?

    Isaiah 8:14
    “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

  17. As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

    On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.

    Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

    “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
    When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

    The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 13:42-52 (ESV)

    Steven said: “Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”

    Who is “they”? I would submit “they” include the leaders of the synagogues and those who sit in Moses seat.

    I recently studied Acts 13, which is a good example of “Jews persecuting Christians,” so to speak, and it was most illuminating. Notice in the text that the Jews initially accepted the message of the Gospel from Paul and Barnabas very enthusiastically, even following them after services were over to hear more. Apparently, what Paul and Barnabas were saying to the Jewish and God-fearing Gentile audience at the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch didn’t upset anyone, including the Jewish leaders.

    However, the next Sabbath, something striking happened. A whole bunch of Gentiles showed up, not just the usual crowd of God-fearers who knew how to act respectfully in the synagogue. There’s some interpretation here, but the gist of my understanding is that the Jewish members kind of “freaked out” at having so many non-Jews present, not because they were jealous that Paul and Barnabas were so good at attracting crowds, but because Jewish identity and organization about worship and services was spiraling out of control.

    The Jewish leaders had a solution to getting rid of the crowds: get rid of Paul and Barnabas. it wasn’t the message of the Gospel that offended the Jews in Pisidian Antioch, it was the overwhelming Gentile presence, for which they were hardly prepared.

    Sure, some of the Jewish leaders didn’t accept the Gospel message for a variety of reasons, but that’s a far cry from saying that the “Jews rejected Jesus” or even, the Jews sitting on the seat of Moses” rejected Jesus.

    It was two Jewish leaders, Nicodemus and Joseph of Aramathea who went to Pilate and asked for the body of the Master after his death.

  18. Steven, a Jew is right and G-d honoring to reject the antisemitic false “Jesus” that you proclaim. You are NOT “PRO Israel, PRO Torah, PRO Yeshua”, except what you have constructed in your mind. I hope I am not being too strong, but that’s what I see in you.

  19. “it wasn’t the message of the Gospel that offended the Jews in Pisidian Antioch, it was the overwhelming Gentile presence, for which they were hardly prepared.”

    That’s true. Primarily, it was hard for Jews to accept that G-d has accepted “pagan” Gentiles as spiritual equals without conversion to Judaism and accepting of Torah of Moses. Also, the Rome-appointed corrupt Jerusalem leadership was both weary of another Messianic claimant and jealous of Yeshua’s popularity among the masses. What is also especially striking, especially in light of later developments within Christianity, is that throughout the book of Acts (and other NT writings) there’s no accusation of idolatry or of any violation of monotheism against the apostles and the multitudes of Jewish disciples either by the Jewish leaders or the Jewish crowds.

  20. What is also especially striking, especially in light of later developments within Christianity, is that throughout the book of Acts (and other NT writings) there’s no accusation of idolatry or of any violation of monotheism against the apostles and the multitudes of Jewish disciples either by the Jewish leaders or the Jewish crowds.

    That’s a good observation Gene, and support the Deity of Yeshua from a First Century Jewish perspective. After all, if part of what Paul and the other Apostles were teaching was worship of the Messiah as “the Word made flesh,” and the Jewish Apostles, disciples, and various communities in Jerusalem and the diaspora didn’t accuse them of idolatry or polytheism, then the actual Gospel message and identity of the Messiah must not have been the big issue, even with Jewish leaders and communities that rejected (threw out, beat, and stoned) Paul.

  21. “Steven, a Jew is right and G-d honoring to reject the antisemitic false “Jesus” that you proclaim. You are NOT “PRO Israel, PRO Torah, PRO Yeshua”, except what you have constructed in your mind. I hope I am not being too strong, but that’s what I see in you.”

    Gene, since I am a believer and follower of Yeshua Messiah and have only used HIS WORDS, I have repented of my sins, I was baptized in water and in the Ruach haKodesh (who has taught me personally and anointed me to teach)…

    Your statement makes me wonder about YOU!

    Hope I am being strong enough to get you to pay full attention. You do not know what spirit I am of or who I am, or you would shut your mouth in fear and trembling of G-d.

    My prayer and hope is that you who slur me will have audience when I lay down my life for Israel and our Messiah and MY HOUSE OF DAVID in witness to the coming Kingdom and our King. Yes, I have heard from above and know my end and it is before G-d that I stand with one other.

    I’ll leave you with something the G-d of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, spoke to me personally, not to brag (a lowly saved sinner), but to shame you for your insolence to our King. “Steven, you can rest”.

