The Rav (Abraham Kook), zt”l, spoke about Knesset Yisrael as being endowed with two covenants, the covenant of Avot, which relates to the land of Israel, and the covenant of Sinai, which relates to the people of Israel.
-Rabbi Simcha Krauss
National President, Religious Zionists of America
from the Introductory Greetings (p.ix) to
Rabbi Moshe Avigdor Amiel’s English translation of
Jews, Judaism & Genesis: Living in His Image According to the Torah
So far I’m having a blast reading Rav Amiel’s book on Genesis, but that’s not why I’m writing this missive.
I came across something on Facebook written by Rabbi Stuart Dauermann that strongly echoes (though perhaps I am actually the “echo” to Rabbi Dauermann’s “voice” in this case) a topic I’ve written on many times before: the unique role of the Jewish person in Judaism and particularly in Messianic Judaism, a role that cannot be assumed by someone who is not Jewish.
I am going to copy and paste the entire body of text authored by R. Dauermann here, since as far as I know, the only place is exists online is on Facebook and depending on the privacy settings involved, it’s possible not everyone would be able to follow a link to its source. My commentary will follow:
We pause for a rant about what I term “Messianic Jewishism.”
If we ignore Paul’s teaching in Galatians and elsewhere we can get the Bible to say what we want. But no one seems to give a damn about how the privileges God gave to Israel are just being grabbed by others on their own terms, without so much as an “Excuse me.” Paul says this for example, “They are Israelites, and to them **belong** the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them **belong** the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:3-5 ESV)
The religion we see developing in some corners of the MJ movement is NOT Messianic judaism because there is NO respect for the priority of the Jewish people in His covenantal purposes for Israel. What we have is a new religion which I call Messianic Jewishism. These are congregations that practice a kind of Judaism-lite, but by design, not really a Judaism, but a community with enough Jewish religious cultural flavoring for everyone in the fellowship to embrace it, enjoy it, practice it. It’s really Protestant Christianity with a tallis, and it is not Messianic JUDAISM but rather Messianic Jewishism. Messianic Judaism requires a deeper adherence to the communal boundaries and covenantal markers *given to* and *reserved for* the Jewish people. As I said, SOME people are grabbing whatever they can on their own terms using these things as they see fit, feeling absolutely entitled on the basis of their questionable interpretations of certain Bible verses, but with NO respect for the Jewish people who have given their blood for thousands of years to protect this patrimony given them by God.
If people wanted to convert, that would be something else. There is a responsible process whereby people can take on the covenantal calling of the Jewish people irrevocably and hook line and sinker. But this does NOT involve the kind of pirating of Jewish treasures which we see all around us, and the strange distortions of Jewish life, all done with a sense of entitlement because the people in question have a BIble verse that “entitles” them. And if you say “What do you think you are doing?” you will be accused of being a bigot and anti-gentile, neither of which is true. One can be pro-Jewish without being anti-gentile.
NO ONE IS SAYING that gentiles can’t touch, handle, taste Jewish things, But there is a conspicous failure to pay due respect to the fact that such are asking to handle Jewish treasures given to the JEWS by God.
I am NOT anti-gentile, but does ANYONE understand what I am saying?
There were a large number of responses by the time I came across these words and I didn’t have the time to read through more than a smattering, but it seemed that the people commenting generally agreed with and were supportive of R. Dauermann’s statement.
I know that a number of my regular readers (and likely some of those who happen to “surf in”) will object to what Dauermann wrote and will object to my supporting what he wrote. Doubtless, many “proof texts” could be produced in an attempt to refute the idea that Gentiles attempting to observe the entire body of Torah mitzvot in the manner of the Jews are merely engaging in what has been called Evangelical Jewish Cosplay.
I know a number of you reading this are very sincere, devoted, and dedicated disciples of the Messiah and truly, honestly believe that how you observe your faith is exactly what God not only desires, but demands of you (and by inference, all believing Jews and Gentiles everywhere). I’m sorry, because I know what R. Dauermann wrote and what I’ve written here will doubtless cause you pain as well as result in you feeling insulted and even angry. Certainly you will attempt to defend your beliefs and practices, which I completely understand.
But what if you’re wrong?
A few months back, I wrote a two-part review (which you can read in Part 1 and Part 2 of my article “Acting Jewishly But Not Jewish”) of Mark Nanos’ forthcoming paper, ‘Paul’s Non-Jews Do Not Become “Jews,” But Do They Become “Jewish”?: Reading Romans 2:25-29 Within Judaism, Alongside Josephus.’ The paper suggests that although the First Century CE Gentiles entering the Jewish religious community of “the Way,” while not actually “converting” to Judaism, nevertheless “converted” to a way of life that resulted in them acting “Jewishly”.
I received a certain amount of pushback from some Messianic Jewish people who, like R. Dauermann, sought to shield and protect the unique role and identity of Jews in Messiah. This is obviously a tender subject for many in our little corner of the religious world.
It’s apparent to me by the way Dauermann’s words are crafted (and he even said so himself) that he was “ranting,” so to speak. That is, he was speaking from the heart and quite passionately. I can almost hear a raised voice in the words, “I am NOT anti-gentile, but does ANYONE understand what I am saying?” I think he’s frustrated. I don’t blame him.
But by the same token, what am I to say for those certain numbers of Gentiles out there who choose to believe that God commanded them (you) to don a tallit, lay tefillin, and daven in Hebrew from a siddur? What am I to write about those Gentiles who say they are obligated to observe the 613 commandments of the Torah of Moses, apart from the Rabbinic interpretations and totally committed Jewish lifestyle associated with said-commandments?
The question is, if you choose just how you are supposed to observe these mitzvot, diminishing or disregarding the Jewish praxis involved as interpreted by the Rabbinic Sages over the last two-thousand years or so, is what you’re doing really a “Judaism?”
