Talmud study

Much Ado About the Oral Law

I adored my younger sister and felt very connected to her, but I wasn’t there for her physically or emotionally during her turbulent teens. I was far away in university or traveling, and then in Israel, where I learned in a seminary, married and became in her eyes, a foreign entity: a religiously observant Jew.

Despite the distance, I didn’t see an unbridgeable gap. I could relate to my sister because I saw and felt all our common ground. I was once a teenager, part of the artistic sub-culture of Greenwich Village. I understood what her life was like, even if there weren’t skinheads in my day. I had once been like her, but she definitely didn’t feel like she was anything like me – an “ultra-Orthodox fanatic” against intermarriage, abortion, nudity, atheism, hanging out with guys. I never had a chance to say how I felt about any of these topics; she just assumed everything about my beliefs without any discussion. She could not relate. Or more accurately, she did not want to relate.

-Naomi Freeman
“Repairing the Gap”
Aish.com

For a lot of Christians, the sort of “gap” between Jewish people doesn’t seem to exist. After all, in Church, we generally are taught to view Jews and particularly religious Judaism as a single, unified entity. It’s difficult for many believers (or non-Jews in general) to picture multiple viewpoints among Jewish people (even though it is said “two Jews, three opinions”). And yet, there can be different groups, even within religious Judaism, that are highly polarized.

Consider this recent video that has been circling the various social media venues. Here we have Jewish people saying some rather unkind and perhaps inaccurate things about the “Oral Law” and Rabbinic Judaism.

This is the sort of thing Christians eat up with a spoon.

And they have, or at least one Christian group has within the Hebrew Roots movement as represented by TorahResource.com (For reference, I’ve included a screenshot below taken from Facebook of a discussion on this video by Hebrew Roots proponents).

Oral Law opinionI don’t feel particularly comfortable “calling out” people or groups, but in this case, I think it’s important to illustrate that there are different points of view involved. What your Pastor preaches from the pulpit about Jews and Judaism may not be the only way we disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) are “allowed” to think. I say this coming off of two years attending a local Baptist church where its members do authentically love the Jewish people and the nation of Israel but who are also at least “uncomfortable” if not downright opposed to the practice of religious Judaism. They would, with all good intent, love to see all Jewish people convert to Christianity and leave all but the most superficial practices of the mitzvot behind.

More’s the pity.

Earlier today, Rabbi Stuart Dauermann wrote a blog post called On Not Bashing the Oral Law and the Rabbis of Israel. Here’s part of what he had to say and how he ended his missive:

I don’t think the rabbis are always right. Nor are they always wrong. But I do think it is wrong to attack the rabbis as a class. After all, it wasn’t the ministers and Christian Bible students that kept the Jews and their Judaism alive in the blood- and tear-soaked exilic wanderings of the seed of Jacob. What kept the Jews alive and in faith was the work of the rabbis and the religion they presented and subscribed to.

We owe something to the rabbis of Israel. But is not contempt and mistrust. It is gratitude and admiration, even where and when they disagree with us.

And to the extent that we have entertained the kinds of spurious and nasty arguments I outlined here, we owe them one thing more.

An apology.

You can click on the link I provided to read his entire message and I encourage you to do so.

I’ve already rendered my opinion on interpretation as tradition so I won’t repeat that message except to say that, like R. Dauermann, I don’t believe that the Rabbis are always right in their rulings or opinions. Nevertheless, the Oral Law in post-Biblical times, was (and is) highly instrumental in sustaining the Jewish people and without what we call “Rabbinic Judaism,” it’s quite possible the Jewish people would have faded from the pages of history long before now.

Of course the Jews have always been protected and nurtured by God but who is to say that the existence and process of the Rabbis was not His method of preserving Jewish people and Jewish practice of the mitzvot. After all, the Sinai Covenant (all of the covenants, actually) didn’t vanish (and it certainly wasn’t replaced) simply because of the Temple’s destruction and the dispersion of the Jewish people among the nations. In fact, about a week ago I mentioned the opinion that one of the functions of the Jewish people being in exile was to be a light to the rest of us. This “being a light to the nations” wouldn’t have been possible without the Mishnah and Rabbinic Judaism.

Why am I saying all this? Just to throw my hat into the ring on this topic?

Not exactly, although that’s part of it.

While we can somewhat separate an opposition to Rabbinic Judaism from how we feel about Jewish people, at least in theory, it’s important to remember that there are those who have no love at all for Jewish people, Judaism, and national Israel, and reports of one of their more heinous acts has been all over the news lately.

Talmud StudyAs was said on a Hebrew Roots blog recently, we aren’t going to agree on a great many things in the realm of religion, and that’s not really the problem. As I’ve already mentioned, there is a significant amount of debate and disagreement within the various streams of Judaism including Messianic Judaism, let alone all of the expressions of the Christian faith including what I think of as “Christian Hebrew Roots.”

I know I’m probably going to get some pushback for that last comment, but I think of Hebrew Roots as Gentile Christians expressing their devotion to Messiah using Hebraic practices within primarily non-Jewish community, and Messianic Judaism as Jews and associated non-Jews, expressing their devotion to Messiah within a wholly Jewish religious, cultural, and community context.

Given those definitions, it stands to reason that Hebrew Roots will take a traditionally Christian stand, that is a “low view” on many aspects of Judaism including the authority of the Rabbis and Oral Law, while Messianic Judaism, as a Judaism, will take a “high view” of those same elements.

However, depending on which perspective we employ, our attitudes about Judaism and thus Jewish people will be affected. This doesn’t mean that holding a low view of Oral Torah necessarily equals taking a low view of Jewish people or even the Jewish practices in general, but it does require making an effort not to let what one believes about the Rabbis spill over into other Jewish realms, particularly if you are supposed to believe that “One Law” fits all (though I obviously don’t subscribe to the One Law perspective).

If you have a low view on Oral Torah and the Rabbinic Sages, you are certainly within your rights to hold such an opinion, but it doesn’t mean that those who have a high view of Rabbinic Judaism are bad or even particularly wrong. It does mean they’ve made a decision about how to express their faith on the level of lifestyle as well as belief. If that is not your decision also, that ‘s fine and dandy, but please don’t denigrate someone who has taken a different path from your own. For them, that path is right and correct, particularly if they are Jewish and you’re not.

For more on this topic, read Rabbi Stuart Dauermann’s article Who Needs Oral Torah? On Living a Jewish Life.

Also, you can read what Rabbi Mark Kinzer has to say about Messianic Judaism and the Oral Torah in a paper (PDF) located at Ourrabbis.org (which can also be found in the body of Rabbi Dauermann’s blog post and over at the Rosh Pina Project).

Addendum: I’ve written something of a sequel on this topic called Jews Defining Their Own Relationship With God And The Torah. I invite you to have a read and let me know what you think.

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103 thoughts on “Much Ado About the Oral Law”

  1. Good post James. I like your calling the Hebrew Roots people as Christian Hebrew Roots being that they espouse much of the same anti-Judaism of the Church but they wear kipas while saying it. I forget where Moses said wear a kipa in the Written Torah? I put forward in a discussion with Rabbi Dauerman that my definition of “Hebraic” is “doing Jewish things without Jewish People”.

    Though it is true the Rabbis are not 100% right but it is also true that they are not 100% wrong. The Oral Torah answers the question, “How do I live a Godly life by following the mitzvoth of the Written Torah?”, not “How do I live a life of legalistic observance to earn my salvation?”.

  2. The following link may also appear below the main text of this blog post along with a preview image (auto-generated by WordPress) but in case it doesn’t, I’ll leave it here. It’s a previous “meditation” on the Oral Torah and Christianity, including the interesting suggestion that the Christian Church has maintained its own “oral law” over the long centuries…but never talks about it.

  3. Rabbi David Forhman has an interesting video where he compares p’shat and midrash to melody and harmony. The harmony cannnot exist alone, as it wouldn’t make sense and sound like noise. But a melody alone lacks depth, substance and meaning. The harmony brings out the melody and enhances its beauty.

    I believe the (imperfect) rabbis were used to keep the Jewish people together, to encourage and strengthen through times of exile and persecution.

    In last week’s parsha, Ya’acov was promised, “I will be with you.” The with-ness continues, even when it is hidden. Tie that to Zech. 8:23, which many seem to want to rip out of their bibles. We will go (walk) with you because we know GOD IS WITH YOU.

  4. James said: Messianic Judaism as Jews and associated non-Jews, expressing their devotion to Messiah within a wholly Jewish religious, cultural, and community context.

    Isn’t that an oxymoron? Considering that the whole of Jewish religiosity, and community does not accept Messianic to be any form of Jewish context. It just always takes me back how the Orthodox Messianic Jews strive and claim to be one with the existing Jewish religion, who in turn deny any valid connection with them. And then turn around and treat the gentiles within our movement like the rabbinate treats Messianic Jews. The hypocricy screams out at me, sorry.

  5. The example you gave (and linked to — “has been all over the news” — a story) supposedly about people who hate “Jewish people, Judaism, and national Israel” are people who hate pretty much anyone and killed Muslims in the process [and hate France, don’t forget]. The magazine makes “fun” of pretty much everybody too, including Jews. I find it to be an odd thing to include, although I do think it’s important to be aware there are people who don’t have much respect for Jews and Judaism, etc. (and to be careful about criticism).

    http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/duke-threatens-to-expose-connections-to-house-380408387868

    I don’t want to put a direct link to DD’s site, but if you go to this link, you can find from the list — just under the video pictures — him calling Rachel a Zionist. http://www.bing.com/search?pc=AMAZ&form=AMAZWB&setmkt=en-US&q=rachel+maddow%2C+david+duke
    “product/david-duke-videos-4-zionist-rachel-maddow-and-rand-paul”

    The reason this matters is that there’s a leader who has not been asked to step down from the leadership position who replaced the only Jewish member of the House and raises concerns.

  6. Mr.Pyles I respectfully ask the same questions and will post my analysis on this blog as well regarding the topic you’ve “pingback” from rosh pina project (with your permission of course) in hoping to hear a different perspective in feedback from the readership……….

    After examining Mr.Kinzers treatise on the topic one can conclude that:

    1.) When jumping to the NT he relies heavy on Matthews synoptics due to them being the most anti-pharisaic of all the apostolic writings, but in addition to it being as described, it is also the most pharisaic of them all too. quoting Mr.Kinzer;

    “Matthew is the most polemically anti-Pharisaic book in the Apostolic Writings because it is also the most substantively Pharisaic book in the Apostolic Writings. The polemic intensity derives not from distance but from proximity. David Sim has noted this aspect of Matthew:
    It is now well recognized that polemical and stereotypical language such as we find in Matthew does not reflect the distance between the two parties. On the contrary, it indicates both physical and ideological proximity between the disputing groups, since its very purpose is to distance one party from the other. A general sociological rule of thumb is that the closer the relationship between dissenting groups, the more intense the conflict and the sharper the resultant polemic.98″ pg 29

    2.) In my opinion, one cannot come to a full understanding of the Oral Torah without being immersed in what the Sages are truly trying to say and come to varying Halacha conclusions on. Meaning the individuals in the messianic group who are displaying a distaste for the Oral Torah [Gemara or Mishnah] should themselves be examined, if there “objections” are truly based on textual analysis of particular Halacha(s), or are just a reflection of a disingenuous attitude towards greater judaism (orthodox), these things must first be considered, amongst many other facets like; understanding of rabbinic hebrew, years and time spent on the texts itself, any literature on their part (personal teachings/writings) to support or not support their objection to the Oral Torah.

    3.) What also can be noted in this document is the evidence of Yeshua promoting and endorsing the Hillel side of the pharisaic camp, the side that also rules majority of the time in Orthodox Judaism. So any messianic followers or shall I say disciples of yeshua should be extra observant in adhering to what the Oral Torah says, without relaxing on matters of Torah observance. To put it plainly Torah 1st then Oral but never put the one (Oral) before the other (Torah).