    Now, go and learn what that means. If G-d himself has personally told me I can rest, who are you to say otherwise/

  22. Regarding LW’s concern about halakhah as a form of rigidity or thoughless conformity, I’d like to re-iterate a statement for which I was quoted above: “At issue is not a ‘doing of religion’ so much as the development of a lifestyle that incorporates and illustrates millennia of Jewish civilization. It is a practical corporate educational exercise that promotes the preservation of the Jewish people and our characteristic knowledge base that is still indispensible to understanding Rav Yeshua’s and Rav Shaul’s teachings.” [And on the subject of strait-jackets, no, I haven’t yet added my own bucket to the blogosphere.] There are many activities that individuals become accustomed to doing as part of their normal lifestyle, such as walking a dog, wearing a suit to church or to work, wearing some other sort of uniform in the course of their work, stopping at traffic lights and stopsigns, or waiting in lines at a bank or other public institution. We follow all sorts of “rules” carefully and with no discernable deviation. We don’t think about them much, or perceive them as an onerous or rigid burden, because they are a part of our normal custom and because we perceive that behind them is some sort of benefit or wisdom. It is no different with halakhah, once it has become incorporated into one’s “normal” lifestyle. Many years ago, while getting to know the members of a neighboring orthodox family, I was impressed by how many activities that were somewhat unfamiliar to me at that time were second nature to them. They didn’t announce them or mention them specifically; they merely did them. A halakhically-conformal lifestyle was to them simply the normal ordinary way of doing things. I expect that the same will become true for many MJs once they get over their unfamiliarity. Halakhah is merely how we choose to live in response to the teachings of “G-d’s Word”. Halakhah has nothing to do with personal persecution or futuristic prophecies or polemics between religious communities. It does provide a Jewish shape for our identity, and it provides a supportive environment to encourage the development of personal “midot” (character) in accordance with “biblical values”.

  23. Hope I am being strong enough to get you to pay full attention. You do not know what spirit I am of or who I am, or you would shut your mouth in fear and trembling of G-d.

    The door swings both ways. Steven, you and Gene aren’t very likely to get to know “what spirit” you each possess in a text-only venue on someone’s blog. I’m delighted that you were saved and repented of your sins, but if Gene can’t know the state of your heart, the same is true of you knowing Gene’s. All you have are each other’s words, but you don’t have the perspective of God…that is, how He sees the both of you (or me, or anyone else for that matter). Also Steven, no one else can “observe” God personally teaching you and anointing you to teach, so you will have to be content in realizing the reality of this within yourself. Declaring it to others isn’t a guarantee that they will always be convinced. Just sayin’.

    You can both choose to have yet another in a long list of heated arguments about religion on the Internet, or you can go to your respective corners, so to speak, and realize you’re not going to come to agreement with each other.

  24. I was impressed by how many activities that were somewhat unfamiliar to me at that time were second nature to them. They didn’t announce them or mention them specifically; they merely did them. A halakhically-conformal lifestyle was to them simply the normal ordinary way of doing things.

    PL, this is really one of the big reasons I’m writing about this, because Christians, pretty much by definitions, aren’t going to understand Jewish halalaic behaviors that aren’t familiar to us but perfectly normal to observant Jewish, Messianic or otherwise. The big “head-butting” sessions Christians get in with Messianic Jews is over how radically different are our understanding of what it is to obey God and follow the Master within what we call “normal.” The big sticking point is “the Word of God” vs “the traditions of men” and the “traditional” Christian interpretation of certain parts of the NT.

    If people like me can peel back the covers just a little bit, so to speak, into these different worlds, maybe we can see that they aren’t so unusual or even “unBiblical” as they’ve been advertised.

    Here’s hoping.

  25. “Hope I am being strong enough to get you to pay full attention. You do not know what spirit I am of or who I am, or you would shut your mouth in fear and trembling of G-d.”

    In light of the words above, I just want to reassure my fellow Jews who may come across this blog that despite what they sometimes witness, there are many Christians out there who love and support the Jewish people, those who demonstrate the love of Yeshua toward his brothers and sisters in the flesh both in word and deed.

  26. The problem with Annanias and Sapphira? They did not take care of what things they said before G-d because they were unaware.

  27. “The problem with Annanias and Sapphira? They did not take care of what things they said before G-d because they were unaware.”

    Their sin was hypocrisy. They wanted to present themselves as generous and holy before men, while in reality their heart was far from it.

  28. And hopefully Gene, people reading this blog will realize that its owner is a Christian who supports the Jewish people and does his best to be a disciple of the Jewish Messiah.

    As far as Annanias and Sapphira are concerned Steven, I can see where you’re going with this, but it seems kind of a stretch to compare their situation with a Jew who is Messiah and also who lives a lifestyle consistent with Jewish halachah. If Paul, Peter, and James could live lives that accepted Jesus as the Messiah and also live within the halachah that existed in their day, why is that impossible for Messianic Jews today?

  29. “If Paul, Peter, and James could live lives that accepted Jesus as the Messiah and also live within the halachah that existed in their day, why is that impossible for Messianic Jews today?”

    It is not impossible if they believe in Yeshua, are baptized after repentance in water and receive the Holy Spirit, and do not lay aside the commandments of G-d to keep the traditions of men.

    As for the brothers and sisters of Yeshua…

    “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.”

    That means whosoever does not do the will of G-d is NOT his brother and sister. But, enough disagreement for one post, I’ll rest for now. Shalom in Messiah Yeshua.

