I read on Aish.com that “Every Jew is equally important to our mission.” Pardon my question, but exactly what is our mission?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
No need to apologize. The only bad question is one that remains unasked.
Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt”l wrote an article for Israel’s 50th anniversary, which was published in Azure magazine. There he writes:
“Tikkun Olam” is the basis of what drives the Jewish people to greatness. It all started back with Abraham. His business was to go out and teach what it means to be “created in the image of God.” He demonstrated how a human being has to take responsibility for the world. Abraham’s undertaking was the first progressive, liberal movement the world had ever seen. And look how it succeeded!
Tikkun Olam is the Jewish legacy. In looking back at the first 3,000 years of Jewish history, we don’t recall the names of any great entertainers or athletes or corporate executives. We recall the great teachers of the Jewish message: Moses, King David, Maimonides, the Vilna Gaon. That is the essential Jewish legacy. The message was engrained in our souls at Mount Sinai and it is the single defining characteristic of our people.
Torah methodology is universal – for Jews and non-Jews, religious and secular, Israel and the diaspora, left and right. The Torah is alive and relevant for today. And for the Jewish people, the ability to effectively communicate this message is our single most important undertaking.
I hope this helps answer your question. Though this raises a whole new question: What are you going to do about it?!
-from “Jewish Mission”
We don’t often think of Jews as “missionaries.” In fact, except for arguably the Chabad, religious Judaism doesn’t really practice anything we’d call “outreach. And yet we see in the above-quoted text that the Aish Rabbi, referencing Rabbi Noah Weinberg, not only believes that the “Torah methodology is universal – for Jews and non-Jews,” but that the “Torah is alive and relevant for today,” and like Abraham, it should be used to teach everyone that we were all “created in the image of God” as a responsibility the Jewish people have to the entire world.
About a year ago, Rabbi David Rudolph delivered a sermon to his congregation Tikvat Israel called Our Mission in which he outlined the specific mission for his synagogue to reach out to the larger Jewish community in Richmond, Virginia.
Others objected after listening to the recorded sermon, stating that R. Rudolph was being exclusionary and that the mission of any Messianic Jewish group should be equally to Jews and Gentiles. Interestingly enough, I find R. Rudolph’s approach to be quite Pauline in nature (Acts 3:26, 19:8-10, Romans 1:16, 2:9). Rudolph’s complementary sermon is called ”We Need Each Other” (find it by going to Sermons and then scroll down and look under the “Unity” category) illustrating that Jewish and Gentile disciples in Messiah need really do need each other.
I chronicled all of this in two blog posts: Twoness and Oneness: From the Sermons of David Rudolph and Oneness, Twoness, and Three Converts. In a sense, this mirrors the larger normative Judaisms of our day in that the mission of religious Judaism is to bring secular Jews back to the Torah and to reach out to the people of the nations of the world, teaching them (us) the lessons of ethical monotheism and our responsibilities to the world as beings created in God’s image.
I’ve been thinking of my own “mission” (so-called) to the Christian Church to share the “good news” of the Messiah, that all of Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26), that the Gentiles who are called by His Name (Amos 9:11-12) will come alongside Israel to raise the fallen tent of David, that the Temple will be called a house of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7), but only if we will take hold of the tzitzit of a Jewish man (Zechariah 8:23) who I believe is a very specific Jewish man, Messiah, Son of David, whom the Church calls Jesus Christ.
It hasn’t gone so well and frankly, I’m concerned that any sort of effectiveness I may have once experienced is rapidly waning. I guess good news for the Jewish people doesn’t sound so good to Christians who are used to sitting in the Catbird seat, so to speak.
I recently read an objection to the Noahide laws that religious Judaism applies to the rest of the world as the minimum standards by which the nations are expected to live. I also recall a story Pastor Randy told me about his time in Israel. He noticed a Jewish man would sit just outside a Christian church or seminary (I can’t remember which one) and after engaging the man in conversation, Pastor realized this man was trying to live out his “mission” to be a light to the nations. I think my friend Gene Shlomovich is trying to do the same thing and for pretty much the same reason. From their point of view, the Noahide laws are incumbent for all of humanity, Jew and Gentile alike. And if we are to take the Aish Rabbi at his word, Torah, in some manner or fashion is also applicable on all of humanity, not just the Jewish people.
