Jewish identity

Kareth and Messianic Judaism

At the core of the pluralism issue is the debate over whether there’s “More than one way to be a good Jew.” Indeed, there have always been divergent streams of observance – like Chassidic, Sefardic vs. Ashkenazic, and even the Talmudic arguments between the Talmudic academies of Shammai and Hillel.

And yet, historic precedents show that there are limits to pluralism, beyond which a group is schismatic to the point where it is no longer considered Jewish. For example, everyone considers Jews for Jesus as outside of the legitimate Jewish sphere. The disagreement, then, lies in defining exactly what are the acceptable limits of divergence.

-from “Ask the Rabbi”
Aish.com

I’m continuing my email conversation with my Jewish friend as I described in yesterday’s meditation, and this “Ask the Rabbi” column seemed to fit right in. As you just read, there are a whole bunch of divergent streams of Judaism, but how far can you diverge and still be Jewish? According to the Aish Rabbi, being “Jews for Jesus” is going too far.

I should say at this point that “Jews for Jesus” is how most Jews see Messianic Judaism, thus Messianic Judaism isn’t viewed as a “Judaism” at all. One problem is, as a private communication revealed to me just recently, even many staunch Jewish disciples of Messiah aren’t all that observant. For instance, one Messianic Jewish conference (I’m deliberately concealing identifying information for obvious reasons) was scheduled during a major Jewish fast day. At another conference, the conference leaders ate the local hotel (non-Kosher) fare, and the very few Jewish attendees who kept kosher were forced to have catered kosher meals brought in or to drive some distance to a kosher eating establishment. And driving on Shabbat for the Jewish conference organizers and attendees wasn’t considered a big deal at all.

Why do I say all this?

Historically, any Jewish group which denied the basic principles of Jewish tradition – Torah and mitzvah-observance – ultimately ceased to be part of the Jewish people. The Sadducees and the Karites, for instance, refused to accept certain parts of the Oral Law, and soon after broke away completely as part of the Jewish People. The Hellenists, secularists during the Second Temple period, also soon became regarded as no longer “Jewish.” Eventually, these groups vanished completely.

-the Aish Rabbi

One of the big issues that may inhibit halachically, culturally, and religiously observant Jews from recognizing Messianic Judaism as a Judaism is, based on the quote above, the lack of consistent Jewish observance in Messianic Judaism. Except for in a few small corners of the movement (at least from an Orthodox Jewish perspective), Messianic Judaism presents the appearance of being not a Judaism (there are many other issues, such as the deification of Jesus and the supposed worship of a man, but I’m choosing to focus on the matter of community and observance right now).

tallit-prayerIt’s a terrible thing for a Jew to be cut off from his or her people.

For those of you who don’t know, the concept of Kareth or “cutting off” is a consequence of a Jew committing certain offenses, such as having a forbidden sexual relationship or worshiping a deity other than Hashem (known as Avodah Zarah). Messianic author and teacher Derek Leman even wrote an article on the topic a few years back.

Should a Jew in Messianic Judaism feel cut off from larger Judaism? Is that a consequence of being a Messianic Jew? Not according to Rabbi Stuart Dauermann in his article “The Jewish People are Us – Not Them,” which he wrote for the Fall 2013 issue of Messiah Journal (and which I reviewed), however, R. Dauermann admits that this has been a consequence of Messianic Judaism historically due to its associations with Evangelical Christianity. Evangelicals believe that once a Jew becomes a disciple of Messiah through the Messianic movement (or by converting to Christianity), they have more in common with Gentile Christians than non-Messianic Jews.

That’s a terrible burden to lay on any Jew’s shoulders.

But does it really have to be that way? Has it always been that way?

Early Christians were the original “Jews for Jesus.” They accepted the Divine revelation of the Torah, but not the eternal, binding nature of the commandments. Initially, these Jews were reliable in their kashrut, and counted in a minyan. But the turning point came when Paul, realizing that Jews wouldn’t accept the concept of a dead Messiah, opened up membership to non-Jews. At that point, these “Jews” experienced a total severing of Jewish identity.

