The Jewish People are Us — not Them: Commentary on Dauermann in Messiah Journal 114

stuart_dauermannSecond, 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.

Genesis 12:3

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

rashiI’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.”

-ibid, 58-9

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).


Torah at SinaiNot only covenant belonging and covenant relationship, but covenant obedience are the “common currency” among the Jewish people, at least in the idealized expression of God’s intent for Israel.

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

jewish-traditionI 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.

21 thoughts on “The Jewish People are Us — not Them: Commentary on Dauermann in Messiah Journal 114”

  1. I haven’t yet received the copy of Messiah Journal #114 that Boaz wrote me should be on its way, so I appreciate very much your review of this article. I was not sure whether your citation of Eph.2:11-16 was from R.Dauermann’s article or if it was an additional aspect that you are pondering and trying to contextualize. It does appear as if this article represents an address to a specifically Messianic Jewish audience, hence the emphasis on unity between MJs and other Jews, all of whom should carry the common Jewish sense of “us”-ness. Getting all Jews to agree on anything is a challenge, but persuading MJs to view themselves as Jews while accepting their unbreakable irrevocable connection with their Jewish friends and relatives would be a definite step in a positive direction, given that so many in the Messianic world have been misled by non-Jewish Christian traditions to think otherwise.

    It is thus an even greater step to suggest to the non-Jewish ecclesia who have been “brought near” by the sacrificial death of the Messiah that they too share a one-ness with Jews, who are thus not as “other” as they have been led to believe. Of course, some in the Hebrew Roots contingent have taken that notion a bit too far; and many others also misinterpret the “one new man” concept as eliminating Jewish distinctiveness rather than as a description of a single unified humanity complete with all its varied diversities and distinctives.

    In looking closely into the Greek text of Eph.2, to examine the notion of “making” two (or both) into one (as expressed in English idiom), I found that the wording allows for notions that would be expressed in English as “considering two together as a unit”, and “creating a concept or view of two distinct items together in the same context”. I’ve amplified these English interpretations into somewhat more descriptive phrases than one might ordinarily recognize behind the individual Greek terms that we see rendered as “make”. Thus we’re using metaphorical language that is not unlike the description of the marriage relationship in which two become one. But what might be the social implications of non-Jewish Christians viewing themselves as “married” to the Jewish community (and not merely the MJ portion of it)? And then, what response from the Jewish community who would be hard-pressed to believe or desire that this marriage could be restored after such a long estrangement? [Oy! Such problems from the in-laws; you wouldn’t believe! {:)}]

  2. [Oy! Such problems from the in-laws; you wouldn’t believe! {:)}]

    LOL. Yes, there’s always that.

    I added the Eph. 2 reference as my own commentary, since Dauermann focused exclusively on the Jewish “Us, not them” issue. It’s interesting to suggest that believing Gentiles should also consider believing and unbelieving Jews as “Us, not them” as well, although not in quite the same way. The “Us-ness” would have to be the linkage between the people of the nations called by His Name (Amos 9:11-12) and Israel, with Israel defined as all Jewish people.

    This gets complicated very fast in the current world, but I suspect by the time the Messianic prophesies are fully realized with Yeshua’s return, the relationships will be apparent for those who want to see them. I also suspect though, that there will be Gentile Christians and Jewish people in that age who, out of long habit, attachment of old doctrines, and a bit of stubbornness, won’t want to let go and accept such relationships.

    “considering two together as a unit”, and “creating a concept or view of two distinct items together in the same context”

    That makes more sense in the overarching context of the entire Bible than dumping believing Jews and Gentiles into a bowl and whisking them together into some sort of homogenous, white flour mixture with no distinctive features, which is required both by traditional Christianity and some factions in the Hebrew Roots movement.

  3. Great review! I also came away with the question of where this leaves Jewish relations with non-Jews in the Body of Messiah, but perhaps like you say, that answer will come in another piece. I used to be of the One Law perspective, and one of the difficulties I had when my thinking began to shift was how having distinct callings and communities could still allow for any substantive connection between the two.