    My explanation on this is brief, but those in the messianic group would be well advised as a community to hear and investigate the claims of Oral Torah objections from within there walls, and investigate the individual or individuals objections to certain matters of Halacha conclusions on whatever the topic is about. Like I mentioned, investigation of the individual should be focused on;

    1.) There knowledge of hebrew and then rabbinic hebrew (its idioms as well).
    2.) Their grasp of the written torah.
    3.) Any other literature from the individual(s) (i.e: personal writings or teachings) showing there “wrestlings” with the said Halacha they are questioning.

    If a messianic judaism practitioner shouts “I don’t like Oral Torah” in an arbitrary fashion without any support for their argument then a collective decision amongst the messianic community sub-group should be in order to make sure this individual or individuals are not trying to cause dissent within the messianic community.

    But I’m not sure the messianic community is that organized or well educated to rule on such a matters collectively and authoritatively?

    I’m ignorant to this aspect so maybe someone can help. How many in messianic judaism are taught rabbinic literature and rabbinic hebrew? What’s the organizational structure in messianic judaism? What rabbi’s in the messianic communities are well respected and sought out that are scholarly in rabbinic literature and interpretation?

    I ask because Mr.Kinzer, from what I read narrows his treatise to an almost “pick and choose” mentality in regards to the Oral Torah, and not “pick and choose” if it violates the Tanach! but if it forces one to go against Yeshua’s teachings. Even he [Mr.Kinzer] doesn’t give a conclusion to the matter but as he says:

    “I am not here advocating any particular perspective on what the Oral Torah says to us [messianic judaism] today. Taking my conclusion as a premise, one could develop an Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist Messianic approach to Jewish tradition. This further discussion is essential, and I hope that other presenters in this Forum lead us into it.” p.g. 34 I inserted the brackets.

    He does however remind messianics that; “However, we cannot expect to engage in such a discussion fruitfully if we do not begin where all other modern Judaisms begin – with explicit acknowledgement of the validity of Rabbinic tradition, the Oral Torah, as providing the necessary context for all practical interpretation and application of the Written Torah to contemporary Jewish life.” p.g. 34

    As mentioned above How many in messianic judaism are taught rabbinics and rabbinic hebrew? What’s the organizational structure? What rabbi’s in the messianic communities are well respected and sought out that are scholarly in rabbinic literature and interpretation?

  7. I see the argument in different terms…not what people should or are doing to be kind, patient, diplomatic, and wise in their discussion of Rabbinical Lore as opposed to Torah, but how the argument is being phrased on the ground in Israel, by Messianic Jews that were born and raised there, and the effect that is having. It is making an impression on young Jews who do not see Orthodox Rabbinical Judaism as the way they want to live and believe, and who resent the Ultra-Orthadox hold on government as well as religion in Israel.

    When Jews read in Hebrew what their Rabbi’s refuse to consider or explain, particularly when their teachings rest in direct opposition to Torah, they are not going to be kind and patient and wise. And like the Protestant reformation of Christianity in Europe, there are going to be a lot of disagreements, and although I do not expect martyrdom to occur on the basis of these disagreements, there is going to be a lot of unpleasantness involved.

    Where Messianic Gentiles are concerned, we should stay out of the matter, except in encouraging the truth to be displayed by the Messianic Jews in Israel with the wisdom shown in the videos at http://www.messiah.co.il They at least are using a plain, if sometimes humorous statement of facts based on scripture, and supported by scripture, written and performed by Messianic Jews born and raised in Israel, and aimed not at those over thirty years of age, but those younger Jews in the army, and in school in the one way the Orthodox cannot fight…on the internet. They are not particularly interested in running the Messianic Jewish Councils. They are on the ground, and already rolling with what they see as the best way, and are not waiting for our approval.

    Messianic Belief is still radical to many an older Jew, and as usual, the ‘radicals’ find their best audience in those that are actively seeking change.

  8. James,

    I couldn’t help but notice that in this post you rejected my blog’s stated identification with Messianic Judaism by referring to it as a Hebrew Roots Christian blog. I’m just curious: what is your basis for that rejection?

    Put another way: do you have a definition for Messianic Judaism that contains a set of elements which I have failed to satisfy?

    Also, good post and good links.

  9. For those of us who are Jewish, the rabbinic sages are part of our history and heritage. We don’t have to agree with them or slavishly follow them, but we respect and acknowledge their role. Some MJ’s (Jewish) have been educated, socialized and indoctrinated into evangelical anti-tradition, but this is more the older generation.

    Their are those who love to bash rabbinics, as well as other things, they know nothing about.

  10. Agreed. I don’t know what is meant by, “wholly Jewish religious, cultural and community context.” What is “wholly Jewish,” about a congregation that is 90%+ non-Jews, the mail order rabbi (usually) has a blonde, gentile wife; they adhere to evangelical theology, religious right politics, evangelical grudges and prejudices, evangelical gender subordination of females, evangelical percentages in IQ, education and income and often little involvement in the Jewish community while their market is non-Jews, so they certainly need to service their market?

    Yes, there are a few exceptions, but they won’t bite the hands that feed them either.

  11. @Shimshon — There are a great many people out in the wide, wide world, who do not understand the Judaism of Jewish messianism nor that of Rav Yeshua, who falsely assume that they are merely another reflection of an ancient enemy of Judaism and the Jewish people. Hence any rejection that they direct against the ancient threat is meaningless and inapplicable to MJs who do not represent that threat. The tendency to apply such rejection diminishes as understanding increases. Those who claim an MJ label but continue in antagonism against Judaism only exacerbate the causes of rejection, and muddy the waters to inhibit better understanding of Jewish Rav-Yeshua messianists.

    Your complaint about treatment of “gentiles within our movement” seems to imply a criticism and rejection of “orthodox” MJs and their responsibilities to themselves and the Jewish community. There is nothing wrong with honoring “righteous gentiles” or “redeemed gentiles” as the non-Jews they are; particularly when they support Jewish expression by Jews without denigrating their own position by trying to act as if they also were Jewish. My own experience, both inside MJ and outside it, has seen only respect for non-Jews who respect Jews and Judaism, and even a properly-constrained degree of inclusion and camaraderie. With respect to gentiles who do not evidence proper respect, a defensive posture soon develops; and this should not be surprising.

    Within MJ, as it has developed out of a non-orthodox environment toward a more orthodox one, there has been uneven response toward non-Jews, generally due to uncertainty about what really should be appropriate (not entirely unlike the situation in the first century). The discomforts to both demographic segments during such a “growing pains” period could not be avoided; and, clearly, it’s not over yet. James, in this blog, has particularly addressed issues of appropriate expectations, perspectives, and behaviors for each segment of the MJ community. Adoption of such considerations tends to mitigate such discomforts.

  12. @James — That video certainly does seem to have generated a firestorm of commentary. I’m not sure that your oblique reference to the bard of Avon’s play “Much Ado About Nothing” is quite appropriate; and another of his plays, “As You Like It”, comes to mind with its tongue-in-cheek critique of the play-going audience. But I suppose the storm was unavoidable, touching as it does on a fundamental approach to the definition of Judaism and hence to Messianic Judaism, and the tendency among some who claim the label to eschew this fundamental aspect of Judaism.

    While other labels come also to mind, such as neo-Sadducean, Karaite, or Hebrew-Christian, none of them seems quite to evoke the specific perspective of the denial of validity for the literature and praxis that reflect Jewish cultural processes that generally transcend literary treatment. Can one properly seek to deny the Jewish cultural developments of the past 19 centuries and rebuild a “biblical” Torah Judaism or Prophetic Judaism reflecting only the prior 15 centuries? Can one so compartmentalize Jewish culture that everything “rabbinic” may be presumed to be disconnected from the “biblical? What if what the sages preserved, accurately includes the cultural artifacts that were developed during the biblical period? Do these get thrown out as “rabbinic”? How does one determine that they were not also “biblical”? Whence comes this attitude that rejects the “rabbinic”? And what are the consequences of splitting the Jewish people into separate factions of “rabbinic” and “biblical” (so called)? Can anyone seriously think that Rav Yeshua would ever have encouraged such? His comments in Mt.23:3 would seem to explicitly deny that sort of factionalism. Isn’t one unavoidable consequence to produce a factionalism of exactly the same sort that pulled the Jewish community apart prior to the Hurban, such that no one would come to the aid of his fellow Jew lest he inadvertently support someone whose views were contrary to his own? Would such a divided Jewish community allow for the Temple to be rebuilt? Would this third Temple survive very long, even if it *were* to be rebuilt in such an environment; or would it soon be destroyed just as the second Temple was destroyed? Further, I don’t see that such a situation would bring any benefit to redeemed gentiles, nor to further the process of humanity’s redemption, not one little bit.

  13. These questions are for any who can shed light on the matter…..

    4 Questions.

    1.) Based on my questions above, does anyone currently feel/see that present day messianic judaism is capable of handling halachic issues amongst it’s sect?

    2.) Is the messianic judaism movement encouraged in the type of chinuch commonly found in Orthodox Judaism (ie: Age 5-10 Torah study – age 10-15 Mishnah – Talmud etc…The requirement of Hebrew & Aramaic as well)? Even outside of the example, are there any within the messianic judaism walls that as a unifying voice for the movement encourage/require Gemara amoung people who want to associate with meesianic judaism (to varying degrees)?

    3.) Do organizations like UMJC or MJAA, MBI, AMC etc. Show a desire for such Halachic standards to be implemented amongst there syngagoge affiliates?

    4.) Are there currently any leaders in messianic judaism capable of handling halachic disputes amongst it’s individuals?

    ** also if hebrew or Aramaic isn’t a priority for Tanach and Rabbinic understanding, is it at least required to have some knowledge of the greek language when reading the NT?

    Does anyone not see the problems you run into when the respective languages and phrasing nuances (idioms & neuters) have not been examined before objecting to something in the Jewish bible (Tanach) and trying to override the Tanach with the Christian bible?

  14. I am sorry, but what a mess and utter confusion! Messianics neither know what to believe nor what to do or who they are to follow. Is Jesus god or not god, should we listen to rabbis or not listen to rabbis or listen to rabbis if we like what they are saying, is NT scripture or midrash, etc. etc. Absence of leadership and direction is profound. Everybody is making up their own private religions and to quote the Jewish bible, “doing what seems right in their own eyes”.

  15. @Chaya — Why are you quibbling with the good definition that James offered, that invoked the ideal of a “wholly Jewish religious, cultural and community context”? The existence of congregations that are far from that ideal does not invalidate the definition; the definition simply disqualifies them as valid claimants to the label. I’ve heard that there’s a lot of that malady going ’round; but it doesn’t mean that no one is healthy. Nor does it mean that no one has ever recovered from such a malady. Sometimes the “blond gentile wife” actually converts and becomes more knowledgeable and devoted to Judaism than anyone in the entire congregation, inspiring others to higher levels as well. Other problems you mentioned can be remedied also, though I would challenge your inclusion of “religious right politics” as a negative characteristic. The number of Jewish Republicans has been growing as it becomes clearer that the Democrat party actually supports anti-Israel and anti-Jewish forces and issues. And you’ll find that most Torah values are actually on the right side of the political spectrum.

  16. @”ברוס” — In case you or anyone on this blog missed my response to you on the RPP blog, I’ll repost it here. Now, perhaps you’re hoping to find readers here who missed your questions there, who might provide more info than I could do. Note also that just as there are MJs who encourage halakhic study and praxis, there are those who encourage linguistic study in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. But, as with society as a whole, no matter how many folks are well-educated, it never stops the ignorant from spouting foolishness (especially on blogs). And, as the darshan observed in Kohelet/Ecclesiastes 12:12 — But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to study [though “הַג” can also mean mere “prattle” or “nonsense”] is wearying to the body.