Now that’s a glaring assumption by the Aish Rabbi. Let’s look at that again:

But the turning point came when Paul, realizing that Jews wouldn’t accept the concept of a dead Messiah, opened up membership to non-Jews. At that point, these “Jews” experienced a total severing of Jewish identity.

Ending MacArthur seriesEvangelical Christianity believes that Paul broke with Jewish identity shortly after he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9) and that the extinguishment of Jewish identity in Messiah was by design. The Aish Rabbi says Paul may not have originally intended to break with Judaism and tradition, but when he couldn’t convince other Jews to “worship a dead Messiah,” Paul switched the object of his proselytizing from Jewish to Gentile populations and cut loose anything Jewish from devotion to Jesus.

No wonder so many Jewish people really hate Paul.

As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people urged them to speak about these things again the next sabbath. When the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

Acts 13:42-43 (NRSV)

I invite you to read the larger context which is captured in Acts 13:13-52, but basically, after Paul’s discourse in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, on how Jesus was indeed the Messiah, his Jewish audience was extremely eager for him to return next Shabbat to say more. Apparently the issue of a “dead Messiah” wasn’t a problem. The problem was this:

The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul.

Acts 13:44-45 (NRSV)

A certain number of God-fearing Gentiles generally attended this synagogue on a regular basis, so the huge crowds of non-Jews who showed up for the subsequent Shabbat to hear Paul must have been the result of word getting out and large crowds of idol-worshiping pagan Gentiles entering the Jewish community space.

The Jewish PaulSo like I said, the “dead Messiah,” at least in this case, didn’t seem to be the problem, nor, as we know from many of Paul’s other letters as well as the record in Luke’s Acts, did Paul totally abandon his people or Jewish practice in order to invent a new, Law-free, religion exclusively for the Gentiles. As the Aish Rabbi himself stated, the early Jewish disciples ”accepted the Divine revelation of the Torah” and ”these Jews were reliable in their kashrut, and counted in a minyan.” I do not believe that ”these Jews” denied ”the eternal, binding nature of the commandments” nor that Paul taught Jews to neglect the Torah.

Paul said in his defense, “I have in no way committed an offense against the law of the Jews, or against the temple, or against the emperor.”

Acts 25:8 (NRSV)

Paul continued to deny that he had committed any offense against the Torah or against Roman law for the rest of his life and unless we want to believe he was just lying to try to save his skin (didn’t do him very much good if that was his ploy), then we have to consider that the Aish Rabbi, representing the general Jewish view of Paul, and Evangelical Christianity, are both wrong about the Apostle to the Gentiles.

So we have some history that tells us the very first Jews who belonged to the Messianic stream of Judaism called “the Way” continued to be observant Jews and continued to be considered Jewish by the other branches of Judaism in the late Second Temple period.

But why can’t we have that now? Why can’t Messianic Jews be considered Jewish, even within Messianic Judaism? Why should a Jew in Messianic Judaism be considered cut off from his or her people in larger Judaism?

The Aish Rabbi ends his article this way:

I can’t predict what will happen to the various streams within Judaism today, but I do believe that the best bet for a strong Jewish future is to remain loyal to our faith and traditions.

I promise that the Rabbi was not considering Messianic Judaism in this opinion but I believe we should. What that means, is the Jewish people in Messianic Judaism, in order to ensure a strong Jewish future, must too remain loyal to Jewish faith and traditions. That’s why I wrote the blog post The Necessity of Messianic Jewish Community. That’s exactly why Messianic Jewish community is necessary, important, vital, critical.

There’s a lot more I could say about this, but for the sake of length, I’ll back off for now. It will probably be fuel for another blog post fairly soon. I don’t see this issue going away.

synagogue_arkI know it’s odd for me, a non-Jewish person studying within the context of Messianic Judaism, to be so passionate about Jewish identity for Jews in Messiah. I suppose it all comes back to my own (Jewish) family who aren’t Messianic but who I believe really need to be even better at connecting with Jewish community. There’s a huge danger as each generation passes, of Jewish people simply fading away, not assimilating into Christianity necessarily, but just drifting into secular oblivion.

