intermarriage taboo

Is Messianic Judaism Shrinking Because Almost All Other Judaisms are Shrinking?

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.

-Gene Shlomovich
from his comment on my blog post
Much Ado About the Oral Law

I’m not quoting Gene to put him on the spot (not sure I’d be able to do that anyway) but only because I needed a quote that intimated that Messianic Judaism is neither a Judaism nor a viable religious movement because it contains relatively few halachically Jewish members and most of them are intermarried. Gene also emphasizes that the Jewish leaders are older and that few if any young Jews are joining the movement.

The reason I’m bringing all this up is because of the following:

If you leave out the Orthodox, 71.5% of American Jews marry outside the faith. Only 17% of children of intermarried couples will marry a Jew, and the largest block of American Jews under 40 are the unaffiliated. As Steven Weil, from the Orthodox Union, pointed out, “With a birthrate of only 1.9 children and an astoundingly high intermarriage rate, American Jewry is on a train speeding headlong into self-destruction.”

-Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith
“The Intermarriage Taboo”
Aish.com

It seems that the issues of intermarriage, assimilation, and lack of a younger Jewish membership aren’t exclusive to Messianic Judaism. However, let’s pursue the following:

On the other hand, the Orthodox are thriving. 83% of Orthodox Jews stay Orthodox. The birthrate among Orthodox Jews is significantly higher than most other religious groups (4.1 children per adult). Sarah Bunin Benor, a professor of Jewish studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, said “Orthodox Jews will eventually likely be the majority of American Jews.” 60% of Jewish children in the New York City area live in Orthodox homes and that number will only increase.

It would seem as if the only group of Jews who are thriving and growing, at least in the U.S., are Orthodox Jews, specifically in the New York City area, which to the best of my knowledge, is one of the largest concentrations of Jewish people in this country.

JewishThat suggests the problem with Messianic Judaism attracting a larger Jewish base population and matters of intermarriage may not entirely be simply because of Yeshua-faith and a large Gentile membership (although those are certainly contributing factors), but also indicative of a much larger problem in western Jewry.

Of course that’s a lot to assume from a single article published on the web, but it does bring up the question of what Orthodox Judaism is doing that all of the other Judaisms (including Messianic) aren’t.

According to a study published by the Pew Research Center as reported by The Jewish Daily Forward:

The study’s numbers suggest that the Orthodox birthrate in the United States is far higher than that of most other religious groups. Pew found that Orthodox Jews averaged 4.1 children per adult, while America’s. general public averages 2.2 children. The Orthodox number is higher than the average for Protestants (2.2) and Catholics (2.4). Hispanic Catholics (3.1) come close, but still fall short.

Certainly a high birthrate is a significant variable but what keeps the younger population within Orthodox Judaism as they become adults and especially as they start families of their own?

“Orthodox life is very, very different than a conventional lifestyle,” said Alexander Rapaport, 35, a father of seven. Rapaport lives in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn’s Boro Park and runs the soup kitchen network Masbia. He described a social structure designed to encourage and support large families — and that structure has apparently succeeded in more than doubling its share of the Jewish population in less than two decades.

That’s more anecdotal rather than hard data, but conservative communities that espouse adherence to traditional values and have strong internal support systems tend to transmit those values across multiple generations with relatively little “mission drift.” You see this especially among Chasidic Jewish groups such as the Chabad.

The price such groups pay, if you want to think of it in those terms, is the inability to “blend in” with the prevalent culture. In other words, such Orthodox Jewish groups do not bow down at the altar of Political Correctness, even the liberal religious variety.

(As an aside, I should point you to an article I recently read called The Challenges of Parenting an Openly Gay Orthodox Teen to illustrate that Orthodox Judaism also has “shades of gray” woven into its fabric. If it matters, the source website Kveller.com is socially and religiously liberal, so their viewpoints will be biased accordingly.)

Which may be why most or all of the other Judaisms are struggling to maintain their unique identity in a multi-generational fashion beyond “bagels and lox,” as Rabbi Coopersmith put it. To further quote the Rabbi’s article:

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee, got into a lot of hot water last week, when a copy of a speech she gave to a Florida branch of the Jewish Federation went public. She had to retract her words in order to calm things down.

Her party affiliation is irrelevant here; it’s not hard to imagine a Republican figure issuing a similar retraction. Outside of Orthodox circles you cannot come out and say that intermarriage and assimilation is a problem. It has become a taboo subject. In a not so distant past, stopping intermarriage and assimilation was the rallying cry used to garner support for Jewish outreach initiatives. Federations used the term “Jewish continuity,” to imply that the Jewish people have something of unique value worthy of preserving. Today it is likely you’ll be attacked for bigotry and racism and that rallying cry will more likely push Jews away.

Go to Aish.com to find out what Ms. Schultz uttered that was so terrible, but suffice it to say, it’s not popular in most branches of Judaism, let alone within many Christian groups (in my opinion), and certainly not in the view of American secular egalitarianism, to believe and publicly declare that maintaining the uniqueness of Jewish identity along with cultural and religious Judaism is not only a big deal, but absolutely vital to the continuation of the Jewish people as a people.

And yet, in spite of its apparent shortcomings, including a lack of Jewish membership and including a lack of a young Jewish presence, Messianic Judaism has repeatedly raised a loud and persistent voice requiring and demanding the protection of religious, cultural, and halachic Jewish identity within its communities.

IntermarriageAnd Messianic Judaism has been shot down from all sides for daring to say such a thing, just as was Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the aftermath of her statements at the Democratic National Committee. Ms. Schultz was forced to retract her “offending” words to calm the outrage leveled against her.

It used to be a taboo for Jews to marry outside, but now the taboo in many Jewish places is to dare to criticize intermarriage. More’s the pity (and I say this as an intermarried person).

Can Messianic Judaism afford to do the same as Ms. Schultz did to placate its critics and further risk the survival of Messianic Judaism as a wholly Jewishly-oriented community?

I’m not proposing any answers, but I think it’s important that, according to the data I’ve presented here, Messianic Judaism is suffering a crisis that is very much the same as many other Judaisms apart from the Orthodox.

I’m probably going to regret this, but for this one blog post only, I’m opening up comments. I may close them down just as fast, and I remind everyone that as the blog owner, I’m a benevolent dictator, not the leader of a democracy. Commenting here is a privilege I grant, not a right you possess. Keep that in mind when you keyboard your responsive missives and press the “submit” button.

Advertisements

181 thoughts on “Is Messianic Judaism Shrinking Because Almost All Other Judaisms are Shrinking?”

  1. This has been an “issue” for the last 20 years. But as you point out nicely, it’s not just M.J. this has been happening everywhere is Judaism, except it seems in the Orthodox communities. Most Judaisms are synagogal in perspective, Reform, Conservative, and Renewal Jews tend not to live in closely structured communities like the Orthodox do. M.J. has that same issue. Orthodoxy gives a not just a social structure but a communal religious structure that tends to give it’s members boundaries. I think M.J. can learn ftomorrow the Orthodox from that stand point.

  2. That was my first thought as well, Tony. However, Messianic Judaism has the same “scattered” and diverse community structure as the other Judaisms, apart from the Orthodox, and added to that the large number of Gentiles present in the synagogue. While in theory, it seems like following the Orthodox model would be “the answer,” in any practical sense, I don’t see this happening.

  3. First, thank you for the articles (the one about Debbie and the one by Elana); the one was sad, and the other made me cry. As for the latter, I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with that so directly (in other words, with my sons — and I have only sons — while I do have a cousin who, along with her sister, is the closest I have to a sister — and, remarkably, they both [daughters of my mom’s twin sister] say I am more of a sister to them than their sister is, even though they are fairly close — and who is lesbian although she wasn’t when we were younger, and thus as I gather is more like the namesake of the moniker). I suppose we don’t want to get too heavily into that general topic under this subject. I might touch on it again, though (guessing that would be okay since you brought it up).

    The messianic Jewish congregation I was in for years tended to have large families (compared to the general population and especially protestants). I’d say an average of four. I had five. At least a couple families had seven or more. One couple had trouble conceiving but finally did (after the woman started taking some green stuff — don’t remember whether it was green magma [a combination of green things including stuff like wheat grass and algae] or just kelp or what). Many had precisely four. We didn’t all buy houses on the same streets (as some local orthodox synagogue communities did), but we all spent hours together at least twice a week and supported each other’s peculiarities in daily life, including homeschooling and home birth and naturopathic and hippie health practices — for those who variously did any of these things — and normalities, like public or private schooling, hospitals, junk food (not so much), etc. where or when that applied.

    I think that’s important for relating, that you don’t have to pressure everyone to do the same thing(s) but can help your friends and neighbors and family. I think it’s also important for continuing a population. We’re, each family, trying our best to bring up thoughtful, happy, productive children. And so can we be as a group. Messianics I think need to be unapologetic for our being different — unapologetic together {but not rude}. And then able to extend our acceptance and appreciation to others (including especially Jews who don’t see things our way, and also Christians or others who don’t). If we want to further both a populous and faith, we need to be both convinced of or confident in our agreement what we do and farsighted. I think it’s [I’ll say “almost” because I’m hesitating] tragic that a person with a father who is a Jew is not considered a Jew if the mother isn’t also. How many people are discouraged in this way, then lost, or simply out of the picture before any chance of discouragement? If need be, messianic synagogues could acknowledge at least three categories (sorry for using that word, but I don’t know what else to say): gentile, raised a Jew, and halachicly Jewish.

    As Debbie said, in an upbeat note (as regrettable as it is that she felt she had to apologise or backtrack), her husband was a result of a mixed marriage. But now he has married a halachically Jewish woman, and their children would then be halachically Jews. What if he had no value left for his Jewish identity and didn’t marry a Jewish woman? What does he or someone like him (or someone with a gentile mother, since I don’t know if that is his case) do until he is grown and chooses a mate? And what if he’s rejected as a gentile or not Jewish enough and not valued as a Jewish father (of course she could marry someone who isn’t even partly of Jewish decent and her children would still be Jews, but she wanted more than that)? Those are rhetorical questions. I’m saying such people should be part of the community. (I wonder to what extent we can do the same with people who are homosexual. They are included, I’m postulating, probably except that we don’t perform ritual weddings — but official wededness at the basic level is a function of the state anyway [in terms of performance and responsibility beyond the couple themselves]. Yes, we can provide kosher food and love and togetherness for them and their brothers/sisters/parents/children and partners too as long as we don’t then shy away from {nor fixate upon} Bible references.) Some of these specifics may seem hurtful. But mainly in terms of feelings (hopefully not at an exaggerated level), if even that.

  4. @James, I thought you cut off commenting, but I guess you relented? 🙂 I doubt if MJ will shrink; it will grow, but it will not grow with Jews. If you look at the data mathematically, soon it will morph into something like Sabbatarian Christian groups, such as WCG.

    Way back when, people questioned if the movement, “was of God.” Looking back, I believe it was, but not for the reasons people thought. I remember Manny Brotman (and I don’t think he was the original author of this) calling for, “A Movement for Messiah within Judaism.” But, MJ was never a movement for Messiah within Judaism; it was a movement for Judaism within Evangelicalism, and it seems neither its promoters nor its supporters saw that.

    Think about it, if someone were planning a scam, it would be a great one, while much that happened was quite unexpected. Ministries and leaders went around to churches, teaching interesting, tidbits of Judaica and entertaining with Jewish-style music (singing for their supper) to gather funds for outreach, to spread the gospel of evangelicalism to Jews, and either to direct them to the churches that supported them, or encourage them to worship at independent or semi-independent congregations combining Jewish culture with evangelical theology. What neither expected was how attractive the evangelicals, as well as some other Christians, found Judaica, presented in a manner they could relate to and understand. So, the churches and Christian ministries helped bankroll Jewish ministries/congregations that (inadvertently) stole their market and drew people out of their churches into MJ congregations. This may be why, in pushback/withdrawal, certain ministries felt the need to make it clear that Christians should remain in their churches, to keep the sales, donations and the speaking engagements that made this possible rolling in.

    Encouraging a positive view of Israel, Jews and Judaica was an incredible accomplishment of MJ’s, and I doubt if they even realized what they were doing. Centuries of fear about even curiosity about forbidden Jewish things was ameliorated without triggering the red-flag of a threat. This stuff was all new and exciting, and they just ate it up. As to the future, there is a similarity with the rest of the non-Orthodox Jewish world; it doesn’t do any good to shut the barn door once the cows have already gotten out. The future points to the Jewish people and the 10 men of all the languages of the nations who go/walk with us, returning to the land, where the diaspora threat of assimilation is a moot point.

    In case people who are curious, or have made assumptions, let me explain where I stand right now. I am a Jew who believes Yeshua (the man who walked this earth, not the creation of Christian theologians or Jewish fearmongers, is the Messiah. I don’t view him or his teaching through either bias, but seek to understand what is a mystery, concerning both his nature, the nature of Hashem and how these relate. I do not consider myself a Messianic Jew, as both Messianic Judaism has changed and I have changed. I suppose the frustration I have expressed (interpreted and attributed by those who don’t even want to consider what I am saying as, “bitterness for bad experiences,”) has been that my deepest need is to find those I can both learn from and learn with, without being pressured to conform or help build someone’s Babel, or enter their cage of prejudices, polemics and shunning off-limit topics. This place of honesty is a very dangerous place, because it means arrows can be shot at me from all the various camps and I have no human place to hide and seek protection. While often not safe or even pleasant, I believe the wilderness, and the lessons it teaches, are the right place for me.

  5. Chaya, if you’ll read the last paragraph of this blog post again, you’ll see that I have opened up comments for this one “meditation” only. I have not otherwise reversed my policy.

    Assuming you’re correct, then what will be accomplished if gathering congregations of “Judaically-aware Gentiles” (to use a phrase coined by Derek Leman) who are pro-Jewish people, pro-Judaism, and pro-Israel, but who have only a minority Jewish presence among them. If they don’t attract the next generation of Jews into the Messianic movement, then as time goes by, these congregations will ultimately be Gentiles, Sabbatarian Christians, more or less.

    Most Jews in America will either be Orthodox or unaffiliated unless some way is found to either attract young Jewish people into Messianic Judaism or to raise them.

  6. I would hope Judaicially-aware (and positive) gentiles don’t have to be Christians. I agree with you, Chaya, “Yeshua (the man who walked this earth, not the creation of Christian theologians or Jewish fearmongers[)] [here, though, we have more than fearmongers; we have legitimate fear of Christians] is the Messiah. I don’t view him or his teaching through either bias, but seek to understand….”

  7. Sorry, I must have missed that comment. I believe diaspora Jews will be vomited out of the nations to return to the land soon, at least within our lifetime. I suspect that Israel will offer asylum to non-Jews who then will also become targets due to their identification with Israel and Judaica, and the Sabbateans of past centuries did. This would include those who are neither Jewish nor Christian also.

    Perhaps it would be more honest if Leman identified himself as one of these pro-Jewish/pro-Israel people, instead of claiming to be Jewish. I used to take people at face value, but have since learned otherwise that I need act as if I were writing a newspaper article, to verify, document and fact-check, because there is much deception. Knowing that you play by evangelical rules and culture, you may delete this comment. Izzy Avraham, who at least admits he has Jewish grandparents and is seeking to reclaim this, informed me that since, “the community?” identifies this person (and others) as Jews, I don’t have a right to say he/they aren’t. Sort of like, “You aren’t allowed to say the emperor has nothing on.” I could claim to be the Queen of England, and gather a group of supporters who validate this belief, but that doesn’t make it so. Yes, I received much derision for what I believe to be an accurate analogy. While surely nobody is perfect, I would never choose to learn from someone who is dishonest, which would include those who say they are Jewish and are not, and those who say they are rabbis and are not.

  8. Chaya, I’m not so sure Gentiles, even “Judaically-aware” ones, will be granted blanket asylum in Israel as worldwide anti-Semitism grows. Even our own President refuses to believe that a Muslim attacking a kosher deli chose his target because he wanted to kill Jews. For crying out loud, the assassin had a map indicating that a Chabad school was also one of his targets. Why does Obama think the shooter was doing random killings? And as this gets worse, why should Israel trust America, Americans, or Gentiles from any other nations?

    Yes, if it came to that, I could gain admittance to Israel if my wife made aliyah but I don’t know what would happen to all the other non-Jewish Messianics and Hebrew Roots people. I suspect as the pressure rises, many of them will fall away and either re-enter the Church where it will be somewhat safer, or just dissolve into the background, keeping whatever beliefs they have privately. Only the courageous will stand up and be counted as America turns against Israel, Judaism, and the Jewish people.

    As far as the two individuals you mention, I don’t know why these specific personalities are relevant. I’d like to keep the discussion on a high level and avoid dragging anyone’s opinion about specific people into the mix. If you want to comment about Derek, you can go to his blog to do so or create a post on your own blog. Thanks.

  9. @Marleen, the two congregations I was a part of 1974-1986, didn’t seem to have larger than usual families. What they had (and still do, and this is a problem within HR and evangelicalism also and to some extent all brands of Judaism) was a large population of single women, as there weren’t enough marriageable men to go around, and of course the Jewish men preferred their sweet gentile, worshipful wives, in preference to the stereotype of demanding, controlling Jewish women. However, the women were told that if they had faith, and became more spiritual, or whatever, God would miraculously, bring them, “their,” husband. If it didn’t happen, it was their fault and they should keep, “waiting for the right one.”

    Some of these eventually married, some to, “their right one,” some to other situations. Via FB and other contacts, I have learned that old friends of mine who are around my age (past 50) are still praying, hopeing and believing they will meet that, “right one.” I am not holding out much hope. They are past the time for procreating, so that generation is lost to the Jewish people and to the world.

  10. I would agree that there wouldn’t be blanket admission, more like each case being examined individually, but definately I can imagine that those who take an open public stand, would be.

    As far as personalities, when people make statements, and you mention them or their statements, then this is relevant; a person’s credibility.

    I sincerely doubt most people in the religious business would allow their dirty laundry to be aired on their own blog, and would delete the comment rather than addressing it. I did have a FB discussion with an individual who refused to answer my questions/challenges and pulled the old, “attack the messenger/beat the donkey,” tactic. They really hold no love for real Jews who never assimilated into the church culture, especially women who won’t play the subordinate women’s place role.

  11. My perception is people really did want a movement for Messiah within Judaism (even if some funding came from elsewhere and probably did tip some behaviors in other directions in many cases with which I was not in personal contact), within being real enough when the people are Jews (the harder questions, that are rightly posed, coming up when “big” results don’t materialize or manifest as soon as hoped). And I know of at least two traditional and halachic Jewish congregations that are Messianic friendly after the decades of personal interaction (and scholarly endeavour).

  12. Chaya, even if you criticized someone I don’t agree with or even (Heaven forbid!) someone I don’t particularly like, I still don’t think it’s appropriate to “air their dirty laundry,” so to speak, in this particular forum. You don’t have to agree with how I set policy on my blog, but if you are going to comment here, I’ll ask you to respect it.

    I just want to discuss the idea that Messianic Judaism may be suffering from the same or similar issues as are most of the other Judaisms in the western world as I’ve outlined in my blog post. I admit that one of the differences/challenges specific to Messianic Judaism is the matter of conversion, but then again, Orthodox Judaism wouldn’t accept a Gentile convert to Reform Judaism as a Jew, so maybe the conversion issue isn’t so different after all.

  13. Oh, Chaya. Sounds sad. We didn’t have that going on (except I think there was one gentile woman in her thirties who came intermittently [in the nineties] and may have had concepts like that in her head about trying to be worthy of God bringing her a husband — oh, actually two of those, one found a gentile husband at a Christian radio station). I am so thankful my congregation didn’t have a fundamentalist Christian ethos.

  14. It wasn’t exactly a fundamentalist Christian ethos, but there were certainly influences. I believe your involvement was at a later time, and a different culture. The fact remains, demographics would consign many women to never marrying or having children if they remained within the pales of the movement(s).

    In the early years, many believed in the pre-trib rapture, and it would come so soon there was no reason to spend a lot of time getting an extensive education or planning for the future. I asked one newly married couple if they planned to purchase a house, and they said that this could hold them back when they had to move to Israel, so they rented and priced themselves out of the housing market. I have another friend who I still keep in touch with from one congregation, and at one time they were in an evangelical church. The husband (prior to marriage) wanted to be a doctor, but was convinced that it wouldn’t make sense to spend 8 years in college, medical school and more in residency since, “Jesus was coming soon.” So, he became an RN to make a living, hated it and ended up going back to school with a wife and kids, not the easiest situation, but he finished and is now an internist.

    The MJ groups I was part of also took upon themselves evangelical politics (right-wing) and evangelical prejudices (fear/loathing of Mormons, JW’s,atheists/agnostics, sometimes Catholics, non-Christian religions) and the attitude toward traditional Judaism was, “do good, be good and that’s good,” and, “I didn’t trade my lox and bagel for ham and cheese.” They didn’t see any spirituality or value in the Jewish sages, as these, “weren’t saved,” and as such would not be founts of truth. There was some change in this.

  15. Good post James. As to the 20 and 30somethings I think that we have to understand that many are in and out of many Jewish communities and experiences and are not settled to one congregation which may seem that they are not in the Messianic Jewish world. I know people that attend various synagogues maybe daily prayer at Chabad, a Carlebach minyan for Friday night, visiting a Messianic synagogue on Saturday morning, an Orthodox rap concert on Saturday night and Conservative Jewish study on Sunday morning etc. The younger people are floating in and out of the Messianic and Mainstream worlds and may not be noticed because they are not at the same Messianic shul every Shabbat like the older crowd.

  16. James, I thank you for opening your comments, even if only for this single meditation.

    Looking back to Abraham, it has always been a matter of conversion to belong to Judaism, and Messianic Judaism of the First Century in Judea was only tolerated because they were halachically orthodox…and were evidently open about the fact that Yeshua was Mashiach, appointed by YHVH as His agent, not as a secondary god. That the original Jerusalem Assembly kept a new ritual of communion was no doubt troubling to the Pharisee’s and Sadducee’s…the Essenes perhaps were less concerned about communion as ritual worship since they seem to have expected an Elect One to be sent by YHVH, and perhaps were undisturbed by the memorial action taken by the Messianic Believers.

    As it was, there was so much tension between the remaining Jews in Judea after the Roman’s slaughtered or enslaved anyone thought to be involved in the insurrection against Rome, that they pretty much devolved into Rabbinic or Messianic Jews, and found themselves in opposition to one another as each group sought to keep their identities clear as the Gentile Believers overwhelmed the discussion. By the end of the Fifth Century, the Talmud was complete, and Messianic Jews had been obliterated by Christian Dogma.

    Belief in Yeshua as Mashiach does not seem to be the question to Jews, but the idea of Yeshua as a secondary G-d. The Jews want none of what they see as another religion in their midst. The taint of idolatry attached to the idea of Yeshua is a serious question to most Jews because they study the Talmud rather than the Tanakh. If they read the Prophecies in the Scripture, they would be less afraid of those who think that Mashiach is vitally important to the Jews.

    Staying to one side of all those idolaters in their midst is increasingly a matter of Judaic identity, and thus community. Messianic Judaism of the modern age has no regular community…just handfuls here and there that are not accepted as Jews by other Jews that are non-Messianic, yet at the same time find Christian beliefs and communities wanting.

    Without a Jewish community welcoming them, Messianic Judaism will continue to be a wilderness place in the diaspora. There are too few Jewish Believers to create a close-knit Messianic community to live in across the wide expanse of America. Messianic Gentiles cannot readily find a Messianic Jewish Synagogue. I cannot help but wonder if G-d is eventually going to lead me, and maybe others as well, to the nearest Jewish Synagogue, not to proselytize, but to learn, and not necessarily to learn of Rabbinical Judaism, but to experience a Jewish community. I cannot convert to Rabbinical Judaism, but I may find community despite the handicap of Messianic belief, presumably if I don’t speak of my beliefs, or perhaps even in spite of them. Perhaps in that community I may find someone quietly believing in Yeshua, and they will point me in another direction to go to locally…one can at least hope.

    But in Israel, there are Messianic Jews that were born Israeli, and they are providing a place for new Messianic Believers in Israel to stay in a Jewish Community even as they find Yeshua. I see this as necessary as we continue to the final day. In the end, the Scriptures are plain that every Jew goes to Israel, and consequently, all I can do is to financially help those Messianic Jews in Israel to widen their outreach for those difficult days, and stand where necessary for the Jews in America. It will not lessen my support for Messianic Jews and Gentiles here in America, nor hinder my quest here in Southern California for another Messianic Believer or two, but without community, all belief, and morality, and even friendship withers. Isolation is devastating to the human soul, and the wilderness of belief in America is a painful place to live.

  17. James I’m curious to know if you’ve spoken to any of the leaders of the MJ movement or vocal contributors with there take on your blog post?

    You can PM me if you feel it will turn the comments section off kilter. Keep Staying young in that oldmansgym 🙂 the asthetics of that site are good.

  18. I live in SoCal 🙂 I don’t believe any reasonable person could claim that the first century Jewish disciples were anything like MJ’s or HR’s of today. I am not sure the fear of idolatry/the Messiah as God is the biggest barrier for Jews, especially as only a minority of American Jews are Orthodox. Rather, it is 2,000 years of antisemitism. The Jewish Community Center had no problem inviting two Jews who practiced Hinduism and lived at the Vendanta center to teach Yoga. There are probably far more BuJews than MJs and I’ve never heard any alarm sounding about these or antimissionaries sent to bring them back to the fold.

    One way things are different than they were 30-40 years ago and further back is that Jewish believers are accepted, even if grudgingly, except in limited environments. In the old days people were rejected and persecuted by their families and communities, which didn’t lead to a positive attitude or desire to associate. Anyone can join the local JCC, get involved in pro-Israel groups, visit Chabad, take courses via WebYeshiva and would most likely be welcome in Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal and post-denominational Jewish spaces.

    @Boris, if you call a non-Jew Jewish, then you can have whatever numbers you want. I suspect most “names,” would not be happy to reveal this dirty little secret. I don’t know that anyone even has empirical data on the number of halachically Jewish MJ’s in the US, who may be in MJ groups, churches, home fellowships, traditional synagogues or unafflliated. My sources tell me Israeli MJ’s follow evangelical theology in how they view Yeshua and scripture and as well, few pursue torah and their fellowships are like attending a Calvary Chapel in Hebrew. I’ve heard there is a lot of intermarriage too.

  19. @Questor — You began your post with some odd, non-factual statements which don’t seem to me to connect with the topic or thesis of James’ essay question, which is whether MJ is suffering the same pressures toward “shrinkage” as other non-orthodox Jewish expressions in the USA. To that question I suggest the answer is affirmative, though MJ still suffers additional pressures from its non-acceptance by the two major competing theological antagonist traditions of Christianity and Judaism. However, I cannot let your erroneous statements pass unchallenged.

    Belonging to the Jewish people has most definitely *not* “always been a matter of conversion”. Avraham’s circumcision was not a conversion, and those of his male descendants deemed to be the inheritors of the covenant thereby initiated were not “converted” by being circumcised on the eighth day of their lives. The women of this family were never converted by any such symbolism. Their family identification as part of this covenant was by cultural behavior passed between generations and codified in the Torah and its subsequent administration. Only those exceptional individuals who entered this family and its covenant from outside required some form of conversion to represent their change of peoplehood affiliation and cultural identity. One must not treat a gracious exception as if it were the general rule.

    The notion of “halachically orthodox” is anachronistic to the first century CE; and though Rav Yeshua’s disciples certainly reflected his essentially Pharisaic perspective, the notion of “tolerance” toward them does not fit either their treatment at the hands of those in power in Judea or the conditions noted in Acts 21 of theirs tens of thousands who were zealous for Torah.