  30. Hi Gene:
    “Most of Christian anti-Judaism in centuries after Yeshua death/resurrection hinges on Yeshua supposed doing away with Judaism and removing the authority from ALL Jewish leaders of all communities and ages and giving it to the “Church” or the Christians (the “New Israel”) instead.”

    I didn’t and don’t discount the authority and right for Judaism to create and keep halacha. My point is that while Yeshua makes the statement that they should “do all that they tell you but don’t do what they do…” This statement gets, in my opinion, a disproportionate amount of attention by you and some others (not Chabad on this one). If one was to sum up Yeshua’s message, it wouldn’t be about which sect to follow (but the Pharisee’s were closest to his teachings) or which traditions were better, or halacha at all for he rather pointed them to loving GOd and man. He wanted them to see the heart of God and the POINT of the rules, as opposed to the strict observance of them. NOT saying he was lax or called for them to be, but the thrust of his message was not halacha, It was about correcting the perversions and re-focusing on God’s Word more than man’s traditions and he makes those distinctions himself.

    I am NOT saying he was against tradition, don’t misunderstand me, but I am saying that was not even close to the main point of his teachings and message.

  31. You quoted PL, “The reason for any lack of “overarching standards” for halakhah is that the rabbinical system was designed to be more flexible than that, and dependent on each generation of rabbis to apply a set of common standards from common principles”

    Since the common (and correct) understanding is quite the opposite, there is a burden of proof on someone making this statement. Without substantial evidence, don’t believe it. As a serious, long-term student and teacher of Mishnah, Talmud, and midrash (the documents of the designers of the system, Chazal), there is a clear pattern of halakhah becoming increasingly specific from the beginning (the Mishnah).

  32. Steven: “Hope I am being strong enough to get you to pay full attention. You do not know what spirit I am of or who I am, or you would shut your mouth in fear and trembling of G-d.”

    Woah, dude, you sound a little cuckoo…

    These things are always better kept to oneself until they come to pass just in case you’ve decieved yourself, youndont want to be a false prophet. Also, you lower people’s opinion of God and His people.

  33. PL: “Halakhah is merely how we choose to live in response to the teachings of “G-d’s Word”

    Not sure you understood me. My point was that Yeshua’s message wasn’t about calling Jews to halacha, nor was it about upholding the spiritual leaders right to make it. It was about reaching out to those who had fallen through the cracks that the leadership ignored or rejected. Loving God, believing HIS WORD.

    Regarding your quote above and that entire post, I’m not sure if others would agree with you or not but my questions aren’t with Jews keeping halacha.
    It’s with what seems like equating doing the halacha leaders created with doing God’s will or, fulfilling His commandments.
    That’s a huge problem for me. This kind of thinking insulates one from actually assessing their actions in light of what God says in His Word because they’re so content with doing what someone tells them to do. I just think it can be unhealthy at times how its equated with doing what God wants.

  34. “Woah, dude, you sound a little cuckoo…”

    “And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?”

    “The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the man that hath the spirit is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and because the enmity is great.”

  35. Steven, we are all in good company as disciples of the Messiah. Our disagreement isn’t in who he is but how we as Jews and Gentiles are to follow him.

    It’s interesting that PL and Carl, who I perceive have a significant grasp of the issues involved, are in disagreement. Not that I can compel anyone, but I would love to see a conversation between PL, Carl, and Gene regarding their perspectives of halachah, especially as it applies to the Messianic Jewish community. I, for one, would be enlightened.

  36. James, well maybe if they spend less time insulting me they will have time to get around to it. Shalom 🙂

  37. The door swings both ways, Steven. My “morning meditation” today is about trying to stand in someone else’s place in order to understand their perspective. After you’re there, you may still disagree, but there’s a difference between saying, “I disagree with you” and “I think you’re (bad, wrong, fill in the blank).”

  38. “but there’s a difference between saying, “I disagree with you” and “I think you’re (bad, wrong, fill in the blank).”

    Yes there is and that is my point. The difference is when Yeshua is saying it.

    I have never given an opinion here of my own. Everything I have stated I have used the words of Yeshua who ONLY spoke the words of G-d. I can’t understand how men who claim to be followers of Yeshua have such a problem with HIS WORDS, not mine.

    If Yeshua says “you’re (bad, wrong, fill in the blank).” you boys had better pay attention. There is a great penalty for changing the words and opinions of Messiah.

  39. @James. PL writes, “The reason for any lack of “overarching standards” for halakhah is that the rabbinical system was designed to be more flexible than that, and dependent on each generation of rabbis to apply a set of common standards from common principles.”

    I’m in sympathy with many of PL’s views (as a member of the MJRC, why wouldn’t I? Smile) but not with the foundational assumption that you quoted at the head of your post. And since that assumption is embedded in his overall approach, it also leads to some unusual conclusions about later Judaism. For example, PL is absolutely right about the development of multiple Judaisms (including Orthodoxy) from tradtiional Judaism in the nineteenth century. His account (and other things in his material) remind me of the Conservative historical approach to Judaism combined with Kaplan’s “Judaism as a civilization” approach. Clearly he/she knows he/she is talking about.