Within Messianic Judaism, many of the leading Jewish teachers and promoters are themselves intermarried, and if the mothers of their children aren’t Jewish, then neither are their offspring.  If, as I stated above, there is a “crisis” of minimal or inconsistent observance of the mitzvot which further weakens the Jewish nature of Messianic Judaism and thus any connection with larger Jewry, will Jews be found within Messianic Judaism in twenty or thirty years?

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35 thoughts on “Kareth and Messianic Judaism”

  1. From the FB post you wrote… in response to an observation I made: ” I agree that MJ is in it’s infancy and has a long way to go. My source expressed a “concern” that the current leadership of MJ is aging and that many of their children aren’t halachically Jewish because their mothers aren’t Jewish.

    It’s a good point. Where are the next generation of Messianic Jews going to come from? This is an excellent and valid question. While in some of these marriages conversions have taken place and one can argue about this until dooms day….there is another observation to be made: in the years that lay ahead Messianic Jewish Leadership will be replaced in many instances by young Jews who have come to faith outside their upbringings in the Orthodox, Conservative, Chabad etc communities. What they will bring to the table is knowledge…knowledge…and a willingness to bear witness. This is a great area for discussion and I hope many voices will chime in!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Pat. I made a minor edit to your comment so readers could separate your quoting me from your actual response to the quote.

    Of course, all we can do is guess about the next generation of Messianic, even if they are educated guesses. We also shouldn’t forget that it’s not just human effort that’s involved here, but the will of God. If he desires to reveal His remnant of Jewish believers in Messiah, He will do so. They will appear and they will be sustained, just as God has sustained the Jewish people as a whole, regardless of how many people, nations, and regimes have tried to exterminate them over the past many thousands of years.

  3. Hi James,

    I would love for Messianic Judaism to be recognized as a valid Judaism but as Peter said in 1 Peter 4:14-16…

    1Peter 4:14-16

    14 If you are being insulted because you bear the name of the Messiah, how blessed you are! For the Spirit of the Sh’khinah, that is, the Spirit of God, is resting on you!
    15 Let none of you suffer for being a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or a meddler in other people’s affairs.
    16 But if anyone suffers for being Messianic, let him not be ashamed; but let him bring glory to God by the way he bears this name

    To me it’s not about observance per se. Most Jews are observant to an extent. As Jews we know we are Jews and in regards to other Judaism’s other Judaism’s would consider a Jew a Jew.

    My friend it’s because of Messiah.

  4. Macher, as you know, I don’t think being an observant Jew and being Messianic are mutually exclusive. Further, I think observing the mitzvot brings great dimension Jewish disciples of the Messiah. Taking the example of Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein, although he struggled greatly after publicly revealing his faith in Jesus as Messiah, he never backed down from being observant and his life remained wholly Jewish. He too felt it was all about Messiah, but he didn’t see the necessity of choosing Messiah over being an observant Jew or choosing to be an observant Jew over Messiah. To him, it was all the same thing.

  5. James said ” he never backed down from being observant and his life remained wholly Jewish. He too felt it was all about Messiah, but he didn’t see the necessity of choosing Messiah over being an observant Jew or choosing to be an observant Jew over Messiah. To him, it was all the same thing.”

    It’s a shame that certain Messianic Judaism circles are taking the path of wanting to be accepted by Judaism instead of Messiah and therefore sacrificing being in Messiah to be accepted.

    I never implied to back down from being wholly Jewish, God forbid! What I’m saying is the Logos is weightier than the ethnos.

  6. Nice post. I would also say that being Jewish is more than just hanging out in a Jewish community or synagogue, eating matzo ball soup or being able to insult someone in Yiddish. It has more to do with what you said above, keeping the torah and being a light unto the nations.

  7. I never implied to back down from being wholly Jewish, God forbid! What I’m saying is the Logos is weightier than the ethnos.

    Agreed, Macher. All I’m saying is that I believe a person can be an observant Jew and a disciple of the Messiah. I also am saying that no Jew should feel cut off from his or her people for being Messianic. Part of that “not-cut-offness” is for the Jewish Messianic to not compromise or “dumb-down” their observance of the mitzvot.

    It has more to do with what you said above, keeping the torah and being a light unto the nations.