    The ritual of “communion” was not a first-century phenomenon, to be viewed either favorably or unfavorably. Rav Shaul’s comments to the non-Jewish community in Corinth were not about a new ritual, but about eating a fellowship meal in an orderly communal manner exemplified by the Passover Seder for which their revered rabbi Yeshua had given symbolic instructions the night before his seizure, trial and execution. The Corinthian problem was a failure of consideration for one another to ensure that everyone had opportunity to eat together as a family, rather than as individuals gorging themselves at an orgy (as Greeks and Romans were wont to do).

    As for the notion of modern MJs being accepted as Jewish communities, there are a few issues to consider. One is based on an somewhat apocryphal quote from a rabbi who was asked about such potential acceptance. He was quoted as saying that MJs would be accepted as Jews when they accepted themselves as Jews. There is a profound insight in such a saying. Consider its implications that MJs must embrace not only their own identity but also that of other Jews throughout the centuries of our existence as a covenanted people. This embrace must affect both individual and communal behavior. The notion can be generalized to any Jew or any Jewish community, which must similarly embrace the fundamental covenantal definitions of Jewish identity and community in order to remain Jewish and to produce subsequent generations of Jews. In the USA, there are numerous competing notions that impact on Judaism in general and MJ in particular, including absolute individualism and Christian evangelicalism. A “Hebrew-Christian”, that is, a Jew whose identity is based on non-Jewish tradition and perspective, is not embracing his or her Jewish identity or its definitions. Only when Jewish traditions and definitions are embraced does such an individual begin to pursue a messianic Judaism. Amplify this to a community of such individuals to obtain a view of MJ as distinct from other religious and communal behaviors about which folks like Chaya have complained. I’ve asserted many times that the MJ brand label has been misappropriated by many who are something other than MJs.

    Under the above consideration, I’m not entirely certain that MJ is actually shrinking. It may be that Jews who care about Jewish identity and continuity are shrinking away from venues that are not actually satisfyingly Jewish. However, Jews who have never been taught to value Judaism, for whatever reasons, certainly do fit the profile of the continuity problem that has plagued the Jewish community in the USA. Similar problems exist in other western societies throughout Europe, though not all the reasons may be the same as those affecting the USA. Quite a number of these Jews have become citizens of modern Israel, and contribute to the cultural conflicts between ultra-orthodox communities and secular ones. Thus the problems of the world-at-large are reflected also in Israel and will require resolution also there/here. Such need for resolution is present even more so among Jewish messianists in Israel. The need to embrace and to grow into Jewish behavior that has not been a familiar feature of one’s upbringing is acute within Israel as well as in the USA or Europe. There are many aspects to the Jewish redemption that has been in progress now for some time. The repentance that turns Jews back toward HaShem must leave behind it all sorts of unhelpful perspectives, be they from secularism, or liberalism, or individualism, or communism, or socialism, or evangelicalism. Will MJs demonstrate affinities for Judaism and Zionism along with their messianism? Can they honestly do otherwise if they are truly MJs? Is this not the only suitable response to threats of “shrinkage”? Is this not the only response that will enable non-Jewish affiliates to realize and pursue their own redemptive destiny alongside Jewish Israel? “Without a vision, the people perish …” (cif: Prov.29:18). This KJV translation “perish” is not quite literal, but it is an apt interpretation of what results from the literal translation that indicates a rampaging lack of discipline or restraint. In consideration of the present essay, “vision” may be deemed to encompass a recognition of the problem as well as its means of resolution. This particular proverb concludes with a hint of such resolution: “v’shomer Torah, ashrei-hu” ([but] the one who keeps Torah, happy/blessed/ennobled is he).

  20. @Chaya — Not to diminish your Israeli sources who, regrettably, report some all-too-common conditions; but they haven’t told the whole story which includes Jewish Rav-Yeshua messianists such as myself — who keep Torah halakhically and pursue traditional Judaism, its theology and its modern practice, in accordance with the guidance of our ancient admor Rav Yeshua. The situation in Israel thus mirrors that in the USA, where also it is difficult to find these kinds of MJs. Since you report that you’re currently located in soCal, let me ask if you’ve ever visited Ahavat Zion in Beverly Hills? I’d be interested in your independent report of them, because their emeritus rabbi is the originator of the Hashivenu perspective that represents the original classical MJ definition that leads toward the more traditional and orthodox expressions of it.

  21. @Chaya and Marleen, I wish we lived near each other. The fellowship would be sweet. Questor, “Isolation is devastating to the human soul, and the wilderness of belief in America is a painful place to live.” Absolutely true. I have been pondering on this since yesterday. Without searching for it, in the scriptures it says a three strand cord is not broken. Are the three strands individual, family, and community? If an individual (Abraham) has emunah he can train his children after him and perhaps it will continue. That builds a family with emunah. If you then develop a community of like families, you have a community of emunah. There has to be a foundation, plum line, and that has to rest on HaShem’s revelation. Talking to my cousin last night I told her I wish I could find a place of fellowship that wouldn’t force me into their mold. I went to a women’s fellowship Monday night and smugly smiled to myself thinking, ‘keep your mouth shut or they will run you out of here.’ I told my cousin the story of a Jewish man proclaiming to an evangelical group, “Yes, pray for his kingdom to come!” The Jewish man understands it will be a Jewish King and a Jewish Kingdom! My cousin said, “Well, I guess everybody has their own definition of kingdom.” (Hers being of the evangelical persuasion). You want to laugh and cry at the same time. I fear this generation due to the secularization of community, break down of families, and various definitions of ‘faith’ and what it means, are throwing their hands up and saying, “What is truth? To each their own.”

  22. “…not force me into their mold.” You hit the nail on the head. That is the essence of religion. Well, you may find a few exceptions here and there. They fail to see this, as they believe their mold to be truth and their enforcement godly. As young people, we were easily molded, usually without even realizing it.

  23. I am probably almost 2 hours from Beverly Hills. I am famiiar with Stuart Dauerman, and he seeems like an honest and intelligent guy. He associations in Hashivenu, well…..a certain person I don’t respect due to personal dealings as well as other information. I would assume he still holds to evangelical theology of some sort and mixes it with a traditional, Orthodox-like service? I am glad you have found such a group in Israel. I don’t believe in calling a non-Jewish person Jewish or for a person who is not a rabbi to call himself a rabbi. I will research a bit more about where he currently stands.

  24. The website is interesting. They promote the congregation as for Jews and the intermarried; none of this, “Jews and gentiles worshipping together as one. So, it sounds like it is geared toward Jews, but I don’t know how that fleshes out in reality.

  25. @PL

    Your a vocal advocate for jesus in a “proper” context.

    Why do you think the numbers of true Judaism (Orthodoxy) have withstood the test of time. Compared to that of Messianic Judaism? I know your in Israel, but as James mentions, not many young Jews at least in the USA are gravatating or embracing the movement of Messianic Judaism ….. Almost looks like history repeats where by the late 2nd century most of the Jews in the Messianic Movement were gone and all that was left were Gentiles.

  26. @Marleen and Chaya: Messianic Judaism as we have it today in the west, and even in Israel, developed out of and with the support of Evangelical Christianity, and it’s been a tough struggle transitioning from a Christianity that prays in Hebrew to an actual, lived Judaism. I’d say most folks on the outside of the movement would say that the status of “Judaism” hasn’t been achieved as yet, but I think part of the struggle we see MJ having is because of its transition into a Judaism. Except for the Orthodox, they are experiencing almost the same sort of crisis as every other Judaism.

    @Questor: Yes, in the days of Herod’s Temple and shortly after its destruction, we don’t apparently see Yeshua-believing Jews being considered non-Jewish or their worship being considered not a Judaism. Times have changed and the rise and ultimate ascendency of Christianity has resulted in any Jew who comes to Yeshua-faith being considered a Christian and not a Jew. Messianic Judaism has come to take the Messiah back into a Jewish context and make Yeshua-faith once again a valid Jewish activity…if it can survive. But then again, as we see, will any Judaism except the Orthodox survive in the next fifty years?

    @Bruce: I’m writing this blog post independent of the thoughts or opinions of anyone in the Messianic Judaism. My words are completely my own. Thanks for the kudos about the Old Man’s Gym. It’s fun. 😉

    PL said:

    One is based on an somewhat apocryphal quote from a rabbi who was asked about such potential acceptance. He was quoted as saying that MJs would be accepted as Jews when they accepted themselves as Jews. There is a profound insight in such a saying.

    This speaks to the point of my blog post in that Messianic Jews have to accept themselves as Jews and their faith as Jewish and frankly, we Gentiles need to accept those facts as well for MJ to survive as a Jewish movement. That means Messianic Jews are not “Hebrew Christians” or Christians of any sort in the sense the Church has traditionally understood the term (I know I’m being rather general but go with it). The more I look around, the more I realize that those Jewish voices within Messianic Judaism who say they are building MJ communities for Jewish people are doing so for the sake of survival and Jewish continuity within the movement.

    PL, I don’t know if you’re right about Messianic Judaism *not* shrinking in the west alongside all of the other Judaisms (apart from the Orthodox), but if more Jews are becoming Messianic all the time, where are they except perhaps quietly worshiping in non-Messianic shuls which may be the only authentic Jewish environment they can access.

    However, at some point the next step needs to be taken which is to develop Messianic synagogues that have a majority or exclusively Jewish membership. For that to happen, there has to be a tipping point where there are enough Messianic Jews in any one place to make that happen. With the majority of Jews under age 40 in the U.S. being unaffiliated, it seems that *all* forms of religious Judaism are at risk of vanishing, again, apart from the Orthodox.

    PL said:

    …the whole story which includes Jewish Rav-Yeshua messianists such as myself — who keep Torah halakhically and pursue traditional Judaism, its theology and its modern practice, in accordance with the guidance of our ancient admor Rav Yeshua…

    These are the Jewish people who, if at all possible and within the will of Hashem, will build Messianic Judaism as a Judaism.

    Bruce said:

    Why do you think the numbers of true Judaism (Orthodoxy) have withstood the test of time. Compared to that of Messianic Judaism?

    Besides the glaring assumption that Orthodox Judaism is the “true” Judaism (everyone believes their own religion is “true”), I think your question might be better worded, “Why do you think the numbers in Orthodox Judaism have withstood the test of time compared to all the other Judaisms in the world?” I think the data I presented in the body of my blog post supports that viewpoint.

  27. Your right james, you’ve rendered my lack of articulating that question to PL much more better. Sorry if I sounded “snobby” about it.

  28. Historically, as least as long as I have been around, MJ’s did view themselves as Jews, but I’m not sure how they defined what it meant to be Jewish. I would hear, “Yeshua makes you more Jewish.” Well, what does it mean to be more or less Jewish? I think this quest for acceptance and validation might backfire. I have a FB friend who said her family is part of a Reform synagogue because it is a sane, stable environment. I believe any Messianic Judaism that will be accepted by the Jewish community (and remember, the majority of the Jewish community is secular, minimally involved or unaffiliated, will have to arise from within Judaism, not seek to join from without. In the meantime, it would make more sense to attempt to build bridges with more open groups such as Jewish Renewal, Reconstuctionism, perhaps Reformed, then seeking a stamp of approval from the Orthodox, which will never happen. They would have to ask themselves, “What do we offer that is unique, that is attractive to Jewish people, especially young Jews?”

  29. Hi James! (see, God does answer prayer)

    3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: Eccl. 1

    I must be missing something terrible here… why is the number of or lack of any group in a given moment in a timeless universe a “problem”? Like it makes a difference what a group says or does to God’s will? I understand God to use all things for His glory and purposes. All things.
    Whether a group grows, shrinks, morphs into something or someone else… it’s the contents of our hearts, and the love of God expressed through charity and service to Him who loves us first… How one approaches God is far less important in my view than that one does. (It is impossible to marry outside of Faith of one who loves God. Who cares about the practice? It means nothing if we are in-Love.)

    All the attempts to paint Orthodox or Fundamental, Evangelical or whatever Christians or Jews as good or bad… attempting to predict the future and so change or prepare history for the making seems like an entertaining (at times) but futile pastime. Paul thought Christ was returning in his lifetime. Jesus simply said it is not for us to know, but live like His return is eminent. (Frankly, I believe He returns to each of us here and now…)

    I have Tefillin, Tallit, Kippah, Kittel sitting on my shelf behind me. Friends called me Moshe for years…( I am rather passionate and have been rather narrow minded in my youth.) I really don’t think the Lord cares one way or another about this. Nor, where I worship, but that I do, and that I touch Him and serve Him by becoming His hands and feet, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry and serving the poor and marginalized in His name. (Refusing to support the marginalizing of minority groups… or marginalizing majorities… like women.) The Truth spoken in any language is the right way to say it.

    I am thankful there are so many paths to follow and learn from. They in-form me in so many wonderful ways. (Simply love, and at times ignore the haters.)

    Whether my Church stays, goes, or blows away isn’t material. That we seek the Truth and accept that All things work for those who love Him… the rest is just mental masturbation. It does no good whatever, as none can truly know the mind of God, especially if we keep it in the dualistic and judgmental level of naming, splitting, demeaning, devaluing, so we can feel better about “our” belief and so relegate others to lesser value. That is neither Jewish nor Christian thought, but sadly it is endemic to all humanity.

  30. Shalom James:

    Thank you for posting such a pressing blog post. However, I am not sure it is entirely accurate to say that Messianic Judaism is shrinking. As with all things the truth is usually a little more complicated. Of course much of the growth can be attributed to the large influx of non-Jews, but there are also Jews continuing to come to faith in Yeshua, it is just a much smaller trickle than the numbers of Gentiles.

    With that said, there are still congregations being planted and growing. The fact that there are now over 500 congregations (or more) around the world (without getting too deeply into the types of these congregations) when only 20 years ago the number would have been closer to 150 is impressive. When our congregation, Ahavat Zion, was founded in 1973, it was one of only seven congregations. 10 years ago in Israel there were only a handful of congregations, and now there are will over 100. And the individual numbers of Messianic Jews also continues to climb.

    Our congregation has always been majority Jewish and remains so to this day. Even though we have been growing we still maintain about 80% Jewish majority (we are one of only a handful of such congregations). And although the numbers are not what I would want, the Jewish people coming to us are not just transplants from other Messianic congregations (something I discourage). Instead, we need to be actively engaging our people AND not have a romanticized idea of what the Jewish community today actually looks like (something I feel most of MJ does not have a clear grasp on).

    Anyway, thank you again for your post, I just want to challenge you a little bit, because although MJ clearly has its problems and challenges, I also still believe in its potential.

  31. Note, Chaya, that my interpretation of MJs accepting themselves as Jews included engagement with other Jews and with traditional historic definitions of Judaism and Jewish identity. That goes quite a bit farther than merely declaring oneself still to be Jewish yet within a Christian milieu or matrix. The declaration is a right idea and a step in the right direction, but by itself it is superficial and you are correct to ask whether its implications were ever explored unto any depth of understanding the definitions that provide its meaning. The likely-true answer is that few would-be MJs really explored those implications sufficiently to successfully develop genuinely Jewish messianism. I emphasize that they were few, but that there were indeed some who did so.

    One of the differences between orthodox Judaism and non-orthodox Judaisms is that generally the non-O approach depends on persuading less affiliated Jews to choose Jewish values, behavior, and communal affiliation for themselves (for whatever reasons of appeal). The orthodox approach generally does not try to justify itself because it is already confident about the value and necessity of these things, but rather it fosters a sense of personal and communal obligation that does not really validate the notion of individual choice. It offers a responsibility rather than an option. Even the deliberate outreach of Chabad offered primarily demonstrations of Jewish behavior and its native appeal, rather than offering persuasive argumentation or description of personal benefit for so doing. This is essentially the answer to Bruce’s question about why the numbers of Orthodox tend not to shrink. They/we emphasize responsibilities, one of which contributes to a higher-than-average birthrate, while another emphasizes religious training — both of which build the community’s numbers and prevent shrinkage by the attrition of elderly members.

    As for the diminution of the ancient MJ community after the Hurban, note that there were many Jewish communities representing various factions that suffered repression and loss in this period, especially after the failed Bar-Kochba revolt. The survival of any sort of Judaism is essentially a miracle and a demonstration of the hand of G-d upon the aggregate body of rabbis and the literature they produced. MJ existence can be traced for as much as five or six centuries, about as long as the development and codification of the Babylonian Talmud that contributed greatly to the survival of rabbinic Judaism, but the stigma of “minut” contributed to the MJ demise along with the rise of post-Nicene Christianity that declared them invalid and effectively replaced along with other Jews and Jewish tradition. The modern MJ community likewise has faced disapproval or invalidation both from Christians and from Jews, somewhat reflecting this ancient pattern. I suggest that, for an MJ community to thrive, it must disengage from Christian approval or disapproval; and it must engage with traditional Jewish community and behavior to shed the self-image of separateness that reflects a sense of “minut”, so that the wider Jewish community can appreciate that modern MJs are no longer “minim”, even if their ancient counterparts were pressed into that condition.

  32. @Rockey: I think the lack of Jewish people not recognizing the Messiah is an issue. I’m approaching all this with the idea that Yeshua-faith is started out Jewish and should be Jewish, with the non-Jews “grafted-in”. As I’ve previously written, I don’t think that when Jesus returns, there will be a Christianity as such but rather, there will be the Kingdom of God on Earth with the capital being Jerusalem and the ruling nation being Israel. So to me, whether or not we have Jews practicing a Jewish devotion to God and Messiah within a Judaism is a big deal.

    I think all this matters because back at Sinai, God gave the Torah as an eternal set of conditions of His covenant with His people Israel. We’ve already discussed my opinion on how the New Covenant works, so none of that absolves Jewish responsibility to the mitzvot. I really do think all this matters to God since He originated it, and I really do believe He expects the Jewish people to continue to observe the mitzvot He commanded them to obey.

    I know our particular perspectives are light years apart, so I don’t expect you to agree with me, but I can only write from my own point of view, which is to see that it’s God’s intent for Jews to retain and embrace Jewish practice and observance throughout their lives, when they haven’t come to the realization of Yeshua and Messiah and especially after they have.

    Why do you have tefillin, tallit, and a kippah and why did your friends used to call you Moshe? Are you Jewish?

    @Rabbi Joshua: Yes, I’m sure I’ve oversimplified a rather complex set of dynamics.

    You said:

    Our congregation has always been majority Jewish and remains so to this day. Even though we have been growing we still maintain about 80% Jewish majority (we are one of only a handful of such congregations). And although the numbers are not what I would want, the Jewish people coming to us are not just transplants from other Messianic congregations (something I discourage). Instead, we need to be actively engaging our people AND not have a romanticized idea of what the Jewish community today actually looks like (something I feel most of MJ does not have a clear grasp on).

    Going back to the various statistics I quoted in my blog posts, do you believe would you say that while the other Judaisms (apart from the Orthodox) are declining, that Messianic Judaism’s Jewish membership, however slowly, is growing?

    I certainly don’t deny Messianic Judaism’s potential, and in fact, it’s one of my favorite themes. However, I want to face the reality (based on what I know up to this point) that Messianic Judaism is facing some of the same challenges as other Judaisms in America.

  33. The old guard was repulsed and shunned by the Jewish community, so they couldn’t engage even if they wanted to, as the evangelical church welcomed them with open arms, so of course, one can understand their loyalty and clinging.

    During my experiences in the 70’s and 80’s, MJ’s were not exactly welcomed and accepted in the Jewish community, but I never saw any of the virulent hatred. I was aware of the, “Fink Zoo,” that housed young people kicked out of their homes for their new belief.

    I would agree with the disengagement concept, except the church is where the, “names,” sell their books and get their speaking engagements. One hasn’t really disengaged from the gentile Jesus unless one has also jettisoned evangelical theology. Then you won’t need to disengage from them and their approval/disapproval, as they will shun you as heretics in fear of contamination. How many MJ congregations meet in churches? Would they be able to continue in their space if their doctrine is not just fringe, but outside the pale?

    Regarding this, “80% Jewish;” – Are non-Jewish wives and their children placed in the, “Jewish,” category? How about those who have undergone some sort of, “messianic conversion?” Easy to win the game if you can change the labels.

  34. Shalom again, James,

    I definitely believe, just as you cited in your post, that all forms of Judaism are being challenged by the realities of a Jewish community with a growing intermarriage rate, increased secularization, and an increasing number of Jews who are no longer associating with the institutionalized Jewish community.

    With that said, there is also a growing number of Jews desiring to spiritually connect … but on their own terms. Like everyone else I am also struggling to figure out how to best serve the needs of our people. These challenges are very real and MJ is being effected just as much as other forms of Judaism. At the same time (and this was supported by the recent Pew survey), because of all of this discussion, the one positive element is that many Jews are no longer as adverse to the message of Yeshua, and many continue to come to faith (even if it seems like just a perceived trickle). Of course the majority of them find themselves in Churches, but they ARE coming to faith.

    To get right to the point, I think the MJ of the future will see both a drastic decrease in one sense, and an increase on the another. As MJ continues to mature, and as years pass, the rates of assimilation are just so high (especially for those who really are Jewish) that the meshuggenas within our movement will be weeded out, and congregations will shrink, and many will even disappear. But what we will also see is a growing number of actual Jews within these communities and a greater maturation in regards to Jewish life and practice.

    Of course … this is just my opinion and observation.

  35. Rabbi Joshua said:

    To get right to the point, I think the MJ of the future will see both a drastic decrease in one sense, and an increase on the another. As MJ continues to mature, and as years pass, the rates of assimilation are just so high (especially for those who really are Jewish) that the meshuggenas within our movement will be weeded out, and congregations will shrink, and many will even disappear. But what we will also see is a growing number of actual Jews within these communities and a greater maturation in regards to Jewish life and practice.

    Of course … this is just my opinion and observation.

    May your opinion and observation be correct. 🙂

  36. I thought I was Jewish for some time. My friend and mentor Yagman dubbed me “Moshe” for my desire to fight everything to the bitter end. (Very hard way to live. Black and white, needing everything to fit in boxes as I understood them.) I still feel a connection to the relics of the faith. They mean something to me. (As does watching the sun rise, homeless men eating a meal, prayers on Good Friday.)

    I have no idea how it will all work out. (eschatology) Whether it is metaphor, or literal, and I dare say you or anyone else does either. Jesus certainly stood the orthodoxy on its head. I tend to look more broadly as I have aged as I have seen where trying to put God in a box gets people. (Debated Carmelite Brothers in College, hung out with Mordechai Twersky and many others, and they all simply raised their shoulders and said “we don’t know…” as I kept trying to nail things down which seemed to constantly move and seemed so simple to me.) I mined scripture to support what I thought it meant. Now I look at the breadth of it and see Grace and freedom. So many places tell me, especially Jesus words, that all these things we think are so important, will all fade away in the reality of unity with God. The most religious people were the least able to see the big picture in Christ. (Must not be religion. Cracks me up to say that as I am a Wesleyan Minister now… )

    If Jerusalem is the literal seat of the final reign of God, that would crack me up! It would be very Jewish humor indeed. The God of all creation sitting on a backwater hick town like Jerusalem. (Talk about your urban renewal!) The reason God chose Israel certainly wasn’t because they were especially great people. (Read Deuteronomy 7:7-9) It is God’s Faithfulness which has Blessed Israel and the world through them. (Read Jeremiah 31:31-34) It never was about Israel… don’t you get it? It’s always been about God. Israel is just a tool. God loves the Moslem kid from Syria who’s living in a camp in Jordan just like the kid following the mitzvah. Faithfulness and love and suffering is the measure, not what we did out of mindless law. Breaking the law in love is more God honoring than following it and failing to serve your Brother. (Samaritan)

    If God will reconcile all to Himself in the end, why do we need to worry about it? There is absolutely nothing we can do, (including crucifying Jesus) which can stop the love of God from achieving His purpose. (Nor can we hasten it by trying to manipulate it.) Jesus showed the way, through service and compassion. Blessed are the peacemakers…

    Now, go and do likewise.

  37. Fair enough. However, since it is claimed MRC is only made up of Jews, of course males only; how do you explain at least one non-Jew who claims to be Jewish? If only 20% intermarry, that is quite an accomplishment. Do you consider the children of these unions Jewish? That might skew your figures.

    @Rockey, I have also noticed that as I age, things don’t look so black and white. Perhaps it is due to more life experiences, or perhaps it is less of the childishness of needing to believe that mommy and daddy (religious leaders/beliefs) are good and right. Also, when we are young, we are more likely to absorb without examination the beliefs and practices of our social group, and especially those who have been kind or helpful. While fundamentalists will battle to the bitter end, mystics have nothing to fight about, as their kingdom is not of this world.

  38. I dunno. Anything exciting and unusual in the religious world is a meshuggana magnet. Discouraging non-intermarried gentile members pulls away the welcome wagon for non-Jewish meshuganas, and with so many tall tales, you never know. I would agree a congregation geared toward serious study and little sensationalism and emotionalism might alter demographics.

    Do you really think millennial Jewish women (25% of all Jewish women have a Master’s degree) will go along with the paternalism and subordinate role for females prescribed by much of evangelicalism? Don’t claim this is from Orthodoxy, as MJ doesn’t play by Orthodox rules.

  39. ProclaimLiberty commented on Is Messianic Judaism Shrinking Because Almost All Other Judaisms are Shrinking?

    in response to Questor:

    James, I thank you for opening your comments, even if only for this single meditation. Looking back to Abraham, it has always been a matter of conversion to belong to Judaism, and Messianic Judaism of the First Century in Judea was only tolerated because they were halachically orthodox…and were evidently open about the fact that […]

    @Questor — You began your post with some odd, non-factual statements which don’t seem to me to connect with the topic or thesis of James’ essay question, which is whether MJ is suffering the same pressures toward “shrinkage” as other non-orthodox Jewish expressions in the USA. To that question I suggest the answer is affirmative, though MJ still suffers additional pressures from its non-acceptance by the two major competing theological antagonist traditions of Christianity and Judaism. However, I cannot let your erroneous statements pass unchallenged.

    Belonging to the Jewish people has most definitely *not* “always been a matter of conversion”. Avraham’s circumcision was not a conversion, and those of his male descendants deemed to be the inheritors of the covenant thereby initiated were not “converted” by being circumcised on the eighth day of their lives. The women of this family were never converted by any such symbolism.

    Their family identification as part of this covenant was by cultural behavior passed between generations and codified in the Torah and its subsequent administration. Only those exceptional individuals who entered this family and its covenant from outside required some form of conversion to represent their change of peoplehood affiliation and cultural identity. One must not treat a gracious exception as if it were the general rule.

    My apologies PL…I was thinking about the entire city of Shechem that were circumcised to allow Yaakov’s daughter Dinah to marry Shechem’s Prince…after he raped her, and thus allow the two groups to marry freely among one another. Her elder brothers killed them all, so it is true there has not yet been a large conversion at one time.

    As to my rambling attempt to get to the heart of my overall statement that without community, Messianic Judaism will not succeed…alas, I am often a rambling kind of commenter.

    The notion of “halachically orthodox” is anachronistic to the first century CE; and though Rav Yeshua’s disciples certainly reflected his essentially Pharisaic perspective, the notion of “tolerance” toward them does not fit either their treatment at the hands of those in power in Judea or the conditions noted in Acts 21 of theirs tens of thousands who were zealous for Torah.

    The term of “halachically orthodox” may be anachronistic, but it describes the fact that the Messianic Jews of the first wave of Believers in Judea were not being shunned by other sects of the Jews. Disliked and disagreed with, but not shunned until just before the AD66 Rebellion against Rome.