    Now for that repost:

    You should keep in mind that MJ is not a monolithic organization, but is rather a social movement that began among Jews who were curious about the real Rav Yeshua and how this Israeli rabbi came to be perceived as a foreign deity outside of Judaism. All that has developed from its interaction with evangelical Christians, and with an earlier Jewish movement of Hebrew-Christians, and with Jewish Christians involved with churches, and with Gentile Christians and other gentiles who were seeking to embrace an authentic basis underlying the ancient movement of Jewish messianists who were disciples of Rav Yeshua, during the past four decades, has tended to overwhelm that original impulse to recover the Jewish Rav Yeshua and to understand his teachings Jewishly.

    Nonetheless, organizations have developed within the chaos of this unruly social movement. Each organization represents certain characteristics and emphases within the movement. Some are focused on fostering congregations; others on education; and still others on sub-communal perspectives and approaches to the notion of MJ teaching and praxis. Some of these organizations are more closely affiliated than others. The only organization of which I have any knowledge that addresses halakhic issues specifically is the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council (MJRC), which is affiliated with the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC). Another organization, also affiliated with the UMJC, the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute (MJTI) is devoted to Jewish education from an MJ perspective, the preparation of rabbinical candidates, and similar matters, which includes consideration of halakhah. There is also another educational organization, “The New School for Jewish Studies”, that attempts to operate as an online Beit Midrash. These organizations are a collection that I would expect to address halakhic issues and education. I am not sufficiently familiar with MJ organizations in the UK to evaluate if any are comparable. The question of how well each succeeds to do so has varying answers across the organizations and with the progress of time. However, the classic MJ perspective, that I described initially, does not rely on the development of some separate body of halakhah for the MJ community, because there are already other Jewish bodies who develop halakhah for the Jewish community as a whole which thus apply also to the MJ sub-community (not that every MJ is equally accepting of them; though the halakhically-oriented in the Israeli MJ community would tend to rely on them).

    In general, I would have to evaluate the current state of MJ as not so formally devoted to the study of Jewish literature in its entirety, in the manner you suggest by your summary of “chinuch commonly found in Orthodox Judaism (ie: Age 5-10 Torah study – age 10-15 Mishnah – Talmud etc…The requirement of Hebrew as well)” — the MJ community is not yet old enough or well-developed enough to follow such consistent expectations. I would call it an open-ended work in progress that has not fully embraced such a well-organized pattern. As you can see from the wide-ranging views in the commentary on this topic about Oral Torah, inhibitions about accepting its validity are quite common, as they are in other non-orthodox forms of Judaism (not to neglect inhibitions or rejections that stem from exposure to common Christian perspectives on the subject). Consequently, even the MJRC would not be deemed a universal arbiter of halakhic disputes, not even among the segments of MJ who pursue halakhah (some prefer a more orthodox approach to halakhah than the balanced more liberal approach currently attempted by the MJRC). I’m not sure which rabbis within the MJ community would wish to take on the responsibility of “posek” for a halakhic dispute, though the collective body of the MJRC might agree on suitable appointments in the event that some issue of sufficient magnitude should arise that was not sufficiently addressed elsewhere.

    Now, having said all that, let me clarify that I myself am not directly involved in the MJRC nor any comparable body doing “halakhic work”. Nonetheless, you’ve probably noted from my various posts on a few relevant blogs that I have given the issues some serious thought. I am also familiar with other MJs who think similarly and have educational credentials that are more suited to such work. You may note also that I prefer the term “Jewish messianist” over the more commonly used “Messianic Jew”, largely because of the misuse of the latter term and consequent confusion about what it means. Further, the term “Messianic” is an adjective, thus it is misused when invoked alone as a noun, and such usage also adds to the definitional confusion by failing to distinguish between “Messianic Jews” and “Messianic Gentiles”. There are many fine gentile associates within the aggregate MJ social movement, but Jews who seek to follow the teachings of a true “admor” must not be dissuaded from maintaining their distinctive roles and responsibilities lest they fail to represent him properly and thus besmirch his reputation (of which there has been already far too much during the past 20 centuries).

  17. “MJ is not a monolithic organization, but is rather a social movement that began among Jews who were curious about the real Rav Yeshua and how this Israeli rabbi came to be perceived as a foreign deity outside of Judaism. ”

    I think the above statement grossly distorts how MJ actually got it start. Its roots lay firmly among Hebrew Christians in Britain and U.S. about a century ago who for a long time wanted little to do with Judaism. It’s latest iteration, however, actually started during the 70’s Jesus movement among Christian Evangelicals of Jewish birth. For most of its existence and to this day MOST of MJ was most closely aligned with Evangelicals and Charismatics in both practice and theology (including a good dose of Dispensationalism), with a thin veneer of Judaica, Christian Zionism and some Jewish ethnic pride thrown in. Few Messianics from Evangelicals background wondered aloud how Jesus became a deity (perish the thought), but they did take offense and were dismayed that “unbelieving” Jews saw that sort of deity as somehow foreign to the Jewish people (so you are partially right!).

  18. @Shimshon: I don’t see this as hypocrisy but as the evolution of identity and role. Over the long centuries, Jews who have come to the realization that Yeshua is the Messiah have been compelled and even forced to convert to (Gentile) Christianity and to abandon any sort of Jewish practice and identity at all. Even now, due to its origins in Evangelical Christianity, many “Messianic Jewish” congregations are a continuation of some form of Christian worship and lifestyle with a thin overlay of Hebrew prayers, keeping Leviticus 11 “kosher,” and donning kippot and tallitot.

    Paul, James, Peter, and the other Jewish apostles and disciples didn’t stop being Jewish or practicing Pharisaic Judaism in order to follow Messiah, so why should modern Jews be forced to do so? Why can’t Jews become disciples of Yeshua and still live, worship, pray, eat, sleep, and breathe “Jewish” within the context of a lived Judaism?

    You’re right though, the “problem” we have now is the problem Paul ultimately failed to solve: what to do with the Gentiles. Acts 15 established a minimal halachah for Gentiles within the ancient Messianic movement of “the Way” but modern Messianic Judaism is still trying to find its feet, so to speak, particularly regarding the integration of Gentiles.

    I recently reviewed a letter written by Boaz Michael in the current issue of Messiah Journal discussing four different and distinct views on Messianic Judaism, so the matter of how Messianic Judaism operates and its binding halachah is far from settled. It may never be settled this side of the Messiah’s return, and will ultimately become numerous, parallel streams of Judaism and (sadly) Christianity that run alongside the already existant branches and denominations of Judaism and Christianity.

    @Marleen: It is an odd thing for me to include and I debated within myself if it was the right move on my part. I wanted to include a “cautionary tale” that it may not be entirely possible to “hate” Rabbinic Judaism and yet “love” the Jewish people and national Israel. They all tend to spill into each other. I admit, my example was extreme, but so is what’s been happening to the Jewish people for the past two-thousand plus years. Also, remember some of the darkest chapters in the history of the Church include Christians burning synagogues, Torah scrolls and many, many volumes of Talmud. Today’s Christian disdain of Rabbinic Judaism is just a verbal version of those historic acts.

    @ברוס: You said a lot and I hope my response will be satisfactory (in the past, it hasn’t always been so). The various branches of Judaism “pick and choose” all the time. Look at the extreme differences between Orthodox and Reform Judaism for example. In that sense, Judaism parallels Christianity in that every time a group within a church disagrees on interpretation or practice, another church denomination is born. That’s not religion, it’s human nature. As I said in another comment above, Messianic Judaism is still attempting to define itself. I don’t necessarily see Rabbi Mark Kinzer as the final word on Messianic Jewish practice, but he is one of the “voices” in MJ, so I included a link to his paper. This doesn’t mean I always agree with R. Kinzer, but then again, I’m not Jewish and I’m continually refining my self-definition in relation to my Messianic faith.

    There are no definitive answers to your questions because there are at least four different versions (citing Boaz Michael’s aforementioned letter) of Messianic Judaism, all with varying degrees of knowledge of and adherence to Oral Torah, including no knowledge and no adherence at all.

    @Gene: You have the right to your opinion about the Apostolic Scriptures and what you think all Christians everywhere believe, but that doesn’t mean your opinion is fact. Every once in awhile, my wife will come home from Chabad and tell me “what Jews believe”. Occasionally, I remind her that the local Chabad Rabbi doesn’t represent all religious Jews everywhere and in fact, he doesn’t even represent all Orthodox Jews everywhere. He can only tell her “what Chabad believes”. I don’t share that opinion with her often for the sake of peace in the family, but you can only tell us what you believe or what Orthodox (actually, I apologize because I don’t know which branch of Judaism you currently associate with so Orthodox Judaism is an assumption on my part) Jews believe or what anti-missionary Orthodox Jews believe. You can’t tell me what I believe because only I know that within myself (although it’s pretty much plastered all over my numerous blog posts).

    @Questor: I can only render an opinion about what Messianic Jews in Israel may believe “on the ground” but I can’t know for sure because I don’t have that perspective. I can only repeat what I said above that Messianic Judaism is in a state of formation and progressing toward self-definition. Part of that self-definition is what to do about Oral Law and even Written Torah. This is a work in progress, but as we’ve seen the development of different streams of Judaism over the past twenty centuries, we’ve seen Judaism continue to evolve. There is no one, overarching definition for normative Judaism and I believe we have to extend that perspective to the emergent modern Messianic Judaism as well.

    @Peter: That’s a very good question and I like the way you’ve phrased it. The question here is whether or not a largely or exclusively Gentile community can actually practice Judaism and be a Judaism. In my opinion, I have to say “no”. As I said in my two-part review of a recent paper published by Dr. Mark Nanos, the best we may consider ourselves as “Messianic Gentiles” is “acting Jewishly” but not actually acting Jewish (practicing Judaism), and that I think would only occur in a religious community driven by Jewish leadership and constructed as a Judaism for Jewish people.

    Maybe the closest community that is primarily Gentile driven that may be considered to “practice Judaism” is D. Thomas Lancaster’s Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship. While the title doesn’t say anything about “Messianic Judaism,” it does promote itself as “Messianic Judaism for the Nations,” so there is some indication that Messianic Gentiles “may,” and I say that with some caution, practice Messianic Judaism, but not everyone agrees.

    I believe you posted something on your blog a month or two ago about a radio program where (if I remember correctly) Caleb Hegg and someone else debated whether or not One Law Hebrew Roots congregations practice a Messianic Judaism and, as I recall, they concluded that Hebrew Roots isn’t a Judaism as such. I tend to agree. Adopting certain modern synagogue practices doesn’t not automatically define a Gentile congregation as a Judaism or Jewish. As Nanos defines, it may be Gentiles “acting Jewishly” but without a Jewish presence and particularly without a community that is specifically formed to serve Jewish Messianics with a wholly lived Jewish communal context, I can’t rightly say that Hebrew Roots individuals and groups fall within the bounds of a Judaism.

    Hope this answers your question.

    @Chaya: I agree that for Jews including Messianic Jews, Talmud and the history of Rabbinic Judaism over the past two-thousand years is an integrated part of Jewish history and heritage. When I say “wholly Jewish religious, cultural, and community context,” I’m speaking to the ideal, not necessarily as most Messianic Jewish groups operate today. But I believe the ultimate goal of the modern Messianic Jewish movement is to provide Jewish community for Jews who do not want to convert to Christianity or “water down” their Jewish lifestyle and practice in order to become disciples of the Jewish Messiah King. Why can’t a Jew who worships Messiah continue to daven at the set times of prayer, keep Glatt kosher, observe Shabbat according to halachah, and live in all of the other ways that other religious Jews live?

    @PL: Sorry about the title “Much Ado”. Maybe it didn’t work the way I had intended. Perhaps I should have referred to “The Tempest,” as I was attempting to covey my impression of the “storm” of controversy surrounding the video and the wider debate surrounding Gentile and Jewish opinions about Oral Torah.

    I don’t see “Rabbinic” and “Biblical” as mutually exclusive terms but rather post-Biblical times, the continuation of interpretation and putting into practice Torah in order to meet the ever changing requirements of the different Jewish communities in the galut. Of course, I’m looking at all this from an outsider’s point of view, but what I’m hoping to gain by posting this blog is one or more counterpoints to Christian, Hebrew Roots, and Jewish (by some Jewish groups) rejection of the Oral Torah out of hand, and to show how the Rabbinic Sages have functioned to secure Jewish survival in a world that has always been hostile to Jews.