    I came away from the article feeling a mixture of emotions. It’s great to restore the “Us-ness,” especially to Jews like my husband who have felt ostracized by other Jews for their faith in Messiah and have therefore taken up kinship with accepting Gentiles instead. But there’s a very real family connection to non-Jewish brothers and sisters in Messiah as well. Maybe that’s already a universal assumption so he’s only pushing hard on the area that needs correction?

  4. I think that Messianic Judaism as a whole is still struggling to define relationships in both directions, that is Messianic Judaism as a Judaism and as part of Israel, and Messianic Judaism as Jewish disciples of Messiah in unity with Gentile disciples of Messiah. Different MJ groups seem to have different approaches but I don’t think anything is “settled”. For that matter, I don’t think anything was “settled” in Apostolic times. I think this was one of Paul’s major issues. We can see it in his letter to the Romans. It makes me wonder if we’ll finally achieve what Paul couldn’t or we’ll have to wait for Messiah to return and map it all out for us.

  5. Hi James. You wrote, “It makes me wonder if we’ll finally achieve what Paul couldn’t or we’ll have to wait for Messiah to return and map it all out for us.” IMO, this applies to every realm of life. Our passion for right thinking and practice should be well-seasoned with humility. Now we know in part, but later we will see face to face. I’m pretty sure that things will look different then.

  6. It seems he misses the other side of the equation: It takes two to tango. We can view ourselves as part of the Jewish people, but the Jewish establishment does not view us this way. And the secular/cultural Jews and Jewish Renewal camps that would be more likely to accept us are eschewed in favor of the Orthodox, the smallest yet growing major faction in the US.

    Although all I experienced was some mockery from my family, some of my generation, (I am in my 50’s) and especially the previous generation, suffered severe shunning and emotional abuse, and even physical violence. Look what happened to Paul from his Jewish brethren: beatings, stonings, imprisonment, attempted murder, lies spread about him. I’m not sure this is the oneness too many are looking for, yet Paul remained steadfast, both in his love for his people and his faithfullness to the one who appeared to him on the road to Damascus and his calling.

    1. @chaya — “Jewish establishment”? I’m hearing echoes of the radical 1960s. While Jewish opinion is not monolithic even on this issue, it’s true that there is general agreement against whatever is perceived as a Christian mission incursion, even on the individual level of a single “destroyed”, “meshumad”, “former” (as distinct from “frumer”) Jew. However, R.Dauermann’s perspective addresses one of the causes of such responses within the Jewish community. Part of the problem is “minut” or sectarianism, whereby MJs view themselves as separated from the Jewish community and are overly critical of Jews who are not MJs, and it is a consequence of many centuries of non-Jewish antipathy against Jews. Analysis of that antipathy begins with Roman Imperial attitudes and Jewish resistance to Roman hegemony that was incorporated into later Christian attitudes and Jewish defensive responses. Nonetheless, correcting that error and repairing the consequent damage must begin with repairing MJ self-identity. Only if the “Jewish establishment” can be shown a convincing demonstration that MJs are not antagonistic sectarians, because they accept themselves as contributing participants in the Jewish enterprise, can there be any hope of restoring the oneness that should exist. Even then, skeptic and detractors will continue to resist and try to maintain the current antagonisms by throwing stones verbally or even physically. MJs may overcome their resistance by their good example, comparably to Kefa’s advice regarding non-Jews in 1Pet.2:12 “Keep your behavior excellent among the peoples, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, exalt God in the day of investigation [when all is revealed].” I suggest that R.Dauermann’s perspective is a step toward changing the Jewish perception that MJs are former Jews who have been destroyed or are traitorous or inimical to all that constitutes Jewish civilization, first by improving MJ self-perception.