    The ritual of “communion” was not a first-century phenomenon, to be viewed either favorably or unfavorably. Rav Shaul’s comments to the non-Jewish community in Corinth were not about a new ritual, but about eating a fellowship meal in an orderly communal manner exemplified by the Passover Seder for which their revered rabbi Yeshua had given symbolic instructions the night before his seizure, trial and execution. The Corinthian problem was a failure of consideration for one another to ensure that everyone had opportunity to eat together as a family, rather than as individuals gorging themselves at an orgy (as Greeks and Romans were wont to do).

    The fellowship meal you speak of is written of as ‘love feasts’, at which communion was taken in remembrance of Yeshua as the paschal Lamb is spoken more completely about in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. The passage is both a reprimand as you have stated, and instructions for taking the ritual bread and cup recognizing the elements involved as representative of Yeshua’s death, and our redemption. It is a memorial of Yeshua, but it may be that some people, then and now, view communion as worship of another god. I am sorry, of course, that I did not explain well, and ask your patience with my rather elliptical reference in this matter.

    1 Corinthians 11:17-34 (CJB)
    17 But in giving you this next instruction I do not praise you, because when you meet together it does more harm than good!
    18 For, in the first place, I hear that when you gather together as a congregation you divide up into cliques; and to a degree I believe it
    19 (granted that there must be some divisions among you in order to show who are the ones in the right).
    20 Thus, when you gather together, it is not to eat a meal of the Lord;
    21 because as you eat your meal, each one goes ahead on his own; so that one stays hungry while another is already drunk!
    22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or are you trying to show your contempt for God’s Messianic community and embarrass those who are poor? What am I supposed to say to you? Am I supposed to praise you? Well, for this I don’t praise you!
    23 For what I received from the Lord is just what I passed on to you — that the Lord Yeshua, on the night he was betrayed, took bread;
    24 and after he had made the b’rakhah he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this as a memorial to me”;
    25 likewise also the cup after the meal, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant effected by my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, as a memorial to me.”
    26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.
    27 Therefore, whoever eats the Lord’s bread or drinks the Lord’s cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of desecrating the body and blood of the Lord!
    28 So let a person examine himself first, and then he may eat of the bread and drink from the cup;
    29 for a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.
    30 This is why many among you are weak and sick, and some have died!
    31 If we would examine ourselves, we would not come under judgment.
    32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined, so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
    33 So then, my brothers, when you gather together to eat, wait for one another.
    34 If someone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it will not result in judgment. As for the other matters, I will instruct you about them when I come.

    As for the notion of modern MJs being accepted as Jewish communities, there are a few issues to consider. One is based on an somewhat apocryphal quote from a rabbi who was asked about such potential acceptance. He was quoted as saying that MJs would be accepted as Jews when they accepted themselves as Jews. There is a profound insight in such a saying. Consider its implications that MJs must embrace not only their own identity but also that of other Jews throughout the centuries of our existence as a covenanted people. This embrace must affect both individual and communal behavior. The notion can be generalized to any Jew or any Jewish community, which must similarly embrace the fundamental covenantal definitions of Jewish identity and community in order to remain Jewish and to produce subsequent generations of Jews. In the USA, there are numerous competing notions that impact on Judaism in general and MJ in particular, including absolute individualism and Christian evangelicalism. A “Hebrew-Christian”, that is, a Jew whose identity is based on non-Jewish tradition and perspective, is not embracing his or her Jewish identity or its definitions. Only when Jewish traditions and definitions are embraced does such an individual begin to pursue a messianic Judaism. Amplify this to a community of such individuals to obtain a view of MJ as distinct from other religious and communal behaviors about which folks like Chaya have complained. I’ve asserted many times that the MJ brand label has been misappropriated by many who are something other than MJs.

    I agree completely.

    Under the above consideration, I’m not entirely certain that MJ is actually shrinking. It may be that Jews who care about Jewish identity and continuity are shrinking away from venues that are not actually satisfyingly Jewish. However, Jews who have never been taught to value Judaism, for whatever reasons, certainly do fit the profile of the continuity problem that has plagued the Jewish community in the USA. Similar problems exist in other western societies throughout Europe, though not all the reasons may be the same as those affecting the USA. Quite a number of these Jews have become citizens of modern Israel, and contribute to the cultural conflicts between ultra-orthodox communities and secular ones. Thus the problems of the world-at-large are reflected also in Israel and will require resolution also there/here. Such need for resolution is present even more so among Jewish Messianists in Israel. The need to embrace and to grow into Jewish behavior that has not been a familiar feature of one’s upbringing is acute within Israel as well as in the USA or Europe. There are many aspects to the Jewish redemption that has been in progress now for some time. The repentance that turns Jews back toward HaShem must leave behind it all sorts of unhelpful perspectives, be they from secularism, or liberalism, or individualism, or communism, or socialism, or evangelicalism. Will MJs demonstrate affinities for Judaism and Zionism along with their Messianism? Can they honestly do otherwise if they are truly MJs? Is this not the only suitable response to threats of “shrinkage”? Is this not the only response that will enable non-Jewish affiliates to realize and pursue their own redemptive destiny alongside Jewish Israel? “Without a vision, the people perish …” (cif: Prov.29:18). This KJV translation “perish” is not quite literal, but it is an apt interpretation of what results from the literal translation that indicates a rampaging lack of discipline or restraint. In consideration of the present essay, “vision” may be deemed to encompass recognition of the problem as well as its means of resolution. This particular proverb concludes with a hint of such resolution: “v’shomer Torah, ashrei-hu” ([but] the one who keeps Torah, happy/blessed/ennobled is he).

    Yes. This is the reason that I am supporting those groups of Messianic Jews in Israel that are trying to make an impact on those unaffiliated Jews by providing them answers to their questions, and a community of Jews acting Jewishly, keeping Torah, and worshiping together.

    Those of us that are Messianic Gentiles, taking on Torah even though we do not aspire to the Mosaic Covenant will continue to have difficulties in finding community. Messianic Jews that maintain a community in Jewish custom and ritual here in America may not always be open to those Messianic Gentiles that are not Christian in background simply due to overexposure to Christians acting Jewishly with no notion of what they do.

    One hopes that that the New Messianic Communities that are run by Jews for Jews will be public about their beliefs, and actually publish their availability to being a community for the non-religious Jews who are seeking, and not finding what they need. And perhaps those Messianic Jewish Communities, run by Jews for Jews will allow in a few stray Messianic Gentiles like myself who are Torah Observant to extent we can be without taking on the covenant, that we may be actually doing what we are supposed to…Helping Israel and the Jewish people as according to prophecy.

  40. @ Chaya1957

    One hasn’t really disengaged from the gentile Jesus unless one has also jettisoned evangelical theology. Then you won’t need to disengage from them and their approval/disapproval, as they will shun you as heretics in fear of contamination.

    An excellent point…I have just been experiencing in full a shunning.

    I, though never a “Christian” exactly (Being baptised didn’t require joining a church in 1970.), find it very difficult to jettison all of what was literally made up by the Greeks as they consolidated under Constantine, and then added to for 1700 years, but the progress I have made has made a very big impact on my social life.

    It also isolates me more and more as I get rid of the self serving ideas of many Christian viewpoints, because Christians do see me as very strange as “they just don’t understand why I have to be so ‘Jewish’.” It is also very difficult to maintain friendships when identical religious views are required as a condition of that friendship since being ‘different’ makes them so uncomfortable, despite my not requiring those friends to do, or even think as I do. Just asking them to take a look at the DVD’s from FFOZ on Ha Yeod ( A very gentle and mildly Jewish centered look at the early ideas of Jewish belief in Yeshua) has them looking at me as if I handed them a container of rattlesnakes.

  41. @Chaya — Regarding the notion of MJ disengagement or even expulsion from use of church premises for meetings “if their doctrine is not just fringe, but outside the pale”: There might be a need for balance here that still allows MJs to serve as a light to those in churches who seek to embrace the authentic sources of the faith they espouse. I recall an “open letter to the churches” published by John Fischer, perhaps just about forty years ago, which effectively pleaded with them not to reject MJs as heretics for insisting on a Jewish perspective. He obviously perceived exactly the situation you project, though at the time MJ assertions were not at all extreme. The boundaries that demarcate what is “beyond the pale” have a tendency to shift. You’ve undoubtedly seen a number of theological statements from me that certainly would be considered to be outside the commonly-perceived boundaries.

    On the other hand, speaking engagements are often awarded to folks who seem to have something controversial to say. And, on that note, let me ask if you, yourself, have “jettisoned evangelical theology”; and, if so, in what ways? Where do you position yourself relative to any particular boundary marker you’d choose to designate? I don’t recall whether I’ve ever asked you if you’ve read and considered the list of “Hashivenu principles”, which I view as seminal to the MJ paradigm. The kinds of MJ against which you’ve offered complaints also don’t seem to reflect them.

    You’ve occasionally invoked a complaint against “paternalism and [a] subordinate role for [even highly educated] females prescribed by much of evangelicalism”, and indicted some who identify as MJ for having absorbed similar views. You even similarly indict Jewish Orthodoxy and would deny the possibility of MJ “play[ing] by Orthodox rules” rather than evangelical ones. I’m not sure how much difference you perceive between them on this issue, or why it would matter to you which source of perceived paternalism is influencing MJ; but I would suggest that Jewish Orthodoxy, per se, does not demand “paternalism” in asserting distinctive roles and positions for men and women within Jewish space. That is not to deny that paternalism has existed and may exist, though the perception of it may be exaggerated by misunderstanding. But the employment (I use the term generically and not merely commercially) and participation of highly educated Jewish women within orthodox frameworks (including an essentially orthodox MJ) is not precluded nor contraindicated at all. And, since most religious frameworks except for Orthodox Jewish ones seem to be filled with a significant majority of women, exceeding their ~50% representation in the general human population, I would not cite this concern as corresponding with the question about “shrinking numbers” in the current essay.

  42. chaya1957,

    The MJRC is only made up of Jews. If you are referring to a person who may have converted to Judaism, converts (according to all forms of Judaism) are treated as Jews.

    As far as the children of intermarried couples, we do consider the children as Jewish if they are/were raised Jewish.

    As far as your comment as to the MJRC being made up of only men, this has been something we have been working to correct for some time. As we describe on our website, only those possessing actual ordination as rabbis from a recognized body can be members of the MJRC. Therefore, being that there was no recognized MJ organization that would previously ordain women, there was no way for a woman (at least within a MJ context) to become a full member. That is why iin 2012 the MJRC, after many years of work toward this goal, created the ability for women to now receive ordination through the MJRC itself (http://www.messianicjudaism.me/yinon/2012/05/24/another-step-towards-messianic-women-rabbis/). However, from our beginning we supported women as rabbis and reflected that in many of our recent documents. For example, in the MJRC definition of a rabbi, it states, “A Messianic Jewish Rabbi is a Jewish follower of Yeshua qualified by a supervised course of study, authorized by his or her ordaining authority …” Notice the specific language of “his or her.” Furthermore, in 1.2.3 it goes on to state: “In concert with the example of Messiah Yeshua and the teaching of scripture concerning the leadership roles of men and women, we affirm the ordination of women as Messianic Jewish Rabbis.” It goes on to explain this further. We have also had from early years women involved in the process of our decisions and meetings.

    Lastly, as far as your comment regarding intelligent millennial women, why not ask some of them who are actively involved. My wife, for example, is a leading human rights attorney who left the movement for a time because she felt there was no room for her. But, when realizing there was a growing role for her in certain segments, was drawn back into the movement. There are indeed parts of the movement that are definitely moving beyond where things may have been in the past.

  43. Let me try to clarify a couple of my points further, “Q”: Regarding the notion of “tolerance” toward the early MJs, we must consider Rav Shaul’s early mission to Damascus to seek out and to extradite MJs in order to imprison them. That’s not something I would classify as tolerance, and he was clearly operating under some sort of legitimate authority. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a couple of decades later, is the situation reported in Acts 21 where Torah-zealous MJs numbered in the tens of thousands. And then we have the slightly later situation wherein some believe that MJs were denied access to the Temple shortly before the Hurban, and the post-Hurban classification of them as one of the sects identified as “minim” (factional separatists) whose behavior was deemed contributory toward the Temple’s destruction by the Romans. It’s hard to evaluate how much general acceptance within the Jewish community accompanied the Acts 21 situation, but apparently it didn’t last long enough or reach far enough to prevent the renewal of intolerance not long afterward.

    Regarding the so-called “love-feasts” in Corinth, the “meal of the Lord” (or, the Master’s table) reflected a continuation of the day’s fellowship, comparable to the similar Jewish tradition of a Kiddush meal following the Shabbat morning service, which then proceeded into further teaching and then the afternoon prayer service. So, in 1Cor.11:29, the “body” in question was not Rav Yeshua but the congregation; and the judgment cited was a result of undisciplined carousing and failure to be considerate of one another within that congregational body — though it is certainly true that Rav Shaul included the notion of dishonoring Rav Yeshua and his accomplishment on their behalf in his reprimand (v.27). We might call that “parental hyperbole”. [Oy! Such behavior! You’re just *killing* your poor mother, after all she’s done for you…!] Note that the Jewish Kiddush which precedes such a congregational meal also recites blessings over bread and wine as the symbols of the meal and HaShem’s gracious provision of it. Undoubtedly, the Corinthian meals were modeled on this Jewish pattern, though the failure for which they were chided was probably more reflective of how pagan love-feasts were conducted.

    And let me reassure you, “Q”, there will be no lack of hospitality to the affiliated (and redeemed) non-Jews who associate in support of MJs (and, of course, for the sake of their own spiritual growth).

  44. @Rockey: It’s hard for me to think of a tallit and tefillin as relics because the word implies they have become obsolete, in spite of the fact that God’s commandments related to these objects are eternal.

    I’m sure no one has a 100% accurate idea of eschatology, but that doesn’t mean the Bible is helpless to inform us of some things to look for. Especially if we pay attention to the Prophets of the Tanakh (Old Testament), we see that God will continue to maintain the Jewish people as a people before Him and He will raise national Israel to the head of the nations.

    I suppose we could allegorize all of this and certainly in historical Christianity, that’s exactly how supersessionism was born, but on occasion, I think the Bible actually means what it says. Granted Biblical interpretation is as much art as it is science, but I’m quite ready to believe that God will keep all of the promises He made to the Jewish people.

    Although Jesus wasn’t above offering correction to the Pharisees and Scribes, what he taught and what Paul taught after him was essentially Pharisaic Judaism with a Messianic twist and, as far as Paul was concerned, an unusually liberal policy regarding the admission of non-Jews into a Jewish religious stream. Apart from that, Jesus and Paul were pretty much in line with the Orthodoxy. Acts 23:6-9 illustrates that while the Sadducees had problems with Paul, the Pharisees had nothing against him.

    Your low view of Jerusalem belies the Bible’s (and God’s) view. This is where God placed His Name in ancient times and where I believe the Third (Ezekiel’s) Temple will be built.

    That God placed Israel at the head of all the nations doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love all humanity, for after all, we were all created in His image. But I can’t just sweep away all of God’s promises to literal Israel for that nation and those people were always intended to be the light to the nations. Certainly her first born son the Messiah is that light.

    In a very real sense, I’m not worried about how things turn out, but that’s not an excuse to fail to act in His Name and to be part of His plan the world-wide reconciliation to God through Israel’s redemption. Faith isn’t passive waiting but dynamic action.

    I realize you’ll agree to none of this and that’s fine. I do think that many people will one day be astonished to find themselves bowing down to a Jewish King (Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10).

    Chaya said:

    I dunno. Anything exciting and unusual in the religious world is a meshuggana magnet.

    I can’t argue with that. I’ve seen plenty of “interesting” people in Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots groups. Sound doctrine usually causes them to leave.

    @Questor: Circumcision does not a conversion make. As far as the incident at Shechem, this was a ruse by Dinah’s brothers to incapacitate the men. They had no serious intention of intermarrying with them.

    I habe to agree with PL about the matter of “communion”. Look at this:

    Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.

    Corinthians 11:20-22 (NASB)

    This makes more sense if it’s an actual meal rather than a ritual communion. Certainly it’s a significant meal in which the last meal the Master had with his inner circle is commemorated, but the actual practice of communion as we have it today was created centuries later by the Catholic church, in part to “replace” Passover, which some non-Jewish believers had continued to observe into the Second Century CE and perhaps beyond.

    I think it will be interesting after Messiah returns and he examines how both Judaism and Christianity have created/adapted practices going forward in history after the ascension. What will he sanction as formal practice for the ekklesia and what will he rebuke? I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think it will be what many of us expect.

    PL said to Chaya:

    Regarding the notion of MJ disengagement or even expulsion from use of church premises for meetings “if their doctrine is not just fringe, but outside the pale”: There might be a need for balance here that still allows MJs to serve as a light to those in churches who seek to embrace the authentic sources of the faith they espouse.

    I think there are a lot of Christians in churches who would welcome that light, but the flip side of the coin, based on my most recent experience in church, is that a lot of Christians are very satisfied with their theology and doctrine and aren’t going to respond well to anyone even gently “rocking the boat”.

    Rabbi Joshua said to Chaya:

    As far as the children of intermarried couples, we do consider the children as Jewish if they are/were raised Jewish.

    Is this the case of the father is Jewish but the mother is not? If so, the only other Judaism I’m aware of that has this viewpoint is Reform Judaism.

    As far as conversion is concerned, I’ve had some issues about conversion specifically within the auspices of Messianic Jewish groups since no other Judaism would likely consider such converts as Jews. On the other hand, Orthodox Judaism certainly doesn’t accept converts within Reform Judaism and perhaps not within Conservative Judaism, so I may have to revise my thinking on this matter.

  45. Too much fear and not enough faith… whatever God has planned, will come to pass. Despite whatever our opinions maybe, only what God wants and allows will happen…

  46. I am not aware of any empirical studies, but it is pretty obvious that MJ is growing, both in number of congregations and sometimes in size of congregations. But it is not growing in Jews.

    Looking at MJ history in a nutshell:

    1. Jews who converted to evangelical Christianity decided they wanted to maintain their cultural Jewishness and traditional practices.

    2. Some decided they wanted to add torah, Jewish halacha in some form.

    The concept of MJ’s embracing the Jewish community: Yes, MJ’s identified as Jewish, but viewed the Jewish community according to evangelical theology; lost, going to Hell, and even though this demographic rarely embraces TULIP, there was still the evangelical viewpoint that such are devoid of divine light and truth, while the, “saved,” have the Holy Spirit, truth, godliness…. The Jewish community was viewed as a mission field. Leaders were (and many still) trained in evangelical bible colleges and seminaries. I don’t see as a viable alternative online, unaccredited courses that lead to a smicha, or worse, diploma mills in producing MJ, “rabbis.” I am not saying this to attack anyone or be nasty, as evangelical culture interprets any serious challenge; it is just an elephant in the room observation. For those who may not be aware, in Judaism, rabbinical ordination (smicha) must be from another who also has received smicha, and the belief is that this has continued unbroken from Moshe/Moses. So, men (only in MJ) may call themselves, “rabbi,” and that might make them feel good about themselves and gentiles, who don’t know any better, validate them. I see this as no different from the myriads in HR or evangelicalism with diploma mill and honorary Ph.D’s who present themselves as equals of those with real, earned Ph.D’s.

    Jews don’t play by evangelical rules. Yes, I understand that many evangelical churches don’t have any set requirements for a person to become a Pastor/Rev, as Catholics/Orthodox/Liturgical Protestants and Jews do. An Orthodox rabbi will study in Yeshiva until other rabbis believe he is ready for smicha. Reformed and Conservative rabbis graduate from their respective seminaries. In addition, the level of knowledge of torah and Jewish learning among rabbis is considerable and their knowledge of biblical Hebrew is extensive. The typical MJ rabbi has perhaps Bar Mitzvah level Hebrew, if that. Knowledge of Judaica is usually (there are exceptions) torah lite. But that is plenty to impress and satisfy gentiles. Some are even worse, and since I can’t find any into, I am going to surmise that these men don’t even have an earned BS/BA degree prior to their, “smicha passed out like candy,” a Steven Berkowitz coined that phrase. If I am going to learn from someone, they better know far more than I do, so they have something to teach me that I didn’t already know, which I really appreciate.

    So, if a traditional synagogue is going to accept me as Jewish and not a threat to be frightened of, and I don’t see these people as lost and going to Hell, why would I chose an MJ congregation over a traditional one? Better music, maybe? Certainly not better education, more wisdom, their own and a nicer meeting place or better food? You also avoid the crazies/weirdos, instability, subordinate role of women (Orthodoxy has this too, in a different manner) constant battles and cover-up of sins and shenanigans of congregational and movement leaders (you have some of this in traditional Judaism too, but most Jews don’t agree to be kept in the dark as children while the paternalistic leaders decide, “what is best for them.”) Certainly, if my children were still young, I would desire a more extensive community, with schools, youth services and a supportive world they can connect to, rather than a fringe, confused, murky, negatively viewed (often for good reason) directionless situation. In addition, Jews who know Hebrew and something about torah and Judaica will challenge their leaders and teachers, and evangelical rules where the congregants accept teaching as true is far more attractive. So, I can see why MJ prefers gentile members, especially as this demographic wants your product while most Jews don’t. Somebody has to pay the bills.

  47. James,
    I would not suggest one does nothing in light of the promises and Prophets of the scriptures; in fact, just the opposite. I believe the law was intended to direct people to act in Love and Justice first to the cornerstone which is the Lord and Creator, and then to those He loves and created to Love. That would be all Creation… and Adam and Eve (Humanity-Becoming).
    As Jesus pointed out over and over again, the ritual bereft of the connection it is intended to show is worthless. Genuine recognition of the needs of others and service to those needs requires no law if done in love. This is the true law and is simply encompassed in the law of Love.

    This relates to your question on the fate of Congregations, MJ Congregations in particular, in that if we are all serving in love, one body in Christ who cares? The Lord has the Jews, the Greeks, the Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, Bahá’í, whatever in His hands. “Love your neighbor.” KISS. Or as our Bahá’í Brothers and Sisters believe, “Let your vision be world embracing…” — Bahá’u’lláh

    16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

    20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.
    11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! Col. 2:16-19 & 3:11.

    I cherish the “relics” they are a connection to millions of others who search in Faith. I also have Buddhist prayer wheel, Moslem Prayer beads, Rosaries, a table set for the Dia de los Muerto, Buddha, The Buddy Christ, Fossil sharks teeth, etc… they in and of themselves have no power accept what we give to them. God will not honor the wearing of the clothing if the heart remains in the world. (Cain’s offering was rejected…)

    Chaya, you crack me up… when I read your notes, it’s like I know you. I feel like you are one of the ones I used to hang and “use” with, talking forever about the mysteries of the world and our continued blindness and cruelty as a species. (Hence the using.) Sigh, there is hope, we are not alone, we are wounded, broken, travelers, completed in Christ, often slouching towards Bethlehem.

    Xaipe

  48. @Joshua: This person I have in mind converted via MJ manner, not via traditional Judaism, and there may be others. In regard to the role of women, I am not saying you are not sympathetic, but MRC only allows UMJC (not any MJ) as rabbis, and UMJC won’t provide women with smicha. Since I don’t consider their education adequate, providing women with fake smicha also isn’t terribly helpful, but I suppose it would prove a point. Don’t feel bad; you’re not the only one. I learned that CTOMC attempted to discuss the issue of females on their Bet Din, and the response was such violent argument (ok, like I should respect such people?) they tabled it. Please don’t deny you play by evangelical rules; that is the only reason for your limitations upon women. It is still degrading that women need male leaders to, “allow,” them whatever role they deem fit, perhaps, “women can be in leadership as long as they are under a male,” sort of thing? I can understand what your wife might have felt; if she was in a respected, high-level role in the career world and perhaps also other environments, why would she want to submit to a subordinate place, to men who were likely inferior in intellect, knowledge and education to her? I know people become a part of groups with the idea of changing them, and many within are supportive.

  49. Chaya, Right on Sister!

    I thought this a bit ironic this was posted today, as it is one of the meditations I read daily.

    My feelings reflect Fr. Richard Rohrs’ in this Devotion.
    I too disagree with Supressionsism. I also disagree with dictating how anyone “should” serve the Lord. Do what God calls one to do. Do not expect everyone should do it as we do. Selah.

    An Evolving Faith
    Friday, February 13, 2015
    The writings of the Hebrew Scriptures show an evolutionary development, a gradual coming to see how God acts in human life. God is not changing; it is our comprehension of God that is changing. As we go through the Scriptures, what we see in Israel’s growth as a people is a pattern of what happens to every person and to every people who set out on the journey of faith. They go through stages and gradually come to see how God loves them and what God’s liberation does for them. But they come kicking and screaming and denying.

    In the first stage, people start to experience the reality of God and God’s love as more than abstract concepts. At the same time, however, they tend to believe that God’s love is limited to just themselves, a select few such as a chosen people or the one true Church.

    In the second stage, people begin to respond to God’s love, but they perceive God’s love as rather totally dependent on their ideal response. They believe that grace is a conditional gift, that God will love them if they are good, that God will save or reward them if they keep the commandments.

    In the third stage, people begin to see God’s love as unlimited and unconditional, but they do not see further than that. They acknowledge that God loves them whether they are good or bad, and that God is gracious to the just and the unjust alike. But they still think that God is doing that from afar, from up in heaven somewhere. They do not yet see themselves as inherently participating in the process. Frankly, they have not discovered their own soul yet.

    Finally, in the fourth stage, they make the breakthrough to seeing that God’s grace and love is present within them, through them, with them, and even as them! The mystery of incarnation has come full circle. They can now enjoy God’s temple within their own body, as Paul loves to teach, and can love themselves and others and God by the same one flow. It is all one stream of Love! They now fully realize that it is God who is doing the loving, and they surrender themselves to being channels and instruments of that Divine Flow into the world.

    The first three of these stages can be seen most clearly in the Hebrew Scriptures. I am not a believer in supersessionism, which thinks that Christianity supersedes and thus eliminates Judaism. The evolution simply continues with the fourth stage seen most clearly in the words and actions of Jesus, in John’s Gospel, and in many of the letters attributed to Paul. Even in these texts there are pockets of resistance and exclusion. It is all three steps forward and two steps back!

    Paul himself clearly affirms: “Is it possible that God has rejected his people? Of course not!” (Romans 11:1 where he then develops this argument at length). You cannot succumb to any rejecting spirit, or it will surely undo you! If you hate your parents, you will soon hate yourself too. As love is one, so also is hate. We must totally build on and honor our Jewish foundations, and live in eternal gratitude for their substantial gift to us, just as we have a gift to give back to them–Jesus.

    What makes Jesus such a special Jew was that he said this divine election was first of all free, and therefore universal, and not bound by any ethnicity or era of time. Grace is inherent to our dignity as human beings. But he learned that and dared to believe it both from the Jewish Scriptures and from his own God experience. He claimed them both.

    You are loved and chosen so that you can pass on the experience, not hoard the experience. In fact, if you feel a need to guard it, as if it were limited or scarce, that is the certain evidence that you have not accessed the Infinite Source yourself. It has to start with some kind of “I got it” experience which should lead to “But everybody else does too!” and eventually a Leonard Cohen kind of Hallelujah! As Ken Wilber so brilliantly says, “Religion starts elitist, but ends egalitarian. Always!” I think it is almost a necessary pattern, but far too many stop half way.

  50. Rockey and Zion, I don’t think I can subscribe to the “don’t worry, be happy” theology you’re suggesting. It wouldn’t have worked very well for people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Corrie Ten Boom or any of the righteous Gentiles who hid and protected Jews during the Holocaust. If any of them would have just trusted that God would all work it out in the end and not act on their deep concern for the immediate safety of Jewish people and the ultimate preservation of the Jewish people, how many more would have died?