But it depends on what you call Torah or instruction, and it depends on how you want to apply the specifics of all those instructions on the Jewish people vs. the rest of the world.
Actually, as far as people go, the Noahide laws aren’t a bad place to start. They are expressed as a list of (mostly) “negative commandments,” that is, a list of “don’t” but could easily be rephrased to be the opposite. Here’s how they’re listed at AskNoah.org:
- Do Not Worship a False Deity
- Do Not Commit Blasphemy
- Do Not Commit Murder or Injury
- Do Not Have Forbidden Sexual Relations
- Do Not Commit Theft
- Do Not Eat Meat Taken from a Live Animal
- Establish Laws and Courts of Justice
That actually doesn’t sound bad at all. Click the link I provided just above this list to read all of the explanatory text accompanying those commandments and you’ll see there’s more to them than meets the eye (the origin of the Noahide laws can be found in Genesis 9).
Here’s the list again, reworked to a list of positive commandments:
- Worship the One, true God and obey Him only.
- Sanctify the Name of God and bless Him.
- Preserve and sanctify human life.
- Cleave to and honor your spouse, forsaking all others.
- Only that which is yours may you use and consume.
- Treat the lesser beasts with compassion, committing no cruelty to them.
- Establish just laws and courts in judging your fellows because your God is lawful and just in judging mankind.
Before complaining that you don’t have enough of God’s laws to obey, check and make sure you’re meeting even the minimum standard I’ve just listed here.
If you’ve been paying attention, you should have noticed that each of these laws is quite Biblical and expresses the desires and will of God. They read like a condensation of the laws of the Torah and each of these laws can be unpackaged to produce a lot of detail.
For instance, it would be difficult for a single individual to establish an entire court system for his or her nation, but we can take that commandment to also mean that we should treat other people in a just manner. In fact, part of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4) includes the phrase “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors,” implying (or outright saying) that God will forgive our transgressions in the same manner as we forgive those who have sinned against us. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).
If this is a large part of the mission of the Jewish people to the rest of the world, it’s not so bad at all. In fact, you can see the Noahide laws as the place where Jesus was starting with the non-Jewish people, principally through Paul but ultimately through all of the apostles, and then trying to elevate us, first with the four Acts 15 particulars, and then ultimately in defining how the Torah of Moses is applied to Gentile believers.
God entrusted Noah with a basic set of laws that were to be applied to all humanity. This was in the days before Abraham, and thus mankind knew or should have known what God expected of them…of us. Then, through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and through Jacob’s children, the twelve tribes, the Israelites, the Jewish people, were entrusted to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6).
See, just as the Lord my God has charged me, I now teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to enter and occupy. You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?
–Deuteronomy 4:7-8 (NRSV)
As you can see, Israel was to be a light to the nations from the very beginning. It is true that Israel has had great difficulty in fulfilling that mission. The Tanakh (Old Testament) is a litany of blessings and curses God has heaped upon Israel for cycle after cycle of obedience and disobedience. And yet as we’ve seen from D. Thomas Lancaster’s New Covenant lecture series, the intent of the New Covenant was not to change the Law and how it was applied, it was and is intended to change people so that we will be able to obey the law God has given us as applied to Jews and to the Gentiles called by His Name.
Jesus was the ultimate example of Israel’s “light to the world”:
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
–John 8:12 (NRSV)
And he transmitted or rather, reaffirmed Israel’s mission to be a light to the world to his Jewish disciples:
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
–Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSV)
And that light was to be shown to everyone by the Jewish disciples:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
–Matthew 28:18-20 (NRSV)
The Master selected Paul as a special emissary to take this “good news” to the Gentiles as well as to Israel:
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel…”
And it was first revealed to Peter that even the Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit and be saved:
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said,“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
–Acts 10:44-48 (NRSV)
Unfortunately, the actual “good news” of the New Covenant blessings to the Gentiles has become rather warped in its meaning and in many cases, that it is good news to the Jew first has become forgotten, even though it is plain in the Biblical text (Romans 1:16 for example).
The Jewish mission is to repair the world (Tikkun Olam) by returning the secular Jew to the Torah and to be a light to the nations, informing us of the good news of God. From a Messianic Jewish perspective (a viewpoint I have adopted), the perfect example of the “world repairer” is Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus). He assigned his disciples to be a light to the Jewish people and to the nations, and particularly Paul was to both return the Jewish people to a more specific observance of Torah (this was illustrated in articles written by Derek Leman and David Matthews at AncientBible.net) and to illuminate the Gentiles in the diaspora with the light of Messiah.