    I agree that Matthew 23:3 can be understood as Messiah confirming that halachah is valid and that the Pharisees have the right to establish community standards as interpretation of the Torah (though, in my opinion, Rav Yeshua didn’t always agree with each specific ruling).

  19. “You have the right to your opinion about the Apostolic Scriptures and what you think all Christians everywhere believe, but that doesn’t mean your opinion is fact. ”

    @James, my thinking is much more nuanced and I do distinguish between different groups of Christians. However, since most MJs are aligned with Evangelicals in world view, theology and practice (and even share or rent their “synagogues” with Evangelical churches), it doesn’t make sense to talk about other groups. In the past, Catholicism pursued Jews for conversion, so if that were still the case today, I would delve into that stream of Christianity. Since very few Jews today convert to Catholicism, I don’t waste my time dissecting that religion.

    Also, you make it seem as if there are no facts at all, only opinions. I disagree that facts cannot be known, especially if it can be shown that, just as an example, the New Testament misquotes, quotes out of context and mistranslates virtually ALL “prophecies” about Jesus supposedly found in the “Old Testament”.

  20. James,

    The issue isn’t over the wisdom or the traditions in the Talmud, instead it is over authority, always has been and always will be. One Law is not against traditions or the cultural wisdom passed down, that should hopefully enlighten Yochanan’s understanding.

    Based on your argument, conservative Judaism and reform Judaism are anti-Judaism, because they do not accept Orthodox Judaism stance on Oral Law. I don’t see how your argument here, is helping any cause, whats the goal? Other than to say there is only one right way to look at it.

  21. If you want to toss out the Apostolic Scriptures, that’s fine, but by your standards, we could also ask some serious questions about the origin of the Torah and the Prophets as well. Did Moses literally write all of the Torah? Did the conversation between HaShem and HaSatan recorded in the beginning of the Book of Job actually take place? Did the Prophet Isaiah actually write all of the Book of Isaiah? Friedman’s book Who Wrote the Bible asks a lot of these hard questions. Belief in the Bible (however you choose to define “Bible”) is as much (or more) a matter of faith as it is scholarship. In your faith, the Tanakh is the extent of the Bible and in mine, it includes the Apostolic Scriptures. I don’t come to your blog and tell you what you believe, do I?

  22. Zion said:

    Based on your argument, conservative Judaism and reform Judaism are anti-Judaism, because they do not accept Orthodox Judaism stance on Oral Law. I don’t see how your argument here, is helping any cause, whats the goal? Other than to say there is only one right way to look at it.

    Well, not exactly. I did say I didn’t always agree with the Sages and I don’t subscribe to their behavioral halachah for the most part (although as a Gentile, it wasn’t written for me, anyway). I know Reform Judaism doesn’t adhere to Talmud and instead (at least at the local shul) has a ritual committee to establish “halachah” for their community (as an aside, I found out that the Reform/Conservative Rabbi studies Talmud with the local Chabad Rabbi, primarily because there’s no one else to study with in a city with so few Jews). I don’t see Conservative or Reform Jews as anti-Judaism (although the Orthodox may have a different opinion about them), but I do see a potentially dangerous situation emerging from Christian and Christian-like (Hebrew Roots) groups of Gentiles flatly rejecting the idea that Rabbinic Sages could have authority over their own religious communities. Are we supposed to tell Chabad Jews not to follow the teachings of the Rebbe just because we don’t believe he had authority over his community? Are we to tell Orthodox Jews not to read Rashi or the Rambam and to disregard their written rulings and interpretations? While these sages have no authority over our lives since we don’t operate as Jews within those specific Jewish communities, where do we get off saying the sages have no authority at all? I don’t get why we, as Messianic or Hebrew Roots Gentiles, get to say that to Jewish communities including Messianic Jewish communities.

  23. “we could also ask some serious questions about the origin of the Torah and the Prophets as well. ”

    James, I don’t need to ask questions about NT’s origins and I don’t need to ask questions about Tanakh’s origins to verify if Christianity has a leg to stand on. Old Testament can be wrong, but the New Testament can’t be right while the Old Testament is wrong! Why? Because Christianity makes an explicit claim that it is totally based on and supported by Jewish scriptures. Therefore, it’s only natural and proper and even easy to verify this claim by comparing what does the Jewish Bible say vs what does the New Testament says.

    “I don’t come to your blog and tell you what you believe, do I?”

    James, are you offended? You are welcome to tell me what to believe on my blog! Others Christians have done just that.

  24. @PL — I will respond to your note in RPP, I did see it, but had some errands to run and I’m still not completely finished. And from first glance of your note, you appear to be the rarity of your messianic movement (referring to your thought process and explanation).

  25. Gene, as I experience getting older and trying to put my “house in order,” so to speak, I’m trying with more diligence to live at peace with others. I know I don’t always succeed at this, particularly while blogging. However, there’s a rather well-known quote attributed to Abraham Joshua Heschel that speaks to me:

    When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people.

    I don’t come to your blog anymore because I know what you’re going to say. I don’t tell you what to believe because that’s between you and God.

  26. James said:

    Are we to tell Orthodox Jews not to read Rashi or the Rambam and to disregard their written rulings and interpretations? While these sages have no authority over our lives since we don’t operate as Jews within those specific Jewish communities, where do we get off saying the sages have no authority at all? I don’t get why we, as Messianic or Hebrew Roots Gentiles, get to say that to Jewish communities including Messianic Jewish communities.

    Who is saying all this? I am afraid you are creating a straw man and just looking for someone to blame.

  27. Actually Zion, I thought this was a logical extension of your statement about the lack of authority of the Sages over Jewish community. If I misunderstood you, can you tell me more about your objections to Oral Law and/or Talmud?

  28. James, it’s not a competition between kindness and intelligence, rather it’s the false and the destructive nature of idolatry vs worshiping the G-d of Israel alone.

    “I don’t come to your blog anymore because I know what you’re going to say.”

    I know what you are going to say too, but I still sometimes visit:)

  29. I just read the following online and want to add it to the discussion:

    No one ever anticipated (Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai) with a greeting in the public place (Berachos 17a).

    The Talmud states that when Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai met someone in the street, he always initiated the greeting, and that never, in his entire lifetime, did he ever wait to be greeted first.

    Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai is one of the most outstanding personalities in Jewish history. After Jerusalem fell to the Romans, in 70 C.E., he served as both the political and religious leader of the Jewish nation for forty years. He is singlehandedly responsible for the survival of Israel during that difficult era.

    When this great leader walked down the street, he undoubtedly engaged in important conversation with his colleagues and disciples on the vital issues of the day. We certainly could understand that he could not interrupt such weighty discussions to respond to people who greeted him, let alone to initiate greetings to others.

    Still, the Talmud states that regardless of his preoccupation with the leadership of Israel, this great personality never waited to be greeted first, and not even the importance of his position could cause him to expect recognition from others.

    The great Hillel prophesied about Rabbi Yochanan that he would be “a father of wisdom and a father to many generations.” Rabbi Yochanan was a leader who followed in the footsteps of Moses, whose humility also paralleled his greatness.”

    Today I shall…

    try to consider every person as being worthy of recognition, and avoid the false pride of expecting to be acknowledged first.

    -Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
    “Growing Each Day” for Tevet 18
    Aish.com

    This is pretty much how I “relate” to Talmud, Oral Law, or whatever you want to call it. There are a wonderful set of principles, stories, examples, and metaphors available in Jewish literature that I think can speak even to non-Jews and that can illuminate what we learn in the Bible. This is the part of Jewish teaching that I think of as “a light to the world,” not that it can establish when I pray or how I pray or anything like that, since those rulings were intended for a Jewish audience and like much of Torah, only apply to them.

    But it’s teachings like those written by Rabbi Twerski that I don’t want to see thrown out and disregarded just because it’s “Rabbinic Judaism”. I can only imagine that most people involved in the current conversation would agree with me, or I can at least hope.

  30. I’m not questioning your intent or motivation, Gene. I’m just explaining why I choose not to contend with you on your blog. I may disagree with you, but I don’t have to always say so.

  31. Actually Zion, I thought this was a logical extension of your statement about the lack of authority of the Sages over Jewish community. If I misunderstood you, can you tell me more about your objections to Oral Law and/or Talmud?

    Certainly, we both share this logical extension… I should have been more specific, I was referencing this:

    I don’t get why we, as Messianic or Hebrew Roots Gentiles, get to say that to Jewish communities including Messianic Jewish communities.

    I don’t see many Messianics or Hebrew Roots or One Law people saying such and thus I was wondering who was saying all this as you painted so broadly, instead I see a big argument on whether or not the claim of ‘divine authority’ attributed to the Oral Law should be adhered to or not adhered to. If it is authoritative or if it is not, has huge implications in the lives of those who serve God, I believe even for gentiles, and this creates a problem. Thus the issue, just like in the various sects of Judaism, isn’t an issue of anti-Judaism, but instead of authority and the claims that follow, and rejecting for example, the claim of Oral Torah having ‘divine authority’ as the written, given at Mount Sinai, is not being anti-Judaism. So I think your are partially confusing the issues here. I know in many One Law communities, the historical Jewish traditions are respected, honored and considered wise, just not considered on the level of authority of the Written Torah.

  32. Zion said:

    …instead I see a big argument on whether or not the claim of ‘divine authority’ attributed to the Oral Law should be adhered to or not adhered to. If it is authoritative or if it is not, has huge implications in the lives of those who serve God, I believe even for gentiles, and this creates a problem.

    I can see that. The thing is, as I believe you pointed out earlier, depending on which branch of Judaism you’re discussing, how the authority of the Oral Law is viewed changes. Probably most or all Orthodox Jews believe Oral Law has divine authority while I’m fairly certain Reform Jews don’t hold that belief at all. For that matter, Orthodox Jews most likely believe that the exodus from Egypt was a literal event while many Reform Jews might see that as an allegorical tale. I recall reading the blog of young woman going to a Jewish University being told by one of her instructors that “Jews don’t believe in the Exodus except during Passover.” I say all this to indicate that there’s no one uniform way “the Jews” relate to Oral Law.

    That said, if some Jewish communities choose to understand the Oral Law as having divine authority, then that’s what they have decided. Since we are not part of that community, we really don’t have a say about it. Christians can say the Oral Law isn’t divine and in no way applies to us, and that’s fine. What I don’t believe we can say is that Orthodox (or Messianic) Jews can’t believe that the Oral Law has divine authority or that the rulings of the Rabbinic Sages have no authority over communities that choose to recognize Rabbinic authority.

    Most Christians actually wouldn’t be so bold as to tell Orthodox Jews what to believe and not believe, but when it comes to Messianic Jews, because we have the Messiah in common, it becomes quite possible for us to want to tell them what to believe applies to their lives. All I’m saying is that while we can choose to interpret the Bible and other writings as we see fit in terms of our own lives, can we really tell Messianic Jews that they shouldn’t relate to the Oral Law or any part of Talmud as they see fit for their lives? I’m not accusing you of doing such a thing, but I do think this is a matter of conflict between Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic movement today.

  33. James,

    I agree, however the issues overlap even if we are not pointing fingers. If I claim the Oral Torah does not hold divine authority, it is like a slap in the face to those who do. Even If my point in making such a claim, is not done in a direct way. Which is true in the other direction as well. Those who claim it is authoritative, view those who don’t as being rebellious and thus it is a slap in the face, to those who do not. It is a catch 22.

  34. Jews don’t have the same attitude as Christians toward our ancient writings. Some were deemed more authoritative and inspired, valid than others. There are all sorts of arguments as to historical reasons this book made the canon and that one didn’t, but there isn’t the attitude of either, “the word of God,” vs. “forbidden heresy.” The sages and their writings are part of our history and heritage. Midrashic stories are often parables, not necessarily true but designed to illustrate a truth. Judaism is usually not known for black and white thinking, but for many conflicting contributions.