    While what I’m describing isn’t a “holocaust” as such, the result could be very much the same. What Hitler couldn’t accomplish, Christian apathy and Jewish assimilation very well could.

    That said, I don’t believe that God will permit the Jewish people to pass from existence, but I also don’t believe he wants us to just sit on our thumbs. Faith without works is dead.

    I’m also not a dispensationalist or someone who believes in progressive revelation to explain how God caused His plan for Israel to evolve so that the Jewish people reach an eschatological dead end. To believe such means to also believe that God was only kidding when he made all those promises to Israel we have recorded in the Bible.

  51. I would not suggest Jews will, or should, or shouldn’t be assimilated. I hardly think that will ever happen.
    People have a penchant for splitting, clans, nationalism, dividing, denominating… little fear of anything disappearing there. The Anabaptists, Quakers, Bruderhoff, Amish, speakers of Yiddish… all declining. What to do?

    I choose not to worry about that which I have no control over. I am not at all concerned about “dead ends” simply because all humanity is being reconciled to Christ. If all humanity is being called by God, then there are no dead ends. Whether one is first, last, third… is really piddling. We are one in Christ the sustainer and redeemer. “Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Or, maybe not.

    No doubt all the varieties of Jewry will be represented as we are now; Shtreimels, and Kippahs will be abundant as will John Deer ball caps in the coming age. I just don’t think we get to bring them with us after we are freed from this world. I certainly hope not.

    A healthy dose of respect, will keep the faiths alive. Inclusion, openness, and the sharing of the common meal of suffering and redemption. Who sits where, devaluation of anyone based on gender, race, age, past… just isn’t going to cut it. Manny fundamentalists want to do those things, (as well as others) they will never be dead ends, as humanity loves unity through separation.

    Love your neighbor… “But! Can’t you see they’re Samaritans!” Yeah, set a place at table and serve them. They just might want to be part of your congregation if you do.

  52. I think we have different ideas of what “every knee shall bow” means relative to Israel and the nations and the sovereignty of King Messiah over the world, and we could debate it until his coming, but I don’t think anything productive would come out of it. This is yet another case where we shall have to agree to disagree and let God reveal the fullness of His plan at the proper time.

  53. Yeah, when all is said and done (and it never is) time will tell.
    I have no need to agree, or disagree; I just need to hear your thoughts to help understand what is there.
    In the meantime, what are we going to do?
    Live each day like He will call tonight… but continue to serve just in case?
    I believe in working, however it isn’t an “either -or” but an “either -and.”
    The works I do, are an expression of gratitude of the Grace I have received.
    I now get to serve others who are suffering as I once did.
    Those souls are the knots on my Tallit.
    Every Prostitute, Dope Fiend, Convict, Abuser and Abused who come for food, Recovery and a Safe place to rest.
    Hearing their story’s and being able to say, “I know how you feel, I felt the same way, this is what I have found” is redemption for all the insanity I suffered from, and is now used by God to serve others.
    That is my liturgy.
    When all is said and done, if God finds me unworthy because I didn’t put on my Kippah, and run around trying to save a Church that hasn’t bothered to ask me to return… so be it.
    That is not the God I know… or care to know for that matter.
    If He is that small (or “He” for that matter) quite frankly, isn’t worthy of the name so many are afraid to say anyway.
    “…Now, go and do likewise.”

  54. Rockey said:

    The works I do, are an expression of gratitude of the Grace I have received.
    I now get to serve others who are suffering as I once did.
    Every Prostitute, Dope Fiend, Convict, Abuser and Abused who come for food, Recovery and a Safe place to rest.
    Hearing their story’s and being able to say, “I know how you feel, I felt the same way, this is what I have found” is redemption for all the insanity I suffered from, and is now used by God to serve others.

    I think this is the part we get to agree on Tim.

  55. I’m not sure I get your meaning? I do believe that MJ accomplished something it never set out to do, and few are still unaware of what happened. Perhaps if God let us in on what he was enabling us to do, we might never do it 🙂 MJ succeeded in replacing fear and negativity about Jews and Jewish stuff (for those who listened) with empathy, curiosity and viewing these things as spiritually valuable for themselves. This is a partial reverse of the Gen. 12:3 curse upon Christianity for its cursing of the Jewish people, via hatred, despising, seeking to harm and treating as insignificant, which is the definition of the second term translated, “curse,” in English.

  56. Yes, schizoid, self-deprecating humor has been a Jewish survival skill. People have often asked me, “Why do you just have to go and stir the pot?” I thought about it, and it is because I have a need to discover what it really in the pot, and not just what looks nice floating on top, all the way to the burnt bottom.

    As Hillel says: He who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole world. You don’t know how far-reaching that cup of cold water might be. 🙂

  57. PL, sorry I didn’t completely answer your question. Things were quite different 40 years ago. The Jewish community (pretty universally) was highly threatened and reactive to MJ’s. People who made their living in the religious world needed to not bite the gentile hands that fed them. As well, people need to feel they have allies. Being rejected by the evangelical world might have been a good thing, but it didn’t happen that way.

    Now, everything is in flux. The “church,” is changing, MJ is changing and the Jewish community is changing.

    As far as myself, I believe I have jettisoned evangelical theology, to the point that I would be considered an apostate and heretic and not just fringe to be treated sensitively as a “weaker brother.” It has only been in the last two years, and amazing the things I believed for nearly 40 years, probably for a lot of reasons, like one believes what one’s friends and those who provide them with love, acceptance, support and practical help believe. I didn’t think of this consciously, but I bought into their cognitive dissonance, and when I was busy raising little kids and under financial and other stress, didn’t have the time or energy to examine, explore, etc. I had allowed their prejudices and fears to permeate me, although I never completely bought in.

    Where I stand now: I don’t believe in the evangelical definition of salvation; that is, going to heaven rather than hell when you die. I believe salvation, according to all Hebrew sources refers to being rescued from bondage, freed from captivity, healed and/or delivered. So, I don’t believe people are saved or lost, but in different states as to their relationship with the divine, obedience, abillity to hear and receive wisdom, etc. It helps me that I don’t need to view people or ideas negatively that I haven’t even explored. I can see myself as helping others to grow closer to God and walk in his ways however that is for them. I haven’t believed in the Trinity for a while, although mostly I didn’t really think about it. I do believe that Hashem’s unity is a unity above and beyond all unity’s, beyond comprehension, so I don’t stand with the Orthodox on this issue either, as the nature of Hashem, Messiah and the relationship between these and any other aspects of divine revelation is a mystery. Now, whether one believes in the Trinity or not doesn’t change one’s behavior, in the way that believing one should eat kosher and keep Shabbat, but many Christians consider this a salvation issue.

    Regarding the paper you mentioned, I am not saying Jews invited to speak in churches should be rude and throw precious beliefs in their hosts face; I was refering to MJ congregations that rent facilities from churches might face backlash if they deviated too much from evangelical theology, to be seen as harming Christianity rather than contextualizing it to spread the gospel.

    Regarding the “women,” issue, most religious groups are overwhelmingly female, so they need some way to keep the majority under control. I believe it would be dishonest to link MJ practices in regard to women to the Orthodox, as they have a history, doctrine and training in the church. There are Orthodox environments that are more liberal, also, and many who sympathize within. Let’s not play the “separate but equal,” “distinctive roles,” game. Men preach, teach, lead, counsel and women take care of children, can teach women to love their husbands and children, make refreshments, etc. Nothing wrong with any of those things if that is what you want to do. I have no aspiration to a role of leadership or teaching, so it is not for my benefit. Interesting that as there have been changes in some evangelical churches, MJ is unmovable on this issue.

    I am no expert on Orthodoxy, but it appears their limitations on women are based more upon tradition than doctrine. I’ve never heard anyone Jewish saying a wife should submit to her husband or that a woman in leadership needs to be under male authority, or that women are by nature morally and/or intellectually inferior (taught by Christianity but probably denied today) or more prone to deception. I think it was the Vilna Gaon who complained that women gossiped rather than prayed during davening. Let’s look at his complaint. Women were far less educated, so didn’t understand much of what was going on and were far more concerned about practical matters in their lives. Also, men prayed in a minyan daily while women might not see each other extensively all week. Of course they wanted to catch up, and yes it is true, women have more daily words in them usually and have a greater need for conversation.

    Orthodox have more of a focus on men being contaminated by being in the presence of women, the kol isha -hearing a woman sing, with the connotation of fear of sexual interest. That’s why some Yeshivot have a separate street for women to walk past them so men can’t see them, even if they are modestly dressed.

    There are women teaching on WebYeshiva, although none are rabbis. I understand there are some women who have received Orthodox smicha, but they are usually called, “rabban,” rather than rabbi.

    As far as Hashiveinu, one of the members is someone I have no respect for. I refuse to agree that someone who is not Jewish is Jewish, and someone who is not a rabbi is a rabbi.

    It took me a long time to learn this lesson. The definition of insanity is to repeat the same thing and expect a different result. No, that wasn’t Einstein, it was NA, c. 1970’s. It is not a matter of me needing to find a different and perhaps more suited religious environment. All religious environments have a commonality of requiring conformity and limiting questions, exploration, creative thinking, etc. I can learn from those I respect, but I wouldn’t join any. Actually I did find a group that I think I could be part of, but it is 40 miles away, which wouldn’t work for me.

    @Boris, I agree that MJ is becoming just like the first century church in replacing the Jewish members, and even more HR, which teaches replacement theology. It is difficult to learn torah as most of what these people want to do is whine over the gentile’s identity crisis or preach MJ apologetics or torah apolgetics.

  58. Also, AFAIK, the only thing about MJ that some Jews find attractive is certain music. I can’t think of any MJ that Jewish people flock to or want to learn from, but many non-Jews flock to Jewish space and sites to learn. Perhaps I haven’t looked everywhere, but I don’t know of any MJ teachers who have great wisdom to share. I don’t want to sound elitist, although I admit to being somewhat of one, sorry, can’t help the 142 IQ, but what they have to offer is great for gentiles, like children who love children’s things. At least be honest and let them know that what you are teaching them is children’s level.

  59. Chaya,
    Wow, I am a very abstract thinker… I am not sure how you get there from that.

    What I meant to James comment is that the receiving of Grace is often responded to by the awareness of others in suffering and needing that very same touch of Grace, and the desire (need) to do something in it. If James and I agree on that fundamental understanding, that Truth, than as Jesus says so many times, “The Kingdom of Heaven is near…” (Our hearts are drawn closer to one another, James and mine.)
    People spend so much time trying to reinforce our differences, however looking to the commonality of suffering and redemption helps keep the main thing the main thing.

    Sprinkling vs. dunking, standing vs. kneeling, Mount Gerizim vs. the Temple Mount, covered vs. uncovered… will we see the rituals we do (academic) vs. the Holy Spirit indwelling each person we see?
    I am called to give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit those in prison… Jesus said I would be touching Him when I did… He didn’t ask me to pull down their pants and see if he was circumcised first. I choose to embrace Baptism, though my denomination believes it is unnecessary for Salvation. (I agree, but still love it, all the way back to the Mikveh) I love the Seder meal, Sukkot, the Buddhist Prayer bowl, the haunting call of the Muadhin… all these things point to God, yet none are God. They are academic to the incarnation of God in us. MJ are another opportunity to see one of the many faces of God.

    The Genesis 12:3 curse you refer too is a stretch, I do not agree with that interpretation, and really can’t get there to understand the basis at this time (you may have to help me). I cannot agree as I believe the premise is wrong. “Insignificant” is a good word there as seeing anyone as less than being made in God’s image curses both the person being relegated as less than, and the person devoid of vision who does this.

    I do not limit arrogance to Christians’ though many are. The same with cruelty, and ignorance. Those are human traits. Any majority (no matter how small) at any place in history continues to prove the inclusivity of cruelty and judgment. Were MJ’s in the majority, there would be as many denominations as the rest of Christianity. There would be MJ fundamentalists forming countries where the Law was mandatory, complete with streets for men and ones for women… it isn’t the Faith it’s the practitioners. Ergo, it isn’t the practice it’s the motive behind it.
    I choose to be in the mix. I can make a law to cover women and avoid them to protect or prevent me from lust… (fat chance with my imagination) or I can learn to suffer lust, suffer the consequences of my lust, repent, make restitution, seek forgiveness and come to understand objectifying women or men is harmful. Receiving new vision, I am able to live with all people and lust has little power over me. I rather like responsibility and freedom through Christ than handcuffing myself to a doorpost. The Jews under the law lusted, the law never stopped it for a second. Nor did it prevent men from abusing their power or position or from sneaking around following their lust. Only a change of heart can do that. Like learning to Breath Underwater. God can do that in us regardless of the laws.

    Will we use Jesus to justify ourselves… or, will we in seeking Christ, do what needs to be done to lose ourselves and then be justified by Christ?

    BTW, informative responses. Good on ya.

  60. The God of creation is expressed in all that is created. I can hardly look at nature without seeing the touch,the genius, the thought is God. That I can hold something which was alive, conscience, and present millions of years ago is itself a testament. I believe the reason the ocean, flowers, whales, the moon, sunsets, tiny fingers, are, so amazing and resonate within us is because we share that connection with the creator. In His image are we made with the breath of God and His Spirit within us. How can we not feel moved when we are connected in such intimacy?

    The universe is constantly rolling and reconciled in Christ the designer and sustainer. Sharks too.

  61. @Marleen — If you Google fossilized shark teeth as a religious artifact, you can find some hints of archeological hypothesizing about them because some have been found in burial mounds. While it would not be unlikely for a society whose religious views were animistic to view shark teeth with religious reverence, such views really have nothing to do with the topic at hand which is constrained entirely by biblical religious views.

    Rockey’s comments seem to indicate a general view of religious progressivism, as if human societies have been merely improving their religious views linearly throughout history in order to reach some current higher state that values universal brotherhood and enlightenment. This perspective views all religions through a lens of superiority and relegates them all to one or another kind of local, tribally-generated superstition. It’s actually a very nineteenth-century view of religion. Such a view neglects the ebb and flow and even cyclical nature of human religious philosophy, as well as the cataclysmic changes resulting from occasional prophetic interaction with external non-human enties, and has very little ability to value something like an actual covenant between HaShem the Creator Himself and an individual human and the tribes that descend from one particular line of his offspring. Prophetic notions like those of Jeremiah, indicating HaShem’s repeated intervention into history to preserve this covenant and the people to whom it applies, and the expectation that this will culminate in a future implementation it that reiterates certain ancient features including a particular focus on and elevation of this one particular segment of humanity, are rather at odds with such a progressivistic and universalistic view (even when it is applied as a gloss onto the biblical literature). Obviously, such a view cannot accept the particularism inherent in Gen.12:3, especially if it is to be considered valid as long as heaven and earth endure as implicit in Mt.5:18.

    I was rather intrigued by Rockey’s final question, though: “Will we use Jesus to justify ourselves … or, will we, in seeking Christ, do what needs to be done to lose ourselves and then be justified by Christ?”. The reason for which I found it so intriguing is not because I found it profound, but rather that I found it so profoundly unaware of how repentance and atonement actually operate and how the messianic role of the ben-Yosef Messiah contributes to them. There are so many strange notions cited here: “use Jesus”, “justify ourselves”, “seeking Christ”, “lose ourselves” (that one sounds as if extracted from an eastern philosophy). Of course, these phrases are coded religious jargon whose meaning is somewhat hidden unless their historical development is investigated.

  62. @Chaya — I think it may be fair to say that Jews seldom “flock” to anything, even some of the inspiring music generated within the MJ movement. We do tend to be curious to learn new and different things, however, and MJ has definitely offered a significant dose of that. But like in any social movement that includes characteristic intellectual content, there is a widely-varying level of quality in teachers and teaching. A lot of folks are in dire need of children’s-level presentation, but adult-level content also can be found. One must be selective and discriminating. Capabilities like YouTube only exacerbate the situation and demand even more careful screening.

    As for your disdain of one particular individual with whom you apparently disagree, you really should not use this as an ad-hominum excuse to dismiss the entire MJRC that considered him a valid convert and ordained him as a valid rabbi, nor to dismiss either the Hashivenu principles or whatever organization may profess them. As it happens, I’ve been known to disagree with his viewpoints on some matters, as well. In fact, disagreeable fellow that I am [;^)], I’ve disagreed with people at all sorts of levels of academic certification, generally for good intellectually-defensible reasons. You should not dismiss the fact that a number of MJRC members hold valid doctorates in various subjects relating to MJ and other Jewish issues and perspectives. You really cannot validly sustain your assertion that their aggregate education is inadequate. Further, if my memory serves me correctly, there is at least one member who was ordained as an orthodox rabbi after attending an orthodox yeshiva. Hence, if you really want to place weight on the unbroken chain of smicha conferred from teacher to student across the generations, this feature is not entirely absent from MJ smicha; however, it might be considered to be of lesser criticality given that modern rabbinic certification is based on academic study of Jewish literature and related academic topics (i.e., including the writings of many generations of Jewish teachers as well as the opinions of their ordained students who continued to comment upon what they learned) rather than depending on the transferal of knowledge from one ordained rabbi to his individual disciples that was the origin of smicha. So your accusation of “fake smicha” is also invalid, regardless of whether the leaders of other Jewish streams agree to recognize it as applicable within the frameworks over which they exercise authority. Therefore, if you have particular disagreements, let them be focused on the content of specific positions or teachings rather than used for broad-brush dismissal of entire organizations. If one throws away the intellectual wheat along with the chaff, one can become awfully hungry.

    As for the roles and positions permissible or suitable for women to fulfill within a Jewish communal or familial framework, you and I probably differ in viewpoint, but both of us must allow ourselves to be guided by traditional Jewish teachings on the subject, including apostolic teachings inspired by HaShem’s Spirit as well as the Torah as given to Moshe and maintained across the generations of Jewish civilization by HaShem’s authorization and inspiration. There are many aspects to consider here, including general ones of human response to assigned authority regardless of its relative intellectual or moral qualities, and the psychology of human interactions between males and females both as individuals and in aggregations. We must grapple with the fact that HaShem saw it as a good system to design humans as a bicameral interdependent species and that He determined a hierarchy between them rather than an anarchy. Some of us are still actually trying to figure out why. Modern psycho-cybernetics has noted that gender differences in brain structure may hint at an explanation for noted behavioral differences and native capabilities, regarding such notions as spaces, movements, numbers, objects, and their relationships. It seems not unlike the manner in which computer processing capabilities are influenced by architectural features such as bandwidth, complex or simplex (RISC) processor types, and single or multiply-coordinated processor tasking. In simple terms, an Apple, or Microsoft PC, or Android tablet processing system and operating system may all be able to run the same office software applications, but they do it differently and are faster or slower at certain individual tasks even if they ultimately produce the same aggregate result. In cases where certain tasks must be optimized for maximum performance, one architecture or platform may be preferable to another. So also for humans, sometimes “the best man for the job” is a woman, and vice versa. These considerations only add to the social and educational issues that produce effects such as those in the Vilna Gaon’s complaint. Rav Shaul also certainly had some such considerations in mind when he penned the prohibitions and constraints upon women that appear in his letters. We may ask, then, if changing social and educational conditions have mitigated their concerns.

    Human societies have tried various social experiments across time, and none of these experiments contradicts the validity of the Torah’s perspective on human gender interaction. Sometimes the presence of large numbers of capable women willing to manage all manner of activities induces a male response to ignore those tasks entirely since they perceive themselves as unnecessary and even unwanted (rightly or wrongly). But HaShem demands that men take certain responsibilities, and unless women are excluded from being overly helpful to do them the men will not rise to those challenges and fulfill their own capabilities. This observation may be deemed a suitable explanation for the absence or dearth of men in religious environments where women are dominant, and the greater presence of men where women are constrained and men are required to fulfill their G-d-given responsibilities. I leave it to your imagination to recognize where “degradation” may have been operative against either gender. Sometimes separation and constraint are the only means by which values can be maintained, whether it be to distinguish between roles for men and women or to distinguish between roles for Jews and gentiles. Distinction, per se, does not require degradation. Equal value can be perceived properly in distinctive roles and assignments; and there may even be reasonable justification to assign distinctive titles such as “rabbi” and “rabbanah” (“rabban” would also be a masculine term) for comparable levels of rabbinic training. Equal training does not automatically invalidate distinctive applications for that knowledge. I enjoyed excellent interactions with a woman rabbi over the span of several years in a Conservative shul; however this perfectly wonderful, well-qualified person was not able to project the same image for the benefit of the community that an equally-qualified male rabbi could do. Human society, and particularly Jewish society, simply cannot and should not perceive them as the same or interchangeable. HaShem has deliberately pre-programmed humanity for our own good to recognize the distinction.

    As for differences between forty years ago and today, I think you’re correct that some of the knee-jerk negative reactions have been mitigated regarding Jews who view Rav Yeshua as a valid messiah candidate while still insisting on retaining their distinctive Jewish identity and at least some Judaic practices. Obviously, that is still far from widespread acceptance, even a reluctant or cautious one. There is, of course, still a great deal to criticize in what is often purported to reflect MJ, for reasons that have been discussed extensively in this blog forum. I’m not sure what you’re calling “cognitive dissonance”, but certainly even the most traditional orthodox Rav-Yeshua messianism challenges the “status-quo ante” that would make any Jewish consideration of “that man” (i.e., “that enemy”) unthinkable. While the MJ congregational movement represented a step away from the notion that anyone accepting the validity of the apostolic writings belonged within a Christian church community, and it provided a space in which communities of Jews and interested gentiles could explore a form of Judaism which included respect for Rav Yeshua, its separation from Christianity as such could not yet overcome the remaining sense of separateness from Judaism. It was generally still a sect representing an alternative Judaism. And this alternative was far too often ambivalent about pursuing alternative theological implications that would distance it further from presumed “brethren” among the gentiles in the Christian world. The presence of many who had received training in Christian environments could only inhibit such alternative pursuit. Only where there was sufficient counterbalancing Jewish experience could forward progress continue. You’re right also to note the concerns of young Jewish families that require appropriate childcare and training facilities, whereby the lack thereof would discourage such families from remaining in under-funded, under-equipped, under-qualified venues. There is a limit to what even the most dedicated pioneers can withstand, and MJ congregations operating on a shoestring independent budget were at a severe disadvantage. One can see how it would seem all-too-necessary to submerge one’s MJ beliefs in order to fit one’s children into either a traditional, probably liberal, Jewish environment, or into a well-equipped church environment providing at least superficially biblical training that might be supplemented by Jewish training in the home environment. Nonetheless, the recognition of shortcomings and constraints and challenges is not justification to cease striving for something better.

    I disagree that “all religious environments have a commonality of requiring conformity and limiting questions, exploration, creative thinking, etc.” Jewish religious environments are noted for their encouragement of questions and argumentation as tools of investigating the Torah, though all human societies (even blogs) have boundaries delineating where limits of acceptability are being exceeded (with varying degrees of tolerance for exceedance, even temporarily or for the sake of academic argument). I also would challenge your statement to Bruce (i.e. “ברוס”, not “Boris”, which would have required that the ‘vav’ appear preceding the ‘resh’ rather than afterward) that the “first century church” replaced Jewish members. The assemblies of the first century were not churches, even among the gentiles, and disdain of Jewish behavior among Rav-Yeshua disciples does not appear until the second century at the earliest. Replacement, per se, doesn’t really coalesce until the fifth century. And modern MJ certainly does not replace or devalue Jewish members, though you could make a good argument that some pseudo-Jewish venues that are primarily populated with gentiles effectively discourage them or drive them away. However, I can’t take this comment any further without reiterating prior complaints against the misapplication and ill-definition of the MJ brand-label, or the description of what it was intended to represent, or prescribing what might improve it from the present time forward.

  63. BTW, Chaya, while I hope you have already seen the following information elsewhere since you wrote about the “Aseret haDibrot” in Sep.2013, let me note here that they are referenced in the Torah text as “d’varim” rather than “dibrot”. The latter reference represents a later period when Hebrew was more influenced by Aramaic, and it does emphasize the sense that they are “proclamations”, or perhaps more accurately, “categorical statements”. Each of them summarizes a host of subsidiary Torah precepts.

    However, on another matter that you cited, they were omitted from the most common prayerbook sequences for an unrelated reason. Post-Nicene Christians placed a great deal of emphasis on them, as if they were the only meaningful portion of Torah that survived into the Christian era. In response, in order to emphasize that all 613 mitzvot of Torah remain valid and are not to be “replaced” by any short summary such as the ten, nor by the two “greatest commandments” cited by R.Hillel and R.Yeshua, Jews de-emphasized any representation of only the ten (though they remain as a small part of high holy day services in the machzor).

  64. PL, you are saying the choice to omit the aseret hadibrot from the prayers was polemical, not just out of concern that people would sort of click off the list of the ten and believe they had done all required of them? That makes sense. I really like Bill Bullock’s take, that these were not marching orders, but prophetic empowerments and blessings, such as, “Light be.” As an aside, I understand that, “lo tignav,” would more accurately be tranlated, “do not kidnap,” which would have made slavery a problem for Christians. But as a Hebrew word can have broad connotations, it appears to me that stealing, as well as deception would be included?

  65. OK, Chaya — it seems to be time to offer a brief Hebrew lesson: In Bereshit, “Y’hi or” is an actual linguistic command form that literally means “[there] will be light”. This is why it is translated as “Let there be light”. One may certainly view this as a blessing, but I would never invoke a notion such as “prophetic empowerment” here, because no one is being empowered to do anything (and the blessing will only be appreciated later after those who will be able to do so will be created). It is possible to view this event poetically as HaShem commanding the chaotic, unformed, impersonal cosmos that has just been brought into existence to organize energy within it into the form of photons in motion. However, one must keep in mind that this description does not indicate the mechanism by which it occurred, but only its appearance to a hypothetical observer. It invites the reader to step into the shoes of that would-be observer in order to envision the events unfolding.

    Now the statement “lo tig’nav” is also a command form of the verb “lig’nov”, which means “to steal”. Thus is means “not you will steal”, or in better English form: “You shall not steal”. It is generic and covers all sorts of theft. Kidnapping is addressed specifically in Ex.21:16, using the same verb in the sense of stealing a human, which would be a minor subset or example of the act of stealing. Deception, on the other hand, would seem to fit better under the category of “false witness” rather than stealing, and would most aptly apply under circumstances whereby someone was falsely placed in jeopardy.

    Limiting the citation of the “Aseret haDibrot” to a segment of the high holy day prayers rather than including it in the daily prayers is not, in my view, a polemical action. Calling it that suggests too overtly antagonistic a motivation. We are not polemical when we assert the error of supercessionism or replacement theology. We are inveighing against a false interpretation of our foundational literature, and presumably also asserting a correct one. Similarly in this case a tendency to over-emphasize that encourages a false impression or evaluation of these ten statements is being mitigated by placing the relevant material into a different context that is no less valued but that is only a small portion of a larger picture, which is a suitably corrective message to those who might have been misled to focus on this passage as if it were the whole picture in itself or the most important piece of it.

  66. @PL, I am not any kind of scholar. So, I just throw out these thoughts as observations from someone outside the system. By prophetic empowerment, I mean that the Holy One, as part of the betrothal covenant, is saying, “I will provide whatever is needed for you to fulfill this.” This would include the vision, wisdom, strength required. In addition, the divine speech cannot return void. Its fulfillment may not occur in front of us or in our lifetime, but will appear in the physical realm at some point. The bride would be empowered to be an am segulah (special, treasured people) standing out in the midst of the world; they were not ordered to do this in the manner of judicial law.