    I’m not sure what PL means by “overarching standards” but from its beginnings after the Hurban, traditional Judaism has been characterized by a strong drive toward specificity. Shabbat halakhah is an example. In the earliest rabbinic document, the Mishnah, we learn that there are 39 kinds of labor that are forbidden on Shabbat. Although these are “general principles,” (in a sense), they were not used in order to provide flexibility of practice to subsequent generations; subsequent generations defined each kind of labor more and more precisely so as to ensure that Torah would not be violated. Thus the massive tractate Shabbat (and Eruvin) in the B. Talmud and the place of Shabbat observance in the code.

    There is some flexibility in the way a rabbi or beit din applies the halakhah, so long as the halakhah is not violated in the process. But traditional Jews are bound by the many thousands of specifics in the halakhah much more tightly than PL sees it.

    So how do we discuss such a foundational issue? There is an overwhelming consensus among among traditional Jews that the halakhah has great specificity and has to be applied to actual civil cases in each generation. There is also an overwhelming scholarly consensus that Chazal (the sages of the formative period of Judaism to the seventh or eighth century) worked to clarify halakhah and make it more specific. They were not able to do so in all cases, but the effort was continued by others up to the present day. Both groups would reject the idea that It does not simply consist of “general principles.”

    In this kind of situation, the one who is bringing an idea that is contrary to a consensus has the burden of proof. There are times when he/she is right and eventually wins the argument. More often (especially on the blogosphere), he/she is arguing on the basis of weak methodology, questionable hermeneutics, and/or just plain quirkiness.

    For starters, it would be helpful to know whether PL’s knowledge of the Mishnah, Talmud(s), and midrash qualifies him/her to speak in broad generalities and in the specifics of halakhah; and does he/she fully aware that his/her views are contrary to traditional and academic consensus.

  40. @Carl: I’m hoping PL comes round to re-enter the conversation. I’m sure it will be very helpful for those of us who are trying to see halachah from a more illuminating perspective. Relative to time zones though, PL may not be available to reply for a day or so.

    @Steven: Most people (and probably all people) don’t have an unfiltered view of the Bible and a “raw” understanding of the teachings of Jesus or the mind of God. The fact that we have to read a book imposes an “interface” and, to the degree that most of us don’t read ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic (not to mention the fact that no one has the original copies of the Biblical documents) imposes further barriers. Granted, the Bible as we have it must possess a fairly high fidelity to the original (which is why the Dead Sea Scrolls are such a big deal), but to say that we don’t impose our biases or opinions on the Biblical text is likely untrue. The idea of Bible study, especially within groups and especially with knowledgeable teachers, is a journey of discovery and an exchange of ideas. We see above that Carl and PL, both people who (as far as I can tell) are educated in Jewish halachah and its application disagree on certain points. How much more should be find points of disagreement between Jewish and Gentile disciples of Jesus who have learned in different venues, from different traditions, and who possess different biases?

  41. “How much more should be find points of disagreement between Jewish and Gentile disciples of Jesus who have learned in different venues, from different traditions, and who possess different biases?”

    James, you make some good points and I’m all for what your doing to facilitate the discussion in this part of the blog-sphere. As for me, I’m always going to make my comments from Yeshua’s point of view regardless of how it is perceived or how many slurs I get. I’m not willing to pretend a righteousness in those who reject G-d’s only son. I appreciate Yeshua’s cousins approach, although I’m sure some men who write here would say he was anti-Semitic and not a friend of Israel, the Torah or Yeshua. (They would be wrong of course)

    “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

    And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

    Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

    Anyway….thank you for your continued patience and understanding, I have noted your heart is willing to look deep and ask the hard questions even if we continue to have separate opinions.

    I hope you have an awesome Shabbat! 🙂

  42. I’m not willing to pretend a righteousness in those who reject G-d’s only son.

    Whoa! My conversation all week long has been about Messianic Judaism and those Jews within that framework who choose to live a halalaic lifestyle. They haven’t rejected Yeshua, they have embraced him. I have been trying to say that there is a valid perspective from which a Jewish person can be a disciple of the Master and live by halachah.

    I wasn’t expanding the conversation to include all Jews everywhere. I would suggest that you tone down the “the Jews who rejected Jesus” message a few decibels. Regardless of how you read scripture, there’s nothing in the Bible that says God stopped loving Israel. In fact, a reading of the Tanakh shows that no matter how many times Israel worshiped foreign gods and otherwise forsake the teachings of God’s Torah, while God may have disciplined them, He never stopped loving them and always took them back in.

    We can’t be sure what the future holds for Israel but I believe the eschatology involving the Jewish people may be a tad different than many in the church imagine. You and I may long for the majority of the Jewish people on earth to return to the Torah and return to God, acknowledging the Moshiach, but we don’t have to treat them belligerently if they don’t. Judgement and justice is in the hands of God. If anything, we should pray for “the lost sheep of Israel,” which after all, is who Jesus came to redeem.

    Good Shabbos to you as well.