But while the Christian Church has done much good in the world (and sadly in its history, also great evil), it is currently suffering from mission drift and is in desperate need of what you might call a Messianic Reformation. I think that was Boaz Michael’s intent in writing Tent of David and subsequently traveling back and forth across America giving Tent Builders seminars.
And so it is now up to we Messianic Gentiles inhabiting our churches to carry that light back into the Christian community. But history teaches that we won’t always be successful and that some will reject our offer of good news, substituting what they already believe they have for what Jesus intended apostles like Paul to teach. We know from Paul’s own history that he received “mixed reviews” and that while some eagerly accepted the gospel of Messiah, others vehemently rejected it.
And so it is with us. All we can do…all I can do, is to be a voice in the wilderness, a small ship on a vast and turbulent sea, crying out, raising my sails, hoping someone will have ears to hear and eyes to see, and for those who do, it is wonderful. For those who don’t, may God send another emissary who may gain better “traction,” and if He chooses not to (for did he send someone after Paul to all those who rejected Paul?), then may he forgive me for my failure and may he forgive all of us who do not or have not listened, as the Master taught, “forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Not all Christians are going to help raise the tent of David. Sometimes, they’ll let it fall.
Addendum: since writing and publishing this blog post, I revisited something I wrote almost a year ago called Conquering Wrong with Right. It was not so much a record of my own dissonance with normative Christianity but the Church as seen through the eyes of a millennial blogger; a young woman who doesn’t want to give up on the Church but who doesn’t see Christians living up to the ideal of Christ. I thought it was a fit addition to the current message.
23 thoughts on “Mission to the Church”
A very thoughtful piece, James. Some of my favorite posts of yours have been those concerning your personal experiences as the quintessential “black sheep” within the greater Protestant church.
I have been very aware of these struggles within my own life (though to a lesser degree), being the only Messianic believer in my immediate group of friends, family, and loved ones.
Recently however, someone who is very close to me has become more interested in and fond of Messianic persuasion (coming from a conservative Protestant background) and as a result is seeing the change, and sadly, the inevitable distancing that can come along with such a theological shift as concerns friends, family, etc who are on the other side of the proverbial fence, so-to-speak.
Seeing the gradual feelings of disconnectedness and loss of relation sink in for this person is hard to watch, as I have gone through such changes myself and know how isolated, and hopeless they can make you feel. I guess my overall sentiment for writing here is that I feel an overall helplessness towards the cause, that is, the cause of Messianic fellowship with/integration of Protestant/Catholic churches. As the years go on (having been in this spot myself for roughly 3 years), I begin to feel that in my heart of hearts, the differences between normative Protestant Christianity and Messianic Judaism are simply too vast to be truly reconciled.
Things that I thought were once seemingly small differences, are actually, glaringly stout, and the implications for much of those said theological oppositions literally have the ability to change the entire nature and character of God.
In a sense, they truly are two wholly separate systems of belief, or “religions,” and I cant seem to overcome that feeling of loss of hope.
Perhaps I am just worn out, or perhaps it’s just my pessimism at work, but I can’t help to think that, this side of the shofar blast, these two entities will remain distinct.
I pray that understanding may happen before, but I pray with a heavy and beaten down heart.
Yes, we are very similar in our understanding. Keep on keeping on, as they say. As a Gentile that understands these things, I am still confused on how much observance of those things given to Israel I should incorporate. My oldest children have grown and missed what I am trying to pass on to the children still at home.
Salvation/redemption was created before HaShem created the world. It is an eternal plan. However, on this earth,( under the sun, is the way Ecclesiastes puts it) there has to be a ‘working out’ to get His Truth to all of humanity. HaShem will keep His promises.
I struggle with how to express myself. Keep writing. Please.
Ditto the above
It’s interesting that the further I go down this path, the more I realize that most of the “relationship” I need as a believer will come from online connections and just a few face-to-face interactions. If I were to read aloud just one of these blog post to say, my Sunday school class, I’d probably start a riot.