    The reason for the kidnapping interpretation is that theft was not a capital offense and was also dealt with in detail in Vayikra (Leviticus)

    My understanding of the prohibition against lying, lo tikachashu, refers to acting as a false witness in court in such a way as to condemn a person to death, which would merit the death penality. Interesting that the word can also have the connotation of feigned obedience. This makes me think of pretending to agree with others to keep the peace, or due to fear of retribution.

  67. @PL, thank you for obviously putting so much thought into this. If I were still ensconced within MJ, I would probably view things differently. I view things as one outside, but one who has also had enough experience to understand the mindset. When one is a part of something that they have invested much into and are continuing to invest much into, surely one wants to view it via a positive bias, as well as view the future via a positive bias. OTOH, one who has left may view both the present and future more negatively.

    For me, many things are not a matter of disgreement; they are a matter of honesty and character. And it doesn’t work to say Jews or Christians do the same dirty, nasty stuff. From my vantage point, MJ organization appears eager to provide themselves with honor, respectability and accredation that is not given them either by Christianity and certainly not Judaism. This plays well to their own benefit and the gentiles who populate their groups, but doesn’t play well to the Jewish community, already suspicious that these people are deceitful and trying to pull one over them. So, when there is this suspicion, my take is to go out of your way to avoid even the appearance of evil. It is the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil to create an apologetic for one’s sinful behavior, rather than engage in examination, confession and repentance.

    My take is that MJ has served and serves its divine purpose by reaching out to gentiles. At least AFAIK, MJ gentiles don’t evidence the covert or overt antisemitism of HR, and I suspect HR antisemitism is actually far worse than that in the evangelical world they come from, as that world is in a mostly positive place, with serious exceptions. Now Jews are their rivals and competitors, and like Mohammed, like Luther, like others, the fact that Jews (with a few questionable exceptions) will not accept or respect them leads them to turn on Jews, and they are shocked (shouldn’t be) at the lack of positive response.

    For myself, obviously, I can’t (and don’t) refuse to associate with those I disagree with, because you are going to find something to disagree with every person. But I won’t associate myself with a corrupt system, what I view as dishonesty and bad character, and even decent people who accept this sort of stuff quietly so they can continue in ministry create a problem for me. Especially as a female, I would have little say or influence, especially if I refuse to play along. Sure, I have issues with the Orthodox and academics I associate with too, and I don’t join them either, but at least I believe I can learn from them and learn with them. As for the rabbi and Jewish convert issue, you can’t make your own rules to circumvent the system. One similar example may be the breakway Catholic group Mel Gibson is a part of. The Vatican does not and will not accept them, nor consider their clergy as priests, nor do any outside that breakaway group. For me to be a part of MJ, I would have to submit to their doctrine of how they view themselves. I would not be within the pale of the theology that most hold. If you can direct me to any MJ who actually presents useful wisdom that is beyond apologetics for their own system and place within it, then I would be happy to look at it. I mentioned that I wasn’t aware of any Jews who found any MJ teachers attractive or wise, although a Jewish person might read (and respect) a Christian author such as C.S. Lewis or Thomas Merton, for example.

  68. A couple additional thoughts came to mind. You are probably familiar with the emet vs. sheker – balanced first, exact middle and last letters of aleph beit vs. the three next to last letters. Something that is not necessarily all false but presents a false impression due to leaving out the balance is a lie. A lie is unbalanced and so is easily kicked over, which is why those who espouse lies or incomplete truths protect them so vigorously.

    If you are suggesting (not sure) that I should throw in my lot with MJ, it is more than I do not accept them; they would not accept me. Well, perhaps they would accept me for the purposes of straightening me out, and as @James discovered, that doesn’t work. To buy in, I would have to accept their definition of who is a Jew and who is a rabbi, and submit to doctrine depending upon the group/leader.

    The MJ Yeshua is not so different from the evangelical Jesus. But, perhaps some are moving in a positive direction, and some among the Jewish community are moving in a positive direction, to sort of bridge the gap – which can only be bridged with divine truth, not human compromise.

  69. Yes, PL, there does seem to be a very different perspective in what Rockey has written. That’s not always a “red flag” (or to put it in a different way, “kind of a quick dead end” for people other than the individual skipping along with it for now), but what has been popping in does have clues in it that he is suggesting things most of us have seen before in various ways. I wrote something (before I posted what I did post) that disappeared before I got to post. It had to do with the random insertion of “KISS” — which brings to mind the likes of IHOP [not the restaurant] and Bethel/Morningstar/Redding and so on. Sigh. I got into more detail, but don’t feel like doing it again. Sigh.

  70. @Marleen — Regrettably, I also have experienced those occasions when something I am writing for submission as a post inexplicably disappears, and I cannot summon the motivation to attempt reformulating it again. I’ve taken to writing my thoughts first in a simple text editor application, which is a stable place in which to write, and then copying the final text into the blog post field for a final check and posting.

  71. @Chaya — I would differ with you to insist that the MJ Yeshua actually is quite different from the evangelical Jesus. As for directing you toward someone or some group that you might find acceptable or that might find you acceptable, I wouldn’t try. Why would you seek out a group for the sake of conformity? I might suggest that such a notion of conformity is rather a chimera. There are limits to like-mindedness, as pleasant as it may be, though banding together as those with a similar goal to foster Rav-Yeshua-guided Jewish messianism is a worthwhile endeavor (not to be “forsaken”). This can be done in various ways, only one of which is the dedicated MJ synagogue community. Smaller gatherings may function similarly to those in the first century where regular worship was in existing synagogues and the Temple itself, and messianists gathered for their own mutual encouragement at the close of Shabbat (i.e., on motzei-shabbat, at the beginning of the first day of the week). Here in Jerusalem, in addition to serving as hazan/shatz for an MJ shul, I participate in such a havurah, most of whose members quietly attend various traditional shuls and meet together socially and regularly to discuss our perspectives on the weekly parashah and other topics. Granted, in the current climate of distrust, participation in traditional synagogue environments requires extreme discretion until it can be made clearly understood that Rav-Yeshua messianists are not evangelical Christians in disguise or seeking surreptitiously to undermine the Jewish community or its praxis (i.e., “wise as serpents and innocent as [sacrificial] doves”). Let it be clearly understood also that MJs cannot seek “acceptance”. That is merely another name for the chimera of conformity cited above. Our acceptance is only from HaShem Who knows the heart, and our conformity is only to the way of life that He inspired for our people and for which we find guidance in the Jewish scriptures (including, and even especially, in the writings of the “Apostolic Witness”).

    As for anyone “making their own rules to circumvent the system”, and the specific case to which you frequently refer, no one has made up their own rules, and no one is attempting to circumvent anything. The MJRC applied time-honored halakhic procedure to this case, and their authority is no less valid than that of the Conservative Movement which likewise performs conversions according to halakhah that are not accepted in Orthodoxy. Neither is deemed of sufficient stringency to be accepted by the authorities of the Orthodox Rabbinate in Israel (nor is Reform, of course, as an even less halakhically observant organization). AFAIK, you’re not orthodox either, so what are you complaining about? I may have more basis to complain than you, and I’ve chosen to take a lenient position. Why do you apply such an ungenerous “ayin r’a” against this case (and what did he ever do to you that he should deserve such opprobrium?), and use it as a club to bludgeon an entire organization (or even the entire notion of MJ) whose goals are to do good?

  72. Rockey said:

    Well Hallelujah Brother!
    The rest is academics.
    The Kingdom of heaven is near…

    That we agree on something doesn’t mean I have changed my mind about how God views Israel and the Jewish people, or for that matter, the meaning of “the Kingdom of Heaven”.

    Chaya said:

    I don’t believe in the evangelical definition of salvation; that is, going to heaven rather than hell when you die. I believe salvation, according to all Hebrew sources refers to being rescued from bondage, freed from captivity, healed and/or delivered. So, I don’t believe people are saved or lost, but in different states as to their relationship with the divine, obedience, abillity to hear and receive wisdom, etc. It helps me that I don’t need to view people or ideas negatively that I haven’t even explored. I can see myself as helping others to grow closer to God and walk in his ways however that is for them.

    Interesting take on the issue of salvation. It sort of speaks to how I think of “being saved” not in terms of a final destination when you die, but being redeemed from a life that’s separated from God into a life that is joined with God. I suppose, factoring in your description, we could see “salvation” along a scale rather than an on or off switch, with different people existing at various “distances,” being further from or closer to God.

    Chaya, relative to your links (I thought I wrote long blog posts), I agree with your viewpoint that Israel is central to God in his plan of redemption for the world and that God has made very specific promises to national Israel and the Jewish people that can never be changed or revoked. I also believe that historically, Church doctrine across all denominations has misrepresented what the Bible says about Israel and the Jewish people.

    My opinion is that these misrepresentations were originally deliberate and for the purpose of creating a brand new religion called Christianity that was separate from the original Jewish religious stream of Yeshua-worship, but now, such misrepresentation is assumed to be both truth and fact by all the different branches of the Church. For most Christians, these assumptions aren’t made out of maliciousness but rather, out of tradition.

  73. Proclaim Liberty,

    I would hope with a moniker such as “Proclaim Liberty” that is what you would do. (i.e. Luke 4:18)

    You are an elder, an educated one at that, this deserves respect.
    I would ask you not attempt to categorize my Faith or my intentionality based on your very limited exposure to some quick dashing’s on a Blog. I would hope to give you like respect. As far as my beliefs, they go much farther back than the 19th century. I have been most recently (the last few years) studying the writings of the early Church mystics, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila to name a few; with the guidance of FR. Richard Rohr amongst others. This is the lens currently informing my views the most, however I have been seeking and studying much of my life. (Progressive yes, Universalist absolutely not.)
    As for the question, some historical development. “Will we use Jesus to justify ourselves … or, will we, in seeking Christ, do what needs to be done to lose ourselves and then be justified by Christ?”
    “Will we use Jesus to justify ourselves …” The biggest complaint many of us have about the followers of Christ, (and frankly all faiths I have witnessed) is that few are transformed by their beliefs to higher consciousness, rather the teaching is used for self-justification, used to reinforce the motives and the desires of the user of the faith as opposed to God’s will the reason for Faiths I have studied. The faith becomes a hammer to drive the wedge of self will as opposed to God’s will. Hence Pogroms, colonization, subjugation and usurping in the name of God, as well as a lot of personal selfish acts in the home and country.
    “or, will we, in seeking Christ, do what needs to be done to lose ourselves and then be justified by Christ?” I believe Christ calls us to lose our will and seek God’s. That ego (Paul called it flesh), self-interest, selfishness, a lack of love and charity need to be given up, sacrificed, and the path of Christ is the way to achieve that. It is in the process of “dying to one’s self” in following Christ (with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) that we lose the need or desire for self-justification and become justified by Faith in Christ… the result can be at one (atone) with God and hopefully one another. (Romans 3:24, 5:1)
    As for my understanding of atonement as far as you know it. You don’t. The truth is, I have beheld and participated in things which are too common to mankind. I have washed my hands in the blood of others, practiced self-destructive behaviors with equal passion. I have said and done that which would be in good staid with many sinners and blasphemers in the Good Book. I have received more grace than I could imagine possible. I have been blessed with not simply the understanding of atonement, but the experience of it. I literally witness it (Him) daily, as I work with those who need it as much as I. You may question all manner of things; however my Testimony to what God has done to transform me and the miracles I witness, is beyond your call. No man’s work, no act of mine or yours could remove the shame, guilt, and self-loathing, the degradation put on me from others and from myself as the work of God in my life, or of Grace I have received as a result of the turning over my life to Him who first loved me.
    It is not tribal superstition I seek but unity through Christ. The reconciliation of all peoples, the corporate forgiveness and freedom we receive when we seek to serve others and so become God’s hands and feet in this world. It is impossible to fight when one is carrying his cross and following the One who gave us the way. Not judging, serving. Perhaps the MJ seeming (I am not sure it is) decline in numbers is related to service?

    May God Bless you abundantly Brother.

  74. @Rocky, after reading that I would guess you a Jesuit. But there we go again with labels. Sigh… 😉

  75. @James, yes, the illegitimate son has to kill the father and the other brothers, to alter the narrative and take over the family assets. I believe the blindness of the church was both a curse upon themselves and a gift to the Jewish people, despite the persecution. Why? As Christians saw torah and, “Jewish stuff,” as scary, forbidden, evil, they kept their hands and minds off of it. Take a look at British Israelitism and its step-child the modern HR movement, who take holy things and treat them like toys. It makes me think of how my husband saw no problem in allowing my then 4-year-old to play in his car, which he put in gear and nearly rolled into our neighbor’s car.

    @Cynthia, I thought Rocky said he was a Wesleyan minister, but perhaps mixed that up with another poster.

  76. Chaya,
    With all apologies for responding to “blog Squatting” a quick rejoinder to the article you mention.

    It is true that Christianity has been used to great harm and has changed cultures like the forces of nature sculpt the planet. I do not think this is simply a result of something unique in the Faith, but rather common to humanity in general. (Hence the need of one of religions’ goals, to tame this tendency.)

    As much harm as Christians have done in Jesus name simply in recent history, the Holocaust for instance; Stalin killed 20 million of his own people, (where are the memorials?) and did it without God. Mao reportedly killed 45 million of his own people just in the Great Leap Forward, and did so without God. Tutsis and Hutus killed 100,000 in a few short months; we can point to colonialism, not Christianity. And so on, and so on, life is cheap in this world.

    Ignatius was a latecomer; John wrote the most anti-Jewish book of the Bible as he lived the longest and saw the persecutions by many of the Jews on the early Church growing.

    The Faith lived long enough to be given a dose of the Enlightenment, huge increases in technology and the rise of Western Civilization. A perfect storm for some.

    If one wants to know the source for such thinking, one only has to open the Book. The model for conquest and supplanting begins very early on, but is well illustrated by the giving of the Promised land. God gave a land to Israel which tragically had quite a few folks calling it home already… all they had to do is “take” it. The stories throughout the Bible of war after war, the subduing of peoples (who happened to be the enemy because “we” are “God’s people”…) and the relentless punishment of the Israelites for repeated falling away from the Faith… it’s in our DNA. Don’t we love to tell the tale of Pharaoh and Exodus? How many times was Pharaoh ready to let the Children go when “God hardened his heart” so we could see them all drowned for refusing the one true God? Some illustration of mercy. (“But they enslaved us!” Yeah, I get it.)

    I disagree with your premise. I understand the law is completed in Christ. No more scapegoats. Jesus illustrated from the cross the futility of a system which taken to its conclusion would mortify the Son of God. I do not buy the concept of substitutionary atonement. I do not believe God required we sacrifice the Son of Man, but humanity sure did…

    As for the Christians who sat on their hands while Jews were killed, it is true Pope Pius the XII was a dweeb. It is true that much of Europe was anti-Semitic, many of which were Christians. It is also true that many Christians rose to fight the evil of the “Final Solution.” (My almost pacifist family did. They found the evil justified the fighting.)

    That you and others find the calling to study the law and illustrate it for others is great. I find study and differing paths to God a good thing. I have worshipped in AME Churches in Mississippi, Full Gospel, Sweet Pilgrim, Shaker Congregations in New England, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, I have wandered wounded and broken into Plazas in Mexico and sat in an open Cathedral not understanding a word of the liturgy and been healed. Orthodox Services in Pittsburgh where the readings are all sung and the priest doing the liturgy with fervent love. Sweat Lodges in NM and AZ. I have seen the blood marking the walls and floor from Penitentes scourging themselves for the Faith in Taos. I have set with and prayed with Rabbi’s like Mordechai Twersky and was at the first JACS meetings he held in Denver. Countless AA and NA meetings where God was present. Worshipped with Maronite’s, Humanist Jews, Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, Reconstructionist… Studied the 5 K’s of the Sikh. Worshipped in Mosques at Ramadan. (That was interesting!) Chanted while offering incense and turning prayer wheels at a Stupa. Could go on. (Knelt at Walden’s Pond..)

    The one thing I have found is, that faiths are practiced fervently and genuinely by people. The intentionality of the practitioners has been consistent. The hospitality has been nearly universal. The commonality is that all are populated by people, broken, imperfect people. Many attempting to achieve by ritual what can only be achieved by a change of heart. Legalism will always be popular; it is much easier to follow dictums and dogmatics than be in relationships, though relational Churches seem to be growing too. . (Hence Evangelical and Fundamentalist Faith is growing quickly… are MJ Relational?)

    I choose to focus on loving my neighbor and my enemies. Forgiving others as I have been forgiven much.

    I leave it to you good folks to lovingly debate the questions of the ages, and pray it produces action to serve the suffering. People thought Mother Teresa’s theology was overly simplistic… she won me when she opened the Missions to AIDS victims in the good old USA. Talk about your Church work. (Is it a jot or tittle? The big questions of the Faith await us, like who will care for thee in your time of need?)

  77. PL, The MJ Yeshua is not exactly like the evangelical one, but has more similarities with this than it does with the one who walked this earth, although that is somewhat of a mystery also, which neither MJ nor evangelicals recognize as a unsolved mystery. Sure, he doesn’t have blond hair and is still a Jew, and some believe he torah and some don’t. But most would claim that evangelicals are their brethren who will join them in heaven and Jews (while physically being brethren) are not spiritual brethren and are going to Hell is they don’t do the evangelical thing of praying a prayer or believing a doctrine. Not saying all fit in this category.

    I know one person who attended Yeshiva and received actual rabbinical smicha, but doesn’t go around calling himself rabbi.

    I wouldn’t seek out a group for the purposes of conformity. Few groups will tell you up front that you need to conform or reveal to you their unwritten rules. As I mentioned, it is not a matter of likemindedness, but more a matter of openmindedness and openheartedness. I would say here, the Jewish community might be more open, except among some of the Orthodox. I would say some of the distrust is legitimate and some is paranoia based upon ignorance. I am at a point in my life where I don’t care if others like or accept me which are grounds for them to help and support me; but this wasn’t always so.

    MJRC is dishonest in claiming it speaks, albeit non-authoritively, to all MJ’s, when it only allows UMJC rabbis to officiate, claiming cross-polination, when it really owns it as a sort of subsidiary and refuses to be honest about this. I won’t go into all the nasty and dishonest politics of the various, “letter,” groups including blackmailing leaders and musicians from associating with their competitors. They and the other group you mentioned also act very much like evangelicals in that they shut down or attack questions and challenges, rather than responding with valid answers, which would never fly in any Jewish community. In any case, I do not respect them and they don’t speak for me.

    You are correct; I am not Orthodox, although I attended Orthodox Hebrew school from 3rd to 6th grade, just because it was close to our home and convenient. I understand that a few MJ leaders have Ph.D’s from secular universities and are highly educated, but the vast majority have no education besides an online course or mail order diploma mill smicha, or they have M’Div’s or doctorates from evangelical seminaries.

    The person in question, who I never knew prior and assumed he was Jewish because he claimed to be responded to a simple question.challenge without an answer or admission he didn’t have an answer, but with a personal attack upon myself and stupid assumptions, considering he knew nothing about me and had never had any contact with me prior, and this behavior is typical in religious environments, the cognitive dissonance on steriods. Immediately, I was accused of being bitter, having bad experiences I needed to be healed from, etc. I continued to press for an answer, and even said, “If you can show me evidence, I will be happy to change my viewpoint.” The response was that he didn’t have to show me anything, and I didn’t have any right to criticize someone who was trying to serve God. Hello! My comment was about a book, “written by his friend.” When you write a book, or put something out for the masses, it is the height of hubris to expect all positive feedback, as if the protective world of the religous community of likeminded people extends to social media? This isn’t usually the Jewish response or practice of the Jewish culture, not that the Jewish world doesn’t have its own no-go zones. Perhaps my asking questions is not just to get an answer, but to see how a person responds to challenges, with wisdom and grace, or like someone who has something to hide, fictions that need to be protected. You wouldn’t find any respected branch of Judaism accepted or forming alliances with diploma mill or unaccredited online educated, “rabbis.” There was another member of MRC, who I asked a question on his blog, and I don’t remember the exact context, but I saw holes in something he wrote. Another poster, who I suspect was actually the blog-owner wrote, “Why don’t you just leave us alone…..?” This went on, and the blog owner also wrote. Duh. If you don’t want questions and comments, why do allow them on your blog? This reminds me of one evangelical blogger who was attacking others and validating his own questionable decisions, and I noticed that the next day, only the positive responses, “this is great,” remained in his comments and he had deleted all the questions and negative comments.

    The fact is, they really don’t want someone who thinks and questions, and it is in general, not an environment that welcomes such. Whether their goals are to do good, or just make a name (and an income and career) for themselves, remains to be seen. I’m sure you must realize that religion is mostly whited sephulcres and pigpens, and the carefully crafted outside image belies what lies within.

  78. Chaya, James,
    I do not ascribe to the Evangelical view of Heaven you define either (even if I art one.) Most of the fellow Pastors I work with don’t either. Saved and lost are interesting terms, we can be lost, however God always knows where we are. Though “saved” is used throughout the Bible… Saved from what?

    I believe, the “eternal” life is the one we receive or experience when we are connected to the eternal One. I like Jesus use of the term “the Kingdom of Heaven is near…” when folks get what He is saying and act on it. (Possibly why folks think it is a place… near could mean proximity to a place.) I dearly hope Heaven is not a place… streets of gold, pearly gates, and a Baptist Choir waiting… we will find out soon enough. I have been mostly dead before… no lights, no harps, but then again, I was only mostly dead.

  79. Sorry for the typos and too bad you can’t fix things on these brands of blogs. The 17-22 year old me was the one MJ wanted and the 57 year old me is certainly one they don’t want. Back then, I did little in the way of questioning or even examining their narrative. I failed to do the same due dilligence in choosing a worldview and belief system as I would in buying a car or choosing a college. I believe the influences of a religious community or any social community for that matter, are predicated upon psycho-social manipulation (even if it is not done consciously) and in addition neuroscience, as I believe there are physical and not just psycho-social influences that attract and keep a person within the pale. When that lifts and the influences wear off, it is like realizing the surrounding cage is imaginary, albeit powerful.

  80. Cynthia,

    LOL. Too funny. I have been reading mostly Catholic Theologians for a bit so that doesn’t surprise me. Merton, Crosan, Berrigan, Rohr are some of my favs. I don’t see Faith as set in stone. For me it is a journey and as such is ever growing and changing. I bounce from Jesuit to Franciscan and enjoy them all.
    Ironically it makes some of the leadership nervous… oh well. I get to go to a Wesleyan Holiness Institute for two weeks soon. Can’t wait to see what that brings.

  81. Chaya,

    This is one of the saddest things you have written. It grieves me when the one place for the “whosoever” hurts instead of healing. Bless you.

  82. Rockey, some decades ago, I spent a bit of time in a Greek Orthodox church which had a priest who talked and taught a lot (didn’t just run weekly and yearly services). I found it beautiful (the tradition), but the very best I got from conversation as we were walking along the way was a reference (to ancient Israel), almost in passing on his part but I think within an answer to a question I asked (when I then was able in my understanding to combine it with a few things I remembered from high school theology classes — at a Lutheran school, but it wasn’t catechism or evangelism in those classes). This priest was pro-Israel and favorable to (current) Jews, but surprised at how fascinated I was at this thing he had said. I spent the next few years (which included moving out of that state) looking (more than two years but fewer than ten) for something else. [It breaks my heart (anyway) right now to see Orthodox (Russian, not Greek) priests “helping” Putin.]

    I can’t remember right now if it was in this book (written about a decade before the next one to which I’m linking)
    http://www.amazon.com/church-Jews-biblical-relationship/dp/0966925335/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424114524&sr=8-1&keywords=the+church+and+the+jews

    http://smile.amazon.com/Copernicus-Jews-Separation-Church-Faith/dp/0966925351/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424113158&sr=8-1&keywords=copernicus+and+the+jews

    [the other or in this later one] that Daniel Gruber does a fantastic job of addressing The Kingdom as not being about lording over others.

    Actually, I think it’s in the earlier one. And thus it (the text itself although organized differently) has also been at the website (elijahnet.net in the section on anti-Semitism in the church — click on the larger topic to the left that will give many smaller sections within next), hope it’s still there (not that I recommend trying to pick one section rather than reading all the ones under that topic).

  83. Just read your latest post, Rockey. I don’t know how you see evangelicals and fundamentalists on the whole as relational. But maybe it takes a woman to see through that talk.

  84. Actually, they are very much about substitution. So, how is that so positive to you? [Sorry, I see I’m way behind, it wasn’t your “latest” post.]

  85. @Rockey: I can’t subscribe with your interpretation of how Jesus “fulfilled” the Law. I wrote a series of reviews of different episodes of a TV series (available for free online) collectively called “The Promise of What is to Come” produced by First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ). This link is to my review of the episode “The Torah is Not Canceled”. If you’ve got thirty minutes, my blog post contains a link to the actual episode. The other review is of the episode “The Kingdom is Now”. Again, you can watch the episode or just read my review of it. I just want to illustrate the differences between our two viewpoints of God’s promises to Israel and the meaning of the Messiah as King of Israel. I know you won’t agree, but I think it’s far more “Biblical” and accurate a picture of how God has and will keep all the promises He made without Christian history and tradition (more or less) rewriting the Bible for its own purposes.

  86. I meant to represent those as more legalistic which is why they are attractive to folks who like that. Though many Evangelical Churches do reach out to others who are less than welcome in “normal” circles. (Ours is almost exclusively folks in Recovery from drug dependency and all that goes with it.)

    Relational is difficult, messy, critical, exhilarating, exciting, so hurtful at times… (22 of my congregation have died in the last 7 or so years, none from old age…) So many new folks start (all in fact) with legalism. It helps with boundaries and makes sense. Then comes critical thinking… (The Prophets) That’s tougher. Then rejecting dualism, and finally being okay with the mystery of either/and instead of either/or. Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems. Accepting others where others are and loving them regardless of my personal defects. Everyone belongs in the relational body.

  87. Thank you James, I will go do both.

    I am curious, I get how traditions have diverged and interpretations change things.
    What I do not understand is if people are accepting God and have communion with God and the Holy Spirit. If the body is growing and serving the Community… how is that a bad thing?

    I know folks who serve every day simply for the Love of God. Who work in Hospice, the aged. Building connections with marginalized folks. Who spend hours in prayer and Meditation… Who get the mystery and timelessness of the life of service to God and one another. People, who do not claim exclusive truth, but seek each day an opportunity to grow closer in Love and service.

    What is the issue with that?
    Are you saying the ladies knitting shawls for those in wheelchairs and baking bread for Communion, and welcoming Disabled Vets down the street in the shelter are not fulfilling God’s calling in their lives because they are Protestant? Can you know the mind of God so well to know they are not fulfilling His Covenant?

    Some people co-opt the Law for their purposes. (Read the Prophets, they been doin it for a long time.)
    Does that mean all do?

  88. I know of Gruber’s writing, thank you. Which do you recommend most? My list and table are overflowing with books. (many are slow reading too… like my hobby of physics, can be tedious at times.) one of our Staff has converted to Orthodox, we trade books from time to time. (He teases Protestants, as being “little popes”. Cracks me up… I get what he is saying)

  89. @Rockey, I am not sure what you mean by sad. My experiences in various religious environments were a mixture of positive and negative, and there were lots of posiitve elements and influences, with a price to pay. As far as being in a healing vs. hurting enviroment – there was healing, but hurt is sort of bound up in the healing, and if one refuses one, you refuse the other too. I am not picking on anyone as all religious groups operate like this and in some cases, are even unaware of what they are doing. Perhaps most do seek to be healers, but suffer from their own blindness.

    Since you have mentioned 12-Step groups, this example might help. It appears these groups help people initially, in the short run but harm in the long run? But perhaps nobody else would have been willing to help you in the short run?