    Agreed, Troy.

  8. James said “I also am saying that no Jew should feel cut off from his or her people for being Messianic”

    The problem is for example I don’t feel cut off from my people.

    There are going to have to be concessions for Messianic Judaism circles to implement if they want to be accepted as a valid Judaism. One concession I hope will not take place is Messiah’s deity.

  9. You don’t feel cut off Macher, but that’s your personal perspective. You may not be representative of all Jews in the Messianic movement. Also, beyond observance of the mitzvot in a more dedicated and consistent manner, I haven’t suggested any “concessions.”

  10. James said “You don’t feel cut off Macher, but that’s your personal perspective. You may not be representative of all Jews in the Messianic movement. Also, beyond observance of the mitzvot in a more dedicated and consistent manner, I haven’t suggested any “concessions.””

    What I meant was I don’t feel cut off however that doesn’t mean I’m considered cut off.

  11. @Macher — I regret to inform you that your paraphrase of 1Pet.4:14-16 is inaccurate to both the Greek text and the implied Hebrew concepts behind it. Let me clarify two of the Hebrew idioms that appear in the Greek as literal translations; one of which is that doing something in the “name” of some one is doing it to serve their purposes, and the other is that “spirit” indicates attitudes, feelings, and outlook. Therefore I will render and explain the passage thusly:
    14 εἰ ὀνειδίζεσθε ἐν ὀνόματι Χριστοῦ,
    If you are insulted in the name of [Messiah] (i.e., because of living out the expressed consequences of Rav Yeshua’s purposes of salvation and experiencing the kingdom of heaven as a present psycho-spiritual reality),
    μακάριοι, ὅτι τὸ τῆς δόξης καὶ τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ πνεῦμα ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἀναπαύεται.
    blessed are you by the glory and the G-dly spirit (attitude) that rests upon you (not necessarily referring to the presence of the Sh’chinah).
    15 μὴ γάρ τις ὑμῶν πασχέτω ὡς φονεὺς ἢ κλέπτης ἢ κακοποιὸς ἢ ὡς ἀλλοτριεπίσκοπος:
    But you should not suffer as murderers, thieves, criminals, or meddling busybodies (i.e., as actual evildoers).
    16 εἰ δὲ ὡς Χριστιανός,
    But if as [so-called] “Christians” (which was a pejorative persecutory term used by Greek-speaking gentiles against people they did not understand, who followed a way of life they knew nothing about except that it was contrary to commonly-accepted idolatrous paganism),
    μὴ αἰσχυνέσθω, δοξαζέτω δὲ τὸν θεὸν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τούτῳ.
    [you should] not [feel] disgraced, but [rather] glorify G-d for [the genuine meaning of] this name (that is to say, for the real benefits and purposes of being a “messianist”).

    Nonetheless, experiencing the kingdom of heaven was one thing for Jews and another for gentiles, because Mt.5:20 correlates it with diligent Torah observance that exceeds the high standards of practice demonstrated by scribes and Pharisees, and Acts 15 exempts gentiles from specific Torah-obligatory performance. Hence for gentiles, the key would be the attitudes of Torah which might be decoupled from specific Jewish mitzvot. Gentiles are also not subject to the Torah’s curse of “karet”, though one might nonetheless suggest that certain behaviors would indeed “cut them off” from associating with the people of Israel. I suppose this might be compared to the arrogance of which Rav Shaul warned when he observed that wild grafted olive branches could be broken off just as some naturally-cultivated ones had been.

  12. Gentiles are also not subject to the Torah’s curse of “karet”, though one might nonetheless suggest that certain behaviors would indeed “cut them off” from associating with the people of Israel. I suppose this might be compared to the arrogance of which Rav Shaul warned when he observed that wild grafted olive branches could be broken off just as some naturally-cultivated ones had been.

    I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, PL. I suppose you could say that Gentile believers have been “cut off” form the people of Israel due to our misappropriation of the Bible and what we’ve done with it over the past couple of thousand years.

  13. @ PL I regret to inform you it wasn’t my paraphrase. It was copied and pasted from the Complete Jewish Bible by Stern.

