Second, I will briefly outline the biblical concept of Achdut Yisra’el — the unity of the Jewish people — and explain theologically why the Jewish people are “us,” not “them.” Third, I will seek to establish the connection between Achdut Yisra’el and Ahavat Yisra’el — love for one’s fellow Jew.
-Stuart Dauermann, PhD
“The Jewish People are Us — not Them,” pg 55
Messiah Journal Issue 114/Fall 2013
I previously said this was one of the Messiah Journal (MJ) articles I wanted to address in more detail and I’ve finally been able to delve into it.
I won’t dissect the entire write up, but there was a section that especially got my attention: A Biblical and Theological Basis for the Jewish People Being “Us,” not “Them”. Critics of Messianic Judaism in general and what Haim Ben Haim called Postmissionary Messianic Judaism (PMJ) in his article (referencing Mark Kinzer’s book, Postmissionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People) in particular say, that Messianic Jews put their ethnicity above the Bible, the Messiah, and God. They say that Messianic Judaism places Jewish tradition and commentary above the authority of the inspired Word of God, and that the Bible is less important to them than the Mishnah.
So naturally, I was curious as to how Dr. Dauermann was going to present the Biblical basis for Messianic Jews being part and parcel of the larger Jewish world and of Israel. However, to comprehend this, we have to back up a bit in Dauermann’s article to understand more about where he’s coming from.
On page 57 of his rather ample essay, Dauermann quotes Tsvi Sadan’s paper “Keruv as Guiding Principle for Proclamation of the Good News,” presented at the Borough Park Symposium, East Elmhurst, NY, 8-10 October 2007:
I started to see the world as divided into two groups of people: the good guys — the “believers” — and the bad guys — the “non-believers.” Among the “bad guys” were, of course, the Catholics and … Protestant denominations that did not cater to my newly acquired Evangelical mindset. In this tightly knit scheme I viewed the “non-believing” Jews in the same way I viewed any other infidel, be they Muslims, Presbyterians, or Buddhists.
Dauermann comments on Sadan’s statement, also on page 57:
How tragic and shameful that a Sabra like Tsvi came to view his fellow Israeli Jews as “other,” believing that only a very narrow band of Christians, defined in a sectarian manner, deserved the status of “us.”
I read a terrible irony in Dr. Dauermann’s words because there are so many Gentile Christians in the world (including, strangely enough, those in the Hebrew Roots and Messianic Jewish movements) who look at non-believing Jews not only as “other,” but as “bad guys,” quite the contrary to what God said to Abraham:
And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.
The term “am echad” appears four times in the Tanach, providing a cluster of insights foundational to our concept of Achdut Yisra’el.
-Dauermann, pg 57
Unity of the Jewish people. The first time in the Tanakh we see “am echad,” according to Dauermann, was in reference to the people building the Tower of Babel. In Genesis 34:16, we see the term in reference to the people of Shechem having their men circumcised and becoming “one people” with Jacob’s family.
It is crucial to see here that brit milah is not simply a covenant with HaShem. It also makes us am echad with all others in that covenant. We tend to miss this in Scripture, even though it is there. Conditioned by post-Enlightenment presuppositions, we miss the horizontal nature of the covenant that binds us together as one people…
-ibid, pg 58
Dauermann is establishing linkage that should be obvious but isn’t, relative to Yeshua-faith. Jewish people are the only population born into a covenant relationship with God and with each other. Regardless of the circumstances and beliefs of any individual Jewish person, that person can never become “unJewish,” and can never surrender their connection to other Jewish people and to God, even if they sincerely want to. And yet, for nearly two-thousand years, the Christian Church has demanded that Jewish believers in Jesus do just that if they want to join the community of faith. If God were capable of being confused, I could imagine Him being confused by watching Jewish people claim a covenant connection with him through Christ while disengaging themselves from the Mosaic covenant and from almost all there Jewish communities on earth. Paul didn’t have to do that. Why should any other believing Jew?
In this section of his argument for the Messianic Jewish people considering larger Judaism as “us,” Dauermann provides a handy bullet point list illustrating “am echad:”
- A family
- In covenant with God
- In covenant with each other
- Sharing a unique body of laws, and thus strengthened by common obedience
- Sharing a common language, and thus strengthened by good communication
- Sharing a homeland where they either live, or from which they are dispersed
- Empowered by unity, weakened by division
I’d have to say this is “am echad” in its ideal sense. Although the covenant blessings and responsibilities in the first two points exist, not all Jewish people, Messianic or otherwise, acknowledge these relationships. That certainly would affect the third bullet point as well. Not all Jews share Hebrew (or Yiddish) as a common language, but I will admit that when a Jew beings to engage the larger community, language is one of the first things they address. I know I’ve seen The Joys of Yiddish sitting by my wife’s chair in the living room from time to time.
