Some years ago Dr. Mark S. Kinzer coined a term for the new and revolutionary approach that many Jewish followers of Yeshua have adopted in regard to their relationship with Judaism. The term “post missionary Messianic Judaism” (PMJ) initially caused ripples that have grown into waves and that we are bringing about a paradigm shift among Messianic Jews. The PMJ paradigm sets a new trajectory for the community of Jewish followers of Yeshua, establishing its role within Judaism and its partnership with the faithful among the nations. In this article, I will attempt to convey my understanding of PMJ, its crucial role, and its ramifications or the Messianic movement.
-Haim Ben Haim
“Postmissionary Messianic Judaism in Practice,” pg 42
Messiah Journal Issue 114/Fall 2013
The Jewish people are “us,” not “them.”
-Dr. Stuart Dauermann
“The Jewish People are Us — not Them,” pg 55
Messiah Journal Issue 114/Fall 2013
Both Haim and Dauermann have written long and densely packed articles on interlocking topics for First Fruits of Zion’s (FFOZ) current issue of their landmark periodical, Messiah Journal. I have to admit that with my busy work, writing, and reading schedule this past week, I’ve only had the opportunity to scan their write ups. I’m looking forward to giving them the attention they deserve and perhaps even composing a more detailed review.
However, I noted that Haim provided something that may be useful in my weekly meetings with My Pastor. Pastor has repeatedly asked what the current function and use of the Torah is in the lives of the Jewish people, particularly Messianic Jews. It is his opinion that the Torah, however it may be defined, has limited to no use in the current age thanks to the classic Christian interpretation of key passages in the letters of Paul.
Not being Jewish and certainly not being a Torah observant Messianic Jew, it’s difficult for me to articulate the lived experience between the Jewish people and the mitzvot. Pastor lived in Israel for fifteen years, so if either one of us should have the experience of observing the relationship between the Torah and the descendants of the children of Israel, it should be him. However, Orthodox Judaism and the myriad complexities of modern Torah observance, have become a major stumbling block. It’s time to make things a little more manageable.
The implementation of PMJ involves all parts of Jewish life. By way of example, we will briefly consider a few of those institutions that comprise the life of a healthy, vibrant Jewish community: Shabbat observance, festivals, kashrut, traditional prayer, the Torah service, gemilut chasidim, tikkun olam, solidarity within modern Israel, the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony, outreach, and Jewish education.
-Haim, ibid pg 48
In a nutshell, this list is a very good place to start in explaining the role of Torah in the life of a Messianic Jew who is facing his faith in Messiah as a Judaism rather than a Christianity.
I won’t attempt to replicate all of the details regarding each of these institutions and elements of Jewish life and community and encourage you to get a hold of a copy of Messiah Journal and pour over these intricacies yourself. Two-thousand years of Gentile Christianity in all of its forms have cemented the idea that the worship of the God of Israel and having faith in the Jewish Messiah King are completely non-Jewish for both Gentiles and the Jewish people, thus any Jewish disciple of the Jewish Messiah must, by (Christian) definition, renounce all of Judaism and being Jewish (with perhaps some lip service relative to being a “Hebrew Christian”) and emulate the Goyim.
This is not the way it was prior to the destruction of Herod’s Temple and it is my firm belief it will not be that way when Messiah returns. Christians will have much to repent of on the day Moshiach ascends the throne of David in Jerusalem.
To put a different slant on the topic, Dr. Dauermann (pp 55-6) offers seven core values designed to shape a mature Messianic Judaism:
- Messianic Judaism is a Judaism and not a cosmetically altered “Jewish-style” version of what is extant in the wider Christian community.
- God’s particular relationship with Israel is expressed in the Torah, God’s unique covenant with the Jewish people.
- Yeshua is the fullness of Torah.
- The Jewish people are “us,” not “them.”
- The richness of the rabbinic tradition is a valuable part of our heritage as Jewish people.
- Because all people are created in the image of God, how we treat them is a reflection of our respect and love for him. Therefore, true piety cannot exist apart from human decency.
- Maturation requires a humble openness to new ideas within the context of firmly held convictions.
Although Dr. Dauermann’s article focuses on the fourth principle in his list, I want to touch briefly on the third element: Yeshua (Jesus) is the fullness of Torah.
When My Pastor hears that Jesus fulfilled the Torah, he understands that to mean once Jesus arrived, the Torah was no longer necessary and thus was rendered inert, at least until such time as Ezekiel’s Temple is rebuilt and the numerous prophecies in the Tanakh require all of Israel to resume the Temple service and most if not all of the other mitzvot.
I’ve tried in different ways (unsuccessfully) to reframe “fulfilled” in this context, but the other night, unable to sleep, inspiration seized me.
You may not be old enough to remember a television commercial for Memorex tape cassettes featuring the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald. The commercial played part of a song recorded by Ms. Fitzgerald and then the artist herself singing the same notes (I’m writing this from decades old memory and only later did I insert the link below to the actual video), apparently shuttering a glass in the process. The idea was to show that the fidelity of the recording was so near the original (Ms. Fitzgerald’s actual voice) that it too could shatter glass. The tagline for the commercial was, Is it live or is it Memorex (link to YouTube video).
If the recording of Ms. Fitzgerald singing is high fidelity, it is still not her. It is as if the recording “points” to her, the perfect original. In singing live, you might say Ms. Fitzgerald “fulfills” the recording, since she is the perfect and absolute embodiment of what was recorded on tape.
This doesn’t render the recording useless and inert. After all, how many of us could simply accompany Ms. Fitzgerald around all of the time in the hopes she would burst into song? However, we can carry around a recording of her music so that we can access and enjoy her singing at will.