  7. I can only speak from the p.o.v. of a Gentile believer. And as such, as an individual caught up in a magnificent mystery beyond my human scope: “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6)

    For quite some time now, as a Gentile believer, I’ve seen myself as a grateful immigrant who has landed in his land of redemption and desires to be the best citizen possible, learning to follow the land’s constitution as best I can. I willingly acknowledge my lack of knowledge of the land’s customs and traditions. The land of redemption is “Israel” and its “Constitution” is Torah. Realizing my “johnny-come-lately” status, and being immensely grateful for it, I take the lower seat and do not presume to know more than the “natives” in the land; those who were “born” here. This is a mystery to me. In humility I work to build myself a home among the people of my new “nation.” I am “us” only to the extent that time will allow, first only legally, then gradually learning the language and the rules, so to speak. I am determined to go through the “naturalization process,” so to speak, learning everything I need to know to continually become more of a contributing member of “society.” Like Ruth, I take the naturalization process seriously, giving it the respect that is due a land that opened up to redeem me. From my view, as a Gentile relatively “new” in the commonwealth of Israel, both the Messianic and non-Messianic Jew are more like one another in many ways than they are like me, in terms of the ways of HaShem which inform the culture of the land. As for faith, we, all three, the Messianic Jew, the non-Messianic Jew, and me, along with the Christian, trust in the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I see both the Messianic Jew and the non-Messianic Jew as one in the land which remains for me, a mystery. Perhaps it is because of my faith in HaShem to save all or many or some, it is up to Him. That is not for me to know in this life. As I see it, Messianic Jews should strongly identify with their fellow Jewish people as well as, on the other hand, Christian believers, occupying that rarified spiritual space. I live with gratitude in the new land of my redemption giving respect to all who came before me. I see that as my place; the place that HaShem has given me. And it is not “second-hand space” that He gives, but that of an immigrant; new space, different space, once foreign, now drawn near. (Ephesians 2) I also see knowing my rightful place as my testimony of faith in the Jewish Messiah – to know my place, to understand my role, to not take the higher seat unless called; to willingly serve and live and die as close as possible to the spirit that Ruth did: “For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17) I work to support Israel, the land and people of my redemption, though it is yet a mystery to me exactly what that means, and I stand and fight alongside my new spiritual people, the Jewish people, whether they understand my decision to do so or not. It is simply for me to do as a follower of Messiah. As I see fit. A stranger in a strange land to some extent. It will, as you say, all work out. In Him we live and move and have our being. For me, it is largely a matter of knowing my position and role as an “immigrant” Gentile believer. I am comfortable in that role, that position. It speaks to me authentically, as a Gentile, of who I am in Messiah. I acknowledge the mysteriousness of the mystery and yet try to live out my role as a Gentile grafted into Israel through Yeshua, as “uncharted” a course of action as that may be. It is not so much for me to understand as it is to do, which is why my Holocaust work is so vital to me; it is my service to my new adopted people, my new land; a debt of gratitude to them for having carried the Torah on their shoulders through the exile of the centuries to me; it is my way of having a place, of contributing to the repair of the world as a non-Jewish believer in the Jewish Messiah.

    I don’t know if that addresses the issue that R. Dauerman brings up directly- the “us-ness” of Messianic and non-Messianic Jews, but it is my way of relating how it all looks from the position of the once-foreigner, now immigrant in the land. He is talking about “existential space,” our “places” within the body of Messiah and I see the relationship of both believing and non-believing Jews as somehow “echad” if cloaked in mystery (or theological error, not sure which), from the [mysterious] position that I occupy. Always “us,” never “them” when it comes to Israel, the descendants of Abraham. I can see it no other way, be that as it may.

  8. Dan Hennessy, what a great comment. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone express any better what I, and I sure many other gentiles connected to Messiah Yeshua feel. The more I am able to study and hopefully learn the wisdom of the Jewish people, both those who recognize Yeshua as Messiah as well as those who don’t, the more I am amazed, humbled, and thankful for the perseverance and faithfulness of those who preserved the Scriptures and the faith that we have been fortunate enough to be made a part of by Messiah. I know the full healing of these divisions will probably only come when Messiah arrives, but it is my prayer that much of it will happen before He arrives, God willing. It gives me hope when I read the writings of people like R. Dauermann in the Jewish world. And James I believe you are contributing to this unity from your unique perspective on the gentile side. Keep up the good work.