I’ve fantasized about taking one of my blog posts and making it a foundation for a sermon to be delivered to the church one Sunday. Of course, that would never be permitted, but if people could contain their immediate emotional response for a bit, the information might (hopefully) make them consider what the Bible is actually saying and think about the Word of God in a different way.
I just got done listening to disc four in Lancaster’s “What’s New About the New Covenant” lecture series “Better Promises” (my review of lecture three will be published next Sunday) and when I write that review, traditional Christians reading it will become incensed. Ironically, it won’t be my opinion, though I happen to agree with Lancaster, but Lancaster’s interpretation of part of Jeremiah’s prophesy and warning to those who say that God has rejected the clan of David and the clan of Aaron and sent away the House of Judah and the House of Israel forever.
I wrote this piece today in part to state again how the “Tent of David” mission chronicled in Boaz Michael’s book won’t always be successful. And yet, Lancaster’s lecture makes it imperative that the Church does listen lest they reject the people of Israel, the people God loves and the only link we have to salvation and the Messianic Age:
Being on the wrong side of Israel, the Jewish people, and Judaism is a place I don’t want to be.
@Steve: Thanks to you, too.
@Cynthia: Most of the things we think of as “Jewish practice” aren’t currently applied to the non-Jewish disciples of Messiah. Chances are, if you’re living a good Christian life, giving to charity, visiting the sick, showing respect for the elderly, comforting the grieving, and so on, you’re doing the will of God. Everything I just listed are all commandments in the Torah, so I suppose you could say they are “those things given to Israel”.
We aren’t necessarily called to keep kosher or observe a shabbat in the current age, for example, but there’s nothing stopping us from incorporating those practices either. You already know what sin is and what obeying God is in the matters associated with salvation. I consider loving Israel as a requirement, for God said to Abraham that I will bless those who bless you and those who curse you I will curse.
“It’s interesting that the further I go down this path, the more I realize that most of the “relationship” I need as a believer will come from online connections and just a few face-to-face interactions. If I were to read aloud just one of these blog post to say, my Sunday school class, I’d probably start a riot.”
A very astute observation, and one that I too, agree with.
The one of whom I was speaking about above, going through the initial stages of the “Messianic realization” (for lack of a better term), is encountering resistance while attempting to fellowship with Protestants as concerns many of the nuanced theological differences. This is occurring withing circles of friends, as well as family (which is always the hardest to witness).
The greatest take away that has been observed, one which I have observed in my own life, is the realization that you simply cannot “connect” anymore. The same names are used, the same terms, the same words, but they have completely different meanings to one as they do to the other.
As with anything, if two people disagree on foundational principles, the conversation will inevitably dissolve, even if there happen to be some superficial similarities.
I think it’s that lack of connection that, after a while, simply cannot be avoided and it truly begins to take root; as you have perhaps been experiencing in your own walk, once all has been said, there’s not much more to talk about. Agreeing to disagree in a sense.
One of the more interesting observations I have been realizing myself is just how poignant the words of our Rabbi really are, those that speak of division. The irony being that this isn’t isolated alone to the differences between a disciple and a non disciple; that even amongst believers, who proclaim Jesus, he divides and leads each one on a different path.
As alone and as misunderstood as I feel sometimes due to all of this said division, I do take a certain peace in knowing that the Father knows our hearts and would never discount a man or woman who is honestly seeking Him and His ways.
The church may, or may not, listen, as you say, even if they should, be it even a command from the Lord.
Though, when all is said and done, I would still rather be where I am now, then where I once was. I may not have many folks to fellowship with, but I have never felt closer to God than I do today.
I know what you mean. I’m often tempted to just give up this whole “religion” thing (but not my faith) because socially it’s just too much trouble, but I can’t let it go. The more I learn, the more compelling the lessons become. It’s like waking up and seeing God in a whole new way and in a way that (finally) makes perfect sense.
Many years ago, when I came to the understanding that Hanukkah coincides with Yeshua HaMashiach’s conception and the Feasts of Booths His birth, I incorporated lighting candles with our gift giving at Christmas. That was before we had the internet. Since the internet, I have devoured many websites, blogs, to grow in my understanding. Yes, I feel very ‘cut-off’ from my friends and family. Last year, my girls invited friends over to ‘stay up all night’. We watched, “The Ten Commandments”, “The Robe,” and “Ben Hur.” This year, if we do it again, it will be “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Now you can understand about what I mean when I say I am not sure how to incorporate what I am learning with my family. I am floundering.