  90. What role does God’s spirit play in the Messianic Judaism movement?

    The post and comments talk about physical ways to keep Jewish continuity. But it seems to me, most of the leaders of the current MJ movement were themselves drawn to Messiah when God poured his spirit out and changed people’s hearts and minds in the 1970s.

  91. Long after I was no longer attending the Greek Orthodox congregation, I learned that there had been a movement of evangelicals into Orthodoxy (maybe in the late seventies). But it was me seeking (not my parents, and I was completely under them throughout the seventies*). There is a book called Dancing Alone I read and liked when I found out about this. [But they are not seeing the bigger picture.]

    Rockey, I usually forget that if I post a link to Amazon (.com) there’s going to be a huge picture of the book. I very much liked reading both books. But, to get started, I recommend what I talked about at the website (which didn’t have an attending photo, and for which I didn’t even include a direct link). What you need to type into your url bar and then look for is there (though overshadowed) in my post.

    * On top of that, my parents weren’t evangelicals.

  92. Chaya,
    Because we know life has suffering and that suffering is part of the path to letting go, it hurts none the less. The gift inside the pain is that we are connected in our suffering. I have had far too many “church” experiences where things had to be one way. No room for breathing or working out one’s walk. It wouldn’t matter if it were door knobs or shoes… but lives are affected for long times because of the need to be in control of others. I agree most of us drop things on others out of our ignorance, or attempting to do the right thing. No one tells us up front about the need to be able to let go and be critical of the Church (starting with ourselves) and that it is okay. We learn this usually after we have walked out our Faith for some time. Tragically early on we mistake criticism of the Church with picking apart each other… not the same thing.

    I absolutely love the 12 step programs. I know of few Fellowships which consistently deliver people to a place of healing like AA and NA. I began my dialog with God again from that context. (We were not speaking for many years… I was shouting, not listening.) I am not sure I understand where the harm from AA is? It is a bridge to Faith for those who don’t have it, and can become a home for those who do not want or need to go farther. For many, it is the Church in action. No deacons, Bishops, Popes, Rabbi’s… in fact no leadership. Seeking God to guide us, serving one’s needs by serving others. Pretty simple. 12 Steps and 12 Traditions. My kind of KISS. It brought me back to sanity and opened the dialog to begin again with God.

  93. Marleen,

    Good site, thanks. It looks like I will have to blow the dust off of Eusebius and finish reading it. ; )

  94. Rockey,

    It seems you have had positive experiences in 12-Step groups. Whatever they say, 12 Step groups are a religion. The reason is not because they believe in a higher power which can be anything, even the group. They have a set of doctrines which are based in belief, not in say, science or reality, yet claim to be truth. They have two holy books and “prophets,” of sort.

    In the US we allow freedom of religion and we are supposed to have a separation of church and state. Although 12-Step groups claim to be voluntary, they have formed alliances with law enforcement to allow people to be forced to attend 12-Step groups as part of their sentencing, or in place of it to avoid jail. They have also formed alliances with medical societies to do the same thing. This is a violate of our freedom of religion, in addition to the state forcing religious practice upon a person. It would be no different than if a person was arrested for a DUI or was a nurse with a drinking or drug problem being forced to attend Catholic church in order to stay out of jail or remain employed. There was actually a study that demonstrated that persons who were forced to attend these meetings were more likely to reoffend, but the practice continues. I recall a lawsuit by a nurse, who stated that she would willingly undergo a daily test to prove she was no longer drinking, but believed it was a violation of her rights to be forced to attend meetings. Her medical licensing board then retaliated by telling her she had to do more, find a sponsor and work the steps, which would be revealing private, protected information to a non-therapist who had no legal requirements of confidentiality. She eventually won the lawsuit, but it was years later, so she was still forced to attend 12 Step religion meetings.

    I did my research years ago, so perhaps things have changed. Back then, a person who attended an in person or online meeting was not allowed to mention any books besides the 12-Step books, not even a scientific research article about alcoholism. Back then, there were complaints that 12-Step so dominated the drug and alcohol treatment industry, they shut down attempts to do research and treatment according to other protocol. Currently, there is much research in the area of addiction, and most of it conflicts with the teachings of the 12-Step religion, which has about a 5% 2 year success rate. No problem with people who volunarily want to follow this religion, who find comfort and fellowship in it.

    To tell a person that, “If you leave this group, you will drink/use and die, sounds kind of like, “You will go to Hell if you don’t believe this.” This moves from religion in the direction of cult, although all religions are cultish to some degree. “Some people are too smart for this program, but none are too stupid.” That is another meme, similar to religious groups that value faith in the doctrine and mock thinking and intelligence. If you go back around 25 years, 12 Step members were told that if they needed medication for mental health issues, they were not clean and sober. I read an article about a man with bipolar disorder who died because AA convinced him he couldn’t take his medication.

    I’ve had two really threatening experiences with people in 12-Step groups. I had a similar situation with both these people I knew, who erupted in rage and began screaming at me over what appeared to be a minor situation. When I confronted both of them about their unusual behavior, both said that according to their doctrine, if you become angry and hold it in, it will cause you to drink. My husband joked that perhaps they didn’t think that unrestrained screaming at someone might lead them to drink. They say they will, “blow up,” whatever that means, so must express their anger. Studies have actually demonstrated that a person who expresses their anger rather than having self-control and counting to 10 – like grandma taught, harms themselves and creates a neural pathway of this sort of response. This stems from various psychological teaching that claim it is harmful to repress the expression of one’s emotions. No wonder so many can’t keep jobs or relationships. These groups become substitutes rather than ajuncts for other religous, social, etc. groups as members are told that no one outside the group can really understand or help you, and that they are somehow damaged and not like the rest of humanity, with their weakness as their core identity.

    This neighbor in AA, who I think I met at a birth preparation class, I invited her to come with me at a La Leche League meeting. So, when we are introducing ourselves and socializing, she tells these ladies that she had never met before that she was abused as a child and had been an alcoholic for many years before becoming sober. I suppose she learned that this was the sort of behavior one practices in AA, but it is really strange in another setting. There’s more, but you get the drift.

  95. @Rockey, @Judah Himango also had a question about the role of the holy spirit in the movement, and I think people who are in positions of leadership should answer that. I do remember when people would question what had changed, why no more new members coming to faith, rather than just fellowship hopping and why no more of the reports of great things happening. I heard, “this is a maturing movement.” Maybe admit things were no longer alive, but you keep up the meetings and formalities. I think a person comes into a relationship with God, and then the religious world directs that motivation and passion toward serving their system, getting their training/education, etc. The initial situation is good, but the rest is like redirecting a water souce so another community gets the water. And the person believes that this is required to serve God. There is other manipulation, such as the conservative laisons to the Christian world, “You get them baptized; we’ll get them registered.

    Unless one is doing evil, I can’t pass judgement on whether a person is doing what is the divine will for their lives or not.

  96. @JGH — I’d like to ask you to clarify your question, Judah. What role do you think HaShem’s Spirit plays in Judaism as a whole? How does this correspond with Jewish continuity throughout the generations past, and in the present? It seems to me that this is where your question may begin to find its answer. In 1970s America, there were many questions being asked, and the search for those answers yielded many “aha!” moments of realization regarding Rav Yeshua and how he had been misrepresented previously. However, the same spiritual ferment also contributed to the growth of Habad. The exploration of new realizations about Rav Yeshua was exciting and intellectually stimulating; and, while the novelty has faded during forty years, the challenge of implementing their implications has apparently only grown as the conflict between evangelical Christian influences and traditional Jewish ones remains. There is another wave of this excitement of realization growing in a deeper recognition of how to apply the light of Rav Yeshua’s insights in traditional Jewish living, as well as the discovery of further insights into other Jewish literature that elucidates elements of his teaching. Perhaps this may be likened to combining the realizations of Habad and Rav Yeshua. However, it is unlikely to reflect the quasi-charismatic musical stylings of the 70s; and it may use music and traditional liturgy differently, much as does Hasidism at times.

    Nonetheless, Jewish continuity is not something that can be accomplished by means of revelation, beyond that of recognizing its utter necessity. Rather, it requires ongoing motivation. Both can reflect the operation of HaShem’s Spirit, but with different effects. I should probably clarify that in this context HaShem’s Spirit should not be viewed anthropomorphically, but rather as the more ephemeral influences of HaShem’s attitudes, perspective, and insight. These represent the “other comforter” that Rav Yeshua left with his own disciples (cif.: John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7), as a result of the training they had absorbed from him during the years they spent with him. Yohanan, mystic that he was, chose to use the common Jewish literary technique of anthropomorphism to express this notion. I, as a modern engineer, prefer to unpackage this imagery to reveal its psychological mechanics and features and effects. {So shoot me — I’m not as romantic in my expression or explanations as a mystic may be. [:)]}

    Changes to people’s hearts and minds may occur suddenly and cataclysmically, or they may occur gradually (like the image of yeast in meal), but HaShem may be equally the urge that drives them. The former may be more glamorous and exciting, though the latter are more likely to endure.

    Does any of this help with your question, Judah?

  97. @Chaya — As I’m sure you are aware, the social hoopla of the 1970s in the USA is not the only indicator of the movement of HaShem’s Spirit. The ebb and flow of human excitement over novel fads is a well recognized phenomenon, especially in religious contexts. That phenomenon was visible also in several “waves” of Christian “revival” throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, including the Pentecostal and Charismatic and “Jesus” movements. Nonetheless, I believe that these revivals benefitted many people spiritually, though one may also discern negative side-effects including charlatanism.

    However, I would identify the hand of HaShem or “the moving of His Spirit” in the spiritual influences of the mid-nineteenth century that stirred Jews to begin returning to “Zion” and led to the formulation of the Zionist movement and to the restoration of Israel as a modern nation. This groundwork toward physical redemption also led to spiritual restoration in several frameworks. I would include Jewish Christianity and the Hebrew-Christian movement within this stirring, as well as MJ and Habad. And within Israel it has been indicated also in an increase of haredi as well as national-religious motivation. One may look even farther back in history to see the rise of Hasidism in general as part of the developments that culminate in these more recent social movements among Jews. We should not narrow our focus solely to membership or participation by Jews within MJ venues to identify or measure a notion such as “coming to faith”.

  98. Chaya,

    All that you have said has truth about some of the practices surrounding AA. The fact is each of the aberrations you mention are noted in the 12 Traditions. Self-support, Anonymity, Endorsing anything outside of AA, Accepting support from outside agencies, Commenting on issues outside of AA, etc. are all outlined and discussed. Your point to keeping out new research is an unintended consequence of the Tradition to keep extra information out. The Tradition was intended to keep unfounded opinions, pop- science, pseudo psychology etc. from confusing the central message of Recovery through AA. (Especially for the new person, it could be confusing.) Though outside groups like Judges may force people to attend 12 step, AA does not, cannot, work with Courts or Judges or healthcare agencies. H&I meetings happen in Hospitals and Institutions, but only by invitation.

    The fact is, the Fellowships are made up completely of people. People have intentions, issues, agendas, and self-will. Many of us who have relations with 12 Step Groups seek groups who stick to the basics and KISS. Most groups actively work to keep the conflicting agendas out. It is against the Traditions for anyone to not voluntarily participate. It is also against them to exclude anyone who comes looking for help with their dependencies. All that is required is a desire to stop using. Big tent.
    JACS was formed so Jewish people could belong to a Fellowship taking Jewish traditions and beliefs into account. We all said Great! JACS has similar issues from time to time too, well intentioned people sometimes do strange things.

    There is no question it is Faith based. It is believed that some cannot stop the desire to use in our own power; some need the help of God, or Higher Power. The fact is AA was inspired in Christian people, (Oxford Groups) so it should not be surprising they have similar overtones, as the first AA groups initially looked to The Sermon on the Mount as a text to get started. (Emit Fox’s book was an early text before there was a Big Book.) The amazing thing is how universal AA can be having started there. I have a recording of Bill W. speaking about the writing of the Big Book, it is an amazing story how it came to pass with all the ideas and agendas around it. Truly inspirational.

    AA, NA, etc. have a lot in common with other Faith’s. Torah was given and received by the people… end of story right? Problem solved. What could be clearer? Is the problem with Torah? So we then have the Prophets, end of story right? What could be clearer? End of story right? Okay, so we have the Wisdom Books, end of story right? What could be clearer? Is the problem with the intentions of the Law or the Book, or is it in the practitioners, the people? Anyone expressing a desire to know God can belong. Big tent.

    Dependency is a horrible thing which destroys lives and causes much suffering. That people will try all manner of things to stop it even with the best intentions, it isn’t surprising in ignorance harm is done in attempting to change harmful behavior. Even people who threaten all of us by DUI, have rights and should not be forced to attend something intended to be voluntary from its inception. All of the people who come to us (I am Administrator of an Adult Rehabilitation Center) for help have a choice to be here. There are no locks leading out, and we tell Courts and Probation not to force people to come to Program. (Around 30% of our house have Court issues.) We also enforce that we cannot share information without the expressed permission of the Beneficiary. (They are further protected by 42 CFR Confidentiality rights, HIPAA protection as well as Counseling Ethics, and I personally claim the right of Confessor.)

    That people misuse Torah or the 12 Step Fellowships shouldn’t be surprising. I once knew a man who beat his wife, is not an indictment on marriage.

    If you are interested in study’s and stats, we have a plethora of them we read to try and keep improving the lives of those who come to us for help. They are often counter intuitive and frequently counter one another, but most are successful for some… it seems at times Recovery is a science, but also an art. Listening to testimony’s of people in long term Recovery, the majority I find point to Spiritual renewal as part of the process. (I was sober for 3 years before I found Recovery. In my experience, simply not using was not Recovery. The many shades of Recovery.)

    As for the woman who confessed the personal issues, I hope she was heard in love. When one’s boundaries have been egregiously violated, many find it hard to see what is normative for boundaries to others. (There is much professional literature on this. Some professionals call this damage, “the sacred wound,” I find that fascinating.)

    You mention 5% success. I read and am required to keep all manner of statistics on various modalities of Recovery Programs. 5% to me is just a number, it is meaningless. If only one person found Recovery for our efforts today, that makes all the difference, especially if that Son or Daughter is yours. I am buoyed and encouraged by the hundreds of Alumni I serve and hang with over the years. They are one of the greatest sources of joy in my life.

  99. Chaya,

    “I think a person comes into a relationship with God, and then the religious world directs that motivation and passion toward serving their system, getting their training/education, etc. The initial situation is good, but the rest is like redirecting a water source so another community gets the water. And the person believes that this is required to serve God. There is other manipulation, such as the conservative liaisons to the Christian world, “You get them baptized; we’ll get them registered.”

    No argument here. If in fact that is part of a process which is a person’s walk, then so be it. (Finding God in one place, and journeying to others.) I do not worship where my Faith journey started. I am oh so grateful for each and every step along the way. The painful ones as well, as we can’t remove a step on a journey without breaking the chain. These issues you mention are not unique to the Conservative Christian world or to a single religion or school of thought. (Academy has just as many manipulative and turfy people and agendas.) Many simply want other people to have joy that they have. Other times agendas are more self-serving. Getting “people saved” is for some a goal and enterprise. May God bless them. I simply hope people turn to God and see what happens. (It ain’t boring that’s for sure!)

    “Unless one is doing evil, I can’t pass judgment on whether a person is doing what is the divine will for their lives or not.”
    Neither can I.

  100. Proclaim Liberty,

    Nice post.
    “Changes to people’s hearts and minds may occur suddenly and cataclysmically, or they may occur gradually (like the image of yeast in meal), but HaShem may be equally the urge that drives them.”
    Yes.
    My Grandfather was an engineer; I recognize the thought process now. (He was very dear to me.)

  101. @Judah: I don’t think that the involvement of the Spirit precludes any sort of human effort. I believe God wants us to be engaged in supporting national Israel and the Jewish people, not just sitting around like we’re watching TV and waiting to see how the program will turn out.

    @Rockey: I’ve written a number of recent blog posts comparing 12-step programs and recovery with the steps of repentance including The Mussar of Decisiveness and Teshuvah, Longing for Mercy in an Ordinary Life, and Things That Matter. I also think you’d like a lot of what Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski has to say since he is a psychiatrist with an extensive background in working with alcoholics. He seems like a very gentle man.

    As far as the use of KISS as a guiding hermeneutic principle for understanding the Bible, I don’t recall this idea being explicitly taught by anyone in Scripture. I think the primary benefit of KISS is to keep things simple for human beings. It denies the depths I’ve found in the Bible and just because an interpretative tradition of understanding the Bible emphasizes simplicity doesn’t mean that is God’s intent. Perhaps God intended that we struggle with the text, not consume it like a popular novel where we assume we know how it’s all going to end (we win…hooray).

  102. Proclaim Liberty,

    “We should not narrow our focus solely to membership or participation by Jews within MJ venues to identify or measure a notion such as ‘coming to faith’.”

    Amen…

    I like what you said about the Spirit’s stirring evident in the 70’s.
    We have examined this time as well. It was very much like a Social/Spiritual Adolescence for America. The Spirit moved to create way overdue work for Social Justice, Civil Rights and Human Rights. Many of us felt much empowered to fight for Civil rights for Minorities, Gender, Sexual rights, etc. That Vatican II was in that time showed massive changes were happening even to huge institutions. I do not believe these could have happened outside of God’s stirring Spirit. MLK, Malcolm X, Brown v. Board of Education, South Africa… so much movement.

    Then AIDS hit. Kids started shooting each other individually and in mass killings, massive drug abuse. War after war… Fighting for the name of God? We know how to make change, we still need the Spirit’s strength, teaching, and movement to guide us though we are no longer adolescent. We need the conviction to stop the violence, exploitation and abuse of others and resources we see today. This could be an opportunity for Believers to walk our Faith and not support the hurting and marginalizing of others. Blessed are the peacemakers…

    Perhaps MJ if they are being led to, could be a bridge which stirs the hearts on either side of them to listening to God and Loving His people?

  103. Regrettably, Rockey, HaShem’s Spirit was not the only influence stirring souls in the 70s (or at any other time). Another that has been all too evident throughout history is one that Jews refer to as the spirit of Amalek, notably active in Germany of the 1930s & 40s, and especially active in the present among Muslim. Some of the clamor for “rights” has been little more than excuses to deny responsibilities to *do* right, or excuses to tear down authorities and standards, and to replace them with self-centeredness. It is the selfish human spirit that was so often evident in the 70s & 80s, though it seems never to be entirely ruled by self-control.

  104. James,

    Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski is the bomb. Thank God for you tube, I love to watch and hear him speak. I love his 3 minute missive on anger and recommend my guys watch it who struggle with that issue. (I need to hear it too.) Short, sweet and to the point. He is one of those people that evoke love and kindness as he gives so much of each. (I would love to have a few hours with him; I would cook, listen, and hug him… in that order.) Thank you for the links.

    As far as KISS, I do not advocate a lack of depth. Simple isn’t always easy. Neither does making all kinds of drama or placing more on ones back so they stagger, depth. As it is often said in jails and prison, “it is what it is.” So many folks want to create barriers where none exist. Exalt “their” people, their way, their system. To me, (one who’s nature loves drama) KISS simply means “keep the main thing the main thing.”

    “I don’t recall this idea being explicitly taught by anyone in Scripture.”

    Really?

    Jesus taught on numerous occasions the short direct path of KISS. “Was man made for the Sabbath or the Sabbath made for man?” Try the sermon on the mount (Matthew) or the sermon on the Plain (Luke) lots of KISS there. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” “Martha, Martha, Martha…” ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees…” Matthew 23, read them all. KISS. Jesus is the king of KISS.

    Paul too. Paul is frequently exhorting people in his epistles to stop fooling around and get back to basics. KISS…

    Depth for depths sake, like suffering for suffering sake will not make us deeper individuals. Following where God leads me, that is where I need to go.

  105. I think it’s better to at least attempt to meet the Biblical text on its own terms rather than to impose our personalities upon it, thus perhaps distorting it’s meaning.

    For instance, the parables of Jesus are commonly misunderstood when taken out of their cultural, religious, and historical context. Dr. Roy Blizzard’s book Mishnah and the Words of Jesus favorably compares the Master’s teaching methods to his immediate Rabbinic contemporaries and casts a new light on just how “simple” Jesus is.

  106. So true, these often come in subtle forms as the Pauline words for these institutions were “thrones or dominions or principalities or powers” (Colossians 1:16).

  107. James,

    Do not get me wrong, I am very fond of scholarship. There is no question context and history needs to be taken into account when approaching Scripture. I began undoing my personal take on Jesus back in 90 or so when James Meir’s book “A Marginal Jew” was published. Through the context of Archeology (Mom was an Archeologist), History, and Commentary the picture we get broadens. I think the Midrash and Chumash and other texts help very much to better understand the teaching and application. As do the mystics etc. Study is great…

    It however is not needed to know God. The vast majority of Humanity who know God through Christ or through Torah never owned a Bible. As many as have been able to study the scrolls in groups through the ages, the majority of men (and don’t get me started with women) did not sit up late at night reading the Bible with Commentary at hand. Tradition and teachers informed people of the way. As did a relationship with the Spirit and through other Spirit filled people. As well as nature and acts.

    I am teaching Bible Study tonight. It is a mixture of Historic information, Gospel, and application for today. I have people who just now are reading scripture for the first time to folks who were raised on it in my class. The deal is, how do we help it “in-Form” these hungry people? I have learned (okay un-learned) how to stop quoting Kant, Jung, Dostoyevsky, Barth, etc. and tell things so folks can understand them. Of course the Parables have context. The thing is to explain how that works and relates today, as the folks in Jesus time incarnate would understand the context as it was current for them. When Jesus speaks of dining with someone, that can carry a lot of tradition and meaning. However just telling them the meaning isn’t enough. Or, possibly it isn’t needed at all. Perhaps rather than exegesis on the meanings odd infinitum some may just need to hear what that means for us today.

    As for imposing ones personalities on scripture, it is not possible to take anything away from the text without bringing something to it. Like all history, it starts with an event. Someone records the event with their spin and we add ours when reading it. History, (his-story) is not the event. It is likened to the difference between the historic and historical Jesus. Not the same thing. That is the genius of Scripture that with God’s gift of the Spirit and all the fingers (yad) who have read and graced those pages it still lives anew every time we open ourselves to the word. It is precisely that we do bring ourselves to the word that it has lasted and will outlast any other work of our hands. It is meant to be heard through your experiences.

    And, if “who’s” interpretation of scripture we follow is litmus as to whether we got this God thing right… I have no time for you. I was so angry for so many years because I had known too many Christians (and Jews) and conflated them with God and Christ. It is hard to see Christ through the Christians sometimes. (And I might add MJ too) it wasn’t until I put down my resentment long enough to hear His voice that I finally got who God is to me. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” I can do that. KISS.
    It is finished. Blessings to you.

  108. This sounds like nostalgia. So much of, “right seeking,” could certainly never be interpreted as, “spirit-led,” and even when it was, the results 40 and 50 years later turned out to be something quite different. Both charity and violence have existed side by side, though perhaps the percentages move up and down a bit.

  109. I agree we need to keep things simple for as long as necessary for those who need it. However, it is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to seek out a matter. The goal is that the disciple moves beyond the simple.

    There was a Rabbi Twersky who lived in Philly back in the 70’s and his son came to our congregation because we have a ministry program for troubled young men. I wonder if this man is his son? Perhaps not the same person.

  110. I agree. Judah Himango wrote an article on his blog, Kiniti L’Tzion and I also, inspired, wrote an article about God using people who did not know or acknowledge him. Theodore Herzl was an atheist, yet he claimed that he felt driven by an unseen hand in his pursuit of a Jewish homeland. I believe that when the ruach is moving, everything gets stirred up, for good or evil. No organization orchestrated the Jesus Movement, nor the influx of Jews. However, once this market showed up, both professionals and itinerant con artists showed up to take advantage of the market. You can hear the journalist’s cynicism, sorry, but the old adage, “follow the money,” still holds.

    @Rocky, while 12-Step groups provide psychological support free, there are foundational beliefs that neither Judaism nor Christianity would accept. Primarily, the, “once an alcoholic (or whatever the addiction) always an alcoholic.” I understand the roots of AA were due to the fact that churches shunned addicts. Don’t claim AA was/is Christian, as its founders used Ouija boards, automatic writing and seances that were influences upon their work.

  111. Chaya, I know I’m probably oversimplifying or even misrepresenting your position, but is it your belief that all religious organizations, denominations, and individual communities inherently corrupt? If so, how is it possible to have any sort of fellowship? I ask this as someone currently “disenfranchised” from any particular religious community.

    Also, 2,000 years ago, there were a number of different “Judaisms” (Pharisees, Sadducees, and so on) and I see the Messianic movement known as “the Way” as one distinct group that emerged out of Pharisaism and yet retained much of their belief system (belief in the resurrection, rewards in the world to come, the existence of angels), so yes, we can consider at least the ancient “Messianic movement” as organized.

  112. I suppose any group is inherently corrupt, as humans are selfish and manipulative. Religion is a special case, as it claims to a higher moral standard, greater wisdom, godliness and divine wisdom. So, in the religious world, it is far more necessary to cover up the dirt and present a false image. Most people who buy a lemon car won’t go around arguing with consumer advocates who reveal this, however, persons in religious groups that are abusive, dishonest and manipulative, even to them, will often defend the groups and leaders, denying reality and clear evidence. Most people who were mistreated in their secular places of employment will have no problem giving you an earful, but people who left ministires/churches because of corruption and dirty politics feel the responsibility to cover it up. Sure, they need references and don’t want to burn their bridges behind them, but mostly they feel that to out their religious organization would be to harm the spread of the gospel, as if the population shouldn’t be aware of the depths and breadths of wrongdoing. They believe this would be displeasing to God. The show must go on.

  113. So there is no church, no synagogue that does any good at all. I can only imagine you’ve been very hurt in the past to condemn all religious people everywhere in the world, no matter who they are. How can Messiah build his ekklesia if, as you say, all people of faith are so corrupt? You know of not even one person besides yourself who serves God? If you are right, there is no hope for you or for me…or for anyone.

  114. I think you are misunderstanding me. And I am disappointed you are pulling the, “you must have been hurt,” card as a way of brushing off what I am saying. Religious as well as other groups do much good, but they do much bad too, even when they do not intend. I didn’t say I was an example of how to serve God or no one else served him. Yet, I doubt you will find a religious group that is free of corruption, and if you find one, let me know. What I will stand by is, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” There is no such thing as a religious group that doesn’t expect something from you, even if they don’t make this clear. An important aspect of belonging to any religious group is closing your eyes to its wrongdoing, or minimizing it.

  115. All churches, assemblies, synagogues do good, even if they are humanly organized, and thus corrupt. They may not always do as we would wish, nor teach always in truth and understanding, nor provide a great deal of community except to those that will join others in not asking questions, and not rocking the boat. But all these people and places begin with an honest desire to reach people, and tell others what they have found out about G-d. Even when they are pressing their adherents for money to extend their mission field, or to just keep the camera’s going, the word goes out because the Ruach haKodesh causes it to go out through even terrible groups of individuals.

    G-d is an expert at using the broken, and the rebellious, and the untaught, even in their wrong doing, and turns it all to the good…in His own economy, and for His own purpose. I may avoid a lot of churches and assemblies for lack of a meeting of minds, but I have never despised what they honestly wanted to give me…their Ideas about G-d. As for their shortcomings…I keep forgiving them, and trying to find something good in what they say, although that is often difficult. It is true that avoiding gravely inaccurate teaching, and outrageous ideas is my general reaction, but it doesn’t prevent me from thinking that one day I might find a place to go to where the teaching is superior, and the people warm and understanding, and forgiving of all my faults.