  43. “In fact, a reading of the Tanakh shows that no matter how many times Israel worshiped foreign gods and otherwise forsake the teachings of God’s Torah, while God may have disciplined them, He never stopped loving them and always took them back in.”

    I you are right, then why worry over halacha? I mean, if it does not matter in the end if Israel worships foreign gods and forsakes the teachings of G-d’s Torah…..what’s the big fuss over! Just sayin’!

    The message that Yeshua brought is actually very different though, isn’t it?

    “Hard is the path to eternal life, few there be that find it”

  44. You’re misunderstanding me, Steven. I didn’t say that obedience or disobedience of God was meaningless for any of us. I’m saying that God never stopped loving the Jewish people, even when they were disobedient. Sort of like a husband who continues to love his wife when she strays. The Tanakh is full of examples of God calling the “wayward” Israel back to Him and saying that if they would return to Him, He would return to them in an instant.

    Obviously, they have to repent and return, but that’s true of all of us. God loves you and me, even when we fail Him Steven. Yes, there are consequences when we stray, but God still loves us and desires we turn back to Him. That’s his desire for the covenant people of Israel.

  45. “The Tanakh is full of examples of God calling the “wayward” Israel back to Him and saying that if they would return to Him, He would return to them in an instant.”

    Yes, but as you know, the only way to return is through Yeshua Messiah and there is no sense in ignoring the harsh things he said about unbelievers (and you know he only came to Israel so he was not speaking to Gentiles at that time). I don’t think you really get the message Yeshua taught.

    Are you tired of the truth of the words he spoke? If you are weary or embarrassed by the truth? If so, just say so, and I will return to him who sent me and in whose name I have come among you, and I will let him know you said to give his words a rest.

    Now, what of the generation that fell in the wilderness? The generation that G-d swore in his wrath they would NOT ENTER HIS REST? Did G-d lie? Will he take them back after they provoked him 40 years? No

    What about the generation to whom Yeshua came? It will be better for Sodom than they!

    And why do all the prophets go to so much trouble to warn wayward Israel if in the end it there really is no danger of eternal death? Prostitutes and tax collectors are entering the Kingdom, but how many rabbis have turned their noses up at what G-d has offered and made available? Why is Israel acting like Vashti and not Esther? I’ll tell you why. They have no respect for the King.

    What about Esau? Was he not held up as a warning to us?
    Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
    For YE KNOW HOW THAT AFTERWARD, WHEN HE WOULD HAVE INHERITED THE BLESSING, HE WAS REJECTED: FOR HE FOUND NO PLACE OF REPENTANCE, THOUGH HE SOUGHT IT CAREFULLY WITH TEARS.
    For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
    And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
    (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:
    And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
    But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
    To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
    And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
    See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
    Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
    And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
    Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
    For our God is a consuming fire.
    There is no G-dly fear because men cannot grasp they are not being saved but on the path that leads to destruction. Just like those who died in the flood who would not take warning, those who refuse to hear and stop their ears from Yeshua’s words are going to die.
    And you want me to give a rest to the only message that matters, the words of eternal life spoken by our Master?

    (insert Shema here)

  46. Steve… a sure sign of an antisemite is an inordinate obsession with Jews and their faults, past, present, or future, real or imagined, but usually exaggerated to paint Jews in worst possible light and prop his kind up. You have that in spades. Yes, the majority of Israel, by divine plan to save Gentiles, have not recognized Yeshua as Messiah. Yet, in the last two thousand years Jews have shown themselves to be better “Christians” than their “Christian” neighbors who breathed hatred and murder on them and sought to exact “divine punishment” for “deicide”. A religious antisemite (Martin Luther is a good example for you to study and reflect on), profusely quotes scripture and even feigns care and concern for Jews, even as he breathes his condemnations and denunciations. He doesn’t love Jews or care for them – he only “preaches” to them his “gospel”. He doesn’t have a kind word for them, he doesn’t feed their poor and clothe their naked, he doesn’t speak up in their defense when others pour hatred on them…

    Instead, he imagines himself a “prophet” whose job it is to condemn the Jewish people by pointing out their sins. A hundred years ago such a Christian “prophet” would entice a mob of fellow “believers” to “help” G-d exact due punishment of the “obstinate Jews”. Such “servants of G-d” are like those wicked Pharisees who brought an adulterous woman to Yeshua and wanted him to approve their “service to G-d”.They too quoted from the Torah!

  47. Steven, if you are so concerned for the Jewish people who have not accepted Yeshua as Messiah, then I urge you to pray for them. No doubt there are other unsaved people (who are not Jewish) who you pray for. It is very common and upright for we believers to pray for the salvation of those who do not yet know of the Messiah’s love. We can pray for the Jewish people to know who Yeshua is so that they may welcome him when he returns, may he come soon and in our day.