I will concede this much; God has used my experience as a black sheep to teach me many a valuable lesson in the school of humility and self reflection.
Wouldn’t trade that for the world.
James said “Everything I just listed are all commandments in the Torah, so I suppose you could say they are “those things given to Israel”.
Those things given to Israel also apply to the nations, which is Torah, the Passaover as an example to the Corinthians. There was a great commission to teach the nations the Torah. Most Christians keep Torah(the weightier matters) but either don’t realize it or believe they are keeping the laws of the New Testament. It seems like earlier Christianity upholded the Torah such as the Westminster Confession. And there are sects of Christianity that keep the Sabbath such as 7th day Baptists as an example.
I know I’ve said this before but I’m convinced that the the ekklesia which isn’t the church or the synagogue(per se) is called to live ‘as if the Kingdom has arrived’ meaning that since non Jews will be keeping Shabbat then it applies to this world.
The problem is what all this stuff is based on is today. I am convinced we need to look at the scriptures and also non canonical texts to see how the ekklesia(the messianic community) lived. And I’m convinced it isn’t what certain Messianic Jewish circles are teaching today. I believe those that adhere to bilateral ekklesia are falling into a trap that isn’t based on the true ekklesia of the scriptures apostalicly speaking.
I’m convinced modern Messianic Judaism is the Messianic Judaism of the ekklesia.
‘But Macher that was then, this is now’ that’s an excuse in my opinion.
We’ve had this conversation before Macher and I don’t want to warm up cold leftovers, so to speak. I’m not saying Gentile believers can’t or shouldn’t apprehend more of the Torah mitzvot than is typical in the Church. I understand that those non-Jews who do observe some sort of Shabbat or who adjust their eating habits to adopt a form of kashrut are summoning the Messianic Era. I’m just saying that some Gentiles go too far and end up engaging in what one commentator called “Evangelical Jewish Cosplay”.
Also, not all Messianic Jewish synagogues are going to be “bilateral” with a majority of Jewish members and few or not Gentile members. I’m just saying (as I’ve said before) that some Jewish people really need to be in a Jewish space. In some sense, it’s no difference than having churches that have a majority of Koreans, such as the church just down the street from the local library where I live.
I found the following quote by coincidence but it fits perfectly here:
Like Ms. Portman, some Messianic Jews do feel different worshiping in a Jewish vs a non-Jewish place.
James said “I understand that those non-Jews who do observe some sort of Shabbat or who adjust their eating habits to adopt a form of kashrut are summoning the Messianic Era.”
Ok that’s as far as it should go then. Why still promote a bilateral ekklesia and/or segregation? This is what the Apostle’s taught when in Acts 15 James said ‘Moses is read each Shabbat…’
James said ” I’m just saying that some Gentiles go too far and end up engaging in what one commentator called “Evangelical Jewish Cosplay”
Is this the result of bilateral ekklesia because Gentiles go too far and end up in engaging….? Shouldn’t it be the congregation that sets things straight?
James quoted ““The older I get, the more I realize how different it is to be a Jew in a Jewish place as opposed to a Jew in a non-Jewish place. It’s definitely a different feeling in terms of how freely you can be yourself and celebrate your culture and religion.””
I’m sure the quote is referring to a non Jewish place and I agree 100% and I’m not promoting a non Jewish place but a Messianic Jewish place. If the Messianic Jewish place is Jewish then there is no way that Jewish identity and the like can be abolished like some fear.
I have said before that one of the main contentions between Messianic Judaism is the integration of Gentiles into the community which is 110% biblical and what sacrifice will Messianic Judaism implement to deal with the so called Gentile problem? Currently it’s promotion of bilateral ekklesia. It would be biblical to deal with the issues within Messianic Judaism.
The early Messianic Jewish movement in the 1st century was apostalic in regards to the Messianic Era and the Messianic community(those who exalted Yeshua) relation to the Messianic Era.
What I hear from the circles that promote bilateral ekklesia it’s more about identity versus Yeshua. By this I DON’T mean that identity isn’t important but Yeshua is more important and Yeshua’s exalted status needs to never be compromised in light of…. Mature non Jews who are members of Messianic Jewish congregations know without a doubt that they shouldn’t go too far and shouldn’t end up engaging in what one commentator called “Evangelical Jewish Cosplay”.