Probably not, although I suppose that conclusion rests on how you define Judaism.
Even for those non-Jews who identify as Messianic Gentiles, who agree with the differentiation of roles between Jews and non-Jews in Messiah and who study and behave accordingly, it is arguable as to whether or not we are actually practicing a “Judaism,” even if we worship and fellowship alongside Messianic Jews in a Messianic Jewish synagogue (such as at Rabbi David Rudolph’s shul Tikvat Israel).
In beginning to read Rabbi Moshe Avigdor Amiel’s book, from which I quoted above, I truly realize that he conceptualizes the Torah in general and Genesis (Beresheet) in particular, in a fundamentally different way than I do. Of course, he had the benefit of being born a Jew, being raised in a Jewish community, worshiping the God of his fathers as a Jew, being educated as a Jew, and speaking and writing fluent Hebrew (the book is actually two different versions between the covers, one in English and one in Hebrew) as a Jew.
This, and my many other explorations into various Jewish texts, show me that even though I can read them in English, they were written (at least the more scholarly ones) for Jewish people who conceptualize the Bible and associated interpretations in a very different manner than I do, and there are directions in which these texts travel that my thoughts are incapable of following. As I practice my faith, even though I study from a Messianic perspective, that hardly means I’m practicing any type of Judaism as such.
It stands to reason that I don’t consider myself Jewish or even practicing “Jewishly”.
There is, however, a necessity for me to “touch, handle, [and] taste Jewish things,” as R. Dauermann states, because of the intersection between my Messianic faith and Messianic Judaism as it exists within the overarching ekklesia of Messiah, but as I’ve said many, many times before, unity does not require uniformity. It doesn’t even always require being “separate but equal,” although I have also argued for the necessity of exclusive Messianic Jewish communities, at least for some MJ synagogues.
As Gentiles in Messiah who choose the path of studying the Bible and understanding the covenants from a Messianic point of view (and keeping in mind there probably isn’t any one single “Messianic point of view”), in my way of thinking, recognizing the covenant priority of the Jewish people in God’s redemptive plan for Israel is critical to how we not only see Jewish Messianics, but how we are to understand Gentile Messianics as well.
From a rant of my own written last February, I came down to saying don’t argue, though I realize that will always be taken as “let’s argue” by most humans, since we tend to be contrary by nature. But consider that in the long history of the Christian Church, any Jew who has come to faith in Jesus (Yeshua) as the long-awaited Messiah, has been without fail required to opt out of Yiddishkeit and effectively become a Gentile. Isn’t it understandable that Jews who enter the Messianic ekklesia would desire to rectify the insults and injuries of the past by preserving who they are as Jews?
I must admit that my own journey out of “One Law” was largely (but not exclusively) motivated by watching my Jewish wife’s involvement in Jewish community and my desire to cherish her Yiddisher Neshamah. Nothing quite teaches a Gentile about a Jew’s absolute need to be Jewish, to live Jewish, to be among Jewish community like being married to a Jewish spouse. Being married to the girl with the Jewish Soul has certain advantages that many others involved in “worshiping Jewishly” may lack in abundance.
Yesterday, I published a blog post that was highly critical of Christianity, accusing the early Church of virtually “kidnapping” the Jewish scriptures, particularly the Jewish Apostolic Scriptures, and I am sure I insulted many good Christian men and women in the process. I regret any pain I may have caused, but unfortunately, there was no other way to get my point across in the required manner.
But like it or not, the Church has committed many crimes against the Jewish people and their writings and we do so again by failing to acknowledge Jewish uniqueness in covenant connection with God, whether we call ourselves “Christian,” “Messianic,” or anything else.
I know I can’t cause even one single Gentile person to reconsider their commitment to the Torah as they see it, even as I at one time reconsidered my commitment and subsequently changed my direction. It’s possible that I’m totally unique in that regard, though the Gentiles involved in the educational ministry First Fruits of Zion must have faced a similar circumstance a number of years ago when they shifted their official position from One Law to a Differentiated model. And yet, I know it’s possible because I did it.
I inaugurated and celebrated that change almost three-and-a-half years ago when I wrote the first post for this blog called Abundant is Your Faithfulness.
Since that time, I’ve had many adventures, went back to church, left church…I’ve thought about giving up blogging and even “religion” a number of times, usually after encountering my own severe limitations as a human being or encountering the darker side of religious people.
We have just passed through the Days of Awe, exited Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and entered a new year. Erev Sukkot begins day after tomorrow at sundown and the year stretches out before us like a road paved in gemstones. Whatever our differences, we share one Messiah and one God. Would it really hurt we Gentiles to extend courtesy and honor to the Jewish people by recognizing that they are indeed unique and set apart by Hashem, their God and ours, as a people and a nation?
Oh, by the way, you won’t be able to engage Rabbi Dauermann by commenting on my blog since it’s quite likely he may not even read my “meditations” and certainly, he has never commented here. You can only “talk” to me.
One last thing. Although I don’t agree with everything Scot McKnight wrote in his article Does Personal Bible Reading Destroy the Church?, he does make a good point about everyone interpreting the Bible willy-nilly to come up with their own conclusions. We can’t all be right.
Addendum: Please keep in mind that there will always be rather negative influences who will read a blog post like this, draw the worst possible conclusions, and then post their opinions somewhere on the web, whether it be in my own comments section (no, not Cindy or Marleen) or on their own blog or website. I regret that I gave them more fuel to add to their “fire” but the only way I could possibly quench such “flaming” sentiments would be for me to cease to exist. Nevertheless, I apologize if my comments here have resulted in provoking anyone to slander (actually in writing, it’s libel) or otherwise making statements unbefitting a disciple of the Master and a child of God.