  14. PL said “Nonetheless, experiencing the kingdom of heaven was one thing for Jews and another for gentiles”

    Not necessarily. Gentiles didn’t have the opportunity to experience the kingdom of Heaven unless XYZ.

    Are you implying that Torah observance correlates with getting into the Kingdom of Heaven?

  15. @Macher — I suspected as much; and if I get a chance to discuss the subject with David in some congregational or MJTI forum here, I’ll try to remember to mention it (bli neder). However, the CJB was published 25 years ago, so it’s a little late for Dr.Stern to improve his translation now, even if he should agree with me. I wasn’t able to offer him any help back then, because my experience with Greek was then much more limited, even though I was present at one dinner discussion in which he was seeking opinions about a particular passage with which he was struggling.

  16. @Macher — In Mt.5:20, the Greek aorist tense is used, indicating that entering the kingdom of heaven is not a once-for-all or one-time-only event, but rather it is an activity that is done continually, time-and-time-again. Mt.5:19 tells us that greatness in the kingdom of heaven does depend on doing and teaching Torah, and that failure to do so, and teaching others not to do so, is a recipe for being least in that kingdom. Thus the subsequent verse, that states that our righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees or we will not enter the kingdom, must also reflect the notion of doing and teaching Torah as conditions for this entry. Note that this verse is NOT talking about achieving eternal forensic salvation. It is addressing a state of mind.

  17. @Macher — I should also point out that there is much difference between feeling cut off and actually being in a cut-off condition. There are a whole lotta’ folks out there who are not really connected to Judaism or the Jewish people who nonetheless don’t feel a thing, or who think that they are connected when actually they are very far from it, This latter condition is regrettably true for too many who associate themselves with some form of MJ.

  18. @Macher — I would like to respond also to two comments that you submitted above (at 12:13 & 12:15 pm on the 26th):

    “There are going to have to be concessions for Messianic Judaism circles to implement if they want to be accepted as a valid Judaism. One concession I hope will not take place is Messiah’s deity.”

    “Another concession is offering Messianic Jewish conversions.”

    It seems to me that we discussed this only a week ago, in James’ topic “The Necessity of Messianic Jewish Community” (March 19); and specifically I would refer you to my reply post of 6:36am March 20.

    My point is that acceptance, per se, is not the goal for MJ to pursue, but that it might be a likely consequence of continued Jewish restoration that still should be a primary goal for MJ to pursue. The development of a conversion process is hardly a move that could be deemed a concession to any other valid form of Judaism. And theological discussions of the doctrines of divinity and deity that are occurring at present are not being driven by any sort of desire to concede or to be more acceptable to others, but rather by a strong desire to investigate exactly what the scriptures truly tell us in place of questionable doctrines passed along by a Christian tradition that has been already demonstrated to have deliberately ignored and denigrated the Jewish knowledge that enables a more accurate rendition of these Jewish writings. Accurate understanding of the Messiah includes learning about both what he is and what he is not.

    Rav Shaul stated his willingness to be cut off from the Messiah if that would somehow bring his fellow Jews closer to HaShem (and His Messiah). Thankfully, that bit of rhetoric is not actually a means that would logically further such a goal; and there are much better means available to us.

  19. The Aish.com “Ask the Rabbi” column today has an article called Married at Different Levels of Observance. It somewhat reminded me of the relationship between Messianic Judaism and, for example, Orthodox Judaism. Here’s the actual question:

    My husband and I have been married for two years, happily. I am Orthodox and he is not. He has learned how to make Kiddush and say Grace After Meals (with transliteration), and happily accompanies me to peoples’ homes for Shabbat meals (including local Aish folks, who are terrific). However, he shows little inclination to go further. We have agreed that our children will go to Orthodox day school. I try very hard not to push, but to be a quiet example. Yet it can be very frustrating at times.

    My question is: Aside from prayer, which is the most powerful thing I do, is there anything else I can do to spur him along? We really have a wonderful relationship, and he has an incredible Jewish spark which glows, despite no nurturing in youth.