  9. I agree with Mel, Dan. That was about as good a summary of a Gentile believer’s relationship to Messianic Jews, all other Jews, and Israel that I’ve ever seen. As I recall, part of what James and the Council of Apostles and Elders were trying to do in Acts 15 was establish the legal status of non-Jewish members as full participants of the Jewish religious stream known then as “the Way,” the body of Messiah. According to D. Thomas Lancaster in First Fruits of Zion’s Torah Club, Vol. 6 (and I’m writing this from memory), James and the others who were developing their “Gentile halachah,” pulled from sections of Leviticus to establish that Gentile disciples had the status of “alien residents” among Israel. We weren’t (and aren’t) full citizens (which would require that we convert to Judaism, surrender our “citizenship” to our nations of origin and our status as Gentiles and conform to all of the Laws incumbent on Israel and her citizens, that is, Jewish people), but our “resident” status did entitle us to the blessings of Messiah by faith and grace, as well as obligate us to certain requirements as outlined in the four essentials.

    As you describe your own “residency” among Israel, it’s as if you’re describing the lived experience of what was only briefly described in the Jerusalem letter.

  10. James, you said: “Gentile disciples had the status of “alien residents” among Israel. We weren’t (and aren’t) full citizens (which would require that we convert to Judaism, surrender our “citizenship” to our nations of origin and our status as Gentiles and conform to all of the Laws incumbent on Israel and her citizens, that is, Jewish people), but our “resident” status did entitle us to the blessings of Messiah by faith and grace, as well as obligate us to certain requirements as outlined in the four essentials.”

    That sounds right to me, but I was wondering how you reconcile that with what Paul says in Ephesians chapter 2?: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

    I know that’s not the subject of this blog and I apologize for getting off topic. But I’m just trying to get it straight in my mind.

  11. Well. I said it in a comment on this blog Mel, so I guess it’s fair game.

    I’m pulling from Lancaster’s commentary and I’m doing it from memory, so there are probably details I’m not including. I’d probably need to have the ability to drill down into the Greek of the text to resolve the “citizen” issue. If we are exactly equal citizens to Israel with the Jewish people, I don’t see how we could possibly retain our status as Gentiles. Being “grafted in” to a tree with a different nature doesn’t change the nature of the grafted in branches. We are nurtured (receive the blessings) from the root along with the natural branches, but that “sap” doesn’t make us natural branches, i.e. Jewish citizens of Israel.

    I’ve written about this troublesome verse in Ephesians before:

    The Jesus Covenant Part 7: Sampling Ephesians and Stealing a Conversation About Ephesians, Jesus, and Being a Christian.

    I don’t have the time to re-read what I wrote and refresh my memory, but maybe there’s something in those two missives that helps.

  12. PL, absolutely, there is a great divide between the leadership of major Jewish factions and various “mouthpieces,” and the average Jewish person. They need to keep the polemics going. However, I studied Yoga at the local JCC as a teen, and it wasn’t just exercise, it included vegetarianism, mediation – the whole shebang, taught by (Jewish) Yogis who lived at an ashram in Washington, D.C. Of course when one questions the apparent inconsistency, we know that Hindus and Buddhists don’t have a history of killing or persecuting Jews. I question why MJ has ignored the apparent kind leaving the door open by Zalman Schacter-Shalomi, the grandfather of Jewish Renewal, in favor of pandering to the Orthodox. Yes, the Jewish Renewal groups can be New Agey and border on weird, and I suppose since the Orthodox are strictest, they are viewed as most valid. I appreciate the egalitarian and participative nature of Jewish Renewal, and it reminds me of some house churches that seek to model themselves after first century methods of gathering.

    If anyone would like to pray for my number 2 son J, I just dropped him off to take his SAT’s and he is rather anxious about this.