The homeland exists, but many Jewish people are quite comfortable in the diaspora and both they and the Land of Israel itself will remain in exile until Messiah comes and brings all of his people, the Jewish people, back to their home.
And yes, Jewish people everywhere are weakened when lack of unity exists.
Rashi infers that at Sinai, Israel was “ke’ish echad blev echad/like one person with one heart.” By this comment, he bears witness to the centrality of unity as a core value of Jewish community, and furthermore, that this unity arises from our covenantal relationship with HaShem and therefore with each other. The ideal of Jewish life is that all Jews should live “ke’ish echad blev echad.”
The connection of the Jewish people to each other is tied to the connection the Jewish people have with God. The two relationships are inseparable and, if you are born Jewish, inescapable.
And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
–Matthew 22:37-40 (NASB)
The Master makes a parallel statement using the same linkage. One does not love God without loving his fellow, which in the case of the Jewish community, is your fellow Jew, “Ahavat Yisra’el.”
Adonai said, “Should I hide from Avraham what I am about to do, inasmuch as Avraham is sure to become a great and strong nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by him? For I have made myself known to him, so that he will give orders to his children and to his household after him to keep the way of Adonai and to do what is right and just, so that Adonai may bring about for Avraham what he has promised him.” (emph. added)
–Genesis 18:17-19 (CJB)
Dauermann inserted this quote into his article to establish another, very vital point to his argument.
Here already, in Genesis, Torah theologizes that this “am echad” will be characterized by obedience to the body of law. Furthermore, in chapter 26, HaShem tells Yitzchak (Isaac) that he will multiply his descendants and give all these lands to those descendants “because Avraham heeded what I said and did what I told him to do: he followed my mitzvot, my regulations and teachings” (Genesis 26:5 CJB). Here again we see, even in a foreshadowing of that other basis of Achdut Yisra’el, the covenant with our people at Sinai.
-Dauermann, pg 59
I know you might be thinking that Dauermann is stretching his point, since the Torah had yet to be given, but he continues:
In parashat Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20), HaShem confirms the Mosaic (or Sinaitic) Covenant, stating, “But I am not making this covenant and this oath only with you. Rather, I am making it both with him who is standing here with us today before Adonai our God and also with him who is not here with us today.” (Deuteronomy 29:14-15 [13-14], CJB).
I’ve said before that it was always God’s intent to carry the covenant forward, not just in the immediate sense of Sinai, but extending into future history, across all of the unborn generations of Jewish people down the timeline, everywhere, including every Jewish person alive today.
Dauermann continues with this thought invoking Jewish tradition which says, “All Israel is responsible for one another” — kol Yisra’el averim zeh bazeh. He goes on to say:
Because we have been brought into covenant with God, we are therefore inescapably in covenant with one another, and as such, we are each and all responsible for one another. For this reason, even if for no others, the Jewish people are “us,” and not — no, never — “them.”
I know what you’re thinking. Well, no I don’t, but I can imagine. I can imagine someone reading this will say that they’ve read stories of terrific conflicts between secular Jews and the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel and elsewhere. Dauermann spends some time going into this, addressing even the worst of these conflicts as “family fights.” Sometimes families fight terribly, even to the point of violence, but they are still family.
But the one thing that can separate Jewish people the most is faith in Jesus:
Tsvi Sadan as well as the Hashivenu leadership group and many others have been conditioned to think of our fellow Jews as strangers, and “them,” as no longer fully our brothers and sisters. Messianic Jews are conditioned to think of other Jews as simply “unsaved Jews” who remain familiar strangers to us unless and until they accept Christ.
-ibid, pg 60
At this point, although the overriding emphasis of Dauermann’s article was on Jewish interrelationships, being Messianic notwithstanding, I started to wonder how all of this would affect the bond between Messianic Jew and believing Gentile, the bond we should also share as disciples of Moshiach and co-participants in the blessings (and there’s always the competing dynamic created between focus on Judaism and Jewish belonging vs. focus on Messiah as the very core of Jewish and Gentile faith).
Dauermann continued in his article discussing how the Jews in the Messianic community needed to return to being “ke-ish echad blev echad” — one person with one heart — with the larger Jewish community. He cited Jeremiah 32:39 in describing how God would give Israel “one heart,” and Ezekiel 36:26 in saying God would put a new spirit within Israel and give them a “heart of flesh.” Even Acts 4:32 speaks of the Jewish believers having “one heart and soul.”