    Many are continuing to make the error of the centuries; to examine Jewish works through a Western/Greek/Christian lens.

  35. I have found that most of the folks who reject and bash the Gemorah, Rambam’s Mishnah Torah, etc are those who have never really taken the time to learn the above texts, other then reading through Everyman’s Talmud ….or PIrke Avos as found in most siddurs. Talmud is not a “sit on the couch and read by the fire” sort of text. It requires intense dialoge with a learning partner, and a commitment to walking what you learn (if your Jewish). 

  36. @Chaya: I agree that most/all Christians are insufficiently educated in Talmud to render any sort of authoritative opinion on the matter, myself included. Nevertheless, I’ve shot off my big mouth anyway.

    @Tony: I agree. Talmud study takes years and a competent instructor, neither of which I have access to.

  37. @James: @Marleen: It is an odd thing for me to include and I debated within myself if it was the right move on my part. I wanted to include a “cautionary tale” that it may not be entirely possible to “hate” Rabbinic Judaism and yet “love” the Jewish people and national Israel. They all tend to spill into each other. I admit, my example was extreme, but so is what’s been happening to the Jewish people for the past two-thousand plus years. Also, remember some of the darkest chapters in the history of the Church include Christians burning synagogues, Torah scrolls and many, many volumes of Talmud. Today’s Christian disdain of Rabbinic Judaism is just a verbal version of those historic acts.

    My characterization of the “odd” inclusion was not primarily (if at all) about being extreme — because I absolutely agree with your desire to include a “cautionary tale” and that “what’s been happening to the Jewish people” has been extreme in the ways you now delineate (and more). I also agree, “it may not be entirely possible to ‘hate’ Rabbinic Judaism and yet ‘love’ the Jewish people and national Israel. They all tend to spill into each other.” The example is odd, though, somewhat in an additional way in that the story is not about church people (which you used as illustration). At the same time, the oddness has been diminished as well — as the perpetrators in the story went on to do something more specific to Jews (as I believe one of them expressed a desire for a decade or so ago). And perhaps Muslim hatred can be said to have a copycat (of Christianity) element to it.

    The example I gave involves someone (adamantly Christian by a classically disgusting definition) who considers himself a Crusader. And someone who claimed to have the other’s beliefs but not to have had the organizational tie that would hold him back politically in the long run. I have been aware of these people since the time (decades ago) what was recently revealed in news was happening (even though I didn’t live in that confederate-friendly state at that time or ever). Now, I would add that I wouldn’t logically trust DD to expose all his contacts. He’s a devious and sick person who would just do what he wants (like expose only particular people on a “hit” list for whatever reason/s).

    The paper that was targeted, meanwhile, could be said to engage in “disdain” of Judaism in “just a verbal version” — although it has been said it wasn’t in a way that was reflective “of those historic acts.” Sometimes verbal, sometimes just pictorial. [I don’t recommend going to the link of their cartoons, but I want to show this Australian cartoon. http://www.businessinsider.com.au/australian-cartoonist-david-pope-tweeted-this-powerful-cartoon-he-drew-to-show-support-for-the-charlie-hebdo-victims-2015-1/ ] HOWEVER, they picked on anyone of any sort. Likewise, as I said, these terrorists also killed Muslims; then again, Inquisitors also killed Christians. But “again” too, the motivation of the magazine probably was not similar (despite folks like Donohue flipping everything on its head: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=catholic+donovan+on+charlie+hebdo&FORM=VIRE7#view=detail&mid=55C8D23AEAA807FAA69055C8D23AEAA807FAA690
    http://www.bing.com/videos/search? q=catholic+donovan+on+charlie+hebdo&FORM=VIRE7#view=detail&mid=20AB78334B291A6743B020AB78334B291A6743B0
    Similar conversation; note the man center-right who can’t sort it out
    http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/should-the-media-show-the-muhammad-cartoons–381903939995 ).

    So, now that I think about it further, were you against Charlie Hebdo or against the gunmen, or both (I mean specifically in the sense of cautioning against saying things that shouldn’t be said)? I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to end up with this question. Logically, though, now I’m wondering (rather than simply finding it odd).

  38. http://www.jewishaz.com/us_worldnews/world/french-jewish-students-slammed-for-alleged-bennett-snub/article_5f398fb2-8d2a-11e4-b680-63648a07bf9f.html?mode=jqm

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/twitter-sued-again-french-jewish-student-union-457359

    While I saw hostages coming out of the kosher grocery this morning, I saw UEJF president Sacha Reingewirtz on CNN in the last hour and wanted to link to it. But I couldn’t find it. I found the above articles instead. In the interview I couldn’t find a link for, he said an attack on the paper is an attack on freedom of expression and an attack on a synagogue is an attack on freedom of religion, any attack on France is an attack on democracy, and Judaism stands very much for democracy.

  39. Shavua Tov, James — I think I neglected to insert a smiley at an appropriate spot in my critique of your choice of Shakespeare’s plays, and thus perhaps you missed the tongue-in-cheek humorous inflection. But you’re right that “The Tempest” also is descriptive of the present storm of commentary on multiple blogs.

    I also perhaps neglected to clarify that I was addressing a common reason given for rejecting “rabbinic” Judaism in favor of a supposedly more pristine form described as “biblical”. Of course that dichotomy is not really accurate, because it falsely implies that rabbinic Judaism is somehow not biblical or is disconnected from its prior history.

  40. Shavua Tov, Gene — In the immortal words of the comedian “Ish Kabibble”: “Vas you dere, Charlie?” As it happens, I was present during the formation of modern MJ thinking in the late 1960s, and I was aware also of the influences of Hebrew-Christianity and the evangelical and Pentacostal/charismatic Christians who attempted to foster the spiritual development of this bunch of curious Jewish youth. I’ve observed personally the range of influences I cited, as well as the distinctive motivation by which MJ differed from them even while interacting with them. That does not mean, of course, that everyone was as analytical about it as I was, especially at first. Now, I was not simultaneously present on the West Coast where Moishe Rosen was formulating the JforJ “missions” approach, so my contact with the youth who were attracted by him began a few years later at joint MJ conferences. However, it was also at such conferences that I encountered an MJ family (from the northwest, I believe) who presented a much stronger insistence on orthodoxy than I had previously encountered. At the time, I thought it a bit too much, but upon later reflection I saw that they were more logically consistent with the basic concept of Jewish messianism. Similarly, about a century beforehand, we can see the example of a converted ‘Hasid named Levertov in the UK as well as the example of a Hungarian Rabbi Lichtenstein who continued to lead his orthodox congregation and had nothing to do with Christians or Christianity. These two distinctive patterns have continued, one becoming Hebrew-Christianity and the other re-surfacing as the alternative paradigm of MJ.

    As you’ve no doubt noticed, I tend to insist that the latter is the actual model for MJ, despite usurpation of the terminology by those pursuing some form of Jewish Christianity model. Perhaps part of the difficulty in fostering the true MJ model has been a lack of “evangelical fervor” by those whose orientation was more traditionally Jewish. [:)]

  41. @PL — I’m not speaking for gene by any means, knowing that your comment was addressed to him. Though I would like to add that Levertoff’s progeny, from what’s been researched became fully committed to christianity, leaving behind the Judaism of both yeshua and that of their father (Levertoff).

    As your most likely aware, that’s another issue those in greater judaism (Orthodox Judaism) see in the messianic movement.

    From Lichtenstein’s life one could argue that those who convert to greater judaism today can still follow the rabbi from Bethlehem.

  42. ברוס
    JANUARY 9, 2015 AT 7:01 AM
    These questions are for any who can shed light on the matter…..

    4 Questions.

    1.) Based on my questions above, does anyone currently feel/see that present day messianic judaism is capable of handling halachic issues amongst it’s sect?

    2.) Is the messianic judaism movement encouraged in the type of chinuch commonly found in Orthodox Judaism (ie: Age 5-10 Torah study – age 10-15 Mishnah – Talmud etc…The requirement of Hebrew & Aramaic as well)? Even outside of the example, are there any within the messianic judaism walls that as a unifying voice for the movement encourage/require Gemara amoung people who want to associate with meesianic judaism (to varying degrees)?

    3.) Do organizations like UMJC or MJAA, MBI, AMC etc. Show a desire for such Halachic standards to be implemented amongst there syngagoge affiliates?

    4.) Are there currently any leaders in messianic judaism capable of handling halachic disputes amongst it’s individuals?

    ** also if hebrew or Aramaic isn’t a priority for Tanach and Rabbinic understanding, is it at least required to have some knowledge of the greek language when reading the NT?

    Does anyone not see the problems you run into when the respective languages and phrasing nuances (idioms & neuters) have not been examined before objecting to something in the Jewish bible (Tanach) and trying to override the Tanach with the Christian bible?
    [End of quoting]

    I think someone else addressed questions 1and 4 better than I could, but I would say there was conscientious teaching and counseling. 3 — my understanding (where I felt at home) is through UMJC-affiliated leaders, and yes. As for 2 — encouraged, yes, while there aren’t enough teachers to comprehensively address the children. Where I was for years, people were actively encouraged to respect and frequent the local active Jewish Community Center (which is a very good idea). **, I’ve appreciated (not at the JCC) comparative study of Greek in what you call the Christian Bible or many call the new testament (and I prefer “testimonies” — something other than New Testament) along with Septuagint and how that relates to vocabulary, etc. from the Hebrew. Finally, to answer the question that could be called question 5, absolutely yes.

  43. That’s encouraging.

    @ברוס
    JANUARY 10, 2015 AT 4:30 PM

    [Said]
    From Lichtenstein’s life one could argue that those who convert to greater judaism today can still follow the rabbi from Bethlehem.

  44. Shavua Tov, “ברוס” — I did not emphasize, in my last response to Gene, your point about Levertov, with which I agree and which I find most saddening about the Hebrew-Christian approach — and which is why I find it inappropriate when Jews who claim the MJ label seem to follow HC theology and patterns rather than to emulate someone like Rabbi Lichtenstein (or even the Torah-observant “rabbi from Bethlehem”). I am not sure I understand, though, what you mean by your use of the term “greater judaism” (where “judaism” is represented with a lower case “j”), nor your reference to “converting” to it. Could you be so kind as to clarify, please?

  45. @PL: Thanks for the clarification about my use of the Shakespeare-inspired titles. No worries. I agree that there probabaly is no such thing as “Biblical Judaism” or a faith based only on the written texts, since the instant we begin the process of interpretation, whether in Judaism or Christianity, we start establishing traditions about what the Bible says and how we are to live out the commandments.

    Today’s “morning meditation” is a continuation of the current discussion and based largely on Kinzer’s paper on the topic.

  46. This is great that there is so much discussion on this thread 🙂 @PL, I wasn’t seeking to denigrate @James, but presenting that this concept of, “wholly Jewish,” is problematic. People have a right to their politics, but when they marry them with religion in an inextricable fashion, they shut out those who don’t share those sentiments. Hopefully, most Jews are more intelligent than the, “useful idiots,” who have replaced their attempts at biblical faith and practice with a brand of politics. It was/is a problem for me that Jewish women are surprisingly treated with such disrespect in MJ congregations as the males make it clear that they vote for gentile wives. It would be logical to go where one is valued.

    @Boris, there are a few exceptions, but MJ follows evangelical methods of education of children, in that it is more like evangelical Sunday school than Jewish Hebrew school. Unlike evangelicals, Catholics, more like Jews, take the religious education of their children more seriously. In addition, how can one teach children Hebrew and offer a serious education program when the leaders aren’t steeped in knowledge, but instead are, “graduates,” of a non-accredited, diploma-mill program? My Hebrew knowledge is not what I would like it to be, nor is my knowledge in the area of the wisdom of my forebearers, but I am looking for those I can learn from who know exponentially more than I do and those I can learn and grow with – which is rare in the MJ/HR spectrum.