    I am aware that that I may have to wait for the Kingdom to be in place on this planet, with Yeshua running it all to get this, but, this life, blessedly, is short, and the wilderness will not always be my portion. I have also found that from time to time, one does stumble over others passing by trying to find their true spiritual home, and that I at least get to have a conversation, and a warm, and heartfelt joint moment of prayer, in which we say, Come, Yeshua. Let there be peace in Jerusalem at last. Marana tha.

  116. @Rockey, I see I was not at all reading what you meant by KISS. IHOP types mean something different. I felt like I was on the correct path of understanding for your context due to your also mentioning Willard — an author I know of due to a person who made himself cozy in an ihop environment because his habit is to try and seem like a good person (who recommended one of Willard’s books as well as pressured me into a signed agreement to read a book by someone else within a certain time-frame, which I did agree to — but then HE didn’t do it while I did — and yet he found reason, as is his great and unfounded fun, to fault me in the matter). I know, that doesn’t have to reflect on anyone else (such as the authors).

    Anyway, I’m glad to know what you were in fact referring to (keep it simple stupid); it’s a preferable meaning to the other (self-styled ihop prophets) ball of wax [while I’ll admit discomfort with this too as the same person I know likes to say his rule (for everyone) is not to be stupid — but then there isn’t much definition for that except not to get caught… and that means (rather than in all reality) pretty much only legally or in terms of not getting what you want (he is great at keeping out of legal trouble for the most part, at least in the most visible sense, but then there’s usually mercy involved (which he doesn’t recognize) in this as there is in his getting what he wants too {not that what he wants is very coherent}].

  117. Rockey
    FEBRUARY 16, 2015 AT 4:54 PM
    “Marleen,

    Good site, thanks. It looks like I will have to blow the dust off of Eusebius and finish reading it.”

  118. @Chaya — Did you really mean to write: “I suppose any group is inherently corrupt, as humans are selfish and manipulative.”? That strikes me as such a grandly sweeping statement as to be inherently beyond any validation. I suppose it might be compared with the hyperbolic prophetic declaration that “there is none righteous, no not one”. However, that statement is patently a poetical exaggeration, because the Tenakh clearly designates some individuals as “righteous in [their] generation”. It is one thing to recognize that there is inherent selfishness and sin in all of human nature; and one might extrapolate from that in a negative direction when humans band together in groups for some common cause. For this we have the Torah’s warning, in this past week’s parashah, not to follow a multitude to do evil — from which the rabbis also inferred the principle that in general one *should* follow majority opinion in order to pursue what is right. So we must not ignore that individuals also may choose to act uprightly, and that groups may band together for the express purpose of helping one another with their combined strength to do so. Isn’t that what redemption is all about?

  119. Chaya, if you’ll read my comment again, you’ll see that I made allowances for the likelihood that I was oversimplifying or misrepresenting your position, so no, I’m not playing cards.

    However, to say that all human institutions, from four people meeting for a weekly book club to any governmental organization in human history is “inherently corrupt, as humans are selfish and manipulative” seems a tad cynical. I don’t know obviously, but I’d suspect you have some “trust issues”.

    That’s OK, so do I.

    I think it’s one thing to say that all people are flawed and thus all human organizations will have flaws, vs. stating that all people are deliberately intending to stab each other in the back at the first opportunity, thus all human organizations exist to deliberately hurt people, both within its organization and outside of it.

    While my recent sojourn in a church didn’t end particularly well, it had nothing to do with any deliberate intent to mess with me or hurt my feelings. It ended because of extreme dissonance between how I understand the Bible and how the head Pastor interprets scripture and finds it necessary to protect his flock from what he considers bad doctrine.

    If I took what I believe is your point of view, I couldn’t possibly join any human organization, including getting a job. Heck, how can you even have friends if all humans are selfish and manipulative? But then again, since you and I are both human, what do we do abouta these characteristics that are inherit to us?

  120. @James, you put words in my mouth. I never said people were waiting to stab others in the back at the first opportunity, although those people exist. More, there is something about a religious environment (and the more money, power and prestige at stake, the more significant this becomes) that creates all sorts of additional problems. For example, I suspect that the people at the church that you spent a lot of time getting to know are mostly no longer interested in having anything to do with you, based upon religious issues and the influence of your pastor. One lady I was speaking with mentioned how her foray into torah led to her Christian friends shunning her, while her atheist friends think it is interesting and don’t feel threatened. I am not saying people usually intend to mess with someone, but they will due to the peer pressure of the environment, and some are worse or better than others. As far as friendships, I have learned it is better to have them outside of circles where the relationships are based upon shared doctrine or loyalty to an institution or person. I am not saying it is all their fault; it is a matter of a mismatch between myself and any religious environment, and it took me long enough to realize this.

    I think the first step we take is to be honest about the inherent weaknesses and flaws of the system. Imagine if you had spent the year(?) or however long you spent at the church in (for example) an academic discussion group about the issues you are grappling with. Do you think they would kick you out, shut you down or misrepresent their position with the hope of changing you? Wouldn’t they be curious, rather than fearful, or ideas you bring to the table? Religion offers a lot for those who are willing to conform and close their eyes, and play the game of pretending. Sometimes, if you are in a position of financial, emotional, etc., need, it is worth it, as well as you are blind to the compromise and conformity. My son was saying, that as nice as these people are, you can’t have an honest discussion due to the cognitive dissonance.

  121. The problem is the insistance that the religious world, or your branch of it is somehow above human nature, when it is no different. For example, most people aren’t shocked at the stuff that goes on at their secular places of employment, but when they see the same stuff in a religious environment, they are. Perhaps part of the problem is inaccurate and unrealistic expectations, which are presented to us?

  122. Thanks for clarifying that, Chaya. In a text-only discussion environment, it isn’t always easy for me to understand everyone’s exact opinions.

    It’s true that in religious organizations, it’s difficult to maintain relations if your theology is significantly to radically different than those around you. I will say that I did find some variances of religion opinion within that church (I was there for two years), so it wasn’t like everyone was in complete lock-step with the Pastor.

    As far as an academic environment instead of religious, if we take universities as an example, if I, as a social and fiscal conservative, were to be too forward with my opinions in liberal academia, as a student, I probably wouldn’t be kicked out but I wouldn’t make many friends, either. If I were an instructor, I imagine making too big a deal of my opinions might result be different.

    I seem to remember a recent news story about a university newspaper censoring a student-written article that was “non-PC” but I can’t find it in a quick Google search. I did find something similar, but it’s just one student’s opinion and not a university policy decision.

    My point is that going into any group and being too different will likely not have a good result. People tend to congregate because of some set of similarities. This is true across the board, not just within religion. It’s probably also why people don’t (generally) talk politics or religion at work, since, depending on who you work for, you’re among a diverse group of individuals.

    I actually have had an honest discussion with religious people and we even disagreed with each other, but this is generally in very small groups away from church. Coffee shop discussions can be far more liberating.

    That I can’t find face-to-face religious community in my little corner of Idaho doesn’t mean all religious community is bad. It does mean that any religious group with which a person associates will be made up of flawed, imperfect human beings. This didn’t stop Paul from attempting to integrate Gentiles into a Jewish religious and community group (even though it didn’t end well) and I can only imagine that when Messiah returns, he will find a way to make his Jewish and Gentile ekklesia share and play well together.

  123. It is said that the church is the only army that shoots its own wounded. On the other hand, the church I used to attend had support groups for alcoholics and one for men who were/had been involved in pornography, so there was hope offered to people who possessed significant flaws.

  124. I suppose it might be compared with the hyperbolic prophetic declaration that “there is none righteous, no not one”. However, that statement is patently a poetical exaggeration, because the Tenakh clearly designates some individuals as “righteous in [their] generation”.

    …. we have the Torah’s warning, in this past week’s parashah, not to follow a multitude to do evil — from which the rabbis also inferred the principle that in general one *should* follow […] what is right.

    That has to be true, PL. Otherwise, we end up in some very strange philosophy/tradition and can fall into something like nihilism.

  125. When I read the Bible, I see every single human flaw present in the History of the people there, I see they are still present today in the Church (and out of it). Kinda depressing, kinda assuring.

    Karl Barth says, “the church is a hollow place… a canal through which flows living water.” I interpret that as the Holy Spirit (Ruach haKodesh…) I like that image very much.

    The nature of the Church is the nature of humanity… plus the gifts of God. Broken and limping together we are completedin God and able to function as a body. (In Christ in my case.)

    God works often times in spite of our efforts, but does also bless and find joy in our hearts and best efforts too. No question the Church can be an exclusive place. Being rather progressive politically (Socialist) and Theologically (Social Gospel, Social Justice, Open Theologian), my fellow workers find much in me that causes discussion as we are a rather Conservative Evangelical Church. There is room however for the Liberal thinkers, and in fact my closest allies in the work are Right wing Conservatives… imagine that!

    We love each other passionately and keep the work ahead of us, and not our opinions on what the correct way is. I admit, we seem to be exceptions, and I have not always been welcome in certain circles, however it isn’t my place to take others inventory, I have enough work to do on my own.

    There are days where the hurting seems too great to bear and I look forward to this sojourn to end for me, however forgiving the insensitive and damaged souls and reaching out to the hurting seems to place me back into a place of gratitude. That we have something still to offer others is a Blessing and that is sufficient for most days.

    Chaya,

    As for Bill W. being into other spiritualism and a flawed man… I do not think that precludes God using him for the good. If God only worked with perfect people, the Bible and all History would be a very short book ineed. I have and continue to see miracles happening in peoples lives’ in which the Fellowships are part of their Recovery. As for teaching alcoholism is “incurable,” the Big Book on the very first page states, “How many thousands of men and women have Recovered from Alcoholism.” Again, the best and worst parts of any group are its members.

    Be well

  126. @Chaya,
    “Yet, I doubt you will find a religious group that is free of corruption, and if you find one, let me know.”

    I agree with aspects of much that you’ve said in your comments, at least in the big picture. Things like women’s equality and how men
    have treated us as less intelligent/ capable/ worthy, etc., being repelled by non-Jews representing themselves as Jews, and how most (all?) religious institutions are corrupt, even if inadvertently.

    My BS meter is similar to yours, and I trend toward negative and sarcastic thinking too, so I am often intertained by yours.

    However, I have a few questions and concerns.

    Re: men women issue. Women are to men as gentiles are to Jews, that is we (women, and gentiles) tend to rush in and take over everything, pushing them out of the way and leaving men (and/or Jews) to be nothing but incidental background. Just take a look at how many gentiles “teach Torah” and peacock around with Jewish garb. So, I wonder, does this concern you? I am all for women’s rights and equality, but I believe neglecting our fundamental difference and the needs of men is wrong.

    Second, I don’t agree that the gentiles masquerading as Jews is a specifically MJ problem, especially since I know more than one gentile who does this within Orthodox Judaism. As in, zero Jewish blood, and within the unsuspecting orthodox community and having (supposedly) non-Jewish children (sorry, I strongly disagree with matrilineal only descent on so many levels, including Biblically, historically, intellectually, and religiously).

    I also know of gentile Reform Rabbis who constantly push gentile conversion. When I’ve attended “traditional” synagogues the same problems are present there as in MJ (insecure Gentiles, wannabes, etc.) but they are on a smaller scale, to be sure.

    finally, I want to point out that even as we can find fault everywhere and with everyone, it’s all the more reason for us to consider our own corruption. Surely, when we see nothing but wipe-outs in our rear view mirror, we must begin to consider that our own actions and words have perhaps caused others grief. Some of your comments in the thread have caused me personal offense, and it’s strange that the person who brings up being mistreated the most is the one who has cut the deepest with her words.

  127. VERY good comments Sojourning!

    James, as usual, you took the words right out of my mouth.

    I also see the movement shrinking and polarizing. And have pulled out of all that meshugos. I leave my blog as a testemant of where I’ve been, not as a statement of who I am. Thank God! I have grown. I think many have and have left this movement. They are either going back to the church or converting to Judaism proper. Or like me they retreat to the confines of our battered hearts and pray for Messiah to come personally to heal us and lead us. Because orthodoxy rejects us, and the church is no place for us. So many fences….. Will we ever grow up? So many offenses, will we ever forgive?

    https://messianicway.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/the-power-to-forgive/

    Bless you all…. Hope to see you on the other side…

  128. Shimshon said:

    I leave my blog as a testemant of where I’ve been, not as a statement of who I am. Thank God! I have grown. I think many have and have left this movement. They are either going back to the church or converting to Judaism proper. Or like me they retreat to the confines of our battered hearts and pray for Messiah to come personally to heal us and lead us.

    And yet you are still writing on your blog, so I can only imagine that your more recent work represents you.

    It would be interesting to get the take of people in Messianic Judaism about your statement that many are leaving MJ either for the Church or converting to a more normative branch of Judaism. While that may be true of some, the impression I’ve gotten from other people commenting is that Gentiles are flooding into MJ, though perhaps not so many Jews.

    Well, I’ve tried church and that didn’t work out, and converting to Judaism isn’t an option for me for a variety of reasons. Except for this blog and meeting every other Sunday with a like-minded believe to chat over coffee, I pretty much have retreated from the public world of religion. I’ve been thinking of writing another blog post here about the viability of remote attendance of a congregation. It’s been suggested to me via email by a few people who are deeply concerned for my spiritual well being. The problem is, I don’t think virtual relationship is the same act face-to-face relationship. I know that on some levels, the Internet creates the illusion of intimacy, but in fact, any communication across the web, even using skype and webcams, is still between two people isolated from each other and typing away on their little plastic boxes.

    I don’t think you can have a virtual relationship with someone or some group unless an actual relationship has been set up first. It’s like a couple who gets married and the fellow, who is in the military, is sent a year later overseas. He and his wife can maintain communication via emails, phone calls, and the aforementioned skype and webcam option, but that’s only because they already have a real, face-to-face intimate relationship. I don’t think virtual reality can be the establishing reality.

    I have no idea how online dating works.

  129. I agree, James. I can’t make any sense of how an online relationship becomes something as meaningful as marriage. But it’s better than what a lot of people do, going to bars (or, sorry, here I go into cynicism… meeting someone to marry by going to church — where some truly cynical men go to prey on the unsuspecting). And I actually know three people in successful marriages that started in online communication (two of them long distance, but not long distance any more).

  130. “I have no idea how online dating works.”

    Lol, that’s good James. I agree with you that gentiles are flooding into MJ and frankly, it isn’t prepared! It occurs to me that perhaps it’s because of a move of God. I know that’s not a popular perspective, but let me explain.

    There’s a lot wrong with how the Church saw (and sees) itself regarding the Jewish people. We have blown it for sure in that regard and it grieves me no end that more Christians don’t “get it” and remain tone deaf to Jewish suffering at the hands of our various doctrines about them. (I’m putting the finishing touches on a class about this very thing)

    I’m all for MJ, and a place carved out to meet the spiritual needs of Jews, as the messianic Jew is the most underserved out there, and they have particular needs. Needs created from within their own family story, greater Judaism, the Jewish people as a whole, and from baggage the world and the Church has saddled them with.

    Believing in Jesus, for many, makes things more difficult and many experience extreme rejection in their families and communities, and by their extended Jewish family.

    MJ is swarming with gentiles because God is waking them up to the errors of Replacement Theology. Even by means of theologies that are regularly derided in many messianic circles. E.g., a dispensational outlook, while not perfect, at least allowed that God is not “finished with the Jews.” Couple that with prophecy teachers like Walvord who taught in the 1930’s that Israel would become a nation again, because he believed the Bible literally. Protestants leery of Catholicism’s excesses admonished “separate the wheat from the chaff, dear” meaning don’t take the pastor’s word for it, engage the Bible and prayer yourself. And, Evangelical pastors who said over and over, “Don’t take my word for it, I’m not God, “READ THE BIBLE”, which was drummed into my head more times than I can count.

    Guess what? These were right teachings, even in the midst of remaining replacement theologies. And these teachings have begun to sink in over the years, and folks who read their bibles are realizing that the Torah didn’t get cancelled, and God isn’t done with the Jews. But, where are they to go? Because the same church taught them that the Bible is God’s standard for right behavior, and since we’ve thought of ourselves as the “spiritual Israel/Jews” for so long, naturally we think the Torah is incumbent upon all of us in every way it is for a Jew. We cannot stand the thought of distinction, because the insecurities we didn’t know we even had, pop up grip us like a vise.

    I believe in Jews having space carved out for them with out the bossy gentiles trying to take over their identity or dictate to them their relationship to each other, God, or the Torah. But I also don’t think they – we – are to be in isolation from each other.

    The biggest problem in MJ is that they’ve allowed the gentiles in (because they typically love us and want to remain close. Many are intermarried, etc.) but they have also largely ignored the gentiles who are there, and haven’t developed clear distinction and roles.

    Anyway, I agree there is work to be done by Jews and gentiles, and I’ve been guilty of looking for “perfect” too, but when we see that it doesn’t exist (and it doesn’t), we can either look for the greater good, which is always about sacrificially serving and loving OTHERS even in the midst of flawed theology, or we can become dejected and depressed.

    And that’s my .2 cents for today. 🙂

  131. @ James -And yet you are still writing on your blog, so I can only imagine that your more recent work represents you.

    If you look you will notice I have not engaged in the MJ/MG debate since Oct ’13. Well over a year ago. The posts since then are mostly my partners or my focus on my own Jewish walk. i.e. matrilineal/patrilineal I have retreated out of the frey of gentile Torah observance issues. I no longer desire to engage it. I find much hate and animosity by those who profess to be followers of the eternal loving one, our Messiah. I can not honestly engage in this any longer as I see only a downward spiral into vanity and condemnation. Neither of which I am seeking in life.

    Online dating??? I’ll tell you. I married my wife whom I met on Yahoo Christian chat just before 9/11. We now have three kids and are planning aliyah in the next couple of years. But, I always thought God blessed me beyond my merit. My family is a true blessing to me.

    Community, James. This is where the Lord is leading my heart. REAL community. One of love, faith, and hope. Not of continual one-upmanship. My Messiah showed me that in order to love others we need to sacrifice for them. Even unto death. I’m diving into this study, life endeavor now. I may not find it this side of heaven, but it’s the goal.
    I have to learn to be me, faults and all, and then learn to find others who accept me for me. And not try and change me into what they think I should be. Isn’t that the understanding of ‘family’? Arn’t we all supposed to be related spiritually? Could of fooled us, huh?

    I’m done with the I’m right your wrong. I’m done thinking I can do anything to merit my salvation, now or in the future. I’m returning to resting on the work and grace of our Master. And I’m more than happy to live and let live. I’m just not happy when others don’t afford me the same. But, that’s the human condition it seems. I like the way Robbie Robertson said it: I never said the land was mine to do with as I choose
    The one who has a right to dispose of it is the one who has created it
    I claim a right to live on my land, And accord you the privilege to return to yours.

    I relate it as follows;
    I never said the Torah was mine to dow with as I choose. The one who has a right to transform it is the one who has created it.
    I claim the right to follow my Lord as he leads, and I afford you the right to follow his leading for you.

    What confuses me is how can we believe we are indwelled by the Spirit of God and treat others in a spitfull way? This is what has most turned me off from ‘religous’ people.

    I’ve learned a few things in my time dealing with others. One is that when someone changes they have to overcompensate for their new lack of foundation, and act very fundamentalist. What facilitates this is the supposed revelation of a new thing that the other place did not accept. I’m guilty of it too. It happend to me in regards to the one law movement. I’m an old school Messy. I was around in the Hebrew Christian days. The one law movement ran me through the spin cycle. One year as the Messianic movement was flourishing with gentiles I began to change my perspective and embrace one law theology. It lasted a year, and completely propelled me out of the HC way of living into a MJ one. You can read my blog page Torah Observance to see what happend to me. Then, for the next few years, as my blog will attest, I went on the pedulum swing the complete opposite direction. I’m just coming back to normality. It was a very ‘divisive’ ride. All those fences and walls…. And all for a reason. I’m learning through Yeshua to live through love. I’m back to my beginnings.

    And I’ve learned that it’s not a waste of time either. It’s the path traveled that brings us to our goal, not the destination itself.

  132. Sojourning said:

    I agree with you that gentiles are flooding into MJ and frankly, it isn’t prepared!

    Reminds me of Acts 13:44:

    The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord.

    When I posted a link to this blog post on Facebook, at one point in the discussion, I opined that I couldn’t imagine what Yeshua let alone Paul was thinking in letting Gentiles into a Judaism. Didn’t they know that the Gentiles would destroy it? I wonder if that’s the view of people like Kinzer who see the only way for Jews to survive being Messianic as Jews is to take a bilateral approach?

    The Pastors, including the one at the church I used to attend, who encourage their flocks to read the Bible still have to control the particular interpretive tradition used to understand the Bible. Left to their/our own devices, we might begin to realize that the Bible doesn’t actually say what’s often taught from the pulpit.

    @Shimshon: Belated congratulations on the marriage and parenthood, and may God be with you in your efforts to make aliyah.

    I agree that many “religious people” are difficult to deal with and I’ve written about that struggle at length. It’s also why I’ve cut way back on writing “morning meditations”. It came to a point where people tried to argue with me, even on a blog post about patience (severely trying mine).

    I suppose the answer for myself is to continue “cleaning house” so to speak, and seeing where that leads me. My studies have changed my perspective on what the Bible says, who the Jewish people and national Israel are, and God’s redemptive plan for His people Israel and through them, the rest of the world, that there is no church that would have me, even if I were inclined to go (and my wife, who is Jewish and not Messianic in the slightest, I suspect is secretly happy that I stopped going to church, though she’d never admit it).

  133. My studies have changed my perspective on what the Bible says, who the Jewish people and national Israel are, and God’s redemptive plan for His people Israel and through them, the rest of the world, that there is no church that would have me,

    Yep, that is where I am at, too.

  134. @James: It came to a point where people tried to argue with me, even on a blog post about patience (severely trying mine).

    That made me laugh out loud! lol Been there, done that…

    @James: Belated congratulations on the marriage and parenthood, and my God be with you in your efforts to make aliyah.

    Thank you very much. As always, it’s an uphill row to hoe….

  135. I think Chaya mentioned issues regarding the role of women in Messianic Jewish community at one point. I thought this story about a female Rabbi, or more specifically, a Maharat, within Orthodox Judaism might be relevant.

  136. Just adding a thought I just had that I believe relates to this discussion.

    Will there be/are we seeing a split in Messianic Judaism along the lines of what happend to the Reform movement? How Conservative Judaism formed because of Reform seeming too liberal to them.

    Statistically, most Jews are liberals. So how does that play into the Messianic movement, where most are conservative ex-Christians who believe the only form of Judaism is the Orthodox expression? Again, a strange paradox considering that Messianic Judaism origionally modeled itself like Reform Judaism, which is usually mocked as ‘liberal Judaism’ by the Orthodox. If accepted as a Judaism at all. Fact remains that 80-90% of Jews today are not orthodox or conservative but identify as secular liberals. So again I have to wonder where all this conservative/orthodoxy came from when our roots where formed in the liberal expression of Judaism.

    Is this the split starting to form within the MJ movement? Some are shifting to be accepted by the orthodox expression of Judaism as if this is the only valid expression. Others are remaining fixed in their position ‘apart’ from orthodox rulings. And if we are honest we will recognize that this issue is part in parcle to Jewish life in Israel. The orthodoxy is striving to keep a hold on the reigns while all other expressions of Judaism are striving to attain a place within Judaism. Some believe Israel should remain and become even more orthodox, others believe it should become more like america and embrace all forms of Judaism, and even secular.

    I say this will not be settled till Messiah comes back. And I believe that is the most common view from both sides. As each attempts to hasten his comming… Makes me wonder if we really want to have him return. Only to find us divided and still bickering and fighting among each other. I picture brothers fighting and Abba walking in the room, as all weapons drop and eyes fix on him. Then the heads drop, or roll…. I honestly think nobody is humble enough to handle the coming of the holy one of Israel. May God prove me wrong in spades.

  137. Shimshon,

    Well said.

    What you are describing in your walk is the progression most go through not simply in our Faith but in growth in general. The Scriptures are even laid out this way.

    First we get the law and that is very fundamental and foundational. What to do and what not to do provide boundaries and a fairly black or white hierarchy of things. This is often a time of separation from others not of like mind.

    Second we enter adolescence and begin to question the rules and boundaries. This is a difficult yet wonderful time. In the Scripture these are the Prophetic Writings. Our time of self-criticism (sadly it often extends to others). This time is the working out of our beliefs and Faith in real time. This is often a time of deconstruction.

    Third we begin to get perspective and things are less black and white and the criticism has placed us where we can understand both the law and the living, and most often we become far less judgmental, far more accepting, and far less willing to get excited about details that aren’t actually part of living out our Faith with each other. In the Scripture, this is the Wisdom literature. This is often a time of unification.

    The tragedy is when one gets stuck in any one of the steps. Stuck on first gets us Fundamentalism. Stuck on second many become disillusioned and either leave the Faith or bounce from one to another never finding something they can’t criticize more than find fellowship.

    We don’t leave any of the steps out when we get to Wisdom, we just afford them their proper place. Acceptance of others where they are is a sign of this stage, as having been through much, we can love those who are still in earlier stages and hopefully support their understanding of other possibilities.

    “The Gentiles are coming! The Gentiles are coming!” Blessing or curse? For me that depends entirely on where we are in our walk, not on loving others which isn’t an option. Relationships are messy, frequently illogical, and guaranteed will break your heart. They are also why we are here together, the believers of God. (For some, the body of Christ.) There are people who come every Wednesday and Sunday (and all the other days of the week) with all manner of questions generally from some book they have been reading which stated something fundamental to them for us to counter or explain… these are some of my dearest and favorite people. They get mad, they get red faced, and they often get argumentative when we show them the bigger picture or contextualize things into relationship. The thing is though, sometimes just having tea and sharing the simple things in Faith is more comforting… the fact is, these folks are engaged, and searching. Of all the places they could be, they have chosen to be and feel comfortable with us. What a Blessing it is to be loved.

  138. James, Cynthia,

    “… there is no church that would have me…”

    I find that very hard to believe.
    I know of many, many, Churches which I have attended where I was the only white person, straight person, poor person, Christian person, etc, etc, and have found a place in all of them as long as Worship or even curiosity was the reason I attended and not to tell them what they believed was wrong, I can always learn and celebrate with others if I come from a position of commonality. (Though I personally find aspects of Calvinism, Dispensationalism, Legalism, hard to hear, I am still welcomed.) Alternative views are seldom an issue unless we believe ours is exclusive of others.

  139. Shimshon,

    Great post!

    “… Makes me wonder if we really want to have him return. Only to find us divided and still bickering and fighting among each other. I picture brothers fighting and Abba walking in the room, as all weapons drop and eyes fix on him. Then the heads drop, or roll…. I honestly think nobody is humble enough to handle the coming of the holy one of Israel. May God prove me wrong in spades.”

    LOL!

    Can you imagine? I am still chuckling thinking about this scene… I bet all the Men in the room would point at each other in unison and scream, “HE STARTED IT!!!” (Women would be knowingly nodding saying, “Told you so…”)

  140. @Shimson, perhaps when something begins, it is of God, and there is unity, even if there is individuality and disagreement within that unity. Duress and persecution encourage cooperation, rather than factions, which form in places of assimilation. The factions and fighting are all about men seeking to carve out a niche for themselves and make a name for themselves.

    Until recent times, while Jews were of varying degrees of observance and held different opinions on important issues, there weren’t formal divisions. I have Sephardic relatives, and they have no Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc.; just people who observe at different levels.

    The idea of breaking away and forming separate, antagonist, competing groups is mostly of Christian origin, and why shouldn’t those who have done this to their former group then have the same happen within?