    Especially that last sentence reminds me of how many Jews (in my experience) are within Messianic Judaism. Most Jewish people I’ve met in the MJ movement weren’t raised in an observant Jewish home and many of them come from intermarried families. Only later in life did they make the decision to become more dedicated to the practice of Judaism as an expression of faith in Messiah.

    Like the Orthodox woman asking this question, we should also be asking what can we do to inspire Jewish people in the various streams of MJ to become more observant, to motivate them to go further? Where are their role models?

  20. James said “Like the Orthodox woman asking this question, we should also be asking what can we do to inspire Jewish people in the various streams of MJ to become more observant, to motivate them to go further? Where are their role models?”

    It’s not only in MJ. The question is what constitutes more observance?

  21. Macher, your question mirrors one that’s on the Facebook discussion for this blog post. Unfortunately, it’s “trapped” in a closed Facebook group, so unless you’re a member, you can’t get to it.

    The “problem” presented to me via email is that Messianic Judaism not only has too few halachic Jews, but the Jewish people represent varying degrees of Torah observance, but always on the “light” side, thus damaging its position as a “Judaism.”

    The counterargument is as you’ve presented. What constitutes observance? Are other Jewish communities truly “better” at being Jewish? Are all Orthodox Jews incredibly scrupulous in their observance, let along Conservative and Reform branches? Who is to say that one branch of Judaism’s standards are better than another’s?

  22. Changing the subject totally but back to this comment: “Macher
    MARCH 26, 2014 AT 2:15 PM
    Another concession is offering Messianic Jewish conversions.”
    What is the reasoning behind this comment. ALL Communities offer conversions to gentiles…….so why would the Messianic Jewish community NOT allow this under certain circumstances. ??

  23. @James — You asked:”Who is to say that one branch of Judaism’s standards are better than another’s?”. There is an unambiguous answer to that question in the history of the Jewish enterprise and the literature it generated. That is not to say that any particular existing community or stream has fully succeeded at expressing or realizing its prescription. But Rav Yeshua accepted Pharisaic authority for Torah interpretation, and his own interpretations were in accord with Pharisaic process and perspective. The closest conformity with this perspective in modern terms would be deemed quite in accord with modern orthodoxy by the standards of Jewish self-defining literature, hence that must be viewed as a model to emulate in any modern effort to pursue Jewish restoration as we conclude the exile period of the past twenty centuries. One may justly avoid the extremes of so-called ultra-orthodoxy or of Hasidic mysticism, as well as diluted or assimilated expressions of Jewish community that resulted from accommodating majority non-Jewish surrounding cultures, or secular or humanistic expressions that were derived as a secondary development after the loss of faith in HaShem suffered by many after the Holocaust. Conservative Judaism once had much to offer in its efforts to express traditional praxis with adjustments for modernity. However, it too has lost its anchor, and it has been swayed by popular culture to accept homosexuality and a number of other cultural features that would be deemed abominations by traditional Jewish standards. Hence, avoiding extremes and other deviations from historically-defined Judaism brings us to something like modern orthodoxy, within which one may also integrate cultural features from Ashkenazi, Sepharadi, and Mizrachi expressions of Judaism. Thankfully, representatives from this breadth of expression are available in Israel to assist this effort, and once again out of Zion shall go forth the Torah and the word of HaShem from Jerusalem.

  24. I had a feeling you’d respond to my comment, PL.

    Since I’m having this conversation in parallel, here and on Facebook, I’ll copy over one of the statements that prompted me to say what I did:

    Define more observant please. My view of observance is Conservative so driving on Shabbat, cooking on Shabbat, women coming to the Torah, etc are all acceptable to me. I am not , nor do I wish to be, Orthodox. I think we need to ask how we can make being part of Judaism and the Jewish people as a whole more attractive. How many messianics who come from church backgrounds will not attend a Jewish community event because the other Jews aren’t believers? When we begin to accept the Jewish people as a NATION and stop getting stuck on the religious views the various groups have things will improve.

    I need to keep identities confidential and I don’t really want to copy and paste the entire set of transactions, but I think (though I could be wrong) that this perspective differs from yours at least somewhat.