    At least in the old days, they didn’t call themselves, “rabbi.” No synagogue of any stripe has a, “drop-in,” religious education program in the style of evangelical churches as MJ congregations do. Every legitimate rabbi has extensive scholarly knowledge of the Hebrew language. Synagogues hire professional staff to teach and parents register and pay for their children’s religious education in the same way they would with Junior’s Karate and piano classes. The MJ world (evangelical style) wants everything free. It becomes a problem when one is confused and not sure of which model to follow.

    @Gene: Let’s not ignore the tremendous infighting and mostly baseless hatred going on within Orthodox Judaism, lest this is held up as a paradigm of perfection. Personally, I love the scholarship and devotion to study of the Orthodox, because I love to learn and study, uncommon in MJ/HR, especially among women. However, I don’t find the lifestyle attractive, especially that required of women, and the women are busy in the kitchen and handling the required minutae of halachic domestic issues and certainly couldn’t devote the time to study that I enjoy.

  47. Chaya said:

    This is great that there is so much discussion on this thread.

    I agree.

    Chaya said:

    Hopefully, most Jews are more intelligent than the, “useful idiots,” who have replaced their attempts at biblical faith and practice with a brand of politics.

    Ouch. Hopefully, I said nothing to suggest that I thought of Jews as “useful idiots”.

  48. @Marleen, there is a group within MJ that claims the ability to provide halachic rulings and standards. They don’t/can’t do this authoritatively as only those within their own group recognize their role. They are also not playing with a full deck in only allowing those of their own persuasion to be present on their council, and I understand they play games with gender issues, claiming they would allow female rabbis to be involved in the ruling process, yet their camp does not allow female rabbis. My take is that you follow local halacha for the congregation you are part of, but I wouldn’t submit myself to follow any of these, “rabbis.”

    One group that claims to be an alternative to the letter organizations replied that the reason they don’t have women involved in the dayan training and practice is that even discussion of this possibility caused such angry argument to erupt that it had to be shut down. No way I would even consider respecting such people. The Orthodox Bet Din is corrupt too, so is that our model?

    Every group evolves over time, and those without much critical mass in numbers and time to provide a counter-weight, it is likely there will be much change and splintering.

  49. @James, I wasn’t saying you were a useful idiot or promoting them. What I see is such a bundling of politics/scripture/religion within the evangelical right that has been adopted by MJ/HR, with the attitude of, “conservativeness is next to godliness.” My take is all brands of politicians are corrupt, dishonest and manipulative and the religious community tends to trust and take things at face value if they hear the right buzz words. Great if a politician/political group supports Israel, but don’t put too much faith in this as most will drop us like a hot potato as Jerusalem becomes a cup of trembling.

    A couple of examples: I brought my husband to a dinner once at a home fellowship group I was a part of. The issue here is the lack of sensitivity to others who may see things differently, or even the ability to get that others who see things differently are not inherently evil, nor are those who view things our way inherently good. Two ladies were ranting in a conversation about, “bleeding heart liberals.” Okay, my husband is mostly a, “bleeding heart liberal,” and this obviously made him uncomfortable. I was at another dinner with some HR people and the husband of one of the ladies invited a Jewish woman he worked with. One of the HR ladies proceed to bash Obama, adding that she couldn’t understand how anybody could support him. Obviously, since he was elected, a large number of people did/do support him. Personally, I don’t think much of any politician or brand of politics; there are not good guys vs. bad guys, as they are all bad guys, only some perhaps smell better. Since most Jews are liberal, she was inconsiderate and clueless in beginning this vein of conversation. I thought the Jewish (kind of New-Ager) guest was far more respectful, as she spoke up, and rather than argue, she just said that she had compassion for the stresses on a President and the toll it takes on the family. I also tried to steer the conversation to a different topic.

    @James, I don’t see that Christians bash Talmud, this is the province of HR, and I doubt they could even explain the composition of the Talmud. Another thing you see a great fear of is Kabbalah. Fundamentalists are scared of mysticism and see it as evil. They use fear to keep people from exploring what might threaten and contradict them, as well as anything that might offer attractive competition. I’ve come to respect mystics of all stripes, and for one reason it is that they don’t fight each other as their kingdom is not of this world, so what is there to battle and kill for? Religious groups of every stripe, whatever they claim, their kingdom is of this world, and that is why they continually fight those without and those within. I would much rather sit back and study the battles from a safe distance than participate ignorantly in them. I say, “ignorantly,” as once one is ensconced in a camp and conscripted into their army, one loses persective and an ability to look at things from outside without a pony in the race. I suppose my pony in the race would be a place to lay my head that doesn’t involve compromise and self-deception to belong, and that is a fantasy it took me 40 years to give up on.

  50. Just to add, HR bashes, “rabbinics,” in an attempt to position themselves as superior to Jews to ameliorate their feelings of inferiority, who they offensively and erroneously call, “Judah,” as they, evangelical style, claim ignorance is superior to scholarship and are still caught up the church fear that holding to the wrong belief and false doctrine will send on to an eternal Hell. That is a very powerful threat that keeps the sheep in line and in bondage.

    As fake Jews, they certainly are inferior. If they would choose to accept the biblical identity of holy foreigners whose name is better than that of sons and daughters, there would be a noble identity to hold onto that blesses, rather than antagonizes others. As a Chabad rabbi told me, “We don’t seek to encourage people to become Jewish; we want to encourage them to serve God where they are.”

  51. I appreciate your posts, Chaya. Although I went to Christian schools most of the time and am happy with the type of education I did get, if I were going to send children for private schooling these days, I think it would have to be Jewish. One reason is that I’m concerned straight up education may have been replaced in most Christian locations with partisanship. In my case, I didn’t get that from my schools (nor from churches) though a school* I went to for first and second grade had some of the attitudes toward women that you describe (not everyone there, and like I’ve said elsewhere, the principal was outstanding even if those tendencies were visible here and there in some significant people).

    I also participated in their “Pathfinders” club later; there were still no politics. However, a different extra-curricular organization I was put into later on was very political — although they sold themselves as educational and were categorized that way for tax purposes. Compared to conservative politics today, they were in fact educational. Educational enough, especially combined with my main education, to see that things have gone very wrong (and some of the wrong seeds were already there, while I don’t think the adults I interacted with had thought this through — while I do believe the originators of the organization has less than honorable motivations and did know the bigger ulterior picture).

    I visited a lot of different kinds of places trying to find what made sense to me for a place or group of worshippers, so I understand what you mean by some of the things you describe for HR (but even, according to your experience, sadly, for MJ), etc. Thankfully, the main leaders where I ended up had none of the negative attitudes about women (and they clearly taught otherwise), and they were educated well. Plus, the childhood background of the person who would probably be called a messianic rabbi now but who didn’t call himself a rabbi did involve the proper upbringing of someone very close to Orthodox (but technically Conservative) in the early half of and mid 20th century.

    @chaya: @Marleen, there is a group within MJ that claims the ability to provide halachic rulings and standards. They don’t/can’t do this authoritatively as only those within their own group recognize their role. [….] My take is that you follow local halacha for the congregation you are part of, but I wouldn’t submit myself to follow any of these, “rabbis.”

    I would be very hesitant to “sign on” to anything for others to make decisions in my life. In a free society, we might be better off going by what we know we witness. I really never saw any bad suggestions, though, where I was. Something I’ve wondered is whether it’s helpful to have an agreement about a marriage (and maybe even people who review it before hand) [rather than being at the “mercy” of whatever the state law may be]. But there would be very little assurance of any kind of equity there if the judges could have only Bible to consider; yet, tradition (and Bible) allows mutual agreements to be stated up-front. And Bible provides a baseline against ridiculous Christian lawlessness [even strict lawlessness].

    * There was something kind of subliminal or subversive at this one. The “Christian flag.”

  52. There are people who I trust that are wise, yet imperfect, and I would ask them advice, but not feel obliged to follow it. There are many I believe have wisdom and I can learn from them, but wouldn’t join myself to. I decided there are two dealbreakers for me: 1) Any limitations or subordination of women, no matter how they spin it. 2) Anything less than 100% support of Israel with no compromise. This doesn’t mean we say that Israelis and their system/leaders are angels who do no wrong, but Israel is family and you don’t provide succor to enemies and fair weather friends when your familiy is under siege.

    I was just reading the verse about those who, “love the best seats and greetings in the marketplace,” those who love to be called by titles they haven’t even earned, while the most worthy eschew titles and honors.

  53. @PL — Sorry for the mishap typo…

    When I mention Greater Judaism I’m referring to the practice of Orthodox. This is in no way to denigrate the other movements, so please don’t read into that.

    After further looking at Yechiel Tzvi’s life I stand corrected. He wasn’t a convert, but a Jewish Rabbi who discovered Yeshua and helped with Franz Delitzsch’s Hebrew translation of the NT in which he [Tzvi] created a commentary for it as well.

    That commentary is heavily used with the organization FFOZ (First Fruits of Zion) in their “Torah Club” promotion samplers. (If anyone here can read rashi script, Lichtenstein’s commentary on the entire NT is FREE on the internet, if curious minds were wondering.

  54. @Marleen & @Chaya — I get an impression from your recent posts that you both have a misimpression about what a halakhic body does, or what sort of rulings it may produce. One notion that you must put out of your heads is that it would in any way try to run anyone’s life. That is a far too individualistic perspective on halakhic authority. A more accurate perspective would be how an entire large-scale community is affected by constitutional decisions. We don’t resent the authority of the Supreme Court, even if we believe their aggregate wisdom in rulings has been misled at times. We don’t discard the Constitution even if we believe some of its amendments are being misinterpreted. Similarly, we don’t disdain the efforts of halakhic bodies to interpret the Torah for the benefit of the Jewish community as a whole, nor a body such as the MJRC in its attempt to determine some minimal halakhic standards that should characterize the MJ community. If anything, MJRC has tried to apply the more modernized and lenient standards they have found extant in the larger Jewish world rather than the most stringent haredi standards. If you have some other halakhic body in mind with respect to your comments, please identify it and indicate the characteristics in which you believe it to err. Remember that halakhah deals with issues such as our kashrut standards, our behavior during public prayers, how we approach the Shabbat, how we maintain “family purity”, and in general, how we conduct ourselves as Jews. In the MJ realm, additional considerations must be given to how non-Jews in the MJ community must conduct themselves in order to maintain a Jewish environment for the sake of MJs.

    Now, both of you touched on issues regarding how women are treated. I’m not sure precisely what specific matters may concern you. Are you worried that some MJ halakhic body will insist that MJs should as an aggregate body maintain a level of kashrut that is more stringent than you currently feel capable of maintaining in your own homes? Are you wishing for a role in the public prayer services that conflicts with that assigned to the men? Are you resenting some categorical imposition upon you as women in particular? Where are the conflicts that you fear would impinge upon you personally? Are there specific perceived injustices that a halakhic body might deliberate to seek a greater measure of the Torah’s perspective of justice to be applied within the MJ community? Is there any issue that would impel you to approach a halkhic body as the daughters of Tzelof’had approached Moshe regarding the inheritance laws? Are you, yourselves, dedicated to the notion of maintaining the standards of Jewish civilization developed across the millennia; and are you familiar with those standards and their pros and cons? Note than I am addressing here only the Jewish framework which is addressed by halakhah; I am not at all considering any views originating in the Christian world.

  55. I am certainly not afraid of these people. I give them no credence, anymore than I would give credence to some celebrity mouthpiece or religious talking head. These people are fake rabbis; a few are fake Jews. They are all about creating something to validate themselves, and perhaps the mostly gentile members of MJ congregations will validate them as they don’t know any better. There is certainly corruption and unfairness in the Bet Din of the Orthodox community, but the political maneuvering and cover-up that has gone on in MJ takes it up many notches. A couple of people who have been deemed worthy of inclusion couldn’t bother to answer basic questions and demonstrate their character qualities – or lack of them. The fact that some that might be honest and sincere are willing to close their eyes to corruption in their own camp gets them crossed off my list. The people I trust and would seek counsel from do not hold fake positions they have endowed upon themselves nor do they present with fake smicha.