Dauermann built up such a strong interconnection between and within the Jewish community, across all belief systems and lifestyles, that even I started stumbling over the following:
Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
–Ephesians 2:11-16 (NASB)
The linkage goes both directions. Yes, I believe that Jews in Messiah are still Jews, not just in terms of a string of DNA, but in terms of covenant connectedness to God and to all other Jewish people, but that doesn’t mean the body of Messiah, which contains both Jews and Gentiles, is so much chopped liver. Dauermann’s article doesn’t bring this issue up at all, probably because it is out of the scope of his topic, but ultimately, you can’t establish Jewish “Us-ness” between Messianic and all other Jews without also explaining how the body of Messiah is supposed to work.
That, I suppose, is yet to come.
At this point, although Dauermann is still writing within the “Biblical” section of his article, he seems to depart from it quite a bit, although I can see his point:
Often such a cry for being “biblical and nothing but biblical” is code language for eagerness to reject tradition. But every community has its traditions, even those that imagine themselves to be based on nothing but the Bible. And the traditions of men are not wrong except when they are used to displace or annul the commandments of God. Yeshua himself urged keeping of Jewish traditions when he urged the scribes and Pharisees as a class to remember the centrality of justice, mercy, and faith without neglecting their extra-biblical traditions (tithing mint, dill, and cumin, something never commanded in the Torah) (from Matthew 23:23).
-ibid, pp 61-2
I know what my Pastor would say, but I have to agree with Dauermann. Even in Fundamentalist Christianity, there are many traditions, including those that say there are no traditions, and those that say Biblical interpretation is based on the Bible alone without an intervening historical and traditional lens being employed.
Still the path will feel “dangerous” for a lot of Christians who have had it drilled into their heads that Jewish traditions, the “traditions of men,” are bad, bad, bad.
The last, or almost the last, Biblical reference Dauermann makes is this:
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
–Matthew 5:17-19 (NASB)
This is Dauermann telling us that even Messiah did not call for an end to the Torah until heaven and earth pass away. I know that many Christians, including my Pastor still can’t accept this, so I’ll point all interested parties to the First Fruits of Zion television program and specifically to the episode The Torah is Not Canceled, rather than try to include all of the article’s supporting points here.
The very last point Dauermann made was this:
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
–1 John 4:20 (NASB)
In context, a Jewish believer cannot say he loves God if he hates his fellow (non-believing) Jew. This, of course, takes us back all the way to the Torah again:
…you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
–Leviticus 19:18 (NASB)
Was Dr. Dauermann successful in establishing that the Jewish community is to be considered as “Us” among Messianic Jews and not “Them” as a founded in the Bible? I’m not sure. I can see the trail of Dauermann’s logic, but it doesn’t lead just through the Bible. There’s a realm you enter that encompasses all things Jewish and Judaism that leaves the existence of tangible things and becomes spiritual and metaphysical. I can’t go very far into that realm because I’m not Jewish, but even I, a Goy, can see the shimmering threads of covenant and community linking one Jew to another. Some Jews may choose to disregard those threads, but they exist anyway, even if only in the will of God rather than the vision of men.
Fundamentalists are uncomfortable with spirituality except on its most surface levels, but where, after all, does God exist? Where, after all, does “the Church” expect to be “raptured?” How can fundamentalist Christianity deny something upon which they depend so much, even if only in a dim, Messianic future.
Being Jewish (I can only imagine) is a lived, experiential existence. Certainly Jews all over the world don’t experience the same Jewish life, but that’s why it will be necessary for Messiah to gather in all the exiles, physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual, of Israel, give them one heart and one spirit, and remind them of who they are. Scripture even says that one of the jobs of the Gentile nations will be to convey and escort the exiled Jews back to Israel.
There’s something in Dr. Dauermann’s article that serves as a reminder for the Messianic Jewish community, to remember who they are, to remember that they are first and foremost Jews. They chose the path of Messiah, but they are still Jews and the path of Messiah is a Jewish path. Messianic Jews are just as much a Jewish people as those who have not (as yet) seen that Yeshua is indeed the Son of David and the firstborn of Israel.
But once a Jewish Messianic comes to this realization, how does he relate to Gentile believers, or does he? This is a question that remains. Maybe it’s important for modern Messianic Jews to re-capture what Paul experienced in his journey within and between Jewish and Gentile worlds. Paul was a zealous Jew, “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6).
And on his path, whether among his fellow Jews or among the Goyim, the central focus of Paul’s entire life and ministry was not on either tradition or lifestyle, but above all else, on Messiah…on Yeshua.
Once modern Messianic Jews within a Postmissionary Messianic Jewish (PMJ) framework arrive at where Paul was, maybe how Paul managed to also negotiate the world of Gentile believers while fully retaining his identity as a Jew and as Israel will become apparent.