  13. Another issue is that the Jewish community has been much more welcoming of Christian Zionists and Judeophilic Christians in general while Jewish believers are a pariah, and these groups need to jettison any connections with Jewish followers of Yeshua lest they be tainted as missionaries. In the past these groups were respected as they were, but currently there is the missionary push from various Orthodox factions to convert these people to Noahides. A Jewish believer, B, was encouraging house churches to incorporate the moed into their gatherings and join in pro-Israel events. He told me how the Jewish groups enthusiastically welcomed their contingent, until they took a look at B, who mentioned to me as an aside that his face looks like a map of Israel, (it does) and the expression of the hosts changed. I sent a question to a ministry (see I didn’t mention names) that has a response form. I did not expect an answer, and I haven’t received one. I asked whether a Jewish believer would be welcome at their meetings, (I’m thinking “they love the Jewish people,” but they don’t love me) and since they raised money for charities in Israel, would they consider supporting Jewish believers in Israel who are often persecuted, fired from their jobs and kicked out of their apartments. Since they sought to fight antisemitism, I wondered if they believed they should also stand up for Israeli Jewish believers who are being discriminated against.

    I would say that historically, a large part of the us/them polemic resulted from rejection and denigration by the Jewish community. The hapless Yeshua followers were forced into the welcoming arms of the church, and then they could be called goyim. I remember back in the 70’s, Manny Brotman’s concept that MJ was a “movement for Messiah within Judaism.” In reality, we know that not believing in Jesus is by magnitudes far more foundational to 21st century Judaism than not eating pork chops.

  14. Thanks James. I’ll read the other blogs. I agree, that section of Ephesians is “troublesome” at least for my brain to understand. Of course, even Peter said in 2 Peter 3:16 that Paul wrote things that were hard to understand.

  15. If those blog posts don’t answer your question, let me know and I’ll try to resurrect my memory by doing the appropriate research, Mel.

    1. I don’t know if this analogy will be at all helpful relative to the Eph.2 citizenship question, but modern Israel allows a form of citizenship for some non-Jews called “Permanent Residency”. They are thus distinct from Jewish citizens, and exempt from some requirements of Israeli citizenship such as compulsory military service. I can’t provide all the distinctive details, but the concept may be useful as an analogy for the notion of fellow citizens with the (Jewish) saints in the kingdom of heaven.

      1. PL, is that the status that you have in Israel? I wonder if you have any info on the latest practices in relation to aliyah of Jewish believers who are halachically Jewish? It seems everything keeps changing and no one has an answer.

      2. No, chaya, I am a fully Jewish citizen, married to a fully Jewish citizen, whose children were born in the land and are also fully Jewish citizens (even though 2 of 3 are not currently living in the land). However, I have known several Permanent Residents, though (as well as a number of Temporary Residents who must periodically exit the land and re-enter to renew their status). My wife and I made aliyah many years ago, I served in the IDF and worked in my profession, and we returned to the States after a number of years due to family illnesses, returning to Israel only a few years ago. Though we were believers when we came originally, we came as Jews, just like any other Jews, and there were no challenges against us. We had suitable references and documents regarding our Jewish status, and that was all that was needed. It’s possible, though I don’t recall from more than 30 years ago, that these references could have included even a letter from the rabbi of the Conservative shul where we were members for several years prior to our aliyah. I’ve heard that some folks have been denied citizenship due to having been placed on some secret list, but I’ve known only a few key MJ leaders who suffered from such discrimination. There are some lawyers in Jerusalem who deal with cases of false discrimination against believers who should be otherwise eligible for citizenship rights. This post is not the place, however, to discuss such cases.

        As for James’ question about any version of Permanent Residency status in first-century Israel, such issues were not then on anybody’s legal horizon. The only citizenship issue we see in the messianic writings is Roman citizenship and the rights and privileges that came with it, which could be acquired by birth or by purchase (which I presume indicates some legal naturalization process). It was likely this citizenship that was referenced in the Ephesian letter as a model with which they were familiar. Per a quick check in Wikipedia, there were apparently several classes of Roman citizenship, one of which in particular seems suited to be desired by non-Romans as an acquired form for the purpose of commercial trade and freedom of movement. It therefore was limited in its levels of rights, privileges, and responsibilities as compared with natural citizenship.

  16. I think it’s helpful PL, what many people would want to know is if it’s credible or even provable that such a legal status could have existed during Israel’s late second temple period.

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