James said “Like Ms. Portman, some Messianic Jews do feel different worshiping in a Jewish vs a non-Jewish place.”
Right and I feel different and have felt different myself. But this in regards to a non Jewish place. A Messianic Jewish place can still be Jewish even though the majority is non Jewish. I suspect Beth Immanuel is majority non Jewish and I also suspect as a Jew I wouldn’t feel it’s a non Jewish place.
I don’t see where identity and the vital focus on Yeshua should be mutually exclusive. I don’t see why Jewish believers have to reduce their identity in any sense in order to be devoted Jewish disciples. That’s what Christianity has demanded of them for centuries and that’s why, for some Jewish disciples, a Jewish community space is important for them.
Beth Immanuel has organized itself around a majority Gentile congregation with its primary teacher (Lancaster) being a Gentile. While this still looks and feels like a primarily Jewish space, it wouldn’t work for all Jewish people.
James said “That’s what Christianity has demanded of them for centuries and that’s why, for some Jewish disciples, a Jewish community space is important for them.”
Right a Jewish community space is important I never said otherwise. Messianic Jewish congregations are a Jewish space in spite of some or most being majority non Jewish where Jewish identity still prevails etc.
@Macher — Regrettably, you still don’t seem to understand what constitutes Jewish space. It cannot exist where the majority consists of non-Jews, however well-intended. It may be ostensibly Jewishly-friendly space, but it is obviously not Jewishly-owned space (no matter from whom the building may be rented [:)]).
PL said “@Macher — Regrettably, you still don’t seem to understand what constitutes Jewish space. It cannot exist where the majority consists of non-Jews, however well-intended. It may be ostensibly Jewishly-friendly space, but it is obviously not Jewishly-owned space (no matter from whom the building may be rented [:)]).”
PL regrettably you don’t understand Messianic Judaism isn’t ‘traditional’ Judaism per se. Messianic Judaism includes Jews and Gentiles in a Jewish space, biblically speaking. I submit modern Messianic Judaism isn’t the likes of the ekklesia of 1st century.
So, Macher, you would join the ranks of those who wish to hijack and redefine Messianic Judaism as something other than a Judaism? You wish for something new and different from both its origins in the first century and its re-emergence in individual instances in the 19th century and an entire social movement in the 20th? I’ll remind you that I was present in the early years of its re-emergence and can testify to its desire to return and restore the true Jewishness that characterized the original first-century movement. I can testify also to its need at that time to re-learn what constitutes Judaism and its openness to do so. While it was never exclusionary with regard to gentile participation, neither did it define itself as deliberately seeking to incorporate gentiles into a community of ethnic fusion. Even the MJAA maintained a membership system that distinguished Jewish members from non-Jewish “associate” members. As the past four decades have demonstrated, the original goals of Jewish development have been inhibited by an inability to concentrate on those original goals. And some of us have learned much about what the first century situation was actually like, as well as having explored a more mature perception of Judaism as it has continued to develop since then, both of which now inform our messianism. I’m rather at a loss to understand what it is that you wish to defend, or against what you wish to defend it, that you should be so resistant to the observation so eloquently expressed by Ms. Natalie Portman. Does your experience not include the distinctions between clearly non-Jewish space, mixed space wherein non-Jews participate in nominally Jewish activities with Jews, and purely Jewish space?
PL said “So, Macher, you would join the ranks of those who wish to hijack and redefine Messianic Judaism as something other than a Judaism? ”
Who would be redefining Messianic Judaism as something other than a Judaism? I would say fringe groups like Hebrew Roots or two house are those that redefine which I wouldn’t join those ranks.
PL said “You wish for something new and different from both its origins in the first century”
Nope the origins of ekklesia of the redeemed is the issue.
PL said ” Even the MJAA maintained a membership system that distinguished Jewish members from non-Jewish “associate” members. ”
Yes as a member of MJAA I agree with that but that doesn’t negate Jews and Gentiles being part of the same congregation.
PL said “Does your experience not include the distinctions between clearly non-Jewish space, mixed space wherein non-Jews participate in nominally Jewish activities with Jews, and purely Jewish space?”