  25. Yes. it’s the sort of opinion I would expect of an American Conservative Jew, because I once held such a view myself. What caused it to change was exposure in Israel to a much broader spectrum of Jewish opinion and a comparison of the different effects produced by various approaches to Jewish identity and praxis. One answer to the notion of trying to make Judaism attractive is that it cannot be done. Participation is a decision that is not predicated on personal selfish individual feelings or judgments about whether it appears attractive or convenient or appealing. That is a very modern American idea. Throughout history Jews have been Jews because they are born with a covenantal responsibility and because the surrounding gentiles made it impossible to forget that identity. Convenience had nothing to do with it. In the rare situations where choice is possible, one must weigh the consequences, whether to contribute to the survival (and even the prosperity) of the Jewish people (including oneself) or to hide, opt-out, or otherwise refuse one’s Jewish responsibilities and suffer the consequences of being disconnected or cut-off from the associated blessings and contributing to the suffering and destruction of the Jewish people (including one’s own children). Regrettably, the destruction of Judaism is not solely an all-or-nothing proposition. One can do it in small doses, by eschewing this or that “inconvenient” element of Jewish praxis or outlook. Such an approach can nibble away at a Jewish community until suddenly it becomes obvious that the community is not viable or is no longer recognizable as Jewish, because for example all its children have taken the hints and improved on the example provided by their elders and have assimilated and intermarried into non-Jewish culture. Even worse, non-Jewish culture and outlook may have been adopted and brought in under a supposed Jewish umbrella and be mistaken for Jewish outlook and culture. This is what has been occurring in many American Jewish communities for more than two generations already. It is curious to see the reverse phenomenon among many gentile Christians who have become Jewish wannabees, though it might be accurate to view their perception of Jewishness as superficial. The callousness or hardness or lack of zeal on or in the Jewish heart is not always solely directed against Rav Yeshua and his messianic claims, but may be reflected also against taking on personal Jewish responsibility. Returning after repentance also may pursue recovery in small doses, but the ultimate goal that remains in view is not limited by lesser or attenuated notions of Judaism.

  26. And so we have the problem of a divided Messianic Judaism, but then we also have a wider divided Judaism based on the “druthers” of the various groups involved. That actually sounds more like human nature, since you find the same dynamic in Christianity as well as other religions and just about any other sort of grouping. When a sub-group within the whole gathers together and opposes the main group, they split off and form their own (sometimes related) entity.

    The worst such example is when Gentiles took over the early Messianic movement in Judaism and turned it into Christianity.

  27. Well, one might say that MJ has been divided from its outset, as the MJ paradigm diverged from the prior HC expression — though at the time it seemed that there was a full spectrum of opinion ranging from folks who were virtually indistinguishable from Presbyterians, a rare few who were close to orthodox or actually orthodox, and a great many positions in between. And certainly the traditional American Jewish divisions of Conservative, Reform, and secular were represented. We were all quite familiar with the Jewish principle that where there are two Jews, there are at least three opinions. Some of us even learned that Talmud renders that notion as three Jews and six opinions, because each of them reserves the right to change his mind. But what most MJs failed to realize was that they had not succeeded in convincing the HCs that the new paradigm was truly superior, and there has been a lot of HC (and X-tian) backlash and foot-dragging to hinder MJ development. What I find rather lacking within the MJ movement in general is the perspective I cited above in my previous post, that I developed in Israel after observing the broad spectrum and varied outcomes of Jewish variety.

    But now I’ve gotta’ run, because here in J’lem it’s Shabbat candle-lighting time. Shabbat Shalom.

  28. I just want to be a good disciple of the Master. No ulterior motives. Problem is, God gave no religion to Gentiles. Do we just get to make things up then?

  29. Not sure the term “religion” meant much back in the Apostolic Age. God did give a Torah to Israel but some portions of it apply to the nations. You could start broadly with Genesis 9, which applies to all humanity, and then focus on how the Torah as conditions of the New Covenant for the Gentile disciples of Yeshua were to be performed by us. The Didache might be a good place to start.

  30. I want to agree that it is wrong to seek acceptance by the Jewish community (of any stripe) or anyone for that matter. I remember the attitude that one needed to be a superJew to make up for the fact that we believed in Yeshua. The fear of (any) man brings a snare.