    I would never even put this fraud in the same category with the Supreme Court or the Constitution. As an aside, both of these provide equality for women.

    Since I am not a part of their community, whatever they do is their business. Yes, I am aware that some people believe they can change things from within, and so submit to the way things are for now. But most give up and leave, or repress themselves to get along. Equally degrading is the idea that one must convince men to allow women whatever freedoms and participatory role they are provided. That is taking on the role of a child as an adult and submitting to paternalism.

    I suspect religion may be the last bastion for the marginal white male. Since the advent of both feminism and civil rights, men who would never be respected in the real world can have one sanctuary where they don’t have to compete with women.

  56. “@Gene: Let’s not ignore the tremendous infighting and mostly baseless hatred going on within Orthodox Judaism, lest this is held up as a paradigm of perfection.”

    chaya1957, the so called “infighting” is tremendously exaggerated by you (and the secular media). I know because I literally live among Orthodox Jews, I know what they talk about and how they view others, including other Orthodox Jews. Torah-faithful Jews are not perfect people, but who is claiming that they are?

    “Personally, I love the scholarship and devotion to study of the Orthodox”

    That’s a daily activity among Torah-faithful Jews (at least among men).

    “However, I don’t find the lifestyle attractive, especially that required of women, and the women are busy in the kitchen and handling the required minutae of halachic domestic issues and certainly couldn’t devote the time to study that I enjoy.”

    Well, it does take a lot of effort to raise the next generation of Israel, especially when one has 5 to 10 kids. Kudos to the Jewish mothers who sacrifice everything for the future of Klal Yisrael. The mothers of these children take a lot of pride in them and their upbringing, including making sure that their Jewish children, girls too, receives Torah education. My kids are in Orthodox school and they learn Torah every day and come home telling me what they learned about this and that person or about how great Hashem is, and all day long they sing traditional prayers and songs, even while playing with their dolls and zipping around the living room on their scooters.

  57. @Chaya: I see Christians bashing Jewish “man-made traditions” even if said-Christians have no concept of Talmud. As I’ve said before, Hebrew Roots is driven by a core Evangelical theology and thus holds similar attitudes about religious Judaism.

    The irony of Christians opposing Jewish mysticism is that Christianity has its own rich mystic tradition. Also, when the Zohar was originally published, Christian clergy as well as Jews studied Kabbalah.

    Chaya said:

    There are people who I trust that are wise, yet imperfect…

    Since being imperfect includes 100% of the human race, wise or unwise, expecting perfection from religious leaders or anyone else is going to result in perpetual disappointment.

    @Everyone: I think we’ve all occasionally encountered authority figures who have abused their positions for their own benefit, but that’s a far cry from authority figures who are simply imperfect human beings just like the rest of us. It’s not a matter of being right all the time or being a perfect human being because those things are impossible. It’s a matter of character and intent. I suppose the one sure way of avoiding abusive authority figures is never to put yourself under the authority of someone else (employer, police officer during a traffic stop, clergy at a place of worship) but that only goes so far, unless you plan on living alone on a deserted island. Being in community with other human beings sooner or later involves trust. There seems to be some trust issues involved relative to religion going on in this conversation and a “once burned” response being employed.

    I can’t solve any of that for anyone, but just because one or more religious leaders in your lives have abused their authority doesn’t mean that all religious leaders (or other leaders of groups) at automatically evil, nor does it mean the very concept of authority is bad. In any group where there is no leader, one will emerge.

  58. [Addendum: I don’t think I’ve ever seen “the” (or any) secular media conveying infighting or hatred amongst Orthodoxy.]

  59. Institutions of the United States have been invoked herein to illustrate that we want to respect authority. Yes, we do. And then there is the worry over not respecting authority (or being wary of so-called authority or authority options). Understand, the laws of the United States are largely {but certainly not mainly or only, as some folks get carried away with picking and choosing such as sheriff but not President or state but not fed} about guarding from “authority” — such as the “high” church or the “low” church or ANY church.

  60. “Tried Googling “infighting among orthodox jews news” but didn’t get a lot of relevant feedback.”

    Well, I guess it’s then just Chaya’s own opinion on “TREMENDOUS infighting and MOSTLY BASELESS HATRED [emphasis added] going on within Orthodox Judaism”, not supported by reality.

  61. Gene, I did the Google search just out of curiosity, not because I doubt your word or am trying to insult you. I recall reading stories about the Haredim throwing rocks and eggs at buses that run on Shabbat in Israel, but couldn’t immediately recall (probably because of my leaky memory) any particular news stories about infighting between Orthodox Jewish communities. If you could provide links to relevant news stories (my Google search was hardly exhaustive), I’m sure I’d be illuminated. Thanks.

  62. Thanks for the links, James. They look interesting to read. I’ve had some awareness of “baseless hatred” such as what you referred to earlier, but it’s all been relayed by religious people and YouTube. There is no preponderance of seculars making a big deal of it, unless what is meant is secular people in Israel specifically (or maybe other countries).

  63. The stories about “Orthodox infighting” are not common (probably because they are not very exciting and because they ARE rare), but I’ve seen some (such as Satmar brothers fighting over leadership of the Satmar sect after their father’s death: http://nypost.com/2012/05/06/satmar-war-camps/ – which seems more like family feud than anything). However, other than that, it’s mostly stories about some rock throwing or spitting nutcases in Israel, which media likes to portray as a daily occurrence.

  64. “baseless hatred”

    For hatred to be “baseless”, it has to fit the description of “baseless” – that is without cause. Clearly, not all hatred fits that description. If you truly hate someone for the way they look, for annoying habits, for different religious practices or outlooks on life that do not violate Torah, that would be an example of “baseless” hatred. OF COURSE some of it exists in Orthodox community, as in any community.

    However, even hatred -as long as it’s not baseless but firmly based on facts worthy of hatred – has its time, as Solomon wrote. As David wrote in Psalms:

    “Do I not hate those who hate you, L-RD, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.” (Psalm 139:21-22)

  65. Yes, thanks for the comment on ” baseless hatred.” And, yes, what you linked to seems like a huge family squabble (that affects a lot of people).

  66. As to baseless hatred, just peruse social media, if you don’t have access to it in the real world.

    But this is interesting, that one can excuse one’s hatefulness and cruelty to others with claims it is justified. We know King David himself was at times in rebellion against the Holy One, who was merciful to him.

    I am trying to decide between two theories based upon experiences:

    Are persons who are already filled with anger, arrogance and bitterness drawn to leaders/groups that encourage, validate and excuse these practices? Or, does association with these people/groups create new attitudes and behavior that didn’t exist prior, or bring out one’s negative traits rather than encourage that spark of light, one’s positive traits? Or is it a combination of factors? I tend to lean towards one becomes what one fills one’s mind and time with.

    I was recently listening to R’ Shlomo Katz as he said something to the effect that if what one does is sourced in hatred toward another can never be good. I thought it was touching when he commented that even in a war situation, we hope and pray that between the time a soldier pulls the trigger and the bullet hits its target, Mashiach comes and the killing stops.

  67. Another thought: R’ Avraham Chira commented that there is something within oneself that, like a magnet, draws one to words, ideas outside themselves.

    I had been trying to help a friend who seems drawn to toxic men, and keeps going back to them no matter that she understands on some level and we are providing her all sorts of support to leave this addiction. So perhaps this explains.

  68. Here’s the main subject addressed:

    *…Lancet’s treatment of Palestinian public health issues has undermined Israel-Palestinian relations, according to a detailed study published by Jerusalem- based NGO Monitor.

    The Lancet has set back relations between Israelis and Palestinians “by taking a highly politicized course in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict,” according to the new report, which was obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post.

    “The Lancet has ostracized, and to a large extent, demonized Israel and the Israeli medical community,” the report continues.

    Dr. Richard Horton, the Lancet’s editor-in-chief, is due to visit Israel later this month, in what will be his second trip to the country.

    The publication was accused of bias last August after it published an “Open letter to the people of Gaza” attacking Israel while ignoring Hamas rocket attacks on the Jewish state. The letter accused Israel of committing a “massacre” in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.

    Two of the 1,600-word letters’ authors, Dr. Paola Manduca and Dr. Swee Ang, have connections with David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard in Louisiana and advocate of Nazism. Both Manduca and Ang expressed sympathy for Duke’s rabidly anti-Jewish positions.

    Manduca and Ang praised a neo-Nazi video that purportedly “reveals how the Zionist Matrix of Power controls media, politics and banking…”

    In response to criticism in the British media in September, which reported on NGO Monitor’s exposé of the letter, Horton partially walked back the contents….*
    [I added emphasis.]

  69. “We know King David himself was at times in rebellion against the Holy One, who was merciful to him. ”

    How was David in “rebellion”? I think you are conflating an otherwise righteous person who sins with a rebel who is against G-d and His authority.

  70. Nice post, chaya. And at Passover it is said we shouldn’t lick the wine off our pinkies when remembering the plagues. (But we do it anyway.)

  71. So are you suggesting, Chaya, that men *ought* to be competing with women, or vice versa? {Arm wrestling, anyone? [:)]}

    As for the members of the MJRC, I don’t know all of them personally, but I do know some of them and their character and their academic credentials. Consequently, I really must tell you that your criticism is out of line and woefully inaccurate. BTW, I don’t agree with all that they have published, either, but I do recognize the purpose of some of their positions that in my view are pushing the envelope of leniency a bit too far. They are trying to accommodate certain present conditions within the movement that may require another generation before greater halakhic stringency may be possible. It would be already forward progress if all of MJ would conform even to their currently-recommended liberal halakhic standard. It does not preclude portions of MJ pursuing stricter orthodox standards, perhaps comparably to the spectrum of Conservative Jewish praxis, in which some congregations are almost as liberal as Reform while others are virtually indistinguishable from Orthodoxy.

    As for the “equality” of women in Torah, a great deal depends on what you think “equality” means. In Torah, it does not mean that every member of the community is authorized to perform the identically same roles and tasks. Levi-im may not perform some tasks reserved for Cohanim. Other Jews who are not in these categories may not perform the tasks reserved for priestly categories (with some rare and constrained exceptions). Men may not bear children nor are they exempt from time-critical tasks required of them (the men, not the children [:)]). Women may not perform certain tasks required specifically of men. Children are constrained from performing adult tasks and are not to be relied upon to perform adult responsibilities (though their training will include learning by doing, emulating such tasks). None of these categories are less to be valued because of what they may not do; and each is to be highly valued for what they *are* given to do. They are all equally valuable and honorable; but they are not identical in their assignments nor may they trade off their specific responsibilities, though some tasks may be shared by more than one of these categories. Hence, just to pick some stereotypical examples, men may wash dishes, cook meals, feed children and change diapers, though they may not neglect their assigned time-critical prayer tasks to do these other types of task. For those who may wonder about the whys and wherefores of some of these categorized task assignments, an analysis can be produced to indicate societal and psychological benefits and consequences, but such an analysis would be far too voluminous to pursue in a blog venue. It is certainly beneficial for each societal member to appreciate and esteem his or her categorical responsibilities and contributions.

  72. @PL, It is not my role to tell a community/congregation that I am not a part of what they should do. However, my choice would be to refuse to join myself to as a member of any group that kept women in any sort of subordinate/submissive role or placed any limitations upon them. I believe that most of the subordination of women within religion was to protect their position of superiority. I did some research on historical teachings of Christianity, and most historical theological writings claim women are inferior both intellectually and morally. Now, we don’t hear this today too often, but the practices stand, upheld by mistranslated and out of context quotes. Orthodox Judaism also subordinates women, but it seems more to be based upon tradition than any claim to be a divinely ordained practice.

    Frank Seekins made an interesting comment. He asked, “Do you want your allies to be weak or strong?” Of course one would want them to be strong. So, men must not believe that women, or their wives are their allies. In addition, I would feel that a group that eschews patriarchy or paternalism for egalitarianism (in deed, not just in word) might offer a more honest, balanced environment. But this is no guarantee. You see, to join myself to something is to validate it.