My experience is in a Jewish messianic synagogue which includes non Jews, which is a Jewish space, in which Jews are Jews and non Jews are non Jews, we are ONE in Messiah. This doesn’t mean that non Jews become Jews and/or circumcise their males on the 8th day, wear a kippah etc etc etc… You get the picture. Non Jews aren’t wannabe Jews. I have posted about my friend Anthony in our congregation who is non Jewish, knows he isn’t Jewish but chooses to have community and be a member of our Messianic community because he was convicted that Messianic Judaism is closest to the truth.
@Macher — I’ll interpret your answer as saying that your experience does not include purely Jewish space, hence it would seem that you have no background from which to appreciate Ms. Portman’s observation. Perhaps the only negative consequence of your stated preference for mixed space is that of “shatnez”, which places an undue burden on both segments of the ecclesia, limiting the one and burdening the other — even though that burden is accepted voluntarily, even cheerfully. Very well, let no one gainsay that choice — but at the same time let no one try to apply it as a model for MJ in general, because such a model inhibits MJ development by its very nature, and has done so over the course of decades. MJ needs to express a greater dedication to its primary original goals of Jewish return and restoration, which appears that it will require alternative congregational choices to enable development of uninhibited, unmitigated, unburdened and non-burdening dedicatedly Jewish space free of the shatnez influence. MJs really ought to be able to appreciate and identify with views and observations such as Ms. Portman’s. To do so, their experience must include the diversity that informs her view. The unified oneness of the overall ecclesia is not a denial of the distinctiveness or diversity of its two segments; and it behooves us always to ask how we may best preserve and promote both its unity and its diversity.
PL said “I’ll interpret your answer as saying that your experience does not include purely Jewish space, hence it would seem that you have no background from which to appreciate Ms. Portman’s observation.”
You’re interpretation is incorrect.
PL said “MJ needs to express a greater dedication to its primary original goals of Jewish return ”
Historically the first believers who were Jews, Jewish return wasn’t the goal, Messiah was the goal. But you don’t want to consider that.
The promises original goals for modern Messianic Judaism was for Jewish space compared to being in the Church as a Jew with Messiah still as the focus/ goal.
Which is more important? The Logos or the ethnos. If the Logos is more important and/or the focus that doesn’t mean ethnos isn’t important.
I certainly am experiencing Jews and Gentiles in the same Jewish space without Gentiles thinking they are compelled to the mitzvah in the same manner as Jews. An the mitzvah although is important isn’t the focus just like the early Jewish believers.
@Macher — From what you’ve described, you have experienced mixed space rather than dedicated Jewish space. You also present a false dichotomy between ethnos and Logos. If we compare your question to the ancient one Rav Yeshua posed to one group of Pharisees about the comparative importance of the altar or the gold of an offering placed upon it, we can see that neither the gold nor the altar that sanctifies it is more important, but rather that both must be considered and neither may be discounted. Similarly, the Logos is meaningless without the ethnos to whom it was directed, and the ethnos without the Logos is unable to fulfill its ethnic purposes. In the first century, the goal of the message was repentance, which is a return to the Father HaShem. in order for the people to whom it was promised to experience the goodness of the heavenly kingdom. Hence Jewish return was most certainly the goal at that time.
The Messiah was the servant who brought this message and enabled its fulfillment, but the Messiah himself was neither the message nor its focus. In a McLuhanesque analysis, where the medium is the message, it may be said that the Messiah who carried and enacted and embodied this message or Logos is himself in some way identified with or by the message he brought. Hence he may be called the Logos; but we must be careful, nonetheless, not to confuse the Messiah and the Logos as if they were entirely identical, just as we must not stretch McLuhan’s concept too far to obscure the very real differences between the content of a message and the medium by which it is delivered.
Now, in the twentieth century the goal is the same as it was in the first century, but recovering the historically-obscured message that the Messiah once brought was more difficult after so many centuries, and this situation has continued into the twenty-first century. While non-Jewish repentance and redemption is a bonus and a fulfillment of one of HaShem’s promises to Avraham, the primary goal then and now is for Jews to turn in repentance and to be restored. However, the specifications of what must be restored are different between then and now, because of how much more destruction and deterioration has occurred since then, and because Jewish culture has continued to develop in spite of it. Hence the modern process of restoration differs somewhat from the original application of the messianic message.