  48. Just read this comment somewhere whitewashing Martin Luther’s hatred of Jews, that the lack of love we tangibly (meaning not in words only) express toward others, how we treat them, makes no difference in the long scheme of things as long as we “have a relationship with G-d”: It’s all apparently who and what we know, not what we do with that knowledge. For some, as an anonymous commenter below showcases, the unrepentant hatred of Jews by Martin Luther in the name of Jesus only mad Jesus very sad:

    “Christianity is not about right belief or right thinking or even right behavior; Christianity is about right *relationship*…I’m sure these thoughts of Martin Luther made Jesus want to drink gin out of the cat dish. And yet, Jesus still loves him, and God still welcomes him into God’s Kingdom, running to meet him like the prodigal son’s father.”

  49. Christianity is about right *relationship*

    But referencing those two commandments that Yeshua said were “greatest” (Matthew 22:37-40), how can you say you love God with everything you’ve got if you don’t love “your neighbor as yourself?” Interestingly enough, I just read something that reminded me of what I already know…that we Christians have a commandment to love and provide care for the Jewish people.

    If Christianity is about “relationship,” we can’t focus on God and say we are in “right relationship” with him through Christ if we disdain or hate anyone else, especially Jewish people.

  50. I also want to add to the above that the reliance on having certain beliefs or even thinking one has a special relationship with G-d instead of living a righteous life with love toward G-d and people is what got the religious opponents of Yeshua in so much trouble with him. How many Christians throughout the tortured history “preached” to Jews to accept their set of beliefs or perish, yet personally demonstrate not love but religious contempt!

  51. “we Christians have a commandment to love and provide care for the Jewish people.”

    Yes, James, and of course, not for Jews only. However, how many Christians throughout history felt that the “true” love for Jews they should express is not deeds of loving kindness toward Jews, but “evangelism” of words (even if it meant, as it did not too long ago, forcing Jews to listen to conversionist sermons). If Christians truly wanted to show their love for Jews and that the Jewish Messiah is real, instead of heaping up empty words and Bible quotes they should have used their deeds. But, words are far easier a sacrifice!

  52. Yeah, I meant love in the sense of actually “doing,” such as providing for the poor and needy of Israel, and not just a warm and fuzzy feeling or by attempting to convert Jews to Christianity.

  53. “a sure sign of an antisemite is an inordinate obsession with Jews and their faults”

    Reading back through my comments, what is my obsession with? Is it the sins of the Jews, or is it the truth of Yeshua’s sayings. I think you misrepresent me for the purpose of dismissing me and not having to deal with the issues I have brought up….all of which Yeshua brought up. (if any Jews are reading, I just want you to know that Yeshua does not give his teachings because he hates Jews, but because he loves them and wants them to have eternal life if they will hear and bear fruit)

    If one only restates the teachings of Yeshua, and you call him antisemite, then you are actually calling Yeshua antisemite, which translates as “G-d hates Jews”, since Yeshua only spoke the words of the Father.

    Now, as for you Gene, is there a lack of forgiveness in your heart for men like Martin Luther? I ask because in the short time I have come into contact with you, you seem to see Nazi’s and antisemitism behind every bush, so to speak. You have an inordinate obsession with wrongs done you, and and “never again” attitude. Have you, as a follower of Yeshua dealt with the hard sayings of his teachings concerning those who refuse to follow him?

    If you do not forgive men their trespasses you will not be forgiven. I think it’s about time you deal with the anger and fear you harbor in your heart to those who have hurt you, real and imagined.

    And, I will take James’ teaching to heart and pray for Jews, starting with you. May G-d bless you in that way according to his will.

  54. “…Love…keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not gloat over other people’s sins
    but takes its delight in the truth.”

  55. Shavua Tov, Carl –
    It appears that I do need to clarify a few issues. First and foremost is my representation to James about a “lack of ‘overarching standards’ for halakhah”. The phrase and its complaint actually originated with him, and I chose, rather than to disagree, to emphasize the very nature of a system that depends on its application in each generation. The very existence of plural Judaisms that apply halakhah differently demonstrates the “flexibility” that I (and you also) cited. Here we must address two aspects: one being the definitions of halakhot and the other being the applications of them. I agree that Chazal illustrates the effort to define halakhot with as much specificity as possible. At the same time, it was recognized that every generation and every locale would face its own challenges to apply or not to apply, to bind or to loose, to interpret and even to modify, albeit “temporarily” (or perhaps locally). It is in challenging cases that I resort to the phrase “general principles”, though I wouldn’t quibble over the phrase, because it becomes necessary to analyse the process of developing halakhot in order to formulate new ones or to apply existing ones differently. Challenges still extant in our time include severe circumstances such as that of the “agunot”, but not so very long ago sought a solution to a problem with the use of disposable diapers and their adhesive tabs on Shabbat. And there are still unresolved arguments about the interpretation of the nature of electricity vis-à-vis the Shabbat and the use of specific kinds of electronic devices thereupon.