  73. @Chaya — Cute story about the wine. And, of course, you are right that joining something is a statement that you accept its validity for yourself. Failure to participate in or to learn from something that has been validated by one’s own covenanted community over the span of many generations, however, can serve to challenge one’s own validity or identity, with unavoidably negative consequences upon subsequent generations. In a Torah-observant community, however, there are many aspects of authority and subordination, on both small and large scales, each relating to the distinctive responsibilities of its members, and all are honorable allies who each demonstrate strengths and weaknesses. It is not a monolithic situation in which the competing philosophies of various “isms” such as paternalism, feminism, egalitarianism or anarchism have any proper place save that of academic discussion. All its members face constraints and limitations and they are all subordinate to each other’s distinctive spheres of responsibility and the requirement of recognizing them. Neither envy nor resentment nor denigration of another’s position (nor of one’s own) is conducive to the functioning of such a community.

    If you would enjoy discussing the position of women in ancient pre-Torah societies like that of Avraham, then consider that this position resulted from the need to protect them as vulnerable persons unable to protect themselves against depredations by forces of much greater physical strength. Their potential for positive contributions to a social group then could offset the costs of such protection in a world lacking the Hobbsian notion of a social contract to ameliorate its tendency to make life therefore nasty, brutish, and short. The family and tribal-clan social structure offered early versions of social contract. The Torah covenant elaborated such notions and allowed their development over many generations to higher forms capable of abstraction and application to many socio-economic structures. Alternative structures have been attempted on occasion, of all-female societies banded together and armed for mutual protection and defense, with their own internal hierarchies and subordinations. But these were then required to raid other societies in order to obtain necessary male genetic contributions to produce any subsequent generation of their society. Such a predatory society cannot long endure, because eventually larger forces will assemble to end its intrinsic banditry. The only viable society, over the long term, is a cooperative one. It remains, then, to determine the rules of cooperation or “the terms of social contract”. Ideally, those terms would produce the most congenial society by recognizing and exploiting the intrinsic characteristics of the society’s diverse members. If these characteristics may be grouped into categories that address generalizable functions within the society, it becomes simpler to codify the contract terms. I suggest that this is what traditional Jewish civilization has done, and quite successfully. It should not be viewed as a personal defeat to cooperate with it.

  74. @PL and Chaya: Another thought regarding roles, authority and status has to do with the presence of non-Jews in Messianic Jewish space. I know we’d discussed this before, but while the halachah in Orthodox Judaism, for example, regarding community roles of men and women is pretty well defined, in Messianic Judaism, halachah for the roles of Gentiles relative to Jews in Jewish community isn’t particularly distinct. Each congregation (as far as I know) has developed its own policy regarding the presence of Gentiles, and of course, Gentiles make up the majority of attendees/members in Messianic Jewish groups, at least in the U.S. and Canada. However, if Messianic Jewish synagogues are going to be truly Jewish in nature, the role of Gentiles will need to continue to be addressed, which includes the idea of non-Jews as potentially subordinate and distinct from Jewish members in Jewish community.

  75. Here is another article I found interesting yesterday when I went to one of the links you gave, James. Although we often think of decisions being sort of ethereal or ponderous or suggestive or recommended, there is real hard-core involvement in the lives of people.

    http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Jewish-stars-take-home-awards-at-the-Golden-Globes-387475

    ….

    Israel’s entry in the foreign-language film competition made the shortlist of five finalists with “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” chronicling the five-year struggle by an Orthodox woman in Israel to convince a rabbinical court to grant her a divorce from her husband.

    “Gett” lost out to Russia’s “Leviathan,” the story of a simple workingman fighting the corrupt mayor of his town. Another finalist, and early favorite, in the same category was Poland’s entry, “Ida,” the story of a young Polish woman, about to take her vows as a nun, who discovers that she is the daughter of Jewish parents killed in the Holocaust.

    ….

  76. @Marleen, Ida is on Netflix, and thank for encouraging me to watch it. 🙂 @James, outside of Israel, we may as well dispense with the term, “Messianic Judaism,” as it no longer exists. Sure, some of the Jewish members that were already there and their descendents may continue to participate, but I would love to hear if any congregation adds one new Jewish member in a year. They’ve taken over and we’ve left. Why would I choose to be a minority in my own congregation? As mentioned, why would I bring my sons into an evironment of hungry husband hunting gentile women? @PL, I am not attacking you on this, but the idea that the gentile spouses preferred by Jewish leaders and members of MJ congregations are better and more devoted Jews, for whatever reason, is offensive, and why should I or my family want to be around this? I remember Yohanna Chernoff made it clear that her children were going to have Jewish spouses, even though she herself is not Jewish, and they obliged.

  77. Chaya, I’ll continue to write about Messianic Judaism as a concept and an ideal and, at least for some Jewish people, an actual lived experience. That there are few (or no) Messianic Jewish synagogues in the U.S. that are mainly or exclusively occupied by Jewish people doesn’t mean that the goals of the movement aren’t valid, nor does it mean that God does not want Jews in Messiah to be in some sort of community in relation to each other. Heaven forbid that a Jew’s only option in worshiping Messiah is to assimilate into the Church.

    You said:

    Why would I choose to be a minority in my own congregation?

    I agree wholeheartedly. That’s why I continue to promote the necessity of Messianic Jewish community.

  78. James (and Chaya) …. what I am seeing today and I already saw that in my messianic days, on the other hand, is another trend, other than than just Gentiles being the majority in MJ places. There are virtually no new Jews coming into the Messianic movement. In my experience as someone who founded and helped run a sizable congregation that was very Jewish in orientation and in a very Jewish area, most of those who did come tended to be older (middle-aged and higher), all intermarried and very assimilated and they tended to migrate from one messianic place to another. There were virtually no young halachially Jewish people around, may be one (and he was mentally unstable and soon went back to the Baptist church no matter how hard we reached out to him). Most of the teens and twenties folks were either 100% Gentile or children of Jewish fathers. Other local messianic congregations nearby were in even worse shape, and I live in a state where there hundreds of thousands of Jews and tons of synagogues of all sorts. I addressed that on my “messianic” blog on numerous occasions. I am also seeing more and more former MJ’s (and messianic Gentiles) leave the messianic movement, in the last 5 years, many returning to Judaism or converting. I attribute it, in part, to much wider availability of information through internet, to aging of the Jewish messianics that are not being replaced by new blood and to the influx of the Gentiles.

  79. Oh, good; I have Netflix. “Ida” sounds very interesting. I will have to check around for the other movie, which is apparently part of of a trilogy starting with “To Take a Wife.” [This woman was engaged at fifteen.]

    Incidentally, I don’t know first-hand, but I understand some states in the U.S., too, don’t let a person out of a marriage unless both people agree to it. My sister-in-law (married to my children’s father’s brother) couldn’t get divorced even though her husband stayed out for days at a time, was an alcoholic, had an affair, was unpleasant, and was wasting a lot of money (and had the nerve to say to this woman who is beautiful in multiple ways — including the way people usually mean it — that “any woman” would be glad to have him for a husband, before she had tried or decided she wanted a divorce); legally, he had to agree. Subsequent to them finally being divorced — long story — he actually won a lot of money in the state lottery, and he was still broke. Still alcoholic, etc. She’s now happily remarried — eharmony (she’s not religiously picky, very mainstream).

  80. That must have been 30+ years ago when it was more difficult to get a divorce. Now it is quite easy. The problem is, if the couple can’t agree to a settlement and other issues such as child custody, you can end up with a long, expensive battle.

  81. @Chaya — I was not whitewashing all gentile spouses; I was saying that redemption is possible, in response to your overly pessimistic projections about an imperfect state of MJ (even discounting those who claim the label falsely). Apparently Gene also had some similarly discouraging experiences during his career and decided that redemption and correction of his MJ environment was impossible. Both of you seem to complain in your own ways of a phenomenon that I (and James, for that matter) also have decried, which is the case when too many gentiles seeking Jewish authenticity overwhelm a community and make Jewish authenticity impossible by squeezing out any Jews originally present or discouraging any new ones from beginning to participate.

  82. Hey, I’ve decried it too (although James has declined to post some of my clearest portraiture of experience). Oh,well.

  83. Well, Chaya, it was fifteen to twenty years ago. But I just looked up the standards for that state, and, while it’s not impossible, I wouldn’t say it’s easy. Laws very from state to state.

  84. My “portraiture” was positive, by the way, but I didn’t agree with him in the comments section of an odd meditation where he’d said messianic theology isn’t significantly different from Christian.

  85. @Gene: I can’t speak to who is or isn’t coming to the Messianic movement, although I’ve heard before everything you are now saying. I am aware of a certain population of non-Jews in Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots who have elected to convert to Judaism. My personal opinion is that conversion is a mistake, and I know we’ll disagree on this point. I don’t however, think that what you said automatically invalidates the “Jewishness” of the MJ movement, only that God is still in the process of doing what is necessary to bring His plan to fruition.

    I’m reminded of Gamaliel’s words as recorded in Acts 5:

    But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

    Acts 5:33-39 (NASB)

    Another way of putting it is that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Between your position and mine, we’ll just have to wait to see what God does and in the meantime, we will each embrace our beliefs as we understand them.

  86. James, I think in the book of Acts case (and I believe that account to be wholly made up, not only because it contradicts Paul’s own account, but also because it was written very late in the first century if not later), the ironic part of those words is that the plan and action of these men was indeed overthrown. The early Jewish Jesus-followers ceased to exist in a short order. Their sect was replaced by a religion quite foreign to them in deed and thought, one in total opposition to Judaism and one that worshiped a man as a deity. This is definitely not something that Gamaliel would have approved as mainstream Judaism nor would he have taken a wait and see approach, that is had he actually known that to be the case with the members of the Jesus sect standing in front of him. That’s something to consider.

    “Between your position and mine, we’ll just have to wait to see what God does and in the meantime, we will each embrace our beliefs as we understand them.”

    Yes, but has not the history already shown what is what, that is in regards to Judaism and Christianity (i am not even including the state of the messianic movement and the fate of whatever Jews end up embracing Jesus as god)? You won’t agree, of course, and I guess with some we’ll have to wait until the messianic age when the reality of things would be undeniable.

  87. Gene said:

    You won’t agree, of course, and I guess with some we’ll have to wait until the messianic age when the reality of things would be undeniable.

    I agree that we’ll have to wait.

  88. Just wanted to say thanks to @Marleen for the recommendation of the film, “Ida.” It was on my watch list for a while but I never got to it. Even thought it was fiction, it was still a very well-made film. The only thing that seemed implausible to me was that an orphan wouldn’t seek to know her history, wouldn’t have discovered that her parents were Jewish long before and wouldn’t have expressed shock or some emotion upon the discovery her parents were Holocaust victims.

  89. @the person who quoted -Acts 5:33-39 (NASB)

    But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. But … Gamaliel… in the Council said to them, “… take care what you propose to do with these men.”

    Maybe Gamaliel was just a “good guy” so to speak. You don’t have to be a fan or a foe to know some men simply shouldn’t be killed. It should always be the course of action, to “take care what you propose to do.”

    We have examples of leaders in that time not taking care, and, rather, plotting to kill people and make examples of people, without adhering to proper authority and judgment and so on.

    Gamaliel doesn’t have to have gotten everything “right” to have spoken up to rescue people from being murdered. He didn’t have to be prophetic or to have communicated exactly how recent events should be or should have been viewed. He did what was right to stop the forward action which would have put some men to death. I think we can easily evaluate that people who are put to death or who die aren’t necessarily only of “men” rather than “of God” — and Gamaliel is reported here to have said, “…or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

    We know that Judea, as it then existed, was overthrown (and Jerusalem sacked), and we would do well to be careful not to determine disciples of Yeshua were deserving of defeat. What, then, of those involved when the temple was ruined or Masada was besieged?

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