    I didn’t grow up Orthodox or really torah observant, but I did grow up with tradition – holidays, no ham, JAP attitude and elitism, and identification with Israel and carrying the burden of my parents and ancestors suffering of antisemitism.

    I don’t see that becoming more Orthodox would lead to greater acceptance; perhaps it will more be seen as deception. Everyone needs to do what they believe the Holy One is leading them to do and what is meaningful and spiritual for them. If this or that group yearns for acceptance and legitimacy – that’s their problem. I won’t be their pawn or promote their kingdom.

    If there was a Rabbi Lichenstein today, I would go to him, but I don’t know any. I agree that any messianic conference should accommodate Orthodox practice, even if all the attendees aren’t at that stage of observance. Plenty of hotels can provide kosher meals. Myself, I keep torah, but not rabbinic, kosher. But more important, if someone calls themselves rabbi, they should have the equivalent education and learning of a rabbi in traditional Judaism.

    Yes, it is true that when HR’s convert to Orthodoxy or Noahidism, that provides fuel for naysayers in the church. And when there is deception and mickey mouse stuff in MJ, that also fuels the fire that MJ is dishonest and conning Jews.

    I say keep your distance from religion and its leaders. While I don’t require the acceptance or validation by this or that group, or at least avoiding their displeasure – they do. They desire $$$, numbers, respectability and market share. I’m not selling anything.

    The Orthodox are the smallest (but growing) group of Jews in the US, but they have more children, marry in and rarely assimilate, unlike the other branches. When we return to the land we don’t have to worry about assimilation. In our land, others are welcome to join us with no danger of overwhelming us.

  31. It is true that this is a controversial topic, Chaya, and I don’t think all Jewish people in MJ have the same requirements. On the other hand, some do, so why should I object?

    As I recall, you attend a church, so when you say “keep your distance from religion and its leaders,” how is that possible when attending a house of worship? By definition, it represents religion and most churches have a “leader” in the form of the Pastoral staff and Board of Directors.

    Also, that a Pastor may draw a salary does not make him/her greedy or desiring “big bucks”. Sure, some of these mega-church folks are in it for the dough and the attention they receive, but how many Pastors and Rabbis are there in the world who are simply trying to serve God?

    You said, “If there was a Rabbi Lichenstein today, I would go to him,” but as I recall, he was Orthodox and lived a fundamentally Orthodox Jewish life. After coming to faith, he continued to serve as Rabbi for his small synagogue, so he didn’t change his observance at all. He was an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, serving in an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, and living an Orthodox Jewish life, all to the honor of Hashem and in devotion to Yeshua.

  32. So glad gentiles are waking up to Hebraic Roots Torah Observant Sabbath Keeping even if Jews don’t recognize Messianic Jews much less gentiles who Yahshua has grafted in maybe not into Judaisim but into Israel. I really fail to see how Yahshua can be considered a dead Messiah when he has risen from the dead and is assended into the Shamaim and has been given all power in the Sahamaim and Earth. Sure seems very lievely to me. It seems the Vatican has stained Yahshua’s and Paul’s reputation by bearing false witness against them that they abolished and taught against the Law of YHWH Elohim. The Law was never abolished. There is one Law for Israel and the stranger that dwells with them. The only things Yahshua and paul disagreed with was the adding to or taking away from the Law when the Babylonian Talmud made the Laws and traditions of Man to be exalted above the Law of YHWH Elohim and making his Word of no effect. Yahshua didn’t graft the Jews into the Gentiles but he grafted gentile believers into Israel. I still have a long way to grow and I have opposition from gentiles still drunk in pagan and apostate tradition of Rome and also from Messianic Jews and Jews who are afraid that any association with the likes of me will tarnish their standing in the Jewish Community. I would much rather live in Israel and be thought of as an outsider than to live amongst gentiles that are drunk in pagan and apostate ways as they always try to keep me in lock step to their drunken ways. I am 58 and in good health. I would even serve in the IDF to live in Israel and have the oppertunity to learn.

  33. Most Israelis are secular. There are a number of volunteer programs that you could be a part of in Israel, especially if you have a useful skill.

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