    However, I was attempting to take a much broader gentler open approach toward the general subject, and I appreciate your recognition of my invocation of the Conservative historical approach to Judaism and Kaplan’s “Judaism as a civilization” perspective. Complaints of “rigidity” are also largely a matter of application and approach, notably different between haredi communities and modern orthodox ones. Another halakhic force yet to be reckoned with, that becomes potentially very significant in an internet era, is the technical possibility of almost-universal consensus among the “am ha-aretz” that actually could reject or override previously-defined halakhot, or create new ones. Nevertheless, before anyone focuses on exceptional cases or changes to halakhah, there is a great deal to be done in personal learning and increased community adoption of the existing halakhot (especially among MJs), and the keruv of Jewish communities to one another and to ancient Torah interpretation. One’s view is also somewhat different if one is living in a non-observant community, a “hozer b’tshuvah” community, a community that is already uniformly comfortable with halakhah-informed procedures and operations, or a mixed community. The body of halakhot may be ancient and unchanged, but their appearance and the attitude with which they are implemented, and the entire community environment, may appear quite different. Does that constitute “flexibility”? Does it, from a modern sociological perspective, suggest a “lack of ‘overarching standards’”? Is it reflective of a metaphorical conversation with HaShem in each generation and even in each community? Or is it merely an artifact of human inconsistency? Regardless, we have it in our power to seek to be more consistent and more aware of the ancient practices and the godly Torah values they intend to embody and encourage. We may even find in this a suitable meditation for next week’s parashah “Mishpatim”.

  56. @ Proclaim Liberty

    Thanks for your response. Now I understand that you know that “general principles” are not what Chazal had in mind.

    That said, I am in sympathy with your general approach. At the same time, I am aware that we are perhaps using shifting perspectives (halakhic, historical, sociological) as we attempt to grapple with the reality of changing circumstances.

    Personally, I believe that we fall into the trap of over-emphasizing halakhah. (Heschel called it “pan-halakhism”), perhaps in an unconscious emulation of others. I prefer a balanced meal.

    By the way, I am honoring James by breaking my long-standing practice of not engaging in internet dialog with anonymous commenters. If there is need for follow-up, I would want to know whom I am conversing with,

  57. “If one only restates the teachings of Yeshua, and you call him antisemite”

    Religious antisemites abuse the words that Yeshua addressed to his specific hypocritical opponents (certain leaders in Jerusalem) who lived in the first century to paint the Jewish people, including Jews who have tasted the “love” of “Christians” for the last two thousand years, as the “children of Satan”. That’s not restating the “teachings of Yeshua”, that’s grossly abusing his words in the worst possible way.

    “Now, as for you Gene, is there a lack of forgiveness in your heart for men like Martin Luther?”

    It’s not for me to forgive him – the man is dead. Yeshua only asked us to forgive our personal enemies, not those who have sinned against G-d or others. One could also make a case that such forgiveness is required only when those who sinned against us come and ask for forgiveness.

    “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)

    Luther, like Hitler who used his words to justify his own actions, has sinned against the G-d of Israel and there’s no evidence of any repentance for his murderous teachings against the Jewish people which have contributed to millions of innocent people dying. Had Luther repented and asked Jews to forgive him, that would be a different story and you may be justified in your words. G-d does not ask Jews to forgive the evil unrepentant enemies of Israel nor to forget what they’ve done to us:

    Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear G-d. Therefore when the L-rd your G-d has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the L-rd your G-d is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.” (Deuteronomy 25)

  58. By the way, I am honoring James by breaking my long-standing practice of not engaging in internet dialog with anonymous commenters. If there is need for follow-up, I would want to know whom I am conversing with…

    And I greatly appreciate that, Carl. Thank you.

  59. “…Love…keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not gloat over other people’s sins
    but takes its delight in the truth.”

    The door swings both ways, Steven.

    Gene, I’ve been pretty hard on Luther in the past but was asked to reconsider my overarching opinion of him by a Lutheran Pastor who read some of my comments in Messiah Journal. It is abundantly clear that at the end of his life, Luther was highly critical of the Jewish people and said many harsh things, but that doesn’t define his entire ministry and service to God.

  60. “Gene, I’ve been pretty hard on Luther in the past but was asked to reconsider my overarching opinion of him by a Lutheran Pastor who read some of my comments in Messiah Journal. It is abundantly clear that at the end of his life, Luther was highly critical of the Jewish people and said many harsh things, but that doesn’t define his entire ministry and service to God.”

    I’ve given it a lot of thought in the past, and I must disagree with your Lutheran pastor friend (although I understand the reasons for his defense of the man). The overarching question is – what is service to G-d? Is it introducing a new set of theologies or doing other things pertaining to religion, is it persecuting one’s theological opponents, or is it something more to this? Satan is considered G-d’s “servant”, in as much as he willingly or unwillingly fulfills the will of G-d (as in the case of Job). But what about Luther as a follower of the Jewish Messiah? Can one claim, from the apparent fruit by which we are to judge (Matthew 7:16), that Luther truly KNEW Yeshua the Jewish Messiah and yet espoused such Haman-like unrepentant murderous hatred for the Jewish people in the way that he did?