Like Ms. Fitzgerald (in a sense), Yeshua is the original, the perfect observer of Torah, the absolute firstborn Son of Israel, the goal all other Jewish believers aim toward in their lives, their righteousness, and their observance of the mitzvot. Like Memorex, no Jewish person is quite like the original, but the goal is to achieve as high a fidelity to that original as possible.
I like to compare our work at First Fruits of Zion and Vine of David to that of carpenters building a home. After all, we are disciples of a carpenter.
Our work can be compared to a building contractor who builds a “Spec” home. A “Spec” home is built on “speculation.” In other words, a builder builds a home with the features he believes will eventually appeal to buyers, but he has no guarantee of a sale. Years ago, on a conference call, my colleague D.T. Lancaster encouraged our staff to take a high view of Messianic Judaism. It is easy to get discouraged with the circus of mayhem and competing religious ideologies that calls itself Messianic Judaism. My colleague said, “When we speak of Messianic Judaism we always speak of the ideal — the way it should be. When we create our resources we create materials for a community that does not yet exist — but the materials will help to bring it into existence.”
-Boaz Michael from the Director’s Letter
“Unless the LORD Builds the House”
Messiah Journal 114, pg 8
When I speak in glowing terms of Messianic Judaism, either online or in person, I am sometimes accused of speaking to a fantasy rather than the lived reality we currently experience. This is not quite true however. I take some solace in Boaz’s words that in my attempting to uplift both the principles and practice of Messianic Judaism for Jewish believers, I am in some manner, summoning the future while living in the present. I am addressing the ideal as it will be when Messiah returns, rather than the imperfection we see in the world today.
But I have to start somewhere.
You’re on the right path. Dividing a mitzvah into small steps makes the goal much more attainable. Taking things slowly also adds the important element of stability to your journey towards living a Torah lifestyle.
But don’t look at it as a compromise. Here’s why:
Suppose an adult wishes to learn a new language. Would he be compromising his mission by beginning with basic simple words? What about a child beginning the study of math. Is he compromising by starting with simple arithmetic?
Of course not. It is quite clear that neither “c‑a‑t spells cat” nor 2 + 2 = 4 is the ultimate goal. But they are necessary steps in the right direction.
Mitzvahs are no different.
Regarding mitzvahs, there’s an additional component: Torah is not all or nothing. Each mitzvah is a full-blown relationship with the One Above. Each time we eat kosher, each time we put on tefillin, each time we observe Shabbat, something extraordinary occurs.
-Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar
“Can I Go Kosher at My Own Pace?”
I can only imagine that it may be rather daunting for a Jewish person attempting to improve his or her observance of the mitzvot. If you didn’t grow up in an observant home but you want to live a lifestyle more consistent with the Torah, how do you approach it? If you want to start keeping kosher, do you have to rush out and buy all new pots, pans, and dishes, learn the procedure for kashering your kitchen, and make an immediate and 100% transition between one day and the next?
Rabbi Cotlar’s advice is plain and comforting and it speaks of a Jewish believer’s approach to Messianic Judaism. You have to start somewhere. You don’t have to have perfect or even high fidelity to the original right away.
While Haim, Dauerman, and Boaz (and Rabbi Cotlar) are speaking to a primarily Jewish audience, I want to speak to the Christians (including those in the various branches of the Hebrew Roots movement) who have been critical of Messianic Judaism in general and the PMJ approach in particular. That Jewish people in the Messianic movement aren’t “perfect” in their observance is no grounds for throwing the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.
The Torah isn’t all or nothing (and I know someone is going to erroneously reference James 2:10 which only applies if you are attempting to justify yourself before God by your Torah observance, not if you are observing the mitzvot already “saved by faith”). Children growing up in a Jewish home are not expected to master all of the mitzvot by the time they’re toilet trained. Any learning is a slow, developmental progression.
And yet Christianity criticizes and judges Messianic Judaism for an imperfect Jewish lifestyle and thus deems the Torah obsolete, as if we have the right to make such a decision.
Twenty centuries ago, the Jewish religious stream of “the Way,” at the direction of Messiah and by approval of the Holy Spirit, commanded the Jewish disciples to do something that had never been done before. For the first time in history, Gentiles were allowed entry into a Jewish religious stream without having to convert to Judaism and accept the same Torah obligations as the Jewish disciples. Christianity wasn’t “Christianity,” it was one among many Jewish religious streams operating in Israel and the diaspora.
The Jewish disciples of the Master were Jewish and part of Israel. They related to other Jews as “us” not as “them.” The real challenge was to figure out how to bring the Gentiles, the “them” in the community, into salvation alongside the Jewish members of the body of Messiah. Ultimately, the fabric within the community of “the Way” frayed and unraveled, separating into the Christian “us” and the Jewish “them.” The Gentiles rewrote the rules in their (our) own image, only allowing Jews back into the worship of Messiah if they stopped being Jewish.
And here we are today.
But this is not the ideal, as Boaz points out. This is not where we’ll be tomorrow. Tomorrow, Messiah, Son of David, will take his place on the Throne in Jerusalem. He will redeem his people, the Jewish people. He will redeem his nation, the Jewish nation of Israel. And once again, our positions will be defined as they were before. Gentiles will be allowed to join the Jewish religious stream of the body of Messiah without having to convert to Judaism.
The Body of Messiah is the quintessential Israel, the original, the highest fidelity to the original: Messiah. Prophesy tells us that many Jews and many people from the nations will stream to Jerusalem and to the Mountain of the Lord to learn of Jacob’s ways and to walk his paths. In that day, the ideal being presented by Haim, Dauermann, and Boaz will be reality, and we will worship our fulfillment in the Holy City, and every knee shall bow to the King of the Jews.