    There are already many divisions within MJ. First, the Hebrew Christian faction is defunct, as those with that inclination probably just went back to the churches and disappeared. Now you have a continuum of torah observance: tradition only, torah lite, torah medium, torah heavy/Orthodox. I suspect the reason MJ didn’t move in the direction of Reform, or Reconstruction, or Renewal, is they sought the seal of approval of the Orthodox, which they will never receive, but pseduo-receive it via Orthodox style leaders. They were still so tied up in Evangelical theology, politics and mindset they couldn’t build bridges with groups like Renewal, whose founder, Zalman Schachter-Salomi, who said he would welcome MJ’s to worship with them, although he couldn’t accept worshipping a Messiah, but would accept those who have this belief. MJ’s took on the anti-openmindedness and anti-acceptance attitudes of evangelicalism; taking on their, “I have the truth which will take me to heaven and reveals I have God’s approval in this life,” and, “you have differing ideas which will lead you to Hell and reveal you don’t have the divine presence in your life.” I much prefer, Ben of Zoma: Who is wise? He who learns from all men.

  141. @Shimshon: A split in Messianic Judaism. As I pointed out in this blog post, Messianic Judaism probably never has been a single, unified entity. I imagine there will be multiple expressions of Messianic Judaism for the reasons you cite, even as there are multiple denominations in Christianity. I suspect you are correct and that Messiah will have to sort it all out and straighten out our thinking. In the end, there will be no Church when Messiah returns, only the ekklesia of Messiah which will be lead by the Jewish Messiah King and in which both Jews as Jews and Gentiles as Gentiles will be disciples and subjects of our Master and Teacher.

    @Rockey: I know the statement “no church would have me” sounds pretty dramatic, but my recent experience with a local Baptist church along with my disagreements with you illustrate my point exactly. If I were an alcoholic or drug addict and agreed with traditional Evangelical doctrine (or at least if I didn’t rock the boat), I’d have a better chance at acceptance and fellowship in a church setting than being a sober Messianic Gentile.

    Granted, I’ve heard of churches that are beginning to embrace a more “Judaically-aware” perspective on the Bible and the centrality of Israel in God’s redemptive plan for the world, but I can only imagine they are few and far between. I know I am incapable of convincing anyone of anything they are dead set against, so I don’t think that’s my purpose. I once thought I could be part of carrying the light of the Jewish Messiah to my fellow Gentile believers, but the fact of the matter is, for most religious people, once they’ve decided what “truth” is, they seldom ever go back and question their original assumptions and what they were taught back in the day.

    Anyone lead to understand that the Bible is a single, unified expression of God’s redeeming plan and not a book carved in two, with the latter part only being really important, is lead by the Spirit of God. I have been one of the few to have been so lead and it took years of re-examining the Bible and filling in the missing pieces of the puzzle. In spite of “KISS,” it takes a lot of hard work to dig out from under centuries of Christian tradition and allegory, and re-orient your view (well, my view) to a Jewish-positive/Israel-positive perspective, which is what God was promising Israel all along in the first two-thirds of the Bible.

  142. The idea that a person would have no significant changes to their beliefs after 10,20, 50 years seems like stagnation and bondage.

    @James, if you were an alcoholic or drug addict, you would be welcomed no matter what your belief, as these might be attributed to your condition, and would change once you sobered up. Now, the acceptance of the marginal and weak is a positive aspect of Christianity, demonstrating love. However, this is not entirely selfless. A weak, needy person will likely not give the church or leader any arguments, and will be grateful for the help, taking on the beliefs and practices of the helpers as surrogate parents, and we believe and listen to our parents when we are children, so, one remains in a childlike position within most of Christianity.

    You often hear complaints about, “fair weather friends.” My experiences in my own religious sojourns is that there were many, “bad weather friends.” These were so happy to help those in need, hurting, messed up, and don’t get me wrong, these are good things. But what happens when the needy person not only gets a job, but gets a great, well-paying job and buys a new condo and/or new car? There is jealousy and resentment. What happens when the messed up person finds a place of healing and maturity, and in this process, studies and comes to differing conclusions than those who have helped him/her? This is viewed as treachery.

  143. A good friend of mine accurately predicted how my church sojourn would end. Especially in conservative churches, any deviation from “sound doctrine” will ultimately be considered a cult, even if you can back up your position scripturally.

    As far as people not wanting to re-examine their original assumptions, people don’t like change. Add to that the fact that once a person has arrived at what they believe to be “sound doctrine,” entertaining the idea that any of that could be wrong is tantamount to questioning faith in Yeshua (Jesus), which is definitely a theological “no-no.” If you believe you are “saved” only be believing “X, Y, and Z,” then you are going to be really reluctant to question X or Y or Z.

  144. Chaya,

    It’s simply looking at the progression of the Books. (Allegorical?) I first heard it from Fr. Richard Rohr.
    However, I am over 50 and do enjoy Mysticism…

  145. This also makes me think of a wife who has good evidence her husband is cheating, but since she has no intentions of making any changes to the relationship, she also chooses to ignore what she knows and shut it out. Since she is staying in the relationship and not confronting her husband, it is far more pleasant to believe what she likes, and it would be painful to think otherwise.

    I suspect there are many reasons that keep a person in a religious environment, and to even entertain questions would be to threaten that relationship, and perhaps they can’t imagine life without it.

  146. James,

    I guess part of the challenge I have is that I don’t feel the need to take on any one perspective when reading the Bible. I read many perspectives and am informed by all of them. I believe that the texts of the Bible are open to interpretation, as Jewish scholars have done so for a few thousand years too. That it is a living document which is inspired by the Holy Spirit not just at the writing, but at the reading as well. And that scripture is just a part of my walk with God. (I know shocking for a Protestant Convert to say.)

    My intention when I turn to scripture is to be in-formed. I don’t own the Bible, it is simply to me. The meanings change as I grow, as situations change, as I hear varying translations and interpretations along with historic and historical information. I am not looking for Jewish friendly or unfriendly perspective. I simply want to be open for what is there and how that applies to living out our Faith.

    The same goes for exposition, like at Bible study this week, we read the scripture, we discussed the context, we read some commentary, and we ask “what do you think about that?” Each person is able to share what they hear, each person is allowed to question and comment. I make no bones that my perspective is simply that, and each person needs to work out in their own lives how that fits, for them. We end with application to our lives today.

    To think or say that two thousand years of Gentile Scholarship and thought by some very educated, devoted and inspired people has less to say than others to our lives, just doesn’t make sense. Just as ignoring thousands of years of Jewish scholarship is silly as well. You would be welcome to speak what scripture means and translational gems (there always are) to you. That is how a picture is made, not painted all at once but in layer upon layer of color and form. Ideas do not have to be mutually exclusive.

    I have read the same verse dozens of times and at differing times it appears words have moved or I missed them as I study, or an injury or event changes how I approach it. I believe this is how it should be. We each have an opportunity to grow closer through our Faith. I am not willing to believe, you, me, or anyone else has cornered the market on what we “should” get or what God “meant” for us to get from our Faith. I do not believe in either/or’s, I believe in the “yes” of Christ, and that all people belong.

    The adamant and sometimes gross generalizations about Gentile Christians I keep reading on these pages makes me sad. If one hasn’t been hurt by the Church it’s only because they haven’t been part of one. (That goes for Synagogues, Shuls and Temples too). Get over it. I have been hurt terribly by a woman or man or two… I didn’t stop going out or dating. I didn’t divorce my family for being cruel at times. (Thankfully they accepted my ignorance too.) I just love them, and try and not be as vulnerable where I know they have shown to care less in the past. I have been so let down by Pastors, Rabbi, Priests, Elders, the politics of governing boards at times. I have seen the slick handshake, nod and smirk as congregations were duped into voting for personal agendas… so what? It doesn’t have to be a stumbling block to my Faith. Brush the dust off and move on.

    I am sorry people fail to meet your expectations, perhaps you are expecting more than they can provide.
    Be careful that in attempting to be different, you don’t become the very thing you are attempting to escape.
    “If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. “
    Blessings

  147. As I’ve previously written, I don’t think that when Jesus returns, there will be a Christianity as such but rather, there will be the Kingdom of God on Earth with the capital being Jerusalem and the ruling nation being Israel. So to me, whether or not we have Jews practicing a Jewish devotion to God and Messiah within Judaism is a big deal.

    I think all this matters because back at Sinai, God gave the Torah as an eternal set of conditions of His covenant with His people Israel.

    This, alas, is the point that Gentiles within Christendom and out of it seem to keep missing!

    As far as people not wanting to re-examine their original assumptions, people don’t like change. Add to that the fact that once a person has arrived at what they believe to be “sound doctrine,” entertaining the idea that any of that could be wrong is tantamount to questioning faith in Yeshua (Jesus), which is definitely a theological “no-no.” If you believe you are “saved” only be believing “X, Y, and Z,” then you are going to be really reluctant to question X or Y or Z.

    OUCH! This then leaves those of those who question as being permanently unacceptable to most Believers in YHVH most of the time (which means very little decent conversation), at least until Messiah comes, at which time the matter is settled. I like living as I do now, but I would readily trade it all in for knowing exactly what to do, and how to do it, and being able to fellowship over different problems and discoveries. It would also be nice to visit the Temple when King Yeshua is holding forth, and learn what is not taught in the Scriptures.

    This didn’t stop Paul from attempting to integrate Gentiles into a Jewish religious and community group (even though it didn’t end well) and I can only imagine that when Messiah returns, he will find a way to make his Jewish and Gentile ekklesia share and play well together.

    Since Believers are supposed to rule and reign with Messiah, I presume Yeshua will give the exact line of teaching in the Incorrupt ‘writing of the Torah into a heart of flesh’ and that we, as the Incorrupt, will be able and willing to rule on these matters for Him. We will then all be accredited ‘Rabbi’s’ from the only acceptable yeshiva, and planted into every congregation, village, town, city, county, stat state and nation to let people know what is right or wrong, yes or no, and then leave them to reap the results of their choices. After all, it does mention in the Scriptures that rain will be withheld from those daring to disobey.

    In the Messianic Synagogue/Assemblies of Messiah, we get to be a light and an example, evidently being able to relate everything we did badly while human, and the consequences we received in the flesh, and perhaps even in the ranking of our Incorrupt state, Jews among Jews, Gentiles among Gentiles. Even with Yeshua teaching in person in the Temple, life gets carried out a good deal away from it, and the Master will want to delegate whatever He can, in order to make some use of us. Pure supposition, (under the parable of the Talents) of course, but derived from scripture.

    Anyone led to understand that the Bible is a single, unified expression of God’s redeeming plan and not a book carved in two, with the latter part only being really important, is led by the Spirit of God.

    Oh, definitely, with an extra dash of emphasis on the promises being kept to Abraham…first to the Jew in Israel, and then to the Gentile, everywhere else.

  148. @Shimshon — Pardon the delayed reply (due to an internet access problem). It should be fairly obvious why the rise of MJ in the 70s was not among orthodox Jews. There were fewer of them at that time and they were not prone to be caught up in social fads because of the native insularity of the orthodox community. It was mostly youngsters from non-orthodox backgrounds who became aware of the questions that led to an alternative viewpoint. And, organizationally, a number of key leaders were raised in a Reform environment in a city that hosts the university which is the center of the Reform movement in the USA. It was only as a number of MJ individuals increased their depth of study that the more traditional elements began to assert themselves. So the MJ movement was not originally or consciously modeled on the Reform movement — some would complain it was more likely modeled on the evangelical movement in Christianity. I would suggest that any similarities are coincidental rather than deliberate, because there was no master plan or model guiding the formulation of the MJ movement. Instead, it formed rather ad hoc, and individuals drew on whatever resources they knew. Thus there are already multiple streams within this movement, some of which have matured into traditional/orthodox praxis and levels of knowledge in Jewish history and literature; while others have retained their “liberal” characteristics. Perhaps that means the potential for the “split” about which you ask was always present? Judaism has long recognized the possibility that when Messiah comes he will not find all of Israel entirely engaged in righteousness. A lot of wood, hay, and stubble will be burned up; and some folks, if they survive at all, will barely escape as they are snatched from the fire.

  149. BTW, Chaya — You mentioned something about Hebrew-Christianity being defunct (2:05pm post of the 19th) … I’m afraid it ain’t so simple. It’s just that the HC folks began to use the MJ label without adjusting to or adopting the actual MJ paradigm. That’s why what appears to be MJ now still contains so many elements of evangelicalism (or even charismania). Originally, that offered an open door for HCs to grow gradually into the new model and viewpoint. Regrettably, too many never made the transition and merely stuck where they were, while those who did so moved farther along in their return to tradition and interaction with fellow Jews and engagement with Jewish literature and liturgy. You are missing the point when you mistakenly refer to MJs seeking an unobtainable “seal of approval” from the orthodox community, just as much as if you were to accuse Conservative Jews of doing so. Any Judaism worthy of the name must engage with the traditions and literature that define Judaism across the millennia, even if they adapt if to fit some perception of their current conditions. The orthodox perspective is the only one that has retained such an unwavering devotion to the tradition that it can offer examples that enable interpretation of it or variation from it. It serves as a kind of “gold standard” or “touchstone” for the development of any variety of Judaism, if it must deviate from orthodoxy at all or for any reason.

  150. The people I knew back in the 70’s and 80’s were mostly secular Jews who had been Bar Mitzvah via Reform or Conservative congregations. This was my experience. I was required by my parents to attend Hebrew school until my Bat Mitzvah, but then had the choice to no longer continue, which I did. Then there were people like Dan Juster, with a Jewish father who died when he was young and grew up in the church with no Jewish involvement.

    I don’t see where the nature of MJ was Reform Judaism, as there were no elements such as one would find in a Reform service. Things were nearly universally like a Neo-Pentecostal church, and the anti-charismatic types in Philadelphia and Cincinnati had a Bapticostal type meeting, with Jewish trappings, such as Hebrew music, some traditional prayers, sometimes Jewish dancing, which wouldn’t be found either in a synagogue or church service and there was always an Oneg following. I understood Philadelphia for a while didn’t even have any Hebrew prayers or brachas. The first time I visited an MJ group, meeting in Manny Brotman’s basement in 1974/75, I noticed they took an offering, which is something Jews would never do, and felt that was strange in claiming to desire to do things in a Jewish manner. It was all very gentile friendly, and little different from a church, except for the music style. If a typical non-Jew attended a Reform synagogue service, it is not likely they would desire to return.

    Some of the differences between the MD group I was a part of and others is that we were never funded by or attached to a church or evangelical organization. Many of the groups began as halfway house ministries, designed to be a comfortable place until the people could be directed into a church. These were nearly always funded by Southern Baptist organizations, although, occasionally there was a Presbyterian one.

  151. I suppose I think of HC vs. MJ more as an issue of identity/identification rather than style of service or community. To say there was only Orthodoxy at one time; there were differing practices and levels of observance depending upon communities and individuals. They just didn’t take on labels and form separate movements, have their own seminaries, etc. In a polemical response to Reform movements, and also Modern Orthodoxy, the Orthodox became stricter. I went to Hebrew school at an Orthodox synagogue for 4 years, and we never had separation of men and women, except the mechitza during the service (which most rarely attended) and we just wore the same clothes we wore to school. Nobody dressed, “Orthodox,” except the rabbi’s wife. I suspect many of the students weren’t Orthodox and didn’t belong to the synagogue, like my family. Everyone attended public school.

  152. Friends,

    It is Lent. I offered Blogging during lent as a discipline until Easter. I felt Blogging for the Faith exempt from this… (As opposed to Feminist, Mycological, Green, Bicycling, Poetry, etc.) During prayer this morning I was convicted this was not so for me. Thanks for the thoughtful conversation, see you in 40 or so days. (Maybe, you never know…)

  153. Thanks for the article link Shimshon. I hadn’t known Alan Dershowitz wrote such a book. My most recent input from him was seeing him complain about a rape charge against himself (caught up in some mess with a royal in England). He angrily not only denied the charge but challenged the woman to provide proof {which, of course, is what a trial would be about, but he was busy in the court of public opinion}. He was very convincing as to his not being present where this may have taken place. But he added that the proper result if the woman couldn’t prove her case would be that she would receive the same punishment he would get (which hardly seems possible, and in the Bible it would only mean he’d be her husband for life — well, probably not since there seem to have been multiple abusing individuals).

    I thought this was a startling mix of current secular law and a concept from the Bible. We all know that rape can rarely be proven (even when it is true). I think it has to be a topic that doesn’t work in the same way as most others. It would be an exception like the one when a man accuses his wife of infidelity without proof (there is no penalty to him). That’s problematic, sure. Ultimately, the man has another recourse, though. He can get divorced because he feels like it. On the other hand, a raped woman can hardly do a thing (unless she is impregnated or otherwise has genetic evidence — which only can accomplish any proof as of very recently, and which isn’t always present and which surely isn’t desired).

    And then there’s a story I remember of a raped woman going into a courthouse for help and being arrested for indecent exposure or something like that; a few years ago. Hard to connect law with reality a lot of the time.

    And, returning to the fact that we don’t have a temple for any of this, nor do we even live in Israel (with the exception of few in our company), I’m back to being startled Alan pulled these concepts together as workable.

  154. @Chaya — Orthodoxy as a modern movement did become stricter in reaction to the rise of the Reform movement, first in Germany, and later in the USA. The Conservative movement in the USA arose among middle European immigrants (e.g., Hungarian & Polish Jews) who were more easygoing than the German tradition and attitudes but felt that Reform had gone much too far even for an attempt to meet modern challenges. Hence they formed a middle ground that they felt was truer to the older Jewish traditions as they were observed before there was an actual orthodox movement. But even in the USA the Orthodox did not dress very differently (albeit conservatively). What is now viewed as classic black-and-white Orthodox costume was at that time considered an “ultra-Orthodox” feature.

    However, HC vs. MJ is a difference in viewpoint which is expressed in such things as style and identity — and more than these in direction and goals.

  155. @PL, I also understand that Modern Orthodoxy is a relatively new movement. It seems polemics occurs naturally, as a group needs to differentiate itself from competitors and moves left or right, backwards or forwards. You are correct, MJ and HC are quite a different case, as HC is made up of outsiders, rather than insiders who want to change things. However, HC has also been moving in a direction quite similar to the first century, in turning first against rabbinics, then against Jews and claiming they are the ones who should be populating the land of Israel.

  156. I’m a bit confused by your last post, Chaya. Did you mean “HR” when you wrote “HC”? I know of no case when Hebrew-Christians (not to be conflated with the Hebrew Roots viewpoint) expressed an opinion that they, in contradistinction to other Jews, should be populating Israel — nor, for that matter, any case when HC indulged in self-defeating replacement theology, because historically HC was essentially a Jewish landsmanschaft movement, regardless of its assumption of Christian doctrinal positions on most matters except those touching ethnic Jewish cultural practice. In its earlier years, HC in the USA could hardly express any position at all on aliyah, because the modern state did not yet exist. Jewish Christians in the land of Israel (some of whom already called themselves MJs for linguistic rather than for doctrinal reasons), even before the modern state, certainly favored aliyah; though it was often even more difficult for them to accomplish than it was for other Jews. As HCs in the USA adopted terminology advocated by MJs, they came to resemble their counterparts in Israel who were of necessity using Hebrew terminology, but still they did not embrace the new paradigm that impels doctrinal and theological changes as well. I suspect that one reason why the organizational name change succeeded in 1975, from “HCAA” to “MJAA”, was that even the old-guard HCs who were skeptical about it did not fully perceive or accept that it also implied demands for a new paradigm — as it was being developed by those embracing the MJ perspective — demands that even today are only sparsely fulfilled.

  157. You are correct PL, I meant HR. Too bad this blog style does not allow corrections. I was there in 1975 at the conference at Messiah College in PA when all this took place. I think what happened is that there were many young people, newly arrived that drove the vote. I understand that Martin Chernoff attempted to do this earlier, lost, and then held his peace until the right time. He could have just taken those in agreement and left, but it was such a small group anyway. I believe J4J joined in on the MJAA side. The anti folks were mostly elderly and many of Chernoff’s previous opponents were no longer alive or able to be involved. Some of the old guard argued that they would not get donations from Christians and churches with the name change, and most argued that this should not even be a consideration. I get that the older generation experienced so much rejection and even perscution from their Jewish family, friends and the Jewish community that they did not want to identify in this manner. They were grateful to the church that took them in and provided a place of shelter. The younger generation didn’t share those sentiments. I don’t know what things were like prior, since I wasn’t there.

  158. @Chaya — I also attended the 1975 conference, and I was privy also to prior political strategy sessions in Philadelphia which were to form common cause with the Chernoff-led faction in Cincinnati for this purpose. I did not attend the 1973 full conference in Dunedan FL that failed to pass the name-change motion, nor the youth conference the following year that succeeded to change the “YHCA” to the “YMJA”, though I spoke with a number who did so and who described the events afterward. A number of these youth had also just reached the age eligible to vote in the 1975 adult conference and thus tip the balance in favor of the change. You are probably correct, though I don’t recall, that the west-coast (JfJ) faction also may have joined in support of the motion in 1975. It was a formative event for a number of friendships and alliances, including that which brought a large segment of the Chernoff faction from Cincinnati to take up residence in Philadelphia.

    As touching the motivations of the old-guard HCs, you are likely correct about some fears of a breach with prior church relationships, though in that era it is unlikely that there was any significant financial support that could be threatened. HC had never been a profit-making or seeking enterprise; and MJ was a new concept that was entirely ideological, though some undoubtedly wished to exploit its terminology for missionary purposes. I doubt that the old-line HCs were reacting against memories of former familial ostracism in resisting a greater identification with Judaism; and I’m even skeptical that they might have absorbed from traditional Christian church doctrine a negative view of Judaism in general.

    HC had already distanced itself somewhat from mainstream Christianity by creating in effect a separate ethnic denomination supporting Jews in retaining Jewish cultural praxis that included characteristic Jewish religious elements. I remember attending a classic HC-style Passover Seder in 1970, also attended by Joe Finklestein and some of the “zoo” of young Jewish “critters” that he was hosting as they explored the Jewishness of Rav Yeshua and his first-century messianists (among whom the MJ paradigm was thus developing).

    Rather, I suspect a much stronger reason for the old-guard HC reticence in that era to identify themselves more overtly as Jews might have been rooted in the all-too-fresh memory of persecution against Jews, both from anti-Semitism in the USA and especially of the Shoah only a few decades prior — hence a more Jewish label for their movement would undoubtedly have felt rather threatening personally, and possibly they might have feared that other Jews also would be put off by it, inhibiting outreach efforts. It would be another 30 years before R.Mark Kinzer would publish his book challenging prior “missionary” models of MJ and outlining more clearly some of the distinctively different views that reflect the MJ paradigm that was never intended to be merely a version of the prior generations’ HC under new terminology.

  159. Its hard to figure out. I never really knew any of the pro-HC types. I suppose there are papers floating around that would present their viewpoint. I know there were a couple of historic HC churches, such as the one in Chicago, but it seemed the HC people attended evangelical churches, and J4J sent people to Baptist churches. I remember a conversation with a J4J guy in 75 or 76 and he told me, “Baptists are the best (churches) obviously because that was where Martin (Moishe’s) seminary training and ordination and mostly where they performed to raise money.

    I heard a story from the old days – early 60’s? where a group from the HCAA conference went to a restaurant and while they were standing in line, one guy breaks into singing, “Oseh Shalom.” The (always) gentile wives get upset and worried their husbands are, “going back to Judaism.” I spoke with Jeff Adler’s mom, who told me she was taught that to celebrate the holidays or have her children Bar Mitvah would be, “going back under the law.”

  160. When I was new at Beth Messiah Rockville, I didn’t know anything about internal politics and wasn’t really that interested, as I was only 17/18. I remember Sandra Sheskin continually pressuring me to join up with HCAA, which I really didn’t want to – it sounded weird, as I didn’t think of myself as a Hebrew Christian and had never even heard the term. So I did. You probably didn’t need to be 18 to vote, because I hadn’t yet turned 18.

  161. While we’re tripping lightly down memory lane, Chaya — my own memories of classic HC are very sketchy, though I believe when there existed a community of sufficient size they often established an independent “church” (more than one of which was called “Beth Sar Shalom”). Smaller communities likely affiliated with some small church of whatever relatively fundamental denomination, be it Baptist, Pentacostal, C&MA, or independent — probably wherever they found they would be tolerated — while holding their own home-based events relating to Jewish holidays. Nowadays we might call that a havurah-style model, but that model was not codified until the 1960s while HC as an organized movement had been around already for a half-century (whereas some pioneers of either the HC notion or even the MJ one are traced back as much as a half-century prior to that). I think I recall the voting age in the HCAA was 18, though Sandy Sheskin was probably trying to get you involved with the YHCA youth segment. It was those radical youth who were at that time playing with the dangerous toys that led away from HC toward the MJ paradigm; and many of them as they turned 18 and became voting members of the HCAA likely tipped the balance in favor of adopting the MJAA label in 1975. It was also they (we?) who became dissatisfied with negative viewpoints such as you report hearing about “going back to Judaism” or “under the law”, which are likely less representative of HC itself than of those nearby Christians who were skeptical of HC and what they feared it might become. In my view, of course, it is a pity that it hasn’t become more like what they feared, which is a non-Christian movement of religious Jewish messianists who are all as “zealous for Torah” as those cited in Acts 21.

  162. I think by going back to Judaism or under the law, the evangelicals who they trusted as sources of truth/belief/doctrine, didn’t mean to say they were in danger of becoming legalistic, but of being lost, estranged from Christ, etc. Beth Sar Shalom was a ministry of ABMJ; that is why they all had the same name. Since few MJ’s of the early years came from an Orthodox background, that wasn’t really on the radar, but the idea of keeping the feasts and festivals as we always had or our community did, as well as identifying with the Jewish community was the purpose.

    Some groups became more traditional than others. I remember a guy from Phily asked Chernoff if they could incorporate more traditional elements, and Chernoff told him to move to Rockville. Rockville had a more traditional service; we had a cantor and added some of the prayers.

  163. Wherever these anti-Jewish practices originated, the HC’s followed them and that is why there were no Bar/Bat Mitzvahs probably until the late 70’s or 80’s. I attended Joel Lieberman’s Bar Mitzvah prior to leaving Rockville in ’81, and that is perhaps the earliest one I recall.

    Hope they circumcized their sons? 🙂 I hadn’t heard differently and circumcision was pretty par for the course in the US until recently, where it still pretty much is moreso than outside the US.

  164. It should probably be said, looking back at where someone indicated of himself that he is progressive, I hope it’s not taken for granted that having a progressive view of the Bible — or the people of God or what God wants them/us to know — means not believing in God. For one thing, “progressive” isn’t bad in the English language; for another, yes, we learn more as we go along. Let’s not surrender perfectly good English vocabulary to the likes of such a questionable lawyer (and not make a related judgment of or correlation to someone who I doubt identifies with him) — nor assume that person here shares the doubts or loss of faith of even the other, rather fairly principled, people in the article. It was an interesting article, though.

  165. I finally did find the part, in the earlier (out of print) Gruber book, that I was referring to earlier in this comments section. The content can be found on the website I mentioned under “Passover Controversy” (near the middle of the sub-list, while I do recommend reading the whole subsection list contents, not only the one part) after clicking on CHRISTIAN ANTI-SEMITISM (at the top of the left-side home-page list ).

    Also, I should note that there are significant differences between the first book I linked to and the newer one I also linked to. Over approximately ten year’s time, the author learned more and changed some of his terminology (and understanding, not just semantics). [Note: that’s a different particular subject from my comment immediately above on someone being progressive.]

    Additionally, there are parts in the latter book that were suggested and compiled by the author’s son, Isaiah Gruber.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s