  61. Luther advocating murder of Jews:

    “I cannot convert the Jews. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not succeed in doing it. But I can stop up their mouths so that they will have to lie upon the ground. ” (1539 sermon)

    “”We are even at fault in not avenging all this innocent blood of our Lord and of the Christians which they shed for three hundred years after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the blood of the children they have shed since then (which still shines forth from their eyes and their skin). We are at fault in not slaying them.” (“The Jews and Their Lies)

    “If I had power over the Jews, as our princes and cities have, I would deal severely with their lying mouth. . . . For a usurer is an arch-thief and a robber who should rightly be hanged on the gallows seven times higher than other thieves.” (sermon)

    I think the above define them man Luther far more than whatever else he might have done. May G-d have mercy on his soul.

  62. “The door swings both ways, Steven.”

    James, yes you are right. The sword swings both ways. Whenever I step up and speak out on something I spend the next 24 hours on my face before G-d trembling and asking him to search my heart too! I would hate to “gain the whole world and loose my own soul” as the saying goes.

    Gene, you make some good points and I appreciate your thoughts on the subject. I can see the case your making, but didn’t Yeshua make the Torah harder? Like those things he wrote about such as “you have heard it said…But, I tell you”.

    “You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Love your neighbor — and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Then you will become children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun shine on good and bad people alike, and he sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous alike. What reward do you get if you love only those who love you? Why, even tax-collectors do that! And if you are friendly only to your friends, are you doing anything out of the ordinary? Even the Goyim do that! 48 Therefore, be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Complete Jewish Bible Matthew 5:43-48

  63. “Religious antisemites abuse the words that Yeshua addressed to his specific hypocritical opponents (certain leaders in Jerusalem) who lived in the first century to paint the Jewish people, including Jews who have tasted the “love” of “Christians” for the last two thousand years, as the “children of Satan”. That’s not restating the “teachings of Yeshua”, that’s grossly abusing his words in the worst possible way.”

    Gene, at least I can understand by this statement what I did to offend you. I remember saying that Yeshua’s specific address’ to his opponents were applicable to all generations. But, to tell you the truth that is what I believe with all my heart. How can Moses prophecy the Duet. 18 prophet and command us “Him you shall hear”, but mean only to those he personally spoke to? Is G-d a respecter of persons? Will he condemn that generation but not others like it? Will he destroy Sodom and not judge Jerusalem? If we hate Jesus the way those opponents hate Jesus, don’t his words apply to us as well?

    I believe that Yeshua only spoke the words of the Father. I believe he made it clear that we are for him or against him. I believe that many are on the path to destruction, and not just many gentiles!

    The sad truth is this. No one, not Martin Luther or Hitler, makes Israel out to be more horrible than the bible and the words of G-d do. Have you ever noticed that? If you want to find someone who said some frightening things about the Jewish people, look no further than G-d.

    And yet he still loves, he sent his son while we were yet sinners, and for his own name sake he will choose Israel again. He will take out the heart of stone (do you deny Israel has such?) he will give them a heart of flesh (don’t you want that?). But, as you pointed out…..repentance must come first. In your own words, he does not have to forgive you….he chooses to forgive and he makes it clear who will find forgiveness.

    Those who forgive men their trespasses will be forgiven. Those who show mercy will find mercy.

    “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

    I see you have a root of bitterness and you feel justified in harboring unforgiveness. If you want every man to “get what is coming to him” you will “get what is coming to you”, so to speak.

    Gene, it absolutely is up to you to forgive Martin Luther and Hitler in your heart. That does not mean he will not face Yeshua in the judgment and receive the reward he deserves, he will.

    Free yourself. Let your heart be cleansed.

  64. @ Carl Kinbar: It seems to me that the idea of “over-emphasizing halakhah” is dependent on relative perspective. Where there is no halakhah, any mention is too much; where halakhah is normative, no one bothers to mention it. It is only where a lack is perceived that discussions of it become interesting. And the key question of interest may be paraphrased from the title of a book by a renowned Reformed Christian theologion of a generation ago, Dr. Francis Schaefer: “How shall we then live?” Our MJ question is: How shall we then live AS JEWS? James’ question is how to update Schaeffer’s question for non-Jews in light of Acts 15:21? Torah is rooted in time but its parashat Shoftim instructs us how it may be kept fresh throughout the millennia. Chazal’s interpretations are rooted in time, but they also contain mechanisms for modernization, regardless of whether anyone attempts to employ them. Any system that prescribes human behavior over long stretches of time, regardless of its intended benefits, requires such mechanisms in order to avoid being discarded as irrelevant. And attempts certainly have been made from time to time, both in ancient times and recent ones, to declare Torah or halakhah or both to be irrelevant. It is a Jewish responsibility to demonstrate their (and our) continuing relevance and benefit, that HaShem’s promise to Avraham Avinu may be fulflilled.

    It may possibly help you to identify me, Carl, if you can remember our very brief encounter at an MJRC meeting in Connecticut a couple of years ago, when I drove to a motel there from Pennsylvania in order to deliver a Torah scroll to an MJTI executive, shortly before I returned to Israel.

  65. @ Proclaim Liberty

    My reference to Heschel was key to my statement. I assumed you had read him.

    My memory of our meeting is too vague. Could